There are two games bearing this name in Hungary and it is my understanding that each was developed as a bridge between Free Tarokk and the tournament game of Royal Tarokk. Sadly, I have not found any published accounts of either game in any language translatable to me. However, I have found some notes regarding the earliest of the two and have pieced together what seems to be a more or less complete account.
I have read that this game is more popular than Magus Tarokk as an expanded form of the game but then I’ve read other writers who discuss Magus Tarokk without any mention of Emperor. There are some differences in the core rules to Free Tarokk, and so I shall give the game in full. You really will need to have tried the other Hungarian games before taking on this one.
Pack: A reduced tarot of 46 cards is used consisting of four regular suits of 6 cards, and a suit of 22 trumps.
Ranking: Standard ranking is used...
Cards rank in suits from high to low:
King, Queen, Cavalier, Valets, 2, Ace
Empty Cards: These are cards that have values of 1 point or less.
Honours: The Juggler, The World, and Tomfool are called The Honours. They are always among the highest scoring cards.
Deal: First Dealer is chosen at random or by consent with the role moving to the player on the left after each hand. A game consists of four hands.
Dealer places the first 6 cards to a stock, then deals each two packets of five cards.
Auction: Beginning with Eldest (Dealer’s left), players take turns to make a bid or pass, the player who makes the highest bid will play as Declarer. There are some bids that allow you to invite a partner however, and share both risk and reward. A player may pass and if all players pass, the hand is thrown in and deal moves to the next player. However, to be allowed to bid you must hold at least one Honour.
The available bids are:
- 3 Cards: for 1 game point
- 2 Cards: for 2 game points
- 3 Cards: for 3 game points
- Without: for 4 game points
The bids refer to the number of cards the Declarer will be allowed to draw from the stock.
Players may not bid more than one bid higher than any before them. So, Eldest may either pass or bid 3 Cards, if 3 Cards have been bid, then the next player may either pass or bid 2 Cards, and so forth. If a player has bid but is then outbid, then they may claim priority by calling “I Hold” and taking the higher bid for themselves.
Invitation Bids: It may be that you have a hand that is not good enough for you to want to be Declarer by yourself but good enough for you to feel confident as a Declarer’s partner. You can indicate this by making an invitation to call you as partner. There are strict rules governing how and when this can be done.
To be allowed to make an invitation bid, you must hold an Honour. There are two possible invitations you can make and you must also have the card that in invitation requires. These invitations are called Jump Bids because they require you to bid higher than the rules would otherwise allow.
- Partner with 19: If you hold the 19 of trumps (The Sun), then you can invite by bidding one higher than otherwise allowed. So, if 3 Cards has been bid, then you must bid 1 Card to make the invitation. If someone outbids you or calls ‘I Hold’, then they implicitly accept your invitation and must call The Sun for a partner after the discard.
- Partner with 18: If you hold the 18, then you can invite by bidding two higher than otherwise allowed. If 3 Cards has been bid, then Without must be bid, only leaving “I Hold” to accept the invitation.
Discards: Declarer draws as many cards from the top of the stock as their bid allows and then discards as many again. Each of the other players then draws one card from the stock (if 3 Cards was bid, then the last player cannot draw) and then discard one card from their hand that will count toward their tricks at the end. Any remaining cards are added to Declarer’s discards to count toward his/her tricks at the end unless no tricks are won, in which case they go to the Defenders. However, if Without was bid, then each of the Defenders draws and discards two cards.
Discards may never include Kings or Honours and if trumps are discarded then they must be shown to the other players.
Annulment: After the discards, any player who meets any of these conditions may annul the hand, which is then thrown in and re-dealt and the points for the new hand doubled.
- They have no trumps
- They have all four Kings
Calling a Partner: Unless accepting an invitation, in which case Declarer should call for the appropriate trump, Declarer should normally call for The 20 of trumps and whoever holds it will be Declarer’s partner. If the 20 is in Declarer’s hand or discard, then the next lowest trump not held should be called. If any of the other players discarded a trump, then Declarer may call for any trump excluding Honours.
