Anrufen / Königrufen

Introduction

This page is about a group of related games played in Austria and some other parts of its former empire. They are all four-player descendants of the French point-trick game Mariage played with 32 or 24 cards, in which the bidder chooses a partner by calling a card. They all use a simplified system of card values in which the aces, the tens and the last trick count 10 points. The King and Queen of a suit together in one hand (or the King and Over when German suited cards are used) can be declared for an extra 40 points in trumps and 20 in other suits. These games are closely related to the Czech game Mariáš, and more distantly to Austrian Bauernschnapsen.

The calling of a card to choose a partner is reflected in the names of the games, all based on the German word rufen - to call. Anrufen just means calling and Rufmariasch refers also to the French ancestor mariage. The name Königrufen (call the king), used in some places in Austria, is at first sight surprising, because it is normally Aces, not Kings, that are called in this game. The name was perhaps transferred from a popular Austrian variant of Tarock, also called Königrufen, in which partners are chosen by calling Kings, which in Tarock are the highest cards of their suits. The use of the name Königrufen for several different card games can cause confusion: in most parts of Austria, when Königrufen is referred to it is the Tarock game that is meant. Another possible reason for the name is that in some versions, some players do like to call a King, in the hope that their partner may also have the Queen (Over) or the same suit, and can declare them for 40 points.

Königrufen (Rußbach)

This game, played at Rußbach in Tennengau, was described by Remigius Geiser in his article Die 100 Kartenspiele des Landes Salzburg in the journal Talon, No. 13, 2004, page 43.

Players and Cards

There are four players, and a 32-card German suited pack (William Tell pattern) is used. In each of the four suits hearts, bells, acorns and leaves the cards rank from high to low Ace, Ten, King, Over, Under, Nine, Eight, Seven. In this card design, sold by Piatnik as 'Doppeldeutsche Karten', the Aces have their suit symbols rotated and depict the four seasons, the Kings are mounted on horses, the Overs have their suit symbol at the top left of the card, and the Unders have their symbol lower down, just above the centre line of the card on the left. The Tens, Nines, Eights and Sevens are identified by Roman numbers as well as the number of pips. For example, here are the A, 10, K, O, U of acorns:

acorn aceacorn tenacorn kingacorn overacorn under

The aces, the tens and the last trick are worth 10 points each. They are known as "Gwisse".

Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal and Calling

Any player may deal first. Thereafter the turn to deal passes clockwise. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts. The dealer deals a batch of four cards to each player and pauses. The player to dealer's left must now call, naming a card by rank and suit. The suit called becomes trumps, and the holder of the card called will be the caller's partner. After the call, the dealer completes the deal, giving another batch of four cards to each player so that everyone has eight.

The caller's partner must not announce his or her identity. This will become clear only during the play. Sometimes the caller has no partner, either because it was in the second batch of four cards dealt to the caller, or occasionally when the caller, having begun with a very strong initial batch of four cards, deliberately calls one of them so as to play alone.

Play

The caller, the player to dealer's left, leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible. A player who is unable to follow suit must play a trump. A player who has no card of the suit led and no trumps may play any card. Subject to these rules, each player must if possible beat the highest card so far played to the trick. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trump by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

During the first trick, that is, at any time before the dealer completes that trick by playing a card, any player who holds the King and Over of a suit may declare it, saying 40 if the suit is trumps, or 20 if it is another suit. The cards are not shown, but will be seen by the other players in the normal course of play, so they can check that the announcement was valid. These points count for the declaring team if the player wins at least one trick: otherwise they do not count.

During the first trick it is also possible for a player to announce that his or her team will take at least 100 points, or will win all the tricks, winning an extra payment if successful, but incurring a payment if not.

Scoring

Each team counts the points in its tricks, and if no 20's or 40's have been declared the team with the majority of points - that is at least 50 - wins. However, a team that has declared 20 needs at least 60 points to win, a team that has declared 40 (or two 20's) needs at least 80 points to win and a team that has declared 60 needs at least 100 to win. This implies, for example, that if a team declares 40 and takes only 70 points, their opponents, who have declared nothing, win even though they have only 60 points.

