This is how my family plays - and they have played it with great frequency since it came out.
The rook card is still worth 20 points, but it is the LOWEST trump in the game. It beats any non-trump, but will lose to any other trump.
The other score cards are the 5, 10, and 13. This is a clear improvement, IMHO over having the 14 being the score card, in which case it would be automatic points. So, 5=5 points 10=10 points 13=13 points Rook=20 points.
We also play that each trick you win is worth 2 points. The total number of points in the game, therefore, depends on the number of players (6 is the best number for this version, we have found)
The final house rule that relates to points is that the player who wins the LAST TRICK in the round scores whatever points may happen to be hidden in the kitty. This allows whoever wins the bid to place point cards in the kitty if they feel confident that they can manage to win the last trick.
Finally, we play with A HIDDEN PARTNER. This is really the best part, and is what elevates rook to greatness when played this way. Whoever wins the bid not only calls a trump suit (or she may call NO TRUMP) also calls the holder of a particular card as her partner. For example, she might say, "Trump is black, and the 14 of black is my partner." Whoever has the named card in her hand keeps it a secret that she is the partner, though the other players may eventually guess based on how she plays. The points won by the high bidder and those won by the partner are added together to determine whether or not they made the bid.
I hope someone on BGG tries out these rules, preferably with 5-7 players, and is able to report on how she liked it.
Re:My favorite house rules for Rook
I have tried playing with most of the rule variants you suggest. The good thing about Rook is that there are many "house rules" that can be introduced without ruining the game.
My friends and I play that you cannot place points in the kitty. This makes it more difficult to get rid of an entire color and makes it more challenging for the winning bidder to make their bid.
We also play with the full deck with 1s being worth 15 points. The 1 is the highest card in the suit and since 14s are worth 10 points, I need to be careful as to how I play my 1, since someone else may have the 14 but choose not to play it and I will lose the 10 points associated with the 14 when they do take a trick with this card.
We also play with Rook being worth 20 points but being the lowest trump card.
Finally, when playing with 6 players we have one "called" partner and one automatic partner. That is, the successful bidder gets to call one player as partner, and one card is named before the game to be the automatic partner. That is, for the whole 6 player game, the green two (for example) will be one of the partners. If the "called" partner also has the automatic partner card, too bad, it's 4-on-2. This adds an element of uncertainty and keeps bids in check.
It's great to hear that others play with the Rook as the lowest trump. The other Rook players I've met (other than members of my family) always play with it high, which is okay, but it means that when you get the Rook you think "cool, a trick and twenty points" rather than "hmm, an opportunity for 20 points."
I also have the same scoring system and play that you can't throw away counters. Basically, we play the same way, and I feel good about that.
Rook is a game near and dear to my heart because my Grandfather was the king of card players and we played Rook every vacation ad infinitum (but not ad nauseum). We had a house rule that said that in a three player game, if either of the non-Grandpa players wanted to make trump, they could have it for 135 (or 140, I don't remember, maybe it changed as we got older and more capable). If neither of us wanted it, Grandpa had to take it for 140 (or 145). It was fun watching him get stuck with the worst hands (and sort of fun to get stomped by him anyway).
That's funny. I just read the rules of this game, which I just acquired, and was thinking that it would be good if 13's were worth points, instead of 14. I'm glad to know you've tried this and enjoy that variant. I will try playing that way.
I grew up playing with the Rook being the lowest trump. I have never heard of it being the highest, but I think that would take the suspense out of the card.
I also grew up playing "set partner" rather than "called/hidden partner", though I have played it that way. While it isn't my preference, I do like it alot when playing with 5 players.
We also never threw points in the kitty. To me, when you play set partner and you throw points in the kitty, the winning bidder/team gets everything they need. I like the tension that comes with having a non-trump 5 or 10.
Anyways, this is a great game, and as long as people are playing it and having fun, who am I to say that 13's can't score, that playing hidden partner is inferior and that you can't put points in the kitty?
This is pretty similar to the way we always played at Carnegie Mellon. Our Rook was always a 5-handed game (if we only had 4 people we played Spades instead). The dynamic of a 5-handed game is so very weird compared to 4- or 6-handed. The deal was 10 cards to each person, and a 3-card kitty.
We play with a standard deck + 1 joker, with 4 scorers per suit (5 = 5, 10 = 10, K = 10, A (high) = 15) and the rook worth 20 for 180 points in the deck.
Bidding starts at 85; most hands go for 125-145. The winning bidder picks up the kitty, discards 3 cards to a new kitty (the winner of the last trick gets any points discarded in this way), and names a trump suit, or High No Trump (extremely rare), or Low No Trump. In Low-No, the lowest card of the suit led wins each trick, but the scorers are unchanged. This means that most of the high-scoring cards are severe losers. Low-No hands are usually pretty exciting. The declarer also names a card; whoever holds this card is his partner, and doesn't announce it until she plays the card. Finally, the declarer chooses whether to lead the first trick (rather uncommon) or have the player to his left (the Wookie, not sure of the derivation of this term) lead.
The rook is always the lowest trump. In a High-No or Low-No contract, it's the only trump. But it's still a trump! And it scores 20 points! Be careful.
Scoring is individual. The declarer and his partner each get the points their partnership takes, as long as they make their contract (otherwise, they each get negative the contract). The 3 opponents always each receive the points they collectively take. Thus, if the contract is 140 but the declarer and his partner only get 135 points between them, they each receive -140 and all 3 opponents each receive 45. Game was to 500, or until we felt like stopping: I remember one epic 14-hour game, with people swapping in and out as they had to go to final exams, that ended with scores in the 10-15k range and only one of the original players, who was sitting in a different seat (having gone to an exam and come back)!
I always found this variant much more compelling than the other variants I've read. With only 10 tricks, the opportunity to name trump is very powerful; but the declarer only gets 2 people on their team while the opposition gets 3. The rook scores extremely high, but it's hard to win tricks with (except in Low-No); usually it's a liability in the hand of whoever's holding it, but it's dangerous to be the declarer without having control of the rook.
At the start of each hand, most of the players don't know who the partner is, so you need to be suspicious if someone collects a lot of points. Has the contract just been set? Or are they the partner? Or... what?
The addition of Low-No tends to run the bids up higher, since a completely terrible hand for a standard contract might turn out to be a pretty good Low-No hand. But hands that actually end up in a Low-No contract are... exciting. You can never really be sure what will happen.
The individual scoring sometimes leads to odd situations in which you intentionally throw the contract in order to set your partner (preventing them from winning); some people may find this unsporting but we always played for blood, no holds barred. Conversely, sometimes you call a card you put in the kitty, thus going alone, in case you're afraid your partner might intentionally set you to prevent you from winning.
Did we just make this variant up? Or has anyone else heard of it?