If the called trump has been discarded by one of the players, then that player must call “Contra” to the hand (see below) and Declarer plays alone.
A partner called by a trump in this way may not identify themselves directly – this is something that will become obvious during play. However, as only a Defender can make the first “Contra”, the possibilities become 50/50.
Declarations: In turn, starting with Declarer, players may announce to win a bonus achievement from the list of bonuses given below.
Contras: There is an opportunity for any of the defenders to call “Contra” to either the bid or to an announced achievement. A Contra serves to double the score, once called, any player may then call “Re-Contra” to double it again, then a further call of “Sub-Contra” can be called to double it once more.
- Honours: a bonus for winning all the Honour cards in your tricks. 2 points announced, 1 point unannounced.
- Kings: A bonus for winning all four Kings in your tricks. 2 points announced, 1 point unannounced.
- High Game: A bonus for taking 71 card points or more. Payment for the hand is quadrupled in announced and doubled if unannounced.
- Slam: A bonus for winning all the tricks. Payment for the hand is multiplied by 6 if announced, and tripled if unannounced. A team that declares a Slam, cannot declare Honours or Kings. A team that wins a Slam does not score for Honours or Kings.
- The Sparrow: a bonus for winning the last trick with The Juggler. 10 points if announced, 5 points if unannounced.
- Conquest: A bonus for capturing an opponents World. 40 points announced, 20 points unannounced.
- First Five: The team must take the first five tricks and the last of them must be won by the 20 of trumps. 10 points announced, 5 points unannounced.
- First Six: The team must take the first six tricks and the last of them must be won by The World. 12 points announced, 6 points unannounced.
- First Seven: The team must take the first seven tricks and the last of them must be won by Tomfool. 14 points announced, 7 points unannounced.
- First Eight: the team must take the first eight tricks and the last of them must be won by The Juggler. 20 points announced, 10 points unannounced.
- The Last King of _____: The last trick must be taken by the King of the named suit. This bonus must be announced to score. 15 points.
- The Penultimate King of _____: The penultimate trick must be taken by the King of the named suit. This bonus must be announced to score. 20 points.
- The Last Owl: A bonus for winning the last trick with The Female Pope. This must be announced to score. 25 points.
- The Owl: A bonus for winning the next to last trick with The Female Pope. This bonus must be announced to score. 30 points.
- Force of One: One trick (unspecified) must be won by either Queen or Cavalier of one of the Long Suits. Must be announced. 20 points.
- Profit of One: One trick (unspecified) must be won by either a Queen or Cavalier of one of the Round Suits. Must be announced. 20 points.
- ______ to Pip the Post: One trick (unspecified) must be won by a pip card of the named suit. Must be announced. 30 points.
- Marriage of ______: The last two tricks must be won by the King and Queen of the named suit. Must be declared. 50 points.
- Bethlehem: The last three tricks must be won by Kings. Must be announced. 60 points.
- Family of ______: The last three tricks must each be one by a card of the named suit. Must be announced. 60 points.
- Flock: The last three tricks must each be won by a Bird (being The Juggler, The Female Pope, The Empress, and The Emperor). Must be announced. 60 points.
Play: Declarer leads to the first trick by placing a card face up on the table. Each player in turn, moving to the left, must play a card from their hand of the suit led – this is called following suit. If they do not have any cards of the suit led, it is called being void in that suit and they must play a trump card instead. However, if they have no trumps, they may then play any other card, though it will not win. Whoever plays the highest trump to the trick wins it, or if trumps are not played, then whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins it. The winner takes the cards and places them face down in their trick pile to be counted at the end.
The player that wins the trick then leads to the next one and play continues until the hand has been played out.
If a player has announced to win The Sparrow, then they may not play The Juggler until the last trick unless the rules force it.
Emperor Trick: If all three honours are played to the same trick, then it is The Juggler that wins it.
Scores: Cards are counted individually, so there are 94 card points in the pack. To win the hand, Declarer’s side must make 48 card points or score nothing. If won, then the value of the card points will be added to their game points up to a maximum of 60.