These rules were originally published in 1903 and revised in 1905 by A.J. Hodges.
The game Somerset has now been tested by the people a sufficient time to demonstrate not only that it has a right to live and enjoy popularity, but that for the purpose of social entertainment is has no equal.
Somerset requires only twenty-eight cards. In this respect the game is unique. Do not be misled by their appearance however, these figures have no reference to tiresome fractions or mathematical problems. The game will not weary you and unlike some games you will not grow disgusted after playing a few times. The more you play the better you will like it, and while you are amusing yourself in a delightful manner you will also be developing the powers of memory, observation and deduction, faculties of the utmost importance in a successful life.
Before setting forth the rules for play, it is well that you understand the plan on which the game is built. If you will spread out the cards on the table before you and pick out those on which you find a figure six, you will have 0⁄6, 1⁄6, 2⁄6, 3⁄6, 4⁄6, 5⁄6, 6⁄6. These seven cards consititute what is called a suit, i.e., cards of like name or kind - the six suit.
The five red cards are called counter cards because the side taking them in their play add to their score the number of points as indicated in the small circle on each; otherwise they are used in the game the same as the others. It is well to learn their location in each suit and which count two and which one point each.
Value of 0⁄0
The 0⁄0 is called a semi-trump, or joker, and no little skill is required to play it to the best advantage It has a value not hitherto used in any card game, i. e., that of making all the other doubles trumps with power to take any trick in which it appears, if none of the regular trumps are played, the highest double played takeing the trick. This value is given the doubles solely for the purpose of capturing the 0⁄0 and holds good for the one trick only in which the 0⁄0 is played. It makes no difference which one of the four players plays the 0⁄0, its value is the same. In tricks where neither doubles nor regular trumps are played the 0⁄0 takes the trick no matter which player puts it on. So, the trick in which the 0⁄0 is played goes to the one playing the highest double or trump, all other tricks are taken by the one playing the highest card of the suit led, or trump – notice the difference. 0⁄0, 3⁄3, 1⁄3, 4⁄4 goes to the 4⁄4, there being no trumps played, but 0⁄3, 3⁄3, 1⁄3, 4⁄4 goes to the 3⁄3. Sometimes a bidder desires to make 0⁄0 his regular trump, in this case it becomes a lone trump suit and the doubles have no power to take it.
Bidding for Trump
Having mastered this detail by careful reading we are then ready for a trial game. This requires four players. The persons sitting opposite are partners, work for each other’s interests and have a common score. After all the cards are dealt, one at a time, each player bids in turn for the privilege of naming “trump.” That is, says how many of the possible fourteen points he thinks he can make. The suit named “trump” becomes superior in value to the other suits, so that the lowest card of the trump suit will take any card in all other suits, and can only be taken by a higher card in its own suit.
The highest bidder names the suit he selects trump, and plays one of them, face up, to the center of the table. The play then passes to the left, each in turn playing a card of the same suit as the one led, if they hold one, if not, any card they choose. The person playing the card of highest value takes the four cards, which are called a trick, and places them face down on his corner of the table until the hands are played, when they are counted for score.
If the bidder fails to make as many points as he bid he is said to be “set” and the number bid is subtracted from his score, or set down as so much less than nothing until he makes it up.
The person taking the trick plays the first card of the next one. After the first round it is optional whether or not trumps are led, but whatever card is led requires each player to follow with one from the same suit if be hold any. THERE IS NO EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE.
A player who holds a card of the suit led and fails to play it is said to revoke, or renig. If discovered in time it should be exchanged, or a penalty of two points charged against the score.
The score is fourteen points in each deal, made by counting one for each trick and in addition the seven points on the red cards. Each side is credited with all the points made, unless they are set, and the side first making fifty win the game. If both sides go above fifty in the same deal, the side having the highest score is the winner, and in case of a tie another deal may be played to decide.
In bidding, zeal to win sometimes outweighs judgment and “Some are Set.”
A progressive game yields more pleasure to a company of friends than most any other form of amusement, and is easier for the hostess to provide. For this purpose Somerset is especially adapted. Containing so few cards, yet so many combinations calling forth mirth, your guests will depart with hearty wishes for a repetition of the pleasant occasion. No prize should be given, the honor of being the winner and the pleasure of the play should be sufficient.
When thoroughly familiar with the game, play duplicate Somerset. This requires sufficient sets to play an entire game without using the same cards twice. Instead of playing cards to the center of table the players place them on table in front of them in such manner that after the hand has been played it can placed to one side and at close of a game the hands played by one side can be passed to the other to be played in same order. The resulting game will determine whether or not the game was won by luck in holding good cards or by skill in playing the ones held. For the purpose of keeping the hands in order there are manufactured duplicate trays which are a great convenience, but with a little care on the part of the players they can be dispensed with. This game can easily be made the most scientific and interesting of them all.
A very fine game liked by some better than regular Somerset is played by drawing for trump as follows: After the cards are mixed up the player to the left of the dealer draws a card from the set, and the denomination drawn is made trump. The card is returned to the set, the cards again: mixed and dealt as for other games. The player to left of dealer begins the game by playing any card he chooses, and the play continues with the value of cards the same as in Somerset except that the counter cards are not used in counting the Score. The seven tricks only being counted at one point each for the side taking them.
A pleasant diversion from the regular rules, where three or four play, is to have competitive bidding, that is, allow the bid to pass around until no one will raise the bid. The first one making the highest bid names the trump and the game proceeds as under the regular rules.
For Two Players
For two players deal eight cards to each, one at a time, and place the remainder of the set face up on the table. Proceed with the game as before, the winner of each trick taking the top card of the reserve, and the other the next one, until all are drawn, when the hands are played out as in other games. The score will be 21 points in each deal, made by the 14 tricks of two cards each and the seven points on the counter cards. This fact should be noticed in bidding.
Played in this manner, with a close watch of the cards as they are drawn from the reserve, Somerset has few equals as a two-handed game.
For Three Players
When three persons are to play Somerset discard the 0⁄1 or the 0⁄0 and deal the remainder of the cards one at a time. Proceed with the play as with four players, only each player keeps a separate score and there will be 16 points in each deal, made by the nine tricks of three cards each and the seven points on the counter cards.
Etiquette of the Game
When a card is exposed in dealing there should be a new deal by the same dealer if the card is a counter or of higher value than a counter.
Players should not lift their cards from the table until the deal is completed.
When a trick has once been turned down it should not, again be examined by any of the players until the hands are played out, except to correct a revoke.
A player should not, in any manner, give any information as to the kind of a hand held, or seek by any hint to influence the other players in making their bids, or playing their hands.
A card should not be led until the previous trick has been turned down.
A player should not play until his turn. In leading a card a player should not say, “This is the high one,” “This is mine,” or other remark to aid partner in making his play.
A player should not ask “What is trump?” or “Have the trumps all been played?,” It is a part of the game to remember these things.
Download Single Somerset Rules
The following is a download of Single Somerset rules in PDF format.
Download Single Somerset rules (PDF).