Bauernstoss

Introduction

Bauernstoss is a version of Schafkopf played the village of Erfweiler in the Palatinate (Pfalz) region of southwestern Germany. The description below is based on the Bauernstoss web page by Gerhard Zwick. Ulf Martin and I would like to thank and Gerhard Zwick and his friends for introducing us to this and other games in Erfweiler on 1st October 2018. His web page also includes rules provided Gerd Pressler for a similar game Alter Schoofkopp played around 30km to the east in Niederhochstadt. We explain this game in the variations section below, along with 'Deutscher Schafkopf', the 19th century ancestor of both of these games, which can be found in several books.

Players and Cards

Bauernstoss is a game for four players in fixed partnerships.

A 32-card French suited pack is used, the same cards that are used for the German national game Skat. The Queens have the index D for Dame and the Jacks B for Bube. The cards in each suit and their point values are A (11), 10 (10), K (4), D (3), B (2), 9 (0), 8 (0), 7 (0). The total value of the cards in the pack is therefore 120.

In each deal there is a trump suit and as in Skat, the four Jacks are permanent trumps. The rank of cards in the trump suit from highest to lowest is clubB-spadeB-heartB-diamondB-A-10-K-D-9-8-7. In the three non-trump suits the ranking from highest to lowest is A-10-K-D-9-8-7.

Deal and play are clockwise.

The Deal

At the start of the session, partners are chosen by dealing cards one at a time face up around the table until two players have received Jacks. These two players form one team and play against the other two. The players move if necessary to that each player is sitting between two opponents.

The dealer shuffles the cards and the player to dealer's right cuts. The dealer then deals out all the cards in batches of four, so that each player has a hand of 8 cards. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Making Trumps

The four players speak in turn, clockwise around the table, beginning with Vorhand (the player to dealer's left) and ending with the dealer. Each bid is a pass, a number or a Solo.

A player who holds one, two or three Jacks who wishes to make trumps can declare the number of trumps (from 2 to 8) in his or her proposed trump suit. The player who declares the longest suit will make this the trump suit.

The number you bid includes all your Jacks as well as the cards of your chosen suit, since they will all be trumps. Since you must have a Jack to bid, it will always be possible to bid at least 3. However, you are not obliged to bid on your longest suit. For example a player who holds spadeB,heartB,diamondB,clubA,club10,spadeK,heart7,diamond8 might prefer to bid 4 and make spades trumps rather than bid 5 for clubs, aiming to make the King of spades into a winner as well as the two clubs.

If two opponents declare suits of equal length and no one declares a longer suit, then the lowest cards in the tied proposed trump suits are compared, and the player whose lowest card is higher makes trumps. In case of equality of lowest cards the player who spoke earlier has priority.

If two partners declare the longest trump suits and neither opponent declares more, they can agree between them which of them will make trumps without comparing cards. No detailed discussion is allowed - normally one of them will simply invite their partner to make trumps.

A player who has no Jacks at all cannot make trumps and must pass. A player who holds all four Jacks must either bid a Big Solo (see below) or pass.

A player passes by saying 'weg' (away) if no one has yet bid, or either 'gut' (good) or 'weg' if a previous player has bid a number.

If you are the first to speak (Vorhand) or if all the players before you have passed, you are not allowed to pass with one, two or three Jacks. You must bid a number (the length of the suit you will make trumps if all the other players pass) or exceptionally a Solo (if you hold the Jack of clubs and expect to take all the tricks). The only situation in which all four players can pass is when one player has all four Jacks and decides not to play a Big Solo. In this case the hand is thrown in and the next player deals.

