Tricks'N'Trumps

Contributed by Carol Phillips

This is a simple game, best suited to children, and designed to introduce players to the concepts of “following suit”, “playing trumps” and “winning tricks”. The idea is to help understanding of concepts required for games like Euchre, Whist and Bridge, etc. Game strategy should improve, as time goes on, but not much strategy is really required.

Pack – Full standard Anglo-American 52-card pack plus one Joker.

Deal – Shuffle the cards and deal five cards to each player, clockwise, one at a time, face down. Players may look at their own cards and must keep them concealed from other players. After these cards have been played, the turn to deal will move to the next player (on left). This player gathers all the played cards, shuffles them with the undealt cards and deals again.

Trumps – Hearts are always “trumps”, and the Joker is the highest Heart Trump. See below for explanation of “trumps”.

Object of the game – To win as many “tricks” as possible, out of the possible five. See below for explanation of “tricks”.

Rank of cards – Ace (highest) K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 (lowest) for each suit, BUT rank of Trump suit (Hearts) – Joker, A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2. Hearts outrank other suits. E.g. 2 of hearts can beat an Ace, etc. of any other suit.

Play – Person to the left of the dealer plays first, and play goes clockwise. He leads with any chosen card, preferably with a high card of any suit. Other player/s must follow suit, (see “following suit” below) if able. If unable to follow suit, other players may play a trump (Heart) card, in order to win the trick, or may play a card of another suit, which cannot win. If a trump is led, the other players must play trumps if they have any. Depending on the number of players, and whether or not he has a choice, each individual player must decide how high, or low, his card needs to be to take the trick. A “trick” consists of one play of a card by each person, and the pile of cards goes to the winner of each trick.

Winning tricks – A trick is won by the “best” card played. It is not always the highest card. Tricks are won by:

  • Playing a higher card of the suit led, OR
  • playing a trump onto the other card or cards, OR
  • playing a higher trump than previously played in the trick, OR
  • playing the first card of the trick, called “leading”, where the other players cannot beat it (with higher card of same suit), trump it (with a high enough Heart), or follow suit (play cards of the same suit).

Scoring – A tally can be made of the number of tricks won in each game, or set of games. A simple table with players’ names at the top will suffice. One point is awarded for each trick won.

Length of game – This will vary. Playing just 5 tricks is very quick, so it is possible to play several deals. To be fair, you should stop only when each player has dealt an equal number of times.

Winner of the game – The winner is the one with the most tricks won. When more than two players are involved, the “winner” of each game will not always be clear, since with 3 players, for example, the tricks may go 2 + 2 + 1. Having a number of successive games, with a simple score-sheet to tally tricks won, will solve this problem, and allow a winner to be declared, say, when any one player is 3 points ahead of the others.

Possible Variations:

  • Pack - Remove lower ranking cards.
  • Dealing - Deal more cards per player, most especially if a high number of players are involved.
  • Trump suit – Change trump suit by turning up top card of deck after dealing cards to players. Joker will always remain top trump card.
  • Scoring – award other numbers of points for tricks won.

Terms Used (for players unfamiliar with terminology used above)

Following Suit – To “follow suit” means to play the same suit (Spades, Clubs, Diamonds or Hearts) as the one led by the first player in the round. Sometimes the card will beat the other card, or cards, and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes the player will have only one card in the suit, and will have no choice but to play it. Players must follow suit if they have a card (or cards) in the same suit. In this game the Joker belongs to the trump suit. This means that if the Joker is led the other players must play trumps if they have any. If a trump is led, the holder of the Joker may play it, and must play it if he has no other trump.

Trumps – A “trump” is a card, from a “superior” suit, that will beat other, sometimes higher ranking cards. When Hearts are trumps, a 2 of hearts will beat an Ace of any other suit. Trumps can only be beaten by other higher trumps. In this game, the Joker is counted as a Heart, and is the highest trump in the whole game. It will beat all other cards. The important thing to remember about trumps is that even a low trump can beat high cards in other suits. The only way to beat a low trump is to play a higher trump in that trick.

Tricks – A “trick” is a pile of cards, one played by each player. One player leads by playing any card. The other players in turn must play a card of the same suit, if possible.

  • If not able to “follow suit”, he may play any other card of his choosing. He may choose to play a trump card, if he has one, or else any other card, trying to make sure it is as low as possible.
  • If a player is able to “follow suit”, he may be able to win the trick using a high card of the same suit. If unable to play a high enough card to win, it is best to play the lowest card of the suit led, if possible.

The next player uses the same principles, and so on. When all players have played their one card, the resulting pile is the trick, and it is given to the player who won it with the “best” card. A player who cannot follow suit and cannot trump, cannot win the round, even if his cards are of higher rank.