Cego

Introduction

Cego is a special type of Tarok, played in south west Germany. It was developed in the early part of the nineteenth century and became the national card game of Baden and Hohenzollern, where it remains extremely popular. These are the only parts of Germany where genuine Tarok cards (here known as Cego cards) are still in general use. (A game called Tarock is played in Württemberg and Bavaria, but that game uses a normal 36 card German pack).

Cego is unusual among Tarok games in that an extra hand, the Cego, sometimes known as the Tapp or Blinde, is dealt to the centre of the table. Many of the bids involve playing with this extra hand, retaining only one or two of one's original cards and discarding the remainder. The discarded cards are sometimes called the Legage. The idea of this type of bid derives from a version of L'Hombre, and survives in a few other games, such as Vira.

There are many local variations of Cego; the description on this page is based on games played in Bräunlingen in April 1997, in the Gasthaus zum Löwen and also with young members of the church (the Bräunlingen Ministranten). My thanks to Stephan Ocker for introducing me to the players.

The version played at the Gasthaus zum Löwen is described first, then the version played by the Ministranten. Some other variations, including those mentioned in various published descriptions of Cego, are given at the end.

Players

There are four or three active players. If five people want to play, the dealer sits out of each hand but pays or receives the same as the defenders. The game is played anticlockwise.

The player to the dealer's right, who receives the first cards and speaks first in the bidding, is known as Vorhand.

Cards

A special 54 card Cego pack consisting of 22 Trocke, which are permanent trumps, and 8 cards in each of the four suits clubs (kreuz), spades (schippen, schip), hearts (herz) and diamonds (karo, eckstein, eck). There are two different designs in use: in one various anmals are depicted on the Trocke; in the other, the Trocke show domestic scenes. If you have no Cego cards, you could use instead an Austrian Tarock pack, or a French Tarot pack from which the 1-6 in each black suit and the 5-10 in each red suit have been removed.

The Trocke from 1 to 21 are identified by large arabic numbers in the top centre. They rank from 1 (lowest) up to 21 (second highest). The highest trump, which is effectively No. 22, is called der Gstieß (or sometimes der Geiger). It has no number and shows a musician. The lowest trump, Trock 1, is called der kleine Mann.

The cards in the black suits rank (from high to low) king (König), queen (Dame), rider (Reiter), jack (Bube), 10, 9, 8, 7. The cards in the red suits rank king, queen, rider, jack, 1, 2, 3, 4. The picture cards have no corner indices for identification, but the kings wear crowns, the queens are female, the riders have horses and the jacks are the other ones.

Players in North America can obtain Cego cards from TaroBear's Lair.

Values of the cards

The object of the game is (usually) to win tricks containing valuable cards. The cards values are:

Gstieß, Trock 21, Trock 1 and kings 5 points each
queens 4 points each
riders 3 points each
jacks 2 points each
all other cards 1 point each
The cards are counted in groups of three, and two points are subtracted from the value of each group of 3 cards. If one or two cards are left over at the end of counting a pile of cards, one point is subtracted from this group. The total value of the cards in the pack is 70 points.

If this method of counting is unfamiliar, see the counting points in Tarot games page for further explanation and examples.

Four player game

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by cutting cards (highest deals); thereafter the turn to deal rotates anticlockwise. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts. The dealer places the top 10 cards of the pack face down in the centre of the table, and then deals a single batch of 11 cards to each player. The cards dealt to the centre of the table are known as das Cego, or sometimes der Tapp.

The Games

The game to be played is decided by bidding. In most cases, the player who wins the bidding (i.e. makes the last bid) plays alone against the other three players in partnership (the defenders). The only exception to this is the game Räuber, which is played without partnerships - everyone for themselves.

There are two types of game, which I shall call normal games and special games. In a normal game, the bidder's objective is to take as many card points as possible. When counting the points taken, the cego cards (the 10 cards that are out of play) are added to the tricks won by the bidder, and the cards in the tricks won by the defenders are counted together. The bidder wins by taking more card points than the defenders, that is 36 or more, since there are 70 card points in total.

