Mariage (card game)
Mariage (German: [maʁiˈaːʒə]) or Mariagespiel is a German 6-card trick-and-draw game for two players in which players score bonus points for the "marriage" of King and Queen of the same suit. The game, first documented in 1715 in Leipzig, spawned numerous offshoots throughout continental Europe. Many of these are still the national card games of their respective countries.
The King–Queen card games, also known as the marriage group, are a family of point-trick games of which the Mariagenspiel is the earliest and most typical representative. Games in this family are typically played by 2–4 players using a pack of 20–40 cards, with aces and tens scoring 11 and 10 points in tricks, respectively, and marriages scoring 40 points in trumps and 20 points in a plain suit.:261ff An elaborated form of Mariagenspiel known under various names including Klaberjass and Bela is especially popular among Jewish communities and spread worldwide. Its offshoots form the Jass group Jack–Nine card games, characterized by the fact that the Jack and Nine of the trump suit are the highest trumps.:305
According to David Parlett, the modern German/Austrian Mariagenspiel variant, Sixty-Six, which remains close to the original, is "one of the best two-handers ever devised".:261 The "marriage" theme seems to have originated in France in the context of unrelated card games. Two-handed Schnapsen and three-handed Mariáš and Ulti are the most popular card games in the area of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Klaberjass, first documented in the Low Countries as a Jewish game, developed into Dutch Klaverjas, Swiss Jass and French Belote. Bezique and its variants, Binokel and Pinochle, are further examples of popular games in the King–Queen or marriage family.:305ff This card game should not be confused with Nepalese card game marriage.
Earliest known rules
As Mariagenspiel (German for mariage game, using the original French word for marriage rather than the German word, Heiraten), the game was first described in a 1715 ladies' encyclopedia printed in Leipzig. The game's entry said that the game was popular among ladies, and the entry for playing card listed Mariage first among nine card games played with the German pack. Despite the marriage theme, the Queen was replaced by the equivalent male character in the German cards. Apart from the standard Queen/Ober, Jack/Unter translation, the game described was precisely as follows.
Mariagenspiel is played by two players, each of whom receives a hand of 6 cards. The thirteenth card is turned face-up for trumps and can be robbed with the seven of trumps. While the stock lasts, after each trick players fill up their hands. As soon as the stock is depleted, players must follow suit.
A mariage of King and Queen of the same suit is worth 20 points, or 40 points in trumps. The winner of the last trick receives 10 points. Players must not announce or score a mariage before they have won at least one trick.
The rules mention that some play a variant in which the bonus points for marriages are replaced by side-payments, so that there are always 130 points in a deal.
A number of ambiguities in this description correspond to variations in the game's offshoots. The number of cards is not specified (although from the entry for playing card it follows that it was most likely 32), and in the modern games it is typically 20, 24 or 32. It is not specified when and how a mariage is announced. In some modern games, players can announce a mariage from their hands at any time, or only after winning a trick. In others a mariage occurs when King and Queen fall into the same trick. In the second phase of the game players must follow suit, but it is not specified whether they must win the trick if possible, or whether they must trump if they cannot follow suit. All these variations exist in modern offshoots of the game.
The rules do not specify whether tens rank high (between ace and king) or low (between Jack and nine). As late as in the 1820 re-edition of the Berlin Spielalmanach one finds the comment that Mariagenspiel is the only game in which tens rank high. (The previous edition had not included the game.) Contemporary readers of the 1715 rules would have interpreted them as tens being low. On the other hand, around the same time the related French game Brusquembille was already described with tens ranking high.
Two players play with a 32-card piquet pack. Each receives a hand of 6 cards in batches of 2 or 3. The thirteenth card is turned up for trumps. The game has two phases. In the first phase players fill up their hands from the stock after playing to tricks. The second phase begins when the stock is empty. Tens are high in trick-play.
Eldest hand leads any card to the first trick, and the other player plays any card to the trick. The trick is won by the highest trump, or by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of the trick draws a card, followed by the other player, then leads any card to the next trick.
A player who holds King and Queen of the same suit can meld a mariage, i.e. show them and score 20 points, or 40 points if it is in trumps. The lowest trump may rob the turn-up card, i.e. the player who holds the seven of trumps may exchange it with the turn-up card so long as that has not been drawn.
