Zhăo Péngyou (找朋友)
Looking for Friends
This description is based on information from Jin Li, Wei-Hwa Huang, John Bauer and Rick Heli.
- The Players and Cards
- The Deal, the Scores and Making Trumps
- Discarding and Choosing Partners
- The Play
- The Scoring
Looking for Friends is a Chinese trick-taking game for 5 to 12 or more players. It is played with multiple packs and features variable partnerships, which are unknown at the start of the play. The object is to win tricks for your team containing Kings, Tens and Fives. When sets of identical cards are held it is possible to lead more than one card at a time, beginning a multiple trick. You might expect that such a large game would be slow and unwieldy, but in fact this is not so. It is one of the most successful games for 6 or more people, and is almost the only trick-taking game of this size that works well.
Looking for Friends (Zhăo Péngyou - 找朋友) is closely related to the games 100 (打百分) and Tractor (拖拉机), which are played with fixed partnerships. All these games, in which the player's score or "level" is represented by a card rank, are sometimes known collectively as Shēng Jí (升级) (raise level) games.
Looking for Friends is played with two or more identical standard packs shuffled together. From 5 to 7 players use two packs, from 8 to 11 players use 3 packs, and 12 or more players use 4 packs. Sufficient red and black jokers are included so that all the cards can be distributed equally to the players, with a kitty of six (or eight) cards left over.
The specific requirements are as follows:
|Cards per player||20||17||14||19||17||15||14||17|
In each hand, all the cards of a particular suit and a particular rank are trumps (for example all hearts and all twos); the jokers, if in use, are trumps as well. The highest trumps are the red jokers (if any), then the black jokers (if any), then the cards which belong to both the trump rank and the trump suit, then the other cards of the trump rank (all ranking equally), and finally the other cards of the trump suit, ranking in the normal order: ace, king, queen, jack, ten, ... down to two.
The cards of the other suits rank in the normal way from ace high down to two (low), leaving out the cards of the trump rank.
When different players play equal ranking cards to the same trick, the general rule is that the first played wins. This rule applies to identical cards, and also among the equal cards of the trump rank (i.e. those which do not belong to the trump suit as well).
Example: suppose that eights and diamonds are trumps. Then the ranking of the trump suit from high to low is: red joker, black joker, 8, [8, 8, 8 - all equal], A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. The rank of the other three suits, from high to low, is A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
Looking for Friends is a point trick game - the aim is for the players on your team to win tricks containing valuable cards. As is usual in Chinese games, the values of the cards are:
|Each king:||10 points|
|Each ten:||10 points|
|Each five:||5 points|
|All other cards:||No value|
Thus the total number of card points is 200, 300 or 400 depending on the number of packs used.
The deal and play of Looking for Friends are anticlockwise, and the dealing is done in the usual Chinese way. There is no dealer. The pack is placed face down in the centre of the table and each player in turn takes one card from the top of the pack and adds it to their hand without showing it to the other players. The taking of cards continues around the table until everyone has their full number of cards (as specified in the table above), and there are six face-down cards remaining in the centre of the table.
Trumps are made during the deal, but before explaining how this is done, it is necessary to say a little about the scoring. At any time, each player has a score which is the rank of a card from two (low) up to ace (high). In addition, each player is either active or passive. At the start of a new game, everyone's score begins as active two.
Only active players can make trumps. This is done by an active player placing face-up on the table a card from their hand whose rank is equal to their own current score (which will be two for everyone if it is the first deal, but later in the game different players will have different scores). A card can be exposed in this way at any time during the deal, and the suit of the exposed card is the proposed trump suit.
After a card has been exposed, the another player can change the proposed trump suit by exposing a pair of identical cards equal to their score. If the player who exposed the first card must now either
- take the first exposed card back into his or her hand, accepting the change of trump suit, or
- maintain the original trump suit by exposing another card identical to the first one, making a pair. This forces the player who tried to change trumps to take back their pair.
If playing with more than two packs, a trump suit set using two identical cards can be changed by a player subsequently exposing three identical cards, and again the proposer of the previous trump suit can either withdraw them or add a third identical card to the pair, forcing the new triplet to be withdrawn. With four packs, a trump suit set with a triplet could be changed by four identical cards and so on.
