Mate

This page is based on a contribution from Doran Gaston.

Introduction

The two-player card game Mate was first published in Germany in 1915 by G. Capellen in a pamphlet entitled "Zwei Neue Kriegspiele!" ("Two New War Games!") along with a Chess variant called Free Chess. The game did not find widespread success and has remained fairly obscure, but it later gained a small following after being included in the 1969 book A Gamut of Games by Sid Sackson.

Unusually among games played with cards, Mate is a game of perfect information: both players know the location of all cards from the start. The card ranking with the Ten between Ace and King and the card values 11-10-4-3 for the top cards will be familiar to players of other German games such as 66 and Skat.

Objective

The objective of Mate is to score as many points as possible over the course of four games. Two games constitute a “round” and two “rounds” constitute a “match”. Points are scored by giving “mate” to an opponent in a manner somewhat analogous to a player being checkmated in a game of Chess when they are unable to defend their king from check. This is achieved by leading a card which the other player is unable to match in number or suit. We follow Sid Sackson in using the term “move” instead of “trick” to refer to a card led by one player plus a card played by the opponent in response: this was done to emphasize Mate’s similarity to abstract board games.

Players and Cards

Mate is a two-player game played with 20 cards from a standard deck: the Ace, 10, King, Queen, and 7 from each suit.

The rank of the suits from highest to lowest: Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and Diamonds

The cards of each suit rank from highest to lowest: Ace, 10, King, Queen, 7

Deal

One player is the dealer for the first and fourth games, and the other is the dealer for the second and third games.

For the first game the dealer shuffles the cards and deals 10 to each player in batches of 5. The cards are played in front of the players so that the two hands remain separate.

After the first game has been played and scored, the players pick up their cards and exchange hands with their opponent without shuffling them together. The player who did not deal the first game has the role of the dealer in the second game and plays the first card. The second game is played and scored to complete the first round.

After the first round is finished, the dealer of the second game gathers all of the cards, shuffles them, and deals the cards for the third game in the same manner as the first game. At the end of the third game hands and roles are exchanged for the fourth game, which completes the second round. Then the final scores are compared.

Play

In each game, the dealer leads to the first move.

In each move, the leader may lead any card. The other player must follow with a card of the same suit if one is available. If not, they must follow with a card of the same rank. The player who plays the higher card, or the higher suit when rank is followed, leads to the next move. Cards remain on the table in front of the players after they are played.

If one player leads a card that the other player can’t follow in suit or rank, they have given “mate” to their opponent and the game ends. If all the cards are played with no mate, then the game is a draw.

Scoring

The score for each game is determined by the card used to give mate multiplied by the number of moves played in that game.

The score values for each card are:

Ace 11
Ten 10
King 4
Queen 3
Seven 7

For example, if a player gives mate with an Ace on the third move of a game, he or she scores 33 points.

If a game is drawn, neither player scores.

The player with the higher total score at the end of the match is the winner.

Foreplacing

At the beginning of each game, each player in turn, beginning with the player who will lead to the first move, has the option to “foreplace” a card. A player foreplaces a card by taking if from their hand and putting it face up on the table, removing it from play. If the first player foreplaces a card, the second player is not allowed to foreplace a card of the same rank or suit.

If a player who has foreplaced a card wins the game, the score is the value of the mating card multiplied by the number of moves plus one. If both players foreplace a card the game only lasts for nine moves. If only one player foreplaces a card and there is no mate within nine moves, the player who foreplaced reuses the card they played for the ninth move for the tenth move as well. If the player who foreplaced gives mate on the 10th move in this manner, their score for the game is doubled - i.e. the score is the value of the mating card multiplied by 22. This is called an “overmate”.

Variations

Double Deck

The game may be played with a “Double Mate Deck” of 24 cards consisting of the usual 20 cards plus an extra copy of the Ace of Diamonds, 10 of Hearts, King of Spades, and 7 of Clubs. In this case 12 cards are dealt to each player, in batches of 6 cards at a time. If two identical cards are played in a move, the player who led to the move leads again to the next move.

Mate with Free Move

Once per game, one player may announce “Free move" and follow a card with a card of the same rank instead of the same suit even if a card of the same suit is available.

Mate with King’s Privilege

If a player leads with a King, they must follow with a King if one is available or a card of the same suit.

Figure Privilege

Same as King’s Priviledge, but it also applies to Queens.

Mate with Free Move and King’s (or Figure) Privilege

If a “Free move” is taken to follow a King (or Queen), a player is allowed to follow with a different card of the same suit even if a King (or Queen) is available.