Marjapussi

This page is based on information from Tuomas Korppi, Esko Heimonen and Mikko Saari.

Introduction

Marjapussi is a four-player point-trick game played in southern Finland. The name means "bag of berries", but it is clearly derived from the French word "mariage" (marriage - the combination of a king and queen in hand and the name of the ancestor game) by the route marias -> marjassi -> marjapussi. The variant with bidding, previously described on this web site under the name Marjapussi, is properly known as Huutopussi ("bidding bag") and is now described on a separate Huutopussi page. This page describes the simpler game Marjapussi, in which there is no bidding and no contract. Each team simply scores according to the points it makes in play.

Players and Cards

There are four players in two fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other.

A 36-card pack is used, the cards ranking from highest to lowest A, 10, K, Q, J, 9, 8, 7, 6 in each of the four suits hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. It is also possible to play with a smaller pack of 32 or 28 cards, omitting the lowest cards (sixes and sevens). It should be agreed in advance whether card values will be counted according to the original or the simplified system:

CardSimplified valueOriginal value
Ace10 card points11 card points
Ten10 card points10 card points
King5 card points4 card points
Queen5 card points3 card points
Jack5 card points2 card points
9,8,7,60 card points0 card points

So the total value of cards in the pack is 140 if the simplified system is used, but only 120 using the original system.

Deal and Play

Deal and play are clockwise. The first dealer is chosen at random. The dealer shuffles the cards and the player to dealer's right cuts. All the cards are dealt out one at a time - nine to each player from a 36-card pack, eight or seven cards each if you play with only 32 or 28 cards. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

There are no trumps to begin with but a trump suit may be declared during the play as described below.

The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if able to. If there are trumps, a player who does not have any cards of the suit that was led must play a trump. Subject always to the requirement to follow suit, a player who is able to beat the highest card already played to the trick must do so (even if the card to be beaten belongs to the player's partner). A player who does not have the led suit nor any trumps can play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if no trumps were played, by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick.

Declaring Trumps and Marriages

A player who wins a trick is allowed to try to declare trumps before leading to the next trick. Only one attempt to declare trumps can be made after each trick won. There are three ways to declare trumps:

  1. If you have a marriage - the king and queen of the same suit - in your hand, you may declare that suit as trumps.
  2. You may ask your partner for a marriage. If your partner has a marriage, he or she must announce what suit it is in (if there are more than one eligible suits, partner chooses one), and that suit becomes trumps. Any undeclared marriages in your own hand are now "broken": you no longer can declare them as trumps nor can your partner ask you for a marriage (but your partner can still declare and you can still ask your partner for subsequent marriages, and both can ask for any "half marriage").
  3. If you have a "half marriage" (a king or a queen) in some suit, you may ask your partner for the other half (e.g. "do you have a half marriage in clubs?"). If partner has the other card (responding "yes" is sufficient proof), that suit becomes trumps. Any undeclared marriages in your hand and your partner's hand are now "broken": neither of you can declare any marriages as trumps nor ask each other for a marriage (but both of you can ask for subsequent "half marriages").

The first declared marriage determines trumps, and that suit remains trumps until the next deal.

After trumps have been declared, any player who wins a trick may try to declare a further marriage before leading to the following trick. This will score for the team if successful but will not affect the trump suit. Any of the above three methods may be used, and only one marriage declaration can be attempted for each trick won.

Note that marriages can never include cards that have already been played - the cards must be in the players' hands at the time of the declaration.

Scoring

The scoring is in game points, which are not to be confused with the card points described above. After all the cards have been played, each team counts the value of the cards they have taken in tricks. The team with more card points (at least 75 using the simplified system or at least 61 using the original system) scores 1 game points for "cards". Game points are also scored for successful marriage declarations and for winning the last trick, as follows:

  • 2 game points for successfully declaring trumps
  • 1 game point for declaring a non-trump marriage
  • 1 game point for winning the last trick
  • 1 game point for taking the majority of card points (in case of a tie this point is not awarded)

A partnership wins the game by collecting exactly 10 game points over a number of deals. If they get more than 10, their total score is reduced to 7 game points. If your partnership wins no tricks at all in a hand, your total score is reduced to 0 game points.

(If both partnerships reach exactly 10 game points on the same deal, presumably the game is a tie - neither side wins.)

Variations

Some play that if the game point for taking the majority of card points is not awarded because of a tie (60 points each in the original system or 70 each in the simplified system), it is carried over to the next deal - so in the next deal after a tie taking the majority of card points scores 2 game points.

Some play that in the first deal of a session, the holder of the ace of clubs leads to the first trick. This player also becomes the second dealer after which the turn to deal rotates clockwise as usual.

Some play without the requirement to beat the highest card so far played to the trick. It is still compulsory to trump if one has no cards of the suit led. It may be that this was the original rule.

Some play that the player who leads to the first trick must lead an ace if possible. If no ace is held, a spade must be led if possible. In the second and subsequent tricks, any card may be led as usual.

Some play a variation with bidding - this is described separately on the Huutopussi page.