- Player A is at active 4, Player B at active 3, Player C at active 6.
- A declares trump by exposing 4.
- B overbids by exposing 3-3; A puts 4 back in his hand.
- C overbids by exposing 6-6-6; B defends by exposing a third 3; C returns the 6 triplet to hand.
- B is now the trump maker with spades as the trump suit.
If is not possible to change your own trump suit. If you expose, for example, a 2 to make diamonds trumps, and later pick up two 2's and decide you would rather have clubs as trumps, you cannot override your own choice by exposing the 2's.
The trump suit can be set or changed at any time during the deal. You are not obliged to expose a card just because you can. You might occasionally wish to avoid exposing a card if you were very weak in that suit and did not want to make it trumps. You might wait to collect more cards to decide whether you want that suit as trumps, or in the hope of getting another card of your rank in a different suit, but you take the risk that another player may make trumps meanwhile. However, if another player tries to change your trump suit, you must respond immediately if you wish to defend it with an equal number of cards. Otherwise one more card is needed to change it again.
Although there is no actual dealer, someone has to begin by taking the first card, and there is a slight advantage in this, as the starter has the best chance of choosing trumps.
- At the beginning of a new game, the starter for the first deal is chosen at random: before the deal each player draws a card, and whoever gets the highest card will take the first card in the deal (after the drawn cards have been shuffled back into the pack).
- For subsequent deals, the starter is the player who made trumps in the previous deal, provided that that player is still active. If that player has become passive, the deal is started by the next player in anticlockwise order who is active.
Before the deal, the starter shuffles the cards and the player to the starter's left cuts the pack.
It is rare, but it can happen that no one exposes a card during the deal. If the last six cards are reached without anyone having made trumps, all the cards are shuffled together and there is a new deal, started by the same player as before. For the new deal all the players become active, but their scores remain on the same ranks (so for example a player who was passive seven becomes active seven).
A kitty, consisting usually of six face down cards, remains at the end of the deal. The player who made trumps picks up these cards without showing them to the other players and discards an equal number of cards face down. These discarded cards are kept face down in front of the trump maker until the end of the play. Any valuable cards among them will then be given to the team that wins the last trick and will count double.
The trump maker now names cards which will eventually determine who plays for which team. The potential size of the teams and the number of cards called are as follows:
|Maximum size of trump maker's team||2||3||3||4||4||5||5||6|
|Minimum size of defending team||3||3||4||4||5||5||6||6|
|Number of cards called by trump maker||1||2||2||3||3||4||4||5|
The trump maker must call the number of cards indicated in the last row of the above table. The holders of the called cards will join the trump maker's team, and the other players will form the opposing team. The called cards must not be trumps; apart from this the trump maker is free to call any cards.
As there is more than one of each card in play, the trump maker must also specify which copy of the relevant card is being called. This is done by saying "first" or "second" or "third" etc., up to the number of packs being used. The partner will be whoever plays the first, second, third, etc. copy of that card which appears during the play of the hand.
Example: There are eight players and fives and spades are trumps. The trump maker might call the first ace of clubs, the first king of clubs and the third ace of diamonds. In that case the first player to play an ace of clubs, the first to play a king of clubs, and the third player to play an ace of diamonds will belong to the trump maker's team.
The holders of the called cards must not reveal in any way who they are, except through the play of the cards. At the beginning of the play no one knows who is in which partnership. Not even the holders of the called cards themselves can be sure of this, as they do not necessarily know whether they will manage to play their called card before or after the other copies of the same card.
Although the trump maker must always call the specified number of cards, it can happen that two of the called cards are played by the same person, or that one of the called cards is played by the trump maker. In this case the trump maker's team will be smaller than usual and the defenders' team will be larger.
- In a seven player game, the trump maker calls the first and second aces of hearts. If one player turns out to hold both heart aces the trump maker only will have only this one partner.
- In a six player game, the trump maker calls the first ace of spades and the first ace of clubs. The trump maker leads a spade which player A wins with the ace, becoming the first partner. The two aces of clubs are held by players A and B. Player B, having a lot of clubs, deliberately keeps back the ace and plays small ones, driving out A's ace first. Player A is now the trump maker's only partner.
