|"The supreme discipline of Bavarian card games"|
The Obers and Unters - permanent top trumps
|Skills required||Tactics & Strategy|
|Card rank (highest first)||O O O O|
U U U U
A 10 K 9 8 7
A 10 K 9 8 7 (led suit)
|Playing time||20 min/round|
|Blattla, Bierkopf, Doppelkopf, German Schafkopf, Skat, Mucken, Sheepshead, Wendish Schafkopf|
Schafkopf (German: [ˈʃaːfkɔpf]), Schaffkopf (German: [ˈʃafkɔpf]) or Schafkopfen, also called Bavarian Schafkopf to distinguish it from German Schafkopf, is a late 18th-century German trick-taking card game of the Ace-Ten family, still very popular in Bavaria, where it is their national card game, but also played in other parts of Germany as well as other German-speaking countries like Austria. It is an official cultural asset and important part of the Old Bavarian and Franconian way of life. Schafkopf is a mentally demanding game that is considered "the supreme discipline of Bavarian card games".
Its closest relatives are Doppelkopf and Skat. These three and the North American game of Sheepshead descend from an earlier variant, German Solo. Its earliest written reference dates to 1803, although it only came to notice through the polite society of Altenburg in 1811.
The rules of the Bavarian Schafkopf Club (Bayerischer Schafkopf-Verein) or the revised version by the Schafkopf School (Schafkopfschule) form guidelines for the detail of the game and the conduct of the players. However, unlike Skat, Schafkopf is not really seen as a sport, but purely as a leisure activity. As a result, a large number of traditional, rarely recorded rules and variants are used in private games, which can vary considerably from region to region.
There are various theories about the origin of the name Schafkopf, most of which come from traditional folklore. One suggestion is that Schafkopf acquired its name at a time when it was played for up to nine or twelve points which were marked with a piece of chalk as lines on a board, gradually forming the stylized appearance of a sheep's head (German: Schaf = sheep, Kopf = head). However, evidence of such notation is not found in the Bavarian context where it was invariably played for money.
Until the late 1960s, the alternative spelling Schaffkopf was not uncommon in Bavaria; the ensuing discussion about the supposedly only correct form and its origin was the subject of extensive debate at that time - among other things in the columns of the Bavarian press - before the common variant Schafkopf became widely accepted from about 1970. The issue was largely forgotten when author Wolfgang Peschel argued in the early 1990s for the double 'f' spelling based on the popular traditional view that, in earlier times, the game was supposed to have been played (geklopft) on the lids (Köpfen) of barrels (Upper German: Schaff, c.f. Schäffler/Scheffel). To this day, such casks are used as tables at beer stands and beer halls. Although this hypothesis is unanimously rejected by experts and there is no evidence for it in older sources, it is widespread on the Internet.
Another theory is that it comes from "Schaffen" and "Kopf", "to work one's brain."
The indirect precursors of the various games of the Schafkopf family (which include Doppelkopf and Skat), were the Spanish national game of L'Hombre (which had reached the Holy Roman Empire through the courtly circles of France in the late 17th century), its four-hand variant, Quadrille, and its simplified German derivative, German Solo. The distinction between variable and permanent trump cards as well as the selection of a contract by announcing and bidding, probably originate from these games.
The special feature of Bavarian Schafkopf, the selection of a playing partner by 'calling' a Sow (often misleadingly called an Ace as it is, in fact, a Deuce), was also usual in German Solo; the determination of the winning team by counting card points (Augen), instead of tricks, however, has another origin, perhaps in Bavarian Tarock or related games.
Emergence and development
The origin and development of the game of Schafkopf - in comparison with Skat - are rather poorly documented. This may be due, on the one hand, to its relatively low social reputation - in the first half of the 19th century Schafkopf was regarded as a comparatively unfashionable and simple "farmer's game" when seen against the backdrop of ever more popular card games (such as German Solo or Skat), especially at the universities - and, on the other hand, to changes in concept: originally the name referred to several forerunners, located more or less in the Saxon-Thuringian area such as Wendish or German Schafkopf. In these older variants, the declarer's team was generally determined by a combination of the two highest trump cards, in a not dissimilar manner to the way the Queens of Clubs are used in Doppelkopf today, for example. The variants played in the Palatinate and in the USA (especially in Minnesota, c.f. Sheepshead) should be understood as further developments of this German Schafkopf. The assumption often heard in Bavaria that Skat and Doppelkopf developed from the Bavarian Schafkopf cannot be proven; a parallel development of all three games is more likely.
