A bit of Covid boredom led me to this

Let me know if you are aware of a gaming forum out there (maybe specifically for cards) that might appreciate this game.

Tarot cards were first used for games, and gradually became more and more used for divination. They seem to have been forerunners of Whist and Bridge. The tarot games tend to have some interesting 'weirdness' inbuilt that I have preserved here. An example is the suits of coins and cups ranking differently from swords and wands, and the play moving counter-clockwise. When doing research on Tarot games I found that some (particularly Danish) have an interesting emphasis on taking the last trick, making the game a bit more exciting until the end. But I have simplified the point system, basing this on Italian games and introducing a couple of things of my own.

**Triumph Tarot (a.k.a Robber Baron Tarot) **by Trond

A game for three players inspired by traditional tarot games such as Italian Mitigati and Danish Tarok. Any deck of tarot cards can be used if it has the usual 22 trumps (“triumphs”, Major Arcana including the Fool), and 56 suit cards (Minor Arcana), but some are clearer than others e.g. the Italian Tarocco Piemontese, Swiss J11, French Tarot De Marseille or equivalent (because of the Italian origin of tarot I use some Italian names here). The object of the game is to score enough points to beat your opponents. This can be done by winning tricks (the cards played on the table) containing high-value cards, by winning the last trick, or specifically by achieving “Ultimo”. Aiming to take no tricks at all (Nolo) is a possibility to win if you have weak cards. It is suggested to play three hands, giving everyone a chance to be dealer, and to start with chips worth 100 points each. Note: a player who wins Ultimo can “rob” the other players of several top scoring cards. It is therefore smart to try to stop others from achieving this if you can, and this also earns a bonus.

Deal 25 cards each to three players. Dealer gets the 3 remaining cards, sorts his hand and discards three into the scarto (a discard pile, keep this separate). These are not shown to the others. The Fool cannot be discarded. Note: the scarto goes to the winner of the last trick, so be careful about what you discard.

Declarations MUST be made, if applicable, by everyone before the first trick is played:

10 or more triumphs (say how many, 10, 11, etc. with or without Fool),

3 matadors (Fool, trump 1, trump 21) or 4 (plus trump 20),

full kings, OR declare

mixed honors if incomplete kings plus incomplete matador cards total four or more cards (give number).

Full castle in a suit (King, Queen, Knight, Jack, name the suit), or

half castle (3 of these plus Fool).

Abundant kings (4 plus Fool) or similarly

abundant castle should also be declared. Note: declarations will often make it obvious who is the strongest player. The two other players can try to cooperate to beat him, particularly if they are already behind point-wise. Unlike some other games declarations do not give you points.

Play: The player on the dealer’s right starts the first trick by playing any card, and the play moves counterclockwise. Suit must be followed if possible, otherwise a trump card must be played if possible. If neither is possible the player must give up a card. When all three have played a card, the highest trump or, if no trumps, highest ranked card of the suit wins that trick (add the cards to the trick pile). Winner starts the next trick. Card ranks are given below.

Coins (diamonds), Cups (hearts): from low to high; 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, ace, jack, knight, queen, king (e.g. 2 of cups beats 10 of cups)

Swords (spades), Batons/wands (clubs): from low to high; ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, jack, knight, queen, king (e.g. 10 of swords beats 2 of swords)

Triumphs (or trumps): 1 Magician (Bagatto) low -21 the World (Mondo) high

Playing the Fool (Matto): the Fool can be played in any trick EXCEPT the last trick; it’s an “excuse” not to follow suit. However, it does not win the trick nor is it lost to the winner of that trick. When played, it is shown and goes into the scarto (the cards discarded by the dealer). The current trick, won by another player, will only have two cards. The holder of the Fool can also play it at the beginning of a trick, and gets to declare suit (or trump) which has to be followed by the others in that trick (or play trumps). It must be played if you can neither follow suit nor play trump. Note: the Fool is good to play when you don’t want to lose important cards, or at the start of a trick when you want to force opponents to play specific cards. The Fool always goes to the winner of the last trick in the end.

Penalties: Forgetting to make a declaration costs 20 points, i.e. 10 points to each of the other players. Failure to follow suit when possible, or playing the Fool in the last trick is penalized the same way.

Last trick: The person who wins the last trick also wins the cards in the scarto into his trick pile (including the Fool).

Ultimo: this is achieved by taking the last trick with a king or trump 1 (Magician/Bagatto). The winner of this trick collects the last trick and the scarto, and places one of each of these two tricks next to the opponent trick piles. The two opponents then show their trick cards. The winner can then exchange up to three cards from each (last trick and scarto) from the adjacent trick pile as he sees fit (each trick can only be swapped with the chosen pile) and finally insert these into his own trick pile. Example: the last trick was a King, a Queen and trump 1. The Scarto has three low-value cards plus the Fool. Remembering that the player on his right won many high-value cards, the winner of the trick places the Scarto to the right, and the last trick to the left, and is able to swap out the low-value cards from the Scarto. On the left he might be able to find a King to replace the Queen in the last trick. Note: Winning Ultimo is worth 15-34 points and is more powerful if the winner has not completely dominated the game. If he has dominated the game then there is less to “rob” from the others.

Ultimo thwarted: if a player loses the Magician or a king in the last trick, then that player has to pay his two highest scoring cards from his trick pile. The highest scoring card goes to the winner of the last trick and the second (or equal value) to the other player. This is done AFTER the procedures for Ultimo exchange etc. If two players are thwarted this way, then all card payments go to the winner, who thus receives four extra cards to his trick pile.

Nolo: another winning strategy is to take no tricks at all. If a player has no tricks at the end, then normal Ultimo and Last Trick rules do not apply. The Nolo player takes the scarto plus all the tricks from the highest scoring player, leaving zero points to this player. In the case of a draw between the other players, the winner of the last trick gets to keep his trick pile and the nolo player takes the other pile. Nolo does not apply if one player wins all the tricks. Note: playing Nolo is more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes two players with weak hands can cooperate in order to give one of them nolo, thus giving the strongest player zero points this round.

Counting points (132 total): after the last trick, count the points in your trick pile.

5 points each, King, Trump 1 (Magician/Bagatto), the Fool (Matto)

4 points each, Queen, Trump 10 (Wheel of Fortune/Fortuna)

3 points each, Knight, Trump 20 (Judgement/Angelo)

2 points each, Jack, Trump 21 (the World/Mondo)

1 point each, all other cards (57)

The cards in the Scarto (including the Fool) are counted as other cards in the trick pile. At the end of a hand, card points for each player are added up and 44 subtracted (i.e. 132/3) to get the final score for each. For instance, if a player takes 94 points and the others get 19 points each, then the final score is 50, - 25 and -25, so two players must pay 25 points (chips) each to the winner. Taking all the tricks is worth 88 points (132-44).

Four players: play in teams of two sitting opposite each other (one trick pile per team). 19 cards each, scarto is just two cards. Declarations should include seven or more triumphs, and kings or mixed honors declarations should start at three. In this case declarations also help for partners to inform each other. Ultimo leads to both scarto and last trick being exchanged with opponent’s trick pile. Subtract 66 for final score. Play four hands.