Clag / Nominations

This page is based on information from Martin Brown and others.

Introduction

In Britain, the name Nomination Whist or Nominations is used for several different games, as listed on the Nomination Whist page. In this one, also known as Clag, the first few deals and the last few deals are played exactly like Oh Hell!, but in between these there is a series of additional deals with special rules. According to Taylor Foss, Clag originated in the British Royal Air Force during the Second World War, and the name is an acronym for Clouds Low Aircraft Grounded, reflecting the fact that air crews played this game while waiting for suitable weather for flying. The game is sometimes known as "Clagg" or "Cleg".

Players and Cards

This game is suitable for 4 to 7 players. A standard 52-card pack is used with the cards in each suit normally ranking from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

A game consists of 22 deals, the turn to deal passing to the left. The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right cuts, and the cards are dealt one at a time, face down, clockwise.

The number of cards dealt changes from deal to deal. In the first deal each player is dealt just one card; in the second deal players receive two cards each, in the third deal three cards each, and so on up to seven card each in the seventh deal. The next eight deals (8 to 15) have special rules, which will be described below. In each of these deals the players receive seven cards each. The last seven deals (16 to 22) are again normal with the hand size reducing by one each time: seven cards each in deal 16, six each in deal 17, five in deal 18 and so on down to one card each in the final deal 22.

Nomination and Play in Normal Deals

The normal deals (1 to 7 and 16 to 22) and played in the same way as Oh Hell! After the deal, the next card in the pack is turned face up to indicate the trump suit and the remaining cards are stacked face down and not used.

Beginning with the player to dealer's left and going around clockwise, each player in turn must nominate how many tricks he or she will win. The dealer speaks last, and must commit to a number that does not give a total equal to the number of cards dealt. This ensures that at least one player will fail to win the number of tricks nominated.

The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible, playing the same suit as the card that was led: those unable to follow suit may play any card. If any trumps are played the trick is won by the highest trump in it. If it contains no trumps it is won by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of the trick gathers the cards, stacks them face down and leads any card to the next trick.

Players will score a point for each trick they win, plus a 10 point bonus if they win exactly as many as they nominated, neither more nor fewer.

Nomination and Play in Special Deals

The rules for the special deals are as follows. They are all played with seven card hands. Except where speified the nomination and play follows the same procedure as in the normal deals.

Deal 8: No Trumps
This is exactly like a normal seven-card deal except that no card is turned up after the deal and there is no trump suit. Each trick is simply won by the highest card fo the suit that was led.
Deal 9: Misere
This is like a normal seven-card deal with trumps, but everyone is assumed to have nominated zero. Therefore you score 10 if you win no tricks, but otherwise just one point per trick won.
Deal 10: Guess Trumps
The trump card is turned up after all players have made their nominations. So players predict how many tricks they will win having seen their cards, but not knowing what suit will be trumps.
Deal 11: Blind
Players nominate how many tricks they will take before the cards are dealt. The deal, trump making, play and scoring then proceed as in a normal deal.
Deal 12: Twos Wild
Trump setting, nominations and play are normal, but all four twos are wild. This means that when playing a two, the player names a rank and a suit - for example ace of diamonds - and it acts as a copy of that card. The following rules apply:
  • If the card represented by the two is also played to the trick, the two is higher. For example if clubs are trumps and a player leads the ace of clubs, another player can beat it with the two of hearts, by nominating the two as another ace of clubs.
  • If more than one two is played to a trick, they must represent different cards. So for example if the ace of trumps has already been beaten by a two representing the ace of trumps, a later player who also holds a two cannot use it to represent another ace of trumps in that trick.
  • If a player has a card of the suit that was led, but chooses to play a two instead, it must be nominated as belonging to that suit. Suppose for example that hearts are trumps, player A leads the king of spades, player B trumps it with the 6 of hearts and player C holds one or more spades. Player C cannot play a 2 and nominate it as a trump to beat B's card. C has to follow suit so C's 2 can only be used as a spade in this trick.
Deal 13: Aces Low
This is exactly like a normal 7-card deal with trumps, except that the ace is the lowest card of each suit. The cards rank from high to low K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A.
Deal 14: Dealer Calls Trumps
No card is turned up to set the trump suit. Instead, the dealer chooses the trump suit after looking at his or her cards. After the dealer has announced the trump suit, the nominations take place as usual, beginning with the player to dealer's left.
Deal 15: Highest Number
There are no nominations. Instead, whichever player takes most tricks scores 10 points and the other players score nothing. If there is a tie for most tricks no one scores. Therefore players who have no chance of winning most tricks will try to cooperate to cause a tie.

