German Solo

This game is generally just known as Solo. It originated in Germany as a simplified version of l'Hombre, and is described in some American books as "Modern Ombre". It is little known in Germany nowadays, but is still played in parts of the USA.

The name German Solo is used on this page to distinguish this game from various other games called Solo, such as:

  • Solo Whist - a descendant of Boston Whist played in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Six-bid Solo (or Slough) - a point trick game also played in the USA.

German Solo is played with a 32 card pack consisting A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 in each suit. There are four players, each ultimately playing for themselves, though temporary partnerships are created by the bidding.

The relation to l'Hombre can be seen from the fact that the highest trump (clubQ) and third highest trump (spadeQ) are fixed, and the second highest trump is the card that would normally be lowest in the trump suit, namely the seven.

A fairly detailed description entitled 'The Complete Guide to the Rules of Solo' used to be available at http://members.stratos.net/niese/solorule.htm but this page has unfortunately disappeared, and I have been unable to contact the author. Since several people have asked, I have reproduced the text of that page below. If the page still exists somewhere on the Web, I hope that the author will let me know, and I will be happy to replace this copy with a link to the page at its new location.

The Complete Guide to the Rules of Solo

Text copied from the page formerly at http://members.stratos.net/niese/solorule.htm

Introduction

Solo is a fascinating card game for all ages. Strategy, experience, and luck are requirements for success. As with any card game, players develop these characteristics over time (with the exception of luck, which seems to come and go). With the help of these rules, you are on your way to becoming an excellent Solo player!

Number of Players

Solo is a 4 to 6 player game. In a 4 player game, all 32 cards are used, with 8 cards dealt to each player. In a 6 player game, the 8 of hearts and the 8 of diamonds are removed from the deck. Each player is then dealt five cards. The strategy involved with 6 hand Solo is very different from 4 hand. Consequently, the game moves much faster and scores tend to increase. The rules that follow are based on the 4 hand version. I plan to incorporate 6 hand rules on this webpage in the future.

Four hand Solo can be modified to allow additional players. In a 5 hand game, the dealer sits out the hand in which he/she deals. After all cards are dealt, the dealer has the option of buying the player's hand to the right by looking only at the last three cards that player received. At that time, if the dealer likes what he/she sees, he/she can make an offer, otherwise pass and wait till the next hand. Similar sequences can be used to allow additional players.

Overview

Solo is played with 32 cards from a standard 52 card deck. The cards used are as follows: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 of all suits.

The current bid determines the trump value of each card, as described below.

After shuffling the deck, each player is to receive 8 cards. Dealing begins on the dealer's left and continues to each player. A 3, 2, 3 dealing scheme or any personal preference can be incorporated to distribute the cards. The dealer must verify that each player has received the correct amount of cards before turning over his/her cards or a misdeal can be called. In the event of a misdeal, the dealer loses the privilege of dealing and the deal is passed to the left. At the end of each hand, the deal is rotated to the left of the last dealer. Bidding begins with the player to the dealer's left. Essentially, a bid is nothing more than stating what type of hand the bidder wishes to play. The types of bids are listed below in order of increasing value. Higher value bids override lower ones. If the player has a hand in which he/she can't play anything, he/she can elect to pass. Each player is allowed to bid once.

Scoring in Solo can be accomplished in a number of ways. The most common way is by using money. Each bid pays differently, depending on the probability of successfully completing it. Bid values are listed below with the bid descriptions.

Nickel Solo is a common type of scoring. To compute, multiply the score value of the bid by 5 cents. This is the amount to be paid to the player (or players) by each of the other players if he/ she is successful in completing the hand. If not, he/she must pay each of the other players that amount. Common variations to Nickel Solo are Dime and Quarter Solo. In these games the score value is multiplied by 10 and 25 cents respectively. Hand values are doubled when played with clubs as trump.
Note: Solo is not intended to be a source of income for players. Money is used strictly for identifying players who are winning during the current game. All money should be returned at the completion of the game.

Trump Structure

Clubs (highest value): clubQ, club7, spadeQ, clubA, clubK, clubJ, club10, club9, club8.
Spades: clubQ, spade7, spadeQ, spadeA, spadeK, spadeJ, spade10, spade9, spade8.
Hearts: clubQ, heart7, spadeQ, heartA, heartK, heartQ, heartJ, heart10, heart9, heart8.
Diamonds: clubQ, diamond7, spadeQ, diamondA, diamondK, diamondQ, diamondJ, diamond10, diamond9, diamond8.

In all four trump structures, the queen of clubs is the highest card, the 7 of trump second, and the queen of spades third. These cards are commonly referred as the Best, Spits, and the Boss respectively. Not all bids use trump. Check below.

There are different amounts of trump depending on what suit is used. In clubs and spades there are 9 trump. In hearts and diamonds there are 10 trump. Keep this in mind when counting cards as they are played.

