How to Play Skitgubbe

Skitgubbe is a unique and fun fast-moving Swedish card game designed for 3 players. One of the unique features of Skitgubbe is that gameplay occurs in two distinct phases, with cards won in the first phase used by that player during the second phase.

The game is played using one standard 52 card deck. The ranking of the cards in this deck are as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

A number of methods can be used to determine seating positions and first dealer, with drawing for high card a common method. The player drawing the highest card would take the first choice of seats at the table and become the first dealer, the player drawing the second highest takes either of the remaining seats and the player drawing the lowest card taking the remaining seat. The player drawing the highest card of all would also be set as the dealer for the first hand. Thereafter, the deal rotates from player to player in a clockwise direction.

Once the first dealer is determined he would then shuffle and offer the player to his immediate right to cut. After the cut, he then begins dealing the cards. Cards are dealt face-down and one at time in a clockwise direction around the table until each player has a total of three cards. The dealer then places the remainder of the pack face down in the center of the table as a stock pile.

The players then pick up their three card hand for examination. As mentioned previously, Skitgubbe is played in two distinct phases. In this first phase, players will win tricks to collect cards for use in the second phase.

A tied trick in Skitgubbe
In this example, the original trick played is tied with each of the two players playing a five, thus each player then must play a second trick to determine the winner. In this case the nine, being the higher card wins the trick.
First Phase: The first phase of the game features the play of cards to tricks. The player to the dealer's immediate left leads the first card to the first trick and the next player in a clockwise rotation may play any card of his choice to the trick. He is under no obligation to play a card of the same suit or try to win the trick. Each trick during this phase consists of exactly two cards, so the third player (the dealer in this case) does not play a card to the trick. After playing his card to the trick, each player immediately draws one card from the face-down stock pile. Each trick is won by the higher card played to the trick (regardless of suit). If both cards played to the trick are of the same denomination (called a stunsa), neither player wins the trick. The cards are left on the table and the same leader leads the first card to the next trick. The winner then takes these cards (and any cards remaining in the center of the table from tied tricks) and places them face down in a pile in front of himself. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Since only two of the players are active at any one time in the game, depending on who won the trick, the next trick might be played between the same two players or the second player to the trick and the dealer.

On a player's turn, when he is required to play to a trick, he may instead of playing a card from his hand, opt to play a card directly from the draw pile. Thus, instead of playing a card of his choice from his hand, would instead take the top card of the stock and play it face-up to the trick. Of course he may only do this when cards remain in the stock to draw. When doing this, the player does not draw a card into his hand as his hand will already contain three cards.

When the stock becomes exhausted, play continues but players no longer draw cards from the stock after each turn. The first phase ends once any player runs out of cards when it is his turn to play to a trick. Any player who still has cards in hand will add these cards to his stack of cards won from tricks during the first phase of the game, but must first expose them such that his opponents can see the face of the cards. If the second player was unable to play a card to a trick, the leader to the trick takes his led card back and play ends.

When the final card is drawn from the stock pile, the player who draws it must place it face-up, as this card determines the trump suit that will be used for the second phase. After all have the seen the card he may then add the card to his pile of cards won during the first phase.

Second Phase: After the first phase is complete, all players then pick up the pile of cards they captured during the first phase of the game, which becomes the hand for the second phase. The player who drew and picked up the trump card leads to the first trick during the second phase (but he is not required to play this particular card).

Play during the second phase is significantly different than during the first phase. The leader to a trick can play any card of his choice from his hand. Each subsequent player to the trick must either play card higher than any other card played to the trick or must pick up the previous card played to that same trick. If this was the last card in the trick, the trick is said to be completed. If, however, there are still other cards in the trick, the next player in turn must then attempt to beat the current high card in the trick, or if unable to do so, take the current highest in the trick. In order to be a higher card when playing to a trick, a player must either play a card of the same suit but higher denomination as the current highest card in the trick or play a card of the trump suit to the trick. If the last card played to the trick is already of the trump suit, a player must play a higher card of the trump suit to the trick. A player is never obligated to attempt to win a trick even if able and may always elect to pick up the cards instead.

The trick is said to be complete when someone either picks up all the cards in the trick or when the trick contains a number of cards equal to the number of current active players in the game at the start of the current trick. In the first event, the player to the immediate left of the player who picked up the cards leads the first card to the next trick. In the latter event, all cards from the trick are set aside out of play and the player who played the highest card to that trick leads the first card to the next.