Scoring

A cumulative score is kept for each player, all starting at zero.

  • In all deals except 9 and 15, players receive one point for each trick won plus 10 points if they take exactly the number of tricks that they nominated.
  • In deal 9, players who take no tricks score 10 points and the others score one point per trick won.
  • In deal 15, if one player takes more tricks than any other, that player scores 10 points while the others score nothing. If there is a tie for most tricks, no one scores.

The winner is the player who has the highest score at the end of the 22 deals.

If playing for money, each of the other players pays the winner according to the differences in their scores at the end of the game. The stake should be agreed in advance, for example 5p per point. There can also be an extra payment per failed contract, based on the difference between the number of times the winner's nomination was wrong and the number of times the other player was wrong - for example 10p per contract. So with these stakes, if the winner scored 184 and failed 4 times, and you scored 142 and failed 8 times, you would pay the winner £2.10 + 40p, that is £2.50.

It is possible that the winner will not be the player who has fewest failed contracts. In this case the amount paid to the winner by the players who failed less often will be 5p per point difference less the difference in the number of failed contracts. In this case it is even possible that the winner might have to pay one of the other players if their point difference is very small.

I am not sure what happens if there is a tie for most points at the end. I suggest that in this case the winner is the player among those with most points who has fewest failed contracts. If there is a tie for failed contracts as well, then the joint winners should share the payments of the other players equally between them.

Variations

Some score two points rather than one for each trick in a successful bid, so that for example a successful bid of 2 would score 14 points rather than 12.

Some play that no points are made for an unsuccessful bid, however many tricks are won.

According to the Clag Wikipedia page, in the 1990's a version of Clag was developed in which instead of playing the deals in a sepcific order, the dealer may choose the number of cards to deal to each player (minimum three, maximum seven) and then having looked at his or her cards may nominate it as a normal deal or as any type of special deal. The winner of each deal (the player who scores points and the first of these in clockwise order from the previous dealer in case of a tie) becomes the next dealer (known as the "caller").

The special deals available and the order in which they are played, if a fixed order is used, varies greatly. Some further options for special deals may be as follows.

Misere
As above, but some play that each trick scores -1 point (or -2 points) for the winner, rather than +1. As usual a player who loses every trick scopes +10.
Misere with trumps
Similar to misere but a card is turned to set the trump suit. In this game some play that each trick won scores -3 points.
Precedence
The suits rank from high to low: hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades. As usual players must follow suit and may play any card when unable to follow, but the trick is won by the highest card in the highest suit played to the trick. Thus hearts trump all other suits, clubs trump diamonds and spades, diamonds trump spades, and spades cannot trump anything. If playing that the dealer calls the game, a different order of suits can be specified, at the dealer's choice.
Nuloss (New Loss)
The rank of the cards is reversed. The two is the highest card of each suit, then 3, 4, etc. down to the ace, which is lowest.
Ascending Madness
Each trick is worth a different number of points: 1 for the first trick, 2 for the second, 3 for the third and so on. Or these scores can be doubled: 2, 4, 6, etc. The bonus for making one's bid exactly is still 10.
Descending Madness
Similar to Ascending Madness, but the order of scores is reversed, so that the first trick is worth the number of cards dealt (or twice that number) and the last trick is worth 2 (or 1).

When playing the version in which the dealer calls the game, special games can be combined - for example "Nuloss Precedence with Ascending Madness". A possible problem with this is that if the choice of special hands is too wide, a dealer who consistently calls the most favourable special hand for the cards he or she is dealt may be too difficult to dislodge.

Other Clag Web Pages

Clagg Tournament page by Taylor Foss.

Wikipedia page for Clag.