Marco Von Ballmoos - email@example.com
Jass is a Swiss card game commonly played by four people in two teams. To play, you need a deck of 36 cards, with only the Ace through 6 of each suit (if you have a 52 card deck, remove 2 through 5 in each suit). A team's players should be located diagonally across from each other at the playing surface.
Choose a player to deal the cards. Starting with the player to the right, deal 3 cards at a time to each player until everyone has 9 cards. Each player should look only at their own cards.
Jass play is very hierarchical. When two teams play, they play a tourney, which may consist of any number of matches (usually odd, so a winner is determined). A Jass match consists of the number of games required for a team to reach 2500 points. Each game has 9 hands (one for each card dealt). Each hand has 4 cards, one thrown by each player.
Before playing a hand, one of the teams must choose a trump for that game. For the first match of a tourney, the player with the 10 of Hearts chooses a trump. After selecting (and announcing) a trump, that player plays a card to start the hand. Play proceeds to the right, with each player, in turn, playing a card until 4 cards are thrown. That completes the hand and the team that won that hand collects those cards. The player that threw the card that won that hand throws the first card in the next hand. Play continues this way until the game is finished (all cards have been played).
Trump passes to the right, too. That is, the player to the right of the last player to choose trump selects trump for the next game. In this way, the opportunity to select trump is passed from player to player in order and alternates by team.
The first card thrown establishes the suit for that hand. Other players must play a card in this suit, if possible. Otherwise, they may play any card they wish*. The strongest card in the established suit will win the hand. Whichever player played that card collects that hand, turns it over and plays the first card in the next hand. Once a hand is complete, no one at the table may look at it. (this rule can be relaxed as much as desired, depending on amity, drunkenness, etc. However, all players should agree on the interpretation to be used, to avoid conflict.)
Within each suit, the Ace is the strongest card and the 6 is the weakest card. From strongest to weakest, the cards are:
Normal suit: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.
The player to the right of the dealer chooses a trump. When the hand is finished, that player deals the cards. Trump is passed from team to team and player to player this way.
In standard Jass, the player chooses one of the 4 suits as the trump suit. This suit is then stronger than any of the other suits in that game. Even if another suit is led (established), a player may elect to play a trump, even if they also have a card in the established suit. The strongest trump in a hand wins it. If there are no trumps in the hand, the strongest card in the established suit wins it.
However, in the trump, the Jack is the strongest, followed by the 9, with the rest of the cards in the same order as before. From strongest to weakest, the cards are:
Trump suit: Jack, 9, Ace, King, Queen, 10, 8, 7, 6.
If a trump is the established suit for hand, other players must follow with a trump, if possible. The only exception to this rule is the Jack of trump*. A player does not have to play this card. For example, the first 3 players in a hand have played the 6, 7, Queen of trump. The remaining player's only trump is the Jack. They wouldn't want to play it because while it wins the hand, the hand does not contain many points (see Card point values). Since the trump is the Jack, the player can throw a different card (see Strategies:Throwing away). If their only remaining trump was anything other than the Jack, they would have to throw that card, as with any other suit (see How to play a hand).
*Jack of trump is called 'Bur' (pronounced 'Boor') in Swiss German (phonetic spelling)
A more advanced form of Jass adds more choices for the player selecting a trump. The player may forgo using a trump at all and simply play all cards according to their normal strengths. Or the player may elect to use no trump, and reverse all the normal stengths of the cards. In both these variations, the strongest card in the established (first-thrown) suit wins the hand. From strongest to weakest, the cards are:
No trumps: Ace, King, Queen,
Jack, 10, 9,
8, 7, 6.
No trumps, reversed: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
Note: In Swiss German, the no-trumps mode is called Oben-abe (from top, down, pronounced 'Obenabe') and the reversed mode is called Unen-uffe (from below, up, pronounced 'Oonenoofe'). (Both spellings are phonetic)
If the designated player cannot choose trump, they can ask their partner to choose trump*. The teammate indicates their choice, but does not play the first card. The designated player then plays the first card in the chosen trump. If the player doesn't have trump, they must play a card anyway (see Strategies:If you have no trump).
See also Strategies:Choosing a trump.
*In Swiss German, one passes the trump by saying 'Gschobe' (pronounced 'Kshobe'). If the trump is decided in this way, it is called a 'Schieber' (pronounced 'Shee-eber'). This literally means 'passing over' or 'something that was passed'.
