Klaberjass is a Dutch Trick-Taking game, whose history stretches back over 300 years. The Dutch Lowlands are prone to flooding, and as such Dutch engineers were forced to concentrate on damming, diking, and the draining of water.
Klaberjass is also quite popular in a particular German Territory in Lower Saxony, called Der Altes Land, which derives from the name “Olland”, the German bastardization of Holland.
The culturally similar Dutch settlers were contracted by the German Princes to drain Alte Land and inhabit the area for some time. This close cultural proximity spread the game to the native German community there, with the game quickly becoming a favorite of Northern Germany.
A summary of the key rules for Klaberjass is listed below:
- Use a 32-card Piquet deck
- Deal 9 cards to each player
- Declare sequences – score 20 or 50 points
- Jacks and Nines are the highest trumps
- Follow suit if able
- Tally card points per round
- First to 6 game points wins
How to Play Klaberjass?
Klaberjass is played using a 32-card Piquet deck. Piquet decks may be purchased proprietarily if so desired, but it is easy enough to form a Piquet from the standard Anglo-American deck one is most likely to have in their home.
Although the game has many variants as one moves across the Netherlands and Northern Germany, this article itself shall only concern itself with the Two-Player variation.
Simply remove all 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s from the deck, in each suit, and that brings the 52-card deck down to the 32-card Piquet deck.
A dealer should be chosen by whatever random means both Players agree upon. In subsequent rounds, the Dealing position shall alternate.
Once a Dealer is chosen, the 32-card deck should be shuffled, and each Player shall be dealt three cards face-down.
Another three cards are dealt to each Player, and then a card is milled from the top of the deck, and turned face-up.
Determining the Trump
Although some versions of the game involve an Auction phase to determine the Trump, in Two-Player Klaberjass it is instead the suit of this upturned card that shall represent the Trumps for the round.
Once the Trump suit is solidified, three more cards are dealt to each Player. Once all cards have been dealt, Players may declare any melds in their hand.
There is only one meld, the Sequence.
Sequences in Klaberjass are combinations of cards that are in immediate ascending order according to rank, and are all of the same suit.
A Sequence must be composed of at least 3 cards, such that 3♦ 4♦ is not a Sequence but 3♦ 4♦ 5♦ is a Sequence.
- Only one Player may meld, that being the Player who possesses the longest sequence.
- Should both Sequences be the same length, then each Player shall state the rank of their highest-ranking card in the Sequence.
- Should this also be a tie, Players may declare if their Sequence is in Trump suit. Trump Suited Sequences outrank non-Trump Sequences.
A Sequence of three cards is worth 20 Card-Points, while a Sequence of four cards or more is worth 50-card points.
If there is a perfect tie between Sequences, both Players may score for their Sequence.
Players may also play multiple Sequences, if they are able, but only their longest or higher-ranking sequence can be used to determine if they qualify for melding in the first place.
When melding, cards are ranked normally from Ace-7. However, in the Trick-taking phase, it should be known that the Trump Suit is ranked unconventionally.
- The Jack of Trumps, called the Jass, is the highest-ranking card in the game.
- The 9 of Trumps, called the Mi, is the 2nd highest ranking card.
- All other cards in the Trump suit follow normal ranking.
Once melds have been declared, and card-points awarded for those melds, the trick-taking phase begins.
Players seek to take the highest number of card points from their taken tricks during the round. Each card has an associated value, given below in the scoring section.
Normal trick-taking rules apply. Players must follow suit, if they are able, and cannot win the trick if they do not follow suit unless they play a Trump.
Trumps are only beaten by higher-ranking Trumps, and the Player who plays the highest-ranking card into the trick takes it.
At the end of trick-taking gameplay, Players tally their score of card-points for the round, including any melding points they may have won. The Player who took the most points wins the round, and is awarded a game-point.
Klaberjass is scored with positive points awarded at the end of a round. Most commonly, multiple rounds will determine the overall winner of the game. At the end of a round, the Player with the highest card-score will be awarded a single game-point.
A game of round-based Klaberjass ends when one Player reaches six total points. The number of rounds can of course be adjusted, should there be a desire for a longer or shorter game.
Each card taken in a trick has an associated value of card points, with the Player taking the most valuable tricks considered the winner of the round. The cards are valued in the following manner:
|Jass (Jack of Trump)
|Mi (9 of Trump)
An additional 10 points are awarded to the Player which takes the final trick.
Suppose that you have the following cards in your hand when your opponent leads the trick with a 7♦ of Non-Trump:
8♦ A♣(Trump Suit) 10♥
As in all Trick-Taking games, you are obligated to follow suit if you are able.
Look here, though. If you were to play your 8♦, you would gain no card points for the trick. Only Jacks and up are counted for card points, unless it is the Mi (9 of Trump).
Further, suppose the Jass has not been played yet in the game. It may be in the deck, but it also might be in your opponent’s hand. There is a guaranteed opportunity to take card points here.
Depending on the difference in score between you and your opponent, the Ace of Trump may be the better option.
- If your opponent does have Jass, they are guaranteed a minimum of 20 points.
- Playing your Ace into the Jass will give them 30 points instead.
- Playing it now guarantees you win 10 points and hopefully negates half of the potential upcoming Jass.