Ryan Tullis
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A Personal Introduction

At some point I think I started to feel "too good" for the classic games (excluding chess/go/shogi). Like most young board game hobbyists, I felt as if I'd stepped above what I knew growing up, and that returning to play those games would be backwards.

Well, enter Thanksgiving last year. My Mom couldn't make it down to Florida, so it left myself, my wife, my brother, and his girlfriend to enjoy the holiday together. Most of the time we went out to visit him, it boiled down to drinking beer and watching Netflix. This time, though, I didn't want that. I wanted something we could do and enjoy. Sitting on his counter was a classic deck of cards. Good ol' cards. Well, what the heck, I thought? Couldn't hurt to play something easy.

When I was a kid, my Dad would have me play Euchre with him and my step mother (my brother had already moved out, so he hadn't played then). It had been quite a few years. But I whipped it out, taught the rules, and we were playing in no time. How did it go? Read the review!

How to Play (The Dry Part - skip if you know the game)

Since not everyone here grew up in the Midwest United States - Euchre is 4-player, partner trick-taking game that stems from Whist. You play with the cards 9-Ace. Some variations allow Jokers. Rumor has it that Euchre became so popular that card companies began printing the standard 2-jokers we see now in decks.

The object of Euchre is to be the first team to get to 10 points. This is achieved through taking tricks and winning hands.

Play begins with a dealer dealing out five cards to each player. Partners sit across from each other. Once the cards are dealt, the remaining cards are sat facedown on the table - these cards are called the kitty (I have no idea why). Flip the top card of the kitty face-up. Beginning with the player to the dealer's right, decide if the dealer will pick that card up. If the dealer picks it up, that suit becomes trump (for instance, if the player on the right tells the dealer to pick up the 10 of hearts, hearts is now trump). If nobody (including the dealer) tells the dealer to pick up the card, then, beginning again with the player on the right, any suit may be called trump. If, STILL, nobody calls it, the card are shuffled and re-dealt. If dealer picks up the face-up card, he may discard one of his choice facedown.

When a player tells the dealer to pick a card, or chooses a suit, he is betting that his team can take 3+ tricks. If his team takes 3 tricks in the hand, they receive 1 point. If they take all 5 tricks, it's called a "run" and they receive 2 points. If they fail to win majority of the five tricks? The opponent receives 2 points.

Once the cards are dealt out, the player to the right of the dealer begins by playing a card. Play continues to the right, where each player must follow suit if possible. If they cannot, they can play a card of their choice, including the trump suit (the one that beats all).

Suit value goes like this - Trump suit, suit led, all other suits.

Whatever team played the highest card takes the trick. Easy, right?

Here's the card value (it's important to read this):

Jack of the trump suit (right bauer)
Jack of the same color as the trump suit (left bauer)
Ace
King
Queen
Non-Trump Jacks
10
9

The jacks are the only strange part to explain. The "right" jack (or bauer) is the highest card in any hand. The "left" jack is the card of the same color as the trump suit. So if Diamonds is trump, the Jack of Diamonds is the right jack, and the Jack of Hearts is the left jack. In this situation, the "left" jack (the jack of Hearts) counts as a Diamond. ALL OTHER JACKS in the game act like normal jacks in their suit.

Yes, you can lead with trump, if you'd like.

Finally, if a player decides his hand is so good he wants to go alone, he can do so. His partner simply doesn't play. Why do this, you ask? Because if a player going solo can win ALL FIVE tricks their team receives a whopping 4 points. If he just takes majority, his team still gets 1 point, and if he doesn't, opponent takes 2.


Things I like about Euchre! (The Fun Part!)

Euchre has decisions! Any game worth its paper needs to have decisions. Euchre has two important ones. The first is deciding if you want to call trump. Remember, you're not allowed to consult with your teammate. Of course, you'll try. Everyone tries. I remember my brother saying to my wife (his partner) "So, Amanda. I'm thinking I'm going to go to some clubs on Friday. I'm thinking maybe... THREE clubs. How about you?" Her reply, "I don't like clubbing." What's another funny one? Oh, "How many diamonds are usually on a baseball field? I just can't remember. Is it three? No, no. It's four!" Of course, this is just drinking and playing with family. Don't do this in serious Euchre situations (not sure when a serious Euchre situation happens).

Some important thoughts on calling trump: Remember, the dealer will pick up the card on the table if you call trump. If one of the other team is dealer, and the face-up card is a Jack, keep in mind your opponent will be enjoying the right bauer (jack) in their hand.

During the actual play, there are still decisions to be made. Let's say you have the right jack, do you really want to play it soon and pull everyone else's trump out (including your partner's)? If you have plenty of trump, why not try to play so you have less available suits in your hand? Remember, less suits = more opportunities to play trump. The plot thickens!