The game of Schafkopf is first recorded in the 1780s in the literature. In Hartmann's comedy, The Thankful Daughter (Die Dankbare Tochter) published in 1780, Platz tells his brother that "I thought we'd play a Schaafkopf" and they go to look for a pack of cards. It also appears in a 1782 Saxon schedule of penalties, Drinking and Gaming on Workdays and Sundays (Zechen und Spielen an Werktagen und Sonntagen), typically with the remark that, unlike Hazard for example, it was not to be considered a game of chance in the legal sense and was thus permitted.
The specifically Bavarian variant of the game originated with the introduction of the Rufer or 'Call Ace' contract in the first half of the 19th century - apparently in Franconia. The first mention of a game of Schafkopf definitely played according to Bavarian rules (in Gräfenberg) dates to the year 1849; and while Schapfkopf playing in Franconia was already widespread in the 1840s, in the Bavarian Forest, Tarock (the Bavarian game, not the true Tarock game played in Austria) was more popular. The question about the origin of the Bavarian Schafkopf cannot be answered conclusively, but available sources suggest a migration from north to south.
The oldest written rules for Bavarian Schafkopf are found in Schafkopf-Büchlein - Detailliche Anleitung zum Lernen und Verbessern des Schafkopfspiel mit deutschen Karten, Amberg 1895; where the author explicitly explains the differences from Schafkopf variants played in northern Germany, i.e. Skat and Doppelkopf. The rules of the game were officially established by the Bavarian Schafkopf Society (Bayerischer Schafkopf-Verein e. V.) at the 1st Bavarian Schafkopf Congress on 17 December 1989 in Munich's Hofbräuhaus The society known as the Schafkopf School (Schafkopfschule e. V.) publishes a revised version on its website. The Schafkopf School has established itself as a kind of unofficial appeal authority for questions of rule interpretation.
The aim of the game is to score a set number of points by taking tricks. Normally a game is 'won' by the declaring team or soloist if they score 61 of the 120 card points available. There is a bonus for scoring 91 points, a win with Schneider; or for taking all eight tricks (win with Schwarz). At 31 card points the declarer's team or soloist are Schneider free (Schneider frei).
For the defending team, by contrast, the game is 'won' with only 60 points, won with Schneider with 90 points and they are Schneider free with 30 points.
An exception are the Tout contracts, which are won only if all eight tricks are taken.
In Schafkopf players must follow suit (Farbzwang). If they are unable to do so, they can either play a trump or any other card (no Trumpfzwang), while Hearts are counted as trumps, not as a plain suit, as long as its trump status is not changed by a particular contract such as Solo or Wenz. In Germany, Schafkopf is not deemed a gambling game and can therefore be legally played for money.
|Declaring team||Declaring team's points||Defending team's points||Defending team|
|won with Schwarz||all tricks taken||no tricks taken||lost with Schwarz|
|won with Schneider||91–120 card points||0–29 card points||lost with Schneider|
|simple win||61–90 card points||30–59 card points||simple loss|
|simple loss||31–60 card points||60–89 card points||simple win|
|lost with Schneider||0–30 card points||90–120 card points||won with Schneider|
|lost with Schwarz||no tricks taken||all tricks taken||won with Schwarz|
Schafkopf is a four-handed game played, in Bavaria, using a Bavarian pattern pack, a variant of the German suited deck, and, in Franconia, with the related Franconian pattern pack. It is played with 32 cards, known as 'long cards' or the 'long deck' - i.e. eight cards per player, including those cards with no points value (Luschen or blanks).
