Konigrufen

This program will let you play a version of Konigrufen, the popular Austrian game played with a 54-card tarot pack.

Konigrufen is reported to be lots of fun in real life, even when played badly. Click here for the rules. Konigrufen

Everybody gets 12 cards. The six cards left over are "the talon". Make your bid. Here if you pass, one of the other players will usually bid.

I used a scoring system for those not familiar with the traditional tarot counting.

There are a total of 106 (not 70) points, and a positive contract is made if the bidder takes 54 (not 36) or more card points.

The bids "Call a king, three from talon, no bird", "Avoid taking card points", and "Play alone, six from talon" can only be bid by the first bidder on a passed-out hand.

If playing "avoid taking card points", the magician can be played only if it is the last trump.

In any contract, a trick containing the magician, the world, and the fool is won by the magician.

If the magician wins the last trick, it is a sparrow and gains points in a positive contract. If the high priestess wins the second-to-the-last trick, it is an owl. If the empress wins the third-to-the-last trick, it is a cockatoo. If the emperor wins the fourth-to-the-last trick, it is a stork. If these cards are played to these tricks and do not win, there are penalties.

In the play for tricks, forehand plays first in the positive contracts. The bidder plays first to the negative contracts. The "Major Arcana" are always trumps. The Fool is the highest trump. Play goes counter-clockwise. You must follow the suit led if you can, and if you cannot, you must play a trump if possible. The trick is taken by the player of the highest-numbered trump, or if no trumps are played, by the highest card of the suit led. Staffs and swords rank from top to bottom KQJX987. Cups and coins rank from top to bottom KQJXA234.

In scoring cards taken in tricks, I followed the usual way counting card points in tarot games. Count 1 point for each trick taken (group of three in the extra cards). Add 4 for each of I, XXI, Kings, and the Fool, 3 for each queen, 2 for each knight, and 1 for each page.

The machine players will observe a convention that the caller of a king will make the first possible lead from the longest non-trump suit. Once this has been done, the partner will usually lead the caller's long suit if possible.

The machine players are learning to announce birds and are aggressive in doing so. This may make the game more of a challenge for the human player. Others can now announce Trull, Four Kings, and King Ultimo. If your machine partner announces king ultimo on your side's behalf, it is good to get rid of the cards in your other three non-trump suits early. If one side announces trull or four kings and the other makes it, the score is only for the failed announcement. If this is an error, please let me know.

I've read that no two groups play by exactly the same rules. I did not allow a bid of "valat" (take all tricks) because this is too random and can generate huge positive / negative scores. Instead, taking all the tricks quadruples the points for making the bid successfully.

Easier                         Harder.
The other players will not look at other hands.

Check this box to see the card names on mouseover.
"Chicks rule" -- queens beat kings. Queens, not kings, are tarot trumps; queens are worth +4, kings +3. The KQNP sequence stays the same.
Learner mode -- player is always forehand, and first lead is by player to bidder's right
Deal type:
No opposing bids unless player passes

     






       

Announcements before play begins...

Sparrow [win last trick with Magician]
Owl [win 2nd-to-last trick with High Priestess]
Cockatoo [win 3rd-to-last trick with Empress]
Stork [win 4th-to-last trick with Emperor]
Trull [win Magician, World, and Fool]
Four Kings [win all four kings]
King Ultimo [win called king in last trick]

Double Opposing Bid
Double Opposing Sparrow
Double Opposing Owl
Double Opposing Cockatoo
Double Opposing Stork
Double Opposing Trull
Double Opposing Four Kings
Double Opposing King Ultimo

Choose your bid....

Pass
Call King of Staves; 3 from talon [1 game point each for you and partner, 2 if bird announced]
Call King of Cups; 3 from talon [1 game point each for you and partner, 2 if bird announced]
Call King of Swords; 3 from talon [1 game point each for you and partner, 2 if bird announced]
Call King of Coins; 3 from talon [1 game point each for you and partner, 2 if bird announced]
Avoid taking card points [1 game point each for the two low-scorers]
Play alone, win one trick exactly [6 game points for you]
Play alone, 6 from talon; keep discards [6 game points for you, double penalty for losing]
Play alone, 3 from talon [12 game points for you]
Call King of Staves; double bonuses [2 game points each for you and partner]
Call King of Cups; double bonuses [2 game points each for you and partner]
Call King of Swords; double bonuses [2 game points each for you and partner]
Call King of Coins; double bonuses [2 game points each for you and partner]
Play alone, 0 from talon, taroks are not trumps [15 game points for you]
Lose every trick [9 game points for you]
Play alone, 0 from talon; double bonuses [24 game points for you]

More about the cards:

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
  Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
  And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
  I was not heard. I saw them not.