The object of the game during this second phase is to rid your hand of cards as quickly as possible. Thus, when a player manages to play his last card to a trick, he drops from the hand. The game continues until only one player remains, who is considered the loser of the game, called the SkitGubbe, which roughly translates from Swedish to an unwashed old man. The skitgubbe is usually required to take the role of the dealer for the next hand.

                     

Variations and Optional Rules

Flurst: Flurst is a great variation of Skitgubbe and is designed for four or five players. While similar in concept to the version described above, it also has some significant differences.

The same methods as used for standard Skitgubbe may be used to determine seating positions and the first dealer. The deck and ranking of the cards in the deck are also the same as in the standard game. Once the first dealer is determined, each player should receive three face-down cards to form his initial hand.

As in the parent game, the game is played in two distinct phases. In the first phase, the players will capture cards in tricks which will then form their hand in the second phase.

The first phase of play The first phase is played out in a series of tricks. However, as opposed to standard Skitgubbe, all players participate in each trick. The player to the immediate left of the dealer leads the first card to the first trick. When leading to a trick, at the players option, he may instead play the top card from the stock instead. To do this he would simply take and turn over the top card of the stock and place it in the middle of the table to begin the trick.

Tricks are not limited to just two cards, with each player contributing one card to the trick. A player may always play any card from his hand to the trick with one special restriction; If a player, on his turn, has a card in his hand that is of the same rank as the current highest card in the trick, he must play that card to the trick.

As in standard Skitgubbe described above, a player may, instead of playing a card to the trick from his hand, elect to play the top card of the draw pile to the trick. However, a player may never do this if, in his hand, he has a card of the same rank as the current highest card in the trick. When a player plays a card from his hand to the trick, he concludes his turn by drawing a card from the stock pile, unless the stock is exhausted.

After all players have played one card to the trick, it is won by the highest card played to the trick. Suits do not matter during the first phase of the game, so the highest card of any suit will win the trick. The player who played that highest card takes all cards from the trick and sets them aside in a face-down pile for use later in the second phase of the game. If, however, the highest card in the trick is duplicated, all players who played a card of this denomination must go to War. In such a war, all the players who played that high card play a separate mini-trick to determine the winner of the entire trick. The player who played the first of the high tied cards leads the first card to the mini-trick and play moves in a clockwise rotation among all the players who had played a tieing card in that trick. The same rules for playing to any trick apply to the mini-trick as well. If another tie occurs for highest cards in the mini-trick trick, continued mini-tricks are played amongst the tieing players until there is a clear winner. Once a winner is determined, the winning player takes all the cards from the mini-tricks as well as those from the main trick which triggered the war, adding them to his captured cards for use in the second phase.

Whenever a player plays a card from his hand to a trick, he should draw one card from the stock to replenish his hand to three cards. Once the stock is down to the last card, this card is set aside by the player who would normally have drawn it, to later determine the trump suit for the second phase of the hand (see below). When this occurs, play continues but players will no longer draw cards from the stock or have the option to play a card from the stock directly to a trick.

Play during the first phase continues in this manner until a player to a trick is unable to make a play (due to him having no more cards in hand and no further drawable cards from the deck). In this case, all players take back any cards they previously played to this current trick and add these cards, and any cards still in hand to their pile of captured cards during this first phase.

Another unique feature of this version is that during the first phase players have the option of sloughing. Sloughing is when a player, at any time, has a card of the same rank as that just played to the current trick. To slough, a player simply throws down the card of the same rank into the trick. Sloughed cards, no matter the rank are considered dead cards and have no affect on winning the trick. A player may slough at any time, with two exceptions; a player may never slough before his own turn to avoid having to play a card of the same rank to a trick (creating a war), and a player may never slough to avoid playing the last card to a trick if his last card is higher than or equal to the current highest card in that trick. After sloughing, a player would draw a card as normally from the draw pile to return his hand to three cards.

When the draw pile is down to one last card, the player who would have drawn that card simply sets aside and does not look at it until the second phase of the hand begins. This card will be used to determine the trump suit for the second phase of the game.

After the first phase is complete, the last card from the deck is then exposed by the player who was to draw it who then adds it to his captured cards.

Before the second phase of the game begins, each player must have at least six cards in hand. If they do not, a special procedure is used to re-distribute some of the cards. In this event each player sorts through his hand and removes all cards of denomination 2, 3, 4, 5 of all suits, as well as the 6 of the trump suit. These cards are all placed in a large pile in the center of the table and shuffled. These cards are then evenly distributed to each player that had fewer than six cards. Since the cards may not divide evenly, any extra cards should be placed in the center of the table as part of the first trick during the second phase.

