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WYSIWYG

Designer: Larry Levy
Players: 2
Equipment: Standard deck of cards.

WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym used in many computer applications that stands for "What you see is what you get". Since in this two player card game, the players get to see what cards they are playing for before they play to a trick, it's an appropriate title. WYSIWYG borrows some elements from a couple of old games called German Whist and Honeymoon Bridge, while adding in some new ideas of its own. It's a blend of old and new elements that's perfect for the computer age.

Description: WYSIWYG is a trick taking card game for two players. After each player is dealt 13 cards, a hand proceeds in four separate phases. First, each player evaluates their hand and announces the total. Then, a bidding session takes place to establish the hand's trump suit and objective. Next, the players play to tricks, with the winner of each trick replacing their card with their choice of one of two exposed cards and the loser receiving the other card. Each trick is worth one mark. This continues until the deck is depleted. Finally, the players play out the remainder of their cards to tricks, each of which is worth two marks. If the player who set the trump suit has earned marks at least equal to a goal based upon the two hand evaluations and his bid, he wins the hand. Play continues until one of the players scores 50 points.

Equipment:WYSIWYG is played with a normal deck of 52 cards. The cards in each suit rank from Ace high down to Two low. Pencil and paper will also be needed to keep score.

The Deal: One player is selected to be the dealer of the first hand. She deals 13 cards to each player and places the remaining cards between the two players.

Hand Evaluation: Each player now independently evaluates their hand. This procedure will give a rough estimate of how good each player's hand is. Since a player with a high hand evaluation must score more points in order to win the hand, this means the player who is dealt the better hand has to accomplish more in order to succeed.

Here's how to evaluate a hand. Each Ace in the hand counts 4 points; each King, 3 points; each Queen, 2 points; and each Jack, 1 point. Add up all the points for high cards in the hand. Then, add the length of the longest suit in the hand. This is the evaluation of that hand.

Here's an example of evaluating a hand:

  • Two Aces = 8 points
  • One King = 3 points
  • One Queen = 2 points
  • Two Jacks = 2 points
  • Five card suit (Hearts) = 5 points

Total = 20 points

(Incidentally, the method for determining high card points is the same one used by most bridge players to determine how good their hand is, so hopefully it will be familiar to some players.)

Each player must evaluate their own hand. They then announce their hand evaluations. They should not state how the total was reached, just what the final evaluation is.

A base score must then be determined for each player. This is done using the following procedure:

Begin by subtracting the lower hand evaluation from the higher hand evaluation. Then consult the table below and find the row that has the difference in evaluations in the first column. The figure in that row in the second column is the base score for the player with the higher evaluation; the figure in that row in the third column is the base score for the player with the lower evaluation. For example, if Amy's evaluation is 20 and Ben's evaluation is 12, checking the row with 8 (20 - 12) in the first column gives a base score of 16 for Amy and 4 for Ben.

(Incidentally, the procedure summarized in the table is to take 75% of the difference between evaluations, add the result to 10 to get the higher base score, and subtract the result from 10 to get the lower base score. Fractions in the base scores are rounded to the nearest integer, with halves always being rounded down.)

Difference Between Evaluations Higher Base Score Lower Base Score
0 10 10
1 11 9
2 11 8
3 12 8
4 13 7
5 14 6
6 14 5
7 15 5
8 16 4
9 17 3
10 17 2
11 18 2
12 19 1
13 20 0
14 20 -1
15 21 -1
16 22 -2
17 23 -3
18 23 -4
19 24 -4
20 25 -5
21 26 -6
22 26 -7
23 27 -7
24 or more 28 -8

Bidding: Once the hand evaluations have been declared, the players bid to name the trump suit. The player with the lower evaluation starts the bidding. If both hands have the same value, the dealer begins the bidding.

Bids are whole numbers equal to or greater than zero. Players alternate bids. If a player makes a numerical bid, it must be higher than his opponent's previous bid.

Here's the bidding procedure in detail. After the opening bidder makes a numerical bid, each player in his turn to bid has three options:

  1. He may make a higher numerical bid, which continues the auction.

  2. He may pass, which ends the auction.

  3. Or he may double, if he doesn't believe his opponent will be able to win the hand with her last bid.

After a player doubles, his opponent has two choices:

  1. She may pass, which means she will play the hand for doubled stakes.

  2. Or, if she is certain she can win the hand, she can redouble, and play the hand for quadrupled stakes. In either case, the bidding is over.

The last player to make a numerical bid is the declarer for the hand. The declarer must name one of the suits to be the trump suit for that hand. Rather than name a trump suit, the declarer can state that this will be a No Trump hand, and the hand will be played without a trump suit.

The player that opens the bidding may pass. In this case, her opponent automatically becomes declarer and must make one bid. A bid of zero is permissible, but he may not pass. The player that opened with a pass may respond by doubling the bid, in which case the usual procedure is followed.

