Napoleon is a trick taking game which originated in England but is currently played in many other nearby locales as well, such as Scotland and Ireland. Named in honor of the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte, the game is more often known by its shorter name; Nap. It is a standard trick taking game for 3 to 5 players. This game should not be confused with Japanese Napoleon, a somewhat similar but unrelated game. For detailed rules for that game, visit the Japanese Napoleon rules page.
How to Play Nap (Napoleon)
Napoleon is designed to be played by three to five players each playing for himself. This game uses the standard 52 card deck with the cards ranking as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Although a pencil and paper scoresheet can be used, a more common method of keeping score during this game is to distribute an equal number of chips or tokens to each player. As scores are added or subtracted, the player's pile of chips will then increase or decrease on each hand.
One unique feature of this game is that in most games, the cards are not shuffled between hands. They are shuffled at the start of a new game, and shuffled again after any player bids and successfully makes a bid of Nap. However, in all other situations, the cards are simply all gathered together by the next dealer and cut by the player to his immediate right before dealing.
Determination of seating positions and first dealer can be performed in a variety of ways, with one common method being to have all players draw a card from a shuffled deck. The players then arrange themselves at the table in the order of the card drawn, from high to low. The player drawing the highest of all drawn cards has the duty of the first dealer. Thereafter, the deal rotates in a clockwise rotation after each hand.
Once the first dealer is determined, this dealer distributes five face down cards to each player in a clockwise rotation. This is usually done in a round of three card packets and the a round of two card packets. This is also sometimes reversed.
After the players receive and examine their hand, the bidding begins, beginning with the player to the dealer's immediate left. A bid is the minimum number of tricks a player is contracting to win during the hand. The minimum bid is usually two, however other limits are sometimes used, see the variations section below). A bid of five, which is the maximum, is known as Nap, and the bidder usually just states "Nap" to indicate this bid. Each player has exactly one opportunity to bid. To be valid, the bid must be higher than any previous bid. A player is not obligated to bid, however, and may also pass. If all other players have previously passed, the dealer is required to make a minimum bid of one. This is the only case in which a bid of one is allowed.
|The first card led to the first trick sets the trump suit for the hand, in this example the Queen of Spades.|
After all players have had one opportunity to bid (or after someone has bid Nap), the high bidder leads the first card to the first trick. The suit of the card led becomes the trump suit for the hand. Each subsequent player must then play a card from their own hand to the trick.
When playing a card to an existing trick, a player must play a card of the suit led if he has one. If he does not have such a card he may play any card remaining in his hand, including a card of the Trump suit. The highest card of the trump suit wins the trick, or, if the trick contains no cards from the trump suit, the highest card of the suit originally led to the trick wins it.
After all five tricks have been played, the high bidder then determines if he was able to make his score. The following chart shows the scores won or lost by the high bidder depending on whether he won at least as many tricks as bid. This score is won or lost from each other opponent who participated in the hand. For example, a player bidding 3 and winning 3 tricks would win 3 points for each opponent in the game. Each opponent would therefore also need to subtract the appropriate number of points from their own current score (in this case 3).
If the bidder bid less than 5 and fails to win at least as many tricks as bid, he loses a number of points equal to his bid. If he bid Nap and does not win the required five tricks, he loses only five points. Negative overall game scores are allowed and common. At the end of a set number of hands, the player with the highest grand total would be considered the overall winner of the game.
|Tricks Bid||Tricks Won||Bidders Score if Made|
|1 (Dealer Only)||1 or More||1|
|2||2 or More||2|
|3||3 or More||3|
|4||4 or More||4|
Variations and Optional Rules
Other Minimum Bids: A common variation of Nap is a difference in the minimum bid required by the first bidder. The following are other minimum bid requirements commonly used when playing Napoleon:
Additional Bid Types: Many games also feature several additional bidding options during a game. These include bids of Blücher (or Blucher), Wellington and Misere.
- Minimum Bid One: Some games allow a starting bid of 1. Thus, if no other player bids higher, the hand will be played with a contract of 1 for the bidder. As listed in the base game, if the first three players pass, the dealer must make a bid of 1 or higher.
- Minimum Bid Three: Many Napoleon games require a minimum bid of three. Thus, no player may make a bid less than three. In this version, if the first three players pass, the dealer is not obligated to make a bid, but if he does bid, it must be three or higher. If the dealer also does not bid in this circumstance, the cards are thrown in and no play occurs on the hand. The same dealer than gathers all the cards, cuts and deals another hand.
