Le Brouc - card game rules

Le Brouc

Introduction

Le Brouc is a point-trick game for four players played in l’Etivaz in the Swiss canton Vaud. It belongs to the marriage group of card games, in which points are scored not only for individual cards, but also the combination of the King and Queen in a suit. Brouc differs from other games of the group in the following ways.

  • Extra points can scored for an "extended marriage" consisting of the King, Queen and Jack of a suit.
  • Marriages and extended marriages score not only when held in a player's hand but also when the cards are played to the same trick.

The first known description of Le Brouc dates from 1802, and the game has not changed substantially since then. The authentic rules of Le Brouc as now played in l'Etivaz are published in French by the club l'Homme de Brouc. The English description below represents our current understanding of these rules: any mistakes in it are our own responsibility and we will be happy to correct any errors that are pointed out to us.

Players, Cards and Equipment

The game is for four players in two fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite. A 32-card pack is used, obtained by throwing out the sixes from a standard Swiss French-suited pack. In each of the suits hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, the rank of the cards from high to low and their point values are as follows:

Rank Ace 10 King Queen Jack 9 8 7
Points 11 10 4 3 2 0 0 0

As in the national game Jass, the running score is recorded on a chalk slate.

Deal and play are anticlockwise.

Marriages

The King-Queen of a suit is a simple marriage and the King-Queen-Jack of a suit is an extended marriage. Marriages in non-trump suits are worth 10 points per card and in trumps 20 points per card. So the point values are:

Marriage non-trump trump
simple 20 40
extended 30 60

There are two ways to score points for a marriage.

  1. A player whose team has won at least one trick can declare a marriage (simple or extended) at any time provided that they still hold both (or all) the cards of the marriage in their hand. The score for the marriage is noted at the bottom of the slate.
  2. If a trick contains cards that form a marriage, the team that wins of the trick will score for the marriage and the losers of the trick will lose an equal amount when the card points are counted. To indicate this the trick should be stored with the Queen of a simple marriage or the Jack of an extended marriage face up.

Since marriages in tricks are scored positively for the winners of the trick and negatively for the losers, they are effectively worth twice as much as an equivalent marriage in hand, which just scores positively for the holder if declared.

Marriages in hand that are not declared and recorded on the slate and marriages in tricks that are not indicated by storing a card face up have no value and are not scored.

Deal and Trumps

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient random method, and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.

The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's left cuts the cards, and the dealer deals anticlockwise, first 1 card each, then a packet of 3 cards each, and finally a packet of 4 cards each, so that everyone has a hand of 8 cards.

The trump suit is determined by the last card of the deck, which belongs to the dealer. This trump indicator card is placed face up on the table for all to see.

Play of the Cards

The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick. Any card may be led and players must follow suit if possible. A trick that contains no trumps is won by the highest card of the suit led. If any trumps are played the highest trump wins. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

There is a general rule that when playing a trump you must if possible beat the highest trump that is already in the trick, with the exception that you are always allowed to play the King, Queen or Jack of trumps if it creates a marriage or extended marriage in the trick. The consequences of this rule are as follows.

  • If a trump is led, the other players must follow with trumps if they have them, and must beat the highest trump in the trick if possible (unless completing a marriage). A player who is unable to beat the highest trump in the trick must play a lower trump if they have one.
  • If a non-trump is led, a player with no cards of that suit is free to trump or to discard from another suit. If the trick has already been trumped, a later player with no card of the suit may overtrump with a higher trump or play a trump that completes a marriage. If unable to do either they must play a non-trump unless they have nothing but trumps left in their hand.

Examples, with hearts as trump.

  1. East leads clubA, North trumps with heartK, West plays club8. Holding the heartA and heart8 and no clubs, South must either discard a card of a different suit, for example diamondJ, or overtrump partner's heartK with the heartA, but holding heartA and heartQ South is allowed to undertrump with the heartQ, making a marriage.
  2. East leads heartQ, North beats it with heart10, West plays heart7. Holding the heartA and heart8, South must beat partner's 10 with the heartA, but holding heartA and heartK South is allowed to play the heartK under the 10, making a marriage.

Scoring

At the end of the play each team counts its points for cards in tricks and rounds the total to the nearest 10 points: numbers with a units digit of 5 or more are rounded up, while those with units of 4 or less are rounded down. The total card points for the two teams, excluding declared marriages, is 120. However if the scores end in 5's (for example 75 vs 45) the rounded scores add up to 130 (80+50). To these totals each team adds the points for declared marriages recorded at the bottom of the slate and for marriages in tricks indicated by face up cards in their trick pile, and subtracts the value of marriages in the opponents' tricks indicated by face up cards. The total is rounded It is possible for a team that has lost a trick containing a marriage to have a negative point total after subtracting the score for this marriage.

