How to Play German Solo

German Solo is a classic game, being derived from one of the earliest documented card games played, Quadrille (see the rules for that game further below). This game is sometimes shortened to just Solo, but when doing so, is sometimes confused with another, unrelated game also called "Solo".

The standard game is designed to be played by four players, each playing individually (no partnerships). The game uses one the 32 card piquet deck consisting of one card in each suit of the following denominations (7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King). The specific ranking of the cards during play can be somewhat different dependent on which suit is set as the trump suit for the game.

Three highest ranking cards if Diamonds were trump As mentioned the ranking of the cards is partially dependent on which suit is the trump suit for the hand. In this game the Queen of Clubs (called Spadilla) is always considered a member of the trump suit and as such, considered the highest card in the trump suit (whatever the trump suit is set as for the hand). Similarly, the Queen of Spades is also always considered the third highest card in the trump suit of the hand (called Basta). The three highest trump cards in this game are called Matadors. Aside from these permanent trumps, the following shows the ranking of the cards based on the trump suit for the hand: The ranking of the non-trump suits is as follows (from high to low): Ace, King, Queen (Diamonds and Hearts only), Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7.

Before play begins, the players should all be seated at the table. If there is any dispute as to where the players prefer to sit, the players can draw from a shuffled deck and the players can be seated in order of the rank of the cards drawn by the players. After the players are seated any player should take the shuffled deck and begin dealing one card face up to each player in a clockwise direction. The first player to receive a card in the suit of Clubs is designated as the first dealer. After each hand the dealer rotates in a clockwise rotation from player to player. After this dealer is determined he reshuffles the deck and offers it to the player at his right to cut. After the cut, the dealer takes the cards and begins the deal.

The dealer begins by first dealing each player, in a clockwise direction a packet of three face-down cards. He then deals a packet of two face down cards to each player followed by a final packet of three cards to each player, resulting in each player obtaining an eight card hand.

After the deal is completed the bidding phase of the game begins. The player to the dealer's immediate left has the right to make the first bid. The bidding moves in a clockwise rotation around the table from player to player. A player may either Pass or make a valid bid higher than any previous bid during the current hand. If a player passes he must drop from the bidding during the current hand. The legal bids during this game, in ranking from high to low are as follows:
Bid NameDescriptionPoint Value of Bid
Frog in SuitBid to play the hand using any suit of the players choice except Clubs as the trump suit. If this becomes the winning bid this player is entitled to call out for a high card he lacks from his hand (usually an Ace or King). The player who has the called card becomes the players partner but does not acknowledge this, with the identity of the partner only becoming known when the called card is played. This bid obligates the player to win at least 5 tricks during the hand.2
Frog in ColorThree highest ranking cards if Diamonds were trumpBid to play the hand using Clubs as the trump suit. Similar to Frog in Suit, the player names a high card he does not have in his hand, with the player having that card becoming his secret partner for the hand. To win using this bid the player must win a minimum of 5 tricks during the hand.4
Solo in SuitBid to play the hand using any suit of the bidder's choice as the trump suit, with the exception of Clubs. A player playing Solo plays alone against his three opponents. This bid requires the player to win 5 or more tricks during the hand.4
Solo in ColorBid to play the hand using Clubs as the trump suit. A player playing this bid plays against his three opponents. This bid obligates the bidder to win a minimum of 5 tricks during the hand.8
Tout in SuitPlayer bids to play the game with no partner, winning every trick. He may set any suit as trump except Clubs.16
Tout in ColorBid to play the hand using Clubs as the trump suit and winning every trick with no partner.32
Three highest ranking cards if Diamonds were trump If a player makes a bid and the opponent to his left makes a higher bid, the player who made the original bid may call "Hold". This indicates he agrees to match the bid just made by that opponent. If he does not call "Hold" he is considered to have Passed, and the bidding passes to the next player to the last bidder's immediate left. If the player does declare "Hold" the higher bidder must either make a higher bid or pass himself. Eventually, one of these two players will elect to pass, with the other player currently considered to be the high bidder. The bidding then moves to the next player in clockwise rotation who has not yet made a bid during this hand. This bidding continues until all players have had an opportunity to bid or pass. The player who made the last highest bid is considered the Soloist for the hand.

