- Players and Cards
- Contracts and Bonuses
- Calling and Talon Exchange
- Bonus Announcements and Kontras
This streamlined version of 4-player Austrian Tarock is played in the Salzburger Lungau, where there are regular tournaments. The reduced choice of contracts and the simplified card counting lead to a sharper game than the traditional forms of Königrufen played in other parts of Austria. The valuable cards are more important relative to the empty cards, and players are under more pressure to choose between playing a contract and risking an expensive Trischaken (locally known as Fahren).
As usual in Tarock games, the basic aim is to win tricks containing valuable cards, and there are also bonuses for particular feats, which can be announced in advance. Depending on the bidding, one player (the bidder) may play against a team of three, or there may be two teams of two, the bidder's partner being chosen by calling a King. Exceptionally in Fahren, which occurs when all players pass, everyone plays for themselves and tries to avoid taking valuable cards.
In outline, each hand proceeds as follows. The dealer deals 12 cards to each player and 6 to the talon, which is face down on the table. Each player in turn may bid, undertaking to play a contract with or without a partner. Depending on the contract the final bidder may then take 3 or all 6 cards from the talon and discard cards in exchange. There is then a round of announcements, in which players may announce additional bonuses they intend to make or say kontra to double the score for the game or any bonuses announced by opponents. The cards are played out in 12 tricks, after which each team counts the total value of cards in their tricks to determine which side won the game, and check which bonuses were won or lost.
The net score in game points for the game and bonuses is calculated to determine the amount to be paid by the losers to the winners. The stake per game point should be agreed in advance: a stake of 10 cents per game point would be typical.
Players and Cards
There are four active players. It is possible for five people to take part, with the dealer sitting out of each hand.
A standard Austrian 54-card Tarock pack is used. This consists of
- 22 trumps, also known as Tarocks. The unnumbered Sküs is highest, followed by the XXI (Mond), XX, XIX and so on down to the I, known as the Pagat or the Spatz (sparrow), which is lowest.
- 8 cards in each black suit, ranking from high to low King, Queen, Knight, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7.
- 8 cards in each red suit ranking from high to low King, Queen, Knight, Jack, Ace, 2, 3, 4.
Cards are counted individually, not in groups, and their values are as follows:
|Sküs, XXI, I, Kings||5 points each|
|Queens||4 points each|
|Knights||3 points each|
|Jacks||2 points each|
All other cards are worthless. The total value of the cards in the pack is 71 points, so 36 or more card points are needed to win the basic game.
Deal, bidding and play are anticlockwise.
Contracts and Bonuses
The possible contracts and the basic scores for them in game points are as follows. See the following sections on bidding, play and scoring for further explanation.
|Fahren (or Trischaken)||2||Only played when all pass. Players who take more card points pay those who take fewer.|
|Sechserdreier||+2/-4*||Can only be bid by first player, who takes the whole talon and plays alone.|
|Rufer mit Spatz||1+2**||Call a King, take 3 cards from the talon, and announce Pagat Ultimo.|
|Rufer mit Uhu||1+2**||Call a King, take 3 cards from the talon, and announce Uhu.|
|Dreier (or Einischauer)||2||Take 3 cards from the talon and play alone.|
* Sechserdreier is worth 2 game points if the bidder wins, but costs 4 game points if the bidder loses.
** Rufer mit Pagat and Rufer mit Uhu are each worth 1 game point for the 'game' (majority of card points) and 2 game points for the Spatz or Uhu. The game and the Pagat or Uhu can be won or lost independently.
The rules of play and scoring in Fahren are somewhat different from the other contracts and are explained at the end of each section below.
Additional game points may be scored for various feats achieved during the play, as follows.
|Trull||1||2||Win Sküs, XXI and I in tricks|
|Four Kings||1||2||Win all 4 Kings in tricks|
|Pagat Ultimo||1||2||Win the last trick with trump I|
|Uhu||1||2||Win the penultimate trick with trump II|
|King Ultimo||1||2||Win the called King in the last trick|
|Called King captured||1||--||Bidder's opponents win the called King|
|Valat||game×6||game×12||Win all the tricks|
These bonuses can be won or lost independently of each other and of the basic game, with the exception of Valat. If a team wins all the tricks they score for Valat and nothing else counts except for announced Spatz and/or Uhu in a Rufer.
In Sechserdreier and Dreier all bonus scores except the score for Valat are doubled.
When a Fahren is played, there are no bonuses.
The first dealer may be chosen by any convenient random method. The turn to deal passes to the right after each hand.