Normal Games

The possible normal games are as follows:

Solo
Everyone plays with the cards they were originally dealt. No one may look at the cego cards until after the play.
Cego
The bidder selects two cards to keep (usually high Trocke), discards the other nine, and then picks up the ten cego cards, making twelve. Finally the bidder discards one more card face down from these twelve and plays with the remaining 11 cards. This exchange of cards is performed by the bidder, without exposing any of the cards to the defenders.
Eine
The bidder can choose just one card to keep (generally a high trump). This card is combined with the cego to form a new 11 card hand with which the bidder plays. The remaining 10 cards are discarded. Again, none of the cards are shown to the defenders.
Eine Leere ("one empty")
The bidder can keep one card, which must be a numeral card of a suit (i.e. an "empty" card). This card is placed face up on the table, the remaining 10 cards of the bidder's hand are discarded face down, and the bidder picks up the 10 cego cards in their place, without showing them. The empty card which was kept and exposed must either be led to the first trick, or the bidder must lead another card of the same suit as the exposed card.

It is possible for a player who has no empty cards to play Eine Leere. In this case the bidder can keep a picture card in a suit instead, for example a jack, and nominate this as an empty card. Such a card counts as the lowest in its suit, and cannot win a trick. In fact the exposed "empty card" kept by the bidder in Eine Leere can never win a trick. If the bidder chooses to lead a different card of the same suit as the exposed card, the card which was originally exposed automatically loses any trick to which it is played later.

Example: The bidder keeps the club8 but having found the king of clubs in the cego, decides to lead that to the first trick instead. The king of clubs wins, as everyone has a club. Later in the hand, the bidder has managed to draw all the defenders' trumps and none of them has any clubs left. If the bidder leads the club8 now, it does not win the trick even though it is the only club. The second player can play any card, this card determines the suit to be followed, and the highest card of that suit wins the trick.

Zwei Leere ("two empty")
The bidder keeps two numeral cards of the same suit, which are placed face up on the table, and discards the other nine cards face down. The bidder then picks up the cego, and from it must discard the lowest Trock, showing it to the defenders before adding it to the other 9 discards. The bidder must either lead the two exposed cards to the first two tricks, or replace one or both of them by cards of the same suit from hand and lead those. In any case, as in Eine Leere, whether they are played now or later, the original exposed "empty cards" can never win tricks.

A player who does not have two numeral cards of the same suit can designate any two cards of the same suit as "empty" and expose them, but as in Eine Leere, these become low cards and can never win tricks.

Zwei Verschiedene ("two different")
The bidder keeps two numeral cards of different suits, which are placed face up on the table, and discards the other nine cards face down. The bidder then picks up the cego, and from it must discard the highest Trock, showing it to the defenders before adding it to the other 9 discards. The bidder must lead the two exposed cards to the first two tricks - there is no option to lead other cards of the same suits. As in Eine Leere and Zwei Leere, a player who does not have two numeral cards of different suits can use picture cards for one or both of them instead; these then become the lowest cards of their suits.
Der kleine Mann
The bidder must hold the kleiner Mann (Trock 1), which is placed face up on the table and must be led to the first trick (which it will lose). The bidder's other 10 cards are discarded face down and replaced by the 10 cards of the cego.

Special Games

There are four special games, in which the objective is different from that in the normal games. In all of the special games, the cego is set aside and the players play with the cards they were dealt.

Ulti
The bidder's sole object is to win the last trick with Trock 1 (der kleine Mann). The bidder wins if this succeeds and loses if it fails (which can happen in two ways: one of the defenders wins the last trick with a higher Trock, or the Trock 1 is forced out before the last trick).
Piccolo
The bidder's aim is to win exactly one trick; the defenders win if the bidder takes no tricks or more than one.
Bettel
The bidder wins by taking no tricks at all; if the bidder ever takes a trick the defenders win.
Räuber
In this game everyone plays for themselves. The player who takes the most card points in tricks loses.

Bidding Procedure

The bidding is in two phases. The purpose of the first phase is to find out if anyone wants to play Solo or Ulti, and in the second phase the other games can be bid.

