Cau Robat

This page is based on a contribution from Enric Capo

Contents

Introduction

Cau robat is played in Catalonia, the north east part of Spain. It is an unusual children's fishing game, somewhat similar to Ronda although with less scope for skill. The game has been included because of the unusual features of the Cau calls and the capture of sequences. Unfortunately the game mechanism is rather cumbersome, especially the payment in cards for caus and cleaning the table; because of this I cannot really recommend it is a game worth playing.

The Deck

Cau is played with a standard Spanish 40 card deck of four suits:

    oros (coins)

    copes (cups)

    espases (swords)

    bastons (batons)

- the cards in each suit running from 1 to 7 and 10 to 12, with the 10 called Sota (Valet), the 11 Cavall (Horse) and the 12 Rei (King).

Only the rank of the cards is important in the game. When making a sequence, the 10 follows the 7 and the 1 follows the 12, so that (for example) 5-6-7-10-11 and 11-12-1-2-3 are valid sequences.

Any number of players can play, although the usual number is from 3 to 5.

The deal

The deal and play are anticlockwise. The dealer puts four cards (or five cards if there are five players) face up on the table. If two or more of these cards have the same rank (for example two sixes) just one card of that rank is left face up on the table; any others are shuffled back into the deck and replacement cards dealt until the face-up cards are all different in rank. All of the remaining cards are dealt out to the players three at a time (if there are five players deal two rounds three at a time and then a final round of single cards).

The aim of the game is to take more cards than your opponents.

Playing

The player to the right of the dealer begins, and the turn to play passes around the table anticlockwise. In your turn of play, you place one of the cards from your hand face up in the centre of the table; this may capture one or more cards from table or from the other players. Players keep the cards they have won stacked face up in front of them in a single pile.

If the card you play is the same rank as a card on the table, you capture it and place both cards face up in front of you.

If there is on the table an unbroken ascending sequence of cards beginning with one equal in rank to the one you play, you can capture the whole sequence. For example if the cards on the table are 1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 12 you can play an 11 and take 11-12-1-2, or play a 4 and take just the 4, or play a 1 and take 1-2.

The cards you take should be maintained in order and you must put them in a pile in front of you, face up, with the one you played in top. For example, if you play a 6 to take 6-7, there will be a six showing on top of your pile, under which is another 6, then a 7, followed by whatever was there before.

When you are capturing a sequence of cards from the table, if the top card of one of the other players' piles fits in the sequence, you can capture their whole pile. Suppose that the cards on the table are 1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 12, and some player has a 3 on the top of their captured cards. You can play a 12 and take 12-1-2 from the table, the whole 3-pile and 4 from the table. Your pile will now have a 12 on the top, then 1, 2, the whole 3 pile (with its order unchanged), 4 and then whatever was there before.

If you play a card that is not equal to any card in the centre of the table, you do not capture any cards; your card remains where it is and can be captured by a later player.

Note that a pile belonging to another player cannot be captured by an equal card, but only as part of a sequence. If in the above example you play a 3, it does not capture the 3-pile, but simply remains on the table, capturing nothing.

If there is a card in the centre of the table which is equal to the top card of someone's pile, a player capturing a sequence must take the centre card rather than the pile - so the centre card effectively protects the pile. For example while there is a 5 in the centre of the table, a pile with a 5 in the top can not be taken.

Cau, Recau, Contracau

If the player immediately before you plays a card that makes no capture, and you play a card that matches that card, you say "cau" (pronounced "cow"), and the previous player has to pay you a penalty. If the next player after you also has a matching card, that player can play it saying "recau" and capture all three cards, unless the player after that has the fourth matching card, plays it saying "contracau" and captures all four equal cards.

The card you capture with cau, recau or contracau can also be the start of a sequence. For example suppose that the cards on the table are 5, 6, 12 and the player before you plays a 4, capturing nothing. If you also have a 4 you can now play it, saying cau. You must now wait to hear whether the player after you says recau. If there is no recau, you can take the 4-5-6 with your 4; if the next player does say recau, playing a 4, that player can take the three fours, five and six, provided there is no contracau.

Note that a cau only takes place when a card played to the table is immediately matched by the very next player. If that player does not match the card, the opportunity for a cau is lost; capturing that card later in the game will no longer count as a cau.

Note also that to claim a cau you must capture the previously played card by equalling it. Capturing it as part of a sequence is not a cau. For example suppose that 3 and a 5 are on the table and the player before you plays a 6, capturing nothing. If you now play a 5, capturing the 5 and the 6, this is not a cau.

The payment for a cau is one card. That is, one card is moved from the top of the pile of the first player (whose card was captured) to the top of the pile of the second player (who matched it). This payment is made after the capture, so the card given in payment will be placed on top of the capturing card, which is on top of the captured cards.

The additonal payment for a recau is two cards from the first player and one card from the player who said cau. If A plays a card without capturing, B says cau and matches it and C says recau and matches it again, but there is no contracau, then the payments are made in the following order: B pays one card to C; A pays one card to B; A pays two cards to C.

If the following player (D) says contracau, the additional payment is three cards from A, two from B and one from C. The order of payments is: C pays one card to D; B pays one to C and two to D. A pays one to B, two to C and three to D.

When paying two or three cards to another player, they are transferred from pile to pile without disturbing the order, so that the top card remains on top.

Cleaning the Table

If your play captures all the cards on the table, each player pays you one card. This is done in order of play, starting with the player to your right; after you have taken your captured cards, each player in turn transfers the top card from their pile to your pile.

If you clean the table with a cau (or recau or contracau) the payments for cau, etc. take place before the payments for cleaning the table.

In the event that you have to pay a penalty but your pile of captured cards is empty, you owe the penalty and should pay it as soon as you capture some cards.

The score

When everyone has played all the cards from their hands, each player counts the number of cards in the pile in front of them. The player with most cards wins the hand, and the first player who wins an agreed number of hands wins the game.

Variants

An alternative method of scoring is that each player gets one point for every 10 cards taken (i.e. no points for nine cards or fewer, one point for 10-19 cards, two points for 20-29 cards, etc.) When someone has 21 or more points at the end of a hand the player with most points is the winner.

The following two variants simplify the game somewhat:

  • some play that a cau, recau or contracau does not allow you to begin a sequence - you can only capture the equal card(s).
  • some play that in case of a recau or contracau, the payment (of two and three cards respectively) is only paid from the first player to the last one; the player(s) in between do not give or receive any cards.

For an easier game you deal just three cards, play them, deal again, play them and so on until all cards are used, in the same way you do in Scopa.

For an even easier game, players keep their captured cards face down, and these piles cannot be captured. As cau robat means "stolen" cau, this variant without stealing is simply known as cau.