Tarockania

Herzmanovsky-Orlando, the famous author, once coined the word Tarockanien, Tarockania, and meant the place in the world where Tarock was played: the Austrian monarchy. Tarock is still here: Welcome in Tarockania!

This is my attempt putting together a sketchy guide how to play Tarock. If you know better translations for some of the Viennese Tarock idioms, please tell me or simply correct me if necessary.

Please note that there is an excellent site maintained by John McLeod about all kinds of card games at http://www.pagat.com/

What is Tarock?

Tarock is an old Austrian playing card game, derived from medieval Italian tarocchi. Playing Tarock is still popular throughout eastern Austria, especially in some Viennese cafés, parks and schools.

What do I need for playing Tarock?

  1. a pack of Tarock playing cards
  2. at least one additional person, best is three more people for the most interesting variants
  3. time to learn how to play

The Cards

There are 54 cards in one pack, consisting of 32 suit cards (hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades) and 22 tarocks (1 to 21 plus the highest card in the game called Sküs). Pictures of a complete pack of Tarock cards can be seen here.

The suit cards

hearts and diamonds consist of
  1. King - 5 points
  2. Queen - 4 points
  3. Knight - 3 points
  4. Jack - 2 points
  5. Ace - 1 point
  6. Two - 1 point
  7. Three - 1 point
  8. Four - 1 point
in this hierarchy.

clubs and spades consist of

  1. King - 5 points
  2. Queen - 4 points
  3. Knight - 3 points
  4. Jack - 2 points
  5. Ten - 1 point
  6. Nine - 1 point
  7. Eight - 1 point
  8. Seven - 1 point
in this hierarchy.

The tarocks

22 cards from roman I to XXI plus the Sküs.
XXI takes XX and so on, the Sküs is like a tarock XXII and therefore trumps all other cards.

The value for the cards II - XX is 1 point.
The value for I, XXI and the Sküs is 5 points. These cards are also called Trull.

General rules

First, let's assume you know how to play a card game - so you know how to shuffle cards and that you don't show your cards other people, etc.

Generally, you must follow suit! If you don't have a played suit, you have to play tarock. If you even don't have tarock, you can play anything you want. If tarock is played, you have to play a tarock if you have one.

Tarocks take all other cards.

Generally, the goal of the game is to make more points than the opponent(s).

How to count

There are two ways to count what's the value of the cards after the game:
The simple and the original one. As a starter, I will tell you If you are about to learn playing Tarock, I would recommend to find 3 more people and start playing

Tarock for four players

Zwanz'gerrufen

This variant of Tarock is played clockwise. The four participants sit around a table, one starts to shuffle the cards.
Stop, wrong. First you have to sort out 14 cards, ie tarock II and III, hearts and diamonds Two, Three and Four and clubs and spades Seven, Eight and Nine. So there are 40 cards left in the pack now; the two Aces and Tens have a value of 0 points in Zwanz'gerrufen.

So now one player, the dealer, shuffles the cards. The player sitting vis à vis of this player then has to cut the pack of cards. Every player gets five cards, then again five cards - now, everyone has ten cards in his hands.

Trull

If one has the Trull in her hand, she has to announce that. This scores 1 point later, when the game is over.

Pagat Ultimo

If one has the Pagat in his hand, he can say "Pagat Ultimo" to announce that he wants to take the last trick with tarock I. If this is then realized, it scores 2 points. If one makes a Pagat Ultimo without prior announcement it scores 1 point. A failed Pagat Ultimo scores for the opponents.

The player, that got the cards first (sitting left of the dealer), is called forehand. The forehand decides what happens next - this can be a normal game, a Solo, a Valat or a Farberl. These games have a specific score - after the forehand has said what he wants to do, the other players can clockwise bid a higher game. If the forehand wants to play the same game as one of the others, the forehand has the right to do so.

Normal game

scores 1 point

The forehand has a special right: the right to choose a partner. How can this be done?

Only one player got tarock XX ("zwanzig" = twenty). So, the forehand says, "I call tarock twenty" ("rufen" = to call) to indicate that the player with tarock XX is his partner. If the forehand has tarock XX in his own hand, he has to call XIX, if he has XIX, too, he calls XVIII and so on until XVI; if he has all tarocks from XX to XVI, the forehand has to play a Solo - but this is very unlikely! You see, there is not really a way to choose anyone for the forehand - he just has to say the number of the highest tarock he hasn't got.

Very important now: The player with the called tarock in his hand must not tell anybody about that! The others will see that during the play.

