Sixty-Six Card Game - How to Play

Translated from German by Steve ThorsTen (2019)

In Germany, the Sixty-Six card game is often called Skat. However, unlike Skat, the game is considered to be straightforward and suitable for children. The reason why Sixty-Six is often called Skat is that there are no clearly introduced rules when it comes to most competitions. This problem is also brought up by David Parlett in his "Card Games for Two," but in any event, no solution has been found. As it is, most writers don't take the game seriously and refrain from producing a full list of rules. This is precisely what this articles sets out to do, so by the time you have finished reading it, you will be familiar with all popular versions of Sixty-Six.

The game is called Sixty-Six after its main objective, which is for a player to be the first to score 66 points. Sixty-Six was invented back in 1652 in Paderborn. In light of this, the original name of the game was after the place it was invented in, i.e. Paderborn, and not Sixty-Six.

Today, there are numerous variation of the game across different European countries, but the classic rules of the game remain unchanged.

Players and Cards

To learn how to play Sixty-Six card game, you will need a deck of 24 cards. Depending on the deck you play with, either French or German, the cards might have a different value. The usual numbering goes - Ace (11), Ten (10), King (4), Queen (3), Jacks (2) and nine (0). The game is played between two players.

Dealing the Cards

The dealer is chosen randomly. Cards can be dealt individually, in two's or in three's. The 13th card is placed face up on the table. This determines the trump suit in the game. The remaining 11 cards form the deck.

Sixty-Six Card Game Instructions

The game begins very simply. There are two main stages.

Stage One

A player puts down a card face up. This is followed by the opponent responding with a card of their own. If the two cards are of the same suit, then the higher-ranking card wins. If a player chooses to use a trump card, then the trump card wins. The winner collects both cards and places them face down in front of him. In addition, the winner also draws the top card from the deck without showing it to the opponent. The opponent also draws a card so that both players may have six cards in their hand again.

Points must not be counted until all cards have been played. The winner of the last trick draws the last face down card whereas the second player claims the trump card underneath it.

Stage Two

In the final stage of the game, lack of specific cards changes the rules slightly. A player must first play a card from the same suit. If they don't have it, then they must use a trump card. If no trump card is available, then a card of any suit can be played, although this is the least favourable option. It's worth mentioning that all throughout the game, the winner of trick opens the next trick.

Meanwhile, the game is not always played until the last hand as a player usually hits 66 points earlier and the game is therefore wrapped up quickly. It is possible to achieve a draw between players, at which point no one player wins and the game must be replayed once again.

Calling "Out" to Win the Game

For a player to know exactly how many points they have won throughout the game, they will have to keep counting cards they win. Once the 66 points have been reached, a player can say that he or she is "out" and therefore the game is concluded. If a player hasn't called the score correctly, then they are considered the losing party. A player may end the game at any point they believe they have amassed 66. Remember that you can only say "out", after a trick has completed. If a player calls "out" before you, they are considered the winner.

Claiming the Trump Under the Deck

There is an interesting rule in Sixty-Six card game that effectively allows players to claim the trump card that is under the deck. To do so, a player needs to swap that card with a nine trump card from his hand. However, the player who wishes to do so will first have to play at least one trick.

Matching Cards - "The Wedding"

An easy way to score a lot of points is by announcing a "wedding" beween a King and a Queen. If the cards are from the same suit, that would generate you 40 points. If one of the cards is from a secondary suit, then you only get 20 points. Some players prefer to wait a bit before announcing the wedding and this way they can exit the game suddenly and quickly, winning 66 points.

No More Cards Drawn, "The Cover"

An interesting game rule in Sixty Six is "the cover". The cover is a rule whereby the player cuts off access to the deck and then players only have their remaining cards left to settle the score. Interestingly, the winner of a trick is the person who can draw from the deck before covering it. A player can also cut off the access to his opponent's draw before the cover if they choose to.

There are interesting variations of using a cover. In some cases, you can cover the deck, claim a trump King (face up card) with a nine, and call a wedding, provided you have a Queen. This is just one example of how a cover can be used very quickly to settle the game in a player's favor.

Settling the Score

Because of the dynamics of the game, to win, a player needs to accumulate seven game points. Game points are calculated at the end of each game. If a player wins when his or her opponent has 33 card points or more, then the winner is rewarded a single game point. If a player wins when the opponent has fewer than 33 card points, then 2 game points are awarded to the winner instead. This process continues until a total of seven game points have been scored by one player.

Tips How to Improve at Sixty-Six

For a player who is an expert at Sixty-Six, these tips may appear unnecessary. However, for everyone else, they will come  handy.

  • The first and most important advice is to try and keep a good track of the points that have been won

  • A good player must try to count their opponent's points as well

  • Sometimes it's better to sacrifice a wedding trump card to win a trick then let the opponent do so

  • If you have a good number of points (also referred to as "eyes"), you can risk placing a "cover" on the deck, as there is a good chance that you will win with the cards remaining.

  • Do consider covering if you have few trumps and a fair few high cards, which can generate you decent points

Another good tip for a longer-lasting game is to try and keep track of the cards that have been played. With this in mind, Stage Two can often be a very easy one for players who actually keep track of what cards have been played in Stage One.

Differences to Schnapsen

The game is often compared to an Austrian version known as Schnapsen. There are several main differences with Schnapsen though that we will quickly note here:

  • In Sixty-Six the opponent of a player who has covered can steal the trump card, even if he didn't sting

  • In Sixty-Six a player can cover the deck at any time

  • In Sixty-Six, the winner becomes the dealer in the next game

  • In Sixty-Six, all points are counted from 0-7

There are other minor variations which distinguish the games. In most cases, it's agreed that Sixty-Six is a more skill-based game that is less dependent on chance.

Can Sixty-Six Be Played by Three Players?

The game can be played by three players, but several things change during this time.  First, the dealer hands out 3 cards to each player and only then a trump suit is picked. Then, the player follows with 2's and 3's that are dealt to players so that all players now have eight cards.

With each player holding eight cards, there is no deck left. The player on the left hand side of the player is the first to play.

Sixty-Six for Four Players

Lastly, the game can also be played by four players in which case, all participants form alliances. Each player is dealt six cards, which again means that the deck (or "Talon") will be reduced to zero right at the onset of the game. The rules for a game of four are the same as the rules in a game of four. The objective here once again is to win 66 points.

There are other more complicated versions of the game if you like four-player games, including Austrian Bauernschnapsen and the German game Gaigel. If you enjoy variety these games might be a perfect fit for you.

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