It is not usual to score on paper: instead the players settle up in cash after each deal. When two play against two, one loser pays one winner and the other loser pays the other winner. When the caller has three opponents, the caller pays or receives the appropriate amount to or from all of them.

  • For a simple game, the usual payment is 10 cents.
  • If one side takes 100 or more points, without announcement, they win an extra 20 cents instead of 10.
  • Announcing 100 points is worth 30 cents. The announcing team wins 30 cents they succeed; if they take less than 100 points they must pay 30 cents.
  • Winning all eight tricks, without announcement, is worth 20 cents extra, in addition to the payment for game or 100. So a team that wins 100 points and all the tricks without announcing either wins a total of 40 cents.
  • Announcing that your team will win all the tricks is worth 30 cents, in addition to the payment for game or 100, which you win if you succeed and pay if you fail.

Rufmariasch

This very similar game, played by the Donauschwaben - the German settlers on the banks of the Danube - in 18th and 19th century Hungary, is described by Rick Heli on his Card Games of the Donauschwaben page.

According to Rick Heli's account, this game differed from Rußbach Königrufen as follows:

  • When declaring a 20 or a 40, the player places both cards face up on the table, so the suit of the declaration is known to all.
  • There is no special payment for making 100 points or all the tricks, and no possibility to announce these.
  • The payment between the teams at the end of each deal is proportional to the difference between their points.

There is a variant in which the called card does not have to be a trump. The caller names both the trump suit and the called card, which can be in a different suit.

Anrufen

Ludwig and Christina Niesz provided a description of this game, which they used to play with their parents in the 1930's to 1950's. The location was given only as 'Germany and Austria'.

Players and Cards

This game is played by four people using a 24-card pack, the cards ranking from high to low A-10-K-Q-J-9 in each suit. There is also a hierarchy of suits, used to decide between rival bids. From high to low the suits rank: hearts-diamonds-spades-clubs.

Aces and tens are worth 10 points each; the other cards have no value, but winning the last trick is worth 10 points for a total of 90 points available in each deal. There are additional points for declaring marriages (king and queen of a suit in one hand): 40 in trumps and 20 in any other suit.

Deal and play are clockwise and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Deal, Bidding and Calling a Partner

The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right cuts, and the dealer deals out all the cards in batches of three, so that each player has a hand of six cards. The players then bid, beginning with the player to dealer's left. There are six possible levels of bidding:

  1. Simple game. The bidder, with a help of a partner, tries to take the majority of points - that is at least 50 if no marriages are declared.
  2. 100 points. The bidder and partner try to take at least 100 points. They will need to declare at least one marriage since without marriages there are only 90 points in the game. The maximum possible number of points in a deal, if all four marriages are declared, is 190, so 100 will always be a majority.
  3. No tricks. The bidder, playing alone, must avoid taking any tricks to succeed.
  4. All tricks (Durchmarsch). Win all the tricks with the help of a partner.
  5. All tricks with 100 points. With the help of a partner win every trick and declare at least one marriage, thus making at least 100 points.

Players speak in turn, in clockwise order. Each bid must be higher than or equal to the last: a player who does not wish to bid can pass. No trump suit is mentioned in the bid unless two players make equal bids. If there are equal bids, the bidders must each state their proposed trump suit: the bid with the higher trump suit stands and the bid with the lower suit is cancelled.

If someone bids, the bidding continues for as many circuits as necessary until all players except one have passed. If all four players pass initially, then everyone in turn has a second chance to bid. If everyone passes a second time the cards are shuffled a dealt again. (Variant: some play that in this case the dealer is forced to bid.)

The final bidder announces the trump suit and calls a card whose holder will be the bidder's partner, but must not announce his or her identity.

Note. The Niesz description does not mention this, but by analogy with other games of this type, it seems almost certain that the "No Tricks" bid must be an exception. This bid was almost certainly played without a partner and with no trumps, so if "No Tricks" was the highest bid, no partner or trump suit would be called.

Play

The winning bidder leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible. A player who is unable to follow suit must play a trump. A player who has no card of the suit led and no trumps may play any card. Subject to these rules, each player must if possible beat the highest card so far played to the trick. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trump by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

A player who holds the king and queen of the suit may declare them for 40 points in trumps or 20 points in another suit. Such a declaration can only be made when the player is leading to the trick, and the player must lead one of the cards of the marriage (traditionally the queen) when making the announcement. This is called "registering" the marriage.

