Königrufen: Rules, Winning Strategy and Instruction Guide


Königrufen, a popular trick-taking game from Austria. I’ve always been fascinated by the rich tapestry of games that emerge and evolve as gaming communities spread and Königrufen is certainly one of those. Played with a 32-card German deck, Königrufen is a game of strategy and skill that can be enjoyed by 2 to 6 players.

Königrufen, translating to “Call the King,” is believed to have originated from Tarock, another popular card game, in the early 19th century. It has since become a staple in Austrian culture, played in pubs, homes, and even in official tournaments. An Austrian friend of mine said, in his household, it’s played every Easter (??). I don’t get it either, but he was certain and highly effusive about it.

The game is played with a 32-card German deck, which includes suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. Each suit has eight cards: the King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6. The game also includes four special cards referred to as the ‘honors’ or ‘tarocks’: the Sküs, the Mond, the Pagat and the King of Hearts.

The basic premise of Königrufen is simple yet requires strategic thinking. The aim is to win tricks containing valuable cards, and the player or team with the highest total points at the end of the game wins. However, the game’s complexity arises from the presence of ‘declarations’ or ‘contracts’ that players can make. These are essentially bets on certain outcomes that can significantly increase a player’s score if successful, but can also lead to heavy penalties if unsuccessful.

A unique feature of Königrufen is the ‘calling’ mechanism. At the beginning of each hand, the dealer’s partner is not determined by seating position, but by a ‘call’ made by the dealer. The dealer ‘calls’ one of the King cards, and the player holding that card becomes the dealer’s partner for that round. This introduces an element of uncertainty, as the dealer does not know who his partner is until that King is played.

The game is typically played in rounds and can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the number of players and the complexity of the contracts declared. While Königrufen can be enjoyed by two players, it is most commonly played with four players in teams of two.

Despite the complexity of the game, Königrufen is widely loved for its combination of strategy, skill, and luck. It’s a game where fortunes can change rapidly, and where a well-placed bet can turn a losing position into a winning one. It’s no wonder that Königrufen has remained a beloved pastime in Austria for centuries.

Quick Tip for Königrufen

Remember, in Königrufen, the trump suit is not always the highest. The game’s unique ranking system can often turn the tables in unexpected ways!

Rules for playing Königrufen

  1. The game is played with a 32-card German deck.
  2. Each player is dealt 8 cards in batches of 3-2-3.
  3. The player who bids the highest number of points becomes the declarer.
  4. The declarer then chooses the trump suit.
  5. The objective is to score points by taking tricks and fulfilling the contract.

The Deal for Königrufen

In Königrufen, the dealer shuffles the deck and deals 8 cards to each player in batches of 3-2-3. The remaining cards are placed in the center of the table to form the talon.

How to Play Königrufen

  1. Setup: The dealer shuffles the deck and deals 8 cards to each player.
  2. Gameplay: The player to the dealer’s left leads the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible. The player who played the highest card of the led suit or the highest trump wins the trick.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when all tricks have been played. The player or team with the highest score wins.
  4. Scoring: Points are scored for taking tricks and fulfilling the contract. The scoring system is quite complex, with different points awarded for different types of tricks and contracts.

How to Win at Königrufen

Winning at Königrufen requires a good understanding of the game’s unique ranking system and a strategic approach to bidding and playing tricks. It’s also important to keep track of which cards have been played and to make the most of the cards in your hand.

Unlike other card games where the ranking is fairly straightforward, Königrufen’s system is unique and multifaceted. Players must understand the hierarchy of cards and how they can be utilized efficiently during the game. Without a comprehensive understanding of these rankings, a player may struggle to strategize effectively and, thus, may not succeed in the game.

In addition to understanding the ranking system, a strategic approach to bidding and playing tricks is also crucial in Königrufen. Bidding in the game is not only about getting the highest bid but also about knowing when to bid and when not to. A well-planned bid can give you an upper hand in the game, while a poorly thought-out one can lead you to lose. Similarly, playing tricks is about more than just getting rid of your cards. You need to carefully plan when and how to play your cards to confuse your opponents and gain an advantage.

Moreover, keeping track of the cards that have been played is another significant aspect of winning at Königrufen. This game involves a lot of deduction and prediction based on the cards that have been played. By keeping a mental note of which cards have been used, you can make more informed decisions on your next move and potentially predict your opponents’ moves.

Lastly, making the most of the cards in your hand is another strategy that can lead to victory. Since each player gets a different set of cards, it’s important to assess your hand and devise a strategy that suits it best. Whether your hand comprises high-ranking cards or low-ranking ones, there’s always a way to turn the situation to your advantage. It’s all about careful planning and strategic play.

Best Strategies for playing Königrufen game

One of the best strategies in Königrufen is to bid aggressively, but not recklessly. It’s also important to play your cards in a way that maximizes their potential value. For example, it’s often a good idea to lead with a low card of a non-trump suit in order to draw out higher cards from your opponents.

Königrufen is a classic Austrian card game that is played with four players. Here are some of the best strategies to help you play the game effectively:

1. **Know the Rules**: Before you can create a strategy, you need to understand the rules of the game. Königrufen is quite complicated due to the various contracts, so it’s important to understand all of them.

2. **Remember the Cards**: Since there are only 54 cards in a deck, it is possible to remember which cards have been played and which are still in the game. This can help you plan your moves better.

3. **Cooperate with Your Partner**: In Königrufen, you play in teams of two. Communicating with your partner is key. Try to understand your partner’s game and adapt your strategy accordingly.

4. **Play Your Trumps Wisely**: Trumps are powerful cards in Königrufen. However, don’t rush to play them early in the game. Save them for the end when they can win you valuable points.

5. **Control the Game**: If you have high-value cards, use them to control the game early on. This can force your opponents to play their trumps or valuable cards prematurely.

6. **Understand Your Opponents**: Pay attention to the moves of your opponents. This can give you clues about their hands and their strategies.

7. **Bid Wisely**: Bidding is a vital part of the game and it’s important to bid wisely. Overbidding can lead to a loss while underbidding might not utilize your hand’s potential.

8. **Be Flexible**: Königrufen is a complex game and no strategy can guarantee a win. Be ready to adapt your strategy as the game progresses.

9. **Practice**: Lastly, practice is key. The more you play, the more you understand the game’s intricacies and develop strategies accordingly.

Game Variants

There are many variations of Königrufen, including versions for different numbers of players and versions with different scoring systems. Some variations also include additional rules, such as the option to exchange cards with the talon or the ability to declare a “Konig” (king) for extra points.


There are many different scenarios that can arise in a game of Königrufen, and the best strategy often depends on the specific situation. For example, if you have a strong hand but are low on trumps, it might be a good idea to bid low and try to win the game through careful play rather than through high-scoring contracts.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Königrufen game

What is the most important skill in Königrufen? Strategy and card counting are key skills in Königrufen.

How many players can play Königrufen? Königrufen can be played by 2 to 6 players.

What is the role of the declarer in Königrufen? The declarer is the player who bids the highest number of points and chooses the trump suit.

How are points scored in Königrufen? Points are scored for taking tricks and fulfilling the contract.

What is a “Konig” in Königrufen? A “Konig” is a king card that can be declared for extra points in some variations of the game.

There’s a well-reviewed Google Play (mobile) version of Konigrufen available to download, published by Bernd Nussbaumer who also makes Tarock mobile games. When I played this, I didn’t stumble on any in-app payments, so it seems like a totally free app. Leave a comment to update me if you find otherwise!