Crocodile

Contributed by Jakob Sauntved

Why the name?

In the classic game of Ombre you can lose your contract codille if an opponent wins more tricks than you. In the Danish version of Ombre – L`hombre – this is known both as kodille and kruk, it is therefore often called getting a “krokodille” – Danish for crocodile. As it can be hard to persuade young people to play a game with so many oddities as L`hombre, the red suits, where the numerals are reversed in all versions of Ombre, are sometimes ranked in the (almost) standard way KQJ765432A in introductory games to make the game easier to learn (with red aces as manilles). Such a game is known as “Krokodille-L`hombre”. I have therefore chosen to name this development of L`hombre -  with standard ranking of the cards and no matadors - after the large aquatic reptile.

Preliminaries

3 players, 40 cards ranking KQJ765432A in each suit. A game is any number of deals divisible by three. Deal, bid and play to the left (clockwise). The dealer deals nine cards to each player in batches of three, and sets the last 13 face down in the middle as a talon.

Play

Eldest hand (the player to dealer's left) leads first. Players must follow suit if possible, otherwise may play any card. The trick is taken by the highest card of the suit led, or by the highest trump if any are played. The winner of each trick leads to the next. Play stops as soon as the outcome of the contract and all bonus possibilities are determined.

Auction

Eldest speaks first and each player in turn may pass or bid, and, having passed, may not come in again. Each bid must be higher than the last one. When two players have passed the third becomes the declarer if he has previously made a bid. He can then either play the contract he last bid or raise his bid to a contract with a higher value (not just a higher rank). He can also make a bonus bid (see later). If all three players pass eldest is forced to bid Casco (see later).

Contracts

There are two basic forms of contracts: positive games and negative games (nolos). In a positive game the declarer either chooses trumps or plays at no trumps, and aims to win more tricks than either opponent individually. Thus five or more tricks always wins and four wins if the others split three-two. In a negative game (nolo) the declarer aims to lose every trick playing a no trumps. Contracts can be played as exchange games where all players exchange cards from the talon or hand games where only the opponents may exchange cards.

Conceding

If the soloist doesn’t think he can win after exchanging cards from the talon, he may surrender before playing to the first trick and accept losing his contract. A hand game, Exchange Nolo and a Tournee Respect cannot be conceded.

Discard and draw

In exchange games the soloist may discard any number of cards from hand face down before drawing the same number from the top of the talon. Both opponents in turn may then discard and draw from the talon cards not taken by the soloist. The number of cards they can discard is limited to the number of talon cards available. If the first opponent to exchange thinks he has the weaker hand of the two opponents he can offer the second opponent the right to exchange first, an offer which the second opponent can either accept or refuse.

In hand games the soloist does not exchange cards at all, but the opponents still exchange in the way described above.

Contracts and bidding order

The bidding order from low to high is:

  1. Play. The declarer announces trumps, he then discards any number of cards and draws a similar number from the talon.
  2. Grand. Same as play but played at no trumps.
  3. Tournee. The declarer turns the top card of the talon face up to determine trumps, he then discards any number of cards and draws a similar number from the talon including the turn up.
  4. Exchange Nolo. The declarer exchanges up to four cards and aims to lose every trick playing at no trumps. The opponents exchange as usual.
  5. Solo. The hand version of Play. Only the opponents are allowed to exchange cards from the talon.
  6. Grandissimo. The hand version of Grand. Only the opponents are allowed to exchange cards from the talon.
  7. Tournee Respect. Same as Tournee but the declarer discards only one card and takes the turn up in exchange. The opponents exchange as usual.
  8. Nolo. The declarer must lose every trick playing at no trumps. The opponents exchange as usual.
  9. Nolo Ouvert. Same as Nolo except that the declarer puts his cards face up on the table before the first lead.

Casco

If all pass without bidding eldest must “take the casco”. He discards all but one card and picks up the talon, puts down five cards face up and announces trumps or sans (no trumps). The opponents are allowed to exchange from declarer's discards and if they do so their own discards are placed face down.

Scoring

The point value of the various contracts are:

Exchange games Casco 1
Play 2
Grand 2
Tournee 3
Exchange Nolo 3
Tournee Respect 6
Hand games Solo 4
Grandissimo 4
Nolo 6
Nolo Ouvert 10

Outcomes

The possible outcomes of an ordinary contract are:

  1. Victory : The soloist wins his contract.
  2. Simple loss : The soloist takes one trick in a nolo contract or a positive game is remis. There are two forms of remis:
    1. Simple remis = The soloist fails to win the most tricks but tie with one or two opponents (4-4-1 or 3-3-3).
    2. Piccolo remis = The soloist fails to win the most tricks but he gets exactly 1 trick and the opponents tie 4-4.

    The value of a simple loss is exactly what the soloist would have won had he succeeded.

    A simple loss is also scored if the soloist concedes the game.

  3. Crocodile lunch : One of the opponents gets more tricks than the soloist in a positive game or the soloist takes a second trick in a nolo contract. Declarer is “eaten by the crocodile” and loses double the value of his contract.
  4. Contraprimeras : The opponents wins the first five tricks in a positive contract. The declarer loses quadruple.
  5. Contranolo : The declarer wins five tricks or four tricks with the remainder split 3-2 in a nolo game. The declarer loses quadruple. (This outcome is of course only theoretically possible in Nolo or Nolo Ouvert, but can happen in Exchange Nolo).

The points won/lost are added/deducted from declarers current score. Bonus bids are settled separately (see later).

Bonuses and bonus bids

After the basic contract is decided the declarer can raise the value of his contract by promising to win in certain specific ways. The same ways of winning are also rewarded with a (smaller) bonus if accomplished without being declared. If the declarer fails to accomplish a bonus bid he loses the value of the bid but he still scores for winning his contract if he makes it.

Bonus bids

  • Talking Ouvert : Declarer in a Nolo Ouvert contract allows his opponents to coordinate their play verbally. Value: 10 points.
  • Declared Cuatro : The declarer promises to win by taking exactly four tricks and splitting the others 3-2. Value: 2 x the value of his contract.
  • Declared Primeras : The declarer promises to win the first five tricks. Value: 2 x the value of his contract.
  • Declared Tout : The declarer promises to win all nine tricks. Value: 7 x the value of his contract.

Bonuses

  • Silent Cuatro : The declarer wins by four tricks without announcing it and gains a bonus equivalent to the value of his contract.
  • Silent Primeras : The declarer wins the first five tricks without announcing it and gains a bonus equivalent to the value of his contract.
  • Silent Tout : The declarer wins all nine tricks without announcing it and gains a bonus three times  the value of his contract.