Last night I learned how to play a Swiss card came called Gemsch.

It is actually quite entertaining (but also stressful) as it combines luck, card counting skills, bluffing and communicating with your partner via secret signals.

The deck: You can play with either 32 cards (from seven to ace, as for Skat) or with 52 card (from two to ace, as for Poker).
The players: You need at least two teams consisting of two players each. If you have more people, it’s probably more fun to simply have more teams, but you could also go for larger teams.
The basic objective: You need to collect four identical cards (from all four suits) and then signal this to your partner using a secretly agreed on signal. Your partner then, once he notices the signal, calls out “Gemsch” and your team gets a point.

The details:

Before the game starts, each team needs to agree on a secret signal. This can be an audio signal (e.g., clearing your throat) or it can be a visual signal (e.g., touching your chin). The game starts by dealing four cards to each player. In the middle there are four cards face-up. This is the public “exchange pool” and you can put down any card from your hand to replace it by one from the pool. This is done in a synchronous manner, i.e., everybody can help himself at the same time. First come, first served. Once all people have stopped swapping cards with the pool, the pool is removed from the game and four new cards are put face-up into the middle.

Once any player has collected four of a kind (e.g., four 10s or four kings), he tries to signal this fact to his partner using the secret signal of their team. If his partner partner notices the signal he calls out “Gemsch”, the round is over and the team gets a point. If the signal is noticed before by the other team, they can call out “Gegen-Gemsch” and they get the point. If somebody calls out “Gemsch” although his partner does not have four identical cards, then also the other team gets a point. You can also try to get a Gemsch yourself first and then call out “Doppel-Gemsch”. Of course, you can also combine the “Gemsch” and the “Gegen-Gemsch ” and call out something crazy such as “Gemsch and Doppel-Gegen-Gemsch” meaning, you think your partner has four of a kind and so do both of your opponents. Whenever you’re completely right you get the point(s) (three in this case), whenever you’re wrong about anything you claimed, then the opponents get the points.

What’s interesting is that you don’t need to rely on the secret signal to call out “Gemsch” or “Gegen-Gemsch”! If you memorize the cards your partner or your opponents pick up, you can sometimes know that someone as a Gemsch without knowing the signal. So to avoid your opponents from keeping track you need to swap cards fairly fast and in a certain random fashion.

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