Krutzjass is a Swiss German trick-taking card game in some ways similar to Contract bridge. The name, literally translated into English, is Cross-Game, a name derived from the fact that it is played between two teams or partnerships of two, where team members sit opposite each other, with an opponent on either side. There are many variants of the game, however, this article deals primarily with the double-deck variant.
Unlike most card games, the variant of Krutzjass is not played with a 52 card deck. It is played with a 48 card deck, consisting of only 6 denominations: 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. In the deck there are two cards of every denomination, so that, for example, it is possible to have 2 nines of spades in one's hand.
Like Euchre and bridge, trump does appear in Krutzjass, and trump affects the relative power of certain cards. In a non-trump suit, Aces are high, with cards descending in power in the normal fashion. However, in trump, the hierarchy is as follows, from high to low: Jack, 9, Ace, King, Queen, 10. Also, in trump a 9 is referred to as a knell, and a Jack as a Bauer. Unlike in Euchre, there is no such thing as a left bauer, furthermore a trump must be called.
After being cut by the player to the left of the dealer, the hands are dealt in counter-clockwise order, with the cards dealt either three or four at a time depending on personal preference. Once the dealer has dealt all the cards, the person to the right of the dealer makes trump. If he has four suits but is unable to make trump, he may pass to his partner. If he has less than four suits in his hand, he may not pass. Furthermore, once the bid has been passed once, it may not be passed again. The next hand is dealt by the player to the right of the previous dealer.
On the playing his or her first card, any player may declare a Wiese, by stating the number of points, or in the case of a 3-of-a-kind the word three. The Wieses are as follows:
- 200: A jack in every suit
- 150: A nine in every suit
- 100: a run of 5 or more, OR having 4 of a kind (other than Js and 9s), where none of the 4 cards are of the same suit.
- 50: a run of 4
- 20: a run of 3
Whoever Wieses the highest point value must prove they have the cards by placing the cards specified in the wiese on the table, as well as any other point combinations they may have handy. Their partner may do likewise if they have any point combinations. Only the winner of the wiese may earn points for their combinations. This means that if North had a 50 and East had 100, North's 50 would not be counted, while East's 100 (provided south could not beat it) would be counted.
If two players on opposite teams Wiese the same amount, four factors are used to determine who won the Wiese:
- In the case of 100, a 5 card run beats a 4-of-a-kind, and a 6-card run is better than both.
- In the case of a run, the run containing the highest card (in rank from low to high 9-Ace) wins.
- In the case two runs which are identical in denomination, a Wiese in trump is superior to a Wiese which is not.
- If factors 1-3 have not ruled a victor, the player who Wiesed first wins.
The actual play consists of twelve tricks. The first card of the first trick is led by the player to the right of the dealer, and each player plays one card in counter-clockwise order, until all players have played once. The player who wins the trick leads the first card of the next trick.
The highest trump wins the trick. If no trump is played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. If two players play the same card, the card which is put down later supersedes the one played first. Thus, if an Ace is led, the second ace of the same suit may take it. Therefore, if North leads the Bauer, West can still win the trick by playing a second Bauer, which, by virtue of being played later than the first Bauer, takes it. Caution is needed when playing powerful cards.
If a player has both the King and the Queen of Trump, he or she may, on the trick when the player no longer has either card in their hand, declare Stëch (meaning Take), at which point, their team is awarded 20 points. If a player knows they have the largest remaining card in a suit, he or she may declare Böch, signifying that it cannot be taken without the intercession of trump.
A player must follow suit, with three exceptions:
- If a player has trump, they may play trump instead of following suit. This means that, even if South has a 9 of Hearts, he may play a trump on West's Ace of Hearts.
- If a player has no cards of the suit led, they may play a different suit.
- If trump is led, a player having no trump except bauers may choose to play a different suit. This exemption applies only to bauers.
Along with Stëch and Wiese, a team scores points for the cards contained in the tricks they have won. In every hand, there are 310 available points to be won. The point values for cards are as follows:
- 9: 0 points
- 10: 10 points
- Jack: 2 points
- Queen: 3 points
- King: 4 points
- Ace: 11 points
- Knell: 14 points
- Bauer: 20 points
The team winning the last trick gains 6 additional points. If a team takes every trick, they are awarded a much, which is worth 190 points. The first team to accumulate 1500 points wins the game.
From long experience, competent players may recognize a few things about Krutzjass:
- Never lead an Ace if the other Ace is not in your hand, your partner's hand, or has already been played.
- Never lead Trump more than twice. It drains your hand as well as your partner's.
- If you believe your partner will win a trick, it is ideal to play a ten or an offsuit ace. This way, you can avoid having your high-value cards captured.