A small selection of original rules and games, largely based on the games of Scarto, Tarocchi, and Conference. There is one more original game that we shall give at the end of our first selection of games.


Tontine

This game is played either as Scarto, Tarocchi, or Conference (with Good and Evil played only as trumps) but with a twist in the scoring.

A tontine is a financial device in which investors’ dividends grow as other members of the tontine die off, so that the last member receives the full value of all the investments. Agatha Christie fans will recognise the device as a classic motive in murder mysteries. So in this game, it is the last card that carries the full value of all the cards of its kind.

Aces only score 1 point.

The Honours still score 5 points each but the rest of the trumps carry no value at all.
The last card played of the following groups carries all the points for that group:

a) Kings
b) Queens
c) Cavaliers
e) Jacks
f) Honours
g) the pips of each suit

So, the last King played to the hand carries 20 points – while those played before it count for nothing. The last pip of a given suit carries 10 points while those played before it count for nothing.

If the winner of a trick believes they have won the last card of one of these groups, they leave if face up beside them to be turned back face down if another is played subsequently.

Players count their card points of the cards that remain face up. If a player took the last card of a group but did not leave it face up, then they may not score for it – so if you are uncertain you should play safe and leave the card face up until another is played. There are 111 points in play.

For a three player game, the target score is 37 and players win or lose to or from their opponents as many points at they take over or below this.

For a four player game, the side that wins 56 or points wins the difference against their opponents.


The Last Laugh

This rule is called Court Jester but when played as a game in its own right, then we call that game Last Laugh. This is an alternative use of The Fool where it remains in play until the last trick. It will not suit most games but in the basic games of Scarto, Tarocchi, and Conference it works just fine.

If a player holds The Fool, then...
  • If they hold no court cards, then they must play The Fool to the next trick where trumps have been led.
  • If they hold a court card of the suit just led, then they must play The Fool.
  • The Fool may not be played at any other time until the last trick which he always wins – this is called The Last Laugh.
When a player takes The Fool in a trick they are called The Butt (ie. The butt of the joke) and they must take it into their hand and discard another card to their trick pile in its stead...
  • If they hold any court cards of the suit just led, then they must discard one of those save for the King.
  • If they don’t hold a court card of the suit just led – or hold only the King – then they must discard any other court card in their hand save for a King, and knock the table once to indicate it.
  • If they cannot discard a court card according to these rules, then they must discard their highest trump save for either The Magician or The World, exposing the card to the other players as they do so.
  • If they cannot discard a court or a trump, then they must discard a pip card, exposing it to the other players as they do so.
  • In the unlikely event that the player cannot discard a card according to these rules – ie. they hold only The Magician, The World, and Kings – then they place The Fool face up to the side and expose their whole hand on the table. Whoever wins the last trick also wins The Fool, if this is not The Butt, then the player who wins it must exchange an empty card from their trick pile to take it.
Here The Fool plays a mischievous role, forcing play and revealing information to opponents as he goes.


Courtship Rules

This game is played by adding the following rules to either Scarto, Tarocchi or Conference (you can try them with other games of course but you might risk labouring them with too many rules if you do).

The Queen’s Ruff: If the Queen of the suit led has been played but was not led itself, then the Jack may be played to the trick as a trump – taking the trick even if the King, or even The World has been played.

Royal Marriage: If the King of the suit led has been played, then the queen may be played after it to take the trick – though she will not beat a trump.

Royal Affair: If the King of the suit led has been played to the trick, then a player who must discard may play the Queen of another suit who will win the trick – though she will not beat a trump. Likewise, if the Queen was played first then a player who must discard may discard the King of another suit to the same effect.

Summoning Servants: If the King has been played to a trick, then whoever wins it may summon the King’s servant, so that if the Jack has not yet been played (or is not in a discard), then the player who has it must add it to the trick, taking back whatever card they had played to it originally. If the Jack has been played, then the Cavalier may be summoned. If the Cavalier is called but the Jack is still held by another player, then must make themselves known and nothing is summoned. The player who calls the servant may hold that card themselves if they did not play the King themselves. A Queen however, is nobody’s servant.


Manchester Piccadilly

Good two player card games are notorious for being few and far between and tarot. I cannot claim that this is anything special but it does attempt to address some of the problems these games face. It was developed on the train to Manchester Piccadilly and that seemed like a good enough name for it.

A game consists of hands, each played out in two parts, being called Manchester and Piccadilly.

