Droggn

Tarock in the Stubai valley with 66 cards

Contents

Introduction

This Tarock game for 3 players comes from the Tyrol. Droggn is the local dialect form of the word tarockieren, meaning "to play Tarock". In recent times, as far as we know, it has only been played in the Stubai valley, south west of Innsbruck - mainly in Fulpmes and Telfes. It is unlike other Austrian Tarock games such as Königrufen, Zwanzigerrufen, Point Tarock and Strohmandeln. Those games developed in the eastern parts of Austria, but have never been well known in the Tyrol. The most obvious differences in Droggn are:

  1. the Sküs or fool (here called the Gstieß) is not a trump; it can be played at any time to avoid following suit;
  2. the game is played with 66 cards, rather than 54 or fewer.
In Michael Dummett's book The Game of Tarot (Duckworth 1980) on page 466 he wrote:
A curiosity on which I can throw no light is a 66-card French suited pack, having, besides the usual Tarocks and court cards, the numerals from 4 to 10 in the black suits and from Ace to 7 in the red suits. I have heard of three examples of this pack, by different makers but all from the Tyrol. ... Three distinct such packs, all from the same general area, must be more than a coincidence; but there is no trace in the card-game books of a game played with 66 cards, and this must, for the present at least, be put down as another gap in our knowledge.
As a result of a visit by John McLeod & Remigius Geiser to Fulpmes from 31st March to 4th April 1996, this gap can now be filled. From its structure, Droggn must be a descendant of the group of games called Tarok L'Hombre, which Dummett described on pages 280 to 286 of his book, though it is not identical to any of the versions described there. As far as I know this WWW page is the first published description of Droggn.

The success of our trip to Fulpmes would not have been possible without the thorough telephone research carried out in advance by Remigius Geiser, to contact the surviving players of the game.

Date of games: 1 April - 3 April 1996
Informants: Adolf Rainalter, Rudolf Leitgeb, Benedikt Falschlunger, Dr Hubert Krösbacher
Place: Gasthof Jenewein, Fulpmes. Also at Rudolf Leitgeb's house in Telfes, and at Dr Krösbacher's house in Fulpmes.

Although all of our informants were experienced players, none of them had played within the last 10 years. There are some slight differences between the rules they explained to us; some of these differences may be due to imperfect recollection, but others definitely represent variants. We will first describe the version of the game which we played on several occasions with Rudolf Leitgeb and Adolf Rainalter. At the end, the variations and remaining uncertainties will be listed. The Tyrolean dialect version of some of the technical terms and expressions used in the game are given in italics.

There is a tradition among some of the players that this game was introduced from France or the French part of Switzerland. Some of them called it Französisches Tarock, to distinguish it from the Tarock games with 54 cards played in other parts of Austria. Its introduction was said to be associated with Andreas Hofer, the Tyrolean hero who stood against Napoleon. Others, however, contend that it was imported from northern Italy by Italian door-to-door salesmen ("kraxn-drogar") who used to sell their goods in the Tyrol.

Players

There are three active players. It is possible for four people to play with dealer taking a holiday - the expression is: er feiert.

Cards

66 card French suited Tarock. We were told that packs of this composition used to be available in the early years of this century. In more recent times the pack used was the Piatnik Großtarock, a 78 card version of the normal 54 card Industrie und Glück Tarock, from which the lowest three cards of each suit were thrown out. The composition of the pack is:

21 trumps, with Roman numbers from XXI (highest) to I (lowest)
11 cards each in spades and clubs, ranking from high to low:
king, queen, rider, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4
11 cards each in hearts and diamonds, ranking from high to low:
king, queen, rider, jack, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
A special card, the Gstieß (the fool or excuse, known elsewhere in Austria as the Sküs)

The cards have their usual values for Tarock games:

Gstieß, XXI, I5 points each
kings5 points each
queens4 points each
riders3 points each
jacks2 points each
other cards1 point each
The card points are called Augen. The cards are counted in groups of three, and two points are subtracted from the value of each group of 3 cards. For example a queen and two 1 point cards are worth 4 altogether (4 + 1 + 1 - 2 = 4); a king, a rider and a jack are worth 8 (5 + 3 + 2 - 2); three one-point cards are worth one (1 + 1 + 1 - 2). However the cards are grouped into threes, the total points in the pack always amount to 74.

