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More Bridge Variants

Here are a few more notions of how new card games could be built upon the structure of Bridge or Whist.

Bridge for Six: Trivial Whist

The game described on the previous page, although dissimilar from Contract Bridge in many ways, is still in effect very similar. There is a great advantage to be gained by bidding one's hand to its full strength, and a great disadvantage to bidding it beyond that. So the strategy of the game, its bidding and play, are likely to be very similar, as long as the optional features of Courts bids and Misère bids are avoided.

On this page, a variation of Bridge that can be applied to the rules and count of Contract Bridge, Auction Bridge, or even my own Siberian Semi-Contract Whist that is intended to change the game significantly is described.

The change involves reducing the roles of two kinds of skill in playing Bridge, so that the game may depend on the remaining factors of skill which Bridge requires. As an incidental result of this change, the number of players required is changed. If a large number of people are present at a venue with the intent of playing Bridge, and two are left over, this variation of Bridge may be superior to the attempts to allow only two people to play Bridge that have been so far offered.

The first change is a trivial one, and may be omitted if players do not desire it. To reduce the importance of memory to the game, after a trick is played, it is left on the table with all four cards in clear sight of the players. A typical Bridge table provides enough room to hold twelve tricks, at least. The cards would be arranged in the form of a plus sign, each card pointing in the direction of the hand it came from, and the card that won the trick on the top.

The second change is the one that explains the need for six players.

To greatly attenuate, if not eliminate, the role of informational bids in the game, there are six players in each of two partnerships. The four players who play cards to tricks each see only their own hand, which is of thirteen cards as in normal Bridge. The third player of each partnership views both hands, and it is the two third players of the partnerships that conduct the bidding between them.

The mechanics of this are as follows:

Before the first hand, the two partnerships cut for the first deal. Each partnership then decides which of its players will take each position as it chooses.

The two players not seated at the table are seated where they cannot see anyone's hand, but they can hear the bidding.

In the first hand, eldest hand, after viewing its own hand, stacks it, and places a paperweight on it. Then, eldest hand's partner hands him its own hand to look through, and then return.

Then, the next eldest hand, the player to the left of eldest hand, dealer's partner, goes through the same procedure.

Once both of these players have viewed both hands, they then bid against one another for the privilege of naming the trump suit.

The winner of the bidding decides if the first trick will be led to by the player in his seat, or by his partner.

Then, the two players who engaged in the bidding rise from the bridge table, and are replaced by the third members of their respective partnerships who were seated away from the table. Each player takes up his own hand once all are seated, and the player designated by the bidder for the first partnership leads to the first trick. Play proceeds normally as at Whist; there is no Dummy.

In successive hands, the deal rotates clockwise from one position at the table to the next, and the bidder for the partnership is the one sitting across from the member of the partnership that just joined the table replacing the bidder of the last hand. Note that it takes twelve hands for the same configuration of players at the table to recur.

First bid alternates between partnerships irrespective of the deal.

12-card Whist

Here is a modification of Whist that avoids one card from one player's hand being exposed, without the need for a second deck to use to cut for trumps.

The regular pack of 52 cards is used, and 12 cards are dealt to each player.

The remaining four cards are placed in a pile, and the top one is turned face up. It indicates the trump suit as follows: the trump suit is the other suit of the same color as the suit of that card. That is, if the card is a Spade, then Clubs are trumps; and vice versa, if it is a Diamond, then Hearts are trumps, and vice versa.

Then, each player who has a 10 in any suit other than the trump suit discards that 10 face up, and draws one of the remaining three cards. Should a player draw a 10 in a suit other than the trump suit, that card is also discarded, and a card from what is left of the three remaining cards is drawn again.

Play then proceeds as at Whist, except there are only 12 tricks.

If the card turned up to indicate the trump suit is a 10, then one card will be left behind in the remaining three cards; this card is then turned up at the end so that the players can all see what it is.

Additional cards may also be left behind in the pile of odd cards if they happen to be tens, and in that case, whatever the card turned up to indicate trumps, the entire remaining contents of that pile, once the players have finished replacing any tens of non-trump suits they might have, are turned face up.

Putting Unusual Decks into Service

The Tarot deck, with 78 cards, has a predefined trump suit. Because of the large number of cards, though, it isn't realistic to deal them all out to the players.

This means, with so many unknown cards, one could not play either Auction Bridge or Contract Bridge, because one could only make a very pessimistic estimate of how many tricks one could win. But it does not seem to me to be an obstacle to playing Whist, even if the game would be more of a game of chance, and less of a game of skill under that circumstance.

This train of thought was inspired by the deck for the game The Works, which is based on the characters of the Girl Genius webcomic.

The cards for that game have, on their four edges, from one to eight of a symbol which may be a heart, a leaf, a gear, tools (a crossed hammer and wrench), or a flask (of the Erenlemayer design).

They are used for a game which has some resemblances to a domino game.

In any event, the thought came to me that a game like Straight Bridge could be played with them.

Deal 13 cards to each of four players.

The dealer selects which side of the card to use, top, bottom, left, or right, or passes that privilege to his partner.

The player next after whichever player chose the side of the card to use then chooses the trump suit, or passes that privilege to his partner.

The player after the one choosing the trump suit leads to the first trick.

The number of points scored for a trick, depending on the side of the card used and the trump suit, is:

        Top    Bottom  Right   Left
Hearts   98     88      78      68
Flasks   97     87      77      67
Tools    96     86      76      66
Leaves   95     85      75      65
Gears    94     84      74      64

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Copyright (c) 2008 John J. G. Savard