Play is anticlockwise. The trump maker leads to the first trick, and thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next. When the called cards are played, they are left face up in front of the people who played them, so that it is easy to see which players are on the trump maker's team (the trump maker is identified by having the six face-down discards).
When a player who is or may be a member of the opposing team takes a trick, any valuable cards which are in it (kings, tens and fives) are kept face up in front of the winner of the trick. In this way it is easy to keep count of whether the defenders have enough points to defeat the trump making side, and also to see which players you would prefer to have as friends.
All the remaining cards - that is, all the cards in the tricks won by the trump maker's team and all the worthless cards won by the other team - are thrown into a single face-down pile (well away from the trump maker's six discards). When a person who has previously won valuable cards plays one of the called cards and becomes a partner of the trump maker, the valuable cards are added to the face down heap, and the called card is placed in front of that person instead.
The actual rules of following suit and winning tricks are similar to the normal rules of trick taking, but with some extensions involving multiple tricks in which each player plays a group of cards rather than just one.
The player whose turn it is to lead can choose between four types of lead (subject to having the requisite cards), as follows:
- Any single card can be led.
- Any set of two or more identical cards can be led together.
- A sequence of equal sized, consecutive sets of identical cards can be led.
- A collection of top cards in a suit can, in certain circumstances, be led.
Each of the other players in turn contributes the same number of cards to the trick. The rules as to which cards can be played and who wins the trick are given below for each type of lead.
Any single card can be led. The other players in turn must each play a single card, if possible of the suit which was led. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. For this purpose all the cards of the trump number and suit and the jokers count as belonging to a single suit.
Example: If queens and diamonds are trumps, and a trump is led (for example the Q), each of the other players must play a diamond, a queen or a joker; only if they have no trumps at all can they discard some other card - a spade, club or heart other than the queen. If the 7 is led the other players must if possible play a spade, but not the queen as she is not a spade but a trump; if they have no spades (except possibly the queen) they can trump with any trump or discard any other card.
If any trumps are played to the trick, it is won by the highest trump played. If no one plays a trump it is won by the highest card played of the suit led. Between equal cards, the first played beats the others.
Example: Queens and diamonds are trumps and the seven cards played to the trick are in order: 8, Q, 10, Q, Q, K, A. The trick is won by the Q, which beats the two queens of clubs as it was played earlier. A queen of diamonds from any player would have won the trick, as it belongs to both the rank and suit of trumps and thus beats the other queens.
A player can lead two or more identical cards as a set. Note that it is not sufficient for the cards just to be equal in rank: if nines and clubs are trumps you can lead 9-9 but not 9-9.
The other players must each contribute the same number of cards to the trick, and as far as possible they must play cards of the suit led, again counting all the trumps as belonging to one suit. Moreover, if a pair of identical cards was led, the other players must if possible play a pair of identical cards of the same suit. Similarly when three or four identical cards are led, any other player who has a set (respectively) of three or four identical cards of that suit must play it.
A player who cannot follow with identical cards of the suit led must still play cards of the suit led as far as possible. A player who does not have enough of these must play any that they do have, and make up the number of cards required with any other cards they choose.
When identical cards are led the trick can only by won by a set of identical cards. The winner will be whoever plays the highest such set of the suit that was led, unless someone has no cards at all of the suit led and trumps with a set of identical trumps, in which case the trick is won by the highest set of identical trumps played.
If equal sets of identical cards are played by different players (such as two nines of spades and two nines of diamonds when nines and clubs are trumps), then the earliest played beats the others.
Example: nines and clubs are trump and a pair of jacks of hearts is led.
- If you hold A, K, 10, 6 you may play any two hearts, but you will not win the trick as you do not have a pair.
- If you hold A, 10, 10, 6 you must play your two tens. As the tens are worth points you might wish you could throw the ace and six, but this is not allowed.
- If you hold K, K, 10, 10 you can beat the lead with your kings or play under it with your tens if you prefer.
- If you hold 8, 8, 8, 6, 5 you must play two of your eights, even though you might wish you could keep the set of three intact to lead as a triple later.