If all four players pass during the bidding phase, the player who has Spadilla in hand must show the card and bid a Solo in Suit bid or higher. If a player has in his hand both of the black Queens (highest trump and the third highest trump in the game), he must bid a Solo if the current high bid is lower than a Solo.

Once the Soloist for the hand is determined he states his actual contract for the hand. He may state as his contract his high bid or any higher bid. If the contract is "in suit" the Soloist declares his suit of choice to be the trump suit for the hand, but may not declare Clubs as the trump suit. If the Soloist declares "in color" as his contract for the hand, Clubs is set as the trump suit for the hand. If he declared a Frog contract he also declares a high card missing from his hand, with the player holding that card being set as his partner during the hand (as mentioned in the list of bids). This player does not make it known that he is the bidder's partner, with this fact becoming known once the called card is played to a trick during the hand.

Play of the Hand: Once the contract is declared, the actual play of the hand begins. The player to the dealer's immediate left leads the first card to the first trick. This player may or may not be the Soloist for the hand. The leader to a trick may play any card of his choice from his hand to start the trick. Each other player in turn then must play one card to the trick. If the player has a card of the suit first led to that trick he must play it. If he does not have any cards of the led suit, he may play any card to the trick, including a card of the trump suit for the hand. The highest trump card played to the trick wins the trick. If no cards of the trump suit have been played to the trick, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit first led to the trick. The winner of each trick leads any card from his hand to start the next trick.

Scoring: After all tricks have been played and won, the Soloist then determines if he was able to make his contract and thus win the hand. If the contract was in Frog, and the Soloist and his partner were able to win 5 or more tricks combined, they win the hand. If they win 4 or less combined they are said to lose the hand. For a hand played in Solo, the Soloist must win five tricks to win the hand. Winning less than five tricks means the player did not make his contract for the hand. For any Tout hand, the player must win every trick to win the hand. If he loses any trick, the hand immediately ends with the opponents winning the hand. If the Soloist has declared a Frog or Solo hand and has won the first five tricks of the hand, he must either terminate the hand immediately (winning the hand) or may elect to continue for Tout. However, if he continues for Tout, he, individually, must win every trick to qualify for the Tout. If he does manage to win every hand he earns the points indicated for a Tout. However if he does not win every trick he loses the points for a Tout. The points for each bid are shown in the chart above. If the Soloist manages to make his contract, he adds a number of points to his current score equal to the value of the bid multiplied by the number of opponents. Each opponent must subtract from his own score the number of points indicated in the chart for the bid. In the case of a Frog bid, if the contract is successful, the Soloist and his partner each earn the points indicated in the chart multiplied by two and each opponent must subtract from his own score the number indicated in the chart. If the Soloist instead is unable to win the required number of tricks, he must subtract from his current score a number of points equal to the point value for his contract multiplied by the number of opponents. Each opponent is entitled to add to his own score the value of that bid. For a Frog, if both players combined are unable to win the required five tricks, they both must subtract from their score the number of indicated points for the bid multiplied by two and each opponent adds the point value for the bid to his own score.

Winning the Game: The game is usually played to a previously agreed number of hands (often set at 8). After the designated number of hands is completed, the player with the highest score is declared the winner. If two or more players tie for the highest score, additional hands are played until there is a clear winner.

                     

Variations and Optional Rules

Changing the Color: Some players prefer to allow the Color suit to be variable. Thus, at the start of the game there is no specified suit as the Color, and as such only the "in Suit" bids are allowed (Frog in suit, Solo in suit, and Tout in suit). However in the first hand in which any player manages to successfully make his bid, the suit used as trump for that hand then becomes the Color suit for the remainder of the game. In all other aspects this variant is played identically to standard German Solo.