The dealer shuffles the cards and offers them to the player to the left to cut. The dealer then deals 12 cards to each player in batches of 6 in anticlockwise order, starting with the player to dealer's right. Either at the start of the deal or between the two rounds, the dealer places two packets of 3 cards face down in the middle of the table to form the talon.
The player to dealer's right begins the bidding, and may bid any of the positive contracts: Sechserdreier, Rufer mit Spatz, Rufer mit Uhu or Dreier. Alternatively, if not wishing to play a contract, the player simply says 'Erster' (first).
If the first player says 'Erster', the bidding continues anticlockwise around the table. Each player in turn may pass or bid a contract which must be higher than the previous bid. It is unusual for more than one player to bid, but if it happens the possible bids in ascending order are Rufer mit Spatz, Rufer mit Uhu and Dreier.
Rufer mit Spatz can only be bid by the player who holds the Pagat (Tarock I) and Rufer mit Uhu can only be bid by the holder of the Uhu (Tarock II).
No one other than the first player is allowed to bid Sechserdreier, and if the first player bids Sechserdreier that ends the auction - it cannot be overcalled. The auction also ends if any player bids Dreier, since it is the highest bid.
If the first player begins with a Rufer, the other players in turn have a chance to overcall by bidding a higher contract.
If the first player says 'Erster' and the other three players all pass, then a Fahren must be played.
Calling and Talon Exchange
If the final bid was a Rufer, the bidder now names a King, and the holder of that King will be the bidder's partner for the hand. The holder of the King must not say or do anything to reveal their identity. The partnerships will become clear during the play of the hand, for example when the called King is played. If it turns out that the called King is in the talon, or the bidder has called a King that is in their own hand, the bidder plays alone against the other three players.
If the bid was Sechserdreier, the bidder picks up all 6 talon cards without showing them, and discards 6 cards face down.
If the final bid was Rufer or Dreier, the bidder turns the talon face up for all to see, keeping its two 3-card packets separate. The bidder chooses one of the packets, adds the three cards to their hand and discards three cards face down. In a Rufer, if the called King is found in the talon, the bidder has two options:
- to take half of the Talon (not necessarily the half containing the King) and play on. In this case the bidder will play alone against a team of three;
- to surrender (schleifen). In this case there is no play. The cards are thrown in and the bidder pays a fixed penalty (3 game points) to each opponent.
Discard Rules. 5-point cards (Kings, Sküs, Bond (XXI) and Pagat (I)) can never be discarded. Trumps II-XX can only be discarded if there is no alternative - i.e. if the player is thereby left with a hand consisting entirely of trumps and Kings. Any trumps discarded by the bidder must be placed face up (so that everyone can keep count of trumps). All other discards are face down.
Cards discarded by the bidder count for the bidder's team. In contracts where the bidder takes 3 cards from the talon, the other packet of three cards is out of play, and cards that are in it count for the bidder's opponents. Traditionally this unused half of the talon remains face up until the end of the first trick and is then turned face down.
In a Fahren (Trischaken) the talon is not used.
Bonus Announcements and Kontras
After the bidder has discarded, each player in turn, starting with the bidder, has an opportunity to announce bonuses. The game (the object of which is to take more than half the card points - 36 or more - in tricks) and all bonuses can be won or lost independently. The effect of announcing a bonus is to double the score for it if made, but the announcing team have to pay an equal amount if the bonus fails. The possible bonuses are:
- This bonus is won by a team that has all three counting trumps - Sküs, Mond (XXI) and Pagat (I) -in their tricks together with their part of the talon.
- Four Kings
- This bonus is won by a team that has all four Kings in their tricks together with their part of the talon.
- Spatz, or Pagat Ultimo
- If a player wins the last trick with the Pagat (Tarock I), that player's team wins the Spatz bonus. If a player plays the Pagat in the last trick but the Pagat does not win because there is a higher trump in the trick, that player's team has to pay for a lost Spatz, even if the trick is won by the partner of the player of the Pagat.
- If a player wins the last trick but one (11th trick) with Tarock II, that player's team wins the Uhu bonus. If a player plays the II in the last but one trick but it is beaten by a higher trump, that player's team has to pay for a lost Uhu, even if the trick is won by the partner of the player of the II.
- King Ultimo
- If the called King is played in the last trick and the bidder's team wins the trick, they win the King Ultimo bonus, but if the opponents win the trick, the bidder's team has to play for a lost King Ultimo. Note that unlike the Spatz and Uhu bonuses, it does not have to be the King itself that wins the trick: it is good enough for the player's partner (the bidder) to win the trick with the called King in it.
- Captured called King
- The called King is captured by the opponents. This also applies if the bidder finds the called King in the talon but chooses to play on taking the half that does not contain the King.