A player may also declare that they have certain cards at the start of a hand, both to indicate to their partner which cards they have and to score points. It is important to remember these declarations; they can be very useful in determining which card to play in a hand (see Strategies).
If a player's 9 cards have any sequences of 3 or more cards in the same suit, or have 4 of a kind (only certain kinds), they may declare this when they play their card during the first hand. The player can only say what kind of combination he/she has*, not which cards it entails. When all 4 cards in the first hand have been played, the players with combinations must declare the strongest card in that combination, starting with the player who started the hand and proceeding to the right. If an opposing player has already declared a stronger combination, a player cannot make their declaration.
Upon winning the declaration, the player with the strongest combination must specify the suit and strength of each combination and may write down points for it. The partner of the player that has the strongest combination also may declare and score any and all combinations, even if a player on the opposing team had a stronger combination.
Only certain 4 of a kinds are valid. Which ones are valid also depends on the trump. From strongest to weakest, the 4 of a kinds are:
Normal trump: Jack, Ace,
King, Queen, 10.
No trump (oben-abe): Jack, Ace, King, Queen, 10.
No trump, reversed (unen-uffe): Jack, 6, 10, Queen, King.
*You may also announce the combination by saying its point value (see Card point values).
Note: You do not have to declare a combination if you do not wish to. The number of points you gain, however, will almost always outweigh any strategic gain from withholding the information from the other team. Likewise, you are not penalized for forgetting to declare a combination.
There is one more special declaration a player can make. If a player has both the King and Queen of the trump suit, they may declare it after they have played both the King and Queen. This combination, called 'stöck', is purely a point-scoring declaration and cannot be contested. Nor does it impart strategic information, since it is declared after being played. A player may only declare it early if they have a sequence in which the combination is implicit (e.g. if they have King, Queen, Jack of trump) and their team won the combination declaration.
After the second card is played, the team may still declare Stöck at any point until the score is written (if they forget to declare when the card is played).
Note: in Swiss German, a declaration is called a 'Wies' (pronounced 'Vees'). Sequences are named after the number of cards, followed by 'blatt' (e.g. 'Dreiblatt', 'Vierblatt', 'Funfblatt').
Each type of trump is scored differently, but each game, no matter the trump, is worth 157 points. Listed below are the card point values for each suit and type of trump. Deviations from the normal suit values are highlighted.
|Normal trump - normal suit||11||4||3||2||10||0||0||0||0|
|Normal trump - trump suit||11||4||3||20||10||14||0||0||0|
|No trump (Oben-abe)||11||4||3||2||10||0||8||0||0|
|No trump, reversed (Unen-uffe)||0||4||3||2||10||0||8||0||11|
When the game is over (all 9 hands have been played), the team with the least number of cards should count their score. The other team subtracts that score from 157 (the total number of points in any game, regardless of trump) to get their own score. If one team gets all 9 hands in a game, then they get a 100 point bonus, for a total of 257 points. Before writing the score, it is multiplied by a modifier, depending on the trump. The modifiers are as follows:
Red trump (hearts, diamonds):
Black trump (clubs, spades): double
No trump (normal, reverse): triple
Therefore it is possible to score 771 points (257 x 3) in one game!
When a player declares a combination, they also score points for their team (see Declaring cards:Determining a winner). The possible combinations are as follows:
|Sequence of 3 cards||20 points|
|Sequence of 4 cards||50 points|
|Sequence of 5 cards or more||100 points|
|4 of a kind||100 points|
|4 Jacks||200 points|
These points are also multiplied by the modifier for the current trump.
One player from each team keeps track of the score for a match. The scorers should alternate between matches. Score is traditionally kept on a small chalkboard, but a sheet of paper works well too. Divide the sheet as shown below, keeping track of most of the points in the main section to the left, with strokes.
Any remainders should be written in a column to the right. Keep the remainders as small as possible and consolidate whenever possible. It should never be more than 20 points in total. This system makes it very simple to see the current score and eliminates the need for scratching out old scores, etc.
If a team scores more than 500 points in a single game, they may write a V in the hundreds row*.
*This is called the bird, or Vogel, in Swiss German, because it kind of looks like a bird. You may, at your discretion, pretend that you are a bird by flapping your arms, but gauge your opponent's sense of humor first. :-)
The first team to declare that they have reached 2500 points is the winner. The wording here is important. If a team reaches 2500 points, but does not declare it (usually by thanking the other team*), they have not won. If then the other team passes 2500 points and declares it, they win.** A team does not need to finish the game in order to declare that they won. A player may count points as the hands are won (multiplying by the appropriate modifier for that trump) and figure out that they won. A win can be declared at any time.
