Schafkopf: Wikis


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A picture of four Obers of German cards
Origin Germany
Skills required Tactics & Strategy
Type Trick-taking
Players 4
Cards 32
Deck German
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) EO, GO, HO, SO
HA H10 HK H9 H8 H7
A 10 K 9 8 7 (first played suit)
Playing time 20 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Sheepshead, Skat, Doppelkopf

Schafkopf, also called Schaffkopf, is a late 18th century German trick-taking card game most popular in Bavaria, but also played in other parts of Germany as well as other German-speaking countries like Austria. Its modern descendants are Doppelkopf, Skat and the North American game of Sheepshead. Its earlier written reference dates of 1803, although it only came to notice by the polite society of Altenbug in 1811.[1]



The exact origin of the word Schafkopf comes from "Schaffen" and "Kopf", which means to "work one's brain."[2] Although the game is often erroneously translated as "Sheeps Head" from the German Schaf or sheep, the existing sources[3]) do not indicate an original Bavarian origin for the game.

The theory of the author Wolfgang Peschel states that in earlier times the game was played on top (middle high German (plural): Köpfen) of wooden casks (middle high German: Schaff) instead of a table, and so the correct spelling should be Schaffkopf[4].

Another theory reports that Schafkopf acquired its name at a time when it was played up to nine points,[5] which were marked with a piece of chalk as nine lines on a board gradually building up to the stylized representation of a sheep's head (German: Schaf = sheep, Kopf = head)[6].


Schafkopf is played by four players with 32 cards with the German/Bavarian deck of cards which has four different suits (colors): Eichel (acorn), Gras (grass), Herz (heart) and Schellen (bells)), and eight different values: Ober (officer), Unter (sergeant), Ass/Sau (Ace/Pig), 10, König (King), 9, 8 and 7. In a normal round of Schafkopf all Obers and Unters as well as all heart cards are trumps and two people are playing against the other two. All cards have, independently of their trump status, a point value which is always constant in all game modes: Ober=3, Unter=2, Ace=11, 10=10, King=4 while 9, 8 and 7 have zero value, which gives a total of 120 points. The goal of the game is to have the most points, e.g. at least 61 for the offensive and 60 for the defensive players. Schafkopf has a follow suit/trump rule while hearts are counted as trump, not as suit, as long as its trump status is not changed which is the case in some special game modes (Solo, Wenz). In Germany, Schafkopf is not deemed a gambling game and can therefore be legally played for money. Especially in Bavaria it is normally played for small amounts of money to make it more interesting and the players more focused. Normal rates are 10 Euro cent for normal and 50 for solo games.

Rules of Schafkopf

The rules of Schafkopf were officiallly constituted by the 1st Bavarian Schafkopf Congress on December 17th 1989 in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany held by the Bavarian Schafkopf organization Bayerischen Schafkopf-Verein e. V.[4][7 ] and then revised in recent years by the Schafkopfschule (School of Schafkopf). Also many local variations and additions exists which can differ from village to village or from pub to pub. Therefore the exact rules used on the table should be agreed on by all players at the very begin of the game.


Card order

In a normal round the cards overtrump each other in the given order (from high to low):

  • All Obers in the order Eichel, Gras, Herz and then Schellen
  • All Unters in the same order
  • All Herz/heart cards in the order of their point value, which is: Ace, 10, King, 9, 8, 7
  • Non-trump cards overtrump other cards of the same suit in the order of their point value (see above), but not card of other suits. Because of the follow suit rule the first played suit is dominant and the card of this suit with the highest point value takes the trick if no trump is played.

In other game modes a suit other than hearts can be selected as trump ((Suit-)Solo mode) or only Unter (Wenz mode) (sometimes also only Ober (Geier mode)) can be declared trump.