- If your only cards are A, Q, Q, 7, 7 you can play any two cards you choose, as you have no hearts. You are not forced to play a pair in this situation. If you choose to, you can beat the lead by trumping with your two sevens of clubs.
- If your only cards are 10, K, 7, 7 you cannot trump with your sevens as you are obliged to follow suit with the king of hearts. As your second card you must throw away the spade or one of your trumps, but either way you cannot win the trick.
- If your only cards are 9, 9, 9, K you may play any two cards - you have no hearts as the 9 is a trump. Whatever you throw you cannot win the trick (two of your nines are equal in rank but not identical).
If you are fortunate enough to hold two or more sets of identical cards of adjacent rank in the same suit, you can lead them together as a sequence of sets. The sets in the sequence must be equal in size. Jokers and cards of the trump rank cannot be included in a sequence of sets.
Examples: Fives and hearts are trumps.
The following leads are valid:
- 6-6-4-4 (six and four are adjacent because fives are trump)
The following leads are not valid:
- 8-8-7-7 - sets must be the same suit
- 9-9-7-7 - sets must be adjacent in rank
- 9-9-9-8-8 - sets must be the same size
- 6-6-5-5 - not adjacent, as fives are trump, and in any case cards of the trump rank cannot be used
- 5-5-A-A - cards of the trump rank cannot be used in sequences
When a sequence of sets is led, the other players must play the same number of cards, and must play cards of the suit led as far as possible. Moreover, as far as possible they must follow suit with sets of the same size as the sets in the sequence that was led. Players are not obliged to follow with sequences of sets, even if they have them; any sets of the right size will do. However, the lead can only be beaten by a higher sequence of sets of the same size and length in the same suit or a sequence of sets of the same size and length in trumps.
A player who does not have sufficient sets of cards of the suit led can play any cards of the suit led. A player who runs out of cards of the suit led is free to play any cards - there is no obligation to play sets in this case.
The trick is won by the highest sequence of sets in trumps which is the same shape as the lead, or if no one plays such a sequence, by the highest sequence of sets in the suit led which is the same shape as the lead. Most often no one will be able to beat the lead and the led cards will win the trick.
Examples: Fives and hearts are trumps, and the lead is Q-Q-J-J
If the lead was Q-Q-J-J-10-10 of spades and your spades were A, A, A, K, K, K, 4, 4 you must play two aces, two kings and two fours, which does not beat the lead. You cannot play your two triples, as when pairs are led you must follow with pairs. If your only spades were A, A, A, K, K, K you would have to play them, and they still would not beat the lead, as they would count as a pair of aces, a pair of kings and two odd cards.
- If your spades are A, Q, 10, 10, 7, 6 you must play the two tens and any other two spades (probably you will want to play the seven and six). You must play your pair of tens because pairs were led.
- If your spades are A, A, 10, 10, 9, 9 you can play any two of your pairs - for example if you are an enemy of the leader you probably want to play the aces and nines. There is no obligation to play your sequence.
- If your spades are A, A, A, A, 6, 4 (in a twelve player game) you must play all your spade aces (as two pairs), but they do not beat the lead as they are not in sequence.
- If your spades are K, K, Q, Q, 8, 7, 7 (in a twelve player game) you may play any two of your three pairs, and if you play K-K-Q-Q this will beat the lead.
- If you hold A, A, 5, K, K you must play your two aces and any two of your three trumps; you cannot win the trick as you are not playing a sequence.
- If you hold 2, 6, 6, 4, 4 you must follow suit with your spade and play any three trumps; this will not win the trick.
- If you hold 6, 6, 4, 4 and no spades you can trump with your sixes and fours, beating the lead because these are a sequence (five is the trump rank).
If you possess several cards or combinations in a suit and believe that they are all unbeatable by cards of that suit, you may lead them all at once. This lead can be a mixture of single cards, sets and sequewnces of sets. The other players must follow with the sma e number of cards. As far as possible they must play cards of the suit that was led, and if possible include as many sets of identcal cards as were included in the lead. Players who have insufficient cards of the suit led play all their cards of that suit along with any other cards to make up the required number.
