Mittlere Jass / Molotow Jass / Plus-Minus Jass

The description of Mittlere Jass was contributed by Nick Wedd

Mittlere Jass

Mittlere is an unusual Swiss Jass game for three players. It is a point trick game, with the basic object of each hand being to avoid ending up with the middle score.

Players and Cards

Mittlere is played with a 36-card jass pack. There are four suits: acorns, shields, flowers, and bells. In each suit, there are nine cards: ace (or sow), king, ober, under, banner, 9, 8, 7, 6. If you cannot obtain such a pack, you can play it with a bridge or poker pack, using queens for obers, jacks for unders, 10s for banners, and discarding cards smaller than 6s.

The rank of the cards (followed by their point values in brackets) within each suit is:
Ace(11), King(4), Ober(3), Under(2), Banner(10), 9(0), 8(0), 7(0), 6(0).
However the rank within the trump suit is:
Under(20), 9(14), Ace(11), King(4), Ober(3), Banner(10), 8(0), 7(0), 6(0).
These points count to the player winning the trick containing the card. There is also a bonus of 5 points to the player winning the last trick. Thus there is a total of 157 points in the pack.

In North America, Jass cards and equipment can be obtained from TaroBear's Lair.

The Deal and Play

The deal, and the play, are anticlockwise. The dealer deals all the cards out, in threes, starting with the player on his right. After each hand the deal rotates to the right. A game consists of twelve hands, so each player eventually deals four times.

The play is in tricks. The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick, and thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next. The other players are obliged to follow suit. Eventually, a player will be unable to follow suit, having no cards in the suit led: then, that player may play any card, and the suit of that card becomes trumps for the rest of the hand. Thereafter, a player who is able to follow suit must either do so or play a trump [in Swiss Jass games you are allowed to trump even if you have cards in the led suit]; while a player who cannot follow suit may play any card that she holds. A trick is won by the highest trump in it; or if there were no trumps, by the highest card of the suit led.

If a non-trump is led, and the second player plays a trump, the third player may only player a smaller trump if void in the suit led. If she is not void, she must either follow suit or play a higher trump.

A player is never compelled to play the Under of trumps (also known as the Puur). If trumps are led, and a player holds no trump other than the Puur, she need not play it but may play any other card.

If all the suits split evenly, there will be no trump suit. In this unlikely case, so that the pack will still add up to 157 points, the 8s are counted as 8 points each.

Scoring

Scoring is by means of sticks (which one tries to win) and potatoes (which one tries to avoid). At the end of a hand, it is scored as follows:

  1. If a player wins all the tricks, she receives two sticks and the other two players receive a potato each; otherwise,
  2. If a player wins no tricks, she receives two potatoes and the other two players receive a stick each; otherwise,
  3. If a player wins 100 or more points, she receives two potatoes and the other two players receive a stick each; otherwise,
  4. If two players make the same score, they receive a potato each and the third player receives two sticks; otherwise,
  5. The player with the intermediate score receives two potatoes and the other two players receive a stick each.

On each hand, look down the list until you find something that has happened, and score only for that, not for subsequently listed things. Thus if player A takes 121 points, player B takes 36 points, and player C takes no tricks, then item 2 specifies that player C receives two potatoes and the others receive a stick each. Player A does not get potatoes for taking 100 points.


This shows a scoring slate after four hands have been played. Note that when a player has both sticks and potatoes, they are drawn through one another so as to cancel out. Player A has three sticks and two potatoes for a total of one stick, B has four sticks, and C has six potatoes and one stick for a total of five potatoes.

Advice on Play

A player who takes from 79 to 99 points is guaranteed a stick, as both the others will have taken fewer points. A player who takes a trick but fewer than 29 points is guaranteed a stick as either an opponent has taken 100 points, or both opponents have taken more points. Thus a player who can ensure his score ending up in one of these ranges should do so.

