Appendix A: Basic Rules

1. Basics

1.1. The Concept of Sheepshead

"Bavarian Sheepshead"
is a card game played by four people.

1.2. Names and Values of the Cards; Goal of the Game


The card pack for "Sheepshead" consists of 32 cards the suits of which rank as:

Each suit consists of eight cards with the following card point values:

The total value of all of the cards is 4 x 30 = 120 card points


The goal of the game is normally to capture more than half of all of the card points, i.e., 61 or more.

1.3 Classification of the Games

There are two types of games: partnership games (two against two) and solo games (one against three). "Call Game" is another name for a partnership game. Among the solos there is the Jacks Solo, a simple Solo, the Jacks Tout (also called Jacks Schwarz), the Solo Tout (Schwarz), and the Macks (Matadors). "Tout" is French for "all" and the "Tout" solos require that the soloist take all eight tricks. In a Macks Solo, the soloist holds all four Queens and all four Jacks.

The Game types rank as follows:

1.4 Meaning and Rank of the Cards


The normal rank of trump is the four Queens followed by the four Jacks in the order of their suits. An exception is the Jack Solo. Thus, the trumps rank as follows from high to low:


In partnership games, the Queens and Jacks are followed by the remaining Hearts which also serve as trump (American rules permit the alternative selection of Diamonds instead of Hearts). The remaining suits rank below the trumps in the order given in section 1.2.1. In Solo and Solo Tout games, the soloist is permitted to select the trump suit to follow the Queens and Jacks. There is no requirement that the soloist hold any of the cards from the suit named as trump.


After the Queens and Jacks in the trump suit (normally Hearts) and in the other suits the cards rank as follow:

2. Instructions for Play

2.1. Dealing the Cards


The players take turns dealing the cards in clockwise order. The dealer in each game is the player to the left of the previous dealer. Before dealing, the cards are shuffled and must be offered to the player on the right to be cut. This player cuts the cards by removing one or more of them from the top of the pile. The dealer then placed the remaining cards on top of these and deals the cards face down to all players in two groups of four.


Should the player who cuts the cards be temporarily absent, any other player other than the dealer and the player to his or her left may cut the cards. The cutter must consider this when electing to be absent during his or her turn.


The shuffling, cutting, and dealing of the cards must take place so that none of the cards is visible during the process. If one or more cards is accidently exposed when cutting the cards, they must be re-shuffled and then cut again.


If a card is exposed by the dealer during the deal, the cards must be re-shuffled and dealt again.


Each player is obligated to take up the card so that no one else can observe them. Similarly, it is not permitted to look at the cards of others nor to comment on the card that one holds. Each player is also expected to point out when these rules are violated by others.


As soon as the cards are dealt, each player must examine his or her cards and immediately announce any irregularity in the deal. Should a player receive too few or too many cards, they must be dealt again.

2.2 Bidding

Bidding is handled in a variety of different ways and will be described separately below.

2.3 Calling a Partner

There are too many individual variations to discuss in detail here. See explanations elsewhere.

3. The Course of the Game

3.1 Leading


The actual game begins when the player sitting to the left of the dealer leads the first card. The remaining players then each play a card in turn (in clockwise order) by laying it face up on the table. Making suggestions or expressing preferences is not permitted. Each successive trick begins with the play of a card by the winner of the previous trick. A card properly played according to the rules may not be taken back.


If a card is improperly played (i.e., contrary to the rules) the hand ends and the remaining cards and card points go the the other side.


It is permitted for any player to prevent another player from playing a card contrary to the rules.

3.2. Following Suit


Whenever possible, one must follow suit when playing to a trick. That is, one must play a card of the suit led or a trump when trump is led. A higher or lower card may be selected, however.


Whoever cannot follow suit, may either trump (play a trump card) or throw off a card from another suit. A player holding no more trump, can throw off any other card when trump is led.


A trick consists of four cards, one contributed by each player. It belongs to the player who played the highest card of the suit led or the highest trump, if any were played.


The called Ace must be played the first time the called suit is played. If this does not take place during the first seven tricks, the Ace can be played only on the last trick of the hand.


If the player holding the called Ace must lead and wishes to play the suit called there are two possibilities. If he/she holds two or fewer cards in addition to the called Ace, then the Ace must be led. Holding three or more cards in addition to the Ace in the called suit, a lower card may be led. The called Ace can then be played to a later trick.


Failing to follow suit ends the game immediately. The remaining cards and points go the the opposing team. If the misplay is recognized only after the fact, then the team misplaying loses the game schwarz (see section 4.1.4).


If during the course of a game it is discovered that a player has too few or too many cards, play ends and the opposing team wins the game schwarz.

3.3. Table Courtesy


Players are not to make comments about the game by word or sign while play is in progress. Nor is it acceptable to count trump or points out loud.


During partnership (call) games, each player keeps separately the cards he or she takes in tricks. Only after the partners are known to all (when the called Ace has been played to a trick or led), can the partners group their captured cards together.


Tricks must be collected in such a way that all players can see all of the cards that have been played. Once collected, the tricks are to be laid out in such a way that each trick can be recreated after the play is complete.


Any player may examine the most recent completed trick.

3.4. Shortened Games

In general, each game is to played out to the end. An exception to this is the Macks game where the play is unnecessary.

If a player lays all of his or her cards face up on the table and says that s/he expects to take no more tricks, then all of the remaining cards belong to the opposing side. This is true even if he or she could, in fact, capture one or more additional tricks.

If a player shows his or her cards without comment, this is the same as a claim that s/he will capture all of the remaining tricks. If this is not the case, then all of the remaining tricks belong to the opposing side.

4. Scoring

4.1. Outcome


After all cards have been played, each side counts how many card points it has captured in tricks. This determines who has won and by how much.


The team capturing between 61 and 90 points wins a simple game. The offensive team loses games in which the score is 60/60.


If the offensive side captures 91 or more card points, it wins the game "Schneider."
The defensive side wins Schneider by capturing 90 or more card points.


A side capturing all eight tricks wins Schwarz.

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