Melding is only allowed after winning the first trick and before anyone has played to the first trick of the last phase. Melds can be held back until later to withhold information from the opponent, but they can only be made while the player still holds both cards.
In trick-play, players must follow suit if possible, and otherwise play a trump if possible. After a trick has been played, players do not draw cards. The last trick is worth 10 points, or 30 points for washing the opponent in case a player wins all tricks in the second phase.
The game is won by the player who has more card-points than the other player. A game in which the loser is strictly below 33 points counts double for match. A tied game is held in abeyance; it is decided by the outcome of the next game.
Closing the stock
19th century game anthologies describe closing the stock (as in the later Sixty-six) as a standard element of the game. This does not appear in the earliest published rules, though, and the later rules are very sketchy about the details of winning and scoring.
In the first phase a player may have cards good enough to win the game even without drawing further cards. To abbreviate the game and increase the odds of making match (keeping the opponent below 33 points), the player can close the stock.
A player closes the stock by putting the turn-up card crosswise on top of the stock. The opponent may immediately make any undeclared melds he or she still holds. After this, the second phase starts.
It is implicit in the 19th century rules that it is not sufficient that the player who closes the stock win more points than his or her opponent. In fact, the rules states explicitly that if the player fails to win, the opponent wins even though he or she may have less points. However, they do not state the precise winning condition.
- So long as no mariage has been melded, a player may meld l'amour, consisting of Ace and King of trumps. Like a mariage in trumps, l'amour scores 40 points. Mariage in trumps can still be melded afterwards. A player who melds mariage must kiss the opponent, provided the opponent is of the opposite sex.
- A player who holds Ace and King of the same suit can meld l'amour and score 30 points, or 60 points in trumps.
- Melding is only allowed after winning a trick and before playing out.
- For a mariage to be valid, it is sufficient to play its first card to a trick led by the opposing player and win one's first trick with it. This does not apply to l'amour.
- A player must not rob the turn-up card with the trump seven before winning his or her first trick, except when the turn-up card is the Ace of trumps.
- There is no turn-up card, and initially there is no trump suit. The first mariage determines trumps and is worth 40 points. If both players want to meld the first mariage at the same tame, eldest hand comes first. Mariage can be melded even without having any tricks.
- The 20 bonus points for washing the opponent are only paid if the intent has been declared before the last two cards were drawn from the stock. Declaring a washing but failing to do it costs 20 points but does not necessarily lose the game.
- Instead of bonus points for melds and washing, side-payments are made.
- Regional variations of 66 style games in Baden/Alsasse may require that the cards of a marriage must be won by taking tricks containing the king and queen over one or two tricks, rather than simply receiving these from the deal and kitty.
Adaptations to three players
For three players, 19th century German anthologies recommend playing the basic two-player game with one player pausing, but briefly describe a 5-card Mariage variant for three in which all players play separately. The game is won by the player who wins the greatest number of points.
Several modern games such as Mariáš, Tysiąc and Ulti are best understood as three-handed Mariage-based solo games. These games were developed by the influence of Skat (Tarock-family card games) mixed in Marriage-family card games. Marias for three players is no-drawing game (unlike mariage for 2 players), some variants use a bidding process (licitation) like Contract bridge. You can play this variant in four players too (dealer has a pause), there are 10 tricks made by three players and two cards put-off in talon. Another variants of Marias are four-handed solo games (32 card – 8 tricks by four players) or five-handed (6 tricks and 2 cards put off by contractor).
In this subfamily the Jack ("jass") and Nine ("manille") of the trump suit are the highest trumps. Games in this family are typically played by four players with the 32 French-suited cards of a piquet pack.
The family contains the closely related French (Belote, Belote contrée) and Dutch (Klaverjas) national card games. The Swiss national card game (Jass) is also a close relative but features a number of peculiarities, has spawned numerous variants, and is played with 36 cards. The popular South Asian card games Twenty-eight and Twenty-nine are derivatives of this family and share many of its characteristics.
The earliest known games of this family were two-handed, such as klaberjass (also known as bela) which is still played worldwide.
Royal Marriage, a solitaire game in which the goal is also the union of a King and Queen
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- Parlett, David (2008). The Penguin Book of Card Games (3rd ed.). Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-103787-5..
- McLeod, John, ed., Card Games: Marriage Group, Card Games Website
- McLeod, John, ed., Card Games: Jass Group, Card Games Website
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