I learned Cheat Trick growing up, so I was surprised a few years ago to learn from a Deathwalker friend of mine that it actually originated with the seers.
Cheat Trick is a press-your-luck trick-taking game played with a common 57 card pack. It was created a hundred and fifty years ago by Deathwalkers as a variation on an older game which they learned while on assignment. They brought it back to the Deathwalker school, where they taught it to others, and it soon spread through the entire Seer community. Outside the Deathwalker school, the game is used among Seers to help children develop their Sight gifts. The game has since spread, however, beyond the Seer community, and can be found in many places. It was even included in the most recent edition of Iakovou's Official Book of Card Games. Though the rules are rather complex, it is considered a children's game in Seer communities because most Seers learn it from a young age, and it is used as a tool for teenagers to develop their sight gifts.
Cheat Trick is a game for four players and is played in three phases: the deal, the bid, and trick-taking.
The DealThe dealer deals a packet of seven cards to each player. The players may look a their cards. Then, starting with the player at the right of the deal and going counter-clockwise, each player votes to "play," (or continue the deal) or "veto" (to redeal). Before voting, each player may, but is not required to, say any number of phrases to declare what cards are in their hand, such as:
- Full Court of (suit): all four court cards
- Family of Three (suit): three court cards
- Marriage of (suit): king and queen
- Siblings of (suit): prince and princess
- Mother-Daughter (suit): Queen and princess of a suit
- Father-Son (suit): king and prince of a suit
The BidStarting with the player to the right of the dealer, and going counter-clockwise, players bid on how many tricks they can take. On a player's turn, they can raise the bid of the player before them, or pass, keeping their bid at the number of tricks previously bid. If they have not already bid, their bid is at one. The number of points a trick is worth for each player is equal to the number of players who have passed so far, including themselves. Therefore:
- 1st to pass: tricks are worth one point
- 2nd to pass: tricks are worth two points
- 3rd to pass: tricks are worth three points
- 4th to pass: tricks are worth four points
Trick-TakingThe player to the right of the dealer leads to the first trick and may play any card in their hand. Play continues counter-clockwise. Players must follow suit, unless they do not have that suit in hand, or if they have the fool. The fool may be played at any time, but cannot win a trick. Only a card which follows suit or a trump card may win a trick. The player with the highest card wins the trick and leads to the next trick. Play continues until all players are out of cards.
ScoringAt the end of the round, the players count their tricks and score points. A player gets positive points for every trick they won over their bid or negative points for every trick under their bid.
Example: Tory, Rodney, Ramona, and Sara are playing a game. Sara is the first to pass, with a bid of one. Tory passes before bidding, and therefore has a bid of one. Rodney is the third to pass, with a bid of 2. When Rodney passes, Ramona is at a bid of three. She is allowed to bid herself up one more time, but chooses not to. During trick-taking, Tory wins six tricks, Rodney wins two tricks, Ramona wins five tricks, and Sara wins zero. Tory had a bid of one, and won five over that. Because she was second to pass, each trick she won over her bid is worth 2 points, for a total of 10. Rodney bid two and won exactly two tricks. Since he did not go above or below his bid, he gets 0 points. Ramona bid three and took five. Because everyone passed before her, she gets 4 points for each trick she won above three, for a total of 8. Sara had a bid of one, but did not take a trick. Because she was first to pass, she loses one point for every trick she failed to take, for a total of -1.After players have scored, the deal is passed to the right, and the second round starts with the new dealer. The player with the highest score at the end of four rounds is the winner.
Additional Rules and Variations
Declaring TrumpAt any time during play, a player may declare out-loud that they have the highest trump. This is usually done by knocking twice on the table. If the highest trump is played, a player can indicate that they have the next highest trump in hand.
Bluffing and CheatingThe game's name, Cheat Trick comes from the use of bluffing in the game. When declaring the highest trump card, or declaring cards during the deal, players may bluff, and there is no penalty for lying. Bluffing is encouraged as part of strategy. For example, a player with a poor hand might declare high cards during the voting to encourage other players to veto the hand. Seers are encouraged to try to use their site gifts to determine who is bluffing or what cards other players have in hand. While bluffing verbally is encouraged, players must strictly follow rules while playing cards to tricks. If a player cheats with a play, by not following suit when they have one in hand, for example, the player that catches them may take one of their tricks.
Veto LimitsSome people choose a veto limit at the beginning of a game. This is the maximum times a player is allowed to veto a deal during the game.
Paternal and Maternal SuitsSome people play that the black suits are "paternal," but the red suits are "maternal," meaning they have a sort of reversed order:
- Paternal suit order: king, queen, prince, princess, pips 10 to 1.
- Maternal suit order: queen, king, princess, prince, pips 1 to 10.
Team VariationThe game is usually played with four individuals, but can be played instead with two teams of two. In the team variation, teammates sit across from each other. Game play continues as normal, but before the score, teams declare which tricks count for each member.
Example: Tory and Ramona are on one team. Rodney and Sara are on the other. Tory opens with a bid of four Rodney passes first, before bidding, giving him a bid of one. Ramona passes second, also before bidding, giving her a bid of one. Sara bids five. Tory passes third, with a bid of four. When Tory passes, Sara may bid herself up, but chooses to stay at a bid of five. During the course of play, Tory wins three tricks, Rodney wins four tricks, Ramona wins two tricks, and Sara wins five tricks. Tory bid four, but won only three, making her one trick short. This would normally mean that she loses points, but her teammate, Ramona, has one trick above what she bid. Ramona gives her extra trick to Tory, meaning they both made their bid exactly, leaving their team with 0 points. Sara made her bid exactly, which would normally leave her with 0 points, but her partner, Rodney, has three extra tricks. If he keeps them, they are only worth 1 point each, so he gives them to Sara. Rodney gets 0 points. Sara gets 4 points each for the extra tricks, giving her team a total of 12.
Three Player variationIn a three player game, cards are dealt in two packets of nine, with the last three cards dealt face up to each player. Because there is no extra card, the dealer's card declares the trump. If the card is the fool, there is no trump. During a three player game, the dealer also votes during the deal, and a full games lasts only three rounds.
Simplified GameA simpler version of the game can be played by eliminating the voting and card declarations. This version is often used to teach Cheat Trick, and is played by younger children who struggle who do not fully understand the bluffing stage.
Components and tools
Cheat Trick is played with a common 57 card pack, consisting of four suits of 14 cards each and 1 fool. Each suit has four court cards: king, queen, prince, and princess. The remaining cards in a suit are pip cards, numbered 1-10.