This is a popular Swiss Jass game in which the players must predict in advance how many points they will take in tricks. For many years it has been featured in the weekly Samschtig Jass programme on Swiss television (SRF).
Players, Cards and Deal
Three or four players use a Swiss 36-card pack with the usual ranks and values as explained on the Swiss Jass page. In the traditional form of this game there is no extra score for Stöck, Weis or Match: only the basic 157 points (including the 5 for the last trick) are counted.
Deal and play are anticlockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts. The suit of the card on the bottom of the section of the pack that the cutter lifts, which will become the bottom card of the pack, determines the trump suit.
The dealer deals out all the cards in batches of three, so that in a four-player game each has a hand of 9 cards and in a three-player game each has 12 cards. The bottom card, which belongs to the dealer's hand, is exposed for all to see until the play begins, and its suit is trumps.
In Differenzler, unlike some other Jass games, there is no opportunity for the holder of the 6 of trumps to exchange it for the trump indocator card.
Beginning with the player to dealer's right and continuing clockwise, each player must state the number of card points (minimum 0, maximum 157) that they intend to take in the play. The dealer is the last to speak.
The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick. The usual rules of play apply. Players able to follow suit may either do so or trump; those unable to follow suit may play any card. A player whose only remaining trump is the Puur (Unter/Jack) does not have to play it when trumps are led.
In Differenzler, when a non-trump suit has been led and trumped, a subsequent player is allowed to undertrump only if they have no card of the suit led.
The scoring is in penalty points. Each player's penalty point score is the absolute difference (always positive or zero) between the number of card points they declared and the number they took in their tricks. A player whose prediction is exactly correct scores zero.
The game continues for a number of deals that is divisible by the number of players, so that each player has dealt an equal number of times. Then the average cumulative score of the four players is calculated, and players pay or receive in proportion to how much their score is above or below the average.
There are many common variants of this game.
- Secret predictions
- Instead of declaring the number of card points they will aim for, each player writes down their prediction on a piece of paper, which they keep concealed until the end of the play.
- Bonus for correct prediction
- Many play that a player who takes exactly the number of card points they predicted can deduct 10 points from their score rather than scoring zero. However a player who predicted 0 points must win at least one trick worth 0 card points to earn the 10-point bonus. A player who predicts 0 and takes no tricks just scores zero.
- Score for Stöck
- Some allow a player who holds the King and the Ober/Queen of trumps to declare 'Stöck' when playing the second of those cards, for which they may choose to score either +20 or -20 card points. They must choose whether to add or subtract the 20 when making the declaration. A player is not obliged to declare Stöck when entitled to, but if they do not declare it when playing the second card of the Stöck and before the next card is played, they score no points for it.
- Incentive for the Dealer
- In Differenzler with open predictions, some give the dealer an incentive not to make the predictions of the players add up to 157. That ensures that at least one player will score some penalty points. A typical incentive would be to deduct 1 point from the dealer's score for every complete 5 card points difference of the total of the predictions from 157 (for example 5 points if the predictions added up to 130). For a stronger incentive some suggest deducting 1 point for every 2 points difference from 157, so that if the total predicted was 130 the dealer would deduct 13 points from their score.
- Trump Suit
- Some play that after cutting for trumps the cards are reshuffled and cut again. In this case the dealer does not automatically have a trump card that is known to the other players.
Other Sites and Software
With Kaspar Luethi's Samschtig Jass program, you can play against the server or against other live players on line.
Philippe Maurer has also developed a Differenzler Jass computer program.
Michael Gasser's Jass!! program plays Differenzler and other variations. You can play against the computer or over the Internet.
A version of Differenzler Jass (Samschtig Jass) can be played online at Jürg von Burg's Jass site.