If all the cards and combinations in the lead are really unbeatable, the leader will win the trick unless someone, having no cards of the suit led, is able to play an appropriate collection of trumps. To win the trick these trumps need to include similar combinations to those in the lead. If more than one player trumps, to determine which is higher look at the set of trumps used to beat the largest combination in the lead, and whoever played the highest such set of trumps wins the trick.
If anyone - even a partner of the leader - has a card or combination in the suit of the lead that can beat one of the card or combinmation in the lead, they must immediately show it. As a penalty, the leader must change the lead to include only the card or combination that has been shown to be beatable, withdrawing all other cards in the original lead. For each card withdrawn, 10 card points are transferred from the leader's team to the opposing team.
Example. Playing with Fours and Diamonds as trumps, a player leads A-K-J-J. If any other player has a single Ace of Spades (to beat the King), the leader has to take back the Ace and the Jacks, costing his side 30 points, and lead the King to be beaten by the Ace. If someone has a pair of Queens of Spades (to beat the Jacks), the Ace and King must be withdrawn, costing 20 points. If no one can beat the King or the Jacks, then everyone must play four Spades, if possible including a pair. Anyone who has no Spades at all may trump with two single trumps and a pair. If one player trumps with 5-5-5-Q and another plays 7-7-3-2 the second of those players wins by playing a better pair (the Fives do not count as a triple but as a pair and a single card, since there was no triple in the lead).
Example. Threes and spades are trumps. Player A leads A-A-K-K-J-J-J. To trump this one needs a triple and a sequence of two pairs. Player B, having no diamonds, trumps with A-A-A-8-8-7-7 and player C, also having no diamonds, trumps with 10-10-9-9-4-4-4. Player C wins the trick, because 10-10-9-9 beats 8-8-7-7.
At the end of the play, the defending team count the card points they have won in tricks, which is easy because the relevant cards are lying face up in front of them. In addition, if they won the last trick, the cards discarded by the trump maker are exposed and the value of any discarded kings tens or fives is doubled and added to the total of defenders' points.
The defenders win if their card point total is at least 40 times the number of packs of cards being used; otherwise the trump makers win. Normally just one game point is won, but it is possible to win more than one point in the following ways:
- If the defenders' card point total is at least 80 times the number of packs in play, they get two game points.
- If the defenders' card point total is at least 100 times the number of packs in play, they win three game points (although the basic value of the cards in each pack is only 100 points, it is sometimes possible to take more than 100 per pack because the points in the trump maker's discard are doubled).
- If the trump makers win with fewer than the maximum number of players in their team, they get an extra game point for each player below the maximum.
- If the defenders take no card points at all, the trump makers score two game points, and if they do not have the maximum sized team they score an additional two game points for each team member short of the maximum.
The possibilities are set out in full in the tables below.
- Players on the winning side who are already active remain active and their score increases by the number of points won.
- Players on the winning side who were passive become active. The first point won simply turns them from passive to active without changing their score; any further points are added to their score.
- All players on the losing side become passive, and their scores do not change.
Example of scoring:
|Start of game:||active 2||active 2||active 2||active 2||active 2||active 2|
|B, D and E win 1 point:||passive 2||active 3||passive 2||active 3||active 3||passive 2|
|A, B and C win 1 point:||active 2||active 4||active 2||passive 3||passive 3||passive 2|
|C, D and F win 2 points:||passive 2||passive 4||active 4||active 4||passive 3||active 3|
... and so on.
The possible scores are the same as the ranks of the cards. After 10 comes jack, queen, king, ace: for example if a player on "active 10" wins a point, their score becomes "active jack". Ace is the highest possible score and when a player reaches or passes this score the game ends.
It can take quite a long time to arrive at ace, so for a shorter game you might agree in advance to play to a lower target, such as seven.
