Skat is a card game that was often played in Falasan, and gave rise to the Skat Players' Association, formed by Sir Crip Grindle in Elroth. It is likely still played by many in the duchy of Barad Gardor and particularly in Elroth where it is a popular entertainment.
The rules Crip played by are the following, supposedly written by his captain, Werner. IC, these rules were known to all nobles of Falasan and a fair number across Atamara, to whom Crip had sent copies.
Part of the joy of the game is that no-one (neither the players, nor generally their characters) really understands any of the rules, apart from Crip's former Captain, Werner, who tended to be unable to explain them to anyone else coherently. So winning a game is partly due to good play on the part of the character, but also due to knowledge of the rules and willingness to discuss them.
(actually OOC taken from the Encylopedia of Sport, Games and Pasttimes, published by the Amalgamated Press Ltd, London, in 1935, and found by me in a random local old bookshop. I'm overlooking the fact that this particular game doesn't seem to have really been invented until the early 19th century, hey ho, Crip's men invented it first ;-)
Part of the book's foreword reads: "In preparing this Encyclopedia the Editor has provided in all the articles on the different sports and pastimes information that has been acquired from experts only...instructions as to how to play the various sports and games are made as clear and simple as possible." Ha ha - this is how it's written, word for word: ).
Captain Werner's Rules to Skat
Game for three players, with a pack of 32 cards, the 6 to 2 inclusive of each suit being discarded. The three players are termed respectively Vorhand, Mittelhand, and Hinterhand, with sometimes a dealer and even enother player, who take no active part in any round, but change places alternately with the others, though whichever two players are standing out pay or receive, according to the result of the round. Players who do not receive cards, where more than three wish to play, share with the two players who play against the successful bidder.
The cards rank as follows: The 4 jacks, called Wentzels, are the 4 best trumps always, and rank in the order of jack of clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds, clubs being highest. The 4 jacks are followed by the ace, ten, king, queen, nine, eight, seven of trumps, and then the same cards in the same order in the plain suits. The suits rank in the order of clubs (highest), spades, hearts, and diamonds for the value of trickes; but the order is, however, ignored for trick taking purposes.
OOC: [With it so far? It's basically a three-player game for up to five people, where the order of cards is obscure (which will help you understand the next bit), and everything is named in German for no apparent reason]
If you hold the jack of clubs that card and each trump in unbroken sequence with it is called a matadore. Thus, if a player held the 4 jacks and the ace, ten and king of spades, he would have 7 matadores; but if the jack of hearts were missing he would only have 2 matadores, the jack of clubs and the jack of spades, since the sequence of the cards, as explained in their order of ranking, is broken. There are always one or more matadores in the hands, and if in the hand of the highest bidder, the player is said to play with a certain number of matadores, and if in the hands of his opponents, he is said to play without a certain number. The number of matadores, with or without, affects the value of the game.
The cards are dealt as follows: Three are dealt to each player, dealing in rotation to the left of the dealer. Then 2 cards, called skat, are dealt face down on the table, followed by two more rounds to each player, one of 4 cards and one of 3. Each player then has 10 cards. If the skat cards are not dealt in their proper turn it is a misdeal and the dealer is penalized 10 points.
OOC: [So now, sounding more Spanish than German, we have the Matadore, which is simply a player's run of cards down from the top trump. This, though, is described in a lengthy paragraph to make sure that the beginner is so confused when they come to deal that they deal wrongly and start on -10 points already.]
The player known as vorhand, is the player to the left of the dealer; mittelhand is the second player; and hinterhand the third player. Vorhand names the particular type of game which shall be played, but the others may bid to have the privilege by naming the number of points, never less than 10, they think they can make, If vorhand says he can make the number of points bid by mittelhand, he says Yes, and mittelhand must bid higher or pass. If he does not think he can make the points bid, he passes. When vorhand and mittelhand have settled their mutual bidding, hinterhand bids with the survivor and the highest bidder has the privilege of naming the form the game shall take. But the bidder must choose some form the value of which equals or excels the number of points of his bid. The highest bidder is called the player.
OOC: ["Vorhand names the particular type of game which shall be played" - You thought the game was called skat? Maybe, but actually it comes in many forms as you now realise. Fortunately, they make perfect sense when described...]
Forms of Skat
The forms of the game are as follows:
Players must decide either to take no tricks or win enough counting cards in tricks to score 61. The counting cards are aces, counting 11; tens, 10; kings, 4; queens, 3; and jacks, 2 each. The games are named tourneé, solo, grand, nullo, gucki and ramsch.
OOC: [Time to add French into the game. And heaven knows what language those last two are from. Anyway, at least there are only six different forms to get your head round, right?]
