Game Curmudgeon

A blog of lessons learned while designing board games in vain
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Untested variants of sacred cows to compensate for my card playing deficiencies

Raymond Gallardo
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Here are some untested variants for French Tarot and Skat that I devised because of my poor memory and arithmetic skills.

Board Game: Tarot
French Tarot: More valuable honours

In French Tarot, the declarer wins the hand if they win at least a number of card points in tricks; this number varies depending on the number of honours (21-trump, 1-trump, or excuse) that they won:

0 honours: 56 points
1 honour: 51 points
2 honours: 41 points
3 honours: 36 points

I don't play French Tarot enough to remember these seemingly arbitrary point values. Where do they come from? It makes more sense to view this table as bonus points:

1 honour: 5 bonus card points
2 honours: 15 bonus card points
3 honours: 20 bonus card points

Remember that the deck contains a total of 91 card points:

Honours: 4 × 3 = 12
Rois: 4 × 4 = 16
Dames: 3 × 4 = 12
Cavaliers: 2 × 4 = 8
Valets: 1 × 4 = 4
Every two cards: 78 / 2 = 39
Total: = 91

This means that the deck actually contains 91 + 20 = 111 points. One-half of 111 is 56, rounded up, so that's how they got that value of 56 points. (Thanks John McLeod from for this insight!)

What if we simplify the bonuses as 6 points for every honour.

1 honour: 6 bonus card points
2 honours: 12 bonus card points
3 honours: 18 bonus card points

or 7 points for every honour:

1 honour: 7 bonus card points
2 honours: 14 bonus card points
3 honours: 21 bonus card points

The bonuses for 1 and 2 honours are now significantly off from the original, but I don't care.

Let's stick with 6 points per honour. That means we can add those 6 points directly to them. So the honours are worth instead 10 points each. This means the number of points in the deck is 109 points. One half of that is 55 points rounded up.

To summarize: Each card is worth the following number of points:

Honours: 10
Rois: 4
Dames: 3
Cavaliers: 2
Valets: 1
Every two cards 1

The declarer simply has win more than half of the points in the deck, 55 points.

Note: If honours are worth 11 points, then the deck contains 112 points. One-half of that is exactly 56 points. I don't know if the total points in the deck should add up to an odd number, but even suggesting this variant would probably piss of the Fédération Française de Tarot.

Update: More interestingly (as I want to get the 111 total points in the deck):

Honours: 9 × 3 = 27
Rois: 4 × 4 = 16
Dames: 3 × 4 = 12
Cavaliers: 2 × 4 = 8
Valets: 1 × 4 = 4
Last trick: 5 = 5
Every two cards: 78 / 2 = 39
Total points: = 111
Goal: 55 points

Or, to value the 1-trump more:

21-trump: 9
1-trump: 14
Excuse: 9
Honours: = 32
Rois: 4 × 4 = 16
Dames: 3 × 4 = 12
Cavaliers: 2 × 4 = 8
Valets: 1 × 4 = 4
Every two cards: 78 / 2 = 39
Total points: = 111
Goal: 55 points

French Tarot: Partnership options

One feature that I miss with four-player Tarot is a partnership option where the declarer can have a secret partner, like in five-player Tarot.

I propose two new contracts: l'amour sans le chien and l'amour contre le chien.

For either of these two contracts, the declarer flips the chien face up. The declarer then calls the highest non-trump card that neither they nor the chien hold. The player who holds this called card becomes the declarer's partner, but may not announce their identity until they have played the called card.

For l'amour sans le chien, the points in the chien count towards the declarer's team. For l'amour contre le chien, the points in the chien count towards the opposing team.

L'amour avec le chien (I'll let your imagine how that feels like) is probably way too easy with a chien of 6 cards. Alternatively, if everyone passes, then the dealer must play this contract.

As for multipliers, I propose this:

L'amour avec le chien ×0.5
L'amour sans le chien ×1
L'amour contre le chien ×2
Garde ×3
Garde sans le chien ×4
Garde contre le chein ×6

As there are more bids, I propose a more "traditional" auction: Players, in turn order, either bid or pass. Once you have passed, you may not bid again. A player who's ahead in turn order may "hold" a previous bid, which means that you're bidding the same bid as a previous player. For instance forehand (the first player) may hold any other player's bid, second player may hold any other player's bid except for forehand, and dealer may not hold any player's bid. A bid may only be held once.

Aventure or liaison might be better than amour. What about coup d'un soir? BTW, the proper term should be appel, and garde should be renamed solissimo.

Board Game: Skat
Skat: Bidding with multipliers and trump suit instead of contract value

I have very poor arithmetic skills, which I don't plan on ever improving. My mental multiplication and division are nonexistent, and having to perform those tasks other than during a scoring phase is too torturous for me.

In Skat, you bid the value of a proposed contract, which is the product of (a) the value of the trump suit and (b) the number of multipliers, which is the sum of (i) the number of high trump cards you hold (or don't) and (ii) the point values of tasks you propose to accomplish like winning 90+ card points in tricks or playing without exchanging cards.

I propose to hold off on all this multiplying until the hand is scored. A bid is just the proposed trump suit and the number of multipliers. The greater number of multipliers, the higher the bid. Among bids with equal multipliers, the one with the higher ranked suit is the higher bid.

Or, you could use this table:
From gallery of rayzg

(This table could go even further right all the way to 11 grand, but those high bids are very, very rare.)

Bids on the right are higher ranked than those on the left. Among those in the same column, bids further down the column are higher ranked than those above.

I just realized to make the scores for the null contracts fit better in the table, the should be between the spades and the clubs. I could also assign the null contracts a base value of 11.5 and give them nominal multiplier values of 2, 3, 4, and 5. But a base value of 11.5 defeats the purpose of this variant!

Or, I could assign a base value of 13 to the null contracts and simplify the table even further:

From gallery of rayzg

Grand is where the four jacks form their own four-card trump suit. Bidding a grand contract is like bidding for a number of wild sides in Perudo:

Given a suit bid n, the next highest grand bid is n/2 rounded up.

Given a grand bid m, the next highest suit bid is m * 2 + 1.

One problem with this table: The bid table doesn't order the contracts by their actual score. Other bid tables do this, including one I made about seven years ago:

Skat scoring summary

However, I don't have a problem with that as the point of this variant is for me to avoid multiplying in my head -- and dividing for me to try to derive what trump suit or multipliers my opponents are aiming for!

How likely am I going to try these variants

Provided that I'm not playing with any French players, I think I'd definitely play with the "more valuable honours" variant as it's so much easier to explain.

I think I could convince my French friends to play with my "l'amour sans/contre le chien" as it replaces the essentially useless petit bid, which is the same as garde except it's worth less.

As for my Skat variant, I don't think I'll ever try this one. It's because I don't enjoy playing Skat for other reasons, namely, it punishes players too severely for sloppy play! But if my opponents are willing to play with won tricks face up, maybe I'd reconsider!
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