Playing-card review 5: Tarock and Schafkopf

ASS Tarock pack back

Piatnik Tarock/Schafkopf back

ASS Tarock Schafkopf Club and Piatnik Schafkopf Tarock (no. 182211). These packs (ASS on left, Piatnik on right) have the same Bayerisches Bild pattern with 36 cards. The Bavarian pattern has suits of acorns (Eichel), leaves (Graß), hearts (Herz) and bells (Schellen). The face cards have a king and two officers, Ober and Unter. While the pictures in both packs are clearly renditions of the same pattern, the quality of the drawings is substantially different.

The pip cards look pretty much the same, there are some differences there but which one is better is very much a question of taste and almost arbitrary. However, the face cards and the decorative aces (or twos, actually) are done in different styles. Piatnik has a lot more detail, fine lines and softer colours, while ASS has stronger pictures that look almost crude when compared to those in the Piatnik pack. My personal opinion is clear: Piatnik is much better. Even in the pip cards, I prefer Piatnik’s colours, which are slightly deeper and less bright.

Both packs are excellent in production quality, though. The material is strong and durable. The cards are quite a bit taller than standard playing cards (10 cm or 4″ tall, compared to a more typical 8.5 cm) but only slightly wider than usual. Thus, the cards appear tall, which is actually quite nice. All cards have indices — both suit and number — and the tens also have a large “X” in the top middle. Despite indices, Obers and Unters also have the suit symbols in the right place (up in Obers, down in Unters). All cards are double-headed.

The highlights and identifying features of the pattern are the seated kings and the decorative twos or aces (despite having indices “A, the aces clearly have two suit symbols, betraying their origin as twos). The ace of acorns features a naked cherub sitting on a barrel hoisting a tankard, with plants that look like hops. The ace of bells has a dog fighting a boar. The ace of leaves has a decorative cup with roses and the ace of hearts has Amor with his arrow.

Like the name says, these cards are used for Tarock and Schafkopf. For Schafkopf, though, the players need to toss away the sixes, and according to Card Games, these days many use 24 cards, which would make 24-card Schnapsen pack more attractive for Schafkopf. Bavarian Tarock, however, uses all 36 cards, and is a rather fine game.

Top row is ASS, bottom row is Piatnik.

ASS Tarock pack ace ASS Tarock pack six ASS Tarock pack ten of leaves
Piatnik Tarock/Schafkopf ace of acorns Piatnik Tarock/Schafkopf king Piatnik Tarock/Schafkopf unter

Dal Negro Salzburger back

Dal Negro Salzburger 24/D. This is a related pack from Italy, the only Italian regional pack with German suits. It is also known as Salisburghesi or Einfachdeutsch. The pack is used in Northern Italy, in the German-speaking regions. The pack often has 36 cards: Ace, King, Ober, Unter, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6 in every suit, but this pack from Dal Negro has also fives to make 40 cards (according to Andy Pollett, this is a standard practise these days). Italian-speaking people in Alto Adige use this pack to play Tressette.

This pack also has a WELI card, that is, the six of bells has a large “WELI” text in the top, an acorn and a heart and a fountain in the bottom. This card is used in some Tyrolean games played with a 33-card pack (number cards 7-10 in every suit and WELI).

The pattern is not the same as in the Schafkopf / Tarock packs described above, but very close. The kings are also seated, and the twos (or the aces) have mostly the same pictures. However, these cards are single-ended (thus the name Einfachdeutsch; the Bavarian pattern is known as Doppeldeutsch in Austria, where this Salzburger pattern is also used). The court cards are rather beautiful, and the number cards have all sorts of little drawings (animals, hunting scenes, farm life) in the bottoms under the pips.

However, the double-ended cards are much better for playing games, which is the very reason why the Doppeldeutsche pack is double-ended these days. Add to that the lack of indices, and this pack becomes less attractive for games. The only way to tell Obers from Unters is to look at the location of the suit symbol in the card.

Thus, the pack is mostly interesting for art or authenticity — if you’re looking for a pack to play with, I would suggest one of the above Tarock packs.

Dal Negro Salzburger Ace of Acorns Dal Negro Salzburger king of hearts Dal Negro Salzburger WELI

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2 responses to “Playing-card review 5: Tarock and Schafkopf”

  1. I would like info on a card game from Germany. We played with Schafkopf tarock cards. All the rules I have found arent the way we played. Some card we had to pick up more. Some we missed our turn.
    Does any one know this game?

  2. Sure, tell me how the game is played (the description you give so far tells me nothing about the game), and I can dig around.