Hoyle's Games Modernized/Napoleon

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There are two or three versions of Napoleon, or "Nap." We will begin with

The Orthodox Game.

The old game of Napoleon consists simply of five cards being dealt out singly and in order to each of the party, and then the players declaring in their turn how many tricks they think they can make. The eldest hand—that is, the player to the dealer's left—has the first call, and every one after him can declare by increasing his call, up to the limit, "Nap," which is a declaration to take all the five tricks. Whoever makes the highest call has all the other players pitted against him, and leads out—that is to say, he puts a card face upwards on the table in front of him, the playing of that card determining the trump suit, as whatever suit is first led by the caller is trumps by virtue of the lead. The players then follow in order, it being imperative to follow suit if possible, but, except for this, any card may be played. There is no rule as to heading a trick or playing a trump after a trick, or indeed any restriction whatever beyond following the led suit if you can, under penalty of a revoke for trumping or discarding when holding a card of the suit called for. The highest card of the led suit takes the first trick, and the winner leads a card to the second trick, the cards played not being packed or gathered together, but being left face upwards in front of their owners. The winning card is alone turned down. The winner of the second trick leads to the third, and so on, the declaration succeeding or failing according as the caller makes or fails to make the number of tricks that he declared. It matters nothing whether he makes two or even three tricks more than he declared to make; he is only paid for the number that he originally announced, and even if he does not take a trick, he simply pays for the number he called.

It is a level-money transaction all round; that is to say, if a man calls three at "penny Nap," he receives 3d. from every other player if he makes the three tricks, and pays 3d. to every other player if he does not make three tricks. But if he calls Napoleon (five tricks) he receives 10d. if he wins, and only pays 5d. if he loses. We may say here that in most places where penny Nap is played, the 10d. and 5d. are raised to 1s. to win and 6d. to lose, on the plea of making it even money. The round being over and the stakes paid, the deal passes in the usual way to the person to the left of the last dealer, and so on.

This is the old simple form of Napoleon, and it is what most people understand by the game. It is without complication of any kind, and the skill it requires is of two sorts—first, to judge the value of a hand with due regard to the number of players and any calls that may have been made previously, and, next, how to play the hand—whether as caller or as one of the combination against the call—to the best advantage.

The Variations.

Here we may first note the call of "Wellington," which is a superior call to Napoleon, inasmuch as it supersedes the latter. As in the Nap call, the player undertakes to make the whole five tricks, but at double the Nap stakes. Thus, if the caller of Nap receives 1s. or pays 6d., on a Wellington he would receive 2s., or pay 1s. Wellington can only be called over Napoleon, that is, it cannot be declared unless "Nap" is declared before it.

Another innovation is an adaptation from Solo Whist, and is called "Misery." It is on the principle of the Misère, when, there being no trumps, the caller has to lose the whole five tricks, while his opponents, of course, endeavour to force him to take a trick. At some tables trumps, determined in the usual way by the initial lead, are recognised; but this feature is quite foreign to the original Misère. If trumps are recognised the caller should invariably lead a single suit—i.e. a suit consisting of one card only. This declaration ranks between the calls of three and four, and is paid for in the same way as a call of three is paid for; that is, at our stakes, to win would be to receive 3d. from each of the other players, and to lose would be to pay 3d. to each.

"Sir Garnet" consists of an excess hand of five cards, dealt in the usual way and left on the table. Until this extra hand is appropriated, each player, when it is his turn to call, has the privilege of taking it up and combining it with his own hand. From the ten cards thus in his possession he must reject five, which he throws away face downwards, and on the remaining five he is bound to declare "Nap." The stakes are the same as on an ordinary Nap call.

In "Peep Nap" one extra card only is dealt, face downwards on the table, and each player, on his turn to call, may at his option have a private peep at the card by paying one penny—or higher, according to the stakes—into the pool. When all the players have called, the superior declaring hand has the privilege, if he has "peeped," of exchanging the table card for one of his own. Nobody but the superior caller can exchange; nor, even if a player calls Nap, can he appropriate the peep card until the following hands have had the option of seeing it as above. In the event of a Nap call, it is as a rule to the advantage of the following players to peep also, as, if the caller uses the peep card, they have thereby a guide as to what suit to save.

"Purchase" or "Écarté" Nap, however, is unquestionably the most interesting form of Napoleon. After the dealer has dealt, and before anybody starts calling, the dealer goes round again in turn, and serves out fresh cards from the pack in exchange for as many cards as the players may wish to throw away from their original hands. For every fresh card so exchanged the player has to pay one penny (or more, according to the stakes) into the pool. He must not exchange cards more than once in each round, but he can then purchase any quantity up to five. The cards thrown away are not shown, nor used again till the next deal. The dealer must sell to each player in turn, and to himself last, after which the calls start from his left in the usual way. In view of the extra number of cards brought into the game, Purchase Nap should be confined to a table of not more than four players, and for the same reason the calls should be made on much stronger hands than at ordinary Nap.

The Pool.

Napoleon is better played without a pool, because then players call the strength of their hands and no more, and are not tempted into extravagance. There is, however, not much practical harm in playing with a small pool or "kitty." The simplest way to make up a pool is for every dealer to put in a penny. If this will not satisfy the players, there are two ways of making a pool mount up more rapidly. They are, that every dealer shall put in 3d. and every player 1d. every time, or that every player of a knave or a five of any other suit than trumps shall contribute 1d. to the pool. The pool remains and accumulates until somebody succeeds in the call of Napoleon—or Wellington, where that higher call is allowed. The player who calls Nap and fails, does not usually have to double or even increase the pool. At some tables, however, the caller of Nap who fails to make it has to pay into the pool the same amount as is already there. This point should be agreed upon before beginning the game. In Peep or Purchase Nap the pools are made by the payments for "peeping" and "purchasing" respectively, and other methods of contributing to the kitty are dispensed with. The successful caller of Napoleon always takes the pool.