In parts of eastern Bavarian (the Upper Palatinate and Upper Franconia) the 'short cards' or 'short deck' of 24 cards (minus the Eights and Sevens) or of 20 cards (minus Nines, Eights and Sevens) is preferred, which gives each player a hand of six or five cards respectively. This variant is sold in packs labelled Kurze Scharfe which is a pun on scharf ("sharp") and Schaf ("sheep").
|Suits of the Bavarian pattern pack|
There are eight cards in each suit with different values: Sau (Sow), König (King), Ober (officer), Unter (sergeant), 10, 9, 8 and 7. The cards of any one suit have a collective value of 30 points; thus there are 120 points to be played for in the pack.
Nines, eights and sevens have a value of 0 points and are variously known as Spatzen ("sparrows"), Nichtser(le) ("nothings" or "nixers"), Leere ("blanks") or Luschen ("duds"). As mentioned above, eights and sevens are dropped from Schafkopf with short cards.
|Sow (Sau, sometimes Daus or Ass)||A||11|
The Normal (Normalspiel), Suit Solo (Farbsolo) and Wenz contracts form the basic structure of Schafkopf. The rules are based on these variations of the game; they are universally known and are usually the only ones permitted at Schafkopf tournaments. It is often referred to as true (reiner) Schafkopf. In addition, there is a whole range of additional contract options, often of only regional significance, the most important of which are described in the section Additional contracts.
Normal contract: Rufspiel, Sauspiel or Partnerspiel
|The normal contract: Rufspiel|
|O O O O|
|Acorns (Eichel)||Leaves (Gras)||Bells (Schellen)|
|A 10 K||A 10 K||A 10 K|
In the Normal contract (Rufspiel; also: Sauspiel or Partnerspiel), the four Obers are the highest trumps - in the order (highest to lowest) Acorns (Eichel), Leaves (Gras) (also: Blatt, Grün, Blau, Laub), Hearts (Herz) and Bells (Schellen). Next are the four Unters in the same suit order; then follow the remaining Hearts cards - in the order Sow, Ten, King, Nine, Eight, Seven - as lower trumps, making a total of 14 trump cards. All other cards are simply suit cards.
Two players play against the other two. The bidder announces a Rufspiel; if no other players bid a higher-value Solo contract, the declarer chooses his playing partner by "calling" any of the three suit Sows (i.e. the Sows of Acorns, Leaves or Bells) which he does not have in his hand. He must have at least one card in the same suit as the called Sow. The declarer and the owner of the called Sow then play together and form the declarer's team, the other two are the defenders team. The tricks won by the partners in each team are added together at the end of the hand.
Usually it only becomes clear during the game who has the called Sow, known as the Rufsau; initially only the player who has it knows. But the Sow can be 'searched for' by one of the other 3 players leading a card of the called suit to a trick; if this happens, the Sow must be played, even if the player holds another card of that suit. The Rufsau may not be discarded either. If a suit (or trump) is played in which the called player is void, he may not discard the Rufsau. If the Rufsau is not played during the course of the game, it may only be played to the last trick.
Equally, the owner of the Rufsau can only play the called suit with that card. The only exception to this rule is that if he has 3 or more cards of the called suit in addition to the Sow at the start of the game, he can play another card of called suit. Once the called suit has been played in this way, the Rufsau may be discarded This is known as 'running away.'
The solos: Suit Solo and Wenz
In all solo games, the soloist plays against the three other players. Solo games always rank above over Normal games. Among the solo games, Sie has the highest value, followed by Tout games, then Suit Solo and Wenz which rank equally. The less common variations listed under #Special Forms of the Solo are usually the same rank as Wenz games.
|O O O O|
|A 10 K||A 10 K||A 10 K|
|O O O O|
|A 10 K||A 10 K||A 10 K|
|O O O O|
|A 10 K||A 10 K||A 10 K|
|O O O O|
|A 10 K||A 10 K||A 10 K|
In Suit Solo, the Obers and Unters are the highest trumps as normal; the soloist may, however, choose any suit as the trump suit which then ranks in the order Ace to Seven. In the past, a Heart Solo was sometimes ranked higher that the other Suit Solos, but that is no longer common today.
|U U U U|
|A 10 K O||A 10 K O||A 10 K O||A 10 K O|
In Wenz (pronounced "Vents", also called Bauernwenz or Hauswenz) there are only four trumps, the four Unters, which are also known as Wenzen, hence the name of the contract. They rank in the usual order from highest to lowest: Acorns, Leaves, Hearts and Bells. The Obers are ranked in their suits between the King and the Nine. Hearts is just a normal suit.
