Mensch

This page is based on a contribution from Ray McNeil, from Redvers in the south-East corner of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Introduction

This game of the Hombre group has some similarity with German Solo. In fact it seems to have been imported to Canada from Luxembourg, where a similar game Mënsch is played.

The Players

There are four players, each playing as individuals.

The Cards and their ranking

Strip a normal 52 card deck of playing cards by removing the twos, threes, fours, fives, and sixes leaving 32 cards. In each hand there is a trump suit. Irrespective of what suit is trumps, the queen of clubs, called the "mensch", is the highest trump. Second highest is the 7 of the trump suit; then A, K, (Q), J, 10, 9, 8. In the non-trump suits, the cards rank (from high to low) A, K, (Q), J, 10, 9, 8, 7. The queen of clubs belongs for all purposes to the trump suit, not to the club suit.

The Deal

The cards are dealt out in batches of four to the four players, starting with the player to dealer's left and going twice around the table clockwise, ending with the dealer. Each player will then have eight cards.

The Bidding

Bidding starts at the dealer's left and passes in order clockwise, each player having only one opportunity to bid.

There are three types of bid:

  • Half and After: These are bids to win at least five tricks with clubs as trumps, with the help of a partner.
  • Five, Six, Seven, Solo: These are bids promising to win at least five, six, seven or eight tricks respectively, playing alone against the other three players. The bidder chooses the trump suit.
  • Five After, Six After, Seven After: These are bids promising to win at least five, six or seven tricks respectively, with clubs as trumps, playing alone against the other three players.

The bids, in increasing order, are Half, After, Five, Five After, Six, Six After, Seven, Seven After, Solo. Each player must either pass or bid higher than the previous bid, if any. "After" can only be bid after someone has said "Half". Similarly "Five After" is only used after someone has bid "Five", "Six After" after someone has bid "Six", and so on.

If no one else has bid yet, a player who has three or more Clubs must bid, saying "Half" at least, or a higher bid if preferred. If a subsequent bidder also has three or more Clubs that player must also bid saying "After" (unless someone else has already bid higher), thus relieving the "Half" bidder of the bid. Note that players may bid "Half" even though possessing fewer than three Clubs. In this way it may be possible to manipulate subsequent bidders into the position of being required to bid "After".

A player who has a strong enough hand to wish to play without a partner has the option of bidding "Five", "Six", "Seven", or "Solo" depending on the strength of the hand. A player who bids Solo must win all the tricks but has the advantage of leading to the first trick regardless of who dealt the cards. After a player has bid "Five" or more, subsequent players are relieved of their obligation to bid "Half" or "After".

After a player has bid "Five", another can bid "Five After", meaning that they will play Five with clubs as trumps. Similarly "Six" can be overcalled by "Six After", "Seven" by "Seven After".

In the event that everyone passes, which happens when nobody has three or more Clubs nor wishes to make any other bid, the person holding the Queen of Clubs must choose a suit for trump, call a partner and attempt to win at least five tricks.

Whenever Half or After are the highest bid Clubs are trump.

Calling a Partner

If the highest bid was Half or After the bidder must now call a card. The player who holds that card becomes the partner of the caller. The called card must not be a trump, and the caller must hold at least one card in the suit of the called card. Usually the called card is an Ace. If the bidder has the Ace of all the suits in his hand he must ask for some other card - generally a King.

The partner must not reveal that he has the called card until that suit is first played, at which time the requested card must be played.

If everyone passed, the holder of the clubQ (the "Mensch") now names trumps and calls a card as decribed above.

If the highest bid was five or more, the bidder does not call a partner, but plays alone against the other three players.

Play of the Hand

Unless there was a "Solo" bid, the player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. If the bid is "Solo", the Solo bidder leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible (the queen of clubs belonging to the trump suit). A player who has no card of the suit led can play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it (queen of clubs is highest, seven second highest, then the ace, king, etc.) If it contains no trumps, it is won by the highest card played of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

If the bidder called a partner, the partner must play the called card the first time that that suit is led. Until that time, the partner must not reveal that they hold the called card.

Scoring

If the bid is Half or After and the caller and the called partner win at least five tricks between them, each member of the losing team pays one chip; the bidder takes one of these chips and the called partner takes the other. If the calling team take four tricks or fewer, the caller and called partner each pay two chips and the opponents receive two chips each.

If there was no bidding, the payments are the same as for Half or After, except that if the calling team take four tricks or fewer, the payment is only one chip each rather than two.

If the bid is Five, Six or Seven, with a suit other than clubs as trumps, the bidder is paid one chip by each opponent if successful in winning at least the number of tricks bid. If the bidder fails to win enough tricks, the bidder pays one chip to each opponent.

If the bid is Five, Six or Seven and clubs are trumps, the bidder wins two chips from each opponent if successful and pays two to each opponent if not. If the bid was Five After, Six After or Seven After, the payment is the same.

In all the above cases, the payment is doubled if one team wins all the tricks - so the payment is two chips in Half, After or when everyone passes, or in Five, Six or Seven with a suit other than clubs as trumps, and four chips in Five Six or Seven with clubs as trumps.

If the bid is Solo, with a suit other than clubs as trumps, the bidder wins 4 chips from each opponent if he succeeds in winning all the tricks and pays 4 each otherwise. In Solo with clubs as trumps the bidder wins 8 chips from each opponent for winning every trick and loses 8 each otherwise.

Variation

Some play that if no one bids, the caller and partner pay two chips each if they lose, exactly as though the caller had bid Half or After.