In tourneé the player turns up one card of skat, which decides the trump suit. If the turned-up card is a jack he can either declare that suit trups or declare grand tourneé, in which the 4 jacks only are trumps. After dealing he discards 2 cards and takes the 2 skat cards into his hand. If the two cards he discards have a counting value they are counted to the player. In solo the player names the trump suit without looking at skat, nor does he use skat in play. The skat belongs to him, however, and any counting cards and mataroes in it are counted towards his score.
In grand, the 4 jacks only are trumps. Grand tourneé is a variety of grand, the other varieties being guckser, grand solo, and grand ouvert. In guckser the player takes up the 2 skat cards, and discards 2 cards. In grand solo the player announces grand before looking at either of the skat cards, and these cards are not looked at till the end of the hand, when they count towards the player. A player may call grand ouvert, when he spreads his cards face upward on the table. He may play them as he chooses, as they are not subject to call by the other players. The player declaring grand ouvert must win every trick.
OOC: [Quick pause to uncross your eyes, mainly because at this point, we suddenly get a subheading for Nullo, despite not being allowed one for tourneé, solo or grand. Solo didn't even get its own paragraph. Lucky nullo.]
The bidder in nullo must lose every trick. There are no trumps, no wentzels and no matadores, and the cards rank ace, king, queen, jack, ten, nine, eight, seven. The value of nullo is fixed, 20 points. Null ouvert is nullo with the cards laid face upward on the table before any card is led, and counts 40 points.
In gucki nullo players bid to take the skat cards and discard 2, the game afterwards being nullo. Gucki nullo counts 15 points to the winner, and 30 points against him if he loses. Open gucki nullo consists in laying the cards face upward after taking skat and discarding, and counts double ordinary gucki nullo. A player may turn up a skat card for tourneé and find it does not suit his hand. He may then say so, and turn up the second card, which must be trump. If the second card is a jack the player either declares that suit trump or a grand tourneé.
OOC: [Ok, if you're still reading this, you may now be wondering (1) Why is Open gucki nullo called that, and not Gucki nullo ouvert? (2) Why does the end of the Nullo section appear to talk about tourneé again? (3) Does open gucki nullo mean you score -60 if you lose, and is multiplication of negative numbers really helping people to understand the rules? (4) Is the order of cards changed for nullo just to make completely sure beginners can't remember what's going on? More likely, you're wondering (1a) What the hell is going on? Anyway, if you've been paying attention, you'll notice we've not discussed Ramsch yet, so let's have a nice subtitle for that, with two redundant words at the start. And let's include some more details about tourneé we forgot to mention earlier.]
Rules for Ramsch
Ramsch may be declared by vorhand, both the other players having passed without bidding. The jacks only are trumps. If each player takes at least one trick, the player winning the greatest number of points loses the value of the game, 20 points. If one player has taken no tricks, the loss is 30 points. Tourneé counts 8, 7, 6, or 5 points and solo, 12, 11, 10, or 9 points, according as when clubs, spades, hearts, or diamonds are trumps respectively. When the 4 jacks only are trumps, grand tourneé counts 12 points; guckser, 16 points, and double if lost; grand solo, 20 points, and grand ouvert, 24 points.
The scoring values are increased where a trump suit is named as follows: A simple game is made by a player scoring 61 points. If he scores 91 points he makes his opponents scheider, and if he wins every trick, schwartz. The simple game counts as unit value, and the values of schneider and schwartz are greater according to whether they are declared in advance or not. Normally, schneider counts double the simple game; if announced in advance, treble. Schwartz normally counts treble, and if announced in advance 5 times the ordinary game. If schwartz is scored after schneider has been announced, it counts 4 times the normal game. As an example, a solo in spades is worth 11 points; if schneider is made it is worth 22 points; if schwartz, 33 points, and so on.
OOC: [Gah, we finally get an example to help us understand how much we score for scoring 91 in a game of first-to-61, and it gives up halfway through! Nice to see some more German though. Pity there's no Esperanto as yet.]
The value of each game is increased by the number of matadores with or without. A bidder playing with the jack of clubs, and not having the jack of spades is said to play with one, whatever else he may hold. Playing with the jacks of clubs and spades, he plays with two, etc. And so with matadores without.
In playing, vorhand leads and other must follow suit if possible. If a player cannot follow suit he may trump or discard. The winner of each trick leads for the next. In a grand, if a jack is led, other players holding jacks must follow, since the 4 jacks are the only trumps.
OOC: [And that's the end. You were expecting another paragraph explaining how you actually play this game, with a useful example? Nah, you have been taught enough. If you can't figure it out from the rules you've had, then you clearly lack the brain capacity to play the game. In which case you might be better suited to the more practical next entry in the book: "Skate: Varieties and Use" which will teach you how to make your own iceskates out of wood and files... what a great book!]