Lora / Lórum

This page is based on information from Petar Đorđević, Ivan Gaj, Lovro NJavro, Áron Csathó, Vladimir Radulovitch Dowllah and Martin Tompa.

Introduction

Lora is a popular compendium game played in Serbia and Croatia. A very similar game Lórum, played in Hungary is also described on this page. A more distantly related game played in Slovakia and also known as Lórum is described on a separate page.

First, a typical version of Serbian Lora will be described. Like many compendium games it consists of a series of deals in which different sub-games or contracts are played, each with their own objectives and scoring. Most are trick-taking games in which the aim is to take or to avoid certain tricks or cards, but one is a game of a different type in which the aim is to get rid of cards by playing them to a layout.

This game has numerous variants. There are versions with different selections of contracts. The scoring of the contracts varies as does the order in which they are played, which may either be fixed or chosen by the players according to their cards.

Players, Cards and Objective

Lora is normally played by four players, everyone playing for themselves. A three-player game is also possible but less satisfactory. The deal and play are counterclockwise.

A 32-card pack is used, the cards in each suit ranking from high to low A K Q J 10 9 8 7. In Serbia and Croatia French suited cards are used with suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. The equivalent Hungarian game Lórum is played with German suited cards with suits of hearts, gourds (bells), acorns and leaves.

The goal is to be the player with the least points at the end of the game.

General Procedure

The game has a number of contracts with different objectives - the typical version described first has seven such contracts. During a game each contract must be played once with each player dealing. So our typical 4-player game consists of 28 deals, 7 by each dealer.

In the basic game the contracts are played in a fixed sequence, but there is a popular variant in which players can choose the order in which the contracts are played, based on the cards they are dealt. This version is described later.

The first dealer is chosen at random. The cards are shuffled by the dealer, cut by the player to the dealers left, and then dealt singly until all cards are dealt out and everyone has 8.

Each player deals 7 times in succession, once per contract, after which the turn to deal passes to the right, for a total of 28 deals.

Contracts and Scoring

Most of the contracts involve taking tricks. In the these contracts the rules of play are as follows.

  • The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick. Thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next.
  • Any card may be led.
  • The other three players must follow suit if they can. Those unable to follow suit may play any card.
  • The highest card of the suit led wins the trick. There are no trumps.

The seven contracts are as follows (with their Serbian names in brackets). Note that all the points are penalty points - positive scores are bad and negative scores are good.

1. Minimum (Minimum/Минимум or Što manje/Што мање)
The objective is to avoid winning tricks. Each trick scores +1 point. (Što manje translates as 'fewer'.)
2. Maximum (Maksimum/Максимум or Što više/Што више)
The objective is to win tricks. Each trick scores -1 point. (Što više translates as 'more'.)
3. Queens (Dame/Даме)
The objective is to avoid winning tricks that contain Queens. Each Queen in a player's tricks is worth +2 points. (In Serbian as in most European languages, playing-cards Queens are called Ladies - Dame. The contract can also be called Dame ne/Даме не = 'no ladies').
4. Hearts (Srca/Срца or Herc/Херц)
The objective is to avoid winning tricks that contain hearts, or to win all the hearts. Each heart in a player's tricks is worth +1 point, unless one player takes all the hearts, in which case that player scores -8 points. (Srca is the normal Serbian word for 'heart' while Herc is derived for the German word Herz = heart and is used only for playing-card hearts.)
5. Jack of Clubs (Žandar tref/Жандар треф)
The only objective is to avoid winning the trick that contains the Jack of clubs. Whoever takes this card scores +8 points.
6. King of Hearts and Last Trick (Kralj srce i zadnja ruka/Краљ срце и задња рука)
The objective is to avoid winning the trick that contains the King of hearts and to avoid winning the last trick. Whoever takes the King of hearts score +4 points and whoever wins the last trick scores +4 points. Therefore if the King of hearts is played in the last trick the winner of that trick scores +8 points in total. (The King of hearts can also be called Pop erac - pop means priest and erac is an alternative version of herc = heart.)
7. Lora (Lora/Лора or Ređanje/Ређање)
This is not a trick taking contract, but a relative of Fan Tan in which players try to get rid of their cards by playing them to a layout, which consists of four piles of cards, one pile for each suit. However, unlike FanTan and the equivalent contracts in other compendium games, in Lora the cards are played only in upward sequence, 7 counting as the next higher card above Ace. The player to dealer's right begins by laying down any card. The rank of this card determines the starting rank in all four suits. Play continues counterclockwise, and each player in turn must if possible add a card to the layout - either a card of the starting rank in a new suit or the next higher card in a suit that has already been begun. So for example if the first card played is the 9 of spades, the cards in every suit must be played in the order 9-10-J-Q-K-A-7-8. A player who has no legal card to play simply passes and it is the next player's turn to play a card. The play continues until a player runs out of cards. This player scores -8 points and each of the other players scores +1 point for each card remaining in their hands. (The alternative name Ređanje means placed in order.)

