Sechsundsechzig (66)

This page is based on a contribution from Günther Senst

Introduction

In Germany, the two-player game 66 (Sechsundsechzig) is probably as well-known as Skat. In contrast to Skat, however, 66 is usually thought of as a simple game suitable for children. This reputation may be partly due to the lack of any standard set of 66 rules laid down by an official body or tournament organisation. Even the "66 Research Circle" in Paderborn [3] referred to by David Parlett in his Card Games for Two [1] does not take on this task. Most game book authors fail to take this game seriously, and are satisfied simply to copy an incomplete description by another author from an earlier book.

The game is named 66 because the objective of each hand is to be the first to collect 66 card points in tricks and melds. It is said to have originated around 1652 in the town of Paderborn. The inn where it was first played has not survived, but its invention is commemorated by a plaque on the bank which has replaced it. In some old books the game is called Paderbörnern rather than 66. [2]

A great number of variants of 66 and similar games are played in many European countries. The closely related game Schnapsen is very popular in Austria, and because the rules differ from those of 66 in several important details, it is described on a separate page of this site. A list of the main differences between German 66 and Austrian Schnapsen can be found below.

Players and Cards

Sechsundsechzig is played with a 24-card pack: in North Germany with French suited cards and in South Germany with German suited cards. The rank of the cards is:

  • With French suits: Ace (high), Ten, King, Queen, Jack, Nine (low) in the suits clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds.
  • With German suits: Deuce (high, often called Ace), Ten, King, Over, Under, Nine in the suits acorns, leaves, hearts and bells.

The cards have point values: the Ace (Deuce) counts 11, the Ten counts 10, the King 4, the Queen (Over) 3, the Jack (Under) 2, and the Nine counts 0 points.

There are two players. (Variants for three or four players also exist.)

The Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random. The dealer shuffles the cards thoroughly and deals six cards to each player. They may be dealt singly or in batches of two or three at a time. Then he places the next card, the 13th, face up on the table - it determines the trump suit for the hand - and stacks the remaining 11 cards crosswise on top of it, so that the trump card is half covered. The 12 cards on the table form the stock or talon.

The winner of the hand becomes the dealer for the next hand.

The Play

The play of the cards takes place in two phases.

First Phase:
The non-dealer plays any of his six cards, placing it face up on the table. The dealer's opponent responds by playing any card face up. These two cards form a trick. If both players play the same suit, the higher card wins. If just one player plays a trump, the trump wins. If the players play non-trumps of different suits the card played by the first player wins.
In this first phase there is no requirement to follow suit, nor to try to win the trick.
The player who wins the trick takes both cards and stores them face down in front of him. The trick winner draws the top card from the talon and adds it to his hand, without showing it to his opponent. The other player then does the same, so that both players again have 6 cards in their hands. Then the winner of the trick leads a card face up to the next trick, and the other player responds with a card of his choice.
Either player may examine the cards in the trick that has just been played so long as no card has been played to the following trick. As soon as a card is led to the new trick, the cards played to the previous trick must remain face down and cannot be looked at until the play ends.
The winner of the sixth trick will draw the last face down card from the talon, and the loser will draw the face up trump card that was under it.
Second phase
After the talon cards are exhausted, the rules of play change. Players are now forced to follow suit and, subject to that, to win the trick if possible. This means that when a card is led, the opponent must play a higher card of the same suit if possible. Having no higher card, the second player must play a lower card of the suit that was led. If the second player has no card of the suit played by the first player he must play a trump if possible. Having no cards of the suit led and no trumps, the second player may throw any card.
As before, the winner of each trick leads to the next.

Usually the cards are not played to the end, because one of the players reaches 66 and stops the play earlier by going out, as described below. If neither player goes out, the very last trick is worth 10 card points extra, which makes a total of 130 points in the pack, plus the value of any marriages that have been melded. In this case, the player with the higher card point total wins. If the players have equal card point totals the hand is a draw. No game points are scored, and the same dealer deals again. A draw occurs when the players take 65 card points each, and could also happen at higher totals such as 75 each if one of the players loses count of points and misses the opportunity to go out,

Going Out

As soon as a player wins a trick or declares a meld (see below) that brings his card point total to 66 or more, he can stop the play by saying "out" and win the hand. It is only possible to go out in this way immediately after winning a trick or melding.

When a player goes out, the value of the cards in his tricks is counted. If he has at least 66 card points he wins 1 or more game points, depending how many points or tricks his opponent has - see scoring. If it turns out that he has fewer than 66 card points he automatically loses 2 game points, irrespective of how many card points the other player has.

Note that a player who correctly goes out with 66 or more card points wins the deal, even if it turns out that the opponent had reached 66 earlier, and even if the opponent has more points than the player who correctly went out.

Note also that if you forget to go out when you have 66 or more points, but instead lead to the next trick, you will not have another opportunity to go out until you win another trick. If your opponent reaches 66 and goes out before you win another trick, then your opponent will win. The winner is the player who correctly declares "out".

If neither player goes out and the cards are played out to the very end, then the winner is the player with the higher card point total (including the 10 card points for the winner of the last trick).