First phase of bidding

The bidding begins with Vorhand (the player to dealer's right) and continues anticlockwise until someone says Solo or Ulti; a player who does not want to play either of these games passes by saying "Fort Solo" or just "Fort". A bid of Ulti ends the whole auction - no further bids are possible and the Ulti is played. A bid of Solo ends the first phase of bidding. If no one bids Solo or Ulti the first phase ends when everyone has said "Fort".

Second phase after everyone said "Fort"

If everyone said "Fort", Vorhand must begin the second phase of bidding by saying "Cego" or "Piccolo" or "Bettel". Vorhand is not allowed to pass. If Vorhand says "Cego", any of the other players who wish to play Piccolo or Bettel can say so now, or at any time up to an including their normal turn to bid. A bid of Piccolo or Bettel ends the bidding and is played. In the unlikely event that more than one player wants to play a Piccolo or a Bettel, the player whose turn to bid is earlier (i.e. the nearest player in anticlockwise order from Vorhand) has priority.

When Vorhand has said "Cego", as long as no one interrupts with Piccolo or Bettel, players have the opportunity to bid the other normal games. The ranking of the remaining bids, in ascending order, is Eine, Eine Leere, Zwei Leere, Zwei Verschiedene, der kleine Mann. If two players want to play the same game, the player whose turn to bid was earlier has priority. However, at any stage, each player can only make the lowest possible bid (jump bids are not allowed), and each player only enters the bidding after the bidding between the previous players has been resolved.

So after Vorhand has said "Cego" the player to Vorhand's right has the choice of making the next higher bid, "Eine" or passing, by saying "gut" (good). If this player says gut, the next player in turn has the same options, and so on, round to the dealer. If a player says "Eine", then it is immediately Vorhand's turn to decide whether to equal this bid, by saying "selbst" (myself) or to pass, by saying "gut". If Vorhand says "selbst" then the player who bid Eine must either pass, saying "gut", or continue to the next bid "Eine Leere", in which case Vorhand again has the choice of saying "selbst" or "gut". This competition between the two players continues until one of them says "gut". The survivor will play the last game mentioned unless someone bids higher. The bidding continues with the player to the right of the one who said Eine; this player can either pass or bid the next higher game, in which case the survivor of the previous bidding can say "selbst" or "gut". The bidding continues in this way until everyone has had a chance to speak and all players but one have said "gut". This one surviving bidder plays the last game mentioned.

In the special case when Vorhand bids Cego and everyone else says "gut", Vorhand can choose whether to play Cego or Räuber. This is the only case in which a game of Räuber can be played. The idea of a Räuber is to punish a player who has failed to bid Solo, despite having a good hand; this player is likely to take most points and thus lose.

Examples (A is Vorhand; B, C and D are the other players in antclockwise order; D is dealer).

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Fort Fort
Cego Gut Eine -
Selbst - Eine Leere -
Gut - - Zwei Leere
- - Selbst Gut C plays Zwei Leere

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Fort Fort
Cego Eine - -
Gut - Gut Gut B plays Eine

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Fort Fort
Cego Eine - Piccolo D plays Piccolo

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Fort Fort
Cego Gut Gut Gut A has the choice of playing Cego or Räuber

Second phase of bidding after a Solo bid

The bidding procedure after a Solo similar to the procedure when there is no Solo, except that:

  • the Solo bidder has highest priority, then Vorhand, and then the other players in anticlockwise order;
  • the next bid above Solo is Gegensolo (which means the same as Cego), then Eine, Eine Leere, etc., as usual;
  • no special games (Piccolo, Bettel) can can be bid over a Solo.
So after a Solo bid, the second phase begins with Vorhand, or with the player to the right of Vorhand if it was Vorhand who bid Solo. This player can bid "Gegensolo" or pass by saying "gut". Gegensolo (against the solo) is the same game as Cego, but is worth more (as it is more difficult to win, given that the Solo player has a strong hand). If the first player passes, the next player can bid Gegensolo or pass and so on anticlockwise around the table, but skipping the player who bid Solo.

If all three opponents of the Solo bidder say "gut" the Solo is played. If someone bids Gegensolo the Solo bidder can either equal this bid, saying "selbst" or pass by saying "gut". If the Solo bidder says "selbst", the Gegensolo bidder can raise the bid to Eine, and so on just as in the bidding when there is no Solo. When one of these players says "gut", it is the turn of the player to the right of the Gegensolo bidder (or if that is the Solo bidder, the player to the Solo bidder's right) to make the next higher bid or pass, and so on.

