On the twenty-third day of the sixth month in the thirty-first year of the zhiyuan period (17 July 1294), we caught Yan Sengzhu and Zheng Zhugou playing cards, and have also found wood blocks to print cards. Each person has admitted to the truth of the accusation. We have, according to the rules, passed judgement and punished correctly the organizer Lu Donger, accessory to gambling Zheng Zhugou, the owner of the premises Jiang Sier, and the block printer Ye Lin, and dispatched to the Ever-abundant Treasury for deposit the nine cards (zhipai) that were about to be destroyed, and...
Source: Tarocchi by Philebus.
This account is based on that given by John McLeod, who states that game might be dying out, his informants hadn’t played for around 10 years - and I made my first notes on this 10 years ago. A great shame, as this is a very nice game with the unusual feature for ‘buying’ a card from another player. It is fairly simple and a good choice try after mastering Scarto as it introduces you to bidding. It is played with a 66 card pack, formed by removing the lowest 3 cards from each of the regular suits.
The game uses irrational ranking, so your pack will consist of:
The Fool, I-XXI of trumps, and then in the suits:
Spades & Clubs / Swords & Batons
King, Queen, Cavalier, Valet, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4
Hearts & Diamonds / Cups & Coins
King, Queen, Cavalier, Valet, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Fool, Mond (XXI) and Pagat (I) 5
All other cards 1
Play is counter-clockwise. A dealer is chosen at random and then 21 cards are dealt out to each player in packets of 7. The last three cards are dealt face down to the table as the stock.
After everyone has examined their cards, there is a short round of bidding to decide who will be Declarer and play against the other two players who will work together as defenders. Each player may bid only once and if no-one bids, then the cards are thrown in and deal passes on. There are four available bids:
Ansager: Declarer exchanges and buys one card.
Solo: Declarer exchanges but may not buy a card.
Super: Declarer neither exchanges nor buys a card.
Slam: Declarer contracts to win every trick.
If the bid allows an exchange, Declarer takes the stock (unseen by the other players) into his/her own hand and discards 3 cards to count toward his/her own tricks. If a King is discarded, then a trump must be discarded with it. The honours may never be discarded.
Buying a card
If the bid allows buying a card, Declarer places any card from his/her hand face down on the table and asks the opponents for a desired card in return. Whoever has the requested card must pass it face up to Declarer and takes the offered card into their hand as payment.
Declarer may score a bonus for winning the last trick with the Pagat - this is doubled if the intention is announced before play. To declare a Pagat Ultimo, Declarer places the Pagat face up on the table. Unannounced, this scores 10 game points, announced, it scores 20.
Playing the hand
Declarer leads to the first trick, playing any card in his/her hand to the middle of the table. Each player in turn, moving to the right, must then play a card of the same suit (follow suit). If a player cannot follow suit, then they must play a trump, if they cannot play a trump, then they can play any card, though it will not win. If no trumps have been played, then the highest card of the suit led wins the trick and that player takes the cards and puts them into his/her trick pile. Otherwise, the highest trump played wins the trick.
The Fool may be played to any trick as an excuse for not playing a card you are otherwise obliged to play, but may be neither won nor lost. At the end of a trick to which the Fool has been played, the person who played it takes it into his/her own trick pile and gives the player who won the trick, an empty card from their trick pile in exchange.
If a Slam is being played, then the last trick may be won with the Fool if all other tricks have been won and it has been declared before play.
At the end of each hand, the card points are counted in groups of 3, subtracting two points for each group, giving a total of 74 card points. If there was no exchange, then the stock counts towards the defender’s tricks. It is easiest to first count how many groups of three you have in your tricks, double the number and then subtract it from the total number of standard card points you have.
Declarer needs 37 card points to win the game, the game points scored from winning are:
Ansager 20 points +1 for every card point over 37
Solo 40 points +1 for every card point over 37
Super 80 points +1 for every card point over 37
Slam 167 points.
Pagat Ultimo 10 points or 20 points announced
If Declarer loses the game, then the game points lost to each of the defenders is the game bonus
(eg 20 for Ansager) +1 for every card point below 37