Each round of Tarot involves two stages: bidding and playing.
In the bidding stage, the person who bids highest becomes the Taker. All the other players are playing collectively against the Taker (except in the five-player version, where the Taker has a secret partner).
In the playing stage, the players play tricks of cards until all the cards have been played. Each card is worth a certain number of points and the winner of each trick gets the points in the trick. The Taker has to achieve a certain number of points to win the round. If the Taker succeeds, they gain to their score and everyone else loses. If the Taker does not succeed, the Taker loses score and everyone else gains. At the end of the set number of rounds (usually 5-8), the player with the highest score wins.
There are 3 types of cards.
• 21 Trump cards numbered from 1 to 21 (these have stars)
• The Fool (only one of these)
• 14 cards each of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. The cards in increasing order are: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 V C D R
Jack (V) < Knight (C) < Queen (D) < King (R) (These are normal playing cards plus the knight)
Three of the cards (the Bout cards) are particularly important: The 1 of Trump (The Petit), The 21 of Trump, and The Fool(The Excuse). They are worth many points and they change the target score for victory in a round.
The more Bout cards the Taker has at the end of the round, the easier it is for the Taker to win.
Each card is worth a number of points. If you win a trick, you get the points of the cards in the won trick. You may hover over your cards to see the point value.
• Bout: 4 and a half points
• King: 4 and a half points
• Queen: 3 and a half points
• Knight: 2 and a half points
• Jack: 1 and a half points
• Any other card: half a point.
This is the amount of points the Taker needs to get, in order to win the round. This target changes depending on the number of Bout cards the Taker has won at the end of the round.
• 0 Bout : 56 points
• 1 Bout : 51 points
• 2 Bouts: 41 points
• 3 Bouts: 36 points.
Since Bout cards make it easier for the Taker to win, the Taker wants to gain them and the other players want to keep them away from the Taker. The 21 of Trump will never switch sides, the Fool almost never switches sides, but the 1 of Trump can easily switch sides.
BGA will deal the cards to the players and set aside face-down 6 (in the three- or four-player version) or 3 cards (in the five-player version) for a pile called the Dog (or here, the Kitty). The Dog remains hidden throughout bidding; the final bid determines whether the Dog is revealed and what happens to it.
When dealing in real life: The cards must not be shuffled but are only cut by the player to the right of the card dealer. The cards must be dealt three at a time to each player. While dealing, the dealer must also set aside the 6 (in the three- or four-player version) or 3 cards (in the five-player version) for the Dog. Neither the first nor last card of the deck may be placed in the Dog, nor can successive cards be dealt into the Dog.
Counterclockwise from the Dealer, the players either bid or pass, going exactly once around the table. The person who bid the highest becomes the Taker. There are only four possible bids:
• Small: coefficient x 1
• Guard: coefficient x 2
• Guard Without the Dog/Kitty: coefficient x 4
• Guard Against the Dog/Kitty: coefficient x 6
For Small and Guard, the Dog/Kitty is revealed and the Taker integrates it in his/her hand then discards an equal number of cards. The discarded cards go to the Taker's score pile. For Guard Without, the Dog remains hidden and the cards go into the Taker's score pile. For Guard Against, the Dog remains hidden and the cards go into the score pile of the Taker's opponents.
Most variants forbid the Taker from putting any kings, trumps, or bout in the Dog/Kitty, though some variants allow those cards to placed if the Taker announces it.
In the five-player version, after the Taker has been determined, but before the Dog is revealed, the Taker calls out a suit. The person who has the king of that suit is the Taker's secret partner, making the round 2 versus 3. The partner's identity is not revealed until the called king is played, allowing the partner to help the Taker in secret. If the king of that suit is in the Dog or in the Taker's own hand, the Taker has no partner and the round is 1 versus 4. In the rare case that the Taker has all four kings in hand, then when calling a suit, they show the 4 kings. In this case, the player with the queen (D) in that suit becomes the secret partner.
• One must follow suit
• One must play a trump if one cannot follow suit
• If one must play a trump, one must play a higher trump than any trump already played on the trick
• One must play a lower trump if unable to play a higher
• If one cannot follow suit nor play a trump, one can play any card
• The Fool can be played on any trick and the person who played the Fool keeps it, regardless of who won the trick. However if the Fool is played on the last trick, then the Fool switches sides (exception: Chelem/Slam).
The scores of all the players always add up to 0 after each round.
In the five-player variant, the Taker's partner shares the spoils / loss of the Taker (2/3 for the Taker, 1/3 for the partner).
There are certain bonuses:
Petit au bout
If the Petit (1 of trump) is played on the last trick, the team who wins that trick scores the Petit au bout bonus:
• 10 points x coefficient of the bid.
A player can declare a poignée ("handful") before playing their first card. BGA will prompt you, but you do not have to declare a poignée. It adds points for whoever wins the hand as follows:
• Simple Poignée, 13 trumps with three players, 10 trumps with four players, 8 trumps with five players, 20 points
• Double Poignée, 15 trumps with three players, 13 trumps with four players, 10 trumps with five players, 30 points
• Triple Poignée, 18 trumps with three players, 15 trumps with four players, 13 trumps with five players, 40 points
The Poignée bonus is won by the team who wins the hand (it is not multiplied by the bid coefficient).
That is winning all tricks. Can be announced over the normal bid.
• 400 points if announced and achieved (it not multiplied by the bid coefficient)
• 200 points if silent and achieved
• -200 points if announced but failed
If the team acheving the Slam has the Fool in hand, it can be played on the last trick and it will win it. In this case, the Petit is considered au bout at the penultimate trick.
Any player can declare Misère ("misery") before playing their first card, to announce that they have:
• Misère of Trumps: no Trump nor the Fool, 10 points
• Misère of Honours: no Figure (face cards) nor Bout, 10 points
Every other player gives the declarer 10 points from their score immediately.
If everybody passes, it is free-for-all and the goal is to avoid taking points.
At the hand of the hand, each player pays each opponent the points he took.
The play is the same but there is no Petit au bout nor Slam and Poignées cannot be declared.
The Fool remains the property of one who plays it. If it is played on the last trick, it wins it.
The Dog/Kitty is not revealed and is no one's property.