The suit of Bells from a Bavarian pack
|Card rank (highest first)||A K O U 10 9 8 7|
Bolachen (the stress is on the second syllable; the “e” is also sounded) is a traditional card game for 3 players that is played in Bavaria.
The origin of Bolachen is not exactly clear, however, it is mainly found today in southern Upper Bavaria. However, like the similar but more complex Wallachen, it is rarely played anymore and is thus threatened with extinction. It may well be the variant or synonym of Préférence described by Geiser as "Polachen".
Bolachen, like Schafkopf, is played with a German pack of Bavarian pattern cards. These are usually marketed under the name Tarock/ Schafkopf and contain 36 cards. For Wallachen and many other Bavarian card games the Sixes are removed.
|Suits of the German pack|
|Bells (Schellen)||Hearts (Herz)||Leaves (Gras)||Acorns (Eichel)|
The ranking of cards for trick-taking is: Sow ("A") > King > Ober > Unter > 10 > 9 > 8 > 7 When determining the soloist (also called the declarer), the suits rank in the following order: Hearts > Bells > Leaves > Acorns.
The aim for the declarer is to win his chosen contract - in a normal game (Brand) by taking at least six of the eight tricks; in a Bettel by losing every trick and in a Mord by winning every trick. The aim of the two defenders is to thwart the declarer. Like Wallachen, it is usually played for small monetary stakes, which enables, for example, a limit to be set as the winner's target.
The dealer rotates clockwise with each hand. He shuffles the cards and deals, first, a packet of three to each player, then a packet of four and finally another packet of three. After dealing the first packet of three to each player, two cards are set aside as the dopper.
Contracts and bidding
There are basically three different ways in which the players attempt to win a game:
- Brand: the declarer has to take at least six tricks. One suit is nominated as trumps by the declarer himself (value: one unit).
- Bettel: the declarer has to take no tricks to win (value: 2 units).
- Mord: in this contract the declarer must take all the tricks to win (value: 3 units).
The player to the left of the dealer is the first to announce what he will play or to pass. The next player does likewise. In the event that neither wants to play a game, the dealer has to do so. The following rules apply:
- One player becomes the declarer; this is the player who as chosen the highest-value contract. The contracts rank as follows: Mord > Bettel > Heart Brand > Bell Brand > Leaf Brand > Acorn Brand.
- If two players announce a contract of the same value, the declarer is the one who first announced it (i.e. the nearest to the dealer’s left).
- In the normal case, a player does not have to nominate the trump suit until he has picked up the dopper. If several players want to bid for a Brand, the trump suit must be determined beforehand, after that the player may only switch to a higher-value trump or contract (Bettel or Mord).
Game start and play
Once the declarer has been determined, he may view the dopper and, if he wishes, exchange one or both of these cards for one or two of his own cards. However, the hand must always contain 10 cards to start the game. An exception to picking up the dopper occurs if Mord or Bettel is played. Then the declarer may call for a card from another player, which that player has to exchange with the declarer for a card of his choice. Only after that, may cards be exchanged with the dopper.
Now a normal series of trick taking begins, as in Watten or other games, until all the cards are "used up". Naturally, the player who wins the trick always leads to the next trick or, in the case of the first trick, it is the declarer who leads. However, there are important features of Bolachen:
- Trump cards are only used in Brand; otherwise the highest card of the led suit wins.
- Suit must be followed: if Leaves have been led, players must follow with Leaves (unless they do not have any).
- However, the above rule only applies as long as the card has not yet been beaten. If it has already been headed by a fellow defender with whom you are playing against the declarer, so to speak, you do not have to follow suit (to avoid wasting trump cards).
When all cards are "used up", if the declarer wins the other players must pay him the value of the contract; and vice versa if the declarer loses.
- Geiser, Remigius (2004). "100 Kartenspiele des Landes Salzburg", in Talon, Issue 13, pp. 37/38.
- The card is a Sow or Deuce, but is marked with an "A" and often misleadingly called an Ace