|Players||4 (variants: 3-6)|
|Skill(s) required||Tactics & Strategy|
|Card rank (highest to lowest)||A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6|
|Playing time||45 minutes - 1 hour|
Jass (pronounced /jas/) is a trick taking card game and a distinctive branch of the Marriage family, popularly supposed to be the progenitor of the American game of Pinochle. It is popular throughout the Alemannic German speaking area of Europe (German-speaking Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Alsace part of France, Vorarlberg province of Austria, South-Western Germany (Baden-Wuerttemberg land) and beyond in Romansh-speaking Graubünden and in French-speaking Suisse romande of Switzerland as well as German-speaking South Tyrol in Italy.
The most common variant of Jass is the Schieber (in Vorarlberg also known as Krüzjass), played by two teams of two players each. It is often considered Switzerland's national card game, and is so popular there that the Swiss have come to apply the name Jass to trick-taking card games in general.
Jass, first mentioned in Switzerland in 1796, was originally the name of the highest trump, the Jack, in a family of related games originally spread from the Netherlands during the Late Middle Ages.
Today, Jass is the name of the game. The traditional 36-card, Swiss-German-suited pack with which it is played is called Jasskarten. By extension, Jass is often used of any game played in Switzerland with such cards. The Jack of the trump suit is not known as Jass in the contemporary game. It is called Trumpf Puur or simply Puur.
The name Schieber is from the verb schieben "to push", from the act of "pushing" the responsibility of choosing trumps on one's partner.
Jass is played with a deck of 36 cards (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6) Swiss-French or Swiss-German cards. The Swiss-French cards are in the ordinary French suits but have a distinctive design. The Swiss-German cards use Swiss suits, a variant of German suits, and also have a distinctive design.
The game is traditionally played with Swiss suited playing cards east of the Brünig-Napf-Reuss line and with the French in western Switzerland. The Swiss suits are Rosen (roses) Eicheln (acorns), Schilten (shields) and Schellen (bells).
Jass is essentially a game of points which are scored for three features known as Stöck, Wiis, Stich, respectively, "marriages, melds, tricks".
The game is won by the player (or the team) who first reaches a previously agreed target score 2500 points. Play ceases the moment one side reaches the target score, for which purpose it is important to remember that scores accrue in order "marriage, melds, tricks".
The standard Schieber involves four players, sitting in two partnerships, opposite each other. 9 cards are dealt in batches of 3s.
Eldest (holder of 7 of Roses/Hearts) may nominate the trump suit in the first match. The privilege of declaring trumps is passed around the table in counter-clockwise direction for each subsequent match (variant: each deal from the second onwards is made by a member of the side which won the previous deal, so that the losing team has the advantage of making trumps and leading first.[dubious ])
The player who may nominate the trump suit may pass (schieben) the privilege to his partner, who must then exercise it. If elder leads without making any announcement, whatever is led becomes trump.
There are a number of conventional expansions of the type of play that can be chosen beyond the four trump suits, and modifications to the value of the tricks. Most commonly:
- It is usual to double all scores made in contracts with Schilten or Schellen (the suits in Sch-, replaced by the "black" (schwarz) suits, Spades and Clubs, when playing with a French suit) as trump, treble contracts in "tops-down" in "bottoms-up". The game target may then be raised to 2500, or 3000.
- Schieber is usually played with two additional bids, Oben-abe and Unden-ufe, which may reasonably be translated respectively as "tops-down" and "bottoms-up". Both are played at no trump, so that there is no Jass or Nell, nor cards worth 20 and 14. Instead, all Eights count 8 points each when captured in tricks, thus maintaining the total of 157 points for tricks, including 5 for the last. In "tops-down"", cards rank from Ace high to Six low and in "bottoms-up" their trick taking power is in reverse order, being Six the highest in its suit, and Seven the second highest, down to Ace. For Oben-abe and Unden-ufe, the point value of 11 is transferred from Ace to the Six. Reversed ranking also applies to melds of equal length, that is, a sequence of 7 8 9 beats another of 8 9 10, although four Jack still count 200 and so beat all else.
- A team taking all nine tricks score 100 extra for the "match".
The trump Jack, also called Puur, counts 20 and is the highest card in the game. The trump Nine, or Nell, Näll, is the second best card. Plain suit numerals below 10 count nothing. The total value of all counters in the pack is 152, that is, 62 in trumps plus 30 in each plain suit. Winning the last trick scores an additional 5 points. Hence the total possible for the third scoring feature, "tricks", is normally 157 points.
- The rank of the cards, from highest to lowest, and their values in card points are shown in the following table:
|Plain suit rank||A||K||Q||J||10||9||8||7||6|
|Trump suit rank||J||9||A||K||Q||10||8||7||6|
The no-trumps game called Obenabe and Undenufe, in which the ranks are reversed, are shown in the following table:
- Marriages: A marriage is the holding in one hand of the King and Queen of trumps. Its holder claims it upon the second of them to a trick. Its score of 20 is recorded as if made before those for melds and tricks, even though it is not revealed until after melds have been declared.
- Melds: A meld is a suit-sequence of three or more cards, or a quartet of Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks scoring as follows:
- Four Jacks: scores 200
- Four 9's: scores 150
- Five or more in sequence: scores 100
- Four A, K, Q: scores 100
- Four in sequence: scores 50
- Three in sequence: scores 20
- By agreement, a meld of four Nines may be recognized, ranking below four Jacks and counts 150.