The Not-So-Cool Parts of Euchre

Sometimes your hand will be littered with poor cards. It happens. Deals can be bad, and five cards doesn't leave a lot of room for particularly poor hands. You'll watch your hand just slowly get chipped away at as everyone else plays their beautiful jacks and aces that you long for. That part is never fun. Luckily, having a partner mitigates some of the problem.

Sometimes, your partner can call too often. Taking the initiative is very important in Euchre, but so is discretion. Remember, the goal isn't to have an awesome card or two, it's about taking the majority of the tricks.

Online play could be ruined by the fact that you have no idea if the other team is illegally discussing their cards with one another. I've heard stories of teams accidentally posting their table talk in the group chat, revealing themselves to all.


Overall

Euchre went down great that Thanksgiving night. My brother actually called me the next day to tell me how much fun he had playing it. He doesn't usually do that.

Euchre isn't going to burn your brain, but it's not going to just put you through the motions, either. You're boardgamers. You know the difference between light and heavy games. The best part I have found about Euchre is that it connects hobbyists and normal families alike to sit down at the table and have fun. I don't know how much that means to some of you, but to me it means a great deal. I taught it to my mother and step father. I haven't played a game with my mom that we both liked since I was a little, little kid. She likes her games light (like Bingo light), I like them middle range (on a hobbyist scale). But here we were, for the first time in ages, playing a game where we all had fun. That was a good time for me.


My Message to You

Next time your family comes over (or non-gamer friends), and they're dreading you taking out that giant "Eclipse" box to slam down on the table, surprise them with a normal card deck. It doesn't have to be Euchre, but enjoy that game of Texas Hold 'Em, Rummy, etc. It's amazing how that cheap, little deck of cards can bring so many games to the table. You might even be surprised to find out how much fun everyone, including yourself, has.


I give Euchre 7 tricks out of 10.




What a 7 means to me: A 7 represents a solid game that, while not always making the table, can be enjoyed in a steady rotation. A 7+ rated game should always be able to justify its cost.








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Adam O'Brien
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My doctor says I have 4 Hearts in my body.

When I worked in Cincinnati, we would play euchre every day at lunch. Basically, we'd just try to play as many hands as possible in an hour.

I would have to argue with your point about having a partner that bids too aggressively being a negative. You just have to adjust your play to compliment your partner's style. If your partner bids aggressively, you should probably bid conservatively. During play, make sure that you take a trick if at all possible, knowing that your partner may have bid with a middling strength hand and is counting on you for a trick.

It is also pretty cool how if you play with the same people over and over, you can develop a sixth sense about what cards they have.
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Ryan Tullis
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Wow. BGG posted only the first half-sentence of my post.

Anyway, what I was going to say: Euchre, to me, is half about knowing when and when not to be aggressive. Personally, I like rotating partners in groups of four. It's fun to see the different chemistry different teams have. It's a blast.

I'm from Dayton. I guess Ohio loves euchre.


PS. Love the Simpsons avatar.
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Karl Hiesterman
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Excellent! I've been surprised how many Midwesterners there are here in Colorado, and how many of them play Euchre. Great card game. One of the things I love best about it is once you all know how to play you can come to decisions quickly, and play progresses fast, using just enough brain power to be fun and challenging, but not so much you can't talk and socialize during. That's what I remember best about playing it with my Grandparents and Aunts: an interesting game yet you could still chat...

And by the way, a Jack is a "Bauer" (German for Farmer).
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Derek Thompson
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I have played hundreds of hands of Euchre in my life and really enjoyed it... but since then I have learned Spades, and I can't help but think that Spades is a strictly superior game.
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Jeffrey Nolin
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I have always had a low regard for 'turn-up' euchre. My grandparents were 'bid' euchre players and I respect them too much to play the inferior version.
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Jason Meyers
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Nice review and good thoughts. It's nice to see classic card games get some cred - it's simply amazing what all you can do with a deck of cards. Euchre is alive and well in Kansas where I learned to play growing up - though my grandparents, who taught me, preferred pitch and cribbage as their "go-to" games.
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Ed Holzman
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Tryken wrote:
Don't do this in serious Euchre situations (not sure when a serious Euchre situation happens).

Euchre gets serious when money is involved. The last time I actually gambled with cards, it was when I entered a $10 per head, 32 player Euchre tournament hosted at the house of my wife's uncle's friend (we were visiting his home during summer vacation in Petoskey, MI in 1997). You rotated partners after each game and the player with the highest accumulated score over 8 games took home 75% of the $10 per head jackpot with 2nd place taking home the other 25%. My wife's uncle invited me to tag along not knowing that I majored in Euchre while attending the University of Cincinnati in the mid '80s. Playing dumb while turning $10 into $240 was fun.
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Derek Thompson
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Kaehl wrote:
Euchre has a cultural facet that gives it additional weight in the areas where it is played. Without question, whenever it comes up. . ."Oh, you must be from the Midwest."