Tout and Sie
Tout (French for all, pronounced Du in Bavarian and "too" in English) is a higher-value form of Solo game (Suit-Solo Tout ranking higher than Wenz Tout). By Tout, the bidder is declaring that the defenders will not take a single trick; if that happens, the declarer wins the game, otherwise the defenders take it. A Tout is normally valued at twice the normal game value.
The highest value Solo game in Schafkopf is Sie, which occurs if a player is dealt all 4 Obers and all 4 Unters (in short cards, the 4 Obers and 2 highest Unters count as a Tout). The probability of this is 1 in 10,518,300 (in short cards 1 in 134,596). The origin of the name is not clear, but it may a folk etymological analogy with Tout/Du. It is the only game which that does not have to be played out; the hand is simply placed on the table. It normally scores four times the basic game value.
In many Bavarian pubs, a Sie is honoured by the custom of no longer using the cards, but framing them on the wall together with the date and name of the player.
Shuffling, cutting and dealing
The four players sit crosswise as the table. Before the game begins, the first dealer is determined, usually by drawing the highest card from the deck.
The dealer shuffles the cards, then lets the player to his right cut the pack before dealing a packet of 4 cards clockwise twice (often 4 packets of 2 cards in tournaments), starting with the player to his left, the forehand or elder hand, who will also leads to the first trick. The role of dealer rotates clockwise; four games make a 'round'.
When cutting, at least three cards must be lifted or left lying; taking this rule into account, the pack may be cut up to 3 times. In this case, the cutter may instruct the dealer to deal the cards differently - for example, "all eight" instead of 2 packets of 4, or "anti-clockwise", etc.
|Tout games||Suit-Solo Tout|
|Farbgeier Tout etc.|
|Bettel Brett, Ramsch Tout|
|Solo games||Suit Solo|
|Suit Geier etc.|
|Negative games (Null etc.)*|
|Partner games||Wedding (Hochzeit)*|
|Must (Muss) game|
Before the actual start of the game, there is an auction or bidding phase (Spielansage) which determines who will be the declarer and which game variant will be played.
The first thing the player can do is either to announce a game by saying "I'll play" (Ich spiele) or to pass by saying "I'll pass" (Weiter/ich bin weg). After that, the right to bid passes to the next player in a clockwise direction, until finally the dealer gets a chance to bid.
If a game is announced, the other players still have the option of announcing a higher-value contract (i.e. a Solo or Wenz etc.) by saying "I'll play too" (Ich spiele auch) thus taking over the game; the first player can rebid with a higher-value game, if he does he leads the bidding. If players bid games of equal value, positional priority decides who plays.
The ranking of individual games is shown in the adjacent table, games recognised in 'true' Schafskopf are in bold (* = classification regionally very different).
If all players "pass" (ich passe or weiter), there are several options, which should be agreed upon before the start of play:
- The cards are thrown in, reshuffled and play continues with the next clockwise player dealing the cards.
- A Bock game or Bock round is played, whereby the value of the next hand is doubled (Bockspiel).
- The cards are thrown in, but each play puts a 'sweetener' (e.g. 10 euro cents) into the "pot" (Stock or Topf). The declarer in the next game now has the chance to win the pot. If they win their declared game, only the declaring player, and not the partner, receives the "pot" in addition to the normal winnings shared with the partner. If the player loses his declared game, then he alone must double the contents of the pot and play continues with the next player declaring a game having the chance to win (or double) the pot on the next hand.
- In tournament play, a hand must be played and either the player with the Ober of Acorns (known as der Alte, "the Old Man") must declare a game or cross-seated players automatically play the hand together.
- A Ramsch hand is played, the goal being to score as few points as possible with each player playing for him/herself.