Before beginning the second phase, it is customary for the players to sort their hands by suit and rank.

The second phase of play Once the cards have been redistributed as necessary, the second phase of the game will begin. The second phase is also played rather differently than in standard Skitgubbe, although the goal is the same, for a player to play all his cards and drop from the game as quickly as possible.

The player who won the last full trick from the first phase leads the first trick during the second phase. This player may play any card or cards from his hand. Normally, a player would play a single card to a trick, however in this variant, players may play multiple cards if all cards to be played are in sequence and all of the same suit (called touching). However, the rule still holds that the highest card in the sequence must be higher than the current high card in the trick.

Each subsequent player in turn would then make one play to the trick. A player must either beat the current highest card of the trick or must take the last group of cards currently played to the trick into his own hand. In order to beat the current high card in the trick, he must play at least one card which is of the same suit but higher than the current high card in the trick. If the current high card in the trick is non trump, he may also beat the current high card by playing a card or cards of the trump suit to the trick. If the player is unable (or elects not) to beat the current high card in the trick, he must take the current high card played to the trick and any cards that are in a continuous downward sequence of the same suit (touching) into his own hand.

A trick is considered complete when either all cards from the trick have been taken or the trick contains a number of plays equal to the number of active players in the game when the trick was started. In the first case, the player to the left of the player who took the last card from that trick leads the first cards to the next trick. In the latter case (called killing the trick), the entire trick is set aside (not to be used further in this hand) and the player who played the last card to that trick leads the first card to the next trick.

At any time during the second phase that a player finds he has exactly three cards in his hand he must announce this by saying "Three Cards". In a similar fashion, a player having exactly one card in his hand must announce "One Card". When any player manages to play his last card in his hand, he drops from the hand. The hand continues until only one player remains, with this player considered the loser of the hand. In many games, this player is often required to bleat like a goat or bark like a dog. This player is usually required to be the dealer for the next game.

Myllymatti: Myllymatti, first developed and played in Finland appears to be the ancestor of most the games of the Skitgubbe family. The only difference between this game and standard Skitgubbe is that Myllymatti is usually played by 2 to 4 players. In all other respects Myllymatti is played identically to standard Skitgubbe.

Single Hand Skitgubbe: Single Hand Skitgubbe is a quicker and simplified version of standard Skitgubbe. This game is a simplified version of the standard three player Skitgubbe which is described previously. Single Hand Skitgubbe uses the standard 52 card deck and can normally be played by 3 to 8 players. The ranking of the cards in the deck is as follows (from high to low); 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.

Any of the standard methods can be used to determine seating positions and the first dealer. Once this is determined the dealer then distributes four face-down cards to each player to form their hand. He then places the deck in the middle of the table as the stock or talon and turns over the top card from the stock and places it beside the stock pile. This begins the play pile.

Each player then picks up their four card hand. The player to the immediate left of the dealer has the first turn. On his turn he must play a card of equal or higher value than the current top of the play pile. If he has more than one card of that same rank he may play all of them on the same turn. After playing the player then draws cards from the stock pile to return his hand to four cards. If he already has four or more cards in his hand (due to having to previously pick up the play pile) he need not draw any cards from the draw pile at the end of his turn. The turn rotates in a clockwise rotation.

If a player does not hold a card of equal or higher value than the top card of the play pile he has two options. He can either take up the entire play pile into his hand, immediately ending his turn. Alternatively, he can "take a chance". This involves him pulling the next face down card from the stock pile and placing it on top of the play pile. If this card is equal or higher than the previous card he ends his turn (drawing cards to return his hand to four cards as necessary) and play rotates to the next player in turn. However, if this card is not of a rank equal or higher than the previous card on the pile, he must take the entire play pile, including the drawn card, into his hand. This ends his turn and play rotates to the next player in turn.

There are two special situations that can occur during this game. As in similar games like Palace, if all four cards of the same rank are played to the top of the pile in succession (by one player or by multiple successive players), the entire deck is set aside, not to be used further in the game. In this case, the player who played the last card of that denomination can then begin a new play pile with any card (or multiple cards of the same denomination) of his choice from his hand. The second special situation in this game is when a 10 is played. A 10 can be played, on a player's turn on any other card. When played, the entire pile is set aside and not used again during the current hand. The player who played the 10 may then start a new play pile with any card from his hand.

When the draw pile runs out of cards, players no longer draw at the end of their turns and no longer have the "take a chance" option when unable to beat the current card.

After the draw pile has been depleted and a player runs out of cards, he drops from the game. The last player to have cards left in his hand is considered the loser of the game (or the skitgubbe).
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