Bird Dog

Bird Dog is a thoughtful card game for three players with novel gameplay that accelerates features from established games within the canon of Spades, Hearts, and Euchre.  The game is played by acquiring pairs of face cards throughout each hand.  Individuals will play as part of a team and as a solo player at different moments throughout the game.  The solo player changes from hand to hand determined by the first to declare.  Bird Dog was created in collaboration in 2017.

A walkthrough of an open hand, best appreciated after reading through the overview below.

General Overview

Number of Players

Three players (can be adjusted to play with two, see below).

The Deck

Euchre deck: 9 through Ace.

Objective of the Game

Be the first player to earn 21 points.
How to earn points / Win a hand
Points are earned by winning pairs of face cards (Jack with Jack, Queen with Queen, King with King), either as the solo player or as part of the team.
 – The team’s score is the tally of each teammate’s pairs (it is not a combination of all of the cards the team has acquired).
 – Each face card can only be used once; e.g. three Jacks creates one pair, four Jacks creates two pairs.

Setting up the Hand

The Deal

The initial dealer is decided randomly, traditionally by flipping a single card in front of each player and the player with the highest card becomes the dealer.  From then on, the dealer rotates clockwise around the table.
Seven cards are dealt to each player clockwise around the table, leaving three cards un-dealt.  The top card of the remaining three is flipped face up.

Establishing the solo player / Determining trump

The player who establishes the trump will be the solo player for the hand.  Of the three remaining un-dealt cards, the top card is flipped face up.  The suit shown is the potential trump for the hand.  The player left of the dealer has the first option to establish trump, simply by declaring they will play solo.  If they do not wish to play solo they may pass and the option to establish trump/play solo moves clockwise around the table.  If all three players pass, the face up card is flipped face down, the next card is flipped face up, and again the player left of the dealer has the first option to establish trump.  If all three players again pass, the face up card is flipped face down, the last card of the pile of three is flipped face up and establishes the trump suit.  The player left of the dealer has the first option to play solo or again may pass.  If no player declares they will play solo, there are no teams for the round and each player tallies their own points (one per pair) with the winning player earning an extra point for winning the hand.
 – Cards that were not flipped (or were flipped face-down) remain face-down for the hand.  The card determining the trump suit remains visible throughout the hand.
Once a trump suit has been established, the trump determining card’s pair of the same color becomes the highest card for the hand.  For example, if the Nine of Hearts is the face-up card declaring trump, the Nine of Diamonds becomes the highest card for the hand.  While it is the highest card, it does not become a trump suit, rather it retains its suit and is treated as a Diamond. Traditional values hold for the rest of the deck.

Gameplay

Objective: Acquire Pairs of Face Cards

When a player wins a trick they acquire all of the cards within that trick (a la hearts) . If a face card (Jack, Queen, King only; Ace has no face) is acquired it is placed face-up in front of the player for the rest of the hand as reference (non-face cards are removed from view).  If a player acquires two of the same value face cards they are stacked with both visible to indicate a pair.
 – Those two cards may not be used in the creation of another pair, i.e. if a third face card of the same value is acquired, it is placed face-up separate of the existing pair.

The Lead

The player to the left of the dealer begins the hand.  They play a single card and may play whichever card they would like, including trump. Play proceeds around the table clockwise.  Each subsequent trick is led by the player who won the previous trick.

Follow Suit

A player must follow the suit led at the start of the trick.  If a player does not have any more cards of the lead suit, they may play whichever card they would like.
 – The highest card for the hand (the trump determining card’s pair of the same color) retains its suit.  For example, if the Nine of Hearts is the visible card declaring trump, the Nine of Diamonds is the highest card for the hand and is played as Diamond (i.e. must follow suit if a Diamond is led).

The Trick is taken

The trick is taken by the player who plays either: the highest card of the lead suit, or if a trump card was played, the highest trump card, or if the highest card of the hand was played, the highest card of the hand.  That player acquires all three cards that were in the trick, placing any face cards acquired face-up in front of them.  That player then leads for the next trick.

Completion of a Hand

A hand concludes once all of the cards held are played as part of a trick; seven tricks in all.

