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Contemporary Development With Functional Programming

Schnapsen and Sixty-Six Rules

Revised: March 2, 2013
Revised: August 18, 2015

  1. Overview
  2. The Deck
  3. The Deal
  4. Tricks
  5. Claiming 66
  6. Drawing from the Stock
  7. Closing the Stock
  8. Following Suit
  9. Exchanging Trump
  10. Marriages
  11. Last Trick
  12. Scoring Game Points
  13. Quick Summary

Schnapsen and Sixty-Six are excellent two-person card games that have been played for hundreds of years. The games are so similar that we describe them together here, noting the differences when necessary. In a nutshell, the main difference between them is that in Schnapsen suits and hands have 5 cards, while Sixty-Six has 6-card suits and hands.

The rules presented here were compiled after a careful comparison of rules variations at a number of authoritative sites. For detailed information on those sites and their variants, read our background on the rules.

Overview

Schnapsen and Sixty-Six are trick-taking games for two players. In our Master Schnapsen/66 program, your opponent is the computer inside your iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad).

A game consists of a series of deals, where a deal is won by the first player to score 66 points. During each deal, you collect cards by winning tricks. You get points for each collected card and for declaring a marriage, which is a king and queen of the same suit. For clarity we will call these trick points, because you score them while playing tricks. The first player to collect 66 trick points wins the deal.

Depending on the trick point scores at the end of the deal, each deal scores up to 3 points toward the game as a whole. We will call these game points to distinguish them from trick points. You win the game as a whole by being the first to score 7 game points.

The Deck

Our version uses the standard 4 French suits: diamonds, clubs, hearts, spades. Since Schnapsen has 5-card suits, it is played with a 20-card deck. Sixty-Six has 6-card suits and is played with a 24-card deck.

In Schnapsen there are 5 ranks in each suit:

Schnapsen ranks
Ace11
Ten10
King4
Queen3
Jack2

In Sixty-Six, nines are added as the lowest rank, giving 6 ranks in each suit:

Sixty-Six ranks
Ace11
Ten10
King4
Queen3
Jack2
Nine0

The ranks are listed here from high (ace) to low (jack in Schnapsen, nine in Sixty-Six). Note that the ten ranks above the king, as in many related games (such as Pinochle and Bezique). The trick point score for collecting each rank is also given. You score 11 trick points for collecting an ace, 10 for a ten, and so on. In Sixty-Six you get 0 points for collecting a nine.

The Deal

At the beginning of a deal, each player is dealt a hand of 5 cards (in Schnapsen) or 6 cards (in Sixty-Six). The remaining cards (exactly half the deck) make up the stock, and are used to replenish the hands as cards are played. One card of the stock (conceptually, the last card) is dealt face up. The suit of this face-up card is the trump suit for the deal. The notion of a trump suit is explained in the next section.

Tricks

Schnapsen and Sixty-Six are trick-taking games. Once the cards are dealt, players compete in a series of rounds where they each play out one card from their hands face-up in the center of the table, forming a trick of two cards. One player’s card wins the trick (explained below), and that player collects the two cards, places them face-down on his or her side of the table, and scores their trick points.

Playing the first card of a trick is called leading, the first card is called the lead, and the player leading is said to be on lead. The winner of a trick becomes the leader of the next trick. The leader of the first trick alternates from deal to deal during a game. The leader of the first trick of the first deal of the game alternates from game to game.

The suit of the face-up card of the stock is the trump suit for the deal. Cards of this suit outrank all other cards. Therefore, the rule for winning a trick is as follows:

If no card of the trump suit is part of the trick, the trick is won by the higher ranking card of the suit that was led. Otherwise the trick is won by the higher ranking trump.

This is the same basic rule as for all trick-taking games, and so Schnapsen and Sixty-Six have the same richness of strategies and tactics in a kind of miniaturized form.

Claiming 66

If a player has either just won a trick or declared a marriage (discussed below), that player can announce 66 before proceeding, if the player believes he or she has accumulated at least 66 trick points in tricks won and marriages declared. A player may not claim 66 at any other time. If a count of the trick points corroborates the claim of 66, the deal is over and the player who claimed 66 won. In Master Schnapsen/66, there is no need for either player to explicitly claim 66; when either player reaches or surpasses 66 trick points, the program will automatically end the deal and award game points to the winner. (In “live play” there are game point penalties for claiming 66 when you do not have it, but these will not be discussed here. In all but the most serious tournaments, the players are allowed to look back at their own tricks at any time during the deal, in which case there need never be an error in claiming 66.)

Drawing from the Stock

In the first phase of the deal, you and your opponent each draw one card from the stock immediately following each trick. The first card is drawn by the winner of the trick, the second by the loser. As a result, during this first phase you both always have a full hand (5 cards in Schnapsen, 6 cards in Sixty-Six). This style of play is called trick-and-draw.

