Skat (derived from Italian "scatare", discard) is the most popular German Card Game. It's always played by three folks - if there are more, some of them will have to sit out in some rounds, or you'll have to split the group if there are more than five. The game was first presented in 1813 in Altenburg (Thuringia), but the first printed rules were published in 1848. Historically, it was developed from an older three-handed game, Schafkopf (still popular in Bavaria) using elements taken from Tarock (originally Italian Tarocchi, better known in English as Tarot) and Ombre (Spanish). Like Bridge, Whist, and Tarock it is considered a game of skill.
For the game, you need 32 cards, from 7 to Ace. Each player gets ten cards, for the start; the two remaining cards are the skat. Then, the reizen (bidding) begins. How high you can bid, depends on what kind of game you want to play, the number of trumps you have, how high you expect to win, even more, if you decide to play without the skat, or even open (showing your hand). The player who wins the bidding may pick up the skat and exchange one or two hand cards, then declares which kind of game is played - standard suit game (the four jacks and all other cards of one suit are trump, adding up to 11 trumps), grand ("great game", where only the jacks count as trumps, which is worth the most points), or null game (where the declarer has to lose all tricks). Each card has a point value from zero to eleven points; to win, the declarer needs at least 61 of 120 points - the number of tricks he won is meaningless.note This includes the point value of the two cards in the skat. If you lose a game, the number of minus points is doubled.
It is often played for money, though not much - less than one cent per point, usually. Ideally played at Der Stammtisch.
No relation to the American card game Scat (also known as 31). It is one of the sources of inspiration for the related Russian card game, Preferans.
- House Rules: Many groups have them.
- Playing Ramsch when no player wants to play.
- Saying "Kontra" if an opponent doesn't think the player can win, and responding with "Re" if the player thinks they can, indeed, win. Both double the points.
- Announcing Schneider ("tailor", opponents win at most 30 points), schwarz ("black", opponents win 'no' tricks) or even ouvert ("open", cards open before the first card is played and also schwarz) without playing Hand (not picking up the Skat).
- Playing ouvert without having to play schwarz.
- Null or schwarz counting points instead of tricks.
- Counting Grand ouvert as 36 instead of 24 base points.
- Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Unless a complaint is made during the game by the cheated party, any result is valid.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Ouvert (open) games are usually not played out. While the opponents still don't know each others cards, one usually doesn't play ouvert until victory is mathematically certain due to the high points value.
- Long List:
- One reason why the player base is slowly dying out is because a lot of people know how to play out their cards, but can't calculate a hand's point value, which leads to overbidding and and an automatic loss. Here's how they are calculated: Count the number of consecutive highest trumps either present or not present in your hand, add bonus points for the height of your victory (if applicable), add 1 for each difficulty modifier that you declared, add 1 just because, and multiply the result with the game's basic value (Diamonds: 9, Hearts: 10, Spades: 11, Clubs: 12, Grand: 24).
- Don't forget to double the value if you lose your game (unless you have declared difficulty modifiers), and double it for each Contra, Re, etc...
- The most unlikely and therefore most expensive game is Grand Ouvert with all 4 Jacks: 1 just because, +4 for having all Jacks in your hand, +2 for winning all the tricks, +2 for declaring to win all tricks beforehand, +1 for not picking up the Skat and +1 for playing the hand open. Multiplied with 24 for Grand equals 264 points.
- Misère Game: In the "null game", the declarer wins if they do not take any tricks.
- Serial Escalation: Some groups will allow that after declaring the game, the opponents and the declarer may announce "Kontra!" - "Re!" - "Bock!" - "Hirsch!" - "Supra!", which essentially boils down to "You can't win this!" - "Can too!" - "Cannot!" - "Can too!" - "Cannot!". Each of this declarations doubles the point value of the game, so you can see where this ends. And some rounds don't stop at this. (Exaggerated in Werner, a German comic by Brösel, but it usually stops at "Re!" and is entirely forbidden by the official rules because it reveals information about your hand.)
- Serious Business: Very much so. God help you if you play with some old veterans of this game and make mistakes.
- The 16 Lands of Deutschland: Although you can play with both French cards (which correspond to the suits used in the English-speaking world) and German ones (which have the suits Eichel (acorns), Grün (green leaves), Herz (hearts) and Schelle (bells), the former tend to be predominantly used in the west and north and the latter in the east and south of Germany.
- Springtime for Hitler: The Null game where a player declares to lose all tricks.
- A common House Rule is that the default game when no player bids is "Ramsch", where the player who accumulates the most card points loses. Sometimes subverted by another house rule which allows you to win a "Ramsch" by winning every single point.
- Trick-Taking Card Game: 32 cards, 7 to Ace, are dealt to three players with two leftover. Players then bid on how good they believe their hands to be, with the highest bidder (hereafter the declarer) being allowed to trade out one or two cards from the leftovers. From there, the declarer chooses one of three options - one suit + jacks as trump, jacks alone as trump, or null (the declarer has to lose all tricks). Each card has a point value, and the declarer must take 61 of 120 points (including the leftovers) to win.