Ombre: Ombre (also commonly called "Le Hombre" or "Hombre" is thought to be a direct ancestor of German Solo, Euchre and other similar games. Ombre is designed to be played by three players. Before the start of the game, each player is given an equal number of chips (say 50). Traditionally the game used the special Spanish deck but can easily be played using a modified French standard deck. This can be formed by removing the eights, nines, and tens from a standard 52 card deck. Similar to German Solo, the ranking of the cards in this deck (trump and off suit) is directly dependent on the suit eventually selected as the trump suit for the hand. However, no matter what suit is selected the highest trump is always the Ace of Spades (Spadille) and the third highest trump is the Ace of Clubs (Basto). The three highest cards of the trump suit are called Matadors.

If a red suit ends up being the trump suit for the hand, the ranking of the cards in the trump suit are as follows: Ace of Spades, 7 of trump suit, Ace of Clubs, Ace of trump suit (called Punto), King of trump suit, Queen of trump suit, Jack of trump suit, 2 of trump suit, 3 of trump suit, 4 of trump suit, 5 of trump suit, 5 of trump suit. If a black suit ends up being the selected trump suit for the hand, the ranking of the cards in this trump suit are as follows: Ace of Spades, 2 of trump suit, Ace of Clubs, King of trump suit, Queen of trump suit, Jack of trump suit, 7 of trump suit, 6 of trump suit, 5 of trump suit, 4 of trump suit, 3 of trump suit. In the non-trump suits, the ranking also varies. In a red suit, the ranking of non-trump suits is (from high to low): King, Queen, Jack, Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. In a non-trump black colored suit, the ranking of the cards in that suit is as follows (from high to low): King, Queen, Jack, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The first dealer and seating positions can be determined in a variety of ways. The most common method is for each player to draw from a shuffled deck. The player drawing the highest ranking card (using the same card ranking as used in play of the game) takes the first choice of seats, the player drawing the next highest has the next choice and so on until all players are seated. If two or more players draw cards of the same denomination, these players should draw additional cards to determine the ordering among themselves. The player who draws the highest card of all also becomes the first dealer.

Once the players are seated and the first dealer is determined, the dealer must place 5 chips into the center of the table. After this, the dealer shuffles the deck and offers it to the player at his left to cut. After the cut, he then deals a series of three face down batches of three cards to each player in a counter-clockwise direction starting with the player to his immediate right. Each player should thus receive a total of 9 cards. Once the cards have been dealt, the players pick up and examine their hands and the bidding phase of the hand begins, starting with the player to the dealer's immediate right.

There are three possible bids a player can declare when bidding. A player is never obligated to bid and may pass instead of making a bid on his turn to bid. Once a player passes he must drop from the bidding making no further bids during this hand. In order to be considered a valid bid, each subsequent bid must be higher than the last previous high bid during this bidding round. The following shows the bids that can be made in order from lowest to highest:
BidDescriptionPoint Value of Bid
EntradaHighest bidder selects the trump suit of choice and is allowed to discard and draw replacement cards from the stock.5
VueltaTrump is determined by revealing the top card of the stock. Highest bidder is permitted to discard and draw replacement cards from the stock.7
SoloHigh bidder select the trump suit of his choice. No discards or draws are allowed by the bidder from the stock.15
Exchange of cards in Hombre If a player has already made a bid during the current round and not passed, instead of making a higher bid than the last highest bid, may instead opt to equal that bid. Thus, the player who made the highest bid or was the last to equal the last high bid becomes the high bidder, called Ombre for the hand. Depending on the specific bid, this player has certain privileges during the hand. If the high bid was Entrada or Vuelta, the bidder is the first player allowed to make a card exchange. He may thus discard up to eight cards from his hand and draw a replacement number from the stock. He is not obligated to draw any cards from the stock if he prefers not to. For a bid of Entrada, he does this immediately after declaring the trump suit to be used for the hand. If the high bid was Vuelta he exposes the top card of the stock to determine the trump suit for the hand but may not discard or draw any cards from the stock. After the Ombre has declared the trump suit for the hand (as appropriate) and exchanged cards (when allowed), the opponents are then also entitled to each discard up to eight cards from his own hand, drawing an equal number from the stock. The two opponents of Ombre may decide amongst themselves in which order this draw may be made, but they may never discuss the actual hands they have in any manner. If less then eight cards remain for the last player to draw, he may exchange as many as are up to what is left in the deck. Any cards left undrawn are set aside and unseen for the remainder of the hand.