It is also a strong tradition in more than a few families, mine included.

So, kind sir, your statement is rubbish!

aldaryn wrote:
I have played hundreds of hands of Euchre in my life and really enjoyed it... but since then I have learned Spades, and I can't help but think that Spades is a strictly superior game.


I agree all of this, as I've lived in Indiana my whole life and grew up on Euchre... but strictly as a game, it's just not that deep compared to similar games, like Spades, or various iterations of Bid Euchre (we play the one with a full 52 card deck and no partners, but I also knew a double-Euchre-deck partners version...)
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Bobby Ramsey
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aldaryn wrote:
I have played hundreds of hands of Euchre in my life

Doesn't sound like you have enough data on either game to reach a valid conclusion. Euchre and Spades have been played for over 150 years and 80 years, respectively, for a reason.


Quote:
I can't help but think that Spades is a strictly superior game.

It's easy. Just realize that you're wrong, then rectify.
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montag 66
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Bit of correction in your "how to play section". Play begins to the left of the dealer.
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Harold Tessmann III
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AnyMouse wrote:
Euchre and Spades have been played for over 150 years and 80 years, respectively, for a reason.


Yeah, the reason being that people invented Spades more recently. That has no bearing on the relative quality of the games.
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Harold Tessmann III
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Tryken wrote:
Euchre has decisions! Any game worth its paper needs to have decisions. Euchre has two important ones. The first is deciding if you want to call trump.

Tryken wrote:
During the actual play, there are still decisions to be made.


I strongly disagree with this conclusion. In the majority of situations, you can easily determine the best course of play. My friends play with the “screw the dealer” variant, which forces the dealer to pick trump on the second pass (and reduces downtime due to reshuffling misdeals), yet even with that I estimate you get to make maybe one meaningful decision each hand. You only have a Queen and 10 of the face-up suit? Don’t tell the dealer to pick it up! The first player led with spades and you only have one? Gotta follow suit! Yes, technically you could decide to declare trump with a Q and 10, or you could decide to renege, but I don’t count that. (For the uninitiated, if a player fail to follow suit when they could and an opponent catches them later in the hand, that player has “reneged”: the hand ends immediately and the opposing team earns the maximum possible score for that hand.) I can’t think of a reason to pick Euchre over Wizard unless you just want something to do while you chat or only have a basic poker deck handy.

If you like trick-taking games, I recommend Wizard for a number of reasons. First, it supports anywhere from three to six players (no teams, each person has their own score). It uses an expanded poker deck, adding four Wizards (which overtrump everything) and four Jesters (which count as null). You can freely play a Wizard or Jester instead of following suit. You deal a hand of one card in the first round, two in the second, three in the third, and so on. The strategy starts with the bidding; after receiving your hand, you must predict how many tricks you think you can take. If you predict correctly, you earn a base number of points plus some for each trick you won. If you predict incorrectly, you lose points based on the number you went over or under. You must then play your hand carefully. Winning a trick lets you lead the next one, which gives you control, but you can also end up stuck with the lead even after you’ve made your bid (unless you saved a Jester…). The play gets very interesting in the later rounds. Even if you have an even bid, i.e. players think they can take a total of eight tricks with eight cards in hand, people get twitchy. Rather than passing the lead in an organized fashion, by the third trick or so you’ll see someone throw a Wizard to steal the lead, then someone else steals it on the next trick, and in the end some poor sap gets stuck with an extra trick or two because nobody had the matching suit or spare trump for the last card led.
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David Bush
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karlhiesterman wrote:
...

And by the way, a Jack is a "Bauer" (German for Farmer).

Did farmers use to wear such clothing, or funny hats?

Hey Jack, where you going with that flower in your hand?
Hey Jack, where you going with that flower in your hand?
Well, I'm going up to Frisco, to join a psychedelic band.
I'm going up to Frisco, to join a psychedelic band.

Hey Jack, where you going with that fancy shirt?
Hey Jack, where you going with that fancy shirt?
I'm going to the love-in, to sit and play my bongos in the dirt.
I'm going to the love-in, to sit and play my bongos in the dirt.

Hey Jack, where you going with that thing on your head?
Hey Jack, where you going with that thing on your head?
I'm going to the dance, to get some action, then I'm going home to bed.
I'm going to the dance, to get some action, then I'm going home to bed.

Hey Jack
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Ryan Tullis
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karlhiesterman wrote:

And by the way, a Jack is a "Bauer" (German for Farmer).


Fixed. Thanks for the correction!
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Bill Norton
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Right after college I did some substitute teaching at a high school.

There was some time to kill in one class, so it was do whatever you want, just keep it quiet and you can't leave.

I think out of 21 students 16 were playing euchre.

Euchre is not as good of a game as spades, bridge, rook, etc

But it is very portable, easy to score, and the luck keeps the not as good players coming back.

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