Jass is a card-game that is very popular in many areas of the world. It is a very challenging game, which allows for some highly strategic play. It requires a lot of concentration and the rules can be rather tricky at first, but it is also very rewarding, and once all the players know the game properly, it has hours and hours of playing value. The same set of cards can cause you to win spectacularly or lose spectacularly, depending on what your partner does, and how the Trump is chosen.
The game of Jass is known by many names around the world. It is known as Klaverjassen in the Netherlands, as Klabberjas in South Africa, and Jass in Switzerland. There are a huge number of different rule variations, depending on country, local rules, etc.
The game is Jass, the action of playing the game is Jassen, the players are known as Jassers.
The particular set of rules described in this write-up is known as the "Amsterdam Klaverjassen rules"
The deck and the Players
Jass is a card game for four people - two people on each team. It is played with a special deck of cards, consisting of 36 cards, of four suits. The suits are bells, acorns, shields, and flowers. Each suit has an ace, king, over (also known as "ober"), under, banner, nine, eight, seven and six.
However, the game can easily be played with a normal Poker deck instead - This description of the rules is based on using a Poker deck, as this is most readily available to most players. To Jass-ify a poker deck, the game is limited to a partial deck of cards: The game is played only with 7 and upwards of all suits - 2 through 6 plus all jokers are discarded.
The game is played with the team members seated opposite each other (or diagonally, if playing at a square table, obviously).
The game is played counter-clockwise around the table.
The game is normally won one of two ways: The winning team wins by reaching 1500 points first, or whoever has the most points after 16 rounds wins. (16 rounds means that every player deals four times).
Points and value of the cards
Points are collected per team, not per player.
This is where things get interesting... In Jass, the cards can have different values and order of importance, based on if the suit is the trump suit or not. It is a good idea to print or write the following out on a piece of paper for each player, as it will need to be referred to often:
Non-trump suit Trump suit
Ace 11 Jack 20
Ten 10 Nine 14
King 4 Ace 11
Queen 3 Ten 10
Jack 2 King 4
Nine - Queen 3
Eight - Eight -
Seven - Seven -
This card order is important. A ten always beats a king, queen, jack etc. For the trump suit, the Jack beats everything, the Nine beats everything but the Jack, etc. (This is the most confusing aspect of the game at first, but when it is learnt, is the primary reason for why it is such a challenging game.)
Whoever wins the last trick gets 5 extra card points - this means that the total number of card points available is 157.
If a team wins all the points, they are awarded an extra 100 card points (257 altogether, then). Note that the losing team can in practice win a trick without getting any points, but the winning team will still win their 100 extra points.
Playing the game: Order of play
The first player (the player sitting counter-clockwise of the dealer) declares which suit is the trump suit, after having inspected their dealt cards. The same player then opens the first round by leading (placing the first card on the table, selecting the suit). Any card may be played in order to lead the game.
When a trick is won, the person who wins the trick leads.
When a round (everybody has played their own cards) has been played, the player who opened the previous round deals, and the next player counter-clock-wise opens.
After all the cards have been played, the team who wins the trick gathers the cards, and places them upside-down in a pile, for counting later. There is one pile for each team. Once the cards have been turned over, they may no longer be looked at by either team.
Playing the Game: Taking Tricks
Winning a trick:
The trick is won by the highest trump.
If there is no trump, the trick is won by the highest card of the leading suit.
If the player has a card of the leading suit:
- the player always has to follow suit
- If the player has a higher card of the same suit, the player has to play it*
If the player doesn't have a card of the leading suit, nor a trump card:
- The player can play what they like
If the player doesn't have a card of the leading suit, but has a trump card:
- The player has to play a trump card*
- If a trump card has already been played, the player has to beat the trump card*
- If the player cannot beat the trump card, the player can play what they like
*) If the player's team mate looks as though they are about to take the trick (i.e has the highest trump card, or the highest leading suit card (if there are no trumps played) on the table), the player does not have to trump or play a higher card of the same suit.
When played, the following combinations gather extra points. When a combination is on the table, the team who is winning the trick has to knock on the table to announce the extra points. Once the cards have been collected and turned over, it is too late to announce extra points.
The extra points are as follows:
A straight is a series of cards in the same suit, in the order "7, 8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king, ace".
A set is four of one card value (4 kings, 4 eights etc)
3 straight 20
4 straight 50
Stuck (K+Q of trump suit) 20
Set of 4 same-value cards 100
The extra points are noted down, but not added to the score of the team who collects them, until it is decided if the declaring team "gets wet" (see below) or not.
When a team gets to declare (select which suit is trump), they have to get more points than the non-declaring team.
This is calculated based on the card points (i.e the points gathered due to taking tricks based on the card values listed at the top) and the extra points. If the declaring team fails to get more points than the non-declaring team, they are "wet", and get no points at all - all the points are awarded to the non-declaring team.
Example 1: If the declaring team has 70 points and 40 extra points (=110 points), while the non-declaring team has 87 points and 20 extra points (=107 points), the points are counted as normal.
Example 2: If the declaring team has 20 points and 40 extra points (=60 points) while the non-declaring team has 117 points and no extra points, the non-declaring team gains their 117 points, plus the 60 points that the declaring team has lost.
As you can probably imagine from the rules, the variation in cards, combined with the straights (which use a different order of the cards) and the "wet" rule, cause a very volatile game, where a team who is 800 points ahead can still easily lose, if they play a few bad rounds. Because of this, Jass is a very unpredictable yet exciting game, which is well worth learning.
As mentioned several times, Jass is a rather complicated game, and the rules and descriptions written down here may leave a few things un-clear. If this is the case, please /msg me with clarifications or questions, and I will do my best to amend this write-up for the better.