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Karnöffel rules and gameplay

Karnöffel game info

Cards

Karnöffel uses a deck with 48 cards (no aces). Historically, Karnöffel was played with German-suited cards. Its descendants still played today either use Swiss-suited cards or French-suited cards. When playing with a French-suited deck, you can use corresponding suits (Spades for Leaves, Clubs for Acorns, Diamonds for Bells) and values for the court cards (Queen for Ober, Jack for Unter).
Karnöffel Cards
Reconstructed deck used for playing Karnöffel, 1530 - source: karten-haus.ch

Partnerships

With 4, 6 or 8 players partnerships are formed before the game starts. This is done by each player drawing a card randomly from the pack. The two (or three, or four) lowest cards form a team, versus the highest. In case of a tie, the following order of the suits, from high to low, is used: Spades (Leaves), Clubs (Acorns), Hearts, Diamonds (Bells). Next, the partners should pick a place across the table from each other. With 2 players, no partnerships are formed.

Target score

The score that ends the game when reached should be determined beforehand. It is always a multiple of 10, plus 1. Usually a score of 101 needs to be achieved.

Objective

In each round, the objective is to win three (or more) of the five tricks.

Deal

The dealer will deal card per card for each player. The first card that is dealt to each player must be face-up, visible for everyone. From the visible cards dealt, the lowest will determine the trump of the game. In case of a tie, the lowest card closest to the dealer in clockwise rotation determines the trump.

The person on the first clockwise position from the dealer, called the Foreman (sometimes Forehand), gets a second card face-up, as well as the next person. Now the teams can discuss their next steps. The Foreman acts first. He can decide to do nothing, in which case the game is played for 4 points. He can also propose a raise of 3 points. In this case, the other team has three options. If the other team accepts the raise, the game is played for 7 points. If the other team declines the raise, the Foreman's team gets 4 points and a new deal is started. If the other team raises the stakes by another 3 points, the Foreman has to accept and play for 10 points, or surrender.

Once the bets are placed, the dealer will give everybody 1 extra face-up card, except for the Foreman and the person next to the foreman, as they have already had their extra card.

We then move on to a second and third round of betting working in the same way, but now with two face-down cards instead of one face-up card. At the end of the deal, each player has five cards.

Play

Note that teams can always discuss moves and give advice to each other.

After the betting, the Foreman will play the first card of the game. This can be any card except the 7 of the trump. Everybody must play a card every trick, but this does not have to match the suit of the first played card.

The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, or by the highest trump card when any are played. Note that the trump suit is not really a trump suit but more of an elected suit, because only 6 of the 12 cards have trumping power. See below for more information about the ranking of the cards. This might be confusing at first but comes pretty natural after a while.

The winner of a trick can start the next round. The team that wins the most tricks (at least 3 out of 5), gains the points.

Ranking of cards

Plain (non-trump) suits

Highest to lowest ranking: King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

Trump suit

Highest to lowest ranking:

End

The game is finished when the target score is reached.

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