Sueca

This page is partly based on a contribution from Eduardo Moitinho Vieira, with further information from Sergio Estives, Kyle Geiszler, Bruno Colaço, Anthony Smith and Rui Mendes.

Sueca is point-trick game with trumps played in Portugal, Brazil, the Azores and Angola. In Portugal it is probably the most widely played card game: it is played in most parks and coffee places where there are at least four people. It is popular with students in Rio de Janeiro because it's fast and you don't need a table to play it. In Angola it is often played by industrial workers.

Players and Cards

Sueca is a game for four players playing in teams, two against two, with partners sitting opposite. It is played with 40 cards (remove the 8s, 9s and 10s from a standard 52 card deck). The rank of the cards in each suit, from high to low, is:

ace, 7, king, jack, queen, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The seven, which is the second highest card of each suit, is known as the manilha. As well as the high position of the seven, notice that the jack beats the queen! Probably this arose because in old Portuguese decks the picture cards in each suit were the king, horseman and maid, the female picture card being the lowest of the three.

In Sueca, the aim is to win tricks containing valuable cards. The card values are:

    ace ..... 11 points
    seven ..... 10 points
    king ..... 4 points
    jack ..... 3 points
    queen ..... 2 points
    6, 5, 4, 3, 2 ..... 0 points

There are 120 points in the deck altogether.

The Deal

In most places, the game is played counter-clockwise (though in Brazil it is played clockwise - see below). The first dealer is chosen at random and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand. The player to dealer's right shuffles the cards and the player to dealer's left cuts. The dealer then gives 10 cards to each player, in a single batch, beginning with the player to dealer's left, going around clockwise and ending with the dealer. The bottom card of the deck, which belongs to the dealer, is turned face up, and its suit becomes trumps.

Alternatively, the dealer can choose to deal the first ten cards to himself, the next ten to the player to his right, and so on counter-clockwise. In this case the dealer's first card (the top card of the deck after the cut) is turned up and determines the trump suit.

The Play

The player to the right of the dealer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. If any cards of the trump suit are played to a trick, the highest trump wins. Otherwise, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

No signals between partners are permitted.

Scoring

The object of the play is to win tricks containing more than half the card points. The team which takes more than 60 card points scores one game. The first team to score four games win the rubber.

If a team takes 91 or more card points in tricks on one deal, they score two games instead of one.

If they take all the tricks they score four games and thus win the rubber immediately. This is known as "dar uma bandeira" (which literally means to give a flag). Taking 120 points but losing a trick (with no counting cards in it) is not sufficient to dar un bandiera. In this case the winning team would just score 2 games for having more than 90.

If there is a tie, both teams taking exactly 60 card points in tricks, no one scores, but the next hand is worth an extra game - i.e. the winners will score two games if they take 61 - 90 card points; three games if they take 91 or more. If the next game is another tie, the following hand would be worth two extra games - i.e. at least three games to the winners.

The score in games is often kept by marking dots at the ends of the arms of a cross, like this:

scoring diagram

In the example our team (Nós) has two games towards the rubber and their team (Eles) has three. This is the most usual system, at least in Northern Portugal, but I am told that in some parts of Portugal it is traditional to keep score using a different shaped diagram, like this:

scoring diagram 2

Variations

In Brazil, the game is normally played clockwise rather than counter-clockwise. However, the dealing procedure apparently remains as above, so the player to dealer's left cuts, receives the first or last cards and leads to the first trick.

Some players, at least in Brazil, play that if the first player (the one who cut the cards) has less than 10 points in hand before the first lead, he can "spoil" (melar) the deal. The cards are thrown in, there is no score, and the cards are shuffled, cut and dealt again by the same dealer.

Some play that the penalty for a revoke (failing to follow suit when able to do so) is that the offending team loses two games.

In the Azores, Sueca is normally played using the 10 as the manilha (second highest card) rather than the 7. Instead of turning up one of the dealer's cards, the remaining packet of 12 cards (the rejected 9's, 8's and 7's) are cut to determine the trump suit.

Sueca Italiana

This variant with bidding can be played by 4 or 5 players, or by 6 using a 48-card pack in which the 8's and 9's are included. Unfortunately I do not have a complete description - I would like to hear from anyone who knows more details.

Play is counter-clockwise. The cards are dealt out equally (10 each to 4 players, 8 each to 5 or 6), and the players bid in turn. A bid is an offer to take at least that number of points in tricks, playing with a partner determined by a called card. Each bid must be higher than the last, and bidding continues until no one wants to bid higher than the last bid. I don't know who starts the bidding or what the minimum allowed bid is - I would guess that the player to dealer's right begins and the lowest bid allowed is 61.

The winner of the bidding names the trump suit and also names a card whose holder will be his partner. The remaining 2, 3 or 4 players form the opposing team. I do not know if there is any restriction on what card can be called. If there isn't, the bidder will probably call a high trump that he does not hold. The bidder's partner does not identify himself - the partnerships become clear only when the called card is played.

The tricks are played out as in Sueca. Presumably the player to dealer's right leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can; if unable, they may play any card.

At the end of the play the points taken by the bidder and partner are counted. If they took at least as many points as their bid, they each add that number of points to their score. If not they lose the number of points bid, and the each member of the opposing team gains the amount of the bid. Each player begins with a score of zero, and presumably play continues until a target score is reached, at which point the player with the highest score wins. I don't know what the target is - I would suggest maybe 200 for a short game or 500 for a longer game.

Software

You can download a freeware Sueca program from Thanos Card Games.