A favorite Norwegian card game!


Photo: Public domain

Andy Meyer
The Norwegian American

Whether you’re inside this spring for an Easter break or you’re sheltering in place during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s a fine time to learn a favorite Norwegian card game, appropriately called “Amerikaner” (or, “American,” i.e., a person from the United States). It’s a moderately challenging card game, so it might take some time to learn the rules, especially if you’re unfamiliar with trick-taking games (e.g., Whist, Spades, Hearts, 500, or Euchre). But if you’ve got some extra time on your hands, it can be a blast!

General rules:
– 3 to 6 players
– The whole deck is used.
– Ace is high.
– The game takes about 5 – 15 minutes per round.
– You’ll need a scoring pad to write on.

The goal of the game is to collect as many tricks as possible in a round, and thereby score points. The first player to collect 52 points or more wins the game. A player takes a trick by laying the highest card of the suit that was led, unless a trump card was played, in which case the highest (or only) trump card takes the trick.

The dealer deals out the entire deck evenly between the players. With 3, 5, or 6 players, the remaining cards are placed in a blind. With 4 players, there is no blind. Players should sort their hand by suit and value. Before the round begins, players get one chance to exchange cards from their hand for the cards in the blind (without looking). At the start of the round, each player, starting with the dealer, offers a bid of how many tricks they think they can take, based on the strength of their hand in one suit. There are maximum bids depending on how many players are playing:
– 3 players: max bid is 17 (1 card is left out in a blind)
– 4 players: max bid is 13 (all 52 cards dealt)
– 5 players: max bid is 10 (2 cards are left in the blind)
– 6 players: max bid is 8 (4 cards are left in the blind)
– The maximum bid overall is “Amerikaner” (see below).

Bidding: The bidding begins to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise until each player has made a bid. After the opening bid, each bidder must either outbid the most recent bid or pass (if all players pass, the deck is reshuffled and re-dealt). The player with the highest bid selects one suit to be trump (usually the suit in which they have the most and highest cards). The winner then lays out a trump card from their hand (usually the lowest), and requests a specific card in this suit (often A, K, Q, or J). The play goes clockwise, where each player lays a card; the player who has the requested card must lay it, taking the trick (usually), and becomes the winning bidder’s partner. These two players play the round as a team; the tricks they take are in common and they receive the same points at the end of the round. The player who played the highest card in this opening trick (usually the partner) takes the first trick and opens the next round by playing any card from their hand, keeping strategy in mind. For each trick, the player who takes the trick is the one who played the highest card in the suit that was led OR a the highest trump card. (Note!: players must follow suit; a player can only lay a trump card—or another card that does not follow suit—if they have no cards in the suit that was led.) The trick-taker then leads the next trick. The game continues this way until all the cards are played.

After all the cards have been played in a round, each player (and the one partnership) counts the total tricks they have taken and adds up their score accordingly. See below.

Note: Players can demand a reshuffle if they were dealt no face cards.

Scoring and calculating points:
If the winning bidder bids, for example, 12 tricks and they (with their partner) manage to take 12 or more tricks, the bidder and partner get 12 points at the end of the round. The other players get one point for each trick they took.
If the winning bidder and partner were unable to take 12 or more tricks, they lose 12 points. The other players get one point per trick they took.

The first player to accumulate 52 points wins the game.

“Amerikaner” (pronounced AH-mer-i-KAN-er), the highest possible bid, is a special bid: If, during the bidding round, a player believes they can take all the tricks alone (without a partner), they can bid “Amerikaner.” If that player successfully takes all the tricks alone, they win 52 points. If they fail to do so, they lose 52 points.

(Source: no.wikipedia.org)

This article originally appeared in the April 3, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Andy Meyer

Andy Meyer is a literature and language teacher with over 15 years of experience in colleges, universities, and independent high schools. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington and teaches Norwegian there. In 2015-2016, he was a Fulbright Roving Scholar in Norway.