It is usually good to be the player who chooses trumps. To make this more likely, it is a good idea to start by leading short suits.

Among beginners, the idea of taking a fairly small number of points often looks more attractive than the idea of taking a large number which does not exceed 100. An effect of this is often that two players struggle over which of them is to take fewer points, while the third takes around 80 in comfort.

A player who takes no tricks will receive a potato. You should therefore ensure winning a trick on every hand. With a weak hand, it is better to win the trick early; otherwise the other two players may start cooperating to prevent you from winning one.

The most useful cards to hold are 6s, as they are guaranteed exits (so long as you are sure that there is another card in the suit). Aces are also valuable. Kings and Obers are rather a nuisance. So in leading at the start of a hand, Aces and 6s should be preserved, preferably with another card in the same suit to guard them. A singleton King is often a good lead.

The most useful thing to count is trumps; then the points that one has taken; then the cards in the other suits; then the points that the other players have taken. It may seem difficult to count trumps, when you don't know what suit they are; but there is an easy way of doing this. Start by remembering the shape of your hand, 5-4-2-1 say. Then when the first trump appears, compare the cards left in your hand with this initial distribution, and as everyone has followed suit up till now, you will be able to work out how many cards remain in each suit.

An early trick may contain an Unter, a 9, or both. If you win such a trick, bear in mind that if that suit becomes trumps, the trick will be worth more than otherwise.

It is generally good to win early tricks (even ones containing Unters and 9s) as they allow you to choose the lead. Leading early in the hand is good, as you can preserve your useful cards and get rid of your doubtful ones. Leading late in the hand is generally bad, as your opponents will know what they are trying to do by then, and will trump the tricks that you wanted to win, or duck the ones that you wanted to lose.

The chance that the suits will all split evenly and there will be no trump suit, is so remote that it should be ignored. Do not bother noticing who wins the 8s.

Molotow Jass

This is a game for 4 players, from which Mittlere was derived. Nine cards are dealt to each player and the rules of play are exactly as in Mittlere.

If all four players take different numbers of points all less than 100, the middle two players get a potato each and the players with most and least points score a stick each. There is no penalty for taking no tricks. If the middle two players tie, the result is the same.

A player who takes at least 100 but less than 157 points scores three potatoes and the other three players get a stick each.

A player who takes 157 points score three sticks and the other three get a potato each. This can conceivably be done without winning all the tricks, if one of the other players wins a trick other than the last with no points in it.

If all players take less than 100 points and there is a tie between two players, the result is as follows:

  • If the tie is for most points, the tieing players do not score, the third player gets a potato, and the player with the lowest score gets a stick.
  • If the tie is between the middle players they each get a potato and the highest and lowest players get a stick as usual.
  • If the tie is for least points, the player with most points gets a stick, the second player gets a potato, and the tieing players do not score.

If all players take less than 100 points and there is a three-way tie, then the player with the odd score scores a stick. The other three players cut cards and whoever draws the highest card gets the potato; the other two players do not score.

Plus-Minus Jass

This can be played by 3 or 4 people. The cards are dealt equally and are played as in Mittlere or Molotow. It is played for sticks only - there are no potatoes. The winner is the first player to score 7 sticks. If several players reach 7 in the same hand, the game is continued until there is a clear leader.

If all the players except one tie for card points, the tieing players do not score, and the player who has a different card point total scores two sticks.

Otherwise, if everyone scores less than 100 points, the player who has least card points and the player who has most card points score a stick each. A player who takes 100 points or more does not score, and in that case it is only the player who has least points who gets a stick.

If in the four player game there is a tie between two players for most or for least card points, neither of these players scores, but one stick is held in abeyance between these two tieing players until the next hand on which only one of them scores a stick or sticks, and is then given to the scoring player.

Software

Michael Gasser's Jass!! program plays Plus-Minus and two other Jass variations. You can play against the computer or over the Internet.

The website jasse.ch offers a free online Molotow Jass game.