Once the game has been announced, forehand leads to the first trick and then the other players play a card in clockwise order. Once there are four cards on the table, the player who has won the trick (cards) picks it up and places it face down in a pile on the table. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick and so on, until all 32 cards - 8 tricks - have been played.
Depending on the type of card played, a distinction is made between 'suit tricks' and 'trump tricks'. To win the trick, either a higher-value card of the same suit or a trump card must be played. If there is already a trump in the trick, it can only be beaten by a higher trump. If a trump card is not mandated (no Stichzwang), but a suit card is played, all players must follow suit; if a trump is played, it must be followed by a trump if the player has one (Bedienpflicht). If a player does not have the led suit, he can either trump or discard a suit card of his choice (no Trumpfzwang).
Failure to follow suit, criticising or verbally trying to influence the game generally results in the loss of the game.
If a trick is not yet completed (i.e. the cards are still face up on the table), each player has the right to view the previous trick on request.
After the game is over and the card points are counted, the game is scored. In partner games, the two losers pay the same amount to the two winners, in solos the soloist receives his payment from (or pays his loss to) all three players. Winners must request the correct amount for the game before the cards are dealt for the next game. If the winner overclaims, then twice the difference can be recouped by the losing team if the rules are applied strictly.
When all tricks are taken, the card points in each team's trick pile are totalled. The declarer's team (declarer plus partner, or soloist) must score more than half the total points to win, i.e. at least 61 points. This means that the defenders only need 60 points to win.
A hand where the declarer's team or soloist takes over 90 points is called "Schneider" (tailor), and attracts a bonus. If a team fails to take any tricks (not even one worth 0 points) it loses "Schwarz" (black), attracting a further bonus for the winner(s).
Schafkopf is not counted as a game of chance in the legal sense by the relevant section of the act, § 284 StGB, and may therefore be played in Germany for money. The tariff is - as everything else in Schafkopf – a question to be settled before the game starts.
Normally a basic rate is agreed, which forms the basis for all further calculations (Schneider/Schwarz, matadors). A special rate applies to Solo, which does not necessarily have to be based on the basic rate, but rather on the most convenient calculation and coin size. For example, if 5 cents is the basic tariff and the Solo tariff is 20 cents, the latter is called the 5/20. In games played purely for fun, the most common rates are 5/20, 10/20 and 10/50, with no upper limits. In addition, a rate is often agreed between the basic rate and the Solo rate (e.g. 10/20/50).
Schneider and Schwarz
If a team is schneider at the end of the game, the value of the game is increased by the basic tariff. If they are schwarz it is increased by a further notch (whether the game has been won by the declarer's team or the defenders has no effect on the tariff). The payment of schneider is viewed as a matter of honour and paid voluntarily; by contrast, schwarz must be claimed by the winner.
In Wenz and Suit Solo schneider and schwarz are not always scored in long Schafkopf, but they always are in short Schafkopf.
If a player holds a certain number of the highest trump cards in uninterrupted sequence, they are called matadors (Laufende, Bauern or Herren). Each matador raises the base tariff of the game, usually by an additional base rate (sometimes only half the base rate is awarded for high base rates). The number of matadors is determined as follows:
- At least 3 matadors (sometimes 2 for Wenz and related games) must be held in sequence
- In tournament Schafskopf usually a maximum of four count (i.e. only the Obers; in private rounds the maximum number of matadors can be extended to include the Unters, or even all the trump cards).
Bettel and Ramsch
For Bettel, the basic rate (= Solo) is often used as the basis for calculation, sometimes a separate rate is determined.
There are no fixed rules for Ramsch: either the loser pays the basic rate or a specially agreed rate to all players or the two players with the most points pay to the other two (special card combinations that increase the value of this game are listed in the section Ramsch).
Double and multiple tariffs
A whole series of card combinations may be rewarded with a doubling or multiplication of the basic tariff in Schafkopf; this is then calculated including schneider/schwarz and matadors.