Winning a Hand

The winner of the hand is determined by who has acquired the greater number of pairs of face cards (Jack, Queen, King): the solo player versus the tally of team members. Team members may not combine separately acquired cards to create a pair (e.g. if team member A has acquired one queen and team member B has acquired one queen, they may not combine the two queens to create a pair).

Scoring

Each pair earned throughout the hand is worth one point.  The team members each earn their total tally from the hand.  For example, if the team earns two pairs, each team member receives two points for the hand.  If the solo player wins the hand, they earn a bonus point.  If the team wins the hand, or if there is a tie, no bonus point is awarded.

Going Nil

The player going nil’s objective is to win no tricks throughout the hand. If nil is successful, the player going nil earns three points and all other players earn no points. If nil is broken, i.e. the nilling player acquires one or more tricks, the player going nil loses three points and scoring becomes independent for each player. Each player earns one point for every pair they acquire, including the player going nil. The player who acquires the most pairs wins the hand and is awarded the bonus point.
A player may call nil when the option to declare is theirs, or after another player has declared but prior to the first card being played. Ample time must be allowed for a player to call nil prior to the first card being played.
Only one player may nil per hand. If both of the players who did not declare the trump would like to go nil, the player continuing clockwise around the table has preference.

Winning the Game

The first player to reach 21 points wins the game.  If two players reach 21 at the same time, another hand is played including all three players.  The player with the highest score after the hand is the winner.

Playing with Two Players

The majority of the set up and gameplay is very similar to the three player game.

The Deal:  The dealer is initially decided randomly and then alternates between the two players.  The deal should start with the opposing player then continue clockwise so that the third pile is to the right of the dealer.  This means the location of the third pile should flip back and forth depending on who is dealing.  As above, the deal should create three piles of 7 cards each, leaving three cards un-dealt to be used to determine trump.

The third pile, not belonging to either player, will henceforth be referred to as the Bird Dog.

Establishing the solo player / Determining trump remains unchanged.

Gameplay is altered to include the Bird Dog.

The player who establishes the trump becomes the solo player for the hand (unchanged).
The Bird Dog then becomes a part of the other player’s team.  The other player has control over the Bird Dog’s play throughout the hand.
The top three cards of the Bird Dog’s pile are flipped face-up for both players to see. These three cards act as the Bird Dog’s entire hand for the forthcoming trick.  Once the Bird Dog’s turn arrives, going clockwise around the table in traditional fashion, the Bird Dog’s teammate decides which of the three visible cards the Bird Dog will play.
The Bird Dog must follow suit in respect only to the three visible cards. For example, if Hearts are led, and the Bird Dog has no Hearts in the three visible cards, the Bird Dog acts as if it is void in Hearts and can play whatever it likes (decided by its teammate).
If the Bird Dog wins the trick, those cards are acquired by the Bird Dog in the same fashion as the three player game (including pairs), and the Bird Dog will lead the next trick.  After each trick the top card in the Bird Dog’s pile is flipped so there are again three cards face-up for both players to see. This continues until all of the Bird Dog’s cards have been played within a trick in traditional fashion.

Completion of a Hand is unchanged

Winning a Hand is unchanged in that the Bird Dog is always a part of the team

The winner of the hand is determined by who has acquired the greater number of pairs of face cards (Jack, Queen, King): the solo player versus the tally of team members.  Team members may not combine separately acquired cards to create a pair (e.g. if team member A has acquired one queen and team member B has acquired one queen, they may not combine the two queens to create a pair).

Scoring is altered in that the Bird Dog does not earn points.  Distribution of points is unchanged for the two players.

Going Nil

The player going nil’s objective is to win no tricks throughout the hand. If nil is successful, the player going nil earns three points and the other player earn no points. If nil is broken, i.e. the nilling player acquires one or more tricks, the player going nil loses three points and scoring becomes independent for each player. Each player earns one point for every pair they acquire, including the player going nil. The player who acquires the most pairs wins the hand and is awarded the bonus point.
In the two player version, the player not going nil controls the Bird Dog for the hand.

Winning the Game is unchanged: First player to 11 points wins.

References

Bird Dog has been recognized by Pagat as an Invented Game.

Check out our other novel game Alamo.  It is a combination of War and Texas Hold ’em

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