A card may not be used in two melds at once, though the trump King or Queen may belong to a meld in addition to being married, that is, a player holding four Kings and a sequence of four to the Ace or King would count only 100 for Kings, not also 50 for the sequence.
- Only the holder of the best meld may score for it, but he may also score for any other melds he holds involving entirely different cards, and in a partnership game, his partner also scores for those hold by his partner. The holder of the best meld is found in the following way as each player contributes a card to the first trick. The leader announces the value of his best meld. The next, upon playing his card, announces a higher value, he states the number of cards it contains. A longer meld beats a shorter, so the previous player then says "not good" if he can beat it, "good" if he can't, or "equal". If equal, the next states its rank if a quartet, or its top card if a sequence. A higher rank beats a lower, and the previous player again says "not good". "good", or "equal". Equality must mean a sequence is in question, which the second player can then only win by truthfully announcing "in trumps". Otherwise, all else being equal, the previous player wins by prior position. The next player in turn then competes, if he can, with the winner of the first contest. As before, the pecking order is: value, length, height, trump, position.
Eldest leads to the first trick and the winner of each trick leads to the next. The trick is taken by the highest card of the suit led, or by the highest trump if any are played. If trumps are led, suit must be followed if possible, except that a player whose only trump is the trump Jack (also called Puur), need not play it but may discard any card instead. If a plain suit is led, players must follow suit or trump, as preferred, but any trump played must be higher than any other already played to the trick. Only if unable to follow suit may any of the players then renounce.
The tactical elements of the Schieber derive mostly from the situation of two players each needing to cooperate without seeing, or being allowed to communicate about, the hand the other is holding. The choosing of the trump suit at the beginning of each match is a crucial decision. If the choosing player holds a mediocre hand, he must decide whether to make the call and hope that his partner holds at least some of the cards his hand is missing, or whether to "push" (schieben) the responsibility away in the hope that his partner has an unambiguosly strong hand.
Once the match is in progress, players need to keep track of which cards have been played, especially which card of each suit is currently the highest left in play and which trumps have been played. If the player in the lead plays a card that is certain to take the trick (called a Bock), the partner needs to recognize this and contribute as many points to the trick as he can (known as Schmieren) without sacrificing valuable cards that he may still need to use for taking a later trick.
Played by 2-4, each for himself. Each player is dealt 9 cards in batches of 3s. If four players take part in the game, the last card is turned for trumps, so that dealer does not take it into his hand until about to play the first of the tricks. If two or three play then, the top card of the first dead hand is turned for trumps, which may be exchanged for the Six of trumps if it has been dealt.
The aim is to score as much as possible for cards and melds. Each player must first declare whether or not he wants to play the hand. If not, he turns it down and sits the deal out. If all players pass, there is a new deal by the same dealer and if all but one pass, he wins without playing.
Two game points are awarded at the end of the play, one each to the players making the highest totals. If there is a tie for second, it is broken in favour of the player cutting the higher card from the pack. If only one player stays in the game, he scores them both, as does the better of two players if the other failed to make 21. Any player failing to make 21 scores a negative game point. As each player reaches seven game points he drops out of play, and the last left in is the loser.
Four players usually play, but only three are active in the game, and each in turn sits out the hand to which he deals. The scorekeeper deals first, giving 8 cards to each player in batches of 4s from a 24-card pack made by stripping out all ranks below Nine. I addition to the usual melds, a player may announce a sequence of six or a quartet of Nines, each counting 150 points. Only the soloist may score for melds, provided that he has the best, that is, if an opponent has a better meld, it does not score itself but only prevents the soloist from scoring.
Each in turn, starting with eldest, may bid or pass, and having passed may not come in again. The lowest bid is 100 and higher bids must be multiple of 10. A numerical bid is the minimum amount the soloist undertakes to make for "marriages, melds and tricks" in return for nominating trumps and leading to the first trick.
A bid of 200 is overcalled by misère, then trumps misère, then 210 etc. In misère, the soloist must lose every trick, playing at no trump. In trump misère, the suit of the card he leads is automatically trump. Players are still required to trump when unable to follow suit, but are not obliged to overtrump. A bid of 250 is over called by Pandur, and 300 by Trump Pandur. In Pandur, the soloist must win every trick, playing at no trump and in Trump Pandur, the suit of the card he leads is automatically trump.
If successful, the soloist wins a number of game points equivalent to the bid divided by 50 (maximum 6). Misère count 4, Pandur 5, Trump Pandur 6. For a failed bid, the game value is credited to each opponent. Game is 15 points or any other agreed target. If four play, the dealer gets the value of a failed bid, but not if he stands at 13 or 14 points.
Each player drops out upon reaching the target, the game being played by three, then two. The last one left in loses the game.
Trump Misère is a bit dangerous and must be made in a very short suit, typically in order to lose a card that would be even more dangerous at no trump, that is, with three safe suits and a singleton Queen, the soloist would announce "trump" and lead the Queen. As the Jack and Nine are top trumps, this would only lose if one opponent held the 10 and the others were void. If played at no trump, there would be three cards lower than the Queen, making the bid very risky. When only two players remain, so that eight cards are out of play, any misère, is riskier than usual, especially with a trump.
- David Parlett The Oxford guide to card games, pg. 292-293, David Parlett (1990) ISBN 0-19-214165-1
- Foster's complete Hoyle, p. 207, Robert Frederick Foster (1922)
- The game of Tarot: from Ferrara to Salt Lake City, p. 568, Michael A. E. Dummett, Sylvia Mann - 1980 ISBN 0-7156-1014-7
- Ralph Scotoni, Swiss Suited Playing Cards.