After the players receive the first hand of cards (four cards) and before they take the second hand they can double the value of the game either by knocking on the table or calling "doppeln" (to double). Normally a specific token (e.g. match box, special coin) is then placed on the table to indicate this. Depending on the exact local rules only the first, only one or all players can double the game. If more than one player doubles the game the factors get multiplied, i.e. one player 2x, two players 2*2=4x, three players 8x and four players 16x. These factors take effect after all other bonuses are added. In the case of Tout the game cost (again) double but no Schneider or Schwarz bonus is paid. The value of the game can be doubled further by Contra.
Contra and Re
If agreed beforehand, before or when the first card is played, a defending player, normally one with very good cards, can challenge the declarer with Contra (Kontra, Stoß or Spritze) which doubles the stakes. In return either of the declarer's team (declarer or partner) can reply with "Re(-tour)" ("return") or Gegenstoß which indicates that the player still thinks that his team will win. This re-doubles the value of the game. Depending on the local rules, further challenges - "Sub", "Re-Sub" and others - may be allowed, each one further doubling the value of the game. This is called "Contra on the First (Card)".
Another variant allows defenders to say "Contra" before they play their own first card - known as "Contra with Eight Cards" - or that Re etc. can be given up to one card after Contra.
A common practice is for the defending team to 'take over' the game (Kontra übernimmt), thus requiring them to score 61 points to win, but this is not in the rules.
After taking up the first four cards (or three in the short game variant) (dealer: last four/three cards), players can 'lay' (legen) i.e. double (doppeln), raise (aufstellen, steigen) or 'knock (klopfen) in clockwise order; this doubles the value of the game. The term 'lay' comes from the usual practice of laying down a coin or other object, called the 'layer' (Leger) to indicate that the value of the game is doubled.
A slightly stricter form of this rule is that only the player leading may lay, or a second player may only lay if the player before him has done so - "one after the other" (nacheinander) as opposed to "all over the place" (durcheinander).
Bock games or Bock rounds
Bock games or Bock rounds are those in which a double tariff applies at the outset. They can take place for various reasons, for example after the cards are thrown in, after lost Solos or double games as well as generally after schwarz or Re games.
This results in the following scheme for calculating the game price (G = basic rate):
|Game||Tariff||+ Schneider||+ Schwarz||+ Matadors||Multiplication||Further doubling
(Contra, Legen, Bock etc.)
|= Game Value|
|Rufspiel||1 × G
or 2 × G
|+ 1 × G||+ 1 × G||+ each × G
or ½ × G
|–||each × 2||Sum|
|Wedding (Hochzeit)||× 2|
|4 × G
or 5 × G
or + 1 × G
or + 1 × G
A sweetener (Stock, Pott, Henn, etc.) is paid following games where the cards are thrown in. With prior agreement, the declarer's team may claim the Stock if they win the game; if they lose it however, they must double the contents of the Stock.
In Schafkopf tournaments there is usually a special variant of the Stock called the Reuegeld.
These contracts are an extension of the basic structure of classic Schafkopf; they are rarely found at tournaments but have a permanent place in many places where Schafkopf is played for fun.
Special forms of partner game
A player, known as the Hochzeiter ("wedding player"), who has only one trump, may place it face down on the table and offer a Wedding. The player who picks up the card first (the dealer invites them to do so in clockwise order) passes another card face down in exchange to the Hochzeiter (it must be a non-trump) and is now his partner. In the variant Bauernhochzeit ("Farmer's Wedding", also called Doppelhochzeit, "Double Wedding"), two cards are exchanged.
The rules for Wedding vary slightly from region to region. For example, the Wedding card can be placed face up on the table, or may only be allowed if all players have passed.
In the (very rare) case that two players hold only one trump each, a Double Wedding is also possible. The declaring team is the pair that announced the first Wedding.
The Kreuzbock or Goaß is a variant of the partner game played on certain occasions (for example, if all players have passed, after a Heart Solo or after a lost Solo); usually four games (one round) are played. The players facing one another across the table automatically form teams.
