Card games in Austria

This short survey of Austrian games is at present arranged according to the type of cards used.

In general, German suited cards (suits of hearts (Herz or Rot), bells (Schellen), acorns (Eichel) and leaves (Laub or Grün) are prevalent in the west. The single headed German cards, sold as Jass or Salzburger Spielkarten, are used only in Vorarlberg and parts of Tirol. The double headed "William Tell" pattern is more widespread.

French suited cards (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades) and Tarock cards are commoner in the east.

36 cards with German suits

Each suit has Ace (As or Sau), King (König), Over (Ober), Under (Unter), 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.

The full 36 card pack is used in Vorarlberg to play Jass. The games are similar to those played in Switzerland with the 36 card Swiss suited pack. It is also used in the Stubaital for Dobbm (Tappen) and in the Brixental for the similar game Bauerntarock. Other games using this pack are Grünobern (which may use 36, 35, 33 or 32 cards depending on the number of players), and (in Salzburg) Mulatschag. The 6 of bells bears the inscription WELI, so this pack can be reduced to the 33 card pack described below.

33 cards with German suits

Each suit has Ace (As), King (König), Over (Ober), Under (Unter), 10, 9, 8, 7. In addition there is a six of bells labelled "WELI" and usually also decorated with a few suit-signs from other suits.

This is used for the games Bieten, Perlaggen and Schnellen, played mainly in Tirol and Vorarlberg, and for Watten, which is played throughout Western Austria. The WELI is used as a wild card in Bieten, and as an extra trump in the other games. In Schnellen, the 7s, 8s and 9s may be dropped, leaving 21 cards. Bieten, Watten und Perlaggen by Fritz Beck (Pechan's Perlen-Reihe Nr 659) has rules for these three games.

32 cards with German suits

Each suit has Ace (As), King (König), Over (Ober), Under (Unter), 10, 9, 8, 7.

These are used for Preference in Western Austria, including Salzburg, and for Neunerln; also for Tartl and Zensa, which are two-player games of the Jass group - see Tartl und Zensa by Fritz Beck (Pechan's Perlen-Reihe Nr 660); also for the marriage game Königrufen (not to be confused with the better-known Tarock game of the same name).

32 cards with French suits

Each suit has Ace (As), King (König), Queen (Dame), Jack (Bube), 10, 9, 8, 7.

These are used mainly in the Eastern part of Austria for Preference, which is popular in various forms throughout Eastern Europe and in Russia.

24 cards with German or French Suits

Each suit has Ace, King, Over or Queen, Under or Jack, 10, 9. These are used for a version of Königrufen played in Western Styria.

20 cards with French or German suits

Each suit has Ace, King, Over or Queen, Under or Jack, 10.

This is widely used for Schnapsen, which is closely related to the German game sixty-six. As well as the 2 player game there is Bauernschnapsen - a popular 4-handed variation with bidding. Packs for Schnapsen are sold as 24 card packs containing nines, but the nines are not used.

54 card Tarock

There are 22 trumps: the Sküs (which looks a little like a joker) and 21 cards marked with large Roman numbers from XXI down to I. The remaining 32 cards belong to the four French suits. The black suits contain King, Queen, Rider, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7; the red suits King, Queen, Rider, Jack, Ace, 2, 3, 4.

A number of Tarock games are played in the Eastern part of Austria: Königrufen (4 players) is by far the most popular game; Neunzehnerrufen (4 players) Point Tarock (3 players), Tapp Tarock (3 players) and Strohmandeln (2 players) are less widespread. There is also a popular game Zwanzigerrufen (4 players), which is played with a pack reduced to 40 cards by removing the red 2s, 3s and 4s, the black 9s, 8s and 7s, and the II and III of trumps. For all these games see A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack - Volume 2 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), by Michael Dummett and John McLeod.

78 card Tarock (Großtarock)

This contains the same cards as the 54 card Tarock pack, except that each suit has a full complement of 4 picture and 10 numeral cards.

These cards are used by a few people in the Stubai valley, south of Innsbruck, to play a special version of Tarock, which in fact uses just 66 of the cards (the A-2-3 of the black suits and the 10-9-8 of the red suits are not used). Formerly, all 78 cards were used for Großtarock, which was fashionable in the 18th and 19th centuries. A version of this game is in fact still played in Denmark, but nowadays the Danes use Tarot cards imported from France.

52 cards with French suits

The international 52 card pack is used in Austria as elsewhere for Bridge. It is also used for the local versions of Rommé (Rummy) and Canasta, which generally require multiple packs with jokers.

Dominoes

Austrian domino sets traditionally consist of 45 tiles, from double blank up to double eight. Some games with these tiles, including Buki and Pulle, are described on the Austrian Dominoes page.

The World Casino Directory includes a listing of Casinos in Austria.