Nine of Trumps

A player who holds the nine of trumps may, if he wishes, exchange it for the trump card under the talon just before leading to a trick, provided that he has already won at least one trick. He takes the trump card from under the talon and places the nine of trumps from his hand face up in its place. Note that if you receive the nine of trumps as the card you draw after losing a trick, you have to win a new trick before you can exchange it: it is not possible to exchange the nine when you are not the first player to a trick, except in one case: when your opponent closes the talon.

When a player closes the talon (see below), his opponent may immediately exchange the nine of trumps if he has it, even if he has not yet won a trick. In this case the player shows the nine of trumps, takes the face down trump from the top of the talon, and places the nine of trumps face down on top of the talon in its place. He is not obliged to exchange the nine, but if he decides to do so, it must be done immediately the talon is closed.

Marriages

When leading to a trick, a player who has the King and Queen (King and Over) of the same suit in hand can meld them as a marriage. This is worth 40 points in trumps, or 20 points in any of the other three suits. The player shows the cards of the marriage, saying "20" or "40", and leads one of the cards to the trick. Only one marriage can be melded when leading to a trick: if you are lucky enough to hold more than one marriage, then in order to meld the second one you will need to win a trick to gain the lead again, while keeping both marriage cards in your hand. Once the talon is exhausted, no further marriages can be melded: the last possible occasion for declaring a marriage is when leading to the 6th trick.

If it is your lead and you have a marriage to meld whose 20 or 40 card points take you over the target of 66, you can show the marriage and immediately declare "out" to win the deal. This ends the play, so you do not lead a card.

Since it is possible to declare a marriage when leading to any trick before the talon is exhausted, it is also possible for the non-dealer to declare one in the first trick. However, the 20 or 40 card points only count if the player subsequently wins at least one trick. Even a zero-point trick consisting of two nines is sufficient to validate the marriage, but a player who begins by announcing 20 or 40 and then wins no tricks at all is Schwarz, and the opponent will score 3 game points when he reaches 66 points and declares "out".

Closing

If the talon is not yet exhausted, the player whose turn it is to lead can "cover" or "close" the talon. This is a commitment to reach 66 or more points and declare "out" without drawing any more cards from the talon. Before leading, the player takes the face up trump card from under the talon and lays it face down on top of the talon. From this moment onward, the "second phase" rules of play apply: players must follow suit and win the trick when possible. The closing player can meld a marriage immediately before closing, but no marriages can be melded in subsequent tricks.

It is possible to close immediately after winning a trick, when both players have only five cards in their hands. Alternatively the winner of a trick can draw from the talon and then close, with each player holding six cards. It is also possible for the non-dealer to close at the start of the play, before leading to the first trick. The last opportunity to close is immediately after the fifth trick: the winner of this trick can close before the last two cards are drawn from the talon.

Note that it is possible to carry out several actions when leading. In an extreme case, having won the first trick, a player might draw from the talon, exchange the nine of trumps for the King, use this to declare a trump marriage for 40, close the talon and then lead the Queen of trumps to the second trick.

After the talon is closed, the players play the cards remaining in their hands under phase two rules, and both players continue to count cards points for whatever tricks they win, but there is no score for the last trick. If the player who closed goes out with 66 or more card points, he wins and the score is based on the cards in the opponent's total tricks taken before and after closing. If the player who closed fails to go out with 66 points, the other player automatically wins at 2 or 3 game points, depending whether the opponent had any tricks at the moment of closing.

After the talon has been closed it is still possible, though very unusual, for the opponent of the player who closed the talon to win by reaching 66 or more points and going out, before the player who closed does so.

Scoring

The winner of each deal scores 1 or more game points. The first player whose cumulative score reaches 7 or more game points wins the game. Note that game points, scored for winning a deal, are completely separate from card points, which determine who wins each deal. The winner's score for a deal depends on how it was won:

The talon was not closed, and a player goes out with 66 or more points, or has the higher card point total if neither player went out. The opponent has 33 or more card points 1 game point
The opponent has fewer than 33 card points (Schneider) 2 game points
The opponent has no tricks (Schwarz) 3 game points
A player goes out prematurely, having fewer than 66 card points. The other player wins. 2 game points
A player closes the talon and goes out with 66 or more card points. The opponent has 33 or more points (including those taken after the talon was closed) 1 game point
The opponent has fewer than 33 card points in total (Schneider) 2 game points
The opponent has taken no tricks at all (Schwarz) 3 game points
A player closes the talon but fails to go out with 66 or more card points. The opponent wins. The opponent had at least one trick when the talon was closed. 2 game points
The opponent had no tricks when the talon was closed. 3 game points.
A player closes the talon, but the other player then wins by going out with 66 or more points (rare case) 2 game points

Keeping Score

It is traditional to keep score using the four sevens and eights that are removed from a Skat pack to create a 24-card pack for 66.

Each player has two sevens and places one face up and the other face down on top of it. The face down seven is positioned to reveal a number of pips of the other seven corresponding to the player's game point score.

