Contributed by Carlos De La Riva (

This is a game for four people arranged in two partnerships and can be played using the French style cards ranked Diamonds, Hearts, Spades and Clubs or the Latin deck that consist of the following four suits Sovereigns, Goblets, Swords and Clubs ranked from highest to lowest in this order. The numerals are 1 to 9 only therefore remove the 10's from the French pack and use the King, Queen and Jack or the other three court cards as Knave, Knight and King numbered 10, 11, and 12 respectively in the Latin deck.

The purpose of the game is making Tricks (collections of 4 cards, one from each player) in the various categories to accumulate an individual score. When the score of each partnership is added, if it fulfils some conditions, as we will see later, it can gain extra bonus points. A partnership can also win various stages in the game by reaching specific levels.


For the game the cards are divided into three categories, the Odd numerals (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), the Even numerals (2, 4, 6, 8) and the court or picture cards (J Q K or Knave, Knight, King).


To start play, from the shuffled deck of 48 cards (12 each suit minus the 10) each of the four players receives 12 cards and two partnerships are formed between them, referred to as North/South and East/West. The objective of the game is to make tricks in each of the categories according to the following rules:

  • In each trick, players must whenever possible play a card of the same category (Odds, Evens or Pictures) as the player who led the first card to the trick. Only if a player has run out of cards of a requested category, can any other card be discarded to the trick.
  • The suits are ranked from high to low, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades and Clubs and tricks are won by the highest number or if two numbers are the same by the higher ranked suit. In the Picture category the King ranks highest followed by the Queen and Jack. The player of the highest card in the requested category leads to the next trick.
  • In the numbered categories of Odds or Evens each trick only scores if the four cards played (one from each player) add to a total of 20 or more, counting only cards in the requested category. In the Picture category a trick only scores if it contains a King, a Queen and a Jack plus any other card be it picture or number.
  • If the four cards played do not fulfil the requirement of 20 or more points in the number categories, or contain King, Queen and Jack in the Picture categories, the trick turns into a non-trick. In this case the cards can not be taken by the highest card as a trick. Instead they are kept face down on the centre of the table and the point value of the trick is lost to everyone. The player of the highest card in the requested category still has the right to lead to the next trick.

Note that in the Odds or Evens the 20 points required for a trick are only counted from the cards of the requested category. So that for example a 9, 1, 4 and 7 played to an Odd category do not constitute a trick because three cards are odd and one even and all the three Odds only make a total of 17. However, an Odds or Evens trick can be scored even if not all the cards are of the requested category, provided that the cards of the requested category add up to at least 20 - for example 9, 5, 4, 7 played to an odd category trick would count as a scoring trick, even though only three cards are odd, since those three odd cards add to more than 20.


The following examples show how to make tricks in each of the categories.

  • In the numbered categories of Odds or Evens each trick (four cards, one from each player) must add to a total of 20 or more. For example if a 9 is led by North, East plays a 1, South plays a 9 and West plays a 1, the total of the four cards adds up to 20 and it constitutes a trick taken by the player with the highest ranked 9.
  • In a second example we can see how N plays a 6 of Clubs and E plays a 2 of Clubs, the lowest card of the category to prevent N/S making a trick. South then helps the partner by playing the 8 of Hearts. At this point there are 16 points on the table so W could prevent the trick with a 2 which would only total 18. Instead W lacking a 2 plays the 6 of Diamonds making 22 in total. Therefore South with the highest card and suit gains the trick.
  • The position with the picture card category is similar. If a player is void in such category any of the other cards in the hand can be played. If the four cards played contain a King, Queen and Jack plus a card from any other category, the trick is valid and should be taken by the highest card.

The following example shows what happens when the total of the four cards do not make the required 20 or more points and go to form a Non-trick.

  • In this case E plays a 6 of Hearts, S responds by playing the 4 of Clubs. W not able to help the partner only places a 2 of Diamonds on the table. Finally N lacking an 8 which would secure the trick for N/S has to play the 4 of Spades. The four cards add up to only 18 points and do not make a trick, being two points short of the required 20, therefore this is a non-trick. No one takes the cards and they are collected on the table in a waste pile. In this case E with the highest requested card and suit takes the lead in the next hand.


The game consists of tricks worth 20 points in the number categories and 30 points in the picture category. To win a Leg the partners must score a combined 150 or more points over one or more games and to win a Ludens the partnership should win three Legs. A Ludens confers a bonus of 300 points to the total score. Tricks won by individual members of the partnership, are scored and kept separately for each player in the first instance, before combining their points and adding bonus points to the total.

To record the score of all 4 players a large X is drawn on the score sheet. The N,S partnership score in the vertical axis and the E,W in the horizontal. Points for each game are entered in the X and the total score of N, S is added and written on the bottom left and for the E, W on the bottom right.

If both partners make 2 similar tricks each, that confers a bonus of 20 points to the partnership, 3 similar tricks each gives 30 bonus points and 4 similar tricks each 40 bonus points. The following example shows two games. In the first N made two tricks of 20 with a total of 40 points and S made one trick of 30, their combined score is 70. W made only one trick of 20 and E two of 20. Their combined score is 60. Seen in the top part of the score sheet as the first game.

ludens score sheet

In the second game N/S made two tricks of 30 and 20 giving them a total of 120, but W/E won the game by making two tricks each of 20 each and gaining for this a bonus of 20, for a total of 100 in this deal (4×20+20). Their total score for the first Leg is therefore 160.

To help in the counting and identification of the points each player has at the end of a game, players should place the cards of each trick crosswise on top of the previous one. The 20 point or number tricks should have the cards face down and in the 30 point or picture tricks the cards should be face up showing one of the picture cards. In this way the score each player has made can easily be counted.


The game of Ludens is described with further illustrations in Carlos De La Riva's book New Strategic Card Games, published in 2002 by Tridge Associates, 119 Scotland Road, Cambridge CB4 1QL, Great Britain.

Last updated: 10th November 2003