Pack: A Loka of 78 cards is used consisting of four regular suits of 14 cards, a suit of 21 trumps (excluding the Good & Evil cards), and The Fool.

Ranking: Rational ranking is used...

Pip cards rank in suit from high to low:
King, Queen, Cavalier, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace

Trumps rank by their number, 21 high, 1 low.

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

Honours: The Magician, The World, and The Fool 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
Aces 5 points
All others 1 point

A game consists of two hands.

First Deal (Manchester Memory): First Dealer is chosen at random or by consent and the alternates between players. We will call the player’s Dealer and Opposite.

Opposite shuffles the cards and Dealer deals each 13 cards in packets of 5-5-3, setting aside the remainder of the pack for for the second half of the game.

Even Stevens & Discard: Players begin by totalling the card points in their hands and announcing it, they then discard three cards unseen into their trick pile – these may not be trumps, Honours, or Kings unless no other cards are held, in which case, they must be shown.

Play: Starting with Opposite, players take turns to lead to each trick. Players must try to follow suit if they can and if they cannot then they must play a trump. If trumps have been led, then players must play a higher trump if they can, if not, then they may play a lower one. If a player cannot follow suit and has no trumps, then they may play another card, though it will not win.

If The Fool is held, then it may be played at any time instead of a card that the rules might otherwise require and although it will not win, it is seldom lost. When played, The Fool is returned to to its player who then places it face up beside them until the end of the hand when they must pay the player who won the trick with a card from their trick pile (obviously, they will choose an empty card if they can). However, if they have taken no tricks, then they must surrender The Fool instead.

First Score: Once the hand is played, then players total the value of their trick pile and score this minus the value of their starting hand.

Second Deal (Piccadilly Play): Dealer now deals four hands of 13 cards in packets of 5-5-3, two hands to each player. Players may now examine each hand and decide which shall be their hand and which shall be their dummy. They may not mix cards between the hands. Once the choice has been made then at the same time, each player lays out their Dummy hand face up – Dealer’s Dummy is set out next to Opposite on Opposite’s left, while Opposite’s Dummy is set out next to Dealer, on Dealer’s right. Now each player should be seated with the Dummy hands to one side, each player with their opponent’s Dummy next to them and diagonally opposite their own Dummy.

Second Play: Dealer leads to the first trick, then in turn moving to the left, each hand must play a card (players play from their own Dummys), following suit if they can and playing a trump if they cannot. If they they must play a trump and one has already been played to the trick, then they must play a higher one if they can. If they cannot follow suit or play a trump then they may play any other card, though it will not win. The Fool is played as an excuse but if played to the last trick it is lost.

Second Score: Players total their card points, this time adding 1 point for each trick won. They then add this to their First Score and whichever player has the most points has won the hand and as many game points as the difference between their scores.

Ending: Players should each have the same number of turns playing as Dealer. They can then total their game points for a winner.

The play of Manchester offers enough card points to be worth making some effort for but not enough to dramatically effect the final scores. However, although the result will largely be a matter of luck, it does reveal a great deal of information. Attentive players with good memories will have a good idea of where most of the cards are when they come to play Piccadilly, which is where a little skill is needed, as well as where most of the points can be scored.


Manchester Truffle!

Devised on the same holiday but just after devising a new truffle at my niece’s request, hence the name. I called the truffle Tarocco.

Everything starts as Manchester Piccadilly, so I won’t repeat that here. What follows replaces the Piccadilly Play.

Second Deal (The Truffle Snuffle): Dealer hands out 16 cards to each and a dummy in packets of 5-5-6, taking the last three cards and discarding three to their tricks – these may not include either Honours, or Kings, and must be shown. If Dealer takes no tricks, then they are lost to Opposite.

The dummy hand is exposed to one side (Dealer’s left, Opposite’s right).

Second Play: Dealer leads to the first trick, followed by Dummy who is first played by Opposite, then Opposite plays, following suit if they can and playing a trump if they cannot. If they they must play a trump and one has already been played to the trick, then they must play a higher one if they can. If they cannot follow suit or play a trump then they may play any other card, though it will not win. The Fool is played as an excuse but if played to the last trick it is lost.

As per usual, whoever wins a trick leads to the next and the order of play continues to the left. However, players alternate in playing Dummy’s hand and any tricks won by dummy count for neither player.

Second Score: Players total their card points, this time adding 1 point for each trick won. They then add this to their First Score and whichever player has the most points has won the hand and as many game points as the difference between their scores.

Ending: Players should each have the same number of turns playing as Dealer. They can then total their game points for a winner.