Examples (A is Vorhand; B, C and D are the other players in antclockwise order; D is dealer).

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Solo -
Gut Gut - Gut C plays Solo

A B C D Result
Fort Solo - -
Gut - Gegensolo -
- Gut - Gut C plays Cego

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Solo -
Gegensolo - Selbst -
Gut Gut - Eine (A rather unlikely bidding sequence)
- - Selbst Gut C plays Eine

The Play

The bidder leads to the first trick. The other players must follow suit if they can. A player who cannot follow suit must play a Trock if possible. If a Trock is led, the other players must follow with Trocks if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led and no Trocks is free to play any card.

A trick is won by the highest Trock in it, or if no Trocks are played, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

In games in which the bidder's original hand was discarded, the bidder is allowed to look at the discarded cards (the Legage) at any time until the end of the first trick, but not thereafter. In Solo, Ulti, Piccolo, Bettel and Räuber, no one is allowed to look at the cego cards until the end of the play.

In the games Zwei Leere and Zwei Verschiedene, the bidder leads to the first two tricks. The two cards kept from the bidder's original hand (which in the case of Zwei Leere may be replaced by other cards of the same suit found in the cego) are placed face up on the table to begin the tricks, and each defender in turn plays to both tricks. If the first two tricks are won by different players, the player who won with the higher card leads to the third trick. In the case of Zwei Verschiedene it is possible that two different defenders could win the tricks with equally high cards (for example two kings); in that case the player who played the king of the higher suit leads to the third trick, the suits ranking in the order: clubs (highest), spades, hearts, diamonds (lowest).

The Scoring

In a normal game, provided that the bidder wins at least one trick, the bidder counts the card points in won tricks plus the cego (the ten cards which are out of play), while the defenders count the points in the tricks they have won. There are 70 card points altogether; to win, the bidder needs more than half of these points - that is at least 36.

If the bidder loses every trick, the cego counts for the opponents - so the payments are calculated on the basis that the bidder has taken 0 points and the opponents have 70. Thus it is possible for the bidder to lose even after discarding a Legage of 36 points - the bidder also needs to win at least one trick to avoid defeat.

The amount the bidder wins or loses is the difference between 35 and the number of card points taken, multiplied by a factor which depends on the game which was played. The result is rounded up to the next multiple of 5, and this is the amount (in Pfennig) which the bidder receives from or pays to each opponent.

The factor for a Solo is 2 if the bidder wins, but just 1 if the bidder loses. The factors for the other possible normal games depend on whether they were bid against a Solo, as follows:

Game Factor if Solo was not bid Factor if bid over a Solo
Cego 1 2 (Gegensolo)
Eine 2 3
Eine Leere 3 4
Zwei Leere 4 5
Zwei Verschiedene 5 6
Der kleine Mann 6 7

The case when the bidders and the defenders take 35 points each is called Bürgermeister, and the bidder pays 5 Pfennig to each defender.

Examples:

  • The bidder wins a Solo with 41 points (the defenders have 29). The difference from 35 is 6; multiplying by 2 (the factor for a won Solo) gives 12; this is rounded up to 15 and the bidder wins 15 Pfennig from each defender.
  • The bidder loses a Solo taking only 29 points. The difference is 6 and the multiplication factor is 1 (for a lost Solo); 6 is rounded up to 10, and the bidder pays 10 Pfennig to each opponent.
  • The bidder wins Zwei Leere with 39 points. The difference is 4 and the multiplying factor is 4; the product 16 is rounded up to 20 and the bidder wins 20 Pfennig from each opponent.
  • The bidder loses a Gegensolo (a Cego bid over a Solo), taking only 27 points; the bidder pays 20 Pfennig (8*2=16 rounded up) to each defender.
  • The bidder plays a Gegensolo, discarding 25 points, but takes no tricks in the play. The discarded cards count for the opponents and the bidder must therefore pay 70 Pfennig to each defender (35*2).
The special games have fixed scores as follows:
Game Score
Ulti 80
Piccolo 30
Bettel 30
Räuber 30

If the game is Ulti, Piccolo or Bettel, each defender pays the appropriate amount to the bidder if the bidder wins; otherwise the bidder pays each defender.

