Mariage – the ancestor of Thousand and Sixty-six. How to play this game?

I love trick-taking card games in which you have to win certain cards to earn points. They are popular in my part of Europe – Thousand in Poland and Ukraine, and 66 (or Schnapsen) in Germany and Austria. Both games have a common ancestor, an old game called Mariage (in Polish: Mariasz).

Mariage is a really old game. It may come from Poland or Germany. I know German sources say it’s a German game. Polish sources attribute game’s origin to Poland. There is also similar Czech game Mariáš.

The truth is that history of Germany, Poland and Czech Republic is mixed. It’s best to assume that Mariage is a game from the middle of Europe. The first German documents indicating its existence come from the early 18th century (as far as I can remember, they were written in a book addressed to women).

All Poles should know that Mariage is mentioned in the Book Two of Pan Tadeusz, Polish national epic.

Laughter rose in both chambers – in one the priest played
At ‘mariage’ with the Judge, whose next lead was a spade;
(…)
Like a statue sat frozen; the monk turned quite green.
The tale over, the Judge then put down the trump queen

This translation (by Marcel Wayland) is really, really awesome. However like all translations it has some imperfections. Original Polish text mentions “ordained wine”. This means that spade was a trump suit (not only “next lead”). And in original text instead of “trump queen” there is interesting word “pamfil”. Even many Poles doesn’t know that it means “trump ober”. In Polish card deck Queens and Jacks were replaced by obers and unters (high and low Jacks). In Poland Obers and Unters were called (respectively) wyżniki and niżniki.

Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, author of Pan Tadeusz, probably knew a Polish variant of Mariage. It was a game for two players, played with 36-card Polish card deck (from 6 to ace). There are also variants (mostly German) for 2, 3 or 4 players. This variants are played with 32-, 24- or 20-card decks.

The name “Mariage” (Polish: Mariasz) comes from the French word “mariage”, what of course means “marriage”. All mariage games are King-Queen games. Players earn extra points for holding King and Queen of the same suit (symbolic marriage). The same rule exist in newer games like Thousand or Sixty-six.

Mariage games have two important features. First – you have to think and count a little if you want to win. And this games are best – in my opinion – card games for two players. Usually card games for two people are to simple or element of luck is very important. Mariage, Thousand or Sixty-six can be really interesting for just two players. That’s why I decided to describe Polish variant for two players.

Polish Mariage – general rules

Mariage is a trick-taking card game with no bidding. Players earn points for taken tricks and when they meld a mariage (King and Queen of the same suit ). The aim of the game is to score 131 points.

Original Polish card deck

In the past players used Polish card deck to play Mariage. In fact Polish deck is a variant of German deck.

Traditional suits in Polish deck are as follows: redness Bay_herz.svg, bells Bay_schellen.svg, acorns Bay_eichel.svg, wineBay_gras.svg.

There are 9 ranks in Polish deck: Tuz, Kralka (ten), King, Ober, Unter, Nine, Eight, Seven and Six. The image below shows an example of a Polish cards from the 16th century. Cards with flags are Tuzes. Kings are shown on the horses, and to distinct Ober and Unter you have to look on the suit symbol. Obers have a suit symbol placed on the level of young man’s head. Unters have suit symbol placed low.

Karty_polskie_XVI

If you can’t get a German or Polish deck – no problem. You can use standard deck!

How to play Mariage with standard deck?

Polish deck is fully compatible with standard modern French deck. Suits are similar – hearts instead of redness (), diamonds instead of bells () spades instead of wine (), clubs instead of acorns ().

You have to use only 36 cards from 6s to Aces. And you’re ready to play!

Rules of the game

Cards rank and value

Ace (or tuz) is a highest card in Mariage. Next cards (from high to low) are: King, Ober (Qeen), Unter (Jack), 9, 8, 7 and 6. Each card has a point-value shown below.

  • Ace (tuz) – 11 points,
  • 10 – 10 points,
  • King – 4 points,
  • Queen (Ober) – 3 points,
  • Jack (Unter) – 2 points,
  • from 9 to 6 – no points,
  • Trump Queen (or Trump Ober) – 11 points.

The play – first phase

In the first hand dealer is determined by drawing lots. Each player receives a hand of 6 cards, so 12 cards are dealt.

After dealing the thirteenth card is turned face-up. This is a trump card that determines the a trump suit. The trump card is placed under the remaining stock of cards in such manner, that half of it is still visible. This allows players to constantly see a trump card.

The image below shows the table just after dealing. Players have 6 cards and the trump card is placed under the remaining stock.

mariasz-po-rozdaniu
Table after dealing. 1 – Cards of N player. 2 – Cards of S player. 3 – stock and a trump card.

Dealer’s opponent plays first by laying a card on a table. Dealer responds with his card and these cards form a trick. The trick is won by the player who played the highest card in the led suit.

The exception is when someone played card in the trump suit. Then the trick is won by the player who has played the highest card in the trump suit.

mariasz-lewa
Example trick. N played the 8♥, S played the K♥ and he wins the trick.

After taking the trick players draw a card of the stock to replenish their hands. Winner of the trick draws first, and he also leads the next trick.

In this first phase of game there’s no obligation to follow suit, to win a trick or to trump. Each player can play any card.

Melding a mariage

If player has a Queen (Unter) and King of the same suit, he can “meld a mariage” and earn additional points.

