This is a point trick game for 3 players. It occurs as a variation within Skat, but also makes a good game in its own right. As it is (mostly) a negative game, it looks like a cross between Skat and Hearts, but in practice it feels significantly different from either.
A 32 card pack is used, French or German suited, containing the cards AKQJT987 (AKOUT987) in each suit. If German suits are used the correspondence is acorns=clubs, leaves=spades, hearts=hearts, bells=diamonds.
The trump suit consists of just the four jacks ranking in the order CJ (highest), SJ, HJ, DJ (lowest). The remaining cards comprise 4 plain suits, in each of which the cards rank A (highest), T, K, Q, 9, 8, 7 (lowest).
The cards have point values as follows:
|each 9, 8, 7||nothing|
The total value of the cards in the pack is 120 card points.
The objective is normally to avoid taking card points in tricks.
Deal and play are clockwise. Dealer shuffles, dealer's right hand opponent cuts, then the cards are dealt face down as follows: a batch of 3 to each player; 2 face down in the middle (skat); 4 to each; 3 to each.
Use of the Skat
First each player in turn, starting with the player to dealer's left (known as Forehand), has the chance to announce Grand Hand (the same game as in Skat - see below). If anyone does this the Grand Hand is played and then the same dealer deals again.
If non one wants to play Grand Hand, the Schieberamsch begins. Forehand may pick up the two cards of the skat, and discard any two cards (possibly the same ones) to form a new skat. The next player may then pick up these cards and discard two, and finally the dealer may do the same. Instead of picking up the skat, any player may pass the skat on unseen. This doubles the score for the hand each time it happens (so if all three players pass on, the score is multiplied by 8).
After dealer has discarded (or passed on), Forehand leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit when possible (when a jack is led, jacks must be followed). A player with no card of the suit led is free to trump or discard. A trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless it contains a trump, in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of a trick leads to the next. The cards in the skat are given to the winner of the last trick.
The scores are penalty points. The object is to have as low a score as possible.
If all three players took tricks, then whoever took the most card points scores that number.
If one player took no tricks, then whichever of the others took more card points scores double that number. A player who takes no tricks is known as a virgin (Jungfer).
But if two players took no tricks, the player who managed to take all the tricks scores minus 120. Yes, minus 120 - taking all the tricks (Durchmarsch) is good.
If two players tie for most card points, they both score the penalty.
If at the start of the hand anyone passed on the skat without looking, the above mentioned score is doubled once for each time that happened.
In writing down the score, all scores are divided by 10 with fractions rounded down (i.e. the units digit is omitted).
Example: A and B pass on; C looks. A takes no tricks; B takes 7 points, C takes 113. C scores +90, calculated as follows: two doubles for passing on and one double for no tricks makes 8; 8 times 113 is 904, scored as 90.
If C had taken all the tricks, C would have scored -48 (that is 4 x 120 = 480 divided by ten).
Play continues for any number of deals. At the end each pair of players settle up in money, according to the differences between their scores.
If a player announces Grand Hand, the skat is not used, and that player becomes the soloist for that hand, with the other two forming a partnership. The rules of play are the same as in a normal Schieberamsch, but in Grand Hand the value of the two skat cards counts for the soloist (not the winner of the last trick). The soloist has to take more than half the card points (i.e. at least 61) in tricks to win, thereby getting a negative score. Otherwise, with 60 or fewer points, the soloist gets a positive score.
Before playing to the first trick, either opponent can say Kontra, which doubles the score for the game. If this happens the soloist can reply Rekontra, which doubles it again.
The scoring of Grand Hand (which is derived from the game Skat) is slightly elaborate. The "base value" is 24 and this is multiplied by a multiplier consisting of the following elements:
- 1 for each matador (with or without)
- 2 for game* (always counted)
- 1 for schneider (if either side takes 90 or more card points)
- 1 for schwarz (if either side takes all the tricks)
*The 2 for game is (strictly speaking) 1 for game and 1 for hand.
Matadors are the number of jacks in sequence, starting from the CJ, which were in the soloist's original hand plus the skat ("with") or were in the opponents' combined original hands ("without").
Examples: soloist (including skat) started with:
|CJ only||with 1|
|SJ only||without 1|
|HJ only||without 2|
|CJ, SJ||with 2|
|CJ, SJ, DJ||with 2|
|SJ, HJ, DJ||without 1|
The base value of 24 is multiplied by the total applicable multiplier, doubled or redoubled for Kontra or Rekontra if applicable, and then divided by 10 and rounded down as before. The result is subtracted from the soloist's score if the soloist won (took at least 61 card points) but added if the soloist lost (took 60 or fewer).
Example: soloist plays with 2 matadors and takes 62 card points. The multiplier is 4 (2 matadors + game), which is multiplied by 24 to give 96, so the soloist scores -9. If the soloist had taken only 58, thereby losing the game, the score would be +9. If an opponents had said Kontra, it would be +19 (192 divided by 10). If the soloist only managed to take 25 card points the multiplier would be 5 (2 matadors + game + schneider) and the score would be +12 without Kontra or +24 with Kontra.
It is not uncommon for a player with a particularly unsuitable hand for Ramsch to announce Grand Hand even with little chance of winning, as it may prove cheaper than the Ramsch.
It is common to forbid players to pass on or discard jacks. In fact this is probably the usual rule in Germany, but I prefer the version where you are free to pass anything.
Some players allow Kontras in the Schieberamsch (as well as in Grand Hand). In this case any player can say Kontra before playing to the first trick and each Kontra doubles the score. This can make certain hands very expensive for the loser - in principle there could be 7 doubles (3 x kontra, 3 x passed on, and 1 x no tricks) which would give a multiple of 128. Even if you don't cooperate in your own demise, the other two players can gang up to give you 5 doubles (x 32).
In Ramsch, some players give the card points in the skat to the player with most card points in tricks (thus increasing the loss) rather than to the winner of the last trick.
Gerhard Zwick from Erfweiler describes a version of Ramsch played in the Palatinate. It differs from the game described above as follows.
- There is no Grand Hand option.
- Each player in turn, beginning with Forehand, has one opportunity to exchange two cards with the skat. In this variant the player first discards two cards face down and then picks up the two cards discarded by the previous player (or dealt to the skat).
- It is legal to pass on or discard Jacks.
- Whoever wins the last trick adds the final skat (the cards discarded by the last player who exchanged) to their tricks.
- The player who takes the most card points scores that number. There is no doubling for Jungfer (if a player takes no tricks) and no Kontra, but passing the skat on without exchanging cards doubles the score for all players.
- The exact number of card points taken is scored: there is no division by 10 or rounding.
- Only penalty points are scored. If one player wins all the tricks (Durchmarsch) the other two players score 120 points each, doubled for each player who passed on the skat without exchanging.
- A target score is agreed, typically 500. The player who first reaches or passes this total is the loser.