In a Räuber, all players count the points in their own tricks. The cego is not counted. The player who has most points loses. If Vorhand loses, the payment to the other players is doubled (60 instead of 30). If there is a tie for most points, and Vorhand is involved in the tie, then Vorhand loses. If there is a tie in which Vorhand is not involved, then all the players who tie for most points have to pay 30 to each other player.

Ending the Session

A player who wishes to end the session says "der Gstieß gibt ab". On the following deal it is noted who holds the Gstieß play then continues until that player's next turn to deal, and that player deals the last hand of the session.

Three Player Game

When there are only three players, three cards - the club7, spade7 and diamond4 - are removed from the pack, leaving 51 cards (there are 8 cards in the hearts suit but only 7 in the other suits). The deal is 12 cards to the Cego and 13 to each player.

The games Piccolo, Bettel and Räuber are not allowed; otherwise the games and bidding procedure are the same as in the four player game.

In place of Räuber, there is a different method of penalising a player who fails to bid Solo with a strong hand. For this purpose a strong hand is defined as follows:

  • any hand containing nine or more trumps
  • any hand containing eight trumps of which at least two are higher than the 17, and the remaining cards belonging to at most two suits (so at least two suits are void)
A player whose hand satisfies either of the above criteria is said to "have a Solo". Passing (saying "fort Solo") in the first phase of the bidding when you have such a hand is called "skinning" a solo (soloschinden).

If everyone says "fort Solo", the eventual highest bidder can, after looking at the Cego cards, claim that someone has skinned a Solo. In this case all three players expose their cards, and if it turns out that one of the players has indeed skinned a Solo, that player loses as though they had played in the game of the final bid and lost every trick. If it turns out, on the other hand, that no one has skinned a Solo, the bidder who made the accusation loses as though having lost every trick. Note that if, as the bidder, you find that your own hand plus the Cego contains fewer than five Trocke in total, you are safe in claiming that someone has skinned a Solo.

Variations

There are many local variations of Cego, and even within the relatively small town of Bräunlingen several different versions are played. Here are a few variations that I have so far collected from players and from some of the published rule books. If any Cego players reading this would like to let me know about other versions and where they are played, I would be happy to add this information to the page.

Pflicht-Räuber

This is a local variation from the Gasthaus zum Löwen in Bräunlingen, where they play four-handed Cego every Wednesday evening. At 23:00 there is a round of compulsory Räuber - one deal by each player. During this round no other bidding is allowed; a Räuber is played on every deal.

In Pflicht-Räuber the loser pays 30 to each other player. There is no special penalty if Vorhand loses, but if one player takes no tricks the loser must pay 60. If two players take no tricks the loser must pay 120 to each other player. If three players take no tricks, the player who took all the tricks wins (rather than loses) 240 from each other player.

After the Pflicht-Räuber round, normal Cego is played again, but for 10 times the normal stake - that is 10 Pfennig per point rather than 1; so Ramsch, Piccolo and Bettel cost DM 3.00, Ulti costs DM 8.00, and so on.

Ministranten Version

These rules are based on games played in the Pfarrenhaus at Bräunlingen with some of the Ministranten: Christoph, Stephan, Georg and Richard. I shall just give the differences from the Gasthaus zum Löwen rules set out above. The usual game is for four players.

Terminology

  • The cards in the centre are always called the Cego (not Blinde or Legage). The word Legage is used for a discard that contains a large number of points.
  • The numeral cards in the suits (10, 9, 8, 7, A, 2, 3, 4) are called Brettli.
  • Piccolo is alternatively called Bikel
  • Räuber is also known as Luftkampf

The possible Games

When everyone passes Vorhand's Cego bid, there are some additional alternatives:

Dresch
A special game which can be chosen by Vorhand as an alternative to Räuber. The Cego is not used, and the sole objective is to avoid winning the last trick; the winner of the last trick loses the game. The players at the Gasthaus zum Löwen also knew of this game but disapproved of it, probably because Vorhand can use it to punish one of the other players heavily, almost at random.
Geregelter Räuber
This is like a normal Räuber except that trumps must be played to the first three tricks. The holder of the Gstieß must play it on the first trick, the holder of the 21 must play it on the second trick, and the kleiner Mann must be played on the third trick. A player with fewer than three trumps must play Brettli to the tricks to which trumps cannot be played (for example if you had only two Trocke, 16 and 1, you would play the 16 to the first trick, a Brettli to the second trick, and the 1 to the third). The winner of the third trick leads to the fourth and play continues normally.
Wilder Räuber
This is just a normal Räuber, in which there is no special restriction on what can be played.

