Albastini is a point-trick game played in Tanzania, East Africa. The card order and values are similar to those in the Portuguese game Bisca, of which it may well be a remote descendant. The objective to take (or 'eat') valuable cards in tricks, and the player or team that takes the highest value of cards scores one or more victory points.
I would like to thank Augustino Mponzi for explaining this game to me.
Players and Cards
This game is normally played by 2, 3, 4 or 6 people. 4 or 6 players can play in teams of 2, partners sitting opposite, and 6 people can play in teams of 3, each player sitting between two opponents.
A standard international deck is used, from which all the 2's, 8's, 9's, 10's and Jokers are removed leaving a pack of 36 cards. The rank and values of the cards in each suit, in descending order from Ace (highest) to 3 (lowest) are as follows:
Note that in each suit the Seven is the second highest card, higher than the King, and that the Jack is higher than the Queen. There are 120 points in the deck in total.
The deal and play are clockwise.
Deal and Bidding
The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method - typically the person hosting the game may deal first.
Subsequently the winner of each deal or a member of the winning team deals the next hand. In a team game the members of the winning team agree among themselves who should deal next: ideally they will take turns. After a tied game with no winner, the same player who dealt the tied hand should also deal the next hand.
The dealer shuffles the deck, deals 5 cards to each player, and places the remainder of the deck face down on the table.
The trump suit will be determined by turning up one of the undealt cards, but before this happens the dealer's opponents have the opportunity to 'bid', which in this game means to guess the trump suit and offer a card of that suit to be exchanged with the trump indicator card if the guess is correct.
Beginning with the player to dealer's left, each opponent of the dealer in turn has the option to 'bid' by placing one card from their hand face up on the table. Each bid must be in a different suit.
When all the dealer's opponents have had a chance to bid if they wish, the dealer turns the top card of the undealt portion of the deck face up. The suit of this card is the trump suit.
If any player has 'bid' with a card of this suit, they must exchange their bid card for the trump indicator card, adding the trump indicator card to their hand and leaving their bid card face up on the table in its place. Players who bid in suits that do not match the trump suit take their bid cards back into their hands.
The dealer then slides the face up trump card (either the original trump indicator or the successful bid card) under the undealt deck, leaving the card partly exposed so that all players can see the trump suit.
Please note that:
- The dealer is not allowed to bid, and in a team game the partner(s) of the dealer are not allowed to bid.
- If a player's bid matches the trump indicator card the player must exchange their bid card for the trump indicator, even if the trump indicator is lower in rank than the bid card. For example if I bid with the 5 and the 3 is turned up as the trump indicator, I must take the 3 in exchange for the 5. For this reason players normally only use low cards of no value (6, 5, 4, 3) as bid cards.
- Each player who bids must expose a card of a different suit. For example suppose that player A is the dealer in a 3-player game, and player B bids with the 4. If the third player C holds J, 3, 7, A, Q, player C is not allowed to bid with a club and will therefore choose not bid at all. If C were to bid with a diamond or spade, this would most likely result in giving up a high card for a lower one if either of those suits became trumps.
Terminology. In this game the tricks are called 'rounds', and the winner of a round (trick) is said to 'eat' the cards in it.
The player to dealer's left starts the first round (leads to the first trick) by playing one card face up. Then each of the other players in turn plays one card face up. There is absolutely no requirement to follow suit. Any player may play any card in their hand in any round.
The round is won by the highest trump played, or if it contains no trumps, by the highest card of the starting suit (the suit of the card with which the first player began that round). The winner of the round gathers the cards and stores them face down: each team has a face down pile of cards that they have eaten.
Each player in turn, beginning with the player who won the round, picks (draws) one card from the top of the undealt part of the deck, so that all players have five cards again. Then the player who won the round starts the next round (i.e. the winner of each trick leads to the next).
The face up trump card under the deck is drawn as the last card of the deck. It will naturally go to the player to the right of the winner of the round just played, who is last to draw in clockwise order. The play then continues as before but without drawing until all the cards have been played.
Each player (in an individual game) or team (in a team game) gathers the cards they have won (eaten) and counts their total value. The results should always add up to 120, the total value of the cards in the deck.
The player or team with the greatest value of cards wins and scores one or more victory points.
- In an individual game, the winner scores one victory point, provided that every player has eaten at least 10 points. If any player has eaten less than 10 points the winner scores two victory points.
- In a game between teams of two, the winning team scores one victory point, provided that every team has eaten at least 20 points. If any team has eaten less than 20 points the winning team scores two victory points.
- In a game between teams of three, the winning team scores one victory point, provided that the losing team has eaten at least 30 points. If the losing team has eaten less than 30 points the winning team scores two victory points.
If there is a tie for greatest value of cards eaten then no victory points are scored.
It is possible for five players to play as individuals. In this case the face up trump card will not be drawn (there will be 7 rounds using only 35 of the 36 cards) and no one will count the value of this trump card towards their total when determining the winner.