5 players: 2 packs
|Defenders' card points:||zero||5 to 75||80 to 155||160 to 195||200 or more|
|Trump maker has one friend:||trump makers win 2||trump makers win 1||defenders win 1||defenders win 2||defenders win 3|
|Trump maker plays alone:||trump makers win 4||trump makers win 2|
6 or 7 players: 2 packs
|Defenders' card points:||zero||5 to 75||80 to 155||160 to 195||200 or more|
|Trump maker has two friends:||trump makers win 2||trump makers win 1||defenders win 1||defenders win 2||defenders win 3|
|Trump maker has one friend:||trump makers win 4||trump makers win 2|
|Trump maker plays alone:||trump maker wins 6||trump maker wins 3|
8 or 9 players: 3 packs
|Defenders' card points:||zero||5 to 115||120 to 235||240 to 295||300 or more|
|Trump maker has three friends:||trump makers win 2||trump makers win 1||defenders win 1||defenders win 2||defenders win 3|
|Trump maker has two friends:||trump makers win 4||trump makers win 2|
|Trump maker has one friend:||trump makers win 6||trump makers win 3|
|Trump maker plays alone:||trump maker wins 8||trump maker wins 4|
10 or 11 players: 3 packs
|Defenders' card points:||zero||5 to 115||120 to 235||240 to 295||300 or more|
|Trump maker has four friends:||trump makers win 2||trump makers win 1||defenders win 1||defenders win 2||defenders win 3|
|Trump maker has three friends:||trump makers win 4||trump makers win 2|
|Trump maker has two friends:||trump makers win 6||trump makers win 3|
|Trump maker has one friend:||trump makers win 8||trump makers win 4|
|Trump maker plays alone:||trump maker wins 10||trump maker wins 5|
12 players: 4 packs
|Defenders' card points:||zero||5 to 155||160 to 315||320 to 395||400 or more|
|Trump maker has five friends:||trump makers win 2||trump makers win 1||defenders win 1||defenders win 2||defenders win 3|
|Trump maker has four friends:||trump makers win 4||trump makers win 2|
|Trump maker has three friends:||trump makers win 6||trump makers win 3|
|Trump maker has two friends:||trump makers win 8||trump makers win 4|
|Trump maker has one friend:||trump makers win 10||trump makers win 5|
|Trump maker plays alone:||trump maker wins 12||trump maker wins 6|
Generally, any of the variants found in other Shēng Jí games such as 100 and Tractor can also be used in Looking for Friends and vice versa. Here are some specific variants of Looking for Friends that have been reported.
Number of Cards and Size of Kitty
While some players adjust the number of Jokers in the game to ensure that the kitty always consists of 6 cards, others always include one red and one black joker per deck and allow the size of the kitty to vary, keeping it as close to six cards as possible. For example with 5 players and two decks you can play with 4 Jokers and a kitty of 8 cards or remove the black Jokers and a have kitty of 6 cards. 7 players can play with three decks plus Jokers (162 cards): each player takes 22 cards and there are 8 cards in the kitty.
The first description of this game that I saw, provided by Jin Li, did not mention the possibility of changing the trump suit by exposing more than one card. The implication was that the initial choice of trumps by exposing the first card was final, but this could have been an oversight.
Some allow any player to make trumps by exposing a card of any rank corresponding to an active player. For example if the winners of the last hand are on levels 4, 4 and 6, anyone can expose a 4 or a 6 to set the trump suit. If the player who exposed the final trump card(s) is not active, or is not on the level corresponding to the rank exposed, then the next player around the table in anticlockwise order who is active at that level becomes the trump maker and takes the kitty.
Some allow trump suit tractors to continue above the ace. For example with 4's and diamonds as trumps the following would be legal plays:
- A-A-4-4. This is a valid tractor because four in a suit other than diamonds is the next rank above ace.
- 4-4-4-4-[black joker]-[black joker]. These ranks are also adjacent when fours and diamonds are trumps.
- [black joker]-[black joker]-[red joker]-[red joker]
Some play that four equal cards beat a four-card tractor - for example with 4's and diamonds as trumps 6-6-6-6 beats Q-Q-J-J.
Some play that leading a set of cards or a sequence sets forces other players to follow with subset of the pattern that was led if they cannot play the full pattern. In this version, when a four-card tractor is led, other players must follow with four-card tractors of that suit if possible, failing that two pairs, and failing that one pair and two odd cards. If someone leads a triplet then those who cannot follow with a triplet must play pairs in that suit if they have them. For example if 7-7-7 is led and my spades are A, K, K, 8, 5, then I must play my Kings - for example K-K-8 - although this cannot win the trick because it is not a triple. Similarly, if someone leads 8-8-8-9-9-9 of a suit then anyone with a four-card tractor in that suit has to play it along with two other cards.
