Trick-Taking Games: How to play, classification, and gameplay

Best Trick taking games

A trick-taking game is a card or tile-based game where a certain number of tricks and rounds are used for playing the cards. The objective of a trick-taking game is closely tied to the number of tricks taken or to the card contained in the taken tricks. There are trick avoidance games where the aim is to avoid taking all or some tricks. If you are new to this category of card games, this article will help you understand what trick-taking games are and their gameplay format. As a bonus, we have also listed down the 4 best trick-taking games you can try your hand on.

What is a trick-taking game?

Trick-taking game is one of the oldest games for handling cards. It originated in China and then spread to the west during the second millennium. In a trick-taking game, each player forms a trick by playing one card from their hand to the middle of the play area. One player then wins the trick as per the rules of the game. In general, tricks are won by being the highest of the suit led, or by one of the players trumping the trick.

Trick taking games – Classification by Objective

Based on the objective of the game, the trick-taking games are of three types:

  1. Point trick games
  2. Plain trick games
  3. Trick avoidance

Point trick games

The main objective of the game is to capture specific cards within tricks. It focuses on taking maximum points based on the conditions and the way a player uses the winning tricks. In certain games, you get points even while leading a trick. Classic card games like Piquet also give points on starting a hand with no face cards whereas, in games like Sheng Ji, the scores vary with different cards.

Plain trick games

The objective of plain trick games is to capture as many tricks as possible. They entirely depend on the number of tricks won by a player. Resource management is the key here. Whist and Bridge are some popular games in this category.

In the Whist game, each partnership tries to score points by taking a trick in excess of six, and at the end, the winner is the partnership with maximum points. But in a Bridge game, a partnership scores points by making its bid or defeating the bid of the opposing partnership, and the winner is the scorer of maximum points.

Trick avoidance games

As the name suggests, these games need you to avoid tricks and are often about deceit and deception. The lower value card has a higher value.

Polignac, Slobberhanes, and Hearts are some examples of this category. In Polignac, avoid tricks with Jacks, while in Slobberhanes, avoid winning the first or last tricks. Also, avoid capturing the Queen of Clubs.

How to Play Trick Taking games?

Here is a generic process to play trick-taking games:

Step 1 – Distribution of cards

The deck is split first, and a dealer in every round shuffles it before distributing it among the players. Players receive a definite number of cards based on the game type, and the remaining are placed aside in a discard pile.

Step 2 – Start the game

Generally, the first trick is by the dealer, who starts the game by playing the card, after which others follow suit. If you cannot follow suit, you may play any other card from your hand. However, for some games, you must trump or overtrump.

Step 3 –The Trump card  

In trick-taking games, “the trump card” has a higher rank and is determined by bidding or by drawing from the remaining cards. It is a strategy that makes the game exciting and enhances the player’s chances of winning. Hence, the trump suit is a winning strategy in which one trick’s winner leads to the next, and the same process continues till all the hands are empty.

Step 4 – Win the game

The primary objective of trick-play games is winning through a high score, though, in some games, the lowest score also wins. The way the player fares on tricks and how well they manage the cards and take control of tricks and the trumps, determines the winner.

Generally, you need to play a card within the same suit to win, having a higher value. The player can still choose to play by giving up the current round if he doesn’t have the same suit of cards.

The Trump Suit

A game having the trump suit becomes the highest-ranked suit for the remaining game. Thus, it emerges as the winner against the leading suit.

Best trick-taking games

Here are some of the best trick-taking games that may need a unique deck of cards to play:

  1. The Crew
  2. Diamonds
  3. Fox in the forest
  4. Spades

The Crew

This trick-taking game requires 3-5 players. It has a storyline and a cooperative game that is challenging and addicting. Every round has a unique trick-taking goal, which you need to complete to proceed to the next round.

Gameplay

You and your crew will get 81 cards in total. Each player plays their own card face up in the middle of the table. There are five-card suits – Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow, and rocket card.  You win the trick if you place the card with the highest value. However, if you have not followed suit, you do not win the trick.

For example, the first card played is 2 of Yellow suit, followed by 8 of a yellow suit, and the 9 of pink suit. Here, even though 9 is the highest value, it did not follow suit, and thus, 8 wins the trick.

