Tarock rules for 3 to 4 players

Tarock is a fun game for 3-4 player, but you can play it one-on-one as well. Most people say that real tarock is played with 3 players (this is because the real skill edge comes out when you have just 3 people playing, and that's the important thing when you actually play for money) and I agree, but I still think that playing with 4 players is wayyyyy more fun. So let's learn the rules so you can start playing right away...

The cards

Since tarock is not played with a »regular« deck, but rather with a special version of tarot cards that are made just for this game, let's familiarize ourselves with the cards first...

First you have the trumps ranging in strength from 1 to 21, usually listed in Roman numbers (I, II, III... XX, XXI). These cards are the strongest cards in the game and take any trick when played, the strongest being the XXI.

From I to....................................................... XXI

You also have one more trump card, that is even stronger than the XXI, called the Fool. This is the strongest card in the deck and can only lose in one scenario(we'll get to that later).

The Fool
This is the Fool from the best
known tarock cards from Piatnik

Apart from trumps you also have cards that are similar to regular cards. Like in a regular deck, there are 4 suits (clubs, diamonds, spades, hearts) and 8 cards of each suit. All suits have a King, Queen, Horseman and a Jack, with the King being the strongest. The other 4 cards are a bit different dough... diamonds and hearts have card ranging from Ace to Four and clubs and spades have cards ranging from Seven to Ten. Now, the strength of these hands for each suit goes like this(from strongest to weakest):

Hearts and diamonds: King, Queen, Horseman, Jack, Ace, Deuce, Trey, Four

Spades and clubs: King, Queen, Horseman, Jack, Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven

And remember, trumps are stronger than any suit. Let's continue...

Game play with 4 players

The deal

Each player gets 12 cards (in batches of 6) and 6 cards are put in the middle of the table (the Talon).

The games

After the cards are dealt the bidding starts. The first player to bid is the one directly on the left of the dealer.  The players that bid first have priority, so if the next player wants to lead the game he has to play a »stronger« game (a game that is worth more). OK, so let's first list the games according to how much they are worth and then I'll explain how they are played...

Games from weakest to strongest (I couldn't find the English translations, so I'll do my best to translate the names myself):

  • Tris (10 points)
  • Deuce (20 points)
  • One (30 points)
  • Solo Tris (40 points)
  • Solo Deuce (50 points)
  • Solo One (60 points)
  • Beggar (70 points)
  • Solo without the Talon (80 points)

Apart from these games there is also one game within a game called Color Valat. To play this, you first have to bid on one of the regular games and then announce that you want to play this game. I'll explain below.

Now, let us explain the games:

TRIS, DEUCE AND ONE

These are the regular games and they are the most common. The player that leaded has to announce in what suite he is playing and the player with the King in that suite is now teamed up with the leading player (but he can not disclose that, it has to be discovered during the course of the game), but only for this game. The other two players are the opposing team for this game.

After that the Talon is revealed in batches of 1-3 cards depending on what game the leading player chose(if he bidded on Tris then it's batches of 3 cards etc.). He takes one batch of cards and puts an equal amount of cards face down on the table from his hand. The face down cards are his pile, where he accumulates his tricks and what is left of the Talon is the opposing teams pile.

Now the game actually starts. The first trick is lead by the player left of the dealer and continues to the left as well. The person that throws down the strongest card wins the trick. The next trick is lead by the winner of the previous trick and so on until all the players run out of cards. However, there are a few more rules:

  1. If a player leads with a suit, the other players must play that suit as well, or if he leads with a trump, they have to play a trump too.
  2. If a player doesn't have the right suit he has to play a trump, if he has neither the appropriate suite nor a trump, he can play any card.
  3. The suit that was lead out in a particular trick is the strongest suite for that trick, but trumps still beat it.

SOLO GAMES

Solo games are all play the same as regular games, except that the leading player doesn't announce a suite and plays alone against the other 3 players. In the Solo without the Talon the leading player can't take any cards from the Talon and the Talon goes straight to the other 3 players pile of tricks (nobody can see it until the game is over).

BEGGAR

The Beggar is a special game. The Talon is put in the centre of the table and the players put down a card for each trick on their side of the Talon so that all the tricks are visible at all time. The leading player is the one that leads the first trick no matter where he is sitting.

The point of the game is that the leading player has to lose all the tricks, if he wins one, he automatically loses the game.