        -- Shelley

It seems most reasonable to me to think that the Tarot began as playing cards, for entertainment and games, when sufficiently sturdy paper / pasteboard was invented. The suit cards are like our own playing cards.

The trumps present common interfaith symbols that people from many traditions have found helpful in reflection and meditation.

My own experience has been that this can perhaps improve your life if (and only if) your intention is to stop focusing on life's "small stuff" and prepare you to be kind to those around you.

If there are really any intricate cosmic secrets here, I have been unable to understand them. Call me dumb or unspiritual if you like. When I have actually seen the cards used for divination by practitioners, they were obviously being used as mere props for lay-counselling.

  
  
The "Latin" suits may represent the military and government (swords), the clergy (cups), the business folks (coins), and the laborers (staffs).

Kings would rank highest, then queens. Chivalric knights were sworn to serve queens, and pages were squires to knights.

In the trump suit, notice how often a card seems naturally to take precedence over the one just below it. No reasonable person would deny that the cards are beautiful and meaningful, or claim that this is just a more complex version of "scissors, paper, stone".

The Magician ("juggler", "mountebank" or "sleight of hand artist") may have been introduced first, as a wild card like our joker for some card games.
The High Priestess was a female pope ("la Papesse"). When it was decided to introduce a second wild card, a female trickster might have been chosen as the magician's counterpart. The legend of "Pope Joan" may have attached itself to the card.

The next three cards may have been introduced together. The Empress would have precedence over the previous two cards, and the four Kings.
The Emperor, of course, is lord over the Empress. The Holy Roman Empire was in existence when the cards were developed.

The Hierophant is probably the Pope, to whom the Emperor owed obedience, at least in theory.
Romantic love has power over every human being. Waite called the first five cards "the captives of Cupid."

War interrupts the lives of Lovers and can take love even out of the human heart. I've been told that the bonds between comrades-in-arms are stronger than between Lovers.
Strength ("fortitude") gives victory over the enemy Chariots. Socrates's four temporal virtues (fortitude, justice, temperance, and perhaps wisdom / judgement) may all be represented in the images.

The Hermit may originally have been Father Time, who wears down all Strength.
The Wheel of Fortune, or the cycle of Luck, operates through all Time and over the years.

Justice, rather than Luck, should determine what happens to a person.
The Hanged Man is a mystery. Perhaps this is an extrajudicial lynching. Perhaps this is a cryptic representation of the One Who fulfilled the demands of the law's Justice by His death.

Everything represented up to now is subject to human mortality.
Temperance, living a wholesome life, gives the best chance of staying healthy and avoiding premature Death.

The devil tempts us to live in ways that are not temperate or otherwise wholesome.
At the destruction of the Tower of Babel, the devil's agents were dramatically defeated. *

The Star shines high above all Towers.
The Moon outshines the Stars.

The Sun outshines the Moon.
At the Last Judgement, the Sun and all rest of creation will disappear.

A card representing a Fool (simpleton) was probably introduced to be playable at any time.
The World contains all the things that can possibly be, and so it is the highest of all cards. Perhaps this is the new World that will follow the Last Judgement.

* If, as in the old decks, the tower is the "House of God", then the Church defeats the devil, and nothing below the heavens can take precedence over the Church.

As a kid, I spent quite a bit of time with Waite's book and the tarot pack. I wondered about his hints that he possessed great secret knowledge. (Re-read his description of the "Hanged Man", look closely at the Ace of Cups, recall that in his own life he professed the Christian faith, and then draw your own conclusions.) Today I appreciate him most as the first person to write systematically about the western occult tradition. At least some of his Golden Dawn fellow-seekers of "secret knowledge" eventually found the Ignatian "Spiritual Exercises" more helpful.

There are more elaborate games than the one I've shared here. In most, a greater skill element comes from bidding various contracts prior to play for tricks.

Tarot Game Rules -- links to more complicated games with bidding
and no declaring or scoring of melds, as the basic one.
Tarot History
Various Tarot Decks
Tarocchino -- downloadable book of tarot games. No-nonsense account of the history of the gaming cards and the bunko artists who made it an "occult mystery." Thanks!
The Castle of Crossed Destinies -- "semiotic fantasy novel"


Francis of Assisi
Christian Tarot Decks
Tarot and Evangelism -- prof at U. of Aberdeen divinity school. Like any evangelist, meeting "New Agers" where they already are.
Tarot of the Saints -- Biblical and historical images, some gnosticizing
Tarot of the Saints -- Amazon
Tarot of the Saints -- Margaret of Rome resists the devil, etc.

VI. The Lovers

Waite's Tarocky
Danish Tarot
French Tarot for Three
French Tarot for Four
German Cego
Hungarian Tarot
Swiss Troccas
Scarto -- primitive tarot game
Bid Tarot -- primitive tarot game with bidding

Meet Ed