Bidding procedure

As usual, the first phase is begun by Vorhand and the possible bids are Ulti and Solo; a player who does not want to bid either says Fort. A bid of Ulti ends the auction; a bid of Solo immediately starts the second phase.

If everyone said Fort in the first phase, Vorhand must begin the second phase by bidding Cego, and the bidding continues anticlockwise. The possible bids for the next player are Eine, Piccolo and Bettel; alternatively the second player can pass by saying "gut", and the next player has the same possibilities. A bid of Piccolo or Bettel ends the auction - otherwise the bidding continues anticlockwise. A bid of Eine can be overcalled by Eine Leere, which can be overcalled by Zwei Leere and so on through the normal games (no jump bids are allowed). Piccolo and Bettel cannot be bid over Eine or higher normal bids. When the bidding comes back to Vorhand, one of the other players having bid a higher normal game, Vorhand can bid the same game by saying "selbst". A player who has passed cannot bid in a later round.

If after Vorhand has bid Cego everyone says "gut", Vorhand has a choice between playing Cego, Piccolo, Bettel, Geregelter Räuber, Wilder Räuber or Dresch. Example:

A B C D Result
Fort Fort Fort Fort
Cego Gut Eine Eine Leere
selbst - Zwei Leere Gut
Gut - - - C plays Zwei Leere

If the first phase is ended by someone saying Solo, the second phase is begun by the player on the right of the one who said Solo and continues clockwise. The Solo player cannot bid again. If all the other players say "gut", the Solo is played. The only possible bid over a Solo is Gegensolo (which is a Cego against the Solo). If someone bids Gegensolo, this ends the auction and the player who bid Gegensolo plays a Cego.

The Play

Generally this is the same as in the same as in the Gasthaus zum Löwen version. In a game in which the Cego has been used, the bidder can look at the Cego until the end of the third trick.

There are difference in the games Eine Leere, Zwei Leere and Zwei Verschiedene:

  1. For these games, the one or two cards you lay out must really be empty cards (Brettli). If you do not have the appropriate cards in your hand you cannot make the bid.
  2. The empty cards must be led to the first trick(s) - there is no opportunity to substitute other cards of the same suit.
  3. After these trick(s) have been taken by the opponents, it is the bidder who leads to the next trick. Play than continues normally.

The Scoring

The scores are written down rather than paid out in money after each hand. Nevertheless, the normal stake is 1 Pfennig per point. So if a player wins 30 in a four player game, 90 is added to that player's cumulative score and each of the other players loses 30 from their cumulative score.

In a normal game, the cards are counted in threes as usual, and the score is based on the difference of the card points taken from 35. This is multiplied by the factor for the game being played, and then rounded to the nearest 5 points, with a minimum score of 5 points won or lost.

The factors are the same as the Gasthaus zum Löwen version, except that a Gegensolo has a factor of 4 if won, 2 if lost.

In case of a Bürgermeister (a hand in which the points divide 35-35), the bidder loses the minimum of 5 points, but in addition must buy a round of Schnaps for the players.

The scores for the special games are somewhat different:

Game Score
Ulti 70
Piccolo 40
Bettel 50
Räuber 30
Dresch 70

If the loser of a Räuber took more than 30 card points, the payment is the number of card points taken, rounded to the nearest five. If Vorhand loses a Räuber, the loss is 60 points, or twice the number of card points taken rounded to the nearest five if this is greater.

In some circles, Piccolo is played as worth 35, rather than 40.

Three Player Version

This is the equivalent game, without Räuber or Dresch, but with the possibility of challenging a player who you think has skinned a Solo. The three cards removed were heart4, diamond4 and spade7, leaving clubs rather than hearts as the long suit.