When a player attempts to lead a collection of top cards but some part of it can be beaten in suit by another player, instead of requiring the player to lead the beatable cards, some end the play at that point, and the other team automatically wins one point. This penalty seems too mild if the other team was going to win anyway. Maybe a fairer penalty would be to give all the unplayed cards to the oipposing team and score accordingly.
Some play a lead of top cards must contain the same number of cards of each rank - for example with Threes and Spades as trumps one could lead A-Q or K-K-Q-Q-10-10 but not A-K-K.
Rick Heli describes a version of the game in which each player's score is just a level - there are no active or passive scores. After the first deal, the trump maker is determined by the result of the previous deal. If the trump maker's team wins, the new trump maker is the previous trump maker's partner in the 5-player game. [Presumably in a game with 6 or more players where the trump maker has more than one partner, the new trump maker will be the partner nearest to the right of the previous trump maker.] If the trump maker's team loses, the new trump maker is the defender nearest to the old trump maker in anticlockwise order. In this variant only cards whose rank is equal to the trump maker's level can be revealed during the deal. Anyone can reveal such a card, and subsequenly a pair of identical cards and so on, to set the trump suit, but whoever sets the trump suit, it is the pre-determined trump maker who takes the kitty, discards and leads to the first trick. If no one reveals a card of the trump rank during the deal, the cards of the kitty are turned until a card of that rank is found and its suit becomes trump. If there is no such card in the kitty, then the highest card in the kitty (other than a Joker) determines the trump suit. If there is a tie for highest the suit of the first of the equal highest cards becomes trump.
Each 20% of the points in the pack raises the winning team an extra level, but when the defenders have at least 40% but less than 60% of the points in the pack there is no score. For example the scoring table looks like this with five players:
|5 players: 2 packs||Trump maker has one friend||Trump maker plays alone|
|Zero||Trump makers win 3||Trump makers win 6|
|5 to 35||Trump makers win 2||Trump makers win 4|
|40 to 75||Trump makers win 1||Trump makers win 2|
|80 to 115||No score||No score|
|120 to 155||Defenders win 1||Defenders win 1|
|160 to 195||Defenders win 2||Defenders win 2|
|200||Defenders win 3||Defenders win 3|
A consequence is that that a defender who is not due to become the next trump maker gains nothing if the defensive team wins 40% of the points. However, it is still worth trying to take at least 40% of the points, since it stops the trump maker's team from going up a level.
This version of the game does not end when a player's level goes above Ace. Beyond Ace the next level is Joker (there is only one Joker level) and after that the player returns to Two. When the level is Joker there is no trump suit or rank and no exposing of cards during the deal. The Jokers are the only trumps. The levels above Joker are written as 2+, 3+, etc. (or 2*, 3*, etc.) on the score sheet to indicate that the player has gone above Joker and is on the second lap of scores. After Joker+, players continue to 2++ and so on, and the game continues for as long as the players wish or until a previously agreed deadline.
Since levels 10 and K are particularly challenging to play, because the trump rank cards are also scoring cards, some omit levels 2-9 after the fisrt lap so that the score progresses from Joker direct to 10+, then J+, Q+, K+, A+, Joker+, 10++, etc.
Rick Heli also reports two alternative methods of dealing with a false lead of top cards of a suit. As usual a player who has a card or combination that can beat one of the components of the lead must expose it, but in these versions this ends the play, and according to prior agreement either:
- the offending team loses the hand and each member of the other team goes up one level, or
- the offending player is given a two point penalty and each other member of the offender's team a one point penalty. These penalties are written as -2 and -1 beside the relevant players' scores, which are deducted from their scores on future deals, one penalty point for each point scored, preventing them from going up to the next level until all their penalty points are paid off.
Both these methods have the unsatisfactory feature that when a team is expecting to lose badly, it might be in a player's interest to lead a false set of top cards deliberately, because the penalty would cost less than the team was likely to lose if the play were completed. The tactic of deliberately making a false lead is considered unethical. However, it seems fairer to avoid this temptation altogether by requiring the play to continue after the leader has withdrawn all except the beatable cards, in addition to imposing whatever penalty is agreed upon.