If a previous player has bid a number, you can bid a higher number if you have a longer suit to make trumps, but you cannot bid a lower number. You can bid an equal number, which is done by saying 'mit' (with), but only if your suit is good enough that you might be allowed to make it trumps.
Examples. If your opponent has bid '4' you can only bid 'mit' if the lowest card of your four-card trump suit is at least an 8. If your partner has bid 4 and your right-hand opponent had bid 'mit' then you need at least a 9 as your lowest trump, since the opponent before you must have at least an 8. But if your partner bids 4 and your right-hand opponent passes, you can bid 4 even if your lowest trump is a 7, because your partner may let you play, and if you are the dealer and both your opponents have bid 4 while your partner passed, you only need an 8 as your lowest trump to say 'mit' because the opponents might both have suits ending in 7.

If there is a tie for longest trump suit, and the tieing players are not partners, then the player in the tie who was first to speak names the lowest card of their intended trump suit, for example '9', without specifying the suit. Then the next player in the tie either names their lowest trump if it is bigger or concedes, and so on around the table if there are more than two players in the tie. When it is established who has the best lowest trump, that player names their trump suit and play can begin.

Instead of declaring trump length, the holder of the Jack of clubs (the top trump) may bid a Solo, which is an undertaking to win all eight tricks, playing alone. This overcalls all number bids and ends the bidding. The bidder undertakes to win all eight tricks, playing alone. Solo cannot be bid in the first deal of a new game. There are two types of Solo.

Small Solo (kleines Solo), which can be announced by saying "Gib mir eine" (give me one). The bidder names the trump suit and passes one card face across the table to partner. The card is passed face down unless it is a Jack, which must be passed face up. Without looking at the passed card if it is face down, the partner passes one card across the table face down, and this card is added to the bidder's hand. The bidder's partner's hand is laid face down on the table, and only the bidder and the two opponents take part in the play.

Big Solo (grosses Solo), which can be announced by saying "Leg dich" (lay them down). The bidder names trumps and the bidder's partner lays his or her cards face down on the table. Only the bidder and the two opponents take part in the play.

The Play

In an ordinary game, Vorhand (the player to dealer's left) leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. For this purpose all the Jacks are treated as belonging to the trump suit and not to the suits printed on them.

A player who has no card of the suit led must play a trump, even if the trick has already been trumped by their partner or by a card they unable to beat. Also if a Jack is played to a trick, any subsequent player who plays a trump to the trick must overtake the Jack with a higher Jack if they have one. A player who has no card of the suit led and no trumps may play any card.

The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trumps by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

In a Solo, Vorhand still leads to the first trick unless the Solo was bid by Vorhand's partner. In that case Vorhand does not take part in the play and it is the next player in rotation, the dealer's partner, who leads. If any player other than the Solo bidder wins a trick then the Solo has failed and the play ends immediately.

Scoring

The score is kept using tally marks. A horizontal line is drawn on the score sheet, one team's score is noted above the line and the other's below it. The initials of the players can be written at the left to indicate which team is which. In the illustration below, team U G has 14 marks and team J M has 11 marks.

scoresheet

The scoring depends on which team 'has the chalk' (die Kreide). In the first deal of a new game, the chalk belongs to the team of the player who is dealt the Jack of clubs. This team needs only 42 or more of the 120 card points to score a mark and they keep the chalk so long as they achieve this. The other team needs at least 79 card points to score and to take the chalk for themselves. Extra marks are scored by a team that takes at least 91 card points (Schneider) or all the tricks (Schwarz). The possible outcomes in an ordinary game are as follows.

Team with chalk Team without chalk
No tricks no marks and loses chalk All tricks 3 marks and gains chalk
Less than 30 card points no marks and loses chalk 91 or more card points 2 marks and gains chalk
30 to 41 card points no marks and loses chalk 79 to 90 card points 1 mark and gains chalk
42 to 90 card points 1 mark and keeps chalk 30 to 78 card points no marks and no chalk
91 or more card points 2 marks and keeps chalk Less than 30 card points no marks and no chalk
All tricks 3 marks and keeps chalk No tricks no marks and no chalk

The score for a small Solo is 8 marks and for a big Solo 12 marks. If the team that bids the Solo wins all the tricks they score those 8 or 12 marks, and keep or gain the chalk. If they lose a trick they lose the chalk to their opponents, who also score the 8 or 12 marks.