Because of the way the Gstie├č is played, sometimes a team may have one or two cards left over at the end of the count. In this case, if two cards are left over, one point is subtracted from their sum - for example a rider and a jack are worth 4 (3+2-1). A single card left at the end is counted as one point less than its face value - for example a king by itself is worth 4, and an empty card is worth nothing.

See also the page on counting points in Tarot games for a fuller description of this and alternative methods of counting.

Terminology

Dialect forms are given in italics.

The trumps are called Trümpfe or Adudde. The word Tarocke refers to the entire pack of cards, not just to the trumps.

Trump XXIder Mond or der Große
Trump Ider Pagat or der Kleine [dar Kloane]
Sküs (fool, excuse)der Gstieß
Kingder König or der Honor - note that the word Honor applies only to the kings - not to the XXI, I or Gstieß
Queendie Dame [de Dam]
Riderder Reiter
Jackder Bube [dar Bua]
Pip cards in the suits are called leere [laare] Karten.
Picture cards in the suits are called Mandlen (diminutive of Mann)
Long suitder Ritt
Singletonder Fuchs - this usually refers to a suit singleton other than a king in the declarer's hand.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random: each player lifts a block of cards from the top of the face-down pack and turns it to show the undermost card. Whoever has cut the highest card deals first. If two or more players tie for highest they remove the tying cards to reveal the next card (doing this is called rittern [riddarn]), and whoever has the highest of these deals first.

The deal and play are clockwise. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's right cuts. The cards are dealt in batches of 7, until the three active players have 21 cards each. The last three cards are placed face down in the centre to form thetalon.

The turn to deal does not rotate. The dealer for each hand is the declarer from the previous hand. This means that in the 4-player game, you keep playing until you are declarer, after which you get a holiday.

Bidding

Starting with the player to dealer's left, and continuing clockwise, each player has just one opportunity to bid. The possible bids, from low to high, are:

Ansager
ordinary game - declarer exchanges with the talon and buys one card
Solo
declarer exchanges with the talon but does not buy a card
Super
declarer neither exchanges nor buys a card
Super Mord
a Super in which the declarer contracts to win every trick

A player who does not wish to bid says "weiter". An Ansager (or ordinary game) is bid by saying "ich sage an" ["i sog on"] or simply "hinein". A player who wishes to play a higher contract names the contract. Once a player has bid, players who have still to speak may either bid higher or, if they do not wish to bid higher, they say "gut".

Note that as each player speaks only once, there is no opportunity to raise your own bid, irrespective of whether another player has bid higher. If you want to play Solo or Super you should say so at your turn to speak. The highest bidder becomes the declarer and plays the game which was bid. The other two players, the defenders, play as a partnership against the declarer.

If everyone says "weiter", the cards are thrown in and the same player deals again. This is quite unusual, but can happen.

Exchanging and Buying

If the contract is an ordinary game or a Solo, the declarer takes the talon cards without showing them. The declarer then has 24 cards, from which 3 are to be discarded face-down. The value of these discarded cards will be added to the value of the declarer's tricks. It is illegal to discard the Gstieß, Mond or Pagat. If a king is discarded a trump must be discarded with it. Apart from these restrictions, it is legal to discard any cards, including trumps. The discard of a trump, with or without a king, is not announced to the other players.

In an ordinary game, the declarer also places a fourth card face-down in the centre of the table, separate from the talon, and asks the opponents for a specific card. Any card may be asked for; most often the declarer will ask for a king, the Mond, the Pagat or occasionally the Gstieß. The player who holds the requested card must give it to the declarer (face-up), taking in exchange the single face-down card offered by the declarer, which is not shown to the third player. Although this process is known as buying a card (kaufen), the declarer does not have to pay anything for the card received.

If as declarer in an ordinary game you forget to buy a card, or try to buy a card you already hold or have discarded, you lose the right to buy a card, but the game is still scored as an ordinary game, not a Solo.

In a Super (or Super Mord) the talon is left face down and its value counts with the declarer's tricks.