During the first trick, the bidder's partner may increase the bid at his or her turn to play, announcing 100 or all the tricks or both if the bid does not already include these. In other words the bid can be increased from #1 to #2, #4 or #5, or from #2 or #4 to #5 in the above table.

Also during the first trick, any opponent of the bidder who thinks that the bid will not be fulfilled may say 'Contra'. This increases the payment for the bid.

If the final bid was "No Tricks", there are no marriage registrations and no announcements of 100 or all tricks. It is still possible for an opponent who believes the bidder can be made to take a trick to say "Contra". Although there are no trumps, the requirement to beat all cards previously played to the trick when possible still applies here.

Scoring

The score is traditionally kept using tokens, and each of the four players begins with 10 of these. When two players play against two, one member of the losing team pays one member of the winning team while the other pays the other. When one plays against three the lone player pays to or receives from all three opponents.

The teams count the points in their tricks. In a simple game, the team with the majority of points wins. If 100 or all tricks was included in the bid or announced subsequently, the bid succeeds only if these announcements are fulfilled - otherwise it fails. For example a player bids 100 points and registers a marriage for 20. The bidder's team take 90 points and the other team has 40. The bidder's team loses (even though they have the majority) because they failed to take 100 points as announced.

The number of tokens to be paid is as follows:

  • Simple game: 1 token
  • Taking at least 100 points, when announced: 2 tokens instead of 1.
  • Taking all the tricks, when announced: 2 tokens instead of 1.
  • Taking 100 points and all the tricks when both were announced: 3 tokens instead of 1 or 2.

If the bid was 'No Tricks' the bidder wins 2 tokens from each opponent for losing every trick or pays 2 to each if forced to take a trick.

If Contra was said, the winners are paid 1 extra token.

Three player version

It is possible for three to play this game. Seven cards each are dealt and three remain face down on the table. The bids are as above. The winning bidder does not call a partner, but instead picks up the three face-down cards and discards three cards face down (possibly some or all of them being the same cards) in their place. The bidder plays alone and the other two players form a team. Any counting cards (aces or tens) among the three discarded cards count for the bidder's opponents.

Königrufen (Graden)

This 24-card game, played by farming families in Graden bei Köflach, a mountain village in western Styria, is described by Norbert Steinkellner on Spielewiki. It is said to have been played there for several generations, going back at least to the mid nineteenth century. In its present form, it is clearly a descendant of the other games described above, but it has been streamlined by disallowing the lowest bids - the simple game and the simple game with 100. The result is that the 10-scores for the aces, tens and last trick have all but vanished, surviving only in the special contract 'Schurln' which is played when no one wishes to bid. There is no longer a trump suit, and the 'marriages' survive only as an extra requirement for a player wishing to bid all the tricks with 100.

Players and Cards

There are four players, and the game is dealt, bid and played clockwise.

A French- or German-suited 24-card pack is used. The cards in each suit normally rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9 or A-K-O-U-10-9, but there are some bids in which the ten ranks between the ace and the king.

The Deal and Bidding

Any player may deal first, and thereafter the turn to deal passes clockwise. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts. The dealer then deals out all the cards in packets of three, so that each player has six cards.

The player to dealer's left begins the bidding. There are nine possible bids, listed with their objectives and scores in the Contracts section below. Each player in clockwise order must either pass ( saying "gut") or bid higher than the previous bidder (Bettler is an exception - see below). If all four players pass, the special contract Schurln is played, to punish the player who passed with the best hand. If someone bids, the bidding continues for as many circuits as necessary until three players have passed. A player who has passed cannot bid at a subsequent turn.

Play and Scoring - General Rules

The highest bidder leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit to the led card if possible, and when following suit must if possible beat the highest card of that suit so far played to the trick. A player who cannot follow suit may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

Usually the players settle up in money after each hand, and the payments are given in cents. If no money is available, the game is played for beans or nuts. When two players play against two, one loser pays one winner and the other pays the other. When one player plays alone against three, the lone player pays or receives the appropriate amount to or from each opponent. In Bettler and Schurln, there are other possible situations, which will be described under those contracts.