Penalties

The standard penalty for breaking the rules is that the offender pays 70 points to each other player. These penalties were enthusiastically enforced by the players, especially in the following cases:

  • Misdeal. The dealer is allowed to stop the other players picking up their hands before the deal is complete; once the dealer is satisfied that all is in order and allows the cards to be picked up, if any hand or the cego has the wrong number of cards, the dealer is penalised
  • Incorrect discard. This can easily happen in a Cego game - having retained two cards and picked up the 10 cards from the middle, you forget to discard a further card but lead to the first trick instead. The deal is abandoned and you pay everyone 70.
  • Revoke. Failing to follow suit, or failing to play a Trock when you have no card of the suit led. Again the deal is abandoned and you pay the penalty.

Bräunlingen Tournament Version

Stephan Ocker gave me a rule sheet for a Cego tournament which had recently been held in Bräunlingen. Although incomplete, this sheet indicates yet another version of the rules. The main distinguishing features are as follows:

  • Two sessions of 24 hands are to be played
  • You cannot bid against your own Solo - that is, once you have bid Solo and someone has bid Gegensolo you are out of the bidding
  • The values of the special games are:
    • Ultimo: 80
    • Piccolo: 40
    • Bettel: 40
    • Räuber: 30
  • When scoring normal games, the difference from 35 is rounded up to the next multiple of 5 before it is multiplied by the factor for the game being played

Oberwolfach Version

This was reported by Michael Dummett in his book "The Game of Tarot" (Duckworth 1980), on the basis of games he played there in 1974. The prinicpal game there is the three player version. The main differences from the three player game at Bräunlingen will be listed.

  1. There is no Ulti game.
  2. In Eine Leere, Zwei Leere and Zwei Vershiedene, the empty cards must really be empty. If you do not have the appropriate cards you cannot bid these games. There is no obligation to lead the empty card(s) at the beginning - the bidder can lead any card.
  3. In the highest normal game - here called die Pfeif', Bapperle or Pagat rather than der kleine Mann, the bidder has the option, instead of leading the Trock 1 to the first trick, to say "ich spiele die Pfeif' frei", take the card back into hand, and attempt to win the last trick with it. If the bidder does this but fails to win the last trick with the 1 the game is lost. It is unclear how such a loss is scored; probably it is as though the bidder had lost every trick.
  4. When all three players say "Fort Solo" in the first phase of bidding, not only must Vorhand open the second phase with "Cego", but the next player must overcall with "Eine". Vorhand is then free to hold by saying "selbst" or pass by saying "gut", and the rest of the bidding is as usual.
  5. If all three players say "Fort Solo", a player whose hand contains seven or more empty cards (numeral cards in the suits) can throw the cards in, and there is a new deal by the next dealer.
  6. A bid of Solo ends the first phase of bidding and the player who bid Solo cannot bid again. The second phase begins not with Vorhand, but with the player to the right of the one who bid Solo. This player can hold the third player's bids. For example the bidding might go:
    A B C Result
    Fort Solo Solo Gegensolo
    Eine - selbst
    gut - - C plays Eine Leere
  7. The factor for Solo is 1 if it is won, but 2 if it is lost. This is the opposite way round from the Bräunlingen scores and makes Solo much less attractive.
  8. To score a normal game, the difference of the points from 35 is divided by 5, ignoring any remainder, and then 1 is added, and the result is multiplied by the factor for the game. The following table is given for calculating the base value of the game:

    Points won by
    bidder
    Points won by
    opponents
    Base value
    bidder
    wins
    7008
    65 - 691 - 57
    60 - 646 - 106
    55 - 5911 - 155
    50 - 5416 - 204
    45 - 4921 - 253
    40 - 4426 - 302
    36 - 3931 - 341
    bidder
    loses
    31 - 3535 - 391
    26 - 3040 - 442
    21 - 2545 - 493
    16 - 2050 - 544
    11 - 1559 - 595
    6 - 1060 - 646
    1 - 565 - 697
    0708

The four player game at Oberwolfach follows similar principles. There is still no Ulti game, but Bettel, Piccolo and Räuber are possible. There is no possibility for a player with seven empty cards to throw in the hand.