Once Ombre is determined for the hand and the players have finished any exchanges of cards as wanted, actual play of the hand begins. The player to the immediate right of the dealer leads the first card to the first trick. He may lead any card of his choice from his hand. Each other play in a counter-clockwise rotation then plays one card to the trick. If a player has a card of the same suit as led to the trick he must play it if he has one. If he does not have a card of the led suit he may play any card including one of the trump suit. The one exception to this rule is that if a non-matador trump card is led to the trick, and another players only trump cards are matadors, he is not required to play that card and may play an off suit instead. However, if a matador is led to the trick he would still be required to play the card. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.

The goal for the Ombre is to attempt to win more tricks then either opponent. If he is able to do so he wins any chips in the center pile of chips on the table. In addition he wins a number of chips from each other player based on his specific bid made (as per the score value shown in the chart above). In addition, the following bonus points can be earned in certain cases: If Ombre ties in number of tricks won with an opponent, or wins less tricks during the hand than either of his opponents, he loses the hand. In this case, he must place some of his own chips in the center of the table. In the event Ombre ties with another player for number of tricks won or both opponents tie each other and Ombre wins less than five tricks, Ombre he must place a number of chips in the center pile equal to the current total in that pile. If one opponent wins the majority of the tricks, Ombre must give that opponent the number of chips as currently found in the center pile (leaving the center pile untouched). In addition, if the Ombre did not win the majority of tricks during the hand, any chips for Estuche must be paid to each opponent rather than collected from that opponent. Similarly, if Ombre loses the first five tricks he must give each opponent five chips from his own pile.

Anytime before the Ombre has played a card to the fourth trick he may opt to surrender the hand. However, Ombre does not have the option to surrender if the current contract for the hand is Solo. If he does so he loses the hand, but is only obligated to add to the pile of chips in the center of the pile equal to the number currently in the pile. If the bid was played at Vuelta both opponents must agree to the surrender and if one or both do not, the hand must be played as normal. If the hand is played at Entrada, one of the opponents may then immediately opt to take the role of Ombre for the remainder of the hand. He then has the same obligations (and scoring opportunities) as the surrendering Hombre did. If one of the opponents elects to do this, the original Hombre than takes on the role of a defender. If both opponents indicate they want to take the role of Hombre after a surrender, the opponent to the immediate right of that previous Hombre has the first opportunity to do so.

After each hand, the deal rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. The next dealer then gathers up the deck, shuffles and prepares for the next hand. He also places five chips in the center pile. If there are chips remaining in the pile he adds five more or if these chips were awarded during the previous hand he places five more to start a new center pile.

The game continues in this manner for a pre-determined and mutually agreed on number of hands (say 9). After this number of hands has been completed, the player with the most chips in his own pile is declared the winner.

Quadrille: Quadrille is another early predecessor to German Solo, and is essentially a four handed variant of Ombre. It is played by four players all playing independently. As in Ombre, Quadrille traditionally used the special Spanish pack, but the standard 52 card French deck can be modified to allow for the playing of this game. This deck can be created by removing all eights, nines, and tens from the standard 52 card deck. As in German Solo and Ombre, the ranking of the cards in this deck are directly dependent on the trump suit used for the hand. Before the start of the game, each player should be provided an equal number of chips or counters (such as 40). The three highest trump cards are called the Matadors.

