Thursday session: Slovenian Tarok, Ottocento

Mhing box

When I arrived, the guys were already playing Mhing. No problem: I dealt myself in and joined the game. It’s flexible that way… Didn’t win the first hand, obviously, but in the second, I got out on what, fourth or fifth card. Getting three jokers in the deal sure helps. My hand was a true chicken hand, no points except one credit from a flower. Mhing is always fun (which is why I’ve rated it 10 in Geek). We played few more rounds in the end of the evening.

We played eight rounds of Slovenian Tarok. Some of it not very interesting, some of it rather delicious! In the second to last round I had a pretty good support hand: three kings, so likely to be called as a partner, plenty of courts and low on trumps. As I expected, Hannu called me and we played pretty well together. Great was our despair when we found out we were one point short… Well, still, that was only -42 points — earlier I bidded up an absolute crap hand and scored -130. Just had to try, you know!

The last round was particularly interesting: I had a hand full of court cards (though just one king) and three taroks: XX, XXI and the Fool. Interesting hand, but the lack of trumps meant trouble as a declarer. Tapani called the game and chose my club king for his partner. I announced trula and as a forehand opened with XX. Tapani thought about it for a while and played his Pagat under it. His hand was an excellent compliment to mine, as it had about ten trumps out of the twelve cards, but not many points. We scored an pleasant 124 points — 20 for game, 23 for points and 20 for announced trula, doubled for the radli.

Well, the end results were still rather dismal. Tapani won: -103 points. Sami had -104, making it an annoyingly close finish (had we rounded to nearest five like people usually I do, it would’ve been a tie at -105). Hannu had -440 and I held the rear with -487. That included -140 for a boneheaded misére hand failed on third trick. Still, great fun. One thing is sure: if I include an example score sheet for Slovenian Tarok in my book, it’s going to be something realistic like this and not like the one on John McLeod’s site.

(Added: This was my first game with my Austrian pack from Piatnik. It’s a gorgeous thing and my new favourite pack: pretty and quite functional, too. No indices, but otherwise it’s very, very cool.)

Ottocento was a blast after the negative scores of Slovenian game. There’s no way to lose points, that’s the key, and plenty of ways to score. First round was ok, not bad for either side: we were behind 172-267. Then hell broke lose. After second hand, we were already leading 490-339, after scoring 96 points in cricches and 150 for sequenzas. Then came the thundering, roaring third round, where Sami had a divine hand of cards with decent support for me and we won 1100-389! The last round scored 610-50 — 206 points for cricches, 310 points for sequenzas, 84 points for cards and the last trick (out of 99 possible) and ten points for one sequenza in my hand… Amazing. A question remains: is Ottocento lottery, or did we play well? We sure had excellent cards.

Right now it feels like luck plays a major role in Ottocento. Getting the Matto (Fool) and Bégato (pagat) is important as they work as wild cards in the scoring. Winning Matto is impossible: you either get it or not. That makes winning Bégato very important — there’s skill that may cause a huge swing in points, and the side who already has the Matto has a lot more to gain… Anyway, I’m willing to think the strong luck element I get in Ottocento is really caused by lack of skill. There’s definitely enough to think about in the scoring!

I’m definitely interested in playing the game more (and trying the Bolognese three-player game Terziglio — that includes simple bidding to become a declarer, a rare thing in Italian tarocco). The cheat sheets I made showing the key cards made the game easier to learn, yet the pack offers plenty of challenges and a complete full-pack cheat sheet wouldn’t be overkill, I’m afraid. As it is, even telling apart swords and batons can be hard for unaccustomed players, not to mention making sense of the gridwork in the 8s, 9s and 10s of those suits.

Next week, if the gods of DHL are in favour of us mere mortals, we shall play Agricola.

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