Best trick taking games - The Crew
The Rocket Cards

Rocket cards are trump cards, so if you play this card, you will win the trick no matter which other cards are in the play. If you cannot play the card in the color suit, only then you can play the rocket card. What happens if someone plays the rocket card first?

The rocket card will establish the suit and all players must follow if possible. The one with the highest value wins.

Diamonds

This is a plain trick-taking game and has prediction-based scoring. There is competition among the players without partnerships.

A standard deck of 52 cards is at play. You need to shuffle and deal out the entire deck to ensure that all players have an equal number of cards. Any remaining cards facing up are eliminated and are out of play for this hand.

Gameplay

Starting from the left side of the dealer, each player predicts and names the number of tricks that they will be taking this hand. They either write down each player’s bid or let each player have a poker chipper trick they bid. After making a bid, you cannot change it.

The first one to start is the player having the lowest club, generally 2 clubs. He begins a new trick by playing this card face up to the middle, and for every new trick, the play continues clockwise from the one who opened the first card.

Diamonds should have been already played as the trump or should be the only thing left at hand for a player to lead with diamonds. If a player has the same suit card or any other suit card, he can play it. The trick is complete after each player has played one card.

If no Diamonds have been played, the winner is the highest-ranked card of the played suit, or it is the highest-ranked Diamond. The next trick is opened by the current trick’s winner, who plays a card to begin the trick. This continues till the hands of all players are empty.

Fox in the forest

This game needs two players. You win points during a round by winning tricks, and the winner is the player who wins the most points at the end of the game. One player is a dealer in each of the multiple rounds.

In a round’s starting, the dealer first shuffles 33 game cards. Both players deal with 13 cards each. The remaining 7 are kept facing down to create a draw deck. Take the top card in this draw deck and place it facing up next to the deck. This is a decree card.

Gameplay

Every round has 13 turns per player, which are known as tricks. Every player plays a card from their hands face up to the middle in each trick, and one player will be the leader, and others will follow him. One of the two players will win the trick based on the cards played.

The initial trick is led by the non-dealer, after which the trick’s winner leads the following trick. Any card from the hand can be chosen for playing by the leader, which would be the trick’s lead suit. If the follower doesn’t have a card in the lead suit, any other card can be paid without restriction.

Cards with odd ranks, i.e., 1, 3,5,7,9, and 11, have special abilities. They can alter :

  • What the opponent can play?
  • How the trick’s winner is decided?
  • Who will be leading the subsequent trick?

The winner of the game is the one with the highest score after completing all 13 tricks. When either of the players has at least 21 points, then the game ends after end-of-round scoring. In the case of a tie, the player with the most points in the previous round is the winner.

Spades

This is a popular trick-taking game that involves two partnerships or two players. A full deck of 52 cards is at play, and players should be willing to wager against their opponent. In a two-partnership game, the Ace is high, and 2 is low in a standard 52-card deck. The partners sit across the table, and each of them deals with 13 cards.

Gameplay

The first bid is by the player who is to the dealer’s left side.Each participant looks at their card and bid and indicates a number of tricks. The bids of partners are added to determine the winner.

Any number between zero(nil) and 13 is a legal bid, and you shall not pass your turn.

Bids need not increase with each player, and there’s just a single bidding round. In case a player bids nil and a number is bid by his partner, then the partner has to try winning that number of tricks.

The game is at play in a clockwise direction, and every participant should follow suit. The player who played the highest rank of the suit generally wins each trick. The player with the highest rank of spades is the winner if there are one or more players playing spades. On winning a trick, the winner sets the trick in front of himself to ensure ease of tracking the number of tricks won by a player.

In the case of a partnership game, avoid using too many tricks above the bid as there is a 10-point penalty whenever your opponent wins 10 bags.

Trick-Taking Games – Conclusion

Since centuries ago, people have indulged in trick-taking games for fun, and these games have evolved with time to adapt to the modern generation. They are quite popular for their intense complexity with mind tricks. Try out the games mentioned in this article and let us know your experience.

Trick-Taking Games – FAQs

What are the most popular trick-taking games?

Skat and Hearts are the most popular trick-taking games.

Do all the trick-taking games require a 52 card deck?

No, few trick-taking games can be played with fewer cards. For instance, Pinochle can be played with 48 cards.

Can a single person play trick-taking games?

No, trick-taking games require at least 2 participants.