A peculiarity of this variant is the fact that there is no declarer's team in the true sense; as a result, the following agreement usually applies, which varies from region to region: the declarer's team is:
- the team that said the last Contra
- if no Contra has been said, the first team to #Lay
- if neither Contra nor Lay has been said, the team leading to the first trick
A mandatory game, the Muss (i.e. a 'force') is the most common variant in tournaments in the event that all four players pass. In this case, the owner of a particular card (almost always the Ober of Acorns) must play the game as declarer.
Muss has some special features: the game is won if the declarer's team score 60 card points and is schneider free with 30 points (correspondingly won as schneider with 90 points). In addition, no Contra may be given.
If the Muss player is 'blocked' (gesperrt) i.e. has no suit without the corresponding Sow, a so-called Renonce (French: wrong suit) is also possible, i.e. he may exceptionally call a Sow without having a card of that suit. If the Muss player holds all three suit Sows himself, he may also call a Suit Ten (if necessary even a Suit King) of his choice.
Special forms of Solo
These games, too, are generally only of regional significance, as a result only the most common are described here.
|O O O O|
|A 10 K U||A 10 K U||A 10 K U||A 10 K U|
Geier is a derivative of Wenz, in which only the Obers act as trumps. Similarly there are variants in which another card is given the function of the Unters in Wenz. In König (Keni, Krone, Habicht, King, Bart) it is the Kings in Eisenbahner, the Tens.
|Example: Bells Wenz|
|U U U U|
|A 10 K O||A 10 K O||A 10 K O|
Suit Wenz (Farbwenz) is a cross between Wenz and Suit Solo in which, in addition to the Unters as the highest trumps, a trump suit is also chosen. The Obers are part of their suits which gives eleven trumps. Here too, there are variations in which another card takes on the function of the Unters in Suit Wenz; in Suit Geier (Farbgeier), for example, it is the Obers.
|A K O U||A K O U||A K O U||A K O U|
Bettel is a classic negative contract, i. e. where the soloist undertakes not to take a single trick. There are no trumps; the card ranking is – unlike other contracts – (highest to lowest) Ace/Sow, King, Ober, Unter, Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven. In many regions it can be played 'ouvert' (Bettel Ouvert or Bettel Brett).
Related to Bettel is Ramsch Tout or Pfd; where the soloist aims to take no tricks again, but this time there are trumps (Obers, Unters and Hearts).
Sometimes hybrids are also played, where the Obers and Unters are trumps, but there is no trump suit.
Ramsch is a variation of the game played if no-one has bid (often the 'last man' has the option of announcing Ramsch if the players bidding before him have all passed). In contrast with the other contracts, everyone plays against everyone else, i.e. each for himself. The same trump cards apply as for Rufspiel, but the aim is to score as few card points as possible. The player with the most points loses and pays all the other players.
If two or more players score the same number of points, the one with the most tricks loses. If the number of tricks is also equal, the player with the most trumps in the tricks loses; if that number is also equal, the player with the higher trump loses. Special rules adapted from Skat are the Durchmarsch or Mord, which correspond to a "sweep" or "slam", i.e. one player takes all the tricks to wins the game, and Jungfrau ("maiden") (i.e. one or two players do not make a trick, the loser pays twice or four times).
A variation of Ramsch is Schieberamsch, a special local variant, where the tricks are passed on clockwise at the end of the game, and where the player who has the fewest points at the end also wins.
The Ober of Acorns and Ober of Leaves are removed from play before dealing; the dealer deals as usual, but receives only 6 cards himself. Forehand picks up the 2 cards but may only allowed play a Suit Solo. He passes on (pushes or schiebt) any two cards face down to middlehand. Middlehand, in turn, picks up the cards and passes any two cards to rearhand; finally rearhand passes two cards of his choice to the dealer, who now has 8 cards; the game is then announced (in the event that the player does not want to play a Solo, there are different rules; for example, the waiters can be pushed back to the dealer).
Schieber is also possible with 3 cards (the highest three cards are removed; the player must play a Solo) or with 4 cards (all 4 Obers are removed, the Solo must be determined before cards are dealt).
Related to Schieber is the Munich 'Devil's Round' (Teufelsrunde). Forehand is given the Ober of Acorns, the Ober of Leaves, the Ober of Bells and the Unter of Acorns and must announce the Solo before cards are dealt.
