It’s the meaning of life! Also the craziest trick-taking game you ever saw. If you like Pitch, Euchre, Bridge or stuff like that, you should definitely try this out.
What You Need: One 52 card deck, no jokers. You’ll probably also want a piece of paper to keep track of the score.
Number of Players: 4
Object: Be the first team to score 42 or more points.
Setup: Divide into two teams of two. Teammates sit across the table from each other, so that if play goes clockwise, play will alternate between teams.
How to Play
Randomly determine who will deal first, and deal nine cards to each player. Then all players look at their hands and choose three cards to pass to their partner.
Then, starting with the player on the dealer’s left, each player may pass or bid. If they bid, they choose any number of points, between 2 and 18. Once a player has bid, the next player may either outbid him or pass. Continue until a player has made a bid that no player wants to top, or until a player has bid 18. The team that wins the bid is the only team that can score on this hand, but if they don’t score at least as many points as they bid, they lose that many points. We’ll explain points in a minute.
The player who won the bid declares starting trump. Then all players discard between 2 and 6 cards and then refill their hands up to 7.
Then the hand is resolved in a series of tricks. If you already know how to play pitch, you already know the general idea here. The player who won the bid, or the player who won the previous trick, plays a card face up to the middle of the table. Then each player, starting on his left, plays a card face up to the middle of the table. Players must follow suit if possible, or they can play a card of the trump suit. Then the player with the highest card of the trump suit, or, if no cards of the trump suit are in the trick, the highest card of the leadoff suit, wins the trick. He takes those cards and places them face up in front of him.
Example: Trump is hearts. Arthur leads with a Queen of Spades. Ford follows with a 7 of spades, following suit. Marvin has no spades, so he plays a 3 of diamonds. Up until this point, Arthur is winning the trick. But then that bastard Zaphod plays a 2 of Hearts, crushing Arthur’s dreams, and taking down the trick.
Got that? Well, here’s what makes it interesting.
Whenever you play a four, the trump suit instantly changes to whatever suit the four is. Fours are also worth a butt-load of points, so they’re muchos importantes.
Whenever you play a two, you can switch it out for any card you’ve already taken this hand, assuming you’ve taken at least one trick this hand.
Crazy Example: Spades is trump. Arthur leads with the King of Spades. Ford has no spades, so he’s free to drop his 4 of Clubs, switching the trump suit to clubs. He’s feeling pretty proud of himself, but then Marvin drops a 2, then puts the 2 in his taken pile, and takes the Queen of Clubs he took on a previous trick and puts it in this trick. Zaphod, not wanting Marvin to take the valuable 4, slaps down a 4 of his own – the 4 of Hearts. Trump is now Hearts, and Zaphod has the highest one – so he takes it down. Ford and Zaphod high-five as Marvin contemplates suicide.
Once everyone is out of cards, look at the cards everyone has taken, and calculate the score of the bidding team as follows:
High of Trump: 2 points
Other Aces: 1 point
Jack of Trump: 2 points
Other Jacks: 1 point
4 of Trump: 4 points
Game: 2 points
3 of trump: 2 points.
The High of Trump means the highest card taken of the trump suit. Game is calculated as follows: Each Ace taken, no matter the suit, is worth 4 towards game, each king worth three, each queen 2, each jack 1, and each ten is worth a whopping 10. Count up each team’s totals, and if the bidding team got the most, award them 2 points.
When you’re calculating points, the last trump standing is trump. So, that 3 of spades might have been a big deal when you took it, but if the last 4 played was the 4 of clubs, your 3 is now worth about as much as a steaming pile of lemur droppings. And trust us, lemur droppings stink.
If the bidding team made at least as many points as their bid, give them all the points they scored. For example, if they bid 7 points, but won 10, they score 10 points for the round. If they don’t make their bid, they lose as many points as they bid. So if they bid 7 but only scored 6 they lose 7 points.
If a team has no points, they can still lose points, going into the negatives.
After all that hooha has been settled, the player to the dealer’s right becomes dealer, shuffles up the cards, deals out new hands, and bidding begins all over again. And ya keep on, keepin’ on until somebody cracks 42 points, or reaches ultimate enlightenment, whichever occurs first.