Game Modes

There are three standard modes of Schafkopf which can be selected for each single game:

  • The normal/calling/partner mode - where one player (the player) is calling an ace which he doesn't hold himself but holds at least one other card of the same suit. The player (the partner) which holds the ace is his partner and plays with him against the two other players (the opponents). The partner is not allowed to reveal himself verbally or any other form beside the cards he is playing. The called ace must be played when its suit is played but never before, except for the last trick. While the partner can play the called ace as first card of a trick, he can't add it to an open trick as long its suit is not played. Because of this rules the opponents have a certain chance to take the called ace: one is playing a card of called suit and hopes his fellow opponent is free of this suit and can take the trick by playing a trump.
  • The (suit-)solo mode - where one player decides that his cards are so good that he can beat the other three players alone. For this he is allowed to declare one of the four suits as trump, where the other three are normal suits. The heart suit is reduced to non-trump and so is a normal suit if not (re-)declared as trump by the solo player. The game is then called after the selected trump-suit: Eichel-Solo, Gras-Solo, Herz-Solo or Schellen-Solo.
  • The Wenz solo mode - where only Unters (also called Wenzen) are trump. The Obers are non-trump and now between the King and the 9 because of their value of three points. The offensive player also plays against the other three.

There are also some non-standard modes which are only played in some regions of Bavaria:

  • The Geier mode which is identical to the Wenz except that only Obers not Unters are trump. The Unters are non-trump and now between the King and the 9 because of their value of two points.
  • The Farb-Wenz (Suit-Wenz) mode which is like the Wenz except the solo player can declare one suit as trump like in the normal suit-solo.
  • The Farb-Geier (Suit-Geier) mode which is like the Farb-Wenz only with Obers except Unters.
  • And not few others.

In addition to this all solo modes can be declared as "Tout" (in Bavarian "Du" (You)), which doubles the value of the game and means that the solo player declares that he will takes all tricks (not just all 120 points!). If any of the three opponents takes one or more tricks the solo player loses even if he has 61 or more points.

Course of the game

The four players sit crosswise on a table. One player is shuffling the cards and places the shuffled card deck before the player to his right. This player has to cut the deck at least once or several times on his choosing, but without looking on any card. This is done to further shuffle the cards and reduce the risk of cheating of the shuffling player.

Afterwards the deck is taken back by the player who shuffled them and he gives out four cards clock-wise starting with the player on his left. Every player receives so twice four cards with the backside up which are also called first and second hand.

All players now decide if they want "to play or not", i.e. play offensive or defensive. This depends mainly an the number of trump and high points cards received. The player which received his cards first (left of the shuffling player) can announce first whether and when which game mode he likes to play. If he chooses not to play (offensive) then he says "Weiter" ("onwards", "go ahead"), which gives the next clock-wise player the chance to announce a game. If two or more players like to announce to play the following order priority exists (highest to lowest): Solo Tout, Wenz Tout, Solo, Wenz, normal/partner mode. The declared trump suit in suit solos is not meaningful. If two players want to announce the same mode the player which got his cards earlier has priority. If none of the four players wants to announce a game, all cards are thrown together and shuffled again (see below).

After "the (offensive) player" has announced the game mode, the player to the left of the shuffling player plays the first card. The other three players play also each one card clock-wise while they have to follow suit if the first card is a suit card or trump if the first card is a trump (again: heart is normally trump, not a suit!). The player which played the highest card (see "Card Order" above) takes the trick and receives all points of the four cards. He starts then the next trick by playing another card.

When all tricks are taken, the points of the included cards are added together. The offensive team (player and partner or only the solo player) must have more than the half, i.e. at least 61 points, while the defensive team need only 60 points to win. The case when one team loses by far is called "Schneider" (tailor). This is the case when the count is only 30 (offensive team) or 29 (defensive team) or less points. When one team doesn't take any trick (not even one with zero points) it also loses "Schwarz" (black). Sometimes only the team with the least taken tricks is counting their points.

After the winning team is declared it has to demand the correct amount of money (or points) from the opponents. Schneider and Schwarz normally add a pre-defined amount of one base unit (10 euro cents) each. The loosing team must declare Schneider by its own but Schwarz must be demanded. Also one base unit is payed for each card in a run of trump, i.e. one team holds all top trumps, starting from three trump (Eichel-, Gras- and Herz-Ober) or two in the case of Wenz (Eichel- and Gras-Unter) up to 8 (all Obers and Unters) or 14 (all trump), or 4 (Wenz). In the case of Tout, where the offensive players pre-declare a Schwarz win, neither Schneider nor Schwarz is paid but the whole game counts double. In non-tournament play for money, the winnings for the hand are commonly exchanged between the winners and losers at the end of the hand before the next shuffle.

