- Players, Cards and Objective
- Card Combinations
Chouine is a card game played mainly in and around the Loire Valley in France. It is primarily a two-player game though adaptations for 3 or 4 players also exist.
Its origins are said to date from the 16th century, but in recent years it has enjoyed a revival, and an annual Chouine World Championship is now held in Lavardin.
The information on this page is based on Jaques Proust's Règle du jeu de la Chouine, with thanks to Jean-Paul Brillard of Lavardin for clarifying some details during the game session at the IPCS convention in Blois in September 2023.
Players, Cards and Objective
Chouine is played with a French-suited 32-card pack, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low: Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, 9,8,7.
It is a trick-taking game for two players, in which the object is to score card points by two methods:
- by winning tricks containing valuable cards, and
- by declaring combinations of cards held in the hand of a player.
Each deal is known as a partie or point. Point is the usual term among players but we use partie on this page to avoid confusion with the card points that determine who wins the partie. A manche consists of a series of parties, as agreed by the players in advance. For example they may agree that each manche will be the best of five parties ("cinq points [parties] de Chouine"), in which case the first player to win three parties wins the manche. A complete game may consist of the best of three manches: if the same player wins the first two manches they win the game; if the players win one manche each a third manche, called la belle, is played to decide the game.
The card values are
|Each 9, 8 or 7:
The winner of the last trick scores an extra 10 points (dix de der), so the total card points available in each deal (excluding points for combinations) are 130.
The following combinations held in the hand of one player can be declared to score extra card points.
|King and Queen of the same suit
|40 in trumps, 20 in any other suit
|King, Queen and Jack of a suit
|60 in trumps, 30 in any other suit
|Ace, King, Queen, Jack of a suit
|80 in trumps, 40 in any other suit
|Any five Brisques (Aces or Tens)
|Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack of a suit
|wins the partie
At the start of the game each player draws one card from the shuffled deck, which is spread face down. The player who draws the lower ranked card is the first dealer - if the cards are of equal rank the players draw again.
In the course of a manche, the turn to deal alternates between the players: the non-dealer in each partie becomes the dealer in the next. For the first partie of the second manche, the dealer is the opponent of the player who dealt first in the first manche. For the third manche (if needed) the players draw cards as at the start to decide who will deal first.
The dealer shuffles, the non-dealer cuts, and the dealer deals 5 cards face down to each player, one at a time. The next card (the 11th) is placed face up on the table and its suit is trumps for the partie. The remaining 21 undealt cards are stacked face down on top of the trump indicator card and at right angles to it, so the the rank and value of the trump indicator remain visible. These cards form a drawing stock or talon.
The players pick up their cards and look at them. Each player has a hand of five cards, held so that the opponent cannot see their faces.
The non-dealer leads to the first trick, and subsequently the winner of each trick leads to the next. Each trick consists of two cards. If they are the same suit the higher ranking card wins. If they are different suits and one is a trump, the trump wins irrespective of rank. If they are different suits and neither is a trump the first card (played by the leader to the trick) wins irrespective of rank.
So long as there are cards in the talon, there is no restriction on what cards may be played - the first player may lead any card and the other player may respond with any card of the same or a different suit from their hand as they wish. At the end of the trick, the winner stores the played cards in front of them in their trick pile and then draws the top card from the talon and adds it to their hand without showing it to their opponent. The loser of the trick then draws the next card from the talon in the same way, so that each player again has a hand of five cards.
The winner of the 11th trick draws the last face-down card of the talon and the loser of this trick draws the trump indicator card into their hand. Now that the talon is empty the rules of play change for the last five tricks. The leader to a trick may still lead any card, but when the talon is empty the second player must follow suit, must trump if possible when holding no card of the suit led, and must beat the first player's card if possible when a trump is led. In other words when the talon is empty the second player to each trick has the following obligations:
- to play a card of the same suit that was led if possible;
- if the card led was a trump, to win the trick if possible by playing a higher trump, otherwise to play a lower trump;
- if the card led was not a trump and the second player holds no card of the suit that was led, to play a trump if possible, thereby winning the trick;
- if the second player holds no card of the suit led and no trumps, to play any card (losing the trick).
Exchanging the seven of trumps
A player who is dealt or acquires the 7 of trumps may exchange it for the trump indicator card - taking the trump indicator into their hand and putting the seven in its place. This exchange may be carried out at any time before the lead to 11th trick (the trick at the end of which the last two cards are drawn from the talon). At the start of the the 11th trick, if the 7 of trumps is neither face up on the table nor in the hand of the player leading to the trick, it is customary for the leader to say "au sept" (to the seven) as a reminder to the opponent to take this last opportunity to exchange it if they have it. If the 7 of trumps is not exchanged it is likely to be the last face down card, lying directly on top of the trump indicator: in this case it cannot be exchanged since by the time it is drawn it is too late to do so.
A player who holds one of the scoring combinations in their hand can declare it (saying for example "j'ai un tierce de carreau" - "I have a tierce in diamonds") when playing one of its cards to a trick. At the end of the trick the player shows the other cards of the combination and is entitled to score the points for it.
