The title simply refers to the trump that decides partnerships. The basic game is for four players but it has variations for three and two, both of which employ dummy hands. The four player game makes a good introduction to what I shall call Preference Bids – a device used in a few games and worth adding to your arsenal.


Pack: A reduced tarot of 54 cards is used consisting of four regular suits of 8 cards, and a suit of 22 trumps (the 1-21 and Tomfool).

Ranking: Standard ranking is used...

Pips rank in suit from high to low:
King, Queen, Cavalier, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7

Empty Cards: These are cards that have values of 1 point or less.

Honours: The Magician, The World, and Tomfool are called The Honours. They are always among the highest scoring cards.

Card Points are:
Honours
5 points
Kings
5 points
Queens
4 points
Cavaliers
3 points
Jacks
2 points
All others
1 point

A game consists of four hands

Deal: First Dealer is chosen at random or by consent with the role moving to the player on the left after each hand.

Dealer places the first 6 cards to a stock pile and then hands the players two rounds of 6 cards.

Auction: Starting with Dealer’s left, players take turns to bid to play as Declarer against the other players who will be the Defenders. Players may pass but Eldest (Dealer’s left) is obliged to make a bid.

The available bids are:

Partnership: Declarer draws the first four cards from the stock pile and adds them to his/her hand. The second and third players to Declarer’s right then draw one of the remaining cards. Players who have drawn cards then discard that many to their own trick pile, discards may not include either Kings or Honours and may only include trumps if there is no alternative (these need not be shown). Declarer then calls for the highest trump below the 20 that he/she does not hold and whichever player holds that card will play as Declarer’s partner for the hand. However, Partner may not announce their identity. If the called trump has been discarded, then Declarer plays alone – though will not know it right away.

Preferred Three: Declarer plays alone against the other players and takes three cards from the stock according to strict rules:

Declarer picks up the first three cards from the stock and if they are wanted, takes them into his/her hand. The hand is then being played at the First Level.

If the first cards are not wanted, then they are placed face up on the table and Declarer looks at the second three, if they are wanted, then Declarer takes them into his/her hand. The hand is then being played at the Second Level.

If, after looking at the second three cards, Declarer prefers the first three after all, then the second three are placed face up on the table and Declarer picks up the preferred cards. The hand is now being played on the Third Level.

The remaining cards will then count towards the Defenders’ tricks. Declarer must discard three cards towards his/her trick pile, discards may not include either Kings or Honours and may only include trumps if there is no alternative.

Preferred Two: Declarer plays alone against the other players and takes two cards from the stock according the rules outlined above – but examining two cards at a time. This way the hand may be played to the Fifth Level (where the second two cards are taken after examining the last two). Declarer discards two cards and the remaining cards count towards the Defenders’ tricks.

Preferred One: Declarer plays alone against the other players and takes one card from the stock according to the rules outlined above – but examining the cards one at a time. This way the hand may be played at the Eleventh Level. Declarer discards one card and the remaining cards count towards the Defenders’ tricks.

Solo: Declarer plays alone against the other players with the stock pile going unseen towards the Defenders’ tricks.

Declarations: Before play commences, players in turn, beginning with Declarer’s left, may make a declaration for bonus points (scored from the other players – or if declaring an achievement, paid to each of the other players if failed). Players who make a declaration are also entitled to call a contra to a Sparrow, Slam, or to the bid which will double that score.
The available bonuses are:
  • Eight Trumps: The player has eight or more trumps – scores 4 points
  • Ten Trumps: The player has ten or more trumps – scores 8 points
  • Twelve Trumps: The player has twelve or more trumps – scores 12 points
  • Honours: The player has all three Honour cards – scores 8 points
  • Kings: The player has all four Kings – scores 8 points
  • Royal Honours: The player has Kings and Honour cards that total four or more in number. This bonus cannot be combined with either the Honours or Kings bonuses – scores 12 points
  • The Sparrow: The player contracts for his/her side to win the last trick with The Magician – Scores 10 points
  • Slam: The player contracts for his/her side to win every trick of the hand – scores 20 points

Play: Declarer leads to the first trick by placing a card face up on the table. Each player in turn, moving to the left, must play a card from their hand of the suit led – this is called following suit. If they do not have any cards of the suit led, it is called being void in that suit and they must play a trump card instead. However, if they have no trumps, they may then play any other card, though it will not win. Whoever plays the highest trump to the trick wins it, or if trumps are not played, then whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins it. The winner takes the cards and places them face down in their trick pile to be counted at the end.

The player that wins the trick then leads to the next one and play continues until the hand has been played out.

Emperor Trick: If all three honours are played to the same trick, then it is The Juggler that wins it.

Scores: At the end of the hand any partnerships should be clear and trick piles can be combined as appropriate. The cards are counted individually, adding 1 point for each trick won (cards from the discard do not count as tricks). There are 118 card points, so Declarer’s side must win 60 or more to win the hand.

If the hand is won, the each of the Defenders pays Declarer the value of the game. If the hand is lost, the value of the hand is paid by Declarer to each of the Defenders. Winnings and losses are shared equally between Declarer and a partner.

The hand has a base value of 10 game points plus the number of card points won over or below 60. This is then multiplied according to the bid played:

Partner
X1
Preferred Three
X3
Preferred Two
X4
Preferred One
X5
Solo
x6




This may be multiplied again by the level at which the hand was played and then may be doubled if a contra was called.

The Game for Three

This proceeds much as for the four player game but that one hand is a dummy in the fourth place. The cards are dealt to the stock and players (including the dummy) as per usual and after players have bid and made declared for any bonuses, the dummy’s hand is exposed for all players to see.

However, if a bid of Partner is played, and if one of the other players has the called trump, they must announce themselves. The remaining Defender will then play from Dummy’s hand in turn. If the called trump turns out to be in Dummy’s hand, the Declarer will play from Dummy’s hand in turn.

Under any other bid, one of the Defenders must volunteer to play from Dummy’s hand (without consultation with the other Defender).

The Game for Two

Dealer and Opponent sit opposite each other with a dummy to each side of them. The cards are dealt as per usual, however, there is no bidding round and Opponent is always Declarer playing a bid of Partnership. Opponent takes the first four cards of the stock, discarding four, while Dealer takes the remaining two and discards two. Opponent then calls for the highest card below the 20 that he/she does not hold but that is held by one of the two dummy hands. Opponent will then play from this hand in turn as Partner, while Dealer plays from the other in turn as fellow Defender.


Of course, each player will be able to deduce their opponent’s hand bar just two or four cards.