Finally all cards are shuffled again, this time by the player to the left of the last shuffling player. Following this rule all players have the opportunity to shuffle, cut and announce first. All financial demands from the last game are final and binding when the card deck is cut.

If no one declares a game

If no player announces their intent to play (all say 'Weiter'), there are several possibilities, which should be agreed upon before the start of play:

  • The cards are reshuffled and game play simply continues with the next clockwise player dealing the cards.
  • The cards are reshuffled and game play simply continues with the next player dealing the cards but the value of the next hand is doubled (Bockspiel).
  • The cards are reshuffled and game play simply continues with the next player dealing the cards but each play puts one base unit (10 euro cents) into the "Pot" (Stock). Subsequently, the player that declares the next game in the next hand, has the chance to win the contents of the pot. If they win their declared game, the declaring player alone and not their partner receives the "pot" in addition to the normal winnings shared with their partner. If the player loses their declared game, then they alone must double the contents of the pot and play continues with the next player declaring a game having the chance to win (or double) the pot on the next hand.
  • In tournament play, a hand must be played and either the player with the Eichel-Ober (dem Alten) must declare a game or cross-seated players automatically play the hand together.


After the players receive the first hand of cards (four cards) and before the take the second hand they can double the value of the game either my knocking on the table or calling "doppeln" (to double). Normally a specific token (e.g. match box, special coin) is then placed on the table to indicate this. Depended after the exact local rules only the first, only one or all players can double the game. If more than one players doubles the game the factors get multiplicated, i.e. one player 2x, two players 2*2=4x, three players 8x and four players 8x. This factors do take effect after all other bonuses are added. In the case of Tout the game cost (again) double but no Schneider or Schwarz bonus is paid. The value of the game can be doubled further by Contra.

Contra and Re

At the beginning of the game any opposing player, but normally one one with very good cards, can give the offensive player "Kontra" (Contra) which means that he declares his team will win even when they didn't announced a game. This doubles the value of the game. Only one Contra is allowed, so they can't be accumulated like the normal doubling. However any one of the offensive players (player or partner) can answer a Contra with "Re(-tour)" (return) which declares that the player still thinks that his offensive team will win. This doubles the value of the game again. Depending on the exact local rules used another round of Contra and Re, now called "Sub" and "Re-Sub", or even more can be allowed, which further doubles the value of the game. Contra and Re can normally only be called as long none or only the very first card got played. Different rules also exist which allow opponents to give Contra before they play their own very first card or that Re etc. can be given up to one card after Contra.


A popular variant in some parts of Bavaria is the "short" Schafkopf which is played with only 24 cards where the '7' and '8' cards of all suits are removed. Every player only receives six cards (2x3). This makes the game faster and changes some playing tactics because of the changed probabilities.

Also a variant for only three players exists where also the short card deck with 24 cards is used but all players still receive eight cards. Only solo games are allowed in this variant. This variant is normally only played when lacking a fourth player.

A variant, called Sjavs, is popular in the Faroe Islands [8]

See also


  1. ^ Foster's Skat Manual, p. 3, R. F. Foster - Averill Press 2008 ISBN 1443721514
  2. ^ Rules and Regulations of Bavarian Schafkopf [1]
  3. ^ Early references of the word Schafkopf
  4. ^ a b Wolfgang Peschel: Bayerisch Schaffkopfen - Wissenswertes, Humoriges; mit den offiziellen Regeln des Bayerischen Schaffkopf-Vereins. ISBN 3-924012-31-8
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Card Games, p. 246, David Parlett - Oxford University Press 1996 ISBN 0-19-869173-4
  6. ^ Schafkopf history from BR-online
  7. ^ Official Schafkopf Regulations
  8. ^

External links


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