Seating positions and first dealer can be performed using the same method in German Solo or Ombre. Before each hand, each player must place one chip in the center pile. The dealer then shuffled the deck and offers it for the cut. After the cut, he then begins the deal. He first deals a packet of three face down cards to each player, then a packet of four and lastly a second packet of three. After each player has his cards the bidding phase of the game begins, starting with the player to the dealer's immediate right. A player may pass or make a bid. If a player passes he may no longer participate in the bidding for the current hand. There are three possible bids a player can make during this bidding phase (shown in the following chart from lower to higher):
BidDescriptionPoint Value
Ask Leave (Alliance)This is the lowest bid which can be made during a hand. It is a bid to win a minimum of six tricks during the hand and have the opportunity to play with a partner. He does this by calling out a specific King or Queen he does not have in his hand. Whichever player has this card becomes his partner but does not announce this, with it only becoming apparent once the called card is played to a trick. The bidder also may select any suit of his choice as trump for the hand.5
SoloThis is also a bid to win a minimum of six tricks but playing solo with no partner. The bidder may select any trump suit to be used during the hand. The first player, on his turn, to make this bid immediately becomes the bidder and names the trump suit to be used for the hand.7
VoleThis is a contract to win all 10 tricks during the hand. This bid is rarely used during the actual bidding phase, as most players will bid the Solo, and then during the hand opt to continue for the Vole (see below).10
If all four players pass, the player who has the Ace of Spades in hand must make an Alliance bid (called Forced Spadille). The difference, however is that before calling trump, the bidder calls for the missing King or Queen from his hand. The player who has this card in his hand then becomes the partner of the bidder but that player does not yet announce himself. However, if the bidder does not opt to declare trump he may ask his partner to do so, thus making it obvious which of the other players is his partner. This player is then obliged to declare the trump suit for the hand.

As mentioned previously, the ranking of the cards is dependent on the suit that the Soloist declares as the trump suit for the hand. The following shows the ranking of the cards based on the trump suit declared: Top four cards if Spades were the trump suit In the non-trump suits, the normal ranking is as follows:

In the suits of Hearts and Diamonds, the ranking from high to low is: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

In the suits of Clubs and Spades, this ranking, from high to low, is: King, Queen, Jack, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The three highest trump cards are called Matadors and the fourth highest card of the trump suit is called Ponto.

An Alliance bid can be overcalled by a bid of Solo which can then be overcalled by a bid of Solo. After the last bid has been made (all others electing to pass), play of the hand begins. If the high call was an Alliance call, the player who made that call will name the suit to be used for trump during the hand. After doing so, he then names a specific non-trump high card (usually a King, sometimes a Queen) he lacks in his hand. The player who has this card in his hand becomes the partner of the player but does not announce this, it only becoming apparent after the called card is played to a trick. If the call was Solo or Vole, the high bidder simply names the trump suit to be used for the hand.

After the trump suit has been determine for the hand, the player to the immediate right of the dealer plays the first card to the first trick. He may play any card from his hand. Each subsequent player, in a counter-clockwise direction, then plays one card to the trick. If a player has a card of the same suit as that played to the trick he must play it (with one exception, see below). If he does not have such a card he may play any card of his choice to the trick, including a card of the trump suit. The highest card of the trump suit played to the trick wins it. If the trick contains no cards of the trump suit, the highest card of the suit led to the trick wins it. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick.

The one exception to playing a card of the suit led is in the case of the Matadors. If a non-Matador trump card has been led to a trick a player is not obliged to play it, and if having no other trump cards but Matadors, may play a card from a side suit instead. Similarly, if a lower Matador is led to a trick the holder of a higher Matador is not required to play it. However if a higher matador is played to a trick and the only cards of the trump suit another player has are lower Matadors, he must play it to the trick on his turn.

If the high bidder made a Solo bid or an Alliance bid, and he himself wins the first 6 tricks, he can immediately claim the game. If however, he elects to continue playing he then attempts to win all 10 tricks (called going for the Vole). Both of these events will affect the scoring, as discussed below. Similarly, in an Alliance bid, if the high bidder and his Alliance partner win the first six tricks, they must discuss amongst themselves if they want to continue playing in an attempt to earn the Vole. Of course, if the Alliance partner has not yet played the called for card he must at this time announce that he is the Alliance partner by showing the called for card.

