Stortok

Introduction

This Swedish beating game is unusual in having two trump suits, the higher determined by the suit of a card turned up after the deal, and the lower being the other suit of the same colour. As usual in such games the object is to get rid of all one's cards,. The last player holding cards when all the others have succeeded is the loser, known as the stortok (Swedish for 'great fool').

We know of this game from three possibly independent sources. The first version of this page was based on a translation by Anthony Smith of a somewhat incomplete description by Schenkmanis which was published in the 1980's, both in Swedish as Stortok and in Norwegian under the equivalent name Kjempetosk.

Sten Helmfrid has pointed out a probable error in that description, and has also found two much earlier accounts of Stortok, one by Lindskog published in 1847 and one by Öberg published in 1858. These differ from Schenkmanis' version and from each other in several ways. On this page we first describe the 1847 version, and then discuss the differences in the 1858 and in the late 20th century description.

Players and Cards

The game is for 2 to 5 players using 36 card pack ranking A(high) K Q J T 9 8 7 6(low) (from a standard 52 card pack remove the cards below 6). The deal and play are clockwise.

Object of the game

To get rid of all one's cards. The last player who is left with cards is the loser and is called the "Great Fool".

Deal and Trumps (1847 version)

Each player is dealt 5 cards, first a batch of three cards to each, then a batch of two. The remaining cards are placed face down on the table to form a stock. The top card of the stock is turned and placed face up under the stock at right angles so that its rank and suit can be seen. The suit of this card is the High Trump Suit and the other suit of the same colour is the Low Trump Suit. For example if the 8 of spades is turned up, spades are High Trumps and clubs are Low Trumps.

The Play (1847 version)

Forehand [the player to the left of the dealer] begins by playing any card face up, to being the play pile. The next player may beat this card, then the following play, each player adding their card to the top of the pile until everyone has played one card. Any card can be beaten by any higher card of the same suit. A card of a non-trump suit can be beaten by any Low Trump or any High Trump. A Low Trump can be beaten by any High Trump.

If each player beats the previous card, then when everyone has played one card, the "trick" is complete. The cards remain face up on the table and the winner of the trick (i.e. the player who played the last card), plays any card on top of the play pile to start a new trick.

A player who is unable or unwilling to beat the previous card must pick up the whole of the play pile (the current trick and all previous tricks that are on the table). The player who played the highest card in the incomplete trick (this is the player to the right of the one who picked up the pile) then begins a new trick by playing any card to the empty table. Thus the player who picked up the pile will play second to that trick, either beating the led card or picking it up, letting the same player lead again.

So long as there are cards in the stock, each time a card is played on the play pile, the player must immediately draw the top card of the stock to replace. Therefore so long as there are cards in the stock players' hands can only increase in size, never decrease.

When the stock is exhausted, the players continue to play with the cards in their hands. As players run out of cards they drop out of the game. The last player left with cards is the loser of the game, known as the "Great Fool".

1858 version

Öberg's version is played with a full standard deck of 52 cards. All the cards are dealt clockwise, first a batch of three to each player and then continuing one at a time: at the end of the deal some players may have one more card than others but this does not matter. The last card of the pack is dealt face up and determines the high trump suit. It is picked up by the player who received it along with the rest of their hand. The other suit of the same colour is low trump. The dealer begins the play pile by playing any card. Subsequent players in clockwise order must either beat the top card of the play pile or pick up the whole pile. In this version there are no tricks as such: play simply continues clockwise around the table. When a player picks up the pile, the following player (to the left of the player who picked up) starts a new play pile by playing any card. Play continues, skipping any player who has run out of cards, until one player has all the cards. This player is the loser - the “Stortok”.

20th century version

Like the 1847 version, this is played with a 36-card pack from which 5 cards are dealt to each player, but according to Schenkmanis the card turned up to indicate the trump suit is placed not under the stock but face up on the table to start the first trick. Forehand must begin the play by beating this trump indicator card or picking it up.

Completed tricks do not remain on the table but are set aside before the winner leads a card to the next trick. A player who is unable or unwilling to beat the top card of the play pile does not pick up the whole pile, but only its top card. The the next trick is begun not by the player of the right of the one who failed to beat the highest card in the incomplete trick, but by the player to their left, so that the player who picked up will be the last rather than the second player to this new trick.

We are not sure whether this description represents way the the game was really played in the 20th century, or whether it is based on a misinterpretation of earlier accounts. Sten Helmfrid suggests that the treatment of the turned up trump as the first card of the first trick is an error, and it should be the last card of the talon as in the original version, but that the other rule changes do not damage the game and may improve it.

Sources

  1. Karl Johan Lindskog: Ny och fullständig svensk spelbok (D.F. Bonniers förlag, Göteborg, 1847), p. 239.
  2. Ludvig Teodor Öberg: Nyaste Spelbok (J.W. Lundberg, Stockholm, 1858), p. 169.
  3. Ulf Schenkmanis: Kortspel & Patienser (ICA bokförlag, Västerås, 1988)
  4. Ingalill Schenkmanis, Ulf Schenkmanis: Cappelens Kortspillbok (Oslo, 1987)
This page is maintained by John McLeod (john@pagat.com).   © John McLeod, 1995, 2021. Last updated: 26th June 2021

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