Original Card Games by David Parlett
Players 2 or 4   Cards 52   Type Quasi-tricks
Tried this out this week. It’s pretty neat, and easy to pick up, especially if you know Potato Man and Scopa. I keep feeling like I played a rule wrong because the designer said that it’s rare for a player to be unable to make a legal play while this happened regularly in my game, but based on my experience with Potato Man I feel that it’s just more common than the designer suggests. Erik Smith, boardgamegeek
This cross between an adding-upper and a trick-taker is an improved version of one called 'Over the Top' in my Penguin Encyclopedia of Card Games (2000). The two-hand game is described first, and the partnership version below.
Start
High cut deals first, and the turn to deal alternates. Deal 12 cards each from a 52-card pack and stack the rest face down.
Object
To win tricks. Each of the 13 tricks consists of four cards and scores the total face value of its constituent cards.
Play
Non-dealer leads to the first trick. Each player plays twice to a trick, the leader playing first and third and the follower playing second and fourth.
Each card must differ in suit from every previous card, so that the completed trick always contains exactly one card of each suit
As you play, you announce the total face value of all cards so far played. For this purpose, numerals Ace to Ten count at face value (i.e. 1-10 respectively) and face cards as follows:
A Queen always counts 0 - it leaves the total unchanged.
A Jack deducts the value or cancels the effect of the preceding card (but counts 0 if led).
A King repeats the value or effect of the preceding card (but counts 0 if led).
Playing a Jack therefore restores the total to what it was before. If a Jack is followed by a another Jack, or by a King, its effect is cancelled. See examples (below).
Your aim in each trick is to avoid bringing the total above 17. Here are some examples of trick-counts:
Cards played Result
4+5+6-6=9
4+5-5+5=9

4+5-5+5=9

4+5+6+6=21
4+5+5+5=19
4+5-5+7=11
4+5+5-5=9
4+5+5+7=21
4-4+4-4=0
(The Jack cancels the 4, restoring the count to zero. The first King cancels
the Jack, restoring the total to 4, and the second King cancels the effect of its predecessor, bringing it back down to zero. The result would be the same for 4-J-J-J, 4-J-K-J, or 4-J-K-K.)
Winning a trick
If the value of a trick never exceeds 17, it's won by whoever played the last card. If it does, it's won by the opponent of whoever first brought it above 17 (even if was brought back down again by the play of a Jack).
The winner of a trick immediately scores its final value and turns the trick down. If any cards remain in stock, each in turn, beginning with the trick-winner, draws a card until both hands are restored to 12. When none remain in stock the two hands are played out till none remain in hand. The winner of each trick leads to the next.
Duplicating a suit
Remember that each trick must contain exactly one card of each suit. If you play a card that matches a suit already played, you must take it back again and play from a different suit, and you automatically lose the trick regardless of its final total. If both players make this mistake in the same trick, it is lost (regardless of total) by the player who committed this fault last.
With proper play, it should always be possible to play without matching a suit. In the rare event that one player cannot do so, play ceases immediately. Neither player wins the current trick, and the scores made up to that point are counted as the final score for that deal.
Game
Scores are carried forward from deal to deal. As soon as one player reaches or exceeds a total of 250 points play ceases immediately and that player wins.
P.S. Why 17?
Because the total face value of all thirteen cards in each suit is 55 (0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10, plus zero for the Jack and King who cancel each other out). Dividing by 13 puts the mean value of a single card at 4.23, and multiplying this by 4 puts the mean value of a single trick at just over 16.92. Call it 17.
Addenda for four
In fixed partnerships
Start
Four players sitting crosswise in partnerships receive 13 cards each from a 52-card pack and play to 13 tricks.
Object
In each trick, the aim is to be the last person to play a card that brings its total face value to 17 or less.
Play
A trick consists of four cards, one of each suit. You can lead any card, but each player thereafter must play a card of a different suit from any so far played to the trick. If you can't play without matching a suit you must pass your turn in favour of the next player to your left who can do so.

Note. Passing is not an optional move. You must play a legal card if you can.

Dealer's left-hand neighbour leads to the first trick and the winner of each trick leads to the next.

The leader to a trick plays any card and announces its face value. Everyone else in turn adds a card of a different suit to the trick and announces the current total value of all cards so far played.

For this purpose Queens count zero, Aces 1 each, and numerals from Two to Ten count 2 to 10 respectively (as illustrated above).
Jacks and Kings have no independent counting value (unless led, when they count zero). Instead -
a Jack deducts the value of the preceding card (thereby restoring the last total but one).
a King repeats the value of the preceding card.
Examples of play
N E S W Winner & value
6 5 Q 6 West 17
6 5 Q 9 East 20
6 5 8 8 East 27 (6+5+8+8)
6 5 8 J West 11 (6+5+8-8)
6 J 9 K South 18 (6-6+9+9)
6 K J J West 12 (6+6-6--6)
6 K K K East 24 (6+6+6+6)
6 J K K West 0
(In the last trick, the Jack cancels the 6, the first King cancels
the Jack, restoring the total to 6, and the second King cancels the first.)
Calling for a suit
When your partner is about to play first or second to a trick you may call upon them to play, or avoid playing, a particular suit. You can say, for example, 'Lead a spade', or 'Don't lead a heart'. Typically, you might call for a suit you have none of, or try to prohibit a suit you're hoping to play from yourself. Such calls are for information only: they do not have to be complied with.
Score
The final face value of a trick is credited immediately to the side that wins it. (So it's helpful to use a crib board or other scoring device.) The winner of the trick turns it face down and leads to the next.
Running out of cards
It is possible for one or more players to run out of cards before the others because they had to pass when unable to play without matching suit. In this case play continues in normal rotation, missing out those unable to contribute.
Game
Each side's total score at the end of 13 tricks is carried forward and the turn to deal passes to the left. The game is won by the first side to reach 500 or more points, and ends without further play as soon as that total is reached. This usually happens during the fourth or fifth deal.
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