During a partie there can only be at most one declaration of a combination in each of the four suits and at most one declaration of a quinte. Therefore, for example:
- a player who holds K-Q-J of a suit and declares a tierce when playing the jack cannot subsequently declare a mariage in the same suit, even though they still hold the king and queen.
- a player who declares a quinte, plays one of the brisques and draws another brisque from the talon at the end of the trick cannot declare another quinte, even though they once again hold five brisques.
However, it is possible to use the same ace in a quateron and in a quinte (and even the same ten in a quinte and later a chouine) within one partie. For example a player holds A-K-Q-J-10 and declares the quateron in diamonds, playing the jack. In the next two tricks, the player plays the king and queen. In exchange for these three cards the player is lucky enough to draw three brisques from the talon. In the next trick the player can declare a quinte, making use again of the ace of diamonds that was previously part of the quateron.
If the combination declared is a chouine (A-10-K-Q-J of a suit) the play ends when the chouine is shown and the holder of the chouine wins the partie. If both players declare a chouine in the same trick and one of them is in trumps, the trump chouine wins. If neither of them is in trumps, the player who led to the trick, and was therefore first to declare their chouine, wins the partie.
Note that it is not necessary to be on lead to a trick to declare a combination: in any trick either the first or the second player or both can declare and score for a combination that they hold.
There is no limit to when a combination can be declared so long as the cards are still in the player's hand. In this game, unlike some other related games, players are allowed to declare combinations even when the talon is empty. A mariage can even be kept until these are the player's only two remaining cards and declared when playing one of them to the penultimate trick.
Note that the rule when declaring a combination the player must dismantle (démonter) it by playing one of its cards does not really restrict a player's freedom of action. There would be no purpose in declaring a combination while keeping all its cards in hand - this would simply disclose information unnecessarily to the opponent. The combination can always be declared later, sometimes after improving it, so even without this rule a good player would always delay the declaration until they decided to play one of the cards from the combination. This rule also has the effect that a player holding two combinations - for example mariages in two different suits - never declares both at the same time. Each is kept secret until the player chooses to play one of the cards from it.
At the end of the play, each player counts the total number of card points in their tricks, the winner of the last trick adds 10 points for dix de der, and each player adds the value of any combinations they declared during the play. The player with most points wins the partie. In case of a tie the partie is annulled: neither player wins it and the same dealer deals again.
In practice, in many deals it is only necessary to consider the scores for declarations, the number of brisques taken by each player and the dix de der, from which it will be clear who has won the partie. The kings, queens and jacks have a total value of only 36 points compared to 94 for the brisques plus dix de der, so only in the case of a fairly close result is it necessary to compute the exact card point scores including the value of the individual picture cards to determine the winner.
Further deals are played, the turn to deal alternating between the players, until one player has won the enough parties to win the manche (for example a manche of five parties will end as soon as one player has won three parties). After this, if a complete game is being played, there is a second manche, followed if necessary by a third manche (la belle) as a decider if the players have won one manche each.
Points are scored mainly for taking brisques in tricks and for connecting and declaring combinations. Since both players are allowed to declare combinations in any trick, there is no particular incentive to win tricks unless they contain valuable cards - the only exception being the very last trick of the partie which is worth an extra 10 points. Therefore in the opening tricks of a partie players normally get rid of useless cards, especially the 7, 8 and 9 or any non-trump suit, and aim to collect combinations.
When a player's hand consists only of potentially 'useful' cards - brisques, kings, queens and to some extent jacks and low trumps, the player will have to choose between:
- keeping picture cards, particularly kings and queens, in the hope of collecting a scoring combination in that suit,
- keeping aces and tens in the hope of collecting a quinte,
- winning tricks that contain aces and tens to acquire the points that they contain,
- keeping trumps for the endgame in order to win the last trick,
- not revealing too much information to their opponent - for example keeping hidden a card that the opponent may be waiting for to complete a combination.
The choice is often difficult and depends on the likelihood of success of each option bearing in mind the number of cards still to be acquired from the talon.
The holder of the 7 of trumps should always exchange it, but it is best to wait to do so until the player is ready to use the trump indicator card, either to play it or to incorporate it in a declared combination.
As in most card games it is important to remember the cards that have been played. In particular, once a king or queen has been played no further combinations are possible in that suit, and the king, queen and jack of that suit become useless cards.
Three or Four Players
Although Chouine is primarily a two-player game it can be adapted to be played by three or four players. In the 3- and 4-player games only three cards are dealt to each player and only three kinds of combination can be declared.
- Mariage (king-queen of a suit) scores 20 points in a plain suit or 40 in trumps.
- Trente (a hand of three brisques) scores 30 points.
- Chouine (king-queen-jack of a suit) immediately wins the partie.
The last trick is worth 10 points as usual, and the player who takes most points wins the partie.
In the three-player game the last two cards of the talon (the trump indicator and the face-down card on top of it) are never drawn and count for neither player. The rules of play change as soon as there are only these two cards in the talon.
This is played mainly in the Perche Vendômois region.
The main difference is that no card is turned up as a trump indicator, and there is no trump suit at the start of the game.
A trump suit is created when the player leading to a trick declares a mariage, tierce or quateron, and the suit of this declaration becomes trumps from that point onwards.