Cumulative scores for each team are recorded on the slate without the final zero - i.e. divided by 10 - as illustrated on the L'homme de Brouc site.

To win the game a team needs a score of 'more' than 300 points, described by the players as 30 and 1. That means that the teams unrounded score for the current hand added to the rounded score on the slate must be at least 301. A team that has enough points to win (including marriages declared and in tricks) can announce this during the play, by saying 'dehors' (out). This immediately stops the play and the points are counted. For example if a team has a score of 23 (representing 230) on the slate, and their card point score in the current hand for cards won so far in tricks plus marriages is 71 or more, either member of the team can call 'out' and win the game.

The winners game scores a 'coche' - a short diagonal line marked on the losers' side of the slate - see examples on the L'homme de Brouc site. If the losing team has less than 15 points on the slate, the winners score two 'coches'.

Note that a team that calls 'out' with at least '30 and 1' points wins irrespective of the point total of the other team - even if their opponents actually had more points than they did but failed to call 'out'. Also if a team calls 'out' but does not have enough points to win, their opponents automatically score as many coches as the winners would have scored if the call had been correct.

La cape (winning all the tricks)

If a team wins all 8 tricks this is known as a cape and they score two coches, but the cumulative scores for the game in progress are unaffected unless they announce 'cape et dehors' - see below. No card points are scored for the deal and any scores for declared marriages remain on the slate and count for the next deal. Scores for marriages in tricks in the cape deal are ignored.

La cape et dehors
A team that has a score of 19 or more on the slate at the start of a hand has the possibility by winning all the tricks to win both a cape and the current game for a total of three coches. The cape and game can only be scored together if announced in advance. A member of the team needs to announce 'Je demande la cape et dehors!' (i.e. all tricks and out) at some point during the play while they still have at least two cards in their hand. If they succeed they score 3 coches (1 for the game and 2 for the cape, marked in the losers' column of the slate), the game is over and the scores for any marriages at the bottom of the slate are erased. If they fail to win all the tricks, their opponents score 3 coches (marked in the announcers' column), both teams keep their previous scores and the game continues. If there is no announcement of 'cape et dehors', the winners of all the tricks just score 2 coches, both teams keep their scores and the current game continues.
La cape, dehors et pas dédoublé
If a team has 19 or more points on the slate and their opponents have 14 or fewer, they have the possibility of winning a double game along with the cape if they can take all the tricks, for which they score 4 coches (2 for the game plus 2 for the cape). The announcement in this case is 'Je demande la cape, dehors et pas dédoublé!' - (literally 'I announce cape and out, not undoubled') by a player who still holds at least two cards. As with an ordinary cape et dehors if it succeeds the winners score 4 coches ending the game, but if they lose a trick their opponents score the 4 coches and the game continues.

Championship Scoring

In the Championnat suisse de Brouc, held on the last Sunday in November in the Maison de l’Etivaz, matches are played consisting of a series of games in which the first pair that scores at least 5 coches are the winners.

Historical Rules

Philippe Lalanne's Salon des Jeux gives details of L'Homme de Brou, an ancestor of Le Brouc, based on the Académie universelle des jeux (Lyon 1802). At that time it was played in French-speaking areas of Switzerland and in neighbouring regions of France extending as far as Lyons. It differs from the modern game of Le Brouc as follows:

  • According to Lalanne, a player who could not follow suit could play any card: no restriction on undertrumping is mentioned. The Académie says nothing about the rules of play.
  • A combination of K-Q or K-Q-J of a suit in a trick scores twice as much as the equivalent combination in the hand of a player, and this double amount is added to the card point total of the winners of the trick and subtracted from the card point totals of their opponents, so is effectively worth four times as much as a marriage in the hand of a player.
  • The scores were rounded but not divided by 10. The first team to reach 301 or more scored 1 partie if their opponents had 150 or more, 2 parties if their opponents had 0-149 points, or 4 parties if their opponents had a negative score.
  • An extra 3 parties were scored by a team that won all 8 tricks in a deal, known at that time as la vole. To score for both the game and the vole the winning team must announce 'partie et vole' before the lead to the fifth trick.
  • The match was won by the first team to reach a pre-agreed target of (say) 10, 12 or 14 parties.
This page is maintained by John McLeod (john@pagat.com).   © John McLeod, 2003, 2022. Last updated: 5th August 2022

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