The Game Explained for Novices.

Nap is played by any number of persons, from two to six, with a full pack of fifty-two cards, ranking as at Whist, ace highest and deuce lowest. The original deal is determined by turning up a card in front of each of the players, when the lowest turned up indicates the first dealer. The ace is in this case regarded as the lowest card.

When it is ascertained who is to deal, the player on his left shuffles the cards, and the dealer may shuffle them after him if he chooses. They are then cut by the player on the dealer's right, and the dealer distributes them face downwards, one by one, beginning of course to the left.

There is no turn-up, and the undealt cards must be placed in a heap face downwards in the middle of the table, and not touched until the round is over, except at Purchase Nap, when the dealer retains possession of the pack until the purchases have been effected.

Then follows the process of calling, which has been already described.

We have gone upon the principle of calling the stake a penny per trick, but of course it can be sixpence, or any other amount. It may, however, be observed that "Penny Purchase" is really as expensive as threepenny ordinary Nap.

There are some few points to be remembered.

A declaration once made stands, and cannot be recalled.

A player at Purchase Nap, having once bought fresh cards or refused to buy, cannot subsequently amend his decision.

Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the dealer must, in default of any higher call, make one trick, or pay 1d. each to the other players.

Any one who has trumped a suit, or renounced upon a suit before all the five tricks have been played out, and so made or defeated a declaration, must immediately show his remaining cards to prove that he has not revoked. So stringent is this rule, that if he should refuse to show them, he is held to have revoked, and a revoke entails the following penalties:—

On the revoke being discovered, the cards must be taken up and replayed properly—that is to say, players must follow suit, if they can; and always remember that a revoke is just as much a revoke if you throw away a card of another suit, holding a card of the suit led, as if you trumped under the same circumstances.

The hand having been replayed, the offender pays the stakes for himself and every one of the other players to the caller, if the call succeeds. If the call fails, he pays the stakes to every other player, except the caller.

A revoke proved against the caller himself entails the immediate penalty of the loss of the stakes; that is to say, if a man calls three and revokes, it matters not how many tricks he makes, he must pay (at penny Nap) 3d. to every one of his opponents.

If a card is exposed in the pack or in dealing, or if there is a mis-deal, or if the pack is shown to be faulty, or if the cards are dealt without being cut, there should be a fresh deal by the same player.

Any player can demand a fresh deal if any one of these faults is committed, but the demand must be made before the hands are looked at; otherwise the deal must stand.

After all the calls have been declared, should a player discover that he has too few or too many cards the game must be played out, and if the number in the superior caller's hand be correct he takes the stakes, if he succeeds in making his call good, but neither receives nor pays if he fails. Should the caller, however, hold a wrong number in his hand, he neither receives nor pays if he wins, but pays if he fails. When a Nap is declared, the game must be played out subject to the above rules, whether the other players have their correct number or not; but, failing a Nap call, the cards must be redealt should any irregularity be discovered before all the players have declared.

There is one rule at Napoleon that has fallen into disuse, and that relates to playing out of turn. It is so common for persons to play valueless or losing cards out of turn without remark, that many people forget that the fortunes of a hand may often be influenced by the premature exposure of the winning card or a trump. A person who, out of his turn, plays a card that obviously influences the game should be subjected to the same penalty as if he had revoked.

The Number of Players.

By far the best Nap table is made up of four players, because then dash and prudence must be pretty well equalised to play well. With three players great risks are commonly run, and with six, failures are so frequent that the game often gets tedious through a monotonous series of "two" calls.

There are so many better games for two players that we need say little about what is called Single Nap. It consists of a series of bluffing calls, experience soon teaching that it is safer to call three or four on a weak hand than to allow your adversary to take the lead.

"Three" Nap is very nearly a game of chance. Only fifteen cards, or practically one quarter of the pack, are in play, so that the chances are nearly three to one against any given card being out. Consequently great risks are run, and these risks are for the most part justified. A player should call Nap on any hand of one suit headed by an honour, however small the remaining cards; while he has a tolerable chance of making the same call upon any hand consisting of two suits, if he has four cards of the first suit headed by an honour, and an ace, king, or queen to fill up his hand. Where the hand consists of three or four suits, the cards that are not trumps should be aces or kings to make the call a prudent one.

Reverting to the game as played by four or five players, the novice may be advised to lead trumps against the caller when he only requires one more trick, and, as a general rule, to let trumps alone when the caller has more than one trick to make to establish his declaration.

In conclusion, remember that on an ordinary call your first discard should be from your shortest and weakest suit, and bear the fact in mind as you note the discards of other players. In a Misery, your original discard should be your highest card of your shortest suit—a single card for preference, unless it be a deuce or tray.[31]

27 ^  This is usually done by dealing a preliminary round, face upwards, the first knave turned up entitling the holder to the deal.
28 ^  As, for instance, where the player holds the seven and nine of trumps, the eight having been turned up; the seven and nine are then of equal value.
29 ^  Sometimes the preference is given to the elder hand, irrespective of the value of the cards.
30 ^  The words between brackets apply of course to three-card loo. Sometimes the dealer is allowed, after dealing one card to each player, to deal three together for a miss, but the practice is irregular.
At five-card Loo the Écarté method of dealing (first by threes, and then by twos, or vice versâ) is sometimes adopted.
31 ^  For an instructive series of illustrative hands at Napoleon, see the Book of Card and Table Games.