SKAT
for WWII
Reenactors
By
Marcus
Jurado


SKAT
was the card game of choice for the German Soldaten.
Many hours were spent playing this game both in
the barracks and on the front lines.
SKAT is basically a card game where players
attempt to take “tricks” by using trumps.
It is much like a traditional modern game of
spades or hearts.
The key differences are that it is played with
three players, is played with only 32 cards (Diamonds,
Hearts, Spades, and Clubs, each suit containing the
cards 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, and Ace) and has different
variables that are applied to calculate a final score.
I’ll begin with the basics, and proceed to
the more intricate details later.
Play
begins with the shuffling of the cards.
After shuffling, the cards are dealt clockwise
in a
343
pattern until all players have 10 cards.
The left over 2 cards are placed in the middle
and are known as the “skat”.
Next the players take turns bidding on their
hands. The
first person to bid is the player to the dealer’s
right, known as the Middleman.
That player bids against the player to the
dealer’s left, known as the Forehand (a simple way
to remember this is the dealer says “deal, listen,
speak” pointing to himself, then the person on his
left, then the person on his right; clockwise from
himself). If
one of these two passes, the remaining bidder then
bids against the dealer, known as the Rearhand.
Whoever wins the final bidding is said to be
the soloist, and therefore attempts to beat the other
two players. The
other two players play as one versus the winning
bidder. The
soloist now has the option of taking the 2 leftover
skat cards and discarding two cards from his current
hand. No
matter what the soloist decides to do with the 2 Skat
cards, they count as part of his hand, we’ll discuss
this in more detail when we talk about scoring.
The soloist now declares what type of game they wish
to play, Grand (only Jacks are trump and you attempt
to take 61 points), Null (there are no trumps and you
attempt to take 61 points), or Suit (the named suit
and all Jacks are trump and you try to take 61
points). The
first card is played by the player to the dealers
left, and play rotates clockwise, note that it’s the
dealer that this is based on, not the soloist.
Play continues until all tricks are taken.
The points are then counted, the soloist total
versus the two other player’s totals.
The winner of the hand records his score, and
the next player shuffles and deals.
The above process is repeated again, and again
until a winner is established for the game.
Now
let’s address card values for calculating the
winning hand. These
are pretty simple, and are as follows:
CARDS 
POINTS 
7,
8, 9 
Queen 
King 
10 
Ace 
Jack 

0
card
points 
3
card
points 
4
card
points 
10
card
points 
11
card
points 
2
card
points 

Bidding
on the other hand is a bit more complicated.
The bidding is done by calculating how many
points you think your hand is worth, and then applying
a multiplier. This
begins by looking at the base values for your suits or
type of game being played…these are:
SUIT 
BASE
VALUE 
Diamonds 
Hearts 
Spades 
Clubs 
Grand 
Grand
Ouvert 


The
next step is to calculate the multiplier.
This is based on the Jacks, and if you’re
playing a Suit game you also use the ace, tens and so
on. First
let’s discuss the Jack’s role.
The most important part is the sequence of
Jacks. These
rank in the following order Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and
then Diamonds. The
player needs to figure out how many trumps (all Jacks
are always trumps) they consecutively have.
If a player has the highest Jack, they bid by
saying they are “with” a certain number.
That number is how many trumps they have in a
row from that Jack of clubs.
Let’s say for example that a player has the
Jack of Clubs, Spades and then an Ace of hearts.
This player would be “with 2” because they
have the top two trumps, but their string ends there.
If a player does not have a Jack of Clubs, they
are known to be “without”.
They would state how many they are without, ie
if the player has the Jack of Diamonds, they
are “without 3” because they have none of the
other Jacks that rank higher than theirs.
So
now you have a basic multiplier, ie if I was “with
3”, my multiplier is a 3.
However, there is always one more added to that
multiplier to let everyone know that you are playing
in the game. This
is stated as “with 3, game 4” (note all I did was
add one to my original multiplier to give my game hand
a total multiplier of 4).
So if I was playing a Suit game of Spades, I
would multiply the base value of 11 (see the list
above) by 4, for a game hand worth a maximum of 44
points.
Up to
this point it is easy enough, but it gets a bit more
complicated. Remember
that the cards all have a value for calculating the
winner of a hand.
Well, the total possible points in a hand are
120, and in order to win a hand, one must take 61 of
those points. However,
if either the soloist or the two opponents get caught
with just 31 points, then they are known to be
“Schneider”. If
you think you can “Schneider” a player, you may
bid that up front, and add another multiplier to the
total bid. You
may also attempt to take all tricks, this is called
“Schwarz”, and this also adds another multiplier
to the pot. Additionally,
you may wish to play an “Ouvert” hand, where
the soloist exposes his cards and attempts to
win 61 points, this too adds another multiplier.
The final possible multiplier is if the Soloist
chooses not to look at the Skat, in this case it is
said to be a “hand” game, and another multiplier
is added. This
is all very important, because if you win the hand,
you record the bid as your total points, these
accumulate over the course of the game to determine
who wins the game of SKAT; therefore you want a high
bid if you think you can win the hand.
The
only exception to these bidding guidelines is a Null
game. Null
games have maximum bids set at the following:
Null 
23 
Null Hand 
35 
Null
Ouvert 
46 
The
last note to the game of SKAT is the rank of trumps
for each type of game.
They are as follows:
Suit
games
The
four jacks are the top four trumps no matter what suit
is chosen as trump, the ranking goes
.
Then comes the suit cards in the following
order:
J

J

J

J
 A  10  K  Q  9  8  7.
The other three suits each contain just seven cards
ranking from high to low:
A  10  K  Q  9  8  7.
Grand
The
four jacks are the only trumps, and rank in the
following order:
J

J

J

J.
The left over suits rank in the following order for
each suit:
A  10  K  Q  9  8  7.
Null
There are no trumps, and the order is as follows for each suit:
A  K  Q  J  10  9  8  7
So
when scoring for the game, the winner adds the total
bid to the running total.
If the soloist loses a hand, they deduct the
bid that was made.
Remember that if 61 points is not scored,
it’s an automatic loss for the soloist.
The soloist can also lose if the hand does not
play out as high as the bid.
This happens when the soloist bids Schneider
(meaning they need to take 90 points) and they fail.
It may also happen if they discover a higher
Jack in the Skat cards (remember, the Skat cards
belong to the Soloist regardless if they take them or
not), thus lowering their original bid value…ie a
“without 3, game 4”, now becomes a “with 1 game
2”. This
means that the game was worth less than originally
bid, thus a loss for the soloist.
When the soloist loses be sure to deduct the
bid total from their running score.
The overall SKAT game may last as many hands as
you wish, but to be fair all players should have equal
turns at dealing.
Well,
there you have it, the very basics to SKAT…a
complicated game, but one that was played by the
German Soldaten on a regular basis.
With a cheat card (click
here) and some practice you and your buddies can be
playing SKAT at events in no time.
For a little practice there are numerous
downloadable versions on the internet (click
here), most are in
German, but there are some English versions as well.
I recommend downloading and practicing prior to
breaking the cards out at an event.
Either way, good luck and enjoy.
Sources:
 http://ostfront.com/
 http://jwsell.wooster.edu/skat/Skatdflt.html
 http://members.aol.com/skatmktg/pub/Skatmktg.html
 http://www.pagat.com/schafk/skat.html
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