Bidding Scheme - in increasing order

Question
The bidder and a partner must get 5 tricks.
Anything can be trump.
If someone bids IsIt, the bidder has the option of keeping the bid (bidder must have one club in his/her hand) or the bidder can pass the bid to the person who bid IsIt.
Bidder must call an ace not in his/her hand and the person who has it is the bidder's partner.
The ace cannot be the same suit as trump.
If the bidder has all of the aces, he/she can call a king.
Score Value = 2
IsIt
Bidder and a partner must win 5 tricks.
Clubs must be trump.
Bidder must have at least one club to bid IsIt.
Bidder must call an ace not in his/her hand and the person who has it is the bidder's partner.
The bidder cannot call the ace of clubs.
If the bidder has all of the aces, he/she can call a king.
Score Value = 4
Kicker
The bidder cannot get any tricks. If he/she does, the hand is over.
Nothing is trump. Aces are high and 7s are low.
All players must follow suit when possible.
The bidder must go over any card that has been played before his/her turn in the current trick. The bidder need not throw his/her highest card, but he/she must follow suit.
Anyone playing against a kicker need not throw their highest card of the suit, but they must follow suit.
Person throwing the highest card of the current trick starts the next trick.
Multiple kickers can be played per hand.
Score Value = 6
Having the Ladies
The bidder has both the queen of clubs and the queen of spades.
If the bidder can go solo do not bid this. Play a solo! It pays more.
If the bidder cannot go solo, the bidder must set both ladies on the table.
The bidder must call an ace not in his/her hand and the person who has it is his/her partner.
If the bidder has all of the aces, he/she can call a king.
The bidder's partner makes trump.
He/She cannot make trump the suit of the ace you called.
The bidder and his/her partner must get 5 tricks.
Score Value = 8
Solo
The bidder must make trump.
The bidder needs to get 5 tricks alone.
Only one solo can be played per hand.
Score Value = 8 when in clubs, Score Value = 4 otherwise.
IsIt Solo
Used when one person has already bid solo.
The bidder wants to go Solo in clubs. Clubs have precedence because they pay more. a Same rules as a regular solo.
Score Value = 8
6 Trick Solo
Same rules as solo but the bidder must get 6 tricks.
Used to overbid a previous bid of solo.
Note: A 6 trick spade, heart, or diamond solo does not overbid a regular club solo. Club solos pay more.
Score Value = 8 when in clubs, Score Value = 4 otherwise.
Bronco
The bidder must lay cards face up on the table.
Same rules as kicker.
Score Value = 12
Bull Solo
Bidder needs to get all 8 tricks.
Nothing is trump.
Aces are high and 7s are low. a Score Value = 14 (top)
Solo 2
Bidder must get all 8 tricks.
A club solo 2 goes over a regular spade, heart, or diamond solo 2.
Very rare.
Macker and First and Last values are doubled.
Score Value=16 for clubs, Score Value=8 for spades, hearts, or diamonds.

Scoring

Mackers provide an additional bonus for exceptional hands. Macker winnings are paid in addition to winnings from the initial bid. An individual or partners are paid for hands with 3, 4, or 5 mackers. Mackers are the queen of clubs, the 7 of trump, the queen of spades, the ace of trump, and the king of trump. Persons must have the first 3 mackers in order to collect macker winnings. Likewise, persons must have the first 4 mackers before collecting for the fifth macker.

Mackers

Add the score value of the bid to the total score value of the mackers.

3 mackers
One person or partners have the queen of clubs, the 7 of trump, and the queen of spades during the same hand.
ScoreValue = 2 per macker for clubs, Score Value = 1 per macker for spades, hearts, or diamonds.
Total Score Value = 6 for clubs, Total Score Value = 3 for spades, hearts, or diamonds.
4 mackers
One person or partners have the queen of clubs, the 7 of trump, the queen of spades, and the ace of trump during the same hand.
ScoreValue = 2 per macker for clubs, Score Value = 1 per macker for spades, hearts, or diamonds.
Total Score Value = 8 for clubs, Total Score Value = 4 for spades, hearts, or diamonds.
5 mackers
One person or partners have the queen of clubs, the 7 of trump, the queen of spades, ace of trump, and the king of trump during the same hand.
ScoreValue = 2 per macker for clubs, Score Value = 1 per macker for spades, hearts, or diamonds.
Total Score Value = 10 for clubs, Total Score Value = 5 for spades, hearts, or diamonds.

Players may choose to pay mackers both ways. This means that players not only collect macker earnings when they complete their bid, but also when players set another individual or partners when they have mackers. This means that an individual or partners must pay the value of the bid and the value of any mackers they had. Ouch!

First and Last is another way to reward individuals or partners for exceptional play. First and last can be collected on all bids except kickers, bloncos, and bull solos.

First and Last

First
Bidder or partners get the first 5 tricks played in a hand.
Score value added to total score value of hand.
ScoreValue = 2 for clubs, Score Value = 1 for spades, hearts, and diamonds.
Last
Bidder or partners get the first 5 tricks and the last 3 tricks played.
If an individual or partners try for last and do not complete it, they also forfeit winnings for achieving first.
Score value added to total score value of hand.
ScoreValue = 4 for clubs, Score Value = 2 for spades, hearts, and diamonds.

Conclusion

Solo is a challenging and rewarding game. On paper the rules seem a bit complicated. If you are a first time player, read through the rules carefully. Don't get frustrated with concepts you do not understand. The best way to learn is to dive in and play with others who know the game. I hope these rules make it a bit easier for you. Enjoy!