Scoring: After play of the hand has been completed, the hand is then scored. The scoring is dependent on whether the high bidder (and his Alliance Partner if applicable) has won the hand. If he does manage to win the hand (capture six tricks):, he scores as follows:

The high bidder wins all the chips in the center of the table. He may also win bonus points as follows:

If the High Bidder bid a solo or Vole and had all three Matadors in hand, each other player must give him one chip.

If the High Bidder had all three Matadors as well as the fourth highest trump card, each other player must give him two chips.

If the High Bidder wins the first six tricks in a row, each other player must give him one chip.

If the High Bidder wins Vole, each other player must give him 2 chips. If the High Bidder made an Alliance bid or bid Solo and wins the first six tricks in a row and continued on to attempt to win the Vole, but was unable to win all 10, the High Bidder must give each other player two chips, instead. However, he still wins the chips from the center and any other bonuses he might be entitled to (such as for Matadors).

Bidder and Alliance Partner scoring for the hand In the case of an Alliance bid and the High Bidder and the Alliance Partner manage to win the hand, the High Bidder and the Alliance Partner each collect half of the chips from the center. If these chips do not divide evenly amongst the players, any odd chips are left in the center for the next deal. In addition, these players are entitled to split the bonus points earned for the following conditions:

If the High Bidder and Alliance amongst themselves, have all three Matadors, one opponent must give the High Bidder one chip and the other opponent gives the Alliance Partner one chip.

If the High Bidder and the Alliance Partner, amongst themselves, have all three Matadors and the fourth highest trump, one opponent gives the high bidder two chips and the other opponent must give the Alliance Partner two chips.

If the High Bidder and the Alliance Partner win the first six tricks in a row amongst themselves, one opponent give the high bidder one chip and the other opponent must give the Alliance Partner one chip. If they opted to continue to attempt to win the Vole and manage to do so, one opponent gives the Soloist two chips and the other must give the Alliance Partner two chips. However, if they agree to continue for the Vole but are unable to win all 10 tricks amongst themselves, the High Bidder must give one opponent two chips and the Alliance Partner must give the other opponent two chips.

If the High Bidder bid a Solo and only wins five tricks (called a remise) he must put a number of chips into the center from his own collection a number equal to the number currently found there. If the hand was played at Forced Spadille, the Soloist and the Partner for the hand must each add an amount to the center of the table equal to half the number of chips found there before the hand began. These chips remain in the center for the next hand. In addition, the bidder must also give penalty points to the opponents if he had the Matadors: 1 chip each for the Matadors and 2 chips each for the Matadors and fourth highest card of the trump suit. If the High bid was an Alliance bid, the Alliance Partner is not required to add any chips to the center pile or to any of the other players. However, if the hand was played at Forced Spadille, these penalties are split amongst the Soloist and the partner for the hand.

If the High Bidder (with or without an Alliance Partner) wins four or less tricks (called a codille), the opponents (not including any Alliance Partner for the hand) split equally amongst themselves the chips currently in the center of the table. After these players divide these chips, the High Bidder must then place a number of chips into the center of the table equal to the number that was already there at the beginning of the hand. He must also give penalty chips to the opponents (but not an Alliance Partner) if he had all the Matadors as follows; For having all three Matadors, he must give each opponent 1 chip and for having all three Matadors and the fourth highest card of the trump suit he must give each opponent two chips.

A predetermined number of hands should be played (such as 40), after which the players count the total number of chips he possesses. The player with the most chips is declared the game winner.

Quintille: Due to the popularity of Quadrille during it's time, variants were developed for varying numbers of players. Quintille is a five player variant of Quadrille. The game is played similarly to Quadrille, with the following differences to allow the game to be played by five active participants: In all other aspects this game is played identically to standard Quadrille.

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