Announcements

The declarer may earn an extra bonus by winning the last trick with the Pagat. The bonus is doubled if the intention to win it is announced in advance. This is done by placing the Pagat face-up on the table beside the talon before the lead to the first trick. The word used for laying out the Pagat in this way is auslegen.

In the case of a Super Mord, if the declarer holds the Gstieß, this can be used to win the last trick, provided that the declarer has won all the previous tricks. In this case the Gstieß is placed face-up on the table beside the talon before the lead to the first trick. The Gstieß and the Pagat cannot both be laid out together.

Having finished exchanging, discarding, buying and laying out the Pagat or Gstieß if appropriate, the declarer says "ich liege".

The opponents now have the opportunity to double the score for the game (and the Pagat if laid out). This is the equivalent of a Kontra in other games, but here it is called schießen, or more often einen Schwachen geben. The opponent to declarer's left speaks first, and either passes by saying "gut" or "komm", or doubles the stake by saying "ich gebe einen Schwachen" ["an Schwochn"]. If the first opponent passes, the second opponent has the same options. A schwacher affects both opponents equally.

If either opponent gives a schwacher, the declarer must now either say "gut", allowing the double stake to stand, or "retour", which doubles the score again, so that it will be at 4 times the basic level. If the declarer says "retour" then either opponent (not necessarily the one who gave the original schwacher) can say a further retour, doubling the score yet again, in which case the declarer can say a further retour, and this doubling can continue without limit.

It is also allowed for a defender who holds the Pagat to lay it out, thus undertaking to win the last trick with it.

Note that a schwacher and all Retours apply to the game and to the bonus for any laid out Pagat. Although the game and the Pagat bonus are scored independently (one may be won and the other lost), it is not possible to double them separately.

The Play

Play is clockwise. The declarer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible, and a player with no cards of the suit led must play a trump. If a trump is led, the other players must follow with trumps if they have them. A player who holds no trumps and no cards of the suit led may play any card. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trumps by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next. The word used for leading to a trick is werfen.

The holder of the Gstieß can play this card to any trick, regardless of the rules for following suit or trumping. The Gstieß can never win a trick (except in the exceptional case of the last trick of a Super Mord). When the Gstieß is played, the trick is won by one of the other two cards (the higher trump or the higher card of the suit led). However, the Gstieß itself is not captured - it is placed in the trick pile of the side that played it. The Gstieß may be led to a trick, in which case the second player may play any card, and this determines the suit (or trumps) to be followed by the third.

If the Pagat was laid out, the holder must not play it as long as there is a legal alternative; if possible the Pagat must be kept until the last trick. If the Pagat was not laid out, but is played to the last trick, it is customary to draw attention to this by saying "ultimo".

The declarer's tricks are kept in a face-down pile, and the defenders' tricks together in another pile. When there are four players, the dealer may collect the defenders' tricks. Players are allowed to look back at tricks taken by their own side, but not by the opposing side. In a Super, no one is allowed to look at the talon until the end of play, so it must be kept separate from the declarer's tricks.

Scoring

When all 21 tricks have been played, the value of the cards in the tricks taken by each team is counted. The talon is counted with the declarer's tricks. If the trick to which the Gstieß was played was won by the opposing side, then when counting the cards taken in groups of three, the side which played the Gstieß will have a single card left over, and the other side will have one group of only two cards. The method of counting in this case is equivalent to transferring one 1-point card to the side without the Gstieß, though no card is physically given in exchange for the Gstieß.

To win, the declarer needs to take at least half the card points, i.e. 37. The declarer then scores an amount of game points depending on the contract and the difference of card points taken from 37 as follows:

Ansager20, plus 1 for each point over 37
Solo40, plus 1 for each point over 37
Super80, plus 1 for each point over 37

If the opponents take more game points than the declarer, then the declarer loses the equivalent amount: the basic game value plus the number of card points the opponents have over 37.

