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Two-handed variant of Illustrated Tarock
Taroky trul.JPG
DeckIndustrie & Glück
Card rank (highest first)Tarock: Sküs, XXI-I
SuitClubs.svgSuitSpades.svgK Q C V 10 - 7
SuitDiamonds.svg K Q C V 1 - 4
Related games
Illustrated Tarock

Kosakeln ("Cossack") is a relatively recent, two-hand card game of the Austrian branch of the Tarock family. It is a two-handed version of the three-player game of Illustrated Tarock, itself an elaborate and challenging variant of Tapp Tarock.

History and etymology[edit]

The rules of Kosakeln have obvious similarities to those of the "queen of all Tarock games played with the 54-card pack",[1] Illustrated Tarock (aka "Point Tarock" although that also refers to a different point-bidding game), and Dummett confirms that it is an adaptation of that game. Illustrated Tarock emerges in the literature during the 1960s[2] and Kosakeln itself is first recorded by Beck in 1961.[3] It has featured more recently in Bamberger[4] and Burgstaller.[5] Since Kosak is German for "Cossack", the name Kosakeln means "playing [the game of] Cossack".[6]

General rules[edit]

As in other Tarock games there are no official rules. Instead the rules vary from game to game and publication to publication. The rules given here follow Bamberger with some elaborations from Burgstaller.[4][5]


Like other Tarock games in Austria and other lands of the former Habsburg Empire, Kosakeln uses a 54-card deck of the type described in the article on Königrufen. This pack contains 22 tarocks as trumps (I – XXI + Sküs) and 32 suit cards in the four French suits of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs. The game uses the same values as other Austrian tarock games like Königrufen:[7]

5 Points – Kings and Honours (I, XXI, Sküs); 4 Points – Queens; 3 Points – Cavaliers; 2 Points – Valets; 1 Point – remaining tarocks and pip cards.[7]


Counting is carried out in groups of 3 cards. From the points in each group, 2 are deducted e.g. King + Cavalier + X = 9 points, minus 2 points gives 7 points. If fewer than 3 cards remain, 2/3 points are deducted from the total. 1/3 or 2/3 points are rounded up or down at the end to the nearest whole number.[7]

Shuffling and dealing[edit]

The first dealer is chosen by lot; the player drawing the highest-ranking card wins. Dealer shuffles and forehand (the non-dealer) cuts.[4]

Six cards are laid face down to form the "Cossack talon".[5] Dealer then deals 2 packets of 4 hand cards each and alternately so that forehand gets the first packet and dealer the second. Next, 2 packets of 4 cards are dealt, face down, in front of each player; these 'middle cards' are the player's 'trick talon' or 'personal talon'. Finally a third batch of 2 x 4 cards are dealt, like the first, as hand cards, each player now having sixteen hand cards that he may look at and eight personal talon cards that he may not.[4]

Next, each player selects eight of his sixteen hand cards to discard and places them to one side, face down. No Kings or Trulls may be discarded, nor may any tarocks unless the player has no choice, in which case he must discard them face up. The discards will count towards his score at the end of the game. He then picks up the eight middle cards and adds them to his hand.[4] Burgstaller describes this as the classic variant. He goes on to describe three other ways to exchange cards:[5]

  • Medium-difficult variant: only plain suit cards may be discarded (i.e. no tarocks). If a player has fewer than 8 of these, he discards what he can (no Kings) and picks up, unseen, the same number of cards from his trick talon.
  • Easy variant: players may exchange any number of cards up to 8 (no Kings or Trulls).
  • Tactical variant: players pick up the entire trick talon and then discard 8 cards (no Kings or Trulls).


The auction (Lizitation) proceeds as in Illustrated Tarock. Possible bids are:[4]

  • Dreiblatt (Three Cards) - declarer exposes the Cossack talon and chooses the top or bottom 3 cards. Value: 3 points.
  • Zweiblatt (Two Cards) - declarer exposes the talon and chooses the top, middle or bottom 2 cards. Value: 6 points.
  • Einblatt (One Card) - declarer exposes the talon and selects one card. Value: 9 points.
  • Solo (Solo) - declarer plays without the aid of the talon. Value: 12 points.