In the second bidding phase after all players have said "Fort Solo", Bettel and Piccolo can be bid, as well as the normal games. Bettel can overcall Piccolo, and both outrank the normal games. If Vorhand bids Cego and the other three pass, Vorhand has the option of playing Cego or Räuber. The scores for the special games are 5 for Räuber, 10 for Piccolo and 15 for Bettel. These are in proportion to the lower scores for the normal games, which are generally about one fifth of the Bräunlingen scores.

In the four player game, a player who has 8 or more Trocke (here called Trucks), or 7 of which at least two are higher than 17 and at least two voids, is said to have a Solo. If everyone says "Fort Solo" in the first phase of bidding, the eventual bidder of a normal game, having looked at the cego cards (here called the Blinde) can claim that someone has skinned a Solo, with the same effects as in the three player game.

Ichenheim Version

Peter Müller reports that there is an annual Cego tournament on 6th January ("Heilige Drei König" - epiphany) in the Gasthaus "Hechten" in Ichenheim with around 60 to 100 players. The three-player game is played, in two sessions of 24 deals. If the number of entrants is not divisible by three, there are some 4-player tables, but at these the 3-player game is still played with the dealer sitting out and winning or losing the same as the defenders.

In Eine, Eine Leere, Zwei Leere and Zwei Verschiedene, the cards laid out have to be Brettli (pip cards) - it is not possible to substitute a picture card.

Two special games are allowed - these must be bid in the first phase:

  • Ulti has a value of just 20 game points.
  • Solodu (sometimes also called "Drescher") is a Solo in which the bidder is committed to win all the tricks, and is worth 64 game points. (The name obviously comes from the French "solo tout", "tout" meaning "all" - in the Bavarian game Schafkopf there is a similar bid with the same meaning.

There is a tradition that if the bidder loses every trick ("er geht durch"), his opponents sing a short version of the German folk song "Im Wald, da sind die Räuber".

When the bidder is "Bürgermeister" (loses by taking 35 card points), he has to buy a round of Schnaps for the table.

Schmidt Version

The Cego cards made by F.X.Schmidt come with a leaflet giving rules of the game. These include several small variations and mostly agree with the Oberwolfach version. Some differences are:

  1. There is no possibility to throw in the hand if you have seven empty cards.
  2. In Eine Leere, Zwei Leere and Zwei Verschiedene, the possibility of using other cards instead of empty cards and the obligation to lead these cards at the beginning are mentioned as variations.
  3. In die Pfeif', normally the Pfeif' must be led to the first trick. "Ich spiele die Pfeif' frei" is mentioned as a variation, but in this case the bidder is only committed to win a trick with the Pfeif', not necessarily the last trick.
  4. It is mentioned as a variation that you can bid over your own Solo.
  5. The leaflet is ambiguous as to whether the factor for Solo is 2 if won and 1 if lost or vice versa.

Cards counted in twos

Some published descriptions of Cego, notably those by Claus D Grupp, say that the cards are counted in twos rather than in threes. The players at Bräunlingen confirmed that this method is used in villages a few kilometers to the west of there.

In this method of counting, the cards are grouped into twos, the values of each pair of cards are added and one point subtracted from the sum. (See the counting points in Tarot games page for a general discussion of counting). This gives a higher total of 79 points in the pack, and because the total is odd, no Bürgermeister (tie) is possible.

The side which has 40 or more points wins. The base value of the game is given by the table below. This is multiplied by the factor for the game being played to obtain the score.

Points won by
bidder
Points won by
opponents
Base value
bidder
wins
75 - 790 - 48
70 - 745 - 97
65 - 6910 - 146
60 - 6415 - 195
55 - 5920 - 244
50 - 5425 - 293
45 - 4930 - 342
40 - 4435 - 391
bidder
loses
35 - 3940 - 441
30 - 3445 - 492
25 - 2950 - 543
20 - 2459 - 594
15 - 1960 - 645
10 - 1465 - 696
5 - 970 - 747
0 - 475 - 798

Other Cego Sites

Jürgen Weißauer's eBook, which includes rules (in German) for a version of Cego, is available from his Spiele Okular website.