Doppelkopf is a popular trick-taking game that originated in Germany and remains very popular there. It is suitable for four players, and the objective is to score points by winning tricks.
A unique feature in Doppelkopf is that bidding determines the ruleset for trick-taking in each round. That includes whether players compete in teams of two or in a solo, one vs. three. In team rounds, the distribution of teams is unclear at first and will reveal itself during gameplay.
The game’s name means “double head”, possibly referring to the double cards: The game uses two decks of 24 French-suited cards, each featuring the cards from Ace to Nine in all four suits. At the beginning of the round, all 48 cards are shuffled, and each player receives 12 cards.
Important cards in Doppelkopf:
- Queens of Clubs: determine which players form a team.
- Tens of Hearts: the strongest trump cards in the entire game in most rulesets
- Aces of Diamonds (Foxes): Win the opposing team’s fox in a trick to get a bonus point at the end of the round.
Fundamentally, the cards descend in strength within a suit: Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, Nine. But in most rulesets, the Tens of Hearts, all Queens, and all Jacks become trump cards in that order.
After dealing, the players may bid regarding the round’s ruleset. If nobody bids, you play a standard round of two vs. two players with the following trump cards: Tens of Hearts, all Queens, all Jacks, and the remaining cards of Diamonds. The two players each holding a Queen of Clubs form a team.
The different rulesets in classic Doppelkopf are:
- Marriage: A player holding both Queens of Clubs may announce a marriage to find a partner. Then, you play two vs. two by the standard rules.
- Secret Marriage – not a bid: If the player with both Queens of Clubs doesn’t announce a marriage, they secretly play a solo against the other three players.
- Solos: One player competes alone against all others.
- In any of the suits: trump cards: Tens of Hearts, all Queens, all Jacks, and the remaining cards of the selected suit.
- Queen Solo: trump cards: only the Queens
- Jack Solo: trump cards: only the Jacks
- Ace Solo or Skeleton: no trump cards
Doppelkopf is very much alive. Depending on where you play, variations regarding game types, scoring, and other details may appear.
After determining the ruleset, you take tricks in clockwise order. The leading suit’s highest card or the highest trump card in the trick wins. The player who wins the trick leads the next one. After all tricks are played, the round ends with scoring.
Points are awarded for winning tricks and, potentially, for winning specific cards in tricks. Points can also be deducted for failing to meet certain conditions, such as not collecting enough points. Partnerships score points together, and points in Doppelkopf must add up to zero between all players each round.
Then, it’s time to start the next round!
Doppelkopf is a unique and challenging trick-taking game. If you would like to give it a try yourself, you are welcome to join the game at the Doppelkopf Palace (game available in English and German; website available only in German).