German Schafkopf

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German Schafkopf
Schafkopf - the four Unters.jpg
The top trumps in the original Schafkopf game
TypePoint-trick game
DeckGerman or French
Card rank (highest first)(J) A K Q 10 9 8 7
Related games
Doppelkopf, Schafkopf, Sheepshead, Skat

German Schafkopf (German: Deutscher Schafkopf) is an old German card game and the forerunner of the popular modern games of Skat, Doppelkopf and Bavarian Schafkopf. Today it is hardly ever played in its original form, but there are a number of regional derivations.


Schafkopf appears to have developed in the early 19th century, although it is not clear when its modern-day counterpart, sometimes called Bavarian Schafkopf, emerged. In 1811, it is described as "a cute little game [played] with chalk and collection bag pennies".[1] In 1853, however, Von Alvensleben[a] describes 'Schaafkopf' as being very common, especially with the lower classes perhaps due to its ordinary name ("sheep's head"), but that it also went under the "more noble" names of Society (Societätsspiel), Conversation (Conversationsspiel) or Denunciation (Denunciationsspiel). He hypothesises that the name comes from the practice of drawing the lines denoting points scored in the form of a stylised sheep's head. He goes on to describe in detail no less that nine variants of 'Schaafkopf' (in addition to Wendish Schafkopf), but states clearly that the original one was a four-hand, point-trick, team game with 4 Unters as top trumps (Wenzels) and trump suit nominated by the bid winner, that was normally played for beer. Other variants for four, six or eight players variously use six Wenzels (two Obers and four Unters) or eight Wenzels (four Obers and four Unters). Some use Bells as the permanent trump suit and at least one is a plain-trick game. The variants (with Alversleben's lettering in brackets) are shown in brief below. They are played by teams of two, with 32 cards and variable trumps, and are point-trick games except where shown:[2]

  1. Four players, four Wenzels (A) – Urschafkopf or Ur-Schafkopf i.e. 'Ancient Schafkopf'.
  2. Four players, six Wenzels (C)
  3. Four players, eight Wenzels (D)
  4. Four players, four Wenzels, Bells, no teams, plain-trick (B) – Schellen-Schafkopf i.e. 'Bell Schafkopf'.
  5. Four players, six Wenzels, Bells (E)
  6. Six players, six Wenzels, Bells, 36 cards (F)
  7. Four players, twelve Wenzels, Bells, 2 x 24 cards (G)
  8. Six players, twelve Wenzels, Bells, 2 x 24 cards (H)
  9. Eight players, sixteen Wenzels, Bells, 2 x 32 cards (I)

No. 3 appears to be an early version of Bavarian Schafkopf, although the latter has Hearts as permanent trumps in the 'normal game'. Modern Wendish Schafkopf resembles no. 5 but has eight Wenzels; likewise Doppelkopf looks like an evolution of no. 7 to have eight Wenzels and an extra top trump, the Ten of Hearts.


The following rules appear to be based on Grupp (1994) and resemble those of von Alversleben's Type A above, the original Schafkopf game.[3]


Players and cards[edit]

German Schafkopf is played with 4 players and 32 cards which, depending on the region, may be German or French decks. The players form 2 permanent partnerships.[4]

Colours of the French suited cards
Diamonds (Karo) Hearts (Herz) Spades (Pik) Clubs (Kreuz)
♦ ♥ ♠ ♣
Colours of the German suited cards
Bells (Schellen) Hearts (Herz) Leaves (Laub) Acorns (Eichel)
Bay schellen.svg Bay herz.svg Bay gras.svg Bay eichel.svg

Card values[edit]

French deck German deck  
Card Symbol Card Symbol Points
Ace A Deuce A/ (without) 11
Ten 10 Ten 10 10
King K King K 4
Queen D Ober O 3
Jack B Unter U 2
Nine 9 Nine 9 0
Eight 8 Eight 8 0
Seven 7 Seven 7 0

Card ranking[edit]

The ranking of cards cards within the individual suits is as follows (highest to lowest): Ace (Deuce) > King > Queen (Ober) > 10 > 9 > 8 > 7

The hierarchy of the cards and their sequence within the trumps are similar to those in Bavarian Schafkopf and Skat. However, in German Schafkopf the 10 ranks between the Queen or Ober and 9, in all suits even though it is worth ten points.


