Handjass, also known as 'Sackjass', is a point trick-taking game for three players. Handjass is played in Switzerland and Austria. The objective is to score points by declaring certain melds, and to win tricks with valuable cards in them.
Traditionally played with a deck of Swiss Jass cards, a standard English pack can be adapted by removing all the 5’s and down.
That will give you a deck of 36 cards, consisting of A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 in each suit.
In trumps, the highest cards are the Jack, known as the 'Jass', and the 9, known as the 'Menel'.
The objective is to score by having the best meld in hand and for capturing valuable cards in tricks. Importantly, any player wants to avoid scoring less than 21 in melds and tricks.
Traditionally in Jass, deal and play are counter-clockwise, and the deal proceeds to the right at the end of each hand.
Each player is dealt nine cards in batches of three. The remaining nine cards are left face down in the middle of the table to form a ‘spare hand’. The top card is faced and this establishes the trump suit.
Whichever player holds the 6 of trumps may then exchange it for the upturned card. Then beginning with the player to the Dealer’s right, each player has the right to throw in his/her hand, if they think it’s not good enough, and exchange it for the spare, site unseen – and once having done so cannot then change his/her mind and exchange it back. Naturally, of course, only one player can do this, and once having done it, precludes any other player from making the move.
A meld consists of three or more cards of the same suit in sequence. For these purposes, the cards of the trump suit rank as they do in the trump suit, and in any off-suit as they normally do. A player may also declare Quartets, being any four cards of the same rank so long as they are higher than 8. A player may also declare a 'Marriage' which is the King and Queen of Trumps. Melds are declared as players play to the first trick.
The value of these melds is as follows:
Only the player with the best meld in hand may score for it, but, in so doing, scores for every single meld he/she holds. Importantly, no card may count as part of both a sequence and a quartet. However, the King and Queen of Trumps may be counted in both a quartet and a marriage.
The player to the Dealer’s right leads first, and thereafter the winner of the trick leads to the next. As each player plays a card to the first trick, they announce their best meld, giving only enough information as to establish its superiority over any previously declared. For example, if the player holds a sequence of 4, he/she announces “50 points”. If a player cannot top a previous announcement, he/she need not say anything.
Where melds seem apparently equal, the best is determined by the one which:
Rules of Play
These strict trick taking rules apply:
At the end of the hand, each player takes up the cards they have won in tricks and counts their point value according to the following schedule:
The two players making the most in both melds and tricks score 1 game point each. The player who fails to take at least 21 points in melds and tricks is said to be ‘In the Sack’. This means that a score of 0 is marked against him/her. If at the end of the next hand, a player who was ‘in the sack’ turns out to be one of the top two players, they are not entitled to score a game point. Instead their victory merely cancels out their sack.
Handjass is played over several hands. As soon as a player reaches 5 points, they drop out of the game while the other two players continue playing. The last one left in is the loser.
The description of Jass games presented on this website have been adapted from:
David Parlett: The Penguin Book of Card Games
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