Psellos
Contemporary Development With Functional Programming

Advanced Cassino Variants

Figure 1, choose a variant

Figure 1

Choose a Variant

This page describes the Psellos Cassino iPhone app, available in the iTunes App store. The latest version, Version 1.1, plays two new variants of the game. While the Original variant uses a simplified scoring system, the two new variants use traditional scoring. We call them advanced because the games last longer and the rules are a little more complex.

You can choose to play a different Cassino variant any time a game is not in progress. At these times, a Variants button appears at the bottom of the screen. Touching this button gives you a choice among three variants, shown in Figure 1. Choose a variant by touching the appropriate checkbox, then touch the Done button.

Touch Interface

The new variants have the same basic Cocoa Touch interface, which is described on the touch interface page. There are a few small differences, which you can see in Figure 2 below.

  • At the upper left of the screen is a running tally of the number of cards and spades captured by each player in the current game. In Figure 2, you have captured 11 cards and the computer has captured 5 cards. You have captured 2 spades and the computer has captured 1 spade.

  • At the upper right there is a cumulative score for the two players. It includes scores of all the finished games, plus the captured cards for the current game. (It doesn’t include points for most cards and most spades, which are awarded at the end of the game.) In Figure 2, you are ahead 2 to 1 in the second game of the match. Including the score of the first game, you are ahead 9 to 5. The goal of the advanced variants is to get a cumulative score of 21 or more.

The rest of this page describes the variants, noting the differences between the two new variants and the Original.

Original Cassino

The simplified scoring of the Original makes the matches faster and easier to play in a casual setting (such as waiting in line to get a coffee). For a description of the rules of Original Cassino, see the rules page. For strategy suggestions, see the strategy page.

Advanced Cassino

Advanced Cassino is our name for the variant most often played in many parts of the world. Rather than simply trying to capture the most cards, the object of the game is to capture specific cards that are worth points.

The following cards and combinations are worth points when captured.

10 of diamonds2 points
2 of spades1 point
Each ace1 point
Most cards3 points
Most spades1 point
Each sweep1 point

The 3 points for most cards are awarded at the end of the game to the player who captures the majority of the 52 cards, namely 27 cards or more. If both players capture 26 cards, the 3 points are not awarded. The point for most spades is awarded to the player who captures 7 or more spades. A sweep occurs when a player captures all the cards on the table in one play.

You play a series of games against the computer until one of you has 21 points or more. We’ll call this series of games a match. Once a player reaches 21 points, the winner of the match is the one with the most points at the end of that game. In case of a tie, you play another game to break the tie.

Leaving aside the sweeps, if you add up the points you’ll see that 11 points are awarded in each game. So a match will generally be three or four games.

The computer will allow you to play first in the first game of every match, if you wish. As in the Original variant, you can touch the Pass button to have the computer play first in the first game. After that you and the computer take turns playing first in successive games.

There are three types of plays that you can make when it is your turn: capture, build, and trail.

Capture

As with the Original variant, the basic point-scoring play is to capture a card or cards on the table with the same value of card from your hand. However, only the numbered cards (ace through 10) can be used to capture numerically. The ace has just a single value—it always counts 1.

Capturing with face cards (jack, queen, and king) works a little differently. A face card can only capture one other card of the same rank. A jack can capture any other (single) jack, a queen can capture a queen, and so on. In Figure 2, your king can’t make a capture, because there is no king on the table.

As you capture cards from the table, accumulated points from the above list (including sweeps) are displayed for each player. The points for most cards and most spades are scored at the end of each game.

Figure 1, capture possibilities

Figure 2

Capture Possibilities

In Figure 2, you could capture the ace on the table with the ace from your hand. This would be worth 2 points (for the two aces) and would add 2 cards towards most cards and 1 spade towards most spades. You could also capture the three and four on the table with the seven from your hand, because their values add to 7 (3 + 4 = 7). This would just add 3 cards. Finally, your seven can capture the three, four, ace, and six in the same play, because the ace and six also add up to 7. This is worth 2 points (for one ace and a sweep), plus 5 cards towards most cards.

Build

You can also use your turn to build a pile of cards to capture later with a numbered card. You add one card from your hand to one or more cards on the table, to make a pile that can be captured at a later turn. Unlike the Original variant, face cards can’t participate in builds. You can only build and capture builds with numbered cards (ace through 10).

Figure 3, build possibilities

Figure 3

Build Possibilities

Figure 3 shows the same game situation as above, but with cards selected for a build. You could add the ace in your hand to the six on the table to make a build of 7 (1 + 6 = 7). You would then expect to capture this pile with your seven at a later turn. Even better, you can add the ace to the six, three, and four on the table to make a larger build of 7. As with captures, this works because the three and four make a second group of 7.

