After the shuffling and dealing, each player holds 8 cards. Playing correctly, the cards are held in such a way that no other player can see the cards that you hold.
Take your time and look carefully at your cards. When you first play Sheepshead, you should hold your cards so that they are ordered by suit and according to their rank within a suit. The computer will take care of this automatically for you.
Typically, you play a Sheepshead hand not alone, but with a partner. An exception to this is the Solo game in which you play by yourself against the other three players.
As we have already seen in Chapter 3, the goal of Sheepshead is to capture the maximum number of card points. Normally, 61 card points is sufficient to win. There are also a few cases in which 60 card points is enough (See, "Call" Games).
3.1 The Normal Case -- A "Call" Game
This type of game is the one most commonly played. The trump cards have the following ranks:
German (Bavarian Rules):
There are 14 Trumps altogether and 18 cards in the three non-trump "side" suits.
According to the American rules, a very special role is played by two Queens (either the Club and Spade Queens or the Club and Diamond Queens). Specifically, they determine which players play together and which are opponents. The two players holding the two special Queens make up the Re-Team ("Re" is pronounced, "Ray"). These players are the offensive team. The two other players are the Contra Team (the opponents).
3.2 Marriage (First Trick Partner)
The following applied only to the American Rules.
From the name, you can figure that this game type has to do with seeking a "bride" or "groom" to form a "marriage." But what conditions must be met in order to announce such a happy event? It's very simple. One can announce a marriage when he or she holds both the Club and Spade Queens (or the Club and Diamond Queens, if you select the alternative option) in his or her hand. But be careful! If you hold both queens and forget to announce it, you are actually playing a secret Diamond Solo and your three opponents will know what's up as soon as you play the second Club Queen.
If you do announce a marriage, who is your partner? Your partner is the first of the other three players to win a trick. A trick must be won (and your partner determined) within the first three tricks, however. Otherwise, your "marriage" turns into a Diamond Solo and you must play alone against the other three.
The order of the trump and all of the other rules are the same as with a normal Call game.
Unless someone announces a marriage or a solo game, a normal Call game is played.
3.3 Solo Game Types
The Solo player plays the role of the Re-Team by him- or herself. To win, he or she must reach 61 card points alone. Solo games do not permit the special additional points that are possible in some of the other games. There are a number of Solo game types that distinguish themselves according to how the cards are ordered and which are trump.
The solo types and their priority are (according to the Bavarian rules):
The differences in card ranks depending on the game type are as follows:
3.3.1 Jacks Solo
This is like the previous case except that only the Jacks are trump. The card order of the side suits is:
3.3.2 Suit Solo
The card order in this case is the same as in a normal game except that one can choose which suit (Clubs, Spades, Hearts, or Diamonds) will follow the Queens and the Jacks in the trump suit. If a Diamond Solo is played, the ordering is exactly the same as in the normal call game. Otherwise, Diamonds become a side suit and Clubs, Spades, or Hearts are elevated to trump status.
3.3.3 Other Solo Types,...
Some solos commonly played, but not officially allowed by the official rules are found in Appendix C.
In order to play a solo game, the player must announce "Reservation" during the bidding (German rules only).
3.4. Variations when All Pass
3.4.1 Ramsch (Leasters)
A Ramsch game (leaster) is played when all players pass and the last bidder announces, "Ramsch."
In a Ramsch game, each player plays for him or herself and attempts to capture the fewest possible card points or even no tricks at all. The trumps are as in a normal Call Game, all Queens, Jacks, and Hearts (Diamonds).
Whoever captures the most card points loses the Ramsch game. If two or even three players have the same total, the loser is the one who took the most tricks, or if these are also the same, the most trumps in tricks. Should even this number be the same, then the loser is the one who among these captured the highest trump card.
In the event that one player can capture all of the tricks, s/he has "shot the moon" and wins while the other three players lose.
3.4.2 Forced Games
This rule is an alternative to Ramsch games. If no player is willing to announce a game, the holder of the Club Queen is obligated to play a call game. A solo is not permitted.
If the forced player is restricted because s/he holds all four Aces, a missing 10 must be called. Failing that, a missing King is designated, and so forth.
If a game is forced, no doubling by other players is permitted.
3.4.3 Leasters (USA Version)
The player wins who takes the fewest points. The trump cards rank as in a normal (call) game.
If two or even three players have the same total, the loser is the one who took the most tricks, or if these are also the same, the most trumps in tricks. Should even this number be the same, then the loser is the one who among these captured the highest trump card.
3.5 Determine the Game Type
After the cards are dealt, the bidding phase begins in which each player must announce whether they pass or want to reserve the right to play a non-standard game. Each player simply says, "Play" or "Pass." Once "Play" has been announced, a normal partnership (call) game is no longer possible. A solo game must then be announced.
A player should announce a solo game when holding good trump cards (two high Queens, for example) or a large number of trumps (at least 5). On average, a player will hold 4 trump cards. The side suits also play a role in this determination, of ocurse. Do I hold a singleton Ace? Etc..
When several players say "Play" the following order of preference is used (Bavarian rules):
- Required Solo (outside of the official rules)
- Highest ranking voluntary solo
- Call game.
In order to determine who has preference, each player will be asked, one after the other in clockwise rotation, whether what kind of game they want to play. The first who announced "Play" announces his/her game type first. After that, the game may be "taken" by another player by announcing a higher-ranking game type. If two players announce a game of the same rank, the deciding factor is which player sits closest to the dealer in clockwise rotation. Suit solos all have equal rank. There is no preference for Hearts or Diamonds.
If a solo game is played, the player announcing it must indicate the Solo type. If no player is willing to announce a game, the cards are re-dealt. In many places, a Ramsch round is played.
You find more information about the American Rules in Appendix D.