Original Card Games by David Parlett

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COUNTERPOINT


The point-trick version of Ninety-Nine

Players 2 or 3   Cards 37 or 32   Type Point-tricks
Counterpoint started out as a way of making the basically three-player game of Ninety-Nine more workable and interesting for two, but I have since discovered that it is just as interesting and perhaps even more challenging for three. The three-player version is therefore described first, and the two-player version follows.
uplink downlink FOR 3 PLAYERS
Cards
37, consisting of A-10-K-Q-J-9-8-7-6 in each suit, plus a Joker. The high cards of every suit have point-values as follows:

Ace Ten King Queen Jack Nine Eight Seven Six
11 10 4 3 2 0 0 0 0

This makes 30 card-points in each suit and hence 120 in the whole pack. (This card-point schedule will be familiar to players of many traditional European games, notably Skat and Sixty-Six; but if unfamiliar with it you may prefer to count all face cards as 3 each.)
Deal
The turn to deal and play rotates to the left. Deal 12 cards each, in ones, and turn the last (37th) card face up to one side to establish a trump suit. If it is a Nine or the Joker, the deal is played at no trump. The Joker has no independent value or status of its own: whoever holds it treats it exactly as if it were the turn-up, whether as a bid-card or as a card in play.
Object
Your aim is to take in tricks as close as possible to the number of the 120 available card-points that you bid in advance. To make your bid, you discard, face down, three bid-cards in accordance with the following code:
diamond any diamond discarded represents 0 card-points bid
spade any spade discarded represents 10 card-points bid
heart any heart discarded represents 20 card-points bid
club any club discarded represents 30 card-points bid.
Example: You can bid 0 by discarding any three diamonds, or 90 by discarding any three clubs, or 30 by discarding three spades (1+1+1), or a club and two diamonds (3+0+0), or a heart, a spade and a diamond (2+1+0), and so on. But...
Warning!
Bear in mind that any counters discarded in bids will reduce the total number of card-points in play by their total value. In fact, if each one of you makes three discards at random, the number of card-points available will average 90 - a sensible figure, given that the highest possible bid is, (disregarding the three-diamond dispensation) three clubs.
Play
The player at dealer's left leads to the first of nine tricks. You must follow suit if you can, but may otherwise play any card. The trick is taken by the highest card of the suit led, or by the highest trump if any are played, and the winner of each trick leads to the next.
Score
At end of play you each count the card-points you have taken in tricks and note the difference between this and the number you bid. You then each score the sum of your opponent's differences. In addition, the following bonuses are available:
30 for making your own bid exactly, or
20 for under- or over-shooting by one or two card-points, or
10 for under- or over-shooting by three, four or five card-points.
Example: Annie bids 20, takes 22, difference 2; Benny bids 30, takes 38, difference 8; Connie bids 40, takes 39, difference 1. Annie scores 19 (differences of 8+1 plus a bonus of 10); Benny scores 3 (differences of 1+2); Connie scores 30 (differences of 2+8 plus a bonus of 20).
Game
Play up to any agreed target score, or for any multiple of three deals.
uplink downlink FOR 2 PLAYERS

The two-player game introduces a novel take on "trumping". This is not just for the sake of novelty - trumps have always struck me as fundamentally unnecessary in a two-player game and I find the following alternative particularly pleasing.

Cards
Deal 16 cards each, in four batches of three and one of four, from a 32-card pack ranking and counting in each suit as follows :

Ace Ten King Queen Jack Nine Eight Seven
11 10 4 3 2 0 0 0
Deal and bid
There are 120 card-points available altogether (30 in each suit), and you each bid to win a certain number of them in tricks by throwing out three bid-cards such that -
diamond any diamond discarded represents 0 card-points bid
spade any spade discarded represents 10 card-points bid
heart any heart discarded represents 20 card-points bid
club any club discarded represents 30 card-points bid.
Example: The discard of spade heart club represents a bid to win as close as possible to 60 card-points in tricks.

By special dispensation, a bid of zero (three diamonds) can also be taken to represent 100, one to represent 110, and two to represent 120. Note, however, that counters used as bid-cards do not count towards their bidder's total, and therefore reduce the total number of points actually available in play. In practice, the average total of points to play tends to be about 107.
Play
When both have discarded, non-dealer leads to the first of 13 tricks. Tricks are played without a trump suit as such, but in accordance with the following unusual rules:
  • You must follow suit if you can, but may play any card if you can't.
  • A trick is taken by the higher-ranking card regardless of suit. In other words, you can "trump" by playing a higher card from another suit.
  • In case of equality, the card led wins if the tied rank is a counter (A-10-K-Q-J), otherwise the second-played card takes the trick.
Score
At end of play you each score the number of points by which your opponent exceeded or fell short of their bid. You may also add a bonus of -
30 for taking in exactly the number you bid
20 for taking in 1 card-point more or less than your bid
10 for taking in 2 card-points more or less than your bid.
Example: North bids 80 and takes 75; South bids 30 and takes 32. North scores 2 for South's excess of 2; South scores 5 for North's deficit of 5, and adds 10 for finishing within 2 of his own bid, total 15.
Game
Play up to 99 points or any other agreed total.
Copyright © renewed 2017 by David Parlett