Other special rounds
From the multitude of these often just regionally interesting special contracts only a more or less arbitrary selection is described here:
- Hadsch/Hatsch(aten) (High German: "Der Humpelnde"; "the Hobbled") forehand must play and is automatically contra'd.
- Allgäu Round (Allgäuer Runde (Chiprunde, Fisiko, Drei-Geld-Runde) three rounds are played, in which each player has to play a Rufspiel, a Wenz and a Suit Solo.
- Strixner has no initial auction; instead all players compete individually under normal rules; whoever wins the third trick, must announce a Solo.
- Zupf Solo where the soloist gives a card of his choice to another player and draws (zupft) a card of his choice from him (Bavarian Swabia).
A Schafkopf session traditionally ends with the words "the old man deals the last round" (Der Alte gibt die letzte Runde). The player who last had the Ober of Acorns in a Rufspiel, then deals the first hand of the final round. For the last round, special rules sometimes apply (double game values, only Solo games or the like).
Variants for different numbers of players
If there are more or fewer than four players, the following variants may be played:
- Five-hand Schafkopf (Schafkopf zu fünft): as per the normal Schafkopf game, but the dealer sits out.
- Three-hand Schafkopf (Schafkopf zu dritt): if there are only 3 players, the game is played with the short deck. Each player is dealt 8 cards. In this variant, which is not permitted in tournaments, only Solo or Wenz are played
- Two-hand Schafkopf (Schafkopf zu zweit): also called Open Schafkopf (Aufgelegter Schafkopf), Farmer's Schafkopf (Bauernschafkopf) or Officers' Schafkopf (Offiziersschafkopf), a Schafkopf-like game with very divergent rules c.f. Officers' Skat and Two-Player Wendish Schafkopf.
A popular variant in some parts of Bavaria is the "short" Schafkopf which is played with only 24 cards where the '7' and '8' cards of all suits are removed. Every player only receives six cards (2x3). This makes the game faster and changes some playing tactics because of the changed probabilities.
Also a variant for only three players exists where also the short card deck with 24 cards is used but all players still receive eight cards. Only solo games are allowed in this variant. This variant is normally only played when lacking a fourth player.
In Poland, "Kop" is played with just 16 cards, with four per player by excluding all but the Ace, 10s, Queens, and Jacks.
Schafkopf, as a genuine leisure pursuit, is, by definition, not organized; nevertheless, many clubs in public life, such as sports or shooting clubs, but also breweries and restaurants, regularly organize Schafkopf tournaments in Bavaria, where they are also called Schafkopfrennen ("Schafkopf races"). Despite the comparatively uniform rules of these tournaments, there are still considerable regional differences.
Schafkopf in culture
Recently, the declining importance of the Schafkopf game as a leisure activity, especially among young people, has been discussed in Bavarian media. This has also been viewed at the municipal level as an imminent loss of part of Bavarian identity; countermeasures are therefore receiving increasingly wide support. More and more adult education centres in Bavaria offer Schafkopf courses.
Schafkopf has its own language, known as Schafkopf-Sprache which is not always intelligible to outsiders. The game has also entered Bavarian culture in other ways:
- In a Bavarian version of the song Herz ist Trumpf (Dann rufst du an …) ("Hearts are Trumps (then call [me]...)") by Trio, Max Griesser describes the course of a Hearts Solo during a game of Schafkopf.
- The crime thriller Schafkopf by Andreas Föhr also deals with the game.
- Schafkopf – a bissel was geht immer is the title of an early evening programme which has been broadcast by German broadcaster, ZDF, since 2012.
Until 2006, the Guinness Book of Records recognized card game records only if they were based on a French deck of 52 cards. Only after the intervention of Bavarian broadcasters, Bayerischer Rundfunk, was this rule relaxed and Schafkopf was recognized in this category; since then the record for continuous playing is held exclusively by Schafkopf groups (for medical reasons the Guinness rules allow two substitutes). The officially recognized record playing time is currently 260 hours, placed in November 2013 by one Munich group.
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