You can only make a build if you can capture it with a numbered card remaining in your hand. So here you can make a build of 7 only because you have a seven in your hand after the build. The capturing card is reserved for capturing the build; as long as the build exists and belongs to you, you can’t use the card for another purpose. If the computer makes a build, you know that it has a capturing card in its hand afterward, too.

A build is a riskier play than a capture, because your build is not reserved for you. The computer can capture or extend (steal) your build if it has the right cards. You can also steal the computer’s builds, of course. The likelihood that the computer will steal your build depends on whether it is a single or multiple build.

Single and Multiple Builds

Once you make a build, its cards always stay together. You can’t split a build apart, but you (or the computer) can add cards to make an even bigger build. In Figure 4, you can add the two from your hand and the three from the table to your build of 5 to make a larger build of 5. It is fairly common to extend a build this way.

Figure 4, extending a build

Figure 4

Extending a Build

In Figure 4 you could also add the two from your hand to your build of 5 to make a new build of 7, expecting to capture it later with your seven. It is rare to extend your own build to a larger value in this way, but not so rare to extend the computer’s build in an attempt to steal it. You know the computer has the capturing card for the original build, but it might not have the right card to capture it at the new value. When you extend the computer’s build in this way it becomes your build. The computer is allowed (as usual) to steal it if it can.

These are the two different ways to extend a build. In the first case (adding a two and three to the build), the build keeps its value. You just append another group or groups of cards that add to the build value. In the second case, you change the value of the build to a larger number, from 5 to 7. This is a more radical change, and it is not always allowed. In particular, it is allowed only if the original build is a single build.

A single build is one that contains just one set of cards that adds up to the build value. The build of 5 in Figure 4, consisting of a four and an ace, is a single build. A single build acts just like a single card with the build value. It can be captured with a card of the build value, of course. But it can also be extended to a build with a larger value, as we just discussed. And it can be captured along with other cards, just as if it was a single card.

A multiple build is one that contains more than one set of cards that add to the build value. A multiple build is fixed in value: it can only be extended to a larger build of the same value, or captured by a card of the value. Because of its inflexibility, a multiple build is harder to steal. So a multiple build is usually a safer play than a single build.

Trail

If you can’t (or just don’t want to) capture or build, you can simply put one of your cards onto the table. This play is called a trail. The only limitation is that you can’t trail if you have a build on the table; you must capture the build first.

Last Capture Bonus

At the end of the game, any cards left on the table are awarded to the player that made the last capture. These extra cards can make the difference between winning and losing, so it’s a good idea to delay your last capture if you can.

Because face cards are captured only in pairs in Advanced Cassino, if you have a face card in the last round you can save it to the last play of the game and be certain to be able to capture with it. This is a classic way to get the last capture bonus when you are playing last.

Royal Cassino

Royal Cassino is one of the most popular variants of the game. In this variant the “royals” (jack, queen, and king) can participate in builds and captures along with the rest of the cards. To make things even more interesting, aces have a flexible high-low value. The rest of the rules are the same as for Advanced Cassino.

The Original variant is a kind of Royal Cassino, and another way to describe Royal Cassino is that it uses the building and capturing rules of Original Cassino with the scoring of Advanced Cassino. To avoid repetition, we don’t give the scoring rules here; see the above discussion under Advanced Cassino. Similarly, we give only a brief description of the capturing and building rules. There is a longer discussion on the rules page for Original Cassino.

In some card books, Royal Cassino is described as a “scientific” variant, most likely because of the many more mathematical possibilities for building and capturing. This changes the feeling of the game in many ways compared to Advanced Cassino. There are usually fewer cards on the table in Royal Cassino, because capturing them is easier. Face cards take a much more active role, and in fact they become the most valuable cards. In Advanced Cassino, the face cards associate only with each other and are not part of the main action of the game.

Capture

As usual, you capture a card or cards on the table that add up to the value of a card from your hand. You can capture any number of groups of cards that add up to this value.

In Royal Cassino, all cards have numeric values, and can capture and be captured accordingly. The numeric value of a card is the one appearing on the card (2, 3, 4, etc.), with the following special values:

Jack11
Queen12
King13
Ace1 or 14, your choice

When making your play, you can choose to count each ace (in your hand or on the table) as either 1 or 14. The flexible value of the ace is part of the fun.

Build

Figure 5, royal cassino build

Figure 5

Royal Cassino Build

Since all cards have numeric values, in Royal Cassino any card can become part of a build, or can capture a build. In Figure 5, you have built together a king (13) and an ace (1) to be captured later with your ace (counting as 14).

The rules for single and multiple builds are the same as for the other variants. A multiple build is a much safer play than a single build in Royal Cassino, because there are so many more ways to steal a single build.