Melding rules could have been varied. Some sets of rules allow to announce a mariage at any time, just by showing the King and the Queen. Other sets of rules allow to announce a mariage only after winning a trick (before leading to next). There are also set of rules that require to play a King or Queen simultaneously showing the King or Queen of the same suit (just like in Thousand or 66).

If you want to play Mariage, remember to agree on the melding rules before the game.

The play – second phase

The rules of play change when the stock is gone (trump card is la last card from stock and it’s taken by the loser of the 12th trick). There are 12 cards left in players’ hands and last 6 tricks left.

In this phase of a game three additional rules appear .

  • Obligation to follow suit led, so you can’t trump if you have at least one card of the suit led.
  • Obligation to win the trick when possible.
  • Obligation to trump if a player have no cards of the suit led (some sets of rules skip this rule).

This way last 6 tricks are played.

Scoring and aim of the game

The aim of the game is to score 131 points. Players earn points each time they win a trick or meld a mariage. Points for tricks are equal to value of cards that form a trick.

Example 1

Trump suit is:

  1. N played the A♥. S played the J♥. Trick is won by N who earns 13 points (11 for Ace and 2 for Jack).
  2. N leads to the next trick and plays the K. S responds by playing the 9♠. Trick is won by S who trumped. S wins 4 points (4 for a King and no points for 9).
  3. S leads to the next trick and plays the 6♣. N responds by playing the 10♣ and he wins 10 points (he has 23 points total for two taken tricks).
  4. N plays the 8♣. S responds with 9. Trick is won by N (was the suit led). N has no points for this trick.

Remember that the trump Queen (or trump Ober) is worth 11 points.

Points are also earned for melding a mariage.

  • For mariage in trumps – 40 points.
  • For mariage in a plain suit – 20 points.

Taking a last trick gives additional – 10 points.

Scoring is summarized in the table below.

Points
Ace (or Tuz) taken in a trick 11
10 10
King 4
Queen (or Ober) 3
Jack (or Unter) 2
Trump Queen/Ober 11
Mariage in trumps 40
Mariage in plain suit 20
Last trick 10

Players should count their score during a game and keep it in mind. If one of them has 131 points, he reports it and immediately wins the game.

If no one reaches 131 points in the first game, another hand is played. In the second hand players try to get the rest of points needed to reach 131. Second hand is decisive.

Polish match score

If the game ends in one hand, it’s called dubla or dry game. If the game requires two hands, it’s called sympla or wet game.

If you want to play a “match” consisting of several games, you can use the following Polish system of match scoring.

  • 1 “match point” for sympla (wet game).
  • 2 “match points” for dubla (dry game).
  • 1 “match point” for each mariage in plain suit.
  • 2 “match points” for each mariage in trumps.
  • 5 “match points” for anouncing all for mariages in one game (so called “matchmaker“)

You can play to a agreed number of match points or just agreed number of games (hands).

German match scoring

In Germany many people played without a contract of 131 points. Game was won by a player who earned more points and that was wall. A game in which the loser was strictly below 33 points counts double for match. A tied game was decided by the outcome of the next game.

Variants

If Mariage was known in Germany and Poland then you can guess that many “local” variants have been created. First of all the game could be played with different decks ranging from 20 to 36 cards. There were versions for 3 or 4 players. In some of them one player was just pausing in each hand, but they were also variants for three players who played simultaneously. Czech Mariáš is a typical game for three players.

There were many additional rules that can be used in varied configurations.

  • You can play without trump color.
  • You can play with a possibility to “close the stock”. It means that player can turn over the face-up trump card, before or after taking cards. From this moment the stock is “closed” and players do not replenish their hands. Player who closed the stock declare to reach 131 points in remaining tricks. If he fails to do that, he gets minus points. Similar rule exists in 66.
  • Cards of a mariage (meld) must be won by taking the King and Queen in tricks, not just by receiving cards from the deal or stock.
  • You can play with additional kind of meld – Ace and King of the same suit. It can be melded as long as no “normal” mariage has been melded. Melding player score 30 points for meld in plain suit or 60 points in trumps. In some sets of rules this kind of meld is allowed only in trumps (for 40 points).
  • You can play with “Tens low” instead of “Tens high”. “Tens low” means that 10 is between 9 and Jack (Unter) in the cards rank. But even with such rank 10 is still worth 10 points. You can also play with “Tens high” in the first phase of the game and “Tens low” in the second phase, when the stock is gone.
  • Faced-up trump card can be “robbed” by a player who has the lowest card in trump suit (6 of trumps when playing with 36-card deck). Similar rule exists in Sixty-Six.
  • Melding player can kiss  the opponent of the opposite sex (well… people were full of fantasy in the past :)).

Strategy tips

If you want to try Mariage and you never played Sixty-Six, I have to warn you. Avoid to lead to the tricks with high cards. They can be easily trumped. You may play high trump cards but it’s good to save them for a second phase.

Of course you should keep Kings and Queens because they give a chance to meld. If you take the trick, you can play Ace or Ten to score many points. It’s always good to remember what cards were played and you have to count good, because sometimes it’s more important to quickly win tricks than waiting for completing a meld.

Heritage of Mariage

Mariage was not only a popular game, but also gave rise to more popular games, mainly 66 (or Schnapsen), Klaberjass and Thousand, as well as Czech Mariás. Mariage elements can be also found in Ulti, Bezik, Jass and Belote. Some games mix Skat and Mariage rules.

In Poland and Germany you can still find people playing this old game. I think that Thousand and Sixty-six fans should also try Mariage to widen their horizons. And if you use traditional Polish deck, the game has really unique taste :).

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