Ordinarily, play continues this way until one player claims 66, or until all the cards of the stock have been drawn. Note that the very last card drawn from the stock will be the face-up trump card. Since this is a valuable card and it goes to the loser of the immediately preceding trick, there is often a dilemma about deciding whether to win or lose that trick.

The second phase of the deal begins when the stock is exhausted, meaning that all the cards have been drawn from it. You and your opponent continue playing cards from your hands without drawing. The play then continues in this way until one of you wins, or until all the cards are played.

Closing the Stock

If the stock is still open after both players have drawn replacement cards for the previous trick, the leader of the upcoming trick may first close the stock prior to leading a card. Closing the stock is normally indicated by placing the face-up trump card on top of the stock, face down; in Master Schnapsen/66, you drag the face-up trump card and drop it on top of the stock.

When the stock is closed, the deal enters its second phase immediately. You and your opponent play cards one at a time from your hands, without refilling your hands from the stock.

Closing the stock amounts to a claim that you can win the deal with just your remaining cards. If you fail to win the deal — in other words, if you fail to correctly claim 66, or your opponent correctly claims 66 first — your opponent is awarded bonus game points, explained later.

You may close the stock any time it is still open, both players have drawn replacement cards for the previous trick, and you are the leader to the next trick. This includes closing the stock on the very first trick (when you have not even won a trick yet) and on the last open-stock trick, when only one face-down card remains in the stock. (After you win the last open-stock trick, you may not close the stock before both players have drawn replacement cards, even though you are the leader to the next trick.)

Following Suit

As in most trick-taking games, when you are the leader of a trick, you may play any card in your hand. However, Schnapsen and Sixty-Six are a little unusual in that the rules for the second card of a trick are different in the two phases of the deal.

In the first phase of the deal, when the stock is open, there is no requirement to follow suit. When playing the second card of a trick, you may play any card from your hand.

In the second phase, when the stock is closed or exhausted, you must follow suit and win the trick, if possible, when playing the second card of a trick. More precisely,

  1. If you have any card of the led suit that is higher than the one led, you must play such a card.
  2. If not, if you have any lower card of the led suit, you must play such a card.
  3. If not, if you have any trump, you must play a trump.
  4. If not, you may play any card.

This two-phase pattern gives the games much of their distinctive flavor. In many deals, you spend the freer first phase working to get your hand into a shape that will win in the second phase, when the play of your opponent can be controlled a bit more.

Exchanging Trump

If the stock is still open after both players have drawn replacement cards for the previous trick, the leader of the upcoming trick may exchange the lowest-ranking trump (if that player has it in hand) for the face-up trump in the stock. This must be done prior to the lead. In Schnapsen, you exchange the jack in your hand for the face-up trump. In Sixty-Six, you exchange the nine.

You may do this exchange any time the stock is open, both players have drawn replacement cards for the previous trick, and you are the leader to the next trick. This includes exchanging before the very first trick (when you have not even won a trick yet) and before the last open-stock trick, when only one face-down card remains in the stock. (After you win the last open-stock trick, you may not exchange the trump before both players have drawn replacement cards, even though you are the leader to the next trick.)

To exchange the trump in Master Schnapsen/66, you drag the low trump from your hand and drop it on the face-up trump. You can also drag the face-up trump and drop it in your hand.

Strategically speaking, you should always exchange the low trump if you have it and you are on lead. It always improves your hand, sometimes significantly.

Marriages

If you have both the king and queen of a suit in your hand and you are the leader for the upcoming trick, you may show the king and queen to declare a marriage, which adds to your trick points. This is done prior to leading a card, but after both players have drawn replacement cards from the stock for the previous trick. Declaring a marriage is also called melding. When you declare a marriage, you must lead either the king or queen from the marriage immediately. The trick point values of marriages are as follows:

Trick points for marriage
Marriage in trump suit40
Marriage in any other suit20

When playing with real cards, you show both marriage cards to your opponent when declaring a marriage, and then lead one and return the other to your hand. In Master Schnapsen/66, the program will show you both cards. But you (the human player) do not need to do anything special; you score the points just for leading the king or queen. If for some reason you want to lead one of them without declaring the marriage, two quick taps on either marriage partner disables the marriage. Any interaction other than leading one of the marriage partners re-enables the marriage. An enabled marriage is shown by a double bar connecting the marriage partners, and a disabled marriage by a broken double bar.

You may only declare one marriage per trick. In Sixty-Six, you may only declare a marriage while the stock is open. In Schnapsen, you may declare a marriage whenever you are on lead, even if the stock is no longer open.

