Card Games: Schafkopf Group

What distinguishes the Schafkopf group of trick-taking games is that the all the jacks, or all the the queens, or sometimes both queens and jacks are permanent trumps, placed at the head of the trump suit, making it much longer than the other suits. Many of these games were or still are played with German suited cards, so that the highest trumps are in fact the over-jacks (Ober), under-jacks (Unter) or both. In all these games the jacks rank in order from high to low: clubs (acorns), spades (leaves), hearts (hearts), diamonds (bells).

Most games of this group are Ace-Ten games, but there are also some plain-trick games. The oldest game of this group is probably Scharwenzel, which dates back at least to the early 18th century and is still played on the island of Fehmarn in North Germany and as Skærvindsel in Denmark.

  • Bavarian Schafkopf - popular four-player game featuring a basic contract with hearts trumps in which the bidder chooses a partner by calling an Ace.
  • Palatinate Schafkopf - a related four-player game played with French suited cards in the Palatinate.
  • Deutscher Schafkopf - an old four-player Schafkopf game with fixed partnerships and bidding based on trump length
  • Bauernstoss - a descendant of German Schafkopf played in some villages in the Palatinate
  • Skat - the German national card game.
  • Doppelkopf - a popular north German game played with a double deck in which the two Queens of clubs are partners.
  • Sheepshead - a version of Schafkopf taken to North America by 19th century emigrants from Germany.
  • Avinas - a Lithuanian game.
  • Sjavs - from the Faroe islands.
  • Saskop, also known as Sasku or Lambapea - from Estonia.
  • Zole - from Latvia
  • Spitzer - a game now played in Michigan, USA.
  • Kloepper - a game from Illinois, USA.
  • Kop and Baśka - games played in Poland with just 16 cards.
  • Filicău - a Transylvanian game in which the Overs are permanent trumps, and its Hungarian relative Filkó.

This group contains a few negative games, in which the object is to avoid winning tricks containing high-scoring cards.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 2000, 2007, 2013. Last updated: 4th June 2021