Ristikontra

This page is based on information from Veikko Lähdesmäki (passed on by David Parlett), Olli Salmi, Cristian Seres, Raimo Ikonen (passed on by Áron Csathó), Mikko Saari and Markku Jaatinen.

Introduction

Ristikontra is a Finnish game for four players, which is popular in lumber camps. It seems likely that it is the original game of the unusual sedma group of games, in which tricks are won by the last card of equal rank to the card led. These games are played only in a region stretching across Europe from Lapland in the north to Hungary in the south. In the north, a more elaborate version, sometimes known as Ristiklappi (cross-clap) or Lappi (Lapland) is played.

Players and Objective

There are four players in fixed partnerships; partners sit facing each other. The object is to take tricks containing aces, 10s, kings, queens and jacks.

The Cards

A standard 52-card pack is used. The cards have no ranking order and suits are irrelevant. The values of the cards are:

Each ace. . . . . . .  11 points
Each king. . . . . . .   4 points
Each queen. . . . . . .   3 points
Each jack. . . . . . .   2 points
Each ten. . . . . . .  10 points
Other cards (2-9) . . .  no value

There are 120 points in the pack in total.

The Deal

Any player can deal first; the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals six cards to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down to form a stock.

The Play

The game is played clockwise. The player to the left of the dealer is first to play. A trick consists of four cards, one by each player. The trick is won by whoever played the last card of the same rank as the first card in the trick.

An example: Player A starts with a seven, then B plays a five, C plays an ace and D plays a three. A wins, because no one else played a seven.
Another example: A leads a king, B plays a three, C plays a ten and D wins the trick by playing a king.

The object of the play is to win tricks containing valuable cards. Only the point cards A, K, Q, J, 10 count; other cards are worthless, the number of taken tricks has no effect on scoring.

After playing a card from hand each player must draw the top card from the stock, so that the players always hold six cards in their hands. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick. When the stock is empty, the last six tricks are played without replenishing the players' hands.

The players are free to play any cards they wish, with one exception. A player is not allowed to lead all four cards of one rank to four successive tricks. After leading the same ranked card to three consecutive tricks, a different ranked card must be led.

When there are still cards in the stock, any time it is a player's turn to lead a card or play to the trick, the player may turn up the top card of the stock and play that. This is known as 'playing in the dark'. Once the stock card is turned over it must be played - the player cannot choose to play a card from hand instead. After playing the top card of the stock, the player will still be holding six cards and therefore does not draw a card from the stock.

Scoring

At the end of the deal each team counts the value of the cards in the tricks they have won - see above.

The object is to get 61 card points, more that half of the total, and the winning side scores 1 game point. If a side gets 120 card points, they score two game points. If both sides get 60 card points, the game point for this deal is held in abeyance, and awarded to the winners of the next deal, in addition to what they would normally win for that deal. The overall winners are the first team to reach an agreed target, usually 7 points.

Variation

Some play with a simpler system of card values as follows:

Each ace. . . . . . .  5 points
Each king. . . . . . .   4 points
Each queen. . . . . . .   3 points
Each jack. . . . . . .   2 points
Each ten. . . . . . .  1 points
Other cards (2-9) . . .  no value

In this version there are only 60 points in the deck. A team needs at least 31 card points to win; if each team takes 30 the game point is held in abeyance.

Variations

Some play that if a team does not get any points during a deal, they lose all the points they won in previous games - their cumulative score drops to zero.

Some play that each team scores its card points, and that the first team to reach a cumulative score of 120 points wins the game. Since there are 120 points in the pack, this means that the winners will be the team with the higher total points after two deals, and if each team has 120 it will be the team who did not win the last trick that contained a counting card.

Some play with an alternative schedule of card points: ace=5, king=4, queen=3, jack=2, ten=1, so that there are 60 points in the pack. In this version the first team to score 60 or more card points wins the game.

Ristiklappi

This variation, which is sometimes known as Lappi (Lapland) makes the play of the game more interesting. Only five cards, rather than six, are dealt to each player. A team which has taken one or more queens in its tricks in the first part of the game, while the stock still exists (in the first 8 tricks) must clean in the second part, when there is no stock (the last 5 tricks). To clean you need to win a trick that contains one or more kings and is not won by a queen. Therefore you cannot clean in a trick to which a queen is led.

It is illegal to play all the kings in the first part of the game, as that would make cleaning impossible. Once three kings have been played, whoever has the fourth king must keep it until after the stock has run out.

Note that taking any king in the last five tricks counts as cleaning, provided that the trick is not won by a queen - it is not necessary to capture an enemy king. A team that does not take any queens in the first part of the game does not need to clean.

Here is an example of play to the last five tricks - both teams took queens in the first part of the game, so need to clean.

NorthEastSouthWestNorthEastSouthComments
Q 10 7 7 510 8 6 6 3K K 6 4 2K 7 5 3 3   These are the cards held by the players.
7627   It is North's lead. He has no winning cards except a queen, but if he leads the queen his team cannot clean in this trick. So he leads one of his sevens.
   3Q34West won the previous trick, and now leads a three, won by his partner East.
 8KK7  East leads the last eight, a winner, E-W clean with this trick. South throws a king in order to keep his six, which will beat East's six. West also throws a king to reduce N-S's chance to clean.
 10K310  If East led the 6, South would win the last two tricks and clean. In fact East leads the 8, but North can win this and N-S clean anyway.
5665   The last trick, taken by West, is irrelevant because it contains no point cards.

Normally each hand counts as a complete game, but there are various degrees of winning and losing.

  • Provided both sides are clean, the side with more points wins, and the other team loses honourably.
  • If either team failed to clean, they lose dishonourably. They are not allowed to touch the cards, and if there is another game, the other team will deal (and will taunt their opposition mercilessly!)

The Finnish version of Cristian Seres' Ristikontra page gives a version in which six cards are dealt to each player, with a more elaborate range of results:

  1. With more than 61 points and a clean game: you win.
  2. If the points divide 60-60 and both teams are clean, it is a tie. Some resolve this by counting cards: the team with more cards wins.
  3. A clean game with 4-59 points is an honorable "point loss".
  4. A team with at least four points and one or more Queens but no King loses a "piss game", which is a shameful result.
  5. A team with less than four points and no Queen loses "lappi" (which apparently means that they are "sent to Lapland").
  6. Taking no tricks is called "kortiton lappi", a "lappi without cards", which is worse than a normal lappi.
  7. A team whose point card is Queen suffers a "kusilappi" - a "piss lappi". This is very shameful - the worst possible result.

Note that at least one team is always clean, since at least one king must always be played in the last five tricks. Also, when a team loses a "lappi" the other side must be clean, since to stop them cleaning the losers would have had to take a king, giving them the four points they need to avoid the lappi.

Apparently some play that a team that took less than 10 card points 'goes to Lapland', but then there is the possibility that both sides lose - one by failing to clean and the other by going to Lapland with at least one king.

Other web sites

This page is an expanded version of Cristian Seres' Finnish page about Ristikontra, which is also available in English at http://www.korttipelit.net/ristikontra_en.

Software

You can download a freeware Ristikontra program from Thanos Card Games.