The trick points for a marriage are scored immediately. If the player declaring the marriage claims 66, the deal ends at that point without finishing the trick.

Last Trick

If the stock is exhausted, and all cards are played from both hands, the winner of the last trick receives a bonus. In Sixty-Six, the bonus is 10 additional trick points. In Schnapsen, the winner of the last trick wins the entire deal. Note that there is no bonus if the stock is closed, as that prevents the stock from being exhausted.

In close deals with an exhausted stock, the 10-point bonus in Sixty-Six is usually enough to win the deal. In either game, there is often jockeying near the end of the deal in order to win the last trick.

Scoring Game Points

The deal ends as soon as one of the players claims 66. This can happen just after the declaration of a marriage (but only by the player declaring the marriage). Otherwise it happens at the end of a trick by the winner of the trick, when the collected cards and the last trick bonus (if applicable) are scored.

The player who correctly claims 66 (or takes the last trick in Schnapsen with the stock exhausted) wins game points as explained below. You need 7 game points in total to win the whole game. It is traditional to keep track of the game points by counting down from 7 to 0. That is, both players start with a tally of 7, and the game points you win are subtracted from your tally. If the newly awarded game points bring either player’s tally to 0 or less, that player wins the entire game. Otherwise, you play another deal.

Game Points When the Stock Was Not Closed

Assuming the stock was not closed, the winner is awarded game points as follows:

Awarded to winner
Loser took no tricks3
Loser’s tricks and marriages add to fewer than 33 trick points2
Loser’s tricks and marriages add to at least 33 trick points1

Note that if the loser declared a marriage at trick 1 but never took a trick, the deal is worth 3 game points, not 2.

Also note that you win more game points for winning by a wider margin. This means it is sometimes worth taking a risk to get an early win. Similarly, if it looks as though you will lose a deal, it is worthwhile trying to get at least 33 trick points in your tricks to avoid giving up 2 game points.

In rare deals of Sixty-Six, neither of you reaches 66 points, all the cards have been played, and neither of you has closed the stock. Arithmetically, this can only happen when you tie at 65 points each. In this case, no game points are awarded. Such ties cannot occur in Schnapsen.

Game Points When the Stock Was Closed

Let us call the player who closes the stock the “closer” and the other player the “noncloser”. When a player closes the stock, the game points at stake for this deal are determined entirely by the number of trick points in the noncloser’s tricks at the moment the stock was closed. If the closer wins the deal (meaning the closer correctly claims 66 before the noncloser does, with no last trick bonus), then game points are awarded to the closer analogously to the table above:

Awarded to closer
Noncloser had no tricks when stock was closed3
Noncloser’s tricks and marriages added to fewer than 33 trick points when stock was closed2
Noncloser’s tricks and marriages added to at least 33 trick points when stock was closed1

If the noncloser wins the deal (meaning the closer failed to claim 66 correctly, or the noncloser correctly claimed 66 first), then game points are awarded to the noncloser according to the table below:

Awarded to noncloser
Noncloser had no tricks at the time the stock was closed3
Otherwise2

Note that a player scores at least 2 game points for winning the deal when the opponent has closed the stock. The closer pays this penalty for closing and not winning.

As soon as the stock is closed in Master Schnapsen/66, the number of game points the closer can win will be displayed on top of the stock. This is also the number of game points the noncloser can win, unless the displayed number is 1, in which case the noncloser can win 2 game points.

Quick Summary

There are more different plays in Schnapsen and Sixty-Six than in most other trick-taking games. Here is a summary of what you may do when it is your turn to play.

When leading

  • If the stock is still open, you may exchange the lowest trump (jack in Schnapsen, nine in Sixty-Six) or close the stock before leading. You may do either or both of these.

  • Whether or not you exchanged the trump or closed the stock, you may declare a marriage and score its trick points immediately. You may then claim 66. If you do not claim 66, you must lead either the king or queen from the marriage. However, in Sixty-Six you may only declare a marriage if the stock is open. In Schnapsen you may declare a marriage whether the stock is open or not.

  • If you have not declared a marriage, you may lead any card from your hand.

When playing second

  • If the stock is open, you may play any card.

  • If the stock is closed or exhausted, you must follow suit and win if possible, or else follow suit and lose if possible, or else trump if possible. Otherwise you may play any card.

The winner of the trick may now claim 66. If not, immediately after the winner of the trick collects it, each player draws a replacement card from the stock, assuming the stock is open.

Each trick therefore consists of three phases that occur in the following order:

  1. Any combination of optional allowable leader actions (exchange trump, close stock, declare marriage) that precede the trick.
  2. Next, each player plays a card to the trick.
  3. Next, each player draws a replacement card, if the stock is open.

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