There is one special rule. If the player that has to put down the next card in the trick, has a stronger card than the previous players, he has to play it. Other than that these rules still apply like in a regular game:  

  1. If a player leads with a suit, the other players must play that suit as well, or if he leads with a trump, they have to play a trump too.
  2. If a player doesn't have the right suit he has to play a trump, if he has neither the appropriate suite nor a trump, he can play any card.
  3. The suit that was lead out in a particular trick is the strongest suite for that trick, but trumps still beat it.

COLOR VALAT

To play this game you have to first bid on a regular or solo game and then announce that you are playing this.

The point of the game is that you have to take every trick (or if you played a regular game your team has to take every trick).  Lose one and you automatically lose the game. But there's more...

...the suit that you lead is the strongest for that trick and it even beats trumps, that is until you lead a trump, then the game continues normally.

3 player differences

Three player tarock is played in exactly the same way as the four player version, except that the player that leads the game is always playing alone against the other two players.  Basically it's like there are only solo games and the beggar.

Counting and card values

When the game is finished players count the value of their tricks to determine the winner. So let us first take a look at how you count...

...counting is done in batches of 3 cards. When you have one face card (The Fool and Trump I and XXI also count as face cards) the value of that batch of cards is equal to the value of that face card, if you have 2 face cards in one batch of 3 cards you subtract 1 point, if you have 3, you subtract 2 points, if you have a batch with just trumps and non face cards, it's worth 1 point. Clear? OK, now here are the values of face cards:

  • King = 5 points
  • Queen = 4 points
  • Horseman = 3 points
  • Jack = 2 points
  • The Fool = 5 points
  • Trump XXI = 5 points
  • Trump I = 5 points
The player or team (if the game was played in teams) that reaches the score of more than 35 points wins the game.

Scoring

Scoring is easy. If the leading player/team won, they get the appropriate number of game points according to which game they played, or if they lost, they get the negative sum of these points.

  • Tris (10 points)
  • Deuce (20 points)
  • One (30 points)
  • Solo Tris (40 points)
  • Solo Deuce (50 points)
  • Solo One (60 points)
  • Beggar (70 points)
  • Solo without the Talon (80 points)
  • Color Valat (125 points)

There are also some bonus game points that have to be added. In all games, except the beggar and color valat, players get point differences between 35 and their score (rounded up to 5 points) in either the negative or positive direction (example: a team of 2 played Deuces and won with a score of 44, they get 20+10 game points, so 30 altogether). There's more bonus game points for special achievements, these points are doubled, if the achievement was announced after the Talon was spread out (they are also not counted in the Color Valat and Beggar, and they also go both in the negative and positive direction (in the negative if the non leading team achieves them)):

  1. Kings (10 points) = the player or team collected all 4 kings
  2. Trinity (10 points) = the player or team collected the Fool. Trump XXI and Trump I
  3. King Ultimo (10 points) = the player or team won the last trick and it contained the King in which the leading player played the game.
  4. Trump I Ultiomo (25 points) = this one is a bit different, any player can achieve it and he is the one that gets or loses the game points if he succeeds or fails and not the leading team. It is achieved by taking the last trick with the Trump I.
  5. Valat (250 points) = the player or team takes all the tricks in the game.
  6. Losing the Trump XXI = any player that loses his trump XXI in a trick loses 20 game points

Special rules

1. In a regular or solo game, if the Fool, the trump XXI and the trump I are played in this order in a single trick, the trump I wins the trick.

2. If no players bid on a game, nobody leads, then a game of Misere is played. The point of Misere is that players try to accumulate as little points as possible. The Beggar rule that if the player that has to put down the next card in the trick, has a stronger card than the previous players, has to play it also applies in Misere (in accordance with the three general rules). Also in the first 6 tricks a card from the Talon is added to each trick. Points accumulated in Misere are then deducted from game points for each player individually, except if someone accumulates more than 35 points (then he is the only-one that gets 70 game points deducted) or if someone doesn't win even one trick (then he gets 70 game points).

3.

When a player plays a Beggar, Solo without the Talon, Color Valat or a game of Misere is played, each player gets double points on the next game he leads (These double point bonuses can accumulate, but are used one-by-one and they are only used up if the player actually wins the game he leads (but he still gets double game points deducted if he loses).

Conclusion

I know that this game seems really complicated at first (well... it actually really is), but once you learn how to play it's one of the most fun card games around. So take the time, read through this page and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me, because if you think it's complicated to learn, I can tell you, writing this was three times more complicated, but I hope I did a solid job.

Have fun and enjoy playing!




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