Sergeant Major is a great card game that can bring family and friends together during game night.
The game is played with three players, so if you have a larger group of people, I recommend playing in teams of three or taking turns to play each round.
This is a trick-taking game, where the main aim is to win more tricks than the target amount.
During this guide, I will lead you through the step-by-step instructions of the game, and break it down into sections, making it easy for you to explain the rules to your group, which I always find the most challenging part of starting any new game.
So, let’s look at how to play.
A Quick Overview
This is a three-player game. There will be payouts during the game; you should win at least twelve tricks by the end.
At the start of the game, decide what the stakes will be. These are what will be used for the payouts throughout the game.
What You’ll Need
To play Sergeant Major, all you will need is a standard deck of 52 playing cards, chips (or something you can bet as stakes instead of chips), and a large enough flat surface.
That’s all. You’re ready to play.
Preparing the Game
I think what some people find confusing when getting set up to play Sergeant Major is that it has two dealing stages, which are as follows.
To begin playing, select a dealer. This can be done randomly and changes to the person on the left each time a new game is played.
Each player needs to be dealt 16 cards. The person to the dealer’s right should shuffle and cut the deck. The four remaining cards from the deck now get placed face down in the center of the table. Now you’re ready to play.
After the cards have been dealt, the dealer must determine the trump. Once the dealer has announced the trump suit, they can discard four cards from their hand and replace them with the four cards from the center.
Ranking of The Cards
In Sergeant Major, Ace is a high card, before King, then Queen, and so on. Any cards of the trump suit will outperform any other cards played throughout the game.
Rules and General Gameplay
Firstly, the player sitting to the dealer’s left leads the first trick. After this, the aim is for each player to follow the lead suit wherever they can.
The person to win the trick is whoever plays the highest-ranking card of the trump suit. If no trump suit can be played, whoever has the highest ranking card is the winner. Whoever wins will lead the next trick.
Aim of the Game
The main objective of the game is to win a specific number of tricks.
There is a goal for the dealer to win eight tricks. The person to their left needs to win five tricks, and the player to the dealer’s right need to win three. If any player gets twelve tricks, they automatically win the game.
After each round, players will have either reached their trick goal or won more or less than needed. So when the round is over, an exchange then takes place. This is what we call being up or down.
This means that any player who is up can give a player who was down the same amount of cards as they were up.
In return, the down player needs to give that player their highest ranking card of the suit. If there were two up players, the one who’s up the most makes the first exchange, and the second can exchange afterward.
Paying Out and Stakes
Payouts are made at the end of each round. All players need to pay out stakes that amount to the number of tricks they are down. If a player is up at the end of the game, they should collect that amount of tricks.
Once all sixteen tricks have been played, it’s time to take the score. Again, any players who are up at the end will be on positive points, and down players will be on negative points.
The overall game comes to an end when someone reaches ten or more points. If multiple players have the same score, then you can determine the winner using the following rules:
- Whoever won the most recent trick, or
- Whoever won the most points in the final round
To Conclude, Sergeant Major Card Game
Sergeant Major is an excellent three-player game that can liven up any game night. However, it’s a game of tricks that relies on potluck.
As I mentioned, you can do this if more people at your party want to participate in the game. It just depends on how many people you have.
For instance, if there are six people, you can have two teams play different games, and the teams can compete to get the most overall points.
However, if there are four or five players, then you can always take it in turns. For instance, at the end of the game, the loser can be replaced by a waiting player.