Barbette - card game rules
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Contributed by Warren Chang

One game in particular that my friends and I used to play a lot as a break from playing tournament Bridge was Barbu. However this game takes a long time to complete, and when attempting to play it nowadays we usually end up breaking after 4 rounds (all of us now having small children to take care of).

To address this, we've begun playing a reduced version of Barbu (which I call "Barbette"). It preserves the most interesting features of the game, but finishes in four rounds (16 deals):

  • It's still a zero-sum game of sub-games
  • 75% of the sub-games called are "minus" games (net score is negative)
  • Each player is required to double each declarer at least once during the game.

Two of the minus games are eliminated: Nullo ("No Tricks") and "(No) Hearts". "Nullo" (as we call it) is usually held in reserve as a "safety" game and thus should clearly be the first to go. As for "(No) Hearts", I consider the play similar to that for Barbu in that players may not lead hearts unless holding only hearts, and of course we can't eliminate the namesake game even from the reduced version. This leaves three "minus" games: the eponymous "Barbu", "Last Two" and "(No) Queens".

Each player in turn must call four games: one each of the three minus games, and one of EITHER "plus" game, Trumps or Dominoes. It is not required for everyone to call the same plus game; each player may call either one as their "plus" game. Each player must double each other player on their trun to declare the contract at leastonce (instead of twice).

To make the plus games equivalent to each other scoringwise, Dominoes is scored 40/25/10/-10 in orderto net to +65, which is the same as Trumps where each trick is worth +5. (You could also make this 45/20/10/-10 to reward coming in first more highly, or any other breakout that sums to +65.)

To make the net value of the three "minus" games come to -65, each Queen is nowworth -5 at "(No) Queens" for a net of-20, while the Barbu (King of Hearts) is worth -15 and the Last Two tricks are -10 and -20 as usual.

It could be(and has been) argued that "(No) Queens" is more similar to "Barbu" than "(No) Hearts", and thus a better candidate for elimination in the reduced game. Personally I find the "can't lead hearts unless all hearts" rule to be the most restrictive (and thus the most commonizing) feature of both games, but as a variant of this variant, players could choose to drop "(No) Queens" instead andrestore "(No) Hearts" to the set, while making "Last Two" worth -5/-15 instead of -10/-20 to retain the zero-sum total scoring.

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Last updated: 16th March 2006