Schnapsen is a 2-player card game wide spread in Central Europe, with over 300 years of history. Like many games with a long tradition, there are many variants of the game. Unfortunately unlike in other games, no variant was able to replace the others becoming de facto standard.

It is quite usual, that players have to negotiate a ruleset they use before or even during play. We describe the ruleset used in nearly all tournaments throughout Austria, mentioning known variantions.

For Schnapsen, a standard Bridge deck, removing all cards from 9 downwards can be used. An alternative deck of cards is used in many regions, with different symbols for suits called acorn, leaf, heart and bell. See a picture of a "doppeldeutsches Blatt" and a mixed deck, showing both designs on half of its face. From either of these decks the same subset of 20 cards, containing ace (A), king (K), queen (Q), jack (J) and ten (10) is used. The game does not depend on the deck used and we will stick with the usual suits, spades (♠), hearts (♥), diamonds (♦) and clubs (♣). We will denote cards by their value and suit throughout, e.g.: ♦A, for the ace of diamonds, ♠10, for the 10 of spades, etc. When referring to cards with the same value, but arbitrary suit we will write • for the suit. E.g. •A, for an arbitrary ace, etc.

Each card has an associated numerical card value. This value is taken to determine the points a player scores by a trick and furthermore determines the card hierarchy. The numerical card values are given in the following list:

•A | •10 | •K | •Q | •J |
---|---|---|---|---|

11 | 10 | 4 | 3 | 2 |

Variant (66): Mostly played in Germany, there is a variant of the game called 66, which is played with a deck of 24 cards adding the 9s. •9 has the numerical card value 0.

Card strength is a partial order depending on the trup suit. That means, that not any pair of cards has a stronger card. A card C1 is stronger than another card C2 if either

- C1 and C2 are of the same suit and C1 has a higher numerical value than C2.
- C1 is of trump suit.

The leading player chooses an arbitrary card from his hand and places it face up on the table. If the stack is open, the replying player may choose an arbitrary card, if the stack is closed he has to choose a cards following two rules:

- Follow suit of the leading card.
- Choose a card stronger than the leading card.

The player who did the trick takes the trick points, the sum of the cards values, and places the cards face down on a pile on his side of the table. The players are allowed to look at the cards in their pile at any time. They are not allowed to look at the opponents pile.

Variant (PB): The players are not allowed to look at the cards in their pile, but only the cards from the last trick played.

Variant (PA): The players are allowed to look at the cards of the first trick, each player scored.

If the stack is open, each player takes the topmost card from the stack, starting with the winner of the trick. The player who did the trick leads the next trick.

When holding a suited couple in his hand, that is •K, •Q with • the same suit, the leading player may play either of the two, showing both to the opponent declaring to play a mariage. This adds additional 20 points to his trick score if the suit of the couple is non-trump and 40 points if the couple is in trump suit. The player may well choose to play any other card of his hand or even choose to play a card of the couple without declaring a mariage.

Variant (M1): The leading player must not declare a mariage leading the very first trick.

Variant (MK): If the leading player declares a mariage, he must lead the king of that couple.

If the stack is open and the leading player holds the trump jack, he may, prior to all other actions, exchange the current turnup (see section on dealing) with the trump jack.

Variant (J1): The leading player must not exchange the trump jack leading the very first trick.

Variant (JP): The leading player must not exchange the trump jack, if the stack consists of only 2 card.

If the stack is open, the leading player may close the stack, prior to playing the leading card. He does so, by placing the turnup card on top of the stack.

The stack is closed automatically if it runs out of cards.

Variant (CP): The leading player must not close the stack, if the stack consists of only 2 card.

A game starts with the dealer shuffling the deck, allowing the opponent to cut the deck and dealing cards in the following order: 3 cards to the opponent, 3 cards to himself, 1 card face up on the table, 2 cards to the opponent and 2 cards to himself. The remaining deck is placed face down on the table and is referred to as the stack. The card lying face up on the table is called turnup, and determines the trump suit. It is considered the bottommost card of the stack.

The player opposite to the dealer starts leading the first trick. Tricks are played, until a player checks out of the game or both players run out of cards. A player may check out of the game immediately after scoring points by either declaring a mariage or making a trick. The player making the very last trick, with both players holding no more cards, is given the chance to check out before the game ends with no check out.

If a game is ended, the winner of the game is rewarded a game score of 1, 2 or 3. Game scoring is a little bit involved and there are several variants.

If the stack is still open or it was closed automatically: If no player checked out, the game was ended automatically by the last trick.

A set is a succession of games. At the start of a set, each player holds a game score of 7 points. If a player wins a game by a score of 1, 2 or 3, this score is subtracted from his game score, without writing negative numbers (that is, if a player holds a game score of 2 and wins a game with a score of 3, his game score is set to 0). The function of being dealer of the games alternates between the players. The player first reaching a game score of 0 wins the set (or Bummerl). It is a linguistic idiosyncrasy, that the looser is said to have got the Bummerl, instead of the winner.

Variant (SB): If a player wins a set, without any game score of the opponent (the opponent holding a game score of 7), the winner scores 2 sets and the looser is said to have got a Schneiderbummerl (or Schneider).

A match is typically played best of 1 or more sets (Bummerls). E.g. the players arrange to play best of 5 (first to 3) sets. The player dealing the first game is determined by any acceptable means. After that, the dealer of the first game of each set alternates. If Player 1 was dealing the first game of the first set, Players 2 deals the first game of the second set, etc.