The Contracts

The possible bids, in ascending order, are as follows.

1. Bettler
The bidder undertakes to lose every trick, playing alone. The King is the second highest card. It is bid by placing the card one intends to lead to the first trick face down on the table. If Bettler has been bid and no one has bid higher, it is possible for other players also to bid Bettler rather than passing: they also lay down the card they will play to the first trick. This is called 'mitbetteln'. As soon as someone makes a higher bid, all the Bettlers are cancelled and the players must take their cards back. If no one bids higher, the first player who bid Bettler leads to the first trick, and in this first trick each of the other Bettler players must play the card they put face down: the requirement to follow suit does not apply to this card. It may be possible to get rid of an ace this way, discarding it on a lead of a different suit, but if unluckily the first Bettler player leads the suit of the ace you put face down, you will have top play it and your contract fails. The score for Bettler is 30 cents. If more than one player plays Bettler, those who succeed win 30 cents from each of the other three players and those who lose pay 30 cents to each of the other three. So for example if two Bettlers are played, one winning and one losing, the winner will gain 60 cents net, the loser will lose 60 cents and the other two will come out even.
2. Durchmarsch mit einer anderen
The bidder undertakes to win every trick with the help of a partner. Before leading to the first trick, the bidder names a card whose holder will be the bidder's partner. This player must not announce who they are, and will become known only in the course of play. The King is the second highest card unless the bidder calls a Ten, in which case all suits rank with the Ten second highest, between Ace and King. The score for this contract is 40 cents.
3. Durchmarsch am letzten
The King is the second highest card, and the bidder undertakes to win the first five tricks. Whoever wins the sixth trick will then be the bidder's partner and they win 40 cents. If the bidder wins the sixth trick, all three of the other players pay the bidder 40 cents. If the bidder loses any of the first five tricks, the bidder loses alone and has to pay 40 cents to each of the other three players.
4. Plauderer
The bidder must lose every trick, playing alone. The King is the second highest card. After the first trick, the bidder's other five cards are placed face up on the table and are played from there. The three opponents are allowed to discuss among themselves how to force the bidder to take a trick. The score is 50 cents. Nowadays, some play that all four players expose their cards, which makes little difference given that discussion is allowed in any case.
5. Durchmarsch Hundert mit einer anderen
The bidder, who must hold the King and Queen (Over) of some suit, undertakes to win every trick with the help of a partner. Before leading to the first trick, the bidder names a card whose holder will be the bidder's partner, hidden until the called card is played. The Ten is always the second highest card of each suit, no matter what card is called. Score: 60 cents .
6. Durchmarsch Hundert am letzten
The bidder, who must hold the King and Queen (Over) of some suit, undertakes to win the first five tricks. The Ten is the second highest card of each suit. Whoever wins the sixth trick will then be the bidder's partner and they win 60 cents. If the bidder wins the sixth trick, all three of the other players pay the bidder 60 cents. If the bidder loses any of the first five tricks, the bidder loses alone and has to pay 60 cents to each of the other three players.
7. Zehnermord
The bidder undertakes to win all six tricks, playing alone. The Ten is the second highest card of each suit. Score: 60 cents.
8. Königmord
The bidder undertakes to win all six tricks, playing alone. The King is the second highest card of each suit. Score: 70 cents.
9. Hundertermord
The bidder, who must hold the King and Queen (Over) of some suit, undertakes to win all six tricks, playing alone. The Ten is the second highest card of each suit. This is the highest contract, scoring 80 cents.

Special contract: Schurln

This contract cannot be bid. It is played only if all four players pass. The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick and the Ten is the second highest card of each suit. The aim is to avoid winning Aces and Tens in tricks and to avoid winning the last trick. When all six tricks have been played the players count the value of cards in the tricks they have won, counting 10 card points for each Ace or Ten. The winner of the last trick gets an extra 10 card points, so the total for all four players will be 90 card points. The player with most card points pays 10 cents to each of the other players. If two players tie for most card points, each pays 10 cents and the others win 10 cents, and if three players tie (with 30 card points each), they each pay 10 cents to the player who has none.