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The rules of the Watten card game explained simply

12. April 2018 - Anika Semmer

Watten Card Game - Captivating Team Game With Secret Codes | Game Rules


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Sting together, score points, exchange secret signs and win – in the Watten card game it means winning as a team! Trickery and secret communication are allowed here!

The Watten card game is not for lone wolves – because here it’s all about functioning as well as possible together as a team, communicating and winning together. Watten is a trick-taking game. The goal is to make more tricks as a team than the opposing team.

Supposedly, the game was invented at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when French and Bavarians were allied with each other and passed the time in the field camp with this card game. In French, va tout means the last trump – and in the vernacular it then became the name Watten.

In Bavaria, South Tyrol and Austria, there are regional differences in how Watten is played. This already starts with the number of players and the dealing of cards – not an unimportant thing in Watten! The rules set out here are based on Bavarian Watten.

Watten Card Game – Trick Play in a Team

The Watten card game is played with a German hand

The Watten card game

  • Game type: Card game, Strategy game, Connoisseur game
  • Players: 4 players in 2 teams
  • Accessories: German hand with 32 cards (colours: acorn, heart, leaves and bells)
  • Skills required: Poker face, team player, thinking
  • Objective: The teams play against each other in two teams of two and try to make 3 tricks together per game and thus win. And they do this as quickly as possible. To achieve this, the players are allowed to trick each other, give each other tips via secret signs and try to lead the opposing team on a false trail!

The Cards in Trick Order

For tricks, the cards are of different interest, because there are higher and lower cards.

The highest cards for tricks are the 3 critical ones:

  • King of Hearts: highest card in the game, popularly called Max after King Maximillian I.
  • Bell-7: second highest card, popularly known as Weli
  • Acorn-7: the third highest card is also called Spitz

This is followed by the 4 beats: these are 4 cards with the same value such as 4 Queens , 4 Ten etc. There is 1 card that is both a trump and a blow. This is the fourth highest card after the 3 critical ones. There is no fixed trick order for the 3 remaining blows (left). The rule is: the first colour played always tricks.

After the blows, all cards of the trump suit follow as the next lower cards. You stab all other cards (except the criticals and the blows) in the following order:

  • Ace (sow)
  • King (armchair printer)
  • Queen (feeder)
  • Jack
  • 10 (railway sleeper, railwayman)
  • 9 (snack)
  • 8 (window stick)
  • 7 (Scream)

The Watten Card Game Is On

Making out secret codes in the Watten card game

Guessing with your little finger in the card game of Watten

The 4 players sit down 2 and 2 at a table. The 2 players sitting opposite each other play together as a team.

Taking Off Cards

First a dealer is chosen who shuffles the cards and places them in front of him as a face-down talon (pile). Now the player sitting to the right of the dealer (the “backhand”) gets to pick up the cards and looks at the card at the bottom. If it is a critical, he may keep it (licking).

If the latter has taken a card, the dealer may look at the following card from the lifted part of the pile. If it is another critical, he may also take it. If two Criticals followed each other in this way, the dealer may look again and keep this card in the rare case that the 3 Criticals followed each other by chance.

However, the player may also take a card that is not a critical and thus bluff! However, this has the consequence that the team of the player taking off gets 2 penalty points if he does not play a critical in any of the 5 moves!

Note: The dealer can also refrain from looking at a card in advance. In this case, the dealer may not look at and take a card either.

Distributing Cards

The dealer deals 5 cards to each player in a fixed order (which varies by region). In the Bavarian version of the Watten card game, the dealer first gives each player two cards face down in a clockwise direction and then 3 cards each. If the opponent does not deal the cards in this way, he breaks a rule and the opposing team is credited with 1-3 points, depending on the previous determination!
All players leave their cards face down in front of them and only the dealer and the player after him (sitting on the left, forehand) are allowed to look at their cards.

These two players can agree to re-deal the cards to get better cards. In this case, one player asks: Nicer? And the other agrees or refuses. If both players agree, their cards are put away and only the two announcers get new cards.

Announcing Blows and Trumps

The forehand now announces what the blow is. And then the dealer says which suit is trump.

Watten Card Game Moves and Game Rules

In the Watten card game there is neither suit nor trick constraint, so you can always discard any card you want! After announcing, the forehand plays the first card and the other players deal a card in clockwise order. After each player has discarded a card, the player with the highest card may take the trick (see trick ranking above). This player may now play the next card and the other players follow clockwise.

The game is over as soon as a pair has won three tricks together.

Rules of the Watten Card Game

  • There is no suit constraint and no trick constraint!
  • Exception: If a player plays the Main Strike as the first card of the game, all other players must lay a Trump or a Critical card. However, if the Main Strike was played with a Critical, no other player is required to lay a trump card.
  • If a player has all 3 Criticals in his hand, this is a so-called machine. He has to put his cards face up before the game starts and his team immediately wins the game with 2 points.

Bidding and Scoring in the Watten Card Game

For a winning game, the pair gets 2 points. If a pair considers itself superior during the game, it may increase the number of points being played for by 1 point (bid).

The opposing pair is then free to accept the challenge – the winning pair then receives 3 points for this game – or to surrender without a fight, in which case the other pair immediately receives the 2 winning points and the game is stopped. The bidding may be repeated alternately by both pairs as often as desired. In this way, pairs can also bluff strategically – like in poker.

For this, the challenger asks: Are you doing it? – If the other pair also bids, they answer: Well, are you doing it? And so it theoretically goes on and on. 🙂

The winner of the game is the couple that has 15 points first!

From 13 points onwards, this pair is no longer allowed to bid and each game won gives 3 points. However, if this pair decides that they feel inferior after the trumps and the blow have been announced, they may give up and the other pair is only credited with 2 points.
For each game mistake and rule violation, the team gets a penalty of 3 points. For example, for mistakes in dealing or bidding.

The Interpreting

Deucing is a real feature of the Watten card game. After the trump and the stroke have been announced, the team players do not know each other’s cards and they can give each other tips – or even bluff. Using facial expressions and gestures to communicate with each other is one of the main attractions of this card game! So each pair should agree on a few secret codes before the game starts. Talking out loud is also allowed. Typical secret signs are e.g.

  • Pinch your lips for a Max
  • Weli = wink with the right eye
  • Pointed = wink of the left eye
  • Little finger = Trump 7-10
  • Fist = ace of trumps

The aim is to learn as much as possible about your partner’s cards – and those of your opponents without revealing your own cards in the process!

Classic card games are your thing? Do you already know Whist or the Cheat card game? On Abenteuer Freundschaft you will find classic card and dice games fully explained with rules but also current game tips with new discoveries.  Our leisure ideas portal is all about quality leisure time and there are gift tips as well as very different ideas for activities with children, the partner and with friends!

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