Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scoundrel's whist: A card game

Scoundrel's Whist is a game for four players. It is a trick-taking game with some similarities to whist, but with a greater emphasis on competitive play and a scoring system that rewards capturing many low cards rather than taking many tricks.

One player is selected as the dealer, who shuffles the deck and deals out thirteen cards to each player, beginning with the player to his left. The final card is dealt face-up onto the table, and indicates which suit is trump. After the trump suit is chosen, the dealer adds the card to his hand, and play commences with the player to his left.

In addition to the trump suit, two cards trump all other cards: the Jack of Clubs and the Jack of Spades. These two cards are known as the "scoundrels." If the two scoundrels are played in the same trick, the second scoundrel wins the trick. However, when a player wins a trick with scoundrels, he or she discards the scoundrels from the trick. Thus, the point value of the scoundrels don't count against his or her score.

The first player leads the trick, placing a single card face up on the table. Each player continuing to the left plays an additional card to the trick, and must play a card of the same suit if they have one. A player with no card of the suit may discard a card into the trick or play a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit that led, or otherwise the highest trump card. After a trick is won, the player turns the cards face down into their pile. Play continues around to the left until all 13 tricks have been played.

After the tricks have been played, players count up the value of their cards, and the player with the highest point total wins. Cards are scored as follows: All face cards and 10s are worth -1 points, the 8s and 9s are worth zero points, and all 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, and 7s are worth one point.

A canny observer might notice some parallels; other scoring systems are occasionally used.

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