The four eights are used to remember marriage declarations. A player who declares a marriage takes the eight of the corresponding suit and lays it face up alongside his seven.

Advice on Play

A master player, who can accurately remember every detail of the cards played, hardly needs these hints. For those with lesser mental powers, here is a priority list:

  1. It is essential to keep an accurate count of the card points you have won, so that you can correctly declare when you are "out".
  2. It is desirable also to keep count of your opponent's card points, so that at the appropriate time you can trump a trick to get out of Schneider or Schwarz before your opponent reaches 66, when necessary breaking up a trump marriage to do so.
  3. If you have enough card points to give you a good chance of reaching 66 after closing, you should close the talon, to avoid the risk of your opponent getting there first by declaring a marriage.
  4. It can also be worth closing when you have valuable non-trump winners: by doing so you hope to force your opponent to follow suit to these cards rather than trumping them.
  5. If you can remember all the cards played in the first half of the deal, you can play the last six tricks very accurately, knowing all your opponent's cards.

Variants and Other 66 Web Pages

Some play that after a drawn hand, in which the card points split 65-65, the winner of the the next hand scores an additional game point.

Some play that a game won by a 7-0 margin counts as two games. If playing for a stake, the loser would have to pay twice as much as for a normal game.

Differences from Schnapsen

The German game 66 is very closely related to the popular Austrian game Schnapsen, but differs in some important details.

  • 66 is played with 24 cards, including the nines. 6 cards are dealt to each player. The 9 can be exchanged for the face up trump card. (Schnapsen is played with only 20 cards.)
  • In 66, from the moment that the talon is exhausted or the trump is turned down, no further 20's or 40's can be declared. (In Schnapsen 20's and 40's can be declared in any trick.)
  • In 66, if the talon is not closed and no one goes out, the last trick is worth 10 card points if the talon is exhausted, and the player with the higher card point total scores 1, 2 or 3 game points. It is possible for a deal to be drawn. (In Schnapsen the winner of the last trick always wins just 1 game point in this situation.)
  • In 66, when the talon is closed, all the opponent's tricks, including those taken after the talon is closed, are counted when determining the score. (In Schnapsen the score is normally determined by the tricks the opponent had at the moment of closing.)
  • In 66 the talon can be closed either before or after drawing from the talon. (In Schnapsen it can only be closed after drawing.)
  • In 66, the opponent of a player who closes may at the moment of closing exchange the 9 for the face up trump, even having won no tricks. (In Schnapsen this is not allowed.)
  • In 66 the winner of each hand deals the next. (In Schnapsen the players deal alternately.)
  • The game of 66 is scored from zero upwards. The first player to 7 wins. (Schnapsen is scored downwards from 7 to zero.)

Three Player Game

Deal and play are clockwsie. From the shuffled 24-card pack, the dealer deals a batch of three cards to each player. The player to dealer's left looks at his three cards and may announce the trump suit. The deal is then completed with a batch of two and then three cards each so that everyone has 8 cards. There is no talon. If the player to dealer's left decides not to choose trumps, the first card of the second round of the deal is dealt to him face up, and the suit of this card is trump. The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit and beat the highest card in the trick when possible, as in phase two of the two-player game. A player can meld one marriage before leading a card of it to a trick. The player who takes most card points wins one stake from each of the others, provided that they have at least 33 points. A player with fewer than 33 points but at least one trick pays the winner two stakes, and a player with no tricks pays the winner three stakes.

Four Player Game

The players form fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts, showing everyone the card which will be on the bottom of the pack. This card will belong to the dealer, and its suit is trump. From the 24-card pack, six cards are dealt to each player, in batches of three. Traditionally the dealer deals first to his partner, then his left-hand opponent, then his right-hand opponent and then himself. Rules of play are as in the three-player game, but when a player leads to a trick, both this player and his partner may meld a marriage. The hand is won by the first team that correctly declares they have 66 or more points, and they win 1, 2 or 3 game points as in the two-player game.

There are some more elaborate variants for four players, such as the Austrian game Bauernschnapsen and the southwest German game Gaigel. American four-handed 66 is described on the 66 Wikipedia page.

Other 66 Web Pages

A comparative analysis of the 66 variants described in various sources can be found on Martin Tompa's page Schnapsen and Sixty-Six Rules Variants.

The Wikipedia page on 66 describes some other variants of 66, including Schnapsen.

66 Online

You can play 66 or Schnapsen online at GameDuell.

At SolitaireOnline you can play 66 online against the server.

References

  1. Parlett, David: Card Games for Two – Hodder and Stoughton – 1980, 2nd edition, pp 97 – 101
  2. Beck, Fritz: Schnapsen (Sechsundsechzig), Preisschnapsen – Pechans Perlen-Reihe volume 639 -  Vienna 1961
  3. Tölle, Hermann: Das Paderborner 66. Eine humoristisch-historische Abhandlung. Paderborn 1966 (6th edition, the first edition appeared in 1853) (30 pages, rules and advice on play. On page 24 is the statement: “Seit 1959 besteht in Paderborn der Forschungskreis „66“)