Number of Players: Four, playing as individuals.
The Deck: 24 Cards (strip out 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).
Object: To hold all six cards in the one suit, with as few surplus cards as possible.
The Deal: Six cards are dealt to each player.
The Negotiations: At any time, the players may excuse themselves to negotiate for another’s support.1 A time limit (say a few minutes) to negotiations should be enforced.
The Play: The holder of the 9 then leads to the first trick. Play proceeds clockwise from there. Players must follow suit, otherwise they may discard or trump. To trump is to play the Jack of the same colour (e.g. J trumps all hearts) as the suit led - otherwise known as the bower. Tricks taken are merged with the winner’s hand, and may be played again. The winner of a trick leads to the next trick, however he cannot lead the same card as the one led in the previous trick.
Claiming Victory: A player who has the lead may instead claim victory by placing all six cards of the one suit face up on the table. His remaining, or surplus cards are tabulated in the scoring.
The Scoring: Nine points, less three points for the relevant bower, and one point for any other surplus card, for the win (down to a minimum of zero). If another player holds the relevant bower, he receives a bonus of three points. The deal then moves clockwise.
To Win: Rubbers are played to nine points. A tie is resolved by playing on until the tie is broken. A match is best of five rubbers (i.e. first to two).
- To maximise points, and indeed to win, it is often necessary to negotiate, particularly if no player has a "natural" hand; that is access to an ace and the relevant bower (see The Play).
For example, if North holds strength in Hearts, he could negotiate with West, who may hold the JD, to allow a trick in Hearts to proceed uncontested. In return, West could demand immunity in some other suit, immunity at some other time, or play on for the bower bonus (see The Scoring).
A player’s reputation for honouring such deals is very important - if one breaks a deal at the wrong stage, one may find it hard to go it alone (perhaps against a cartel of opponents!) Factions are allowed, and may well be desirable later in the game.
© Matthew Shields 2005