- If one team wins all the tricks they score for Valat and none of the other bonuses count, except for Pagat and/or Spatz in a Rufer..
If any of these bonuses is announced in advance, the announcing team scores double for it is it succeeds (as shown in the table above) but if fails the opponents score its value.
If the bid was Rufer mit Spatz or Rufer mit Uhu, the bidder is obliged to announce Spatz or Uhu respectively in the round of announcements. The bidder may choose to announce both Pagat and Uhu if they hold both those cards, as well as any other bonuses they wish to.
Spatz, Uhu and King Ultimo can only be announced by a player who holds the relevant card.
At their turn to speak during the round of announcements, an opponent of the bidder can say Kontra to the game, doubling the score for the contract. Also a player may say Kontra to any bonus announced by the opposing team, doubling its score. An opponent of a player who has said Kontra can reply at their turn to speak by saying Rekontra for quadruple score, and an opponent of a player who said Rekontra can reply with Subkontra, so the the original score is multiplied by 8.
Kontras of the game and various bonuses are independent, so a player saying Kontra must specify which element(s) they are saying Kontra to. For example the bidder of a 'Rufer mit Spatz' must announce Spatz, the next player might Kontra the Spatz, the third player might Kontra the game and the fourth player, holding the called King and a good hand might Rekontra the game but not the Spatz. Now the game is worth 4 game points (1×4) and the announced Spatz also 4 (2×2). If the bidder's team wins the game but loses the Spatz and no other bonuses are made, the net result will be zero score.
Formally, the announcements continue around the table in anticlockwise order until there is no more to be said. Players who don't wish to announce or Kontra anything should say gut (pass) at their turn. Bonuses can only be announced at a player's first turn to speak, and a player can only Kontra the game or a bonus at their first opportunity to do so.
In a Farhren (Trischaken) there are no bonus announcements but it is still possible to Kontra. In this case each player, starting to dealer's right and going around anticlockwise, has one chance to speak, and they must either Kontra or pass. There are no teams and each player says Kontra (or not) on their own behalf.
No matter what happened in the bidding, it is always the player to dealer's right who leads to the first trick. Each trick is won by the highest Tarock (trump) in it, or if no Tarocks were played by the highest card of the suit that was led. The player who wins the trick stores the four cards face down in front of them in their trick pile and leads to the next trick.
In most contracts any card may be led (exceptions - see below) and the other players must follow suit if they can. A player who has no card of the suit that was led must trump by playing a Tarock if they have any. A player who has no cards of the suit led and no Tarocks may play any card, but cannot win the trick.
Any player who has announced Spatz (Pagat Ultimo), Uhu or King Ultimo must keep the card until the scheduled trick and play it then, unless the rules of play force it to be played earlier, or in the case of Uhu prevent it from being played on the penultimate trick (if the holder has to follow suit to another player's lead). If a player has announced Uhu and Spatz and is forced to play one of the cards early, the II must be played before the I.
In a Farhren (Trischaken) there are extra restrictions. When playing to a trick each player must play a card that beats the highest card so far played to the trick if possible. (If a plain suit has been led and trumped, a subsequent player who can follow suit can play any card of the suit led, since none of these cards can beat the trump; a subsequent player who has no card of the suit led must play a higher trump if possible, and failing that a lower trump.) The holder of the Pagat (Tarock I) is not allowed to play it or lead it to a trick until it is their only remaining Tarock.
It is usual to play for small stakes, the loser(s) paying the winner(s) in cash after each deal. A typical stake would be 10 cents per point. It would be possible to keep score on paper instead, with a column for each player recording their cumulative net loss or gain, and settle up at the end of the session.
At the end of the play, each team combines the cards they have one in tricks with their part of the talon if any and adds up the value of the counting cards they have. The total should be 71 and the team with the majority of card points (36 or more) wins the game points for the contract or 'game', as given in the contract table above. Note that Sechserdreier is worth 2 points if it is won by the bidder but 4 game points if it is won by the bidder's opponents.
Each team also checks to see whether they have won any of the bonuses, and whether any announced bonuses were won or lost. The bonus scores are listed in the bonus table above. With the exception of Valat these gains and losses are independent of each other and of the game.
If a team wins all the tricks, they score 6× the price of the contract, or 12× the price of the contract if the Valat was announced in the round of announcements. If a team announces Valat and loses a trick, they pay 12× the price of the contract. No other bonuses count except for Spatz and Uhu if the contract was a Rufer.
If the contract was Rufer mit Pagat (or Rufer mit Uhu) the bidder's team win 18 game points =6×(1+2) if they take all the tricks. If both Pagat and Uhu are announced then taking all the tricks is worth 30 game points =6×(1+2+2). If the Valat was announced these payments are doubled to 12× the contract value. If the bidder's team announces Valat in a Rufer with Spatz or Uhu but lose a trick, they pay 12× the contract value even if the Spatz or Uhu succeeds.
