A game for four played in partnerships that is ideal for friends whose game play is hopelessly informal. Partners are seated next to one another rather than opposite and they are allowed to discuss their cards and strategy between them. Sadly, this game died out long ago in Europe but thanks for Historians we can rediscover it and renew it by adding one or two little twists of our own.

Pack: A Loka of 80 cards is used consisting of four regular suits of 14 cards, a suit of 23 trumps (including the Good & Evil cards), and The Fool.

Ranking: Rational ranking is used...

Pip cards rank in suit from high to low:
King, Queen, Cavalier, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace

Trumps rank by their number, 21 high, 1 low, save for the Good and Evil cards which hold equal rank below the 1.

Empty Cards: These are cards that have values of 1 point or less.

Honours: The Magician, The World, and The Fool are called The Honours. They are always among the highest scoring cards.

Card Points are:
Honours 5 points
Kings 5 points
Queens 4 points
Cavaliers 3 points
Jacks 2 points
Aces 5 points
All others 1 point

A game consists of four hands.

Deal: First Dealer is chosen at random or by consent with the role moving to the player on Dealer’s left after each hand.

Note: If playing the Attack & Defence variation, then Dealer should start by finding the 20 and 21 of trumps, keeping the 21 and giving the 20 to Partner.

First Dealer shuffles the cards before but for subsequent hands they are cut by Youngest (Dealer’s Right) – this is done by setting the pack face down and then lifting off three or four piles that are then re-stacked in a different order. On any deal any player may call for the cards to be re-shuffled.

Dealer gives each player 19 cards in one packet of 4(if playing Attack & Defence, then Dealer takes only 3 in the first round and likewise gives partner only three) and two packets of 5, taking the last 2 cards into his/her own hand. Dealer must then discard two cards that may not include Kings, Honours, or, unless there is no other choice, trumps. The discards count toward Dealer’s Side’s tricks at the end.

Play: Eldest (Dealer’s Left) leads to the first trick by placing a card face up on the table. Each player in turn, moving to the left, must play a card from their hand of the suit led – this is called following suit. If they do not have any cards of the suit led, it is called being void in that suit and they must play a trump card instead. However, if they have no trumps, they may then play any other card, though it will not win. Whoever plays the highest trump to the trick wins it, or if trumps are not played, then whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins it. The winner takes the cards and places them face down in their trick pile to be counted at the end.

The player that wins the trick then leads to the next one and play continues until the hand has been played out.

If The Fool is held, then it may be played at any time instead of a card that the rules might otherwise require and although it will not win, it is seldom lost. When played, The Fool is returned to to its player who then places it face up beside them until the end of the hand when they must pay the player who won the trick with a card from their trick pile (obviously, they will choose an empty card if they can). However, if they have taken no tricks, then they must surrender The Fool instead.

Good & Evil: there are a couple of interesting ways that these cards can be used. Players should agree before play commences on the option used.

Trumps: If just one of these cards is played to a trick, then it functions as the lowest trump. If both are played to the same trick, then if played by members of the same team, then together they beat everything (whoever played the first of them leads to the next trick) but if played by opposing teams, then they count for nothing.

The Game of Allegiance: The Good and Evil cards are still played under the rules governing the play of trumps but the first to play one can call it “Yours” or “ours”. If “ours”, then the player claims the points for the named suits (Earth and Air for Good, Fire and Water for Evil) for their own – this means that for all their tricks they will only score for cards of those suits while their opponents will only score for the other suits. They may on the other hand, call “yours” which imposes that choice on the opposing team – so if a player puts down Good to the trick and calls “yours” then that team will only score for evil cards (ie Fire and Water), while their opponents will now only score for good cards (ie Earth and Air).

When one of these has been played to a trick, if the other member of the team has the other card, then they must take it out of play. If they have not yet played to the trick, then they must play this card (irrespective of what the rules might otherwise require), though it will have no effect. If they have already played a card to the trick, then they must take it back into their hand and play this card instead.

If the opposing team has the other card, then they may play it at a future turn according to the normal rules. When the do so, they may either re-affirm their opponents call, in which case it has no effect, or they may change the call. In this case, all the tricks so far played are set to one side and are scored according to the original allegiance call, while all tricks after this are scored according to the new call.

Choosing the right time to play these cards is a matter of skill, play them too soon and you could give your game away, time it right and you can ruin your opponents’ tricks, stripping them of value. But wait too long and you can have the same done to you.

Attack & Defence: Having partners sitting next to one another means that rather than simply play Tarocchi with different seating, we can introduce an innovation from Hungary. Here, Dealer’s side will be Attackers, while the other players are the Defenders.

Dealer takes the role of Driver, while Partner has the role of Catcher. Dealer leads to the first trick and the direction of play from that point is opposite to the side that Dealer’s partner is seated – so, if Partner is sitting on Dealer’s left, then the direction of play for that hand will be to the right and vice versa.

In this version of the game, it is best to play the Good & Evil cards as trumps. You might also want to allow the Gallowglass rules.

Gallowglass: Broadly, a gallowglass was a mercenary. Originally it was specific to an ethnicity but over time it referred more generally to skilled mercenaries of another nation. Employing such mercenaries from outside had a serious benefit – they didn’t have a dog in the local race!

Dealer may nominate one of the regular suits to be the gallowglass suit which has both benefits and a cost.

When a suit has been led in which a player has only one or more court cards, then, if they hold any, they may play a card from the gallowglass suit as if it was of the suit led. This means that if the gallowglass card is higher than any card of the suit led and no trumps have been played, then it may win the trick. If a card of the suit led and the gallowglass are of the same rank, then the second of the two to be played ranks higher. However, gallowglass cards have no point value, nor do any cards in a trick that is won by them. And herein lies their cost, they reduce the total value of card points in the pack all the while, the declarer must still win as many points as their contract requires – so this option should be used with caution.

If playing the Gallowglass rule, then I recommend employing the Good & Evil cards as trumps.

Scores: When the hand has been played, players count their teams’ card points individually and then add 1 point for each trick (Cards of the discard to not count as a trick). There are therefore 165 card points to be won in the standard game. Whichever side wins 83 points or more wins the difference in game points from the opponents.

For a game of Allegiance, the maximum number of points that can be won by a team will vary. Players total their card points according to the changing allegiances and the number of tricks won. Whichever side wins the most points wins the difference between the two scores from their opponents.

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