Beginning with forehand, players announce one of the bids above, say "hold" ("ich halte") or "pass" ("passe"). This may be done in sequence e.g. "Dreiblatt" - "Zweiblatt" - "hold" - "pass" or players may jump straight to their highest bid e.g. "passe" - "Zweiblatt".[4] Although Dummett says that bidding is exactly the same as in Illustrated Tarock[2] and Beck's table does include the bid of Unterer,[8] Burgstaller and Bamberger imply that there is no equivalent of Unterer or Unteren, whereby the dealer ups the stakes without also bidding a higher contract nor does holding a bid imply raising the game value.[4][5]

The winner of the auction then exchanges with the Cossack talon as described above (except in the case of a Solo). Discards are placed face down to join the earlier ones from the exchange with the personal talon. Cards from the Cossack talon that are not picked up go to the defender and are likewise placed face down with his earlier discards, counting towards his eventual score.[4]


As in Illustrated Tarock, announcements may be made before or after the declarer picks up from the talon, announcements made before the pick-up being worth double (see Scoring below). Bamberger gives the possible announcements as:[4]

  • Pagat ultimo - taking the last trick with the Pagat (Tarock I)
  • Uhu[a]- taking the penultimate trick with the Tarock II
  • Pelican - taking the antepenultimate trick with the Tarock III
  • Absolute - scoring at least 40 card points
  • Panzer - scoring at least 50 card points
  • without Trull - winning without having any Trull cards
  • without Kings - winning without having any Kings
  • Valat - taking all tricks

Burgstaller adds the following:[5]

  • Quapil - taking the pre-antepenultimate trick with the Tarock IV
  • Four Birds - having Tarocks I-IV in one's original cards[b]
  • Trull - having all 3 Trull cards in one's original cards
  • Royal Trull/Four Kings - having all 4 Kings in one's original cards


Forehand leads to the first trick. Higher suit cards beat lower ones of the same suit; tarocks beat suit cards and lower tarocks. Players must follow suit (Farbzwang) but do not have to win the trick (no Stichzwang). If the led suit cannot be followed, a tarock card must be played (Tarockzwang).[7]


The following scoring system is based on Bamberger with additions from Burgstaller who also uses hard score where 1 game point = 10 cents. The columns "before" and "after" indicate the score for bonuses announced respectively before and after the declarer exposes and exchanges cards with the Cossack talon, where this is applicable. Bonuses held in the hand are declared at the end of the game.[c][4][5]

Kosakeln scoring system
Contracts Game value (G) Declarer's use of talon
Dreiblatt 3 Exchanges with top 3 or bottom 3 cards
Zweiblatt 6 Exchanges with top, middle or bottom 2 cards
Einblatt 9 Exchanges with one card of own choice from talon
Solo 12 No exchange with talon
Bonuses Unannounced Dreiblatt Zweiblatt Einblatt Solo
(still) after before after before after before
Pagat ultimo 3 6 12 8 16 10 20 24
Uhu 3 7 14 10 20 12 24 28
Pelican 3 8 16 12 24 14 28 32
Quapil 3 9 18 14 28 16 32 36
Absolute - 1 2 2 4 3 6 9
Panzer - 3 6 6 12 12 24 28
Valat G x 4 G x 8 (announced Valat)
without Trull - 1 2 2 4 3 6 9
without Kings - 1 2 2 4 3 6 9
Trull 1 All 3 Trull cards held at start of game
Royal Trull 1 All 4 Kings held at start of game
Four Birds 3 All 4 'birds' (Tarocks I-IV) held at start of game


  1. ^ Uhu is German for the eagle owl and a nickname for the eagle on the Tarock II
  2. ^ It is presumed that all these announcements for cards held in the 'original hand' refer to all those held in a player's hand cards, personal talon or picked up from the Cossack talon, but this is not explicitly stated
  3. ^ Beck does not have a separate scoring system for Kosakeln but refers the reader to his rules for Illustrated Tarock. These vary considerably from the scoring table given here.


  1. ^ Dummett 1980, p. 480.
  2. ^ a b Dummett 1980, p. 488.
  3. ^ Beck 1961.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bamberger 2011, pp. 28-34.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Burgstaller 2017, pp. 98-112.
  6. ^ Worsch 2004, p. 624.
  7. ^ a b c d Bamberger 2011, pp. 15-18.
  8. ^ Beck 1983, p. 93.


  • Bamberger, Johannes (2011). Tarock: die schönsten Varianten, Perlen-Reihe Vol. 640, 22nd edition, Verlag Perlen-Reihe, Vienna. ISBN 978-3-99006-000-1
  • Beck, Fritz (1961). Tarock komplett, 3rd edition. Perlan-Reihe Vol. 640. Perlan-Reihe, Vienna.
  • Beck, Fritz (1983). Tarock komplett, 12th edition. Perlan-Reihe Vol. 640. Perlan-Reihe, Vienna.
  • Burgstaller, Thomas (2017). Tarock zu Zweit. myMorawa, Austria. ISBN 978-3-99057-951-0
  • Dummett, Michael (1980). The Game of Tarot. Duckworth, London. ISBN 0 7156 1014 7
  • Worsch, Wolfgang (2004). Langenscheidt Muret-Sanders Großwörterbuch Deutsch-Englisch. Langenscheidt, Berlin. ISBN 3-468-02126-7