Scharwenzel: A Guide to Rules, Strategy & Winning Instructions


Scharwenzel, originating from Germany, is a trick-taking card game that requires a keen sense of strategy and a good understanding of the rules to get started. The game is played with 32 German or French-suited cards and requires at least 4 players.

The history of Scharwenzel dates back to the early 18th century, making it one of the oldest known card games in Germany. It has been described in various historical books and documents, indicating its popularity and widespread play during that era. The game is particularly associated with the region of Bavaria, where it was commonly played in local taverns and social gatherings.

During the 19th century, Scharwenzel started to spread outside Germany, reaching neighboring countries such as Austria and Switzerland. The game was often played in rural areas and small villages, where it became a popular pastime among local communities.

Despite its long history, Scharwenzel has remained relatively unknown outside of Germany and neighboring regions. The game has seen a decline in popularity over the years, largely due to the rise of more modern card games. However, it is still played by some traditional card game enthusiasts who appreciate its historical significance.

The game of Scharwenzel involves a high level of strategy and skill, as players must make careful decisions to win. The game is played in a series of rounds, with each player taking turns to play their cards. The objective is to score as many points as possible by winning tricks.

Although there is no definitive proof of where the name “Scharwenzel” comes from, some sources suggest that it may be derived from the German word “scharwenzeln”, which means to wiggle or squirm. This could be a reference to the strategic maneuvering and decision-making involved in the game.

Quick Tip for Scharwenzel

Remember, in Scharwenzel, the goal is not just to win tricks but to accurately predict how many you will win. Overestimating can be just as detrimental as underestimating!

Rules for playing Scharwenzel

  1. Each player is dealt 10 cards, with the remaining cards forming a stockpile.
  2. Players bid on how many tricks they think they can win.
  3. The player who bids the highest becomes the declarer and leads the first trick.
  4. Players must follow suit if possible. If not, they can play any card.
  5. The player who plays the highest card of the leading suit wins the trick and leads the next one.
  6. The game ends when all tricks have been played. Players score points based on their bids and the number of tricks they won.

The Deal for Scharwenzel

The dealer shuffles the deck and deals 10 cards to each player, starting with the player to their left and continuing clockwise. The remaining cards are placed face down in the center of the table to form the stockpile.

How to Play

  1. Setup: Players sit in a circle and the dealer distributes the cards.
  2. Gameplay: Players bid, play tricks, and score points.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when all tricks have been played. The player with the highest score wins.
  4. Scoring: Players score points based on their bids and the number of tricks they won.

How to Win at Scharwenzel

Winning at Scharwenzel card game requires a good balance of strategy, observation, and a bit of luck. It’s important to accurately predict the number of tricks you can win and to play your cards wisely to achieve your bid.

One of the most crucial aspects of winning in the game is strategy. This requires you to carefully plan your moves and think several steps ahead. You need to foresee potential outcomes and anticipate the moves of other players. Having a solid strategy also means being adaptable and flexible, as the dynamics of the game can change with every round.

Observation is another critical component for winning at Scharwenzel. You have to be vigilant and pay attention to the cards that have been played and the ones that are still in the game. By keeping track of the cards, you can make more informed decisions, enhance your strategic planning, and increase your chances of winning. Being observant also involves understanding the playing styles and tactics of your opponents, which can give you an edge in the game.

Moreover, Scharwenzel, like any other card game, also requires a bit of luck. Sometimes, despite having the best strategy and being observant, the cards may not fall in your favor. However, it’s crucial to remember that while luck can influence the outcome of a single game, over time, skill, strategy, and observation will prevail.

Lastly, the ability to accurately predict the number of tricks you can win is essential in Scharwenzel. This requires a deep understanding of the game, a keen awareness of the cards in play, and sharp intuition. Once you can predict your potential wins, you then have to play your cards wisely to fulfill your bid. This means making the best use of your cards, considering their strengths and weaknesses, and timing their play just right.

Best Strategy for playing Scharwenzel

One of the best strategies in Scharwenzel is to keep track of the cards that have been played. This can help you make more accurate bids and plan your moves more effectively. Also, try to get rid of your low cards early on, as they are less likely to win tricks.

1. Understanding the Game: The first strategy is to understand the game thoroughly. Scharwenzel is a four-player game where players form two partnerships, sitting opposite each other. The objective of the game is to score the highest number of points. Know the cards, their rankings, and how the scoring works.

2. Predicting Your Partner’s Moves: As Scharwenzel is a partnership game, keenly observing your partner’s moves and trying to predict their strategy can be beneficial.

3. Memorization: Remembering which cards have been played can be a great advantage. This can help you anticipate what cards other players might have left.

4. Bid Wisely: Bidding is an integral part of Scharwenzel. Make sure you bid wisely, taking into account the strength of your hand and your partner’s potential hand.

5. Communication with Partner: Although direct communication between partners isn’t allowed, there are several ways to indicate the strength of your hand through bids and plays. Learning to read these signals from your partner and send them yourself is a key strategy.

6. Play Defensively: If you don’t have a strong hand, playing defensively could be a good strategy. This involves trying to make your opponents use up their valuable cards while saving yours for later.

7. Prioritize High-Value Cards: Try to win tricks that contain high-value cards, as these are worth more points. If you have a strong hand, it might be worth trying to win as many tricks as possible to score points.

8. Use Trump Cards Wisely: Trump cards are the most powerful in the game, but they should be used strategically. Don’t waste them on tricks that you’re likely to win anyway.

9. Plan Ahead: Always think a few steps ahead. Try to predict the possible outcomes of each play and plan your moves accordingly.

10. Practice: Like any game, the more you play Scharwenzel, the better you’ll understand its complexities and nuances. Practice will help you develop your own strategies and improve your game.

Remember, while these strategies can help, Scharwenzel is a game of luck as well as skill. Sometimes, the cards may not fall in your favor, but that’s all part of the fun.


There are several variations of Scharwenzel, including versions where the number of cards dealt varies or where players can exchange cards with the stockpile. These variations can add an extra layer of strategy and unpredictability to the game.


There are many scenarios that can arise in Scharwenzel, from having a hand full of high cards to being stuck with low cards. In each case, the key is to adapt your strategy to your hand and to the flow of the game.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Scharwenzel game

What happens if two players bid the same amount? In this case, the player who bid first has priority.

Can I change my bid? No, once you’ve made your bid, you can’t change it.

What happens if I don’t win as many tricks as I bid? You lose points equal to your bid.

Can I play Scharwenzel with more than 5 players? While it’s possible, the game is best suited for 3 to 5 players.

What’s the best strategy for winning at Scharwenzel? The best strategy is to accurately predict your bids and play your cards wisely.

Scharwenzel likely translates as ‘Jack’ or ‘Knave’. Pronunciation & translation courtesy of Langenscheidt here