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Ombre
[Spanish Solo]

Card games of the Solo Family are fairly straightforward trick taking games in which the “Player”, called the “Soloist”, states his/her objective and plays against the other players. Ombre, variously known as Hombre, L'Hombre, or Spanish Solo, emerged out of Spain in the early 17th century and became popular across Europe right up until the late 18th century. The game remains popular in South America and Denmark to this day, and over the years many variations of increasing complexity have been devised. The one that is described here is an American version designed for four players.

Spanish Solo is a trick taking game for four players where each player plays for themselves. There are no fixed partnerships, except where partnerships may arise in the course of play.

The Cards

Shorten a standard deck of 52 cards to 7 and up, giving you a deck of 32 cards – A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8 and 7 in each suit.

The Black Queens are permanent trumps, the Queen of Clubs being Spadilla – the highest trump, and the Queen of Spades being Basta – the third highest trump. The second highest trump is the Manilla, being the 7 of trumps.
Thus in the trump suit, cards rank:
Q♣, 7, Q♠, A, K, [Q], J, 10, 9, 8
And in any off-suit, cards rank:
A, K, [Q], J, 10, 9, 8, 7

Objective

The objective of the game is to win at least 5 of the 8 tricks, or to win all 8 tricks depending on the game called. Games may be played in Colour or in Suit, where the colour is Clubs, and in Suit is any suit other than Clubs. Games played in Colour rank above those played in Suit.

The Following Games can be called. From lowest to highest:

  • Simple Game in Suit – The Player names any other suit as trumps, and then calls an Ace that he/she does not hold themselves. The Player and the Holder* thus form a partnership, and together undertake to win at least 5 tricks between them.
  • Simple Game in Colour – The Player names Clubs as trumps, and then calls an Ace that he/she does not hold themselves. Thus the Player and the Holder* form a partnership, and together they must win at least 5 tricks between them
  • Solo in Suit – The Player undertakes to win at least 5 tricks by him/herself with any other suit as trumps
  • Solo in Colour – The Player undertakes to win at least 5 tricks by him/herself with Clubs as trumps
  • Tout in Suit – The Player undertakes to win all 8 tricks with any other suit as trumps
  • Tout in Colour – The Player undertakes to win all 8 tricks with Clubs as trumps

*NOTE: The Holder of the called Ace must say nothing to reveal the fact. Instead the partnership becomes evident in the course of play.

The Deal

Deal and play are clockwise and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of each hand. Each player is dealt 8 cards in batches of three and two.

The Auction

The bidding process in Ombre proceeds very differently to what you may be used to in games like Five Hundred or Bridge. In games of the Solo Family, each player is designated the following positions, beginning left of the Dealer; leadhand, middlehand, rearhand, and Dealer. Leadhand opens the bidding by announcing a game, but does not name a suit. Middlehand may either pass, or make a higher bid, in which case the right to reply goes back to leadhand. Leadhand need only equal middlehand’s bid – the onus is on middlehand to overcall leadhand. Therefore, leadhand need only answer ‘yes’ to middlehand’s bid or pass. These two contend until one of them passes, at which point the survivor is committed to playing a game as good as he bid or higher. Rearhand now enters the auction, and similarly must overcall the survivor or pass. Thus once one of these two passes, then the Dealer enters the bidding or simply passes. Thus the player next in rotation must overcall his predescessor to stay in the auction. The last standing survivor of this process becomes the Declarer, and is committed to playing a game as good as he bid or higher. The Declarer may either hold to the bid they made, or make a higher declaration. He does this by announcing a game and a suit. If the game is being played at Simple, it is at this point he calls the Ace, and then play begins.

Any player may pass without bidding, but once having done so cannot re-enter the bidding process. If all players pass and no bid is made, the hand is thrown in and the Deal proceeds to the left.

The Play

Left of the Dealer leads first, and thereafter the winner of the trick leads to the next.

The Rules

Standard trick taking rules apply:

  • Players must follow suit to the Card led.
  • If you can't follow suit, you can play any card.
  • The Trick is won by the highest Trump played to it. If no Trumps are played, the Trick is won by the highest card of the suit led.

Note: Spadille and Basta are always trumps, and respond to the game as trumps rather than as the suit symbol of their respective indices suggests. In other words, if Heart are trumps, Spadille and Basta are Hearts, not Spades/Clubs as their indices might suggest.

Score and Rank of Games

The Player alone, or both the Player and the Holder each receive the following points from each Defender if the game is successful.

  • Simple Game in Suit - 2 points
  • Simple Game in Colour - 4 points
  • Solo in Suit - 4 points
  • Solo in Colour - 8 points
  • Tout in Suit - 16 points
  • Tout in Colour - 32 points

If the game is unsuccessful, the Player, or both the Player and the Holder (as the case may be) pay the designated number of points to each Defender.

Scoring

Traditionally, each player is given a designated number of tokens or chips at the beginning of the game. At the end of each hand tokens are exchanged between players in the following manner. If the Declarer is successful, or the Declarer and the Holder are successful, each Defender pays him/them the designated number of points from their own stack of chips. If the Declarer is unsuccessful, both he and the Holder (as the case may be) pay the Defenders the designated number of points from their own stack of chips. The player with the highest score at the end of play wins the game.

Game

Ombre is played over an agreed number of hands, a multiple of the number of players. Thus, in a four-player game the agreed number of hands would be 4, 8, 12 or 16. This way each player gets an equal number turns to deal. The player with the highest number of points at the end of the agreed number of deals is the winner.

Variations

Traditionally, L’Hombre was played with a 40-card deck. The rank of cards in red suits varied from that in black suits, and the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Clubs play Spadille and Basta respectively. To find out about a popular three player variation of Hombre, L’Hombre, or Hombre Renegado as it is known in Spain, click here ».



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