- Minimum Bid Four: Some games set the minimum starting bad at four. As when playing three minimum, if the first three players pass the dealer may either make a bid of four (or higher) or throw in the cards, with no play or scoring occurring on that deal.
The following chart shows summarizes these three new bids which are often added to the base game:
- Misere: This is a bid by a player indicating an intention to win none of the tricks, using no trump suit. A successful Misere bid earns 3 for the bidder if successful, and loses 3 if not. For purposes of the bidding hierarchy, it is considered lower than a bid of four but higher than a bid of three. This bid is also known as Nullo or Mis.
- Wellington: This bid is considered a bid one higher than Nap. If the high bidder is successful on a bid of Wellington, the bidder wins 10 and if he does not make his bid, he loses 10. This bid may only be made after another player has first bid Nap. The bid is named after Arther Wellesley the Duke of Wellington.
- Blücher: This bid, which was named after the Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, is considered one higher than a bid of Wellington. A successful Blücher bid earns 20 for the player when successful and loses 20 if unsuccessful. This bid may only be made after another player has bid Wellington.
|Bid Name||Tricks Required to be Won||Bidder's Score if Made||Bidder's Score if Not Made|
Sir Garnet is a fun variant of Nap in which an additional widow hand or blind is used. This game appears to be named after the nineteenth British soldier Sir Garnet Wolseley.
Sir Garnet is played identically to the base game, however in addition to each player receiving a 5 card hand, an extra face down five card hand is dealt to the middle of the table. Thus, while dealing a hand, one extra hand is dealt along with all the others. This hand receives it's cards right before the dealer in each round of the deal.
In addition to the normal bids used in Napoleon, a player can also, on his one turn to bid, pick up the five card widow. By doing so, this is an immediate declaration to win all five tricks in the hand. It beats any other previous bid (including a normal bid of "Nap" in which someone did not take the widow). Since this is the highest bid in the game, any player who does pick up the extra hand on his turn to bid causes the bidding to abruptly halt, with that player set as the high bidder.
After picking up the widow hand, the player then discards any five cards from his hand, face down to the side, where they are not used again during the current hand.
If a player does manage to win all five tricks after thus taking the widow, he scores 10 points and if loses one or more tricks during the hand, he instead must subtract 10 from his current score.
In all other aspects Sir Garnet is played identically to the standard game Napoleon.
Écarté Nap: Écarté Nap is another interesting variant of Nap that changes the nature of the base game. This version is played identically to the standard game, however each player is provided an opportunity to "purchase" a certain number of replacement cards for their hand.
After the deal but before the bidding, each player beginning with the player to the dealer's immediate left has one opportunity to be dealt a certain number of replacement cards. For each card the player requests, he must place one chip in the center of the table as a pool. He is not obligated to thus request any cards and may request as many as five. After placing the required number of chips in the pool, he discards the number of cards which he is requesting to a discard pile. The dealer then deals him the requested number of cards from the top of the deck.
The chip pool that the players contribute to when purchasing replacement cards remains in the center of the table until a player successfully bids and makes Nap. That player then wins the pool (along with his normally accrued score for making his bid).
The remainder of the game is played as per the standard game.
Peep Nap: Peep Nap is also played closely to the standard game. In this version, after all the hands are dealt, a one card, face down widow is dealt to the center of the table. This card eventually is taken by the high bidder for the hand who must discard any card from his hand to return his hand to five cards.
On each players normal bidding turn, before bidding he may look at the widow card (showing no other players) for a payment of one chip to a special pool of chips in the center of the table.
This pool remains in the center of the table throughout the game until a player successfully bids and makes a bid of Nap. That player then wins the pool. Any subsequent chips going to the pool for an opportunity to look at the widow card will start a new pool.
In all other aspects this game is played identically to the standard game.
In order to increase the number of higher ranked cards in the players hand, many players prefer to strip the deck, removing lower ranking denominations from it. The deck is reduced in such a way such that there are less unused cards remaining in the undealt game deck after dealing each player a five card hand. The following chart shows some of the most common deck reductions.
Other than the smaller number of cards in the deck, playing with the reduced deck does not change any rules of the actual game.
|Number of Players||Total Cards in Deck||Cards Removed|
|Three||24||Remove all cards with a denomination lower than Nines.|
|Four||28||Remove all cards lower than Eights.|
|Five||32||Remove all cards lower than the Sevens.|
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