Ramsch, formerly also called "Mike" in East Germany, was originally not a separate game, but a contract within variants of the popular German card games, Skat and Schafkopf. However, thanks to its interesting mode of play it has since developed into an independent game in its own right which is only loosely based on Skat or Schafkopf. It should not be confused with another game of the same name, also known as Ramscheln, which is a five-card game of the Rams group for 3-5 players traditionally played with German-suited cards.
Ramsch is not part of the official rules of Schafkopf or Skat and, as a result, there are no hard and fast rules. Usually Ramsch is played if all three (Skat) or all four (Schafkopf) players "pass" instead of declaring a game, because they have poor hands. The term Ramsch in German means something like "low-quality rejects", "cheap products", "mass-produced goods" or "worthless junk". The aim in Ramsch, unlike normal contracts, is not to score the most card points (Augen), but to achieve a low score, because the player who scores the most points at the end of the hand has lost.
In Schafkopf, the Obers or Queens, the Unters or Jacks and Hearts form the trump suit and all other cards are ranked in the normal Ace-Ten order (A, 10, K, 9,...). It is common to agree a fixed stake for the contract in Schafkopf. For example, a simple loss counts 10 minus points, a Jungfer (see below), 15 minus points and two Jungfers, 20 plus points.
In Skat, as in the Grand contract, only the Unters (Jacks) are trumps. Again the card ranking is the same as in Grand (A, 10, K/O, Q/U, ...). The loser has to deduct these points from his score, hence the name, Augenramsch, since Augen are card points in German.
If a player takes no tricks, this is a Jungfrau or Jungfer ("virgin" or "maiden") and the loser's minus points or the agreed stake are doubled. If, however, one player can take all the tricks (both opponents thus remaining Jungfers), he has won a Durchmarsch ("march"). It is very common to agree that, in this case he wins the Ramsch. Then the loser's points are awarded to his opponents or the winner receives 120 plus points. Of course, higher values may be agreed.
The aim is to win as many points and tricks as possible. Usually there are no trumps, but sometimes the Jacks or Unters are trumps as in Skat. Cards rank in their natural order: A > K > Q > J > 10 etc. Forehand leads to the first trick. Suit must be followed, but there is no compulsion to head the trick. Card points won are added up at the end. If a player takes no tricks he is a Jungfer, see above.
The advantage of Ramsch is that it is a very simple game which can be learnt and played in a few minutes. It can be a stepping stone to Skat or Schafkopf.
- Ramsch. In: Spielkartenfabrik Altenburg (publ.): Erweitertes Spielregelbüchlein aus Altenburg. Verlag Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, Leipzig 1983, pp. 163 ff.
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