Rook Sluff

Introduction

This is one of many examples of a traditional North American card game adapted to be played with Rook cards. Rook Sluff is based on Spades, as can be seen from the distinctive style of bidding and the Sluff bid (equivalent to Nil) but the Rook card version is a double deck game for 6 or more players. The description on the page is based on information from Bill Robfogel, who learned the game from some Canadian visitors.

Players and Cards

This game is played with two decks of Rook cards shuffled together. Each deck has 57 cards: a series of cards numbered from 1 to 14 in each of the four colours red, yellow, green and black plus a 'bird' card. For Rook Sluff the birds are removed, plus a number of low cards of each colour depending on the number of players.

In this game the Ones are high. The cards of each colour rank from high to low 1-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. Black cards are always trumps.

The game is played by 6, 8 or 10 players divided into two teams sitting alternately, so that each player sits between two members of the opposing team.

  • If there are 8 players, all the cards (except for the birds) are used (112 cards).
  • If there are 6 players remove all the 2's except for one red 2, all the 3's and 4's, both red 5's and one 5 of each of the other colours. So each colour is complete down to the 6 and there is a single lowest card - the red 2 and the five in the other three colours (84 cards).
  • If there are 10 players remove one red 5 and one green 5 (110 cards).

Deal

The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time so that 6 or 8 players receive 14 cards, and 10 players receive 11 cards each.

The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Bidding

Starting from dealer's left, each player in turn bids a number of tricks. This is not an auction - all bids are valid, and when all players have spoken the bids of the members of a team are added together to determine the team bid. Example: A:1, B:2, C:4, D:1, E:3, F:2. Team A-C-E undertake to win at least 8 tricks (1+4+3) while team B-D-F undertake to win at least 5 tricks (2+1+2).

Negative bids are not allowed. A bid of zero tricks is known as a 'Sluff'. As well as contributing zero to the team bid, a player who sluffs undertakes to win no tricks.

Play

The first player to the left of the dealer who holds a red 2 must lead a red to to the first trick. The other players in turn must play a card of the same colour that was led if they have any. A player with no card of that colour can play any card they choose - either a black card (trump) or a card of another colour.

If any trumps are played, the highest trump wins the trick. In a trick with no trumps, the highest card of the colour that was led wins the trick. In case of a tie for best card, where two players play identical cards, the card played earlier wins.

The winner of the trick leads to the next trick. From the second trick onwards players may lead any card they choose - there is no restriction on leading trumps. As before the other players must play a card of the same colour that was led whenever possible.

Scoring

A cumulative score is kept for each team.

  • A team that wins at least as many tricks as they bid scores 10 points for each trick bid and won, plus 1 more point for each additional trick. It does not matter which players of the team win the tricks - only the total counts. For example a team that bids 6 tricks and wins 9 adds 63 points to its running total.
  • A team that wins fewer tricks than the total number they bid scores nothing.
  • If a player bids "sluff", the player's team scores 50 extra points if the player succeeds in winning no tricks. If the player who bid sluff wins one trick or more the team loses 50 points.

If a player bids Sluff and takes one or more tricks, those tricks do count towards making the team bid. So for example in a six-player game where player A bids 3 and wins 3 tricks, player C sluffs and wins 2 tricks, player E bids 3 and wins two tricks, the team will score 11 points - that's 60 for 6 tricks bid and made plus 1 for an extra trick less 50 for the failed sluff.

The game continues until each player has dealt once - for example 8 players would play 8 deals. The team with more points wins.

Bill Robfogel has provided a blank scoresheet to print.

Notes

It would be clearly be possible to play Rook Sluff under the same rules as a 4-player game using a single deck of 56 Rook cards without the bird. That game would be much closer to Spades, and was probably an intermediate stage in the evolution of this game. But so far as I know only the double deck version of Rook Sluff is now played.

Spades players should note the following differences in Rook Sluff:

  • Trumps (black cards) can be led from the second trick onwards. There is no rule that trumps must be 'broken' before they are led.
  • There is no penalty for 'bags' (tricks won in excess of the team's bid). They simply score +1 point each.
  • Instead of playing to a target score, a fixed number of deals equal to the number of players is played.