At the end of each contract the points earned are added to the previously earned ones, that is the scores are kept cumulatively. At the end of the game, the player with the least points is the winner.

Variants

Choice of contract

In this popular variation, instead of playing the contracts in a fixed order, the starting player, after looking at his or her cards, decides which contract to play and announces it. Each starting player must choose each contract once, and having done so cannot choose the same contract again. So as the game progresses the choice becomes more limited, until finally the starting player has no option and must play the one remaining contract.

In this version of the game, sometimes the players deal in turn, rather than the same player dealing seven times in a row. There are still 28 deals in total, but the players take turns to choose contracts, each starting player choosing each contract once.

Extra contract

When playing the variant with choice of contract, some players end with four extra deals, one by each player, in which the starting player can choose to play any one of the contracts a second time.

Small lora

Some players prefer to omit certain contracts. Usually the omitted contract is the Jack of Clubs because of its high value, but the omitted contracts vary from place to place.

King of Hearts and 6th trick

In this variation the King of Hearts and last trick contract is replaced by the King of Hearts and 6th trick contract. Players try to avoid taking the King of Hearts and winning the 6th trick, each being worth +4 points.

Dealing in batches

Some play that if the player to the dealers left decides not to cut the cards, the cards are dealt in batches of 8.

Pass in Lora costs one point

In the Lora contract, in addition to the -8 for the player who runs out of cards and the points for cards remaining in players' hands at the end, each time a player passes they score +1 point.

Jack of Clubs

Some play this as a team game in which the players sitting opposite try to help each other. The player who takes the Jack of Clubs scores +6 points and the player sitting opposite scores +2 points.

Libyan variant

Ivan Gaj and Henry Ottenkof describe a version played by Serbian expats working for the oil industry in Libya. The whole game is played clockwise, and there are eight contracts:

  1. Hearts - as above: +1 point for each heart taken, or if one player who takes all 8 hearts -8 for that player
  2. King of Hearts: +8 points for the player who wins the King of Hearts
  3. Queens: +2 points for each Queen taken, or if one player who takes all four Queens -8 for that player
  4. Jack of Clubs: the player to the left of the player who takes the Jack of clubs scores +8 (since play is clockwise this is the player whose turn comes immediately after the one who took the clubJ).
  5. Sixth Trick: +8 points for the player who wins the 6th trick
  6. Tricks: +1 point for each trick won, or if the same player wins all 8 tricks -8 for that player
  7. Two players: If two players win 3 or more tricks each, the other two players score +4 points each. If there are not two players with 3 or more tricks the cards shuffled and redealt and the same contract is played again. If after three attempts there is still no result, the dealer scores +8 points and the game moves on to the next contract.
  8. Lora: Played as described above but the player who runs out of cards scores zero while each other player scores +1 for each remaining card and +2 for each pass (recorded as a dot on the score sheet). A player who has only two cards left and plays one of them must immediately announce "last card" and place their last card face down in front of them on the table. If the last card played in Lora is the same rank as the first card all scores for Lora are doubled. For example if the first card is the 9 of hearts, and a player holding the 9 of clubs and no other clubs manages to play a card of some other suit every turn, keeping the 9 of clubs to the end and playing it as the winning card, the other players will score +2 for each remaining card and +4 for each dot.

There is a strict schedule of penalties:

  • +8 points for any dealing error. The hand is redealt by the same dealer.
  • +8 points for playing out of turn, for playing two cards at once, for looking at past tricks that have been turned face down, taking someone else's trick or looking at another player's hand, for arranging card play with another player. Play ends and the next hand is dealt.
  • +16 points for failing to follow suit when able to. Play ends and the next hand is dealt.
  • +8 points in Lora for playing on the wrong stack or failing to announce "last card" or hiding any card. The error is corrected and play continues.
  • +32 points in Lora for passing when able to play. Play ends and the next hand is dealt.
  • +4 points for unduly slow play. Play continues.

