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A traditional card game from Fehmarn
38 Q di fiori.jpg
The top trump in Scharwenzel
Players4, 6 or 8
Cards32 or 36
DeckFrench deck or German Skat pack
Related games
Schafkopf, Skærvindsel, Sjevinsel

Scharwenzel is a plain-trick card game for two teams with two to four players on each team. The game is at least three centuries old and is played today only on the island of Fehmarn in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.[1]


Scharwenzel has been played on Fehmarn since the 18th century and probably came from Denmark.[1] Apparently a game "of German origin" called Scharrewenselen was also being played in Holland around 1710 and was recorded in Germany in 1715.[2] In a 1711 French-German dictionary, it is recorded that a tricon is a triplet in the game of Scherwenzel.[3]

The Danish variant, Skærvindsel, and the Faroese variant, Sjevinsel, bear great similarity to the Fehmarn Scharwenzel. Sometimes the same terminology is used, e.g. the matadors (Matadoren) are called Matadorer in Skærvindsel and Makadorer in Sjevinsel. The game is probably related to Schafkopf.[4]

As Scherwenzel, the game is recorded as being played at Yuletide in Anglia on the Jutland peninsula to the northwest in the 1840s.[5] In 1910, Wossidlo reported it as a Mecklenburg game without, however, giving any details.[6]

The word 'Scharwenzel' or 'Scherwenzel' used to mean a person who was overly polite and ready to serve out of self-interest those people from whom something could be gained. It may have derived from the Italian servente, or be composed of the words scharren ("scraping") and the name Wenzel ("Wenceslas")[7] which is a nickname for the Jack. Hence it may refer to the fact that the Jacks in this game are subordinate to two Queens, whereas in other popular German games (e.g. Skat and German Schafkopf) they are the top trumps.

Scharwenzel is a trick-taking game in which players form two teams, "You" and "Us" (Ihr and Wir), who compete to win tricks. The rules on scoring vary from village to village. Since 2012, there has been a tournament on Fehmarn every November where the winner is chosen from 26 to 30 participating teams.[8]


The overall aim of Scharwenzel is to score the most 'threads' (Fäden),[8] recorded by lines on the scoresheet or slate. Within a deal, the aim is to win the majority of the tricks.[4]


A French-suited pack of 32 or 36 cards is used; the number of cards depending on the number of players. There is only a trump Queen when the trump suit is hearts or diamonds, because the Queen of clubs and Queen of spades are permanent trumps known as Olsch and Basta respectively. The trump 6 only appears in six-hand games, because only 32 cards are used when there are four or eight players.[4]

The ranking of the cards is:[4]

Card ranking (in 4- or 8-player games)
Trump suit
SuitClubs.svgQ T7 SuitSpades.svgQ SuitClubs.svgJ SuitSpades.svgJ SuitHearts.svgJ SuitDiamonds.svgJ TA TK (TQ) T10 T9 T8
Plain suits (when not the trump suit)
Clubs Spades Hearts Diamonds
SuitClubs.svgA SuitClubs.svgK SuitClubs.svg10 SuitClubs.svg9 SuitClubs.svg8 SuitClubs.svg7 SuitSpades.svgA SuitSpades.svgK 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


The following is based on McLeod and Detlef.[4][9]


Cards are dealt to determine the teams. The players with the same suit colour are on the same side i.e. if the first player is dealt a red card such as the Nine of Diamonds, the next player to receive a red card becomes his Macker ("partner"). In four-hand games, the Mackers sit opposite one another. In six- or eight-hand games the players from opposing sides sit in alternate seats.[9]


The cards are shuffled, then offered to the right for cutting. In clockwise order beginning with forehand (on the dealer's left), players are then dealt all the available cards in packets of 2 or, for 4 players: 3, 2 and 3. Forehand then leads the bidding. Players bid the number of cards in their longest (potentially trump) suit or "pass" ("weiter" or "paß") if they have 2 or fewer in every suit. Each bid must exceed the previous one or the player must pass. Players may overbid either with a higher number of cards in one suit or, if their longest suit is clubs, by bidding the same number i.e. by declaring "4 better" (4 besser or 4 echt) if the current highest bid is 4 and they have 4 clubs. The winning bidder announces the trump suit. If everyone passes, a Bock is played in which clubs are trumps. A Bock is only worth 2 game points.[4]