The first team to achieve a total score of 20 marks or more wins the game.

Variations

Alter Schoofkopp

A very similar game is played in Niederhochstadt under the name Alter Schoofkopp (Old Schafkopf). The differences are:

Only 15 marks are needed to win the game. On the score sheet the 15 marks may be used to draw a sheep's head so that the first team that completes their drawing wins the game.

In the first deal of a new game, the team that takes 61 points or more acquires the chalk and at least one mark. If the points divide 60-60 the opponents of the team that made trumps get the chalk and one mark. In subsequent deals the team with the chalk as usual needs at least 42 card points to score a mark and keep it, while the opponents need at least 79 card points to score a mark and acquire the chalk.

In all deals extra marks can be scored for Schneider or Schwarz. To score the second mark for Schneider only 89 points are needed, rather than 91. A team that wins all the tricks (Schwarz) scores 4 marks rather than 3.

A player who has all four Jacks is allowed to make trumps for an ordinary game. They do not have to bid Solo in order to make trumps.

In case of equal trump length the rule that the player whose lowest trump is higher makes trumps is strictly observed, even between partners. That means that to bid over your partner with an equal length of trumps, you lowest trump must be at least an 8.

When trumps are led, players must beat the highest trump so far played to the trick if they can. When a non-trump is led, players who are unable to follow suit must trump if they can, but are not obliged to beat trumps previously played to the trick. There is no special rule about beating Jacks.

There is no 'small Solo' in which cards are passed. The only Solo is the big Solo ('Lech Dich'), and if this is played the team that bids it wins the whole game if they succeed and loses the game if they fail.

Deutscher Schafkopf

Many German books include a game similar to the above which is sometimes given the name Deutscher Schafkopf. So far as we can tell these accounts are based on what is described as the 'original' version of Schafkopf in the account by Paul Hammer published in Leipzig in 1810. We do not know of anywhere where this version of Schafkopf is still played by these rules. The most closely related surviving games that we know are those played in the Pfalz and described above.

The 'original' book game of Deutscher Schafkopf differs from the above games as follows.

German suited cards are used, with the four Unter as top trumps, ranking from high to low: acorns, leaves, hearts, bells.

The minimum bid is 5 trumps. Beginning with the player to dealer's left, players who have a potential 5-card trump suit must state the length of their longest trump suit unless a previous player has already bid higher. Players who cannot make a 5-card trump suit must pass. If all four players pass, the holder of the acorn Unter is obliged to make trumps. There are no Solo bids.

If two or more players have equal length trump suits they must calculate and announce the total value of their trump suit, valuing the cards as follows: Unter=10, Ace=11, Ten=10, King=10, Ober=10, Nine=9, Eight=8, Seven=7. The player with the highest value makes trumps, or in case of equality the player whose turn to speak was earlier.

As usual Vorhand leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can. Players who have no card of the suit led may play any card: they are not obliged to play a trump. When playing a trump there is no obligation to beat trumps previously played to the trick.

At the end of the play the points are counted. If the trump makers take at least 61 and not more than 90 card points they score 1 mark: for 91 or more card points they score 2 marks. If the trump makers' opponents take from 61 to 90 card points they score 2 marks: for 91 or more card points they score 4 marks.

If either team wins all eight tricks they win one whole game in addition to the game in progress, which continues with no change to the score.

If the card points divide 60-60 the result is decided by the next deal. If the next deal is won by the same team that made trumps in the tied deal, they score 1 extra mark: if it is won by the other team they score 2 extra marks.

The marks are used to draw a sheep's head and the first team to complete their head with 9 marks (the outline of the head, the two ears, the two eyes, the two horns, the nose and the tongue) wins the game.