Ou l'histoire d'un "Napoléon" japonais dans le Michigan

Contributed by Vincent Pressicaud

NAJAMI is best for 5. It requires a standard deck of 52 cards + 1 Joker.

The scoring cards are :

Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 of each suit

which are worth 1 point each, so there are 20 card points altogether. The normal ranking of the cards in each suit from high to low is A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2, but there are 4 special cards, which are the highest in the game.

  1. The mighty is the spadeA. is the most powerful card, irrespective of what suit is trumps. In japanese ohrumaiti shortened to maiti.
  2. The joker. It is the weakest card and can never win a trick unless it is led and so become trump and the second highest card. The joker can be played at any time, regardless of the suit led
  3. The jack of the trump suit, known as sei jakku is the third highest card.
  4. The jack of the same colour as trumps, ura jakku is the fourth highest card.

spadeA, sei jakku, ura jakku cards always belong to their own suits

For example, if hearts are trumps, the jack of diamonds (ura jakku) still belongs to diamonds, not to hearts, and the maiti always belongs to spades.

Rank from high to low
REDheart diamondJ-A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
spade clubA-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
BLACK spadeA-J-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
heart diamondA-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2

The layout looks something like this:

najami layout


The deal and play are clockwise. The dealer shuffles and deals each player 10 cards, one at a time. 3 cards are put face-down in the middle of the table to form the blind. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

After the deal,
each player, beginning with the player to dealer's left must place 6 chips on the board. Each player can distribute them as they like, but at least 1 chip, per player, must be place on spadeQK or 8-9-10. For example you could put 5 chips on clubK and 1 on spadeQK or 8-9-10 if you wanted to. Players can place up to 2 chips to the Kitty.


The bidding begins with the player to dealer's left and goes clockwise around the table. A bid consists of a number of points (from 9 to 20) and a suit. A higher number outbids a lower number, and between bids of the same number, a higher suit outbids a lower suit. Bids in no-trumps (NT) are allowed. No-Trumps ranks above spades, so that for example a bid of 13 NT is higher than 13spade but lower than 14club, and the highest bid is [20NT].

The suits' ranking is:
Low    spade heart diamond club NT    High

If the winning bid is in no-trumps, the Joker is the only "trump".
Therefore there is no sei-jack and no ura-jack.
The maiti and the Joker-Hunter retains their usual power.

Each player in turn must either bid higher than the previous bidder, or pass. A player who has passed MAY bid later in the auction. If all five players pass in the bidding, the 3 cards of the blind are turned up and there is a second round of bidding; if everyone still passes, there is a redeal and everyone must place 3 new chips on the board. At this stage it's not compulsory to place 1 chip on spadeQK or 8-9-10. Repeat until someone bids.

If someone bids, the bidding continues clockwise for as many circuits as necessary until four players have passed. The player who made the last and highest bid becomes the declarer, known in this game as Napoleon. Napoleon's objective is, with the help of a partner, or not, to win in tricks at least the number of points stated in the bid, with the named suit as trumps.

Calling a partner and taking the blind

Napoleon now chooses a partner by calling any card - for example the maiti. The holder of this called card is the adjutant (fukkan), and is Napoleon's partner for the hand. The adjutant's identity remains secret until the called card is played. The other three players form a team whose aim is to prevent Napoleon and the adjutant from fulfilling the bid.

Napoleon picks up the blind cards without showing them and then adds them to his hand and discards any three of his cards face down, bringing his hand back to 10 cards.

1 player may ask Napoleon to show the 3 blind cards (before discard) by paying 2 chips to the Kitty.
2 players may share this amount.

If any scoring cards are discarded they are placed face-up and count for Napoleon's opponents; non-scoring cards are discarded face-down. If Napoleon finds the called card in the blind (or chose to call one of his own cards), he plays alone - this is called hitori-dachi (standing alone). It is not announced to the other players.

At this point Napoleon can change the trump suit or change from trumps to no-trump or vice versa, but in order to do so must increase the level of the bid. If changing from one suit to another or from no-trumps to a suit the bid level must be increased by two. If changing from a suit to no-trump it must be increased by one. The declarer cannot change the bid level by any other amount, nor can the level be raised without changing trumps


Napoleon leads to the first trick, and winner of each trick leads to the next. Throughout the play it is compulsory to follow suit, and a player who has no card of the suit led can play any card.

The first trick is played without trumps, Joker. The maiti, sei-jakku, ura-jakku or Joker Hunter do not yet have their special status.

