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The Thirty-One card game is also called Schnauz, which also means the value of 31 points.

1. September 2016 - Anika Semmer

Thirty-One Card Game - Swap to Survive | Game Rules


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How well do you see through your opponents? In the Thirty-One card game you need a good poker face to win! In this survival battle with cards, tactics are at least as important as luck!

The Forbidden Card Game Thirty-One

There was a time when the Thirty-One card game was on the red list of banned games under the name Tret-un. This red list of the Ministry of Justice of the Austro-Hungarian Empire banned dangerous games of chance a good 110 years ago. And Schwimmen, also known as 31, Wauz, Schnauz or Knack is a card game that even then had dangerous addictive potential due to its simple rules and great fun.

In the Thirty-One card game, you try to collect combinations with the highest possible point value by skilfully exchanging cards. In doing so, you try to bluff cleverly, ignore cards or stare at them in order to keep your tactics secret. 

How to Play the Thirty-One Card Game

  • Players: 2-9
  • Accessories: Deck of 32 cards (Skat hand)
  • Skills required: Luck, Tactics

Preparation and Moves in the Thirty-One Card Game

Thbrity-One Card Game - Swap

In the Thirty-One card game, you swap for your life

The dealer shuffles the cards and gives 3 cards and 3 tokens, coins or matches to each player in turn, face down. He gives himself two face-down piles of cards, each with 3 cards. Now the dealer may look at one of the two piles of cards and decide whether to play with it or not.

If he decides to play with these 3 cards, he places the second deck face up in the middle of the table without looking at it first. If he decides against the first deck, he puts the cards of this deck face up in the middle of the table and plays with the second deck. The dealer puts the remaining cards of the deck aside.

Now it is the left player‘s turn and he can swap all 3 cards or 1 card of his choice that he has in his hand with the cards in the centre of the table. So he is not allowed to swap 2 cards. In addition, the player is free to pass, i.e. not to swap a card and say ”I push” or to knock on the table and say ”I close”. When a player closes the game, each of the other players takes another turn, and then the round is over (see End of Game).

The aim of the game is to collect the best possible combination of cards and to trade cards accordingly. In doing so, one tries to conceal as best as possible which combination one collects and to see through and thwart with which combination the other players would like to win.

Collecting Combinations

In the Thirty-One card game there are two types for card combinations. In both types, the points and combinations count, the higher the score the better!

1. Combination: cards of the same colour

The first way to make a combination in your hand is to collect cards of the same suit. That is, to collect only ♣-cards, ♠-cards, ♥-cards or ♦-cards in the hand. The cards have the following point values:
Ace = 11 points.

King, Queen, Jack = 10 points.

10, 9, 8, 7 = point value of the number of points, so 10 = 10 points, 7=7 points etc.

So the best possible combination is an ace and two picture cards, or a 10 and a picture card: 31 is the highest score you can get..

2. Combination: cards of the same rank

The Thirty-one card game can be played not only at the lake

Triples in the Thirty-One card game

The second option is to collect cards of different colours but with the same rank. So you try to form triplets with cards of the same rank.

Example: ♣7-♠7-♥7 or ♥10-♣10-♦10 or ♦K-♥K-♠K.

This combination always counts 30 ½ points, no matter how high the cards are that you combine!

Playing the Thirty-One Card Game

In the Thirty-One card game, there are two ways to end a game round.

Either by a player deciding he has enough points in his hand. He then says: ”I close” and taps on the table. Now all the other players may exchange their cards one last time, then the round is over.

When a player has 31 points in his hand, he holds a 31, Schnauz or Knack. With this combination, he immediately places his cards face up in the centre of the table and thus ends the game round. The other players must also show their cards immediately, without being allowed to swap again.

When the round has ended, all players place their cards face up on the table in front of them. Now add up the point values of each player’s card combinations. The highest combination that a player holds in his hand is his scored point value.

Example 1: ♥ 7 – ♦ Queen – ♦ Ace =17 points for the 2 ♦-cards.

Example 2: ♠ 8 – ♣ 8 – ♣ Jack = 18 points for the 2 ♣-cards.

The player or players with the lowest score are the losers and must give up a token. The last survivor is the winner!

Tie score

If there is a point tie in triple combinations, i.e. 30.5 points each, the 3 higher cards win against the lower cards. From top to bottom, the ranking is: Ace-King-Queen-Jack-10-9-8-7.  If two players have combinations of the same card values, for example ♥ Jack-♥10-♥9 and ♣ Queen-♣ Jack-♣ 9, then the suit of the higher ranking wins. The ranking of colours from high to low is: ♣-♠-♥-♦. If the rare case occurs that both players have the same score in the same colour, for example ♣ 8-♣ 9-♣ 10 and ♣ 7-♣ B-♣ D, then both players lose..

Who pays?

Depending on how many players are involved in the Thirty-One card game, you determine before the game starts whether only the player with the lowest score loses and has to give up a token, or at what score someone loses. If you play the Thirty-One card game with 9 players, it makes sense to speed up the game this way.

Playing Several Rounds

Before the game starts, each player gets 3 tokens, matches or coins. Each match represents one life. In each game, the loser(s) must give up one life.

When all 3 lives are used up, the player swims. If he loses another game, he is eliminated: he has perished.

The player who is left at the end of the Thirty-One card game is the winner!

Variants and Additional Rules of the Thirty-One Card Game

In the Tghirty-One card game, 3 aces are called "Lightning" or "Fire"

“Fire” in the Thirty-One card game

  • Card combination fire/lightning: If a player has three aces in his hand, this is a fire or lightning. While all other three-of-a-kind combinations give 30 ½ points, a fire is the highest combination there is: it even beats a snout! The player immediately puts his Fire on the table and thus ends the game. Apart from him, every other player loses a life in the event of a fire!
  • Loser – who has to pay?: The most common rule is that any player holding less than 20 points in their hand, as well as the player(s) with the lowest point value above 20, must pay. The winner never has to pay. This rule speeds up a game with many players and is highly recommended for 5 or more players! Furthermore, the rule brings additional tactical possibilities: If a player has 21 points in his hand, an exchange does not bring any improvement and he must surely pay, he can strategically worsen his hand: Thus, one more player loses a life.
  • All Shove: If all players in turn shove and do not touch the 3 cards in the centre of the table, put them away. The dealer puts out 3 new cards from the deck. The player who pushed first is first to go.
  • Shuffling forbidden: If you agree at the beginning of the game to play without shuffling, then you only have the choice between swapping or knocking.
  • Playing face down: The player deals 5 cards to his left neighbour – first 3, then 2. No cards are placed in the centre of the table. The player looks at all 5 cards and takes 3 into his hand. He passes the other 2 face down to the next player to the left, etc.

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