When the net gain or loss for each team has been calculated, if there were two teams of two (the bidder having called a King), each player in the losing team pays the net amount to one member of the winning team. If there was a lone player against a team of three, then each member of the team pays or receives the net amount to or form the lose player, whose gain or loss is therefore three times the net score.
- A player bids Rufer mit Spatz, and the holder of the called King manages to save it for the last trick, which is won by the Pagat. The bidding team manage to win the other three Kings as well. The score is 1 for game, 2 for the announced Spatz, 1 for King ultimo, 1 for Four Kings, total 5. The bidder and the called partner receive 5 game points each and the other players lose 5 each.
- A player bids Rufer mit Uhu and manages to win the penultimate trick with the II and also the game, but the opponents win all three cards of the Trull (Sküs, XXI, I). The bidder and called partner in 1 for the game and 2 for the Uhu but lose 1 for the Trull. They each win 2 game points and their opponents each lose 2.
- The first player bids Sechserdreier and announces Valat, but fails to win al the tricks, the cost is 4×12=48 game points paid to each opponent (total 144).
In a Fahren (Trischaken) there are no teams. Each player counts the value of the cards in their own tricks, and the cards in the talon count for no one. Each pair of players compares the number of card points they have taken, and if neither of them said Kontra the player with more card points pays 2 game points to the player with fewer. If one of them said Kontra the payment between them is doubled to 4 game points and if both said Kontra it is doubled again to 8 game points. If two players tie there is no payment between them.
In a Fahren players A and C said Kontra but B and D did not. The card points taken were A: 9, B: 27, C: 16, D: 14. The result:
- A wins 4 from B, 8 from C and 4 from D.
- D wins 2 from B and 4 from C.
- C wins 4 from B.
- So the net result is A +16, B -10, C -8, D +2.
After a Fahren, the next four deals are played for double stakes. If another Fahren occurs during this set of four deals, the stakes for it are not doubled, and it does not count towards the number of hands due to be played for double stakes, but a further four hands for double stakes are added to those scheduled to be played.
There is no fixed end to the session. The players may agree in advance to play a certain number of deals (a multiple of 4 so that each player deals an equal number of times) or to play until a certain time. Alternatively they may use the traditional method by which a player who wishes to end soon declares a 'Sküs round'. In the next deal they note who held the Sküs (or in the deal after that if the Sküs was in the talon and not picked up by any player). The session continues until the Sküs holder's next turn to deal, which begins the last 'round' - i.e. set of four deals - and then the session ends.
It is possible for five people to play. In this case the dealer deals cards as usual to the other four players and the talon cards are face down in front of the dealer. The dealer takes no part in the bidding, announcements and play and does not win or lose anything except in the case of a Fahren.
If the player to dealer's right says 'Erster' and the others all pass, a Fahren is played and in this case the dealer picks up the 6 talon cards and joins the game. In the round of announcements the dealer can Kontra in the same way as the other players. The dealer takes part in the first six tricks only, playing last to the first trick since the player to dealer's right leads as usual. If the dealer wins the sixth trick with their last card, the turn to lead to the seventh trick passes to the player to dealer's right. The dealer counts the card points taken in tricks and pays or receives from each of the other players in the usual way.
In private games, some groups recognise Solorufer as an additional contract that can be bid. This makes it possible for a player without the I or II to call a partner: without it the only options are to play alone or risk a Fahren. In Solorufer the bidder calls a King but takes no cards from the talon. The talon is not exposed until after the play, when all six cards are added to the opponents' tricks unless it turns out that the called King is in the talon. If the called King is in the talon the bidder plays alone against a team of three, though none of the players will initially know this, and the half of the talon that contains the called King belongs to the declarer while the other half belongs to the opponents. In Solorufer bonuses score double (as in Dreier).
If Solorufer is allowed, players should agree where it ranks in the bidding. Some rank Solorufer above Rufer mit Pagat and Rufer mit Uhu but below Dreier. Others play that it is the lowest bid, and some only allow it to be bid by the first player (instead of saying 'Erster') to avoid having to play Fahren if all the others pass.
In some places Solodreier is allowed as the highest bid, scoring 4 game points. The bidder plays alone, the talon is not exposed and is added to the opponents' tricks, and bonuses score double (as in Dreier).
On this archive page from tarockspiele.com is a version of the rules used in a tournament in Ramingstein. It features a higher score for Valat, but in case of Valat the bonuses for announced Spatz or Uhu in a Rufer are not counted.