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Subject: Reflections on whether or not to use the Rook card rss

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The printed copy of the rules by Parker Bros says the following about the inclusion of the Rook: "The original game of Kentucky Discard did not include the use of the Rook Bird Card. However, this card has become so much a part of the game that its use is now prescribed for tournament play. It adds an exciting element of surprise and speeds up the game slightly as well. Decide before play if you will include it." So historically it would appear that the game was first played without the Rook, and it became popular at a later date in some of the variations of the game.

Should you play with the Rook or without the Rook? Its inclusion or absence can have quite an impact on the game, and so there are several other considerations that need to be taken into account. It is not just a matter of whether or not to include the Rook card! Here are some reflections on this question and others that are tied very closely to it:

1. With Rook or without Rook?

Since it is worth 20 points, the Rook is an extremely valuable card. If the Rook trumps some big point cards, it could win as many as 40 points, which is a third of the points in a 120 point game of Kentucky Discard (Tournament Rules). In my opinion this adds too much chance to the outcome of a hand, because unless you have the Rook yourself, it is a matter of chance whether the Rook ends up in your partner's hand or your opponents, meaning that as much of a third of the points is decided by luck. As the rules point out, this adds a surprise element and will be fun for some. But those looking for a more skilful game might find that this makes the game too dependent on luck, because it makes it difficult to bid effectively - the game depends too much on who has the Rook.

For this reason, I think that by excluding the Rook card, the Kentucky Discard (Original Rules) results in a slightly more strategic game than the Kentucky Discard (Tournament Rules). The Rook in a Book published by Winning Moves notes that the tips it gives on bidding, discarding, and play assume the Rook Bird Card is not in play - this also suggests that a more strategic form of the game is played without the Rook.

2. Three point cards (120 point hand) or four point cards per suit (200 point hand)?

To diminish the chance value of the Rook, perhaps it is better to include the Rook card only when playing the 1-High Partnership Variation where the 1 becomes the highest card in each suit, and is an additional counter worth 15 points. When a hand is around 200 points (with 20 points given to the partnership winning the majority of tricks) instead of 120 points, this means that the Rook is only 10% of the total points. The Rook is also the lowest trump in this variation. If the Rook is used, I'm inclined to favour this variation of the game, usually played with a kitty of one (although you could play with a kitty of five as well).

3. Some cards (5-14) or all cards (1-14)?

Given that with 1-High variation there are now four point cards (1, 14, 10, 5) in each colour instead of three, more non-point cards are needed to balance this out and allow for more skilful play. This is probably the reason why all cards (1-14) are usually used in this variation of the game, otherwise there will be too many point cards in play. On the other hand, if the 1-High variation is not being used, there are too few points cards in play to make it worthwhile to play with all cards (1-14), because the game will be longer and there will be too many tricks without any points.

4. Rook is high trump or low trump?

In the official rules of the 1-High Partnership Variation (similar to the "Hoyle/Princeton Rules" commonly used when played with regular playing cards), the Rook is also the lowest trump, which further reduces its impact, and makes for interesting strategy. Perhaps playing the Rook only works if there is a 200 point hand, and when using all cards (1-14). In this variant using it as highest trump should be possible, but perhaps there are also good reasons for playing it as the lowest trump instead.

Conclusion and recommendation

In short, my suggested ways of playing partnership Rook for those who want a strategic game:
1. Without Rook: Kentucky Discard (Original Rules)
use cards 5-14, nest of four, 9 cards/tricks, 100 point hand, 200 points wins.
2. With Rook: 1-High Partnership Variation
use cards 1-14, nest of one, 14 cards/tricks, 200 point hand, 500 points wins
(Rook = 20 and lowest trump, 1 = 15 points and highest in suit, 20 bonus points to winner of majority of tricks)

In the end, however, it is largely a matter of preference - those looking for a fun game and who enjoy the element of surprise and luck that results from the Rook card, will continue to best enjoy the Kentucky Discard (Tournament Rules) form of the game. Those looking for a more strategic game, will probably prefer the two variations I recommend in the previous paragraph.

For a more complete comparison of the different four-player partnership variants, see these threads:
http://bgg.cc/thread/185722 (Official Rules For Four-Player Partnership Rook)
http://bgg.cc/thread/185725 (Playing with regular playing cards)

Your feedback

I welcome some feedback on the above questions. How do you think that Rook is best played:
1. With Rook or without Rook?
2. Three point cards or four point cards (1 High = 15 points) per suit?
3. Some cards (5-14) or all cards (1-14)?
4. Rook is high trump or low trump?
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Jonathan Morton
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I've only ever played with the 1-High variation (I didn't even know it was a variation). I've heard of playing with the Rook high and I think that's a vastly inferior version, far too much luck tied to one card.

I've generally played without the 20-point bonus to the team taking the most tricks, making the hand worth 180 points. Another way I've played is with the 1s worth 20 points each, for 200 points per hand.

In short:
1. With rook
2. 4 point cards
3. All cards
4. Rook low trump

I prefer this game to any game I've played with standard playing cards. Both for 4 players as discussed in this article and with the Mystery Partner version for 5 players.
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j b Goodwin

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EndersGame wrote:
Your feedback

I welcome some feedback on the above questions. How do you think that Rook is best played:
1. With Rook or without Rook?

Gotta have the Rook! (Although I will leave it out if playing with a new player who feels it's "not fair" to use the bird)

EndersGame wrote:
2. Three point cards or four point cards (1 High = 15 points) per suit?

I prefer 3 scoring cards, but the 4 scoring card variations are fun every once in a while to change things up. The "Red 1" is also a great variation every now and then.

EndersGame wrote:
3. Some cards (5-14) or all cards (1-14)?

After trying the games without stripping the deck, I found that using the rules' prescribed numbers of cards tends to keep the play moving at a fast pace, so I tend to go along with the rules, although there is something that annoys me about stripping cards out of a deck (the stripped cards do not "age" and wear at the same rate as the unstripped cards--is that a bit OCD?).

EndersGame wrote:
4. Rook is high trump or low trump?

Rook is best a high trump, but playing it low trump is another good leveling mechanism.

As I said, I tend to be a bit old school about Rook. For example, I prefer the old unintelligent dummy two-player version to the open dummy hand played by the bid loser version now included with the basic Rook deck.

But the main point is, I'll play it however I need to, as long as I get to play it!
 
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Joe Atwood
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You have to throw out the bird if you are playing a serious game where card playing skill is involved.

3- point cards,
No Rook
120 points per hand
All Cards
play to 500

Great game where card playing and bidding skills are essential.

joe
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