German deck
Permanent trumps
Bay eichel.pngU Bay gras.pngU Bay herz.pngU Bay schelle.pngU
Additional variable trump suits
Acorns Leaves Hearts Bells
Bay eichel.pngA Bay eichel.pngK Bay eichel.pngO Bay eichel.png10 Bay eichel.png9 Bay eichel.png8 Bay eichel.png7 Bay gras.pngA Bay gras.pngK Bay gras.pngO Bay gras.png10 Bay gras.png9 Bay gras.png8 Bay gras.png7 Bay herz.pngA Bay herz.pngK Bay herz.pngO Bay herz.png10 Bay herz.png9 Bay herz.png8 Bay herz.png7 Bay schelle.pngA Bay schelle.pngK Bay schelle.pngO Bay schelle.png10 Bay schelle.png9 Bay schelle.png8 Bay schelle.png7
French deck
Permanent trumps
SuitClubs.svgJ SuitSpades.svgJ SuitHearts.svgJ SuitDiamonds.svgJ
Additional variable trump suits
Clubs Spades Hearts Diamonds
SuitClubs.svgA SuitClubs.svgK SuitClubs.svgQ SuitClubs.svg10 SuitClubs.svg9 SuitClubs.svg8 SuitClubs.svg7 SuitSpades.svgA SuitSpades.svgK SuitSpades.svgQ SuitSpades.svg10 SuitSpades.svg9 SuitSpades.svg8 SuitSpades.svg7 SuitHearts.svgA SuitHearts.svgK SuitHearts.svgQ SuitHearts.svg10 SuitHearts.svg9 SuitHearts.svg8 SuitHearts.svg7 SuitDiamonds.svgA SuitDiamonds.svgK SuitDiamonds.svgQ SuitDiamonds.svg10 SuitDiamonds.svg9 SuitDiamonds.svg8 SuitDiamonds.svg7

As in Skat, the highest trumps are the 4 Jacks or Unters in the sequence Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds or Acorns, Leaves, Hearts and Bells. The remaining trumps are specified by the player who is the declarer by naming the trump suit at the outset. The cards of the trump suit then follow in the aforementioned sequence (see above).


German Schafkopf is a partnership card game, but unlike Bavarian Schafkopf or Doppelkopf partners are not announced during the course of the game, but are permanent as in Bridge: the players facing one another are automatically partners. The seating order is determined by the drawing of playing cards before the game begins: the players who have picked the two highest cards are partners and sit opposite one another. In another variation, the players with the two black queens (or Ober of Acorns and Ober of Leaves) form a partnership (see below).



After the cards have been shuffled and cut, each player is dealt a total of eight playing cards (in two sets of four) in clockwise fashion.


After the deal, starting clockwise each player announces the maximum possible number of trumps in their hand by adding the jacks and the longest suit ("I declare x trumps").

The player with the highest number of possible trumps takes the lead in the game and names the trump suit.

If two players announce the same number of possible trumps, then the one with the higher number of trump points wins ("I declare x trumps with y points"); if this number is also the same, the higher trump wins (usually the higher jack).

Forced game[edit]

If none of the players can declare at least five trumps, the player with the Jack of Clubs (Unter of Acorns) must take the lead; if he loses, it only counts as single (i.e. he doesn't lose double or quadruple) game points.

Solo games[edit]

As in Bavarian Schafkopf and Doppelkopf, solo games are also possible in German Schafkopf. Here, a solo player plays against the other three players.


Players must follow suit. If a player cannot do so, any card may be played.