The following scores for the Pagat are won or lost independently of the success or failure of the game (the declarer can win the game and lose the Pagat or vice versa):

  1. If the Pagat wins the last trick, the side which played the Pagat scores a bonus of 10 game points.
  2. If the Pagat is played to the last trick but is beaten by a higher trump (either by an opponent or by the partner of the player who played the Pagat), the side which played the Pagat loses 10 game points.
  3. If the Pagat was laid out, there is a 20 game point bonus for winning the last trick with it. If it does not win the last trick, either because it is beaten by a higher trump, or because it is forced out earlier, the side which laid it out suffers a 20 game point penalty.
  4. If the Pagat was not laid out, but is captured by the declarer from the defenders or by the defenders from the declarer before the last trick, the side which captures the Pagat wins a bonus of 5 game points.

The score for Super Mord is 167 game points. This is equivalent to 80 for Super plus 37 for overshoot points plus a bonus of 50. If the Pagat or Gstieß was laid out, it is worth an extra 20, making 187 game points. If the declarer fails to win every trick, the entire 167 or 187 game points are lost. When Super Mord is played, there is no score for capturing the Pagat, nor for winning the last trick with it if it is not laid out. If the Pagat is laid out and a trick is lost, the play ends and 187 points are lost even if the bidder would have been able to win the last trick with the Pagat.

If the declarer wins every trick without having announced Mord, this is called a Match. The declarer scores the basic game value plus 37 points - this is simply the score for taking all the cards. Note that although the defenders must have held the Gstieß (otherwise the declarer could not have won every trick), the declarer effectively scores for this card.

If the defenders gave a Schwacher, the points for the game, the difference from 37 and the laid out Pagat (or Gstieß) if any are all doubled. The points for unannounced Pagat Ultimo, or for capturing the Pagat are not affected. If the declarer said Retour, the affected points are doubled again, and there is a further doubling for each further Retour.

The defenders always score equally, and if there are four players, the dealer also scores with the defenders. When scoring on paper (as is usual) this is achieved simply by adding or subtracting the appropriate amount from the declarer's score. At the end of the session, each pair of players pay or receive an amount proportional to the difference between their scores. The usual stake is 10 or 50 Groschen per point.

For example, suppose that the declarer plays an ordinary game, lays out the Pagat, wins the last trick with the Pagat, and takes 31 card points in tricks. The declarer then wins 20 game points for the Pagat but loses 26 game points for the game, so the net result is that 6 points are deducted from the declarer's cumulative score. At a stake of 10 Groschen per point, the effect would be that the declarer paid 60 Groschen to each other player.

The penalty for an accidental revoke (failure to follow suit or trump, wrong number of cards discarded, etc.) is that the offending side loses the basic value of the game plus the score for the Pagat if it was laid out, doubled for any Schwacher, Retour, etc., but nothing for card point difference from 37. If a defender revokes, the amount is added to the declarer's score, so the offender's partner also suffers.

This revoke penalty is in fact rather mild, and is only designed to deal with inadvertent errors. In certain circumstances it would appear to be in a player's interest to revoke on purpose, so as to avoid a higher loss if the game were played out legally, but deliberate revokes of this kind are not allowed.

Ending the Session

Any player may end the session by saying that the next declarer will deal the first of the last three hands. This is a rather convoluted way of saying that the session will end after four more deals.

Variations

Deal

The talon may be dealt in the middle rather than at the end of the deal - for example after the second batch of 7 cards to each player. One player said that the deal could also be in batches of 5-5-5-3-3-talon.

Exposing the talon

Dr Krösbacher said that in an ordinary game, the declarer exposes the talon before picking it up, but in a Solo it is picked up without showing it. Benedikt Falschlunger confirmed that the declarer exposes the talon in an ordinary game. The other players were positive that the declarer does not show the talon when picking it up.

Playing the Gstieß

Dr Krösbacher said that it is illegal to play the Gstieß to the last trick. If it is played to the last trick, the holder's side must pay the revoke penalty. The other players said that the Gstieß can be played to the last trick, but that it is never sensible to do so.

Gstieß and Pagat Ultimo

Benedikt Falschlunger said that if the declarer has the lead to the second to last trick, holds the Pagat and the Gstieß, and there are no other trumps remaining in play, the declarer can play these two cards together saying "Kleine und Gstieß Ultimo", for a bonus of 20 points. The others said they had never played with this bonus.

