La Contrée »

The novice’s section for Contrée

Elementary principles

To play “Contrée”, all you need is a deck of 32 playing cards : one can easily recognize a player of “Contrée” for wherever he stands, he always has one within reach!!! “Contrée” is a 4-player game, 2 in each team. (For purists: there exist rules to play “Contrée” at 3 or even 2, but they're far less interesting …). Both team mates take their seats one in front of the other around the table. The game is played in the inverse direction of the hands of a clock. The way to deal cards will be examined in detail later: nevertheless, you have to know that the first player is the one who is at the dealer's right. It's he who will first have the deal.

What appears generally the toughest to novices is the order of cards, which is, I have to admit it, very particular! Anyway, some simple rules and you'll know it by heart quickly…

First, you have to know that at each hand (that is each time cards are dealt), a colour is chosen (at the end of a bidding system that'll be described later) to be the trump. Beyond that point, we'll then distinguish "normal" colours from the trump's one. The team that chosed the trump is called the attacker and the other one is the defense.

Order and value of cards

Let's begin with the "normal" colours: the ace is the strongest card and is worth eleven points ; the ten follows it (well … how strange this idea is, isn’t it?) and is worth ten points (easy to remember: 10 = 10 points!) ; then comes what we could call the standard order to complete the list: in descending order, the King is worth 4 points, the Queen 3 points, The Jack 2 points, the 9, the 8 and the 7 aren’t worth a penny (but the 9 is stronger than the 8 which is stronger than the 7 all the same). The first thing to do when learning “Contrée” is at stake is to swallow this order slowly so that you can digest this little oddness …

Here you are, you succeeded in learning the order? Then I've got some news for you: a good piece of news, and, well, a bad one … Let's start with the good one: I'm very proud of you!!!!! Now, inevitably, the bad one: the order for the trump's colour is different from the order we've just seen for "normal" colours!!! Wait don’t go! It's different, right, but it's slightly different: nothing changes (order and value) except for the Jack and the 9: the Jack trump takes the leading of the group and is worth 20 points (which is why it's sometimes called the Twenty), directly followed by the 9 (we're still in the trump's colour, don’t forget it!) with 14 points (and this explains why it's so often called the Fourteen).

I bet you would really appreciate a summary table … Alright, here it is:
Order and value of "normal" cards Order and value of trumps
Ace 11 points Jack (or Twenty) 20 points
10 10 points 9 (or Fourteen) 14 points
King 4 points Ace 11 points
Queen 3 points 10 10 points
Jack 2 points King 4 points
9 0 point Queen 3 points
8 0 point 8 0 point
7 0 point 7 0 point

Once you've learned this table, your toughest work as a novice is over!!! Waow, party tonight! Well, no! Wait a little bit before opening the Champagne, there are still some notions to learn … You can from now on notice that the sum of the values of the cards is worth 3*30+1*62=152 ; nevertheless, the actual sum is worth 162 for the last ten.

How to take a trick

If an order exists, it's simply because during a trick (ie a round, where each player lays a card on the table in a predetermined order …), the player who takes the abovementionned trick is the one who lays the strongest card in the colour that has been asked (ie the colour of the first card laid at the beginning of this trick) ; the goal of a hand is therefore clear: the more tricks, the merrier … (at least to make the maximum of points). The player that has, at a peculiar moment, laid the strongest card of the trick is called master.

Nevertheless, the trump has its own role: whenever a player doesn’t hold any card of the colour that's currently played, he has (under certain circumstances that will be given when our friends "the beloters" will have joined us) to lay a trump's card (one says he is cutting), which makes him master insofar as noone before him cut or laid a trump stronger than his trump. If he doesn’t hold any trump either, he can (and in practice, he has to) discard himself of a card. The trump's turns take place exactly the same way (just one difference: one can’t cut trump!). A very important rule for trumps: whenever the case occurs (ie would it be to overcut or to lay a trump in a trump's turn), one has, if he can, to rise at trump (ie to lay a stronger trump than the strongest already laid). We'll see in a while with our friends "the beloters" which rule to follow if one doesn’t hold a stronger trump.

The master at the end of the trick takes it and has the deal, ie he's the first one to lay a card at the following trick.

The last trick is worth 10 points: it's hence very important to take it.