Example of a completed "sheep's head" used for scoring

There are three types of games won:

  • Straight win (61 to 89 points scored): if the winner chose trumps he gets one game point, otherwise he gets two
  • Schneider win (more than 90 points scored): if the winner chose trumps he gets two game points, otherwise four
  • Schwarz win (opponents have no tricks): the winner gets nine game points, regardless of who chose trumps (nine dashes correspond to a whole sheep's head).

In a forced game, however, a winner who did not choose trumps gets the same as one who did.

For each game point won, the winner draws a line on a sheet of paper. The game is won by the first player to complete draw nine dashes in the shape of a sheep's head, the Schafkopf: four dashes arranged in a rectangle form the shape of the head, two dashes form the eyes, two more the horns and a single dash in the middle represents the nose.


The game described is the earliest form of German Schafkopf. Apart from Bavarian Schafkopf and the other early variants mentioned above, further variants have been developed, some in different regions. These include:

  • Blattla, no Wenzels, Hearts as permanent trumps
  • Bierkopf, a Franconian variant of modern Schafkopf with fixed teams and no solos
  • Mucken, another Franconian variant with different contracts
  • Bauernstoß, which is played in the Palatine region of Erfweiler.[5]

In an East German book of game rules[6] there are the following variations of German Schafkopf which appear to reflect, in part, von Alversleben's variants:

  1. Classic Schafkopf: as described, Jacks/Wenzel are always trumps, the player with the so-called 'old man', the Jack of Clubs or the Unter of Acorns, must choose trumps if all pass or cannot bid more than 5 trumps.
  2. Schafkopf with six (eight) Wenzeln and changing trumps: Queen of Clubs (Ober of Acorns) and Queen of Spades (Ober of Leaves) (and Queen of Hearts (Ober of Hearts) and Queen of Diamonds (Ober of Bells)) are declared as trumps and outrank the old man. The player with the old man calls trumps, if this has not been decided beforehand by the bidding process.
  3. Schafkopf with four (six, eight) Wenzels and remaining trumps: Jacks/Wenzel (plus the 2 highest Queens/Obers or all 4) and Diamonds/Bells are always trumps.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Von Alversleben appears to have copied his description from an 1817 source by Hammer called Taschenbuch für Kartenspieler


  1. ^ Bruckmann 1811, p. 22.
  2. ^ von Alversleben 1853, pp. 465-479.
  3. ^ Grupp 1994, pp. 41/42.
  4. ^ Grupp, Claus D. Doppelkopf Schafkopf. Niedernhausen: Falken (1994), p. 41. ISBN 3 8068 2015 5.
  5. ^ "Bauernstoss" - ein unterhaltsames Kartenspiel aus Erfweiler/ Pfalz
  6. ^ _ 1988, p. 177-179.


  • _ (1988). Spielregelbüchlein mit Skatordnung. p. 177, 8th edn., Spielkartenfabrik Altenburg.
  • Bruckmann, Karl (1811). Karl Bruckmann oder William Sterne, Findling des Harzgebirges und Bewohner einer einsamen Insel der Südsee, Part 2, J.D. Schöps, Zittau and Leipzig.
  • Danyliuk, Rita (2008). 1 × 1 der Kartenspiele - Bridge, Skat und Schafkopf. Glücks- und Familienspiele. Patiencen, Kartentricks u.v.m. Humboldt, Baden-Baden, ISBN 978-3-89994-188-3
  • Danyliuk, Rita (2008). Das große Taschenbuch der Freizeitspiele: Spiele für unterwegs und Schönwettertage, Munich: Humboldt, pp. 149-151.
  • Grupp, Claus D. (1997). Doppelkopf - Schafkopf - Tarock. Original edition. Falken, Niedernhausen/ Ts., 1997, ISBN 3-635-60223-X
  • Hammer, Paul (1817). Taschenbuch der Kartenspiele, Weygandschen Buchhandlung, Leipzig.
  • Von Alvensleben, L. (1853). Encyclopädie der Spiele. Otto Wigand, Leipzig.

External links[edit]