There is a rule is Swiss German that goes: 'Stöck, Vees, Stich'. When counting points for a hand, the points earned from a stöck are counted first, then points from a declaration (Vees), then the points from the hand (the first hand in this case). Normally, this doesn't matter, but if both teams are close to finishing, then order matters.
This opens up interesting possibilities for the last game of a match (see Strategies:End game for more scenarios).
*In Swiss German, you say 'Mir Bedanken Eus', which means 'we thank you both'.
**Yes, no matter how many points the first team has. Jass is about paying attention.
When a team wins a match, they get points in the tourney (see Basic gameplay). If the losing team has not made 1250 points, or made it halfway*, then the winning team gets 2 tourney points. There is no standard for tracking these points. Some people like to put a big 'X' through the score sheet on the winner's side. Considering the effort put into getting tourney points, there's usually not a problem remembering them.
*This is called making it 'aus dem schnieder', which literally means 'getting past the cut-off'.
These strategies are suggestions for improving your play and enjoyment of the game. They are not rules. Sometimes they make so much sense that they're almost like rules, except that not following them is legal, but suicidal.
A term used a lot in the strategies below is Bok. This means a card that cannot be taken. Boks are relative. If only one team has trump left and one partner has an Ace, it is a Bok. If a member of the team without trump has an Ace, it is not a Bok, since it can be taken by a trump. If the Ace in a suit has been played, then the King is Bok, and so on.
Also notice that there is an emphasis on suit trumps in the strategies. That's because they are more complicated. All of these strategies can be applied to the no-trump variations without the complication of the trump suit. A lot of these strategies will also show the pros and cons of a situation, rather than list rules. That's because there are so many factors which affect the decision. These strategies are to jump-start your Jass play, but most of them become self-evident after you play the game enough.
Please pardon the switch to second tense, it's just easier for these examples.
A player whose turn it is to make trump has different standards than a player to whom trump has been passed.
If it is your turn to make trump, follow these rules:
If your partner passed the trump choice to you, follow these rules:
If you are playing a trump suit hand, it's never to your advantage for the other team to have trump cards. You will need to count* the trumps as they are played to determine whether the other team has any trumps left. If it is your turn to start the first hand of the game, play your highest trump. Always. This accomplishes several things:
Rules for when to lead trump/stop leading trump:
If it isn't your trump, but you won a hand anyway, you still want to get rid of the trump. If you know the other team still has trump, throw out your trump and draw it out. Only the Jack can be held back (see standard trump), and, more often than not, it is played in the first hand. Make the other team play their trumps out.
If trump is not the established suit, you obviously don't have to throw trump. However, there are times when you will want to take that hand and you don't have a stronger card in the established suit.
First of all, you should almost never trump a hand that your partner will win. However, if you have a lot of Boks and can finish out the game, by all means, trump it.
If you have a handful of Boks, you should trump the hand and play your own Boks. It is almost always better to be in charge of the game. If you don't have a lot of Boks (or only one, or none at all), you may have to bide your time to see when a good time to play the trump is. Remember, though, you have a partner, and they may have Boks to play if you would only trump, take control and play their suit for them.
If have to pass the choice of trump to a partner and they choose a trump suit in a suit that you don't have*, you will have to play a non-trump card to start the hand. In this case, since there are 9 trumps left in the game and you don't know which ones you partner has, you shouldn't play a Bok card. Bok cards at the start of a game are generally high-value cards (see Card point values) and you may lose it needlessly. Instead choose a card according to Strategies:Signalling your strong suit.
If your team cannot win the hand, throw a card according to Strategies:Throwing Away.
*See point 3 in Strategies:choosing trump
You and your partner have taken all of the trump from the other team. You took the last hand and have control (the lead) of the next hand. You don't have a Bok. If both you and your partner have trump, you still have a shot at winning all of the hands. Follow the rules in Strategies: Signalling your strong suit:leading. If your partner does not have the Ace, they can use a trump to maintain control. Perhaps, a member of the other team will be forced to throw the Ace (if it's the only card in the established suit they have left) and then your partner can play that suit back and let you take it.
If you have enough trump, you should continue to do this until your team can win some hands without using trump. Even if the hand has no points in it, the other partner should use trump to maintain control of the game. At that point, you are still trying to win all of the hands and get the 100 point bonus (see Scoring:Calculating the score). If you know your team doesn't have enough trump (or has no chance at getting Boks), then be more frugal with the trump and use them only when there are a lot of points in the hand. In general, this will be when there are at least 10 points in the hand. Sometimes you'll get 30, but don't count on it. Many a trump has been thrown onto a 3 point hand because the big point hand never came.