Finally, the declarer adds the last numerical bid she made during the auction to her base score. This sum is called her goal. The declarer must meet her goal during the play of the hand in order to win the hand. The scorekeeper should jot down both the declarer’s goal and her base score.

Let's continue our example of the game between Amy and Ben. Amy makes a bid of 11. Since she has a base score of 16, she is saying she thinks she can meet a goal of 27 (16 + 11). (The meaning of goals is explained in the section "Scoring the Hand".) If Ben wants to continue bidding, he has to bid at least 12. He must consider whether he thinks he can meet a goal of 16 (4 + 12); if he thinks it unlikely, he may want to pass. He must also decide if Amy has bid too high herself; if the answer is yes, he may choose to double her rather than pass.

Play of the Hand: Once the trump suit has been named, the declarer exposes the top two cards of the deck. She then leads to the first trick.

The player leading to a trick may play any card in her hand. Her opponent also plays a card. He must play a card of the same suit as the led card if he can. If he cannot, he can play any card in his hand.

If the second player plays a card of the same suit as the led card, the higher of the two cards wins the trick. If, instead, the second player plays a card of the trump suit in response to a non-trump lead, then the second player wins the trick. Otherwise, the first player wins the trick.

During this phase of the game, the player who wins a trick takes one of the played cards and places it face down in front of her. The cards placed in front of her form her trick pile for the hand. She takes the other played card and places it face down, away from both players, in a common discard pile. (It doesn't matter which card she keeps and which she discards; the cards are only a counting device.) Finally, she takes one of the two exposed cards (her choice) and adds it to her hand. The player who lost the trick takes the other exposed card and adds it to his hand. The winner of the trick then exposes the next two cards from the deck and leads a card to the next trick. This process continues for 13 tricks, until the deck is exhausted.

The second half of the hand then begins. This proceeds exactly as the first half, except that the players do not replenish their hands. Moreover, when a player wins a trick, he takes both of the played cards and places them face down in front of him.

The reason for the different procedures when winning a trick in the two phases is that tricks won in the second half of the hand are worth twice as much as tricks won in the first half of the hand. The players are trying to maximize the total number of cards in their trick pile. Consequently, it's a good idea for each player to gather up cards in their trick pile in groups of five and place them crosswise, so that it's easier to see how many cards are in each pile.

The second half of the hand ends after 13 more tricks, when the players have played the last cards from their hands. The player who wins the last trick takes the two played cards as usual and then adds one of the cards from the discard pile to her trick pile. Now that 26 tricks have been played, the hand is over. The players are now ready to score the hand.

Scoring the Hand: The players now see if the declarer has made her bid. Each trick won by the declarer gives her a certain number of marks. Each trick won in the first half of the hand is worth 1 mark. Each trick won in the second half of the hand is worth 2 marks. In addition, winning the last trick of the hand is worth an additional mark (making the last trick worth a total of 3 marks). The declarer adds all these up to get her mark total for the hand. Note that the highest possible score for a hand is 40 marks (13 + (13 x 2) + 1). Note also that the declarer's mark total is equal to the number of cards in her trick pile.

The declarer's objective is to have a mark total at least equal to her goal. (Recall that the declarer's goal is equal to the sum of her base score and her bid.) If the declarer's mark total is at least equal to her goal, she wins the hand and scores points. If her mark total is less than her goal, her opponent scores points.

Here's an example. Suppose Amy, with a base score of 16, makes a winning bid of 11 and names Diamonds the trump suit. During the hand, she wins eight tricks during the first half and ten tricks during the second half, including the last trick. Her mark total is therefore 8 + (2 x 10) + 1 = 29. Since this is at least equal to her goal of 27 (16 + 11), Amy wins the hand.

If the declarer wins the hand, she subtracts her base score from her mark total and scores that many points. In the example given above, the declarer would score 13 points (29 - 16). Notice that a winning declarer must score at least as many points as her bid.

If the declarer loses the hand, her opponent scores 2 points if the declarer was one mark short of her goal; 5 points if the declarer was two marks short; 10 points if the declarer was three marks short; and five additional points for each additional mark the declarer was short by. If the declarer is at least two marks short of her goal, the formula for the points scored by the declarer's opponent is 5 x (Goal - Marks -1). So if a declarer with a base of 13 bids 11 and only gets 18 marks, she is 6 marks short of her goal and her opponent scores 25 points.

All these points are doubled if the hand was doubled and quadrupled if the hand was redoubled. This is true regardless of which player scores points.

Winning the Game: After the hand is scored, another hand is played. The player who did not deal the previous hand deals this hand. The game continues until one player’s total score reaches 50 points or more. That player wins the game.

- Larry Levy

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