Forehand leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit or, if unable, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump or, if no trump is played, the highest card of the led suit. The winner leads to the next trick.[4]

Because players are not allowed to disclose to their own side which cards they hold, a member of the opposing team always sits between two players. Nevertheless, players are allowed to suggest their teammates should play a heart, for example, by saying something like "everyone has a heart".[4]


Scoring is a combination of points, threads (Fäden) and hooks (Haken):[4]

Scoring system
Win/Bonus Explanation Points Threads (l) Hooks (┐)
Double win (Clubs) Winning majority of tricks with clubs as trumps 4
Single win (Clubs) As above but all players had passed 2
Single win Winning majority of tricks with other suit as trumps 2
"For the first" (für die ersten) Reaching majority without opponents taking a trick 2
Matadors Holding top 3 trumps as a team 3
Additional matadors For every additional matador up to 7 in toto 1
Bock Draw – points carried forward 2/4
Game win " 1
Petersdorfer Winning 24 – nil. Symbol "⇑" 2
Tout unannounced won Taking every trick, "tout" not announced 2/4 1
Tout announced won Taking every trick, "tout" announced 2/4 2
Tout unannounced lost Taking every trick, "tout" not announced −2
Tout announced lost Taking every trick, "tout" announced −4

A hook (Haken) is the equivalent of one thread (Faden) plus a round of schnaps, and a Petersdorfer equals 2 threads. Based on this system, for example, a Petersdorfer and a thread is the same as 2 hooks and a thread. Where minus scores are shown, these are added to the opponents' score, not deducted from the losers' score. If a Tout is won, there are no bonuses for the first tricks or matadors, and no buck can be claimed.


Top trumps[edit]

The top trumps in Scharwenzel (left to right, highest to lowest) in comparison with their names in Ombre and Quadrille:[4]

Comparison of top trumps in Scharwenzel and Ombre / Quadrille
Suit/rank Q Trump 7 Q
Names in Scharwenzel Olsch/Spedilje Nillje Basta
Names in Ombre / Quadrille Spadille Manille Basto

Other terms[edit]

In addition to the names for the top trumps, additional terms are used in Scharwenzel:[4][9]

  • besser – a game in clubs (as trumps)
  • Bock – a drawn game
  • in echt – a game in clubs
  • Macker - a team mate
  • Mackedors – matadors, the highest cards. If a team has the 3 highest matadors, for example, they get 3 bonus points.
  • Petersdorfer – when a team reaches 24 points, but their opponents fail to score. It may be derived from the village of Petersdorf whose players were particularly good at Scharwenzel.
  • Tout – a team wins every trick in a deal


  1. ^ a b Bräuche und Traditionen at Retrieved 6 November 2018
  2. ^ Parlett 1990, p. 270.
  3. ^ Rondeau 1711, p. 583.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k McLeod 2006, pp. 127–130.
  5. ^ Handelmann 1866, pp. 64 ff.
  6. ^ Wossidlo 1910, p. 163.
  7. ^ Scherwenzel at Retrieved 9 Feb 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Tout", "fetter Bock" und "Petersdorfer" bei der 4. Fehmarnschen Scharwenzel-Meisterschaft – report of the 4th annual championship. Retrieved 7 November 2018
  9. ^ a b c Detlef 2002, pp. 176-179.


  • Rondeau, Pierre (1711). Nouveau Dictionnaire françois-allemand et allemand-françois, Volume 1. Leipzig: Fritschen.
  • Detlef, Annakatrin (2002), Frohe Feste feiern wir, 4, Nördlingen: F. Steinmeier, ISBN 3-9802267-6-X
  • Handelmann, Heinrich (1866) Weihnachten in Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel: Schwers.
  • McLeod, John (2006), "Playing the Game: Scharwenzel", The Playing-Card, 35 (2): 127–130
  • Parlett, David (1990), A History of Card Games, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-282905-X
  • Wossidlo, Richard (1910). Aus dem Lande Fritz Reuters: Humor in Sprache und Volkstum Mecklenburgs. O. Wigand.

External links[edit]