If you don't have a card in the established suit, and don't want to throw a trump, you'll have to throw away a card. If the other team is going to win that hand, throw a weak, low-valued card*. If your partner is going to win the hand, then throw a weak high-valued card*. You can also give your partner a signal (see Strategies:Signalling your strong suit).
If you can win the hand, consider using a weaker card to do so, to maximize your Boks. For example, it is a no-trump and the other 3 players have played their cards, which are the 8, 9, Jack. You have the Queen and the Ace. The King has not yet been played. You should play the Queen to win the hand, then play the Ace to win the next hand.
*See Card values
If you won the last hand, you have to lead the first card in the next hand. If you can't or don't want to lead trump, and don't have any Bok cards, you can still do something useful. If you have a card that is almost a Bok and have another weak card in that suit, play the weak card as your lead card. This accomplishes 2 things:
Remember, the other team is probably using this strategy, too. If a player on the other team plays a weak Diamond, and you take it. Don't play Diamonds. They probably have the Bok.
Another opportunity for signalling comes when your partner is leading and you don't have the established suit. If you have a strong suit or a Bok, play a card in the opposite suit as your card. Your partner should note this, and when they have exhausted their own Boks, they can play a card in that suit (again, if possible) so you can take it. You use a different suit to signal the suit you want so that you don't waste cards in your strong suit. The opposite suits are:
Hearts is the opposite of Diamonds
Spades is the opposite of Clubs
If you are strong in 2 suits other than the one being played, play a card in the opposite of the established suit. For example, if you have strong Spades and Clubs, and your partner is playing Hearts, play a Diamond. They will know you don't want Hearts (you don't have any) and know you don't want Diamonds (you're throwing them away).
If you are strong in only one suit, but your partner is playing the opposite of that suit, you can throw away one card in each of the other suits (in 2 different hands, of course). For example, you have strong Clubs, but your partner is playing Spades. Throw away a Heart, then a Diamond. Your partner will know you don't want Hearts or Diamonds, so will play Clubs.
The examples above are in an ideal hand where you have the card you need to signal with and your partner picks up on the signal. Sometimes it's just not possible. Don't worry about it. Often you will simply want to give your partner points (see Card values). Often your partner will assume that a 10 is simply given as points, rather than as a signal. For this reason, only the first card you throw which doesn't follow the established suit is considered to be a signal. Therefore, the 2 card signal outlined above will only work if your partner is paying close attention.
Again, playing experience with that partner will help a lot. Playing with a partner with a radically different style will be very confusing. Even if you and your partner are experienced, there will always be times when you just throw a card and your partner interprets it as a signal. Again, don't worry about it. You just might have bad cards.
If at any point (usually earlier in a hand) you find that you have the lead and have Boks in 3 suits, but only one away from a Bok in the fourth suit, you should play backwards. Play a bad card in the suit in which you don't have a Bok. Hopefully, the Bok will be played on that hand. You lost one hand, but now you have a Bok in every suit and can recapture the lead on the next hand. This is very useful for freeing up a long suit that you can't win right away.
For example, you have to make trump. You have 6 of Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades. You also have the 7, 8, Jack, Queen of Hearts. On first examination, this looks like a near-miss on an Unen-Uffe trump and you would have to pass. However, if you play the Jack of Hearts first, you will probably force the 6 to be played. Then you have 5 Boks and a probable Bok in the Queen of Hearts. That's a good trump now.
This strategy can be applied at any point in a game, but is most applicable to hands near the beginning.
If you have a near-Bok in the established suit, then throw a weaker card in that suit (even if it is a high point value card). That way, you now have the Bok in that suit. Likewise if the established suit is a different suit and you have a near-Bok and another card, try to keep that other card too. If you throw it away, you will be forced to play your near-Bok on the Bok card when it appears.
For example, it is a no-trump (Oben-abe), you have the King and 10 of Diamonds and no Clubs. If Clubs is played, don't throw the 10 of Diamonds if you can help it (even if it is for your partner) because then when the Ace of Diamonds is played, you will be forced to throw the King on it. Of course, these suggestions are all relative to your cards and the game. If you really need the points, throw the 10 anyway.
You should count cards as much as possible. If it is suit trump, then make sure you know how many trumps are left in the game. Try to keep track of the cards in suits in which you have Boks or near Boks*.