The game was sometimes played with "betting". After the deal and before the first card was played any player could make a bet, which is a prediction of their own result for the deal. No bets are allowed in contract 2 or 4. In games 1, 3 and 6 the play predicts the exact number of hearts, Queens or tricks respectively that he will take. In game 5, the bet is presumably that the player will or will not win the 6th trick. In game 7 the bet is a prediction of the exact number of tricks the player will win, and it is cancelled if there is no result, but there is a new opportunity to bet after the redeal. In game 8, the bet is a prediction of the number of dots (passes) the player will score. In each case the bettor scores -10 if the prediction is correct and +10 if not, in addition to the normal scores for the deal. Any opponent of the bettor can 'counter' the bet. In this case if the prediction is correct the bettor scores -20 and the counter-bettor +20; if not the bettor scores +20 and the counter-bettor -20. The bettor can respond to the 'counter' with a 'recounter' which doubles the score to plus or minus 40. If a Lora is ended by a card of the same rank as the start card, the bets as well as the ordinary scores for that deal are doubled.

At the end of the game (32 deals) the player with most points is the loser and pays for everyone's drinks. A player who loses three times in one day must invite the others to a barbecue. A player who scores more than 142 points is known as Hassan Murteza, presumably in memory of some particularly unsuccessful player.

A three-player game is possible. Ten cards are dealt to each player and the remaining two cards, called the kitty, are placed aside unseen. Unless otherwise specified below the kitty cards are given to the winner of the last trick. The rules are the same as in the four-player except for the following differences:

  1. Hearts. Same as with 4 players.
  2. King of Hearts. If the heartK is in the kitty the game is repeated. If this happens three times in succession, the dealer scores +8 and the game moves on to the next contract.
  3. Queens. Queens in the kitty do not count for any player.
  4. Jack of Clubs. If the clubJ is in the kitty the game is repeated. If this happens three times in succession, the dealer scores +8 and the game moves on to the next contract.
  5. Eighth trick. It is the player who wins the 8th trick, not the 6th, who scores +8.
  6. Tricks. A player who wins all 10 tricks scores -10.
  7. Two players. If two players each win at least four tricks each the third player scores +8. If not, the game is repeated, and if there is no result after three attempts the dealer scores +8.
  8. Lora. The kitty is placed to the left of the dealer. It is turned face up after the first card is played, and is played in turn immediately before the dealer. If both kitty cards are playable the dealer chooses which to play.

Lora in Croatia

Lovro Njavaro describes a version of Lora played in Croatia. As usual there are four players and a 32-card pack is used. It is possible that in some places German suited cards (William Tell pattern) are used instead of French cards, in which case the scoring cards in contract 4 are Obers (Upper Jacks) rather than Queens. The cards are dealt in batches of 4 at a time, and the game is played anticlockwise. The game has eight contracts and therefore consists of 32 deals, 8 by each dealer. Penalty points are noted as negative numbers, so the objective is to have the highest positive (or the least negative) score at the end of the game.

  1. Što više. The aim is to win tricks. Each trick scores +1 point..
  2. Što manje. The aim is to avoid winning tricks. Each trick scores -1 point..
  3. Kralj herc-zadnji štih. If the King of hearts and the last trick are won by different players, each of them scores -4 points. However, if the same player manages to win both the King of hearts and the last trick, this player scores +8 points.
  4. Babe. Each Queen taken scores -2 points unless one player succeeds in taking all of them. A player who takes all four Queens scores +8 points.
  5. Herčevi. The aim is to avoid winning hearts or to take all of them. A player who takes all the hearts scores +8 points: otherwise each heart taken scores -1 point.
  6. Lora. The play is the same as in the Serbian version described above. A player who is unable to play indicates their pass by whistling. The first player who runs out of cards scores +8 points and the other players score -1 point for each whistle and -1 point for each card remaining in their hands. The penalty for whistling when you could have played a card is -8 points.
  7. Prognoza. Each player in turn, beginning with the player to dealer's right, must forecast how many tricks they will win. Players who forecast correctly score +4 points: those who take more or fewer tricks than their forecast score -4 points.
  8. Sljepić. This contract, whose name means 'blinded', is a game of pure luck. Players must not look at their cards but stack them face down. At your turn you flip the top card of your pile face up and play it. As usual the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and the winner leads to the next. Players score +1 point for each trick that they win.

Hungarian Lórum

Lórum, like Lora, has many alternative versions with different contracts and rule variants. The basic procedure is the same, but it is played with German suited cards of the William Tell pattern: the suits are hearts (piros), balls (tök), leaves (zöld) and acorns (makk) and the cards in each suit, from high to low are Ace (ász), King (király), Upper Jack or Ober (felső), Lower Jack or Unter (alsó), X, IX, VIII, VII. The deal and play are anticlockwise; cards are normally dealt in batches of two.

Often the scoring is carried out using chips or money. Some contracts result in chips being paid to or from a central pool: in other cases chips are paid from player to player. A typical series of contracts, with their scores, is as follows.

1. Hearts (Pirosfogás)
Trick-taking game in which the aim is to avoid taking hearts. Each heart taken costs 1 chip. If all four players take hearts these chips are paid to the pool. If three players take hearts the fourth player collects the 8 chips. If two players take hearts, the two players without hearts share the chips taking 4 each. But if one player takes all the hearts that player collects 8 chips from each opponent (24 chips in all).
2. Obers (Felsőfogas or Filkós)
The aim is to avoid taking tricks containing Upper Jacks (Obers). The Ober of acorns costs 1 chip, leaves 2 chips, balls 3 chips and hearts 4 chips. As in the first contract the chips are paid to the pool if the players take an Ober each. If three players take Obers the fourth player collects the 10 chips, if two players take Obers the other two collect 5 chips each. If one player takes all four Obers that player wins 10 chips from each opponent (30 chips in all).
3. No tricks (Ütesfogas or Bettli)
The aim is to avoid taking tricks or to win all 8 tricks. Each trick costs 1 chip and the payments work in the same way as in contract 1.
4. Quads (Kvárt or Schnips-schnaps-schnur)
The player to dealer's right leads any card. Whoever has the next higher card of the same suit plays it, then the next card, then the next. The VII counts as the next higher card above the Ace. Four consecutive cards complete the trick, which is set aside. Later in the game a trick may end with fewer than four cards if the next required card is in no one's hand because it has already been played. The trick is set aside and whoever played the last card leads any card to begin a new trick. When a player runs out of cards the play ends immediately. This player is the winner and is paid 1 chip by each other player for each card remaining in their hands.
5. Fast Train (Gyorsvonat)
The player to dealer's right leads any card. The next player must play a card that is one rank higher, but not necessarily the same suit. A player who does not have a card of the required rank must pass and it is the next player's turn. This continues around the table, VII following Ace, until some player runs out of cards. This player is the winner and is paid 1 chip by each other player for each card remaining in their hands.
6. Hairy Monkey (Szőrös majom).
Trick-taking game in which the only aim is to avoid taking the King of hearts. The player who wins the trick containing the King of hearts must pay 10 chips to the pool.
7. Lórum (also known as Dominó)
The player to dealer's right determines the starting rank. Four piles are built up in suit, each beginning with this rank. At your turn you must either start a new pile by playing a card of the starting rank or continue a pile by playing the next higher card of that suit. VII follows Ace. You must play a card if you can. If you are unable to play you pay 1 chip to the pot. The first player who runs out of cards is the winner. The other players must pay 1 chip to the pot for each card remaining in their hands. The winner then takes the whole pot, including any chips paid into it in previous deals.

Variants

Some deal the cards 4 at a time or in batches of 3, then 2, then 3 rather than in pairs.

The selection of contracts and the order in which they are played varies from place to place. Here are some more contracts that are sometimes played in addition to or in place of some of those listed above.

101
Four cards are dealt to each player, and the remainder of the deck is placed face down in the centre of the table as a draw pile. Starting from the player to the right of the dealer, each player in turn discards any one card face up onto a common discard pile, and draws a replacement card from the draw pile. Suits are irrelevant to the play of this deal. When discarding cards, the card value is added to a running total and the new total is announced by the player discarding, using the following values:
Ace = 11, X = 10, King = 4, Ober = 3, Unter = 2, IX = 0, VIII = 0, VII = 0.
(By convention, when a card with zero value is played, instead of repeating the current total the player says “potya”, a Hungarian word meaning “something worthless, of no value”.) Play continues until the running total becomes greater than 101. The first player to discard a card causing the total to equal or exceed 101 loses and must pay 10 chips into the pool. If the draw pile is exhausted before this occurs, play continues without replacing the cards played.
Makk alsó, piros király, utolsó ütes (Acorn Unter, Heart King, last trick)
Trick-taking game in which the player who takes the Heart King, the player who wins the last trick, and the player sitting opposite the player who takes the Acorn Unter must each pay 10 chips into the pool.

Note. The method of scoring involving a pool which is collected by the winner of the last deal of each set of 7 assumes that the contracts are played in a fixed sequence. The variant in which the first player chooses the contract after the deal is evidently rare in Hungary. It is also incompatible with the variant contract 101 which requires a different deal.