The normal ranking of cards A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 therefore applies to all suits, and the trick is won by the highest card of the suit that Napoleon led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

From the second trick onwards the trumps and the three special cards acquire their power.

When the joker is led, the other players must play a trump if they have any. The joker becomes the second strongest; it beats even the sei-jack or the ura-jack, and is beaten only by the mighty.

In a NT game when the Joker is led, players may play whatever they choose.

The Joker can be played to any trick except the first, even if you could have followed suit.

The Joker Hunter is the club3 unless clubs are trumps, in which case it is the spade3. If the joker hunter is led, the player who holds the Joker is compelled to play it.

Remember the rule that the joker is the weakest card UNLESS led.

It is still compulsory to follow suit if you can. The trick is won by :

  • the maiti (spadeA), if it was played
  • the Joker. If led and if the maiti was not played
  • the sei-jakku (trump jack), if the maiti was not played
  • the ura-jakku (jack of the same colour as trumps) if neither the maiti nor the sei-jakku was played
  • the highest trump in the trick, if none of the 4 special cards was played
  • the highest card of the suit led, if no special cards and no trumps were played.

The winner of the trick leads to the next.

During the play, all the scoring cards and the 8s and 9s are stored face-up in front of the player who won them in a trick, and the other cards are piled face-down in a single heap.


At the end of the play, the scoring cards won by Napoleon and the adjutant are counted. If the bid was less than 20 and Napoleon's team has taken at least as many as scoring cards as were bid, but not all 20 of them, Napoleon's team wins.

Each member of the opposing team pays a number of chip depending on the bid. Napoleon wins 2/3 chips and the adjutant wins 1/3. If Napoleon's team takes fewer scoring cards than the bid, Napoleon must pay 2/3 chips, the adjutant pays 1/3.

The "Siberian rule".

If Napoleon's opponents take no scoring cards in their tricks and Napoleon has bid less than 20, Napoleon's team loses.

To collect the stake -
Only the winning team may collect the stake : Napoleon's team or opponents.
A player of the wining team with the : heartA, clubK, diamondQ, spadeJ, heart10 or spadeQ&spadeK in card may collect the respective stake.

To collect the 8-9-10 stake : Players of the wining team with a 8-9-10 (in the same suit) in their own cards at the end of the game share or win solely the 8-9-10 stake.

Ending the game

The remaining chips for the last hand of the game are played at poker.

The variation is choice of the dealer.

heart TRUMPRank from high to low
heartJoker- J -A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
diamond J -A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
spade A -K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
clubA-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4- 3 -2

diamond TRUMPRank from high to low
heart J -A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
diamondJoker- J -A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
spade A -K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
clubA-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4- 3 -2

spade TRUMPRank from high to low
spade A -joker- J -K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
club J -A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4- 3 -2

club TRUMPRank from high to low
spade A - J -K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4- 3 -2
clubjoker- J -A-K-Q-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2

NO TRUMPRank from high to low
spade A -K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
clubA-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4- 3 -2
The joker, is the only Trump if led - otherwise, it's the weakest card


  • The mighty is spadeA. is the most powerful card.
  • The joker is Trump and the 2nd highest card
  • The Jack of the trump suit is the 3rd highest card.
  • The Jack of the same colour as trumps is the 4th highest card.
The Joker Hunter is club3 unless club are trumps, in this case it's spade3

BidBidder winsBidder loses
9 club diamond heart spade NTStake only---
10 club diamond heart spade NTKITTY (2/3-1/3)1 chips / Player
11 club diamond heart spade NT2 chips / Player2 chips / Player
12 club diamond heart spade NT3 chips / Player3 chips / Player
13 club diamond heart spade NT4 chips / Player4 chips / Player
14 club diamond heart spade NTKITTY (2/3-1/3)5 chips / Player
15 club diamond heart spade NT6 chips / Player5 chips / Player
16 club diamond heart spade NT7 chips / Player5 chips / Player
17 club diamond heart spade NT10 chips + KITTY (2/3-1/3)7 chips / Player
18 club diamond heart spade NT15 chips + KITTY (2/3-1/3)7 chips / Player
19 club diamond heart spade NT20 chips + KITTY (2/3-1/3)7 chips / Player
20 club diamond heart spade NT15 chips + KITTY (2/3-1/3)10 chips / Player

Vincent Pressicaud
Tesuji : 12/02/2002

Last updated: 14th January 2004