For example, if you're playing a no-trump and you have the Ace, King, 10, 8 of Hearts in your hand, keep track of whether the Queen and Jack have been played. If they have, then you can play the 10 without fear of it being taken.
*Some players feel that it is legal to announce a Bok when playing it, so that their partner may play accordingly. They also feel that one may ask if a card is a Bok and expect a straight answer. Others feel that it is more challenging to disallow announcing Boks and expect all players to count cards for themselves. Play as you like.
Towards the end of the match, a team's choice of trump becomes more important and can be affected by the relative scores of the 2 teams. If both teams are close to winning, be careful about making a triple-valued trump (no-trump, normal or reverse), since then a declaration may be enough points for one team to win. Also see point 2 in Strategies:Choosing a trump.
This is still a 4 player game. Deal the cards normally. Instead of making trump, the player to the right of the dealer starts the bidding. Players bid on how many points they think they can make in that hand and specify what the trump would be for that bid. Bidding starts at 40 points and goes up, in increments of 10 to 'Sidi' (or all of the cards).
The lower bids (40 - 80 points) are used to impart information about a player's cards to their partner. If partners bid on the same thing, they can then bid higher. There are some rules of thumb for lower bids:
A player can bid on a couple of Aces to see if their partner responds, then bid a trump later if their partner has that same trump or has some Aces too.
A player may pass the bid on to the next player without bidding. If 3 players do so, then the remaining player has won the bid and may start the game. This player may also change the bid at this point, but then bidding continues until 3 players pass.
If a player does not want to bid, but thinks that the opposite team won't make their bid, they can declare 'Bookel' (phonetic). This doubles the value (but not the required points) of the current bid. If all players pass, then the player that won the bid starts the game. After a Bookel declaration, any player may still bid, though, normally, the team that issued the Bookel will not do so. If any player bids again, the Bookel is voided and bidding continues until 3 players pass.
Here's some sample bidding sessions:
|40: Unen-uffe||player has one 6|
|50: Hearts||player has the 9 of Hearts and 2 other Hearts|
|70: Oben-abe||player has two Aces|
|120: Hearts||player has the Jack of Hearts and is really raising the bid|
|Pass||player stops bidding|
|Pass||player lets partner win bid|
|Pass||player stops bidding|
|60: Spades||player has the Jack with 2 others and is very strong|
|80: Unen-uffe||player has 2 6s|
|100: Oben-abe||player has strong Oben-abe, but this is no longer indicating 2 Aces|
|120: Unen-uffe||player has strong Unen-uffe, and wants to win the bid|
|130: Spades||player has great suit trump, and will leverage partner's Oben-Abe to make the bid|
|Sidi: Unen-uffe||player has only Unen-uffe and thinks, combined with partner, can make all the hands|
This is the highest bid, so there is no need for everyone to pass.
If a team makes their bid, they write their points from the hand plus the bid points. If a team does not make their bid, the other team writes the bid points.
All trumps are equally valued in this game. There are no double or triple valued trumps. Therefore, a red trump is just as good as Oben-abe. This also makes this version take much longer than an ordinary game.
A team does not declare a win in this version. The first team to 2500 points wins. If both teams reach 2500 points, then the one with the most points wins the match. For this reason, the last hand must be completed.
There are two known variations:
Each player is a team. Deal 12 cards to each player. The last card dealt designates the trump. This card still belongs to the third player and selects the trump as follows:
no-trump, reverse: 6, 7
no-trump, normal: Ace, King
suit trump: Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8
No one calls trump in this version. If you like, you can apply some of the options in Variations:Jass for 2.
Deal the first hand as above, but don't choose a card for trump. Starting with the dealer, start bidding on how many points a player thinks they can make on their own before the team reaches 1000 points. Generally, if you have a great trump in the first hand, you can be more confident about bidding higher. The highest bidder gets to play alone. Play hands until the single player makes the bid or the team makes 1000 points. Trump passes to the single player every other time, and alternates on the team players. If the team makes 1000, they get 1 tourney point. If the single player makes his/her bid, he/she gets 2 tourney points.
Each player is a team. Deal 12 cards to each player. Leave 12 cards in a pile, face down. Flip the top card. This card designates the trump for that hand and selects the trump as follows:
no-trump, reverse: 6, 7
no-trump, normal: Ace, King
suit trump: Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8
The rules for these modes of play aren't so hard and fast, so make up whatever you like, here's some other options: