Blackout

Blackout which is also known as Oh Pshaw, Oh Hell!, Oh Well!, Blob, Elevator, Up and Down the River and many other names throughout the world is from the whist family of card games. Blackout is best for seasoned players and should only be taught to children who have mastered simpler card games.  It is a good introduction into the concepts of bidding and trumping.

Object of the Game

This game features a challenging bidding system in which each player tries to predict the number of "tricks" they will win before play even begins. Winning a trick means they beat all cards played in one round. Points are then awarded for correct predictions.

What You'll Need

A standard deck of playing cards
Pencil and paper for scoring
A table or other flat surface with enough seating for all players.
3 to 7 players

Setting up the Game

To select the dealer each player picks a card from the deck located in the center of the table. The player who draws the highest card is the dealer for the first round. They shuffle the deck and deal to their left, one card only per player, face down.

For each subsequent round the job of dealing shifts to the next player to the left. All the cards are shuffled and the number of cards dealt increases by one from the previous round.

When the size of the deal cannot increase by one card per player, the final hand has been dealt.

For example if playing with 4 players the cards would be dealt a total of 13 times, 5 players only 10 times.

At the end of each deal the top card of the stockpile is turned over to indicate the trump suit. The trump suit will beat any other cards played during that hand.

If there are no leftover cards in the last hand, there will be no trump suit.

Playing Blackout

Before the playing of Blackout begins one player should be assigned the job of recording all the bids and totaling up the score at the end of each round.

Each player picks up their cards and participates in the bidding process before the play of the cards begins.  Starting with the dealer, each player bids the number of tricks they expect to win. If they are not expecting to win any, they bid "nulllo", a word used in card games meaning "nothing".

Bidding accurately can be difficult so it is important to understand how the cards will be played.  Each trick will be won by the player who either plays the highest card in the suit that lead that round or plays the highest trump card. 

In the first hand 1 and nullo are the only possible bids because each player has only one card to play. There will only be one round of play before the next deal.  As the size of the hand increases, the number of possible bids increases. In a hand where 7 cards are dealt the bid may range from nullo to 7. 

Since it's more difficult to win tricks than to lose them it's usually good strategy to underbid by 1.  If a player thinks they can still win seven tricks they would be wise to bid six. If they think they can take only one trick they should bid nullo. Doing this gives a little room for error and the ability to intentionally try and lose one should they find themselves winning more than expected.

The first card is played by the player directly to the dealers left.  Continuing left each of the players must play a card of the same suit as the one that lead the round or if they do not have a card of that suit they can play a card from the trump suit. If the player does not have a card of the current suit or a trump card, or chooses not to play the trump card, they can play any card from any suit.

If a trump card hasn't been played the card of the highest rank of the suit that led wins the trick. Cards are ranked as standard with aces being highest value.  If one player has thrown a trump card they win the trick. Even the lowest valued trump card wins over all the other suits.

If two or more players play trump cards the card of the highest value wins the trick.

Each player makes a pile of the tricks they have won and sets them off to the side. The winning player of each trick leads the next round.

Tip: Because trump cards are so valuable to winning tricks, players would be wise to use them sparingly and play them only when they are sure they can win a trick with them. This however does require them to pay attention to which cards have played.  Leading with a trump card is not recommended.

Blackout play continues until all the hands dealt and played.

Scoring the Game

In Blackout a running tally of the score is kept after each hand.  Players only win points when their bids matches the number of tricks they won. If they do not match exactly no points are awarded. A player is awarded 1 point for each trick taken plus 10 points. For example if the player bid 4 tricks and won 4 their points would be 4 for the tricks plus 10, equaling 14 points.

Bidding nullo is the exception to the scoring rule. Because winning no tricks becomes increasingly harder as more cards are dealt, a player that accurately places a bid of nullo and wins no tricks is awarded 5 points plus 1 point for each trick in played during that round. 

Winning the Game

The winner of Blackout is the player with the highest score after all the hands have been dealt and played.

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Did you know that the earliest board games discovered are more than 3,500 years old?