The forehand starts playing. Just put a card on the table. Clockwise, the others have to give a card, too - according to the rules! Of course you will try to make as many tricks as possible - or better, as many points as possible, but there is very often a strong correlation...

And you will try to support your partner when you know who your partner is! After the game, your the cards of your tricks and those of your partner are put together. Then it comes to counting - the party with more than 44 points wins. If both parties have 44 points, the party with the forehand loses.

Solo

scores 4 points

This means that one player plays against the three others.

Typically, you will play a Solo when you have many high tarocks; 45 points are needed to win this.

Valat

scores 6 points, 12 points when announced

If you think that the other side (ie two or three, in the case of a solo) will not make any trick, you can play a Valat. Beside that, there is nothing special about a Valat - but you won't play a Valat very often!

Farberl

scores 4 points

This changes the rules - tarocks no longer beat suit cards. One against three others. Nobody is allowed to lead a tarock when he has still other cards in his hand.

And of course, a Pagat Ultimo is impossible.

Scoring

announcementpoints
normal game1
Solo4
Farberl4
Valat unannounced6
Valat announced12
Trull (announced only)1
Pagat ultimo unannounced1
Pagat ultimo announced2

Königrufen

If you feel familiar enough with Zwangz'gerrufen, it's time to move on and learn the Tarock variant the experts play: Königrufen.

Königrufen is played counter-clockwise with all the 54 cards of the Tarock pack. The important structural difference to Zwanz'gerrufen is that you don't call tarock XX but a king.

Coming soon.

Tarock for three players

Tappen

Played counter-clockwise with all the 54 cards of the Tarock pack.

After shuffling and cutting, the dealer first deals 6 cards in packets of three as talon in the middle of the table, then 16 cards in two rounds with 8 cards in each round to each player.

Bidding

The question is if you feel strong enough playing against the two other players...

There are four possible bids (in ascending order):

The forehand starts the bidding by announcing "Mein Spiel" or just saying "passé" (yeah, that's french, not german). Now the player to the right of the forehand can do a higher bid or just pass. The bidding is going on counter-clockwise until two players pass. Note that the forehand has a forth possibility to declare: "Ich halte", to "hold" the highest bid so far. In this case the forehand wins the auction if the other players don't make a better announcement. Otherwise the player with the highest bid wins the auction.

"Die Oberen" is not more difficult to play than "Die Unteren", it's just unlikely that two players have such good cards they could announce this.

Playing

The talon is exposed (if it's not a "Solo") and the declarer chooses a set of three cards of the talon if it's a "Dreier" or gets the set he announced to take. Then he exchanges these cards with three cards of his hand, placing them with the face down on the table. These cards count with the tricks of the declarer, but must not be a king or a tarock. The other three cards go to the tricks of the opponents of the declarer; if a "Solo" is played, the complete talon goes to the tricks of the opponents. Now the game starts, following the general rules of Tarock.

Boni

There are two special announcements that can be done: Both boni can be played unannounced, too, but count only the half then.

Scoring

announcementpoints
Dreier3
Unterer4
Oberer5
Solo8
Pagat ultimo unannounced4
Pagat ultimo announced8
Valat unannounced4 times the value of the game
Valat announced8 times the value of the game

Tarock for two players

Stohmandeln

Coming soon.

Glossary

Tarock
the game Tarock
tarocks
Tarock
trumps, the cards I - XXI
1 point (except of I, XXI and the Sküs)
hearts
Herz
diamonds
Karo
spades
Pik
clubs
Treff
Jack
Bub
2 points
Knight
Kavall
3 points
Queen
Dame
4 points
King
König
5 points
Sküs
from italian scusa
The highest card in the game; treated as something like a tarock XXII
5 points
Mond
Moon (actually from italian mondo)
tarock XXI
5 points
Pagat
from italian bagatello
tarock I
5 points
tarock II
also called Uhu
tarock III
also called Kanari, Kakadu or Fleck
tarock IV
also called Quapil or Marabu
Trull
from french tous les trois
the combined occurrence of Sküs, Mond and Pagat.
Die Unteren
"the lowers"
the lower three cards of the talon
Die Oberen
"the uppers"
the upper three cards of the talon
Zwanzg`gerrufen
"calling of the twenty"
the simpler variant of playing Tarock with 4 people
Königrufen
"calling of a king"
the more complex variant of playing Tarock with 4 people
Strohmandeln
a variant of playing Tarock with 2 people
Tappen, Husareln, Point-Tarock
variants of playing Tarock with 3 people
Vorhand
forehand
the player with the right to make the bid first

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