Card points required to win

There was some difficulty remembering exactly how many card points the declarer needs to win. In the end, three of our informants were definite that the declarer wins with 37 points. The fourth at first said that the declarer needs 38 card points, and later suggested that in case of a 37:37 tie, the side which wins the last trick wins the hand.

Pagat scores in Super Mord

Super Mord is a once in a lifetime bid, and we did not establish for certain which of the various Pagat scores can be combined with it. We were told that the Pagat or Gstieß can be laid out, increasing the score from 167 to 187, and the main description gives the simplest rule consistent with this - that the entire 167 or 187 points are won or lost as a whole, and there are no further separate scores associated with the Pagat. An alternative, though less likely interpretation would be that the winning the all the tricks is worth 167, and that all the normal Pagat bonuses apply in addition to this. In that case, for example, a declarer who did not hold the Pagat would in fact win 172 including the 5 for catching the Pagat, and a declarer who caught the Pagat despite losing some other trick would lose only 162.

Game with 78 cards

One player said that he had also played the game with 78 cards. The deal is in 5's and 39 card points are needed by the declarer to win the game. Otherwise the rules are the same (probably the Super Mord score should be 169). The others said they had always played with 66 cards.

Notes on Tactics

To play an ordinary game, it is not necessary to have a large number of trumps, but you do need 5-point cards - especially kings. Declarer will often buy a missing king. Holding the kings of all your suits you may do best to buy the XXI. With long trumps you often buy the Pagat, in the hope of making an Ultimo.

It is very useful for declarer to have a long suit with which to pull the defenders' trumps. A long suit containing losers should be played while the defenders still have trumps, otherwise there is a danger that one defender will discard kings and queens on the tricks won by the other.

There are various ways of using the Gstieß. It can be used to lengthen one's trumps, but also to protect a picture - for example holding a rider and one small card of a suit, if an opponent leads the king and queen, the Gstieß can be used to keep the rider to win the third round of the suit.

It is essential to count trumps accurately, and desirable to count the suits as well.

The defenders should always try to keep the declarer in the middle - that is, the defender to declarer's right should usually beat the other defender's cards when practical. It is far better for the defence if the declarer plays second to a trick, with the other defender following, especially when the defenders begin to attack a new suit. If the defender to declarer's left has to lead a new suit, it is too easy for the declarer to capture the defenders' picture cards.

Often it is right for the defenders to locate declarer's void, by trying various suits until declarer trumps. Having found a suit which declarer has to trump, they will tend to keep leading it so as to weaken declarer's trump holding.

When the declarer leads from a long suit, the defenders should not release their pictures in that suit prematurely. This is especially important when the suit is unequally divided between the defenders. The defender who is long in the suit would like to win some tricks in it later, when partner has run out of trumps and can discard counting cards.

When the defenders attack a new suit, it is often difficult for them to know whether to play the king, hoping to win, or to play low cards hoping that the declarer has to trump. A defender who is short in trumps will often prefer to hold back kings and queens, as these can more safely be thrown on partner's trump tricks later.

There are several reasons why the defenders may sometimes wish to lead trumps:

  1. they may need to get rid of their trumps so that they can discard counting cards on each other's winners, or so that the weaker defender can discard profitably on the stronger defender's trumps;
  2. occasionally the defenders may be able to draw the declarer's trumps, and even catch the Pagat; this is sometimes possible when declarer has bid with strong side suits but short trumps;
  3. sometimes leading trumps is safest; leading a suit may allow the declarer to catch pictures which would not be caught if the declarer had to lead that suit first.

Knowing when to lead trumps is one of the trickiest parts of the defence. Sometimes leading trumps may damage the defence, helping the declarer to retain trump control, and even to win Pagat Ultimo. Some indications in favour of leading trumps are

  1. when you are very short in them, and partner is likely to be long - especially if partner gave a Schwacher;
  2. when the Pagat has been played (so you are not helping declarer to make Ultimo);
  3. when the declarer and your partner have a long suit together in which you are short.

A fox (Fuchs) is a singleton in a suit (not a king), which the declarer may deliberately keep to mislead the opponents - for example a 1, 10 or jack. Sometimes the fox will win a trick if the opponents underlead their pictures fearing that they will be trumped, or mistakenly hold them back when the fox is led, believing it to come from a long suit.