Master the Zwicker Card Game: Unleash Strategy and Win More

Originating from the heart of North Germany, Zwickern or Zwicker is a fishing card game that's been captivating players since its rules first appeared in 1930. Played in Schleswig-Holstein, it's a game that's as old as it is entertaining, accommodating anywhere from two to eight players at a time.

Described as a simpler and jollier version of the Cassino card game, Zwicker is both exciting and easy to learn. Its unique feature that sets it apart from other fishing games is the use of up to six Joker cards. The legendary German author, Hans Fallada, who learned the game while in jail, famously called it a rather cunning farmer's game from Holstein.

Key Takeaways

  • Zwicker is a traditional German fishing card game that originates from North Germany and dates back to 1930. It's known for accommodating two to eight players and is unique for its use of up to six Joker cards.
  • The game goes by several names including Zwickern, Zwickeln, and Zwick, which can be confusing. However, Zwicker should not be confused with the Dutch game Zwikken or the Austrian game Zwicken.
  • Each card in Zwicker has a matching value that determines the possibility of capturing other cards.
  • Guided by a distinct scoring system, teams add up points of their accumulated cards coupled with points score through 'Zwicks', and these lead to the determination of the game's winner.

Playing the card game Zwickern
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Alternative Names for Zwickern

In understanding the game of Zwicker, it’s essential to know the several names associated with it. A somewhat curious fact is that most book sources and playing card manufacturer rule sets primarily use the term Zwickern, with only a few voices (like Mensing) considering the alternative nomenclature of Zwickeln. Moreover, a group of enthusiasts opts for the term Zwicker, thus providing the game with a wide range of names.

In the Zwicker community, it’s been observed that most players on the ground don’t refer to the game as Zwickern but rather call it Zwicker. This ground-level preference is also reflected in the market, where the card packs distributed for the game are often labeled Zwicker.

Intriguingly, the game also goes by the name Zwick, a term purported to arise from the game’s feature of ‘sweeping the table’. A variation of this name is Zwickel, adding further diversity to the game’s identity. An interesting note for the linguistics enthusiasts might be that the names ending in ‘n’ (Zwickern and Zwickeln) are verbal nouns. They represent the act of playing the Zwicker game.

However, one key aspect to remember is that Zwickern should not be confused with the similarly named Dutch game Zwikken or the Austrian game Zwicken. Both of these are in fact gambling, trick-taking games played with a three-card hand.


Born out of the diverse game heritage of Northern Germany in 1930, the Zwickern card game has etched its unique identity on the gaming landscape. It’s a game that has spread its wings beyond its humble roots in Schleswig-Holstein, by offering an enticing blend of challenge and enjoyment, comparable to the distinguished Cassino card game. Continuing its lineage of infusing simplicity with pleasure, Zwickern continues to intrigue its adopters.

The game notably introduced the intriguing concept of using up to six Joker cards, a unique characteristic that still marks it out from many of its contemporaries. It’s a feature that adds a rich layer of complexity to the overall gameplay, intensifying the level of engagement for enthusiasts. Not just that, but its popularity has also grown across regional boundaries, earning various titles such as Zwickeln, Zwicker, and Zwick.

Another aspect worth highlighting is the game’s association with famous German author Hans Fallada. Contrary to the usual setting, he learned the game during his imprisonment and fondly referred to it as a “cunning farmer’s game from Holstein.”

Yet, in this sea of gaming, it’s vital not to mistake Zwickern for the Dutch game Zwikken or the Austrian game Zwicken, for these are completely different games. They each have their unique rules, gameplay, and legacy that distinguish them from one another. The same applies to Zwickern, which stands tall with its unique features and history.

While its birthplace remains a small region in Germany, Zwickern has been successful in creating a significant imprint among global card game enthusiasts. Its fascinating history, unique features, and the recognition by noted personalities like Hans Fallada resonates among fans and will continue to contribute in sustaining its longevity in the world of card games.

The Players and Cards

The game of Zwickern encompasses distinct gameplay features characterized predominantly by the players and cards. Playing a card game such as Zwickern thrives on understanding the card matching values and houses crucial scoring values that contributing to winning the game. It’s essential to recognize the importance of these to master the game.

Matching Values

In Zwickern, each card has a matching value that determines the feasibility of capturing other cards. Ace, King, Queen, and Jack are unique as they have dual matching values.

The matching values are as follows:

CardMatching Value
Ace1 or 11
Jack2 or 12
Queen3 or 13
King4 or 14
Small Joker15
Middle Joker20
Large Joker25

The player decides the matching value of Ace, King, Queen, and Jack based on the cards they wish to capture or incorporate into a build. This option adds an extra layer of complexity to the gameplay.

Scoring Values

The scoring values in Zwickern contribute to determining the winner of a game. Each valuable card house a particular number of points.

For example, bearing a significant score of 7 points, the large Joker has the highest scoring value. The middle and small Jokers carry 6 and 5 points respectively.

The scoring values of the cards are:

ItemScoring Value
Large (25) Joker7 points
Middle (20) Joker6 points
Small (15) Joker5 points
Ten of Diamonds3 points
Ten of Spades1 point
Two of Spades1 point
Each Ace1 point
Majority of Cards3 points
Each Zwick1 point

There are 30 points to be scored from the cards in total, but each Zwick garners an additional point. Despite the scoring and matching values, an intriguing aspect of the game is the strategic maneuver of card placements and captures, which makes Zwickern as much a game of wit as it is of numbers.

The Deal and Play

Zwickern is a card game that encourages strategy and wit, with rules varying depending on the number of players. For games involving 4 or more participants, two packs of cards are used. The dealer shuffles and deals four cards to each player one by one, starting with the player on the left—the forehand card player. Four cards are then dealt face up on the table to form a layout or tableau, with the remaining undealt cards forming a stockpile placed face down to the side.

Playing a Card

The basic action during a player’s turn in a game of Zwickern involves playing a hand card to capture a card from the table. The necessity to match values between the hand card and the cards on the table forms an integral part of the game’s strategy. For instance, if a player has a king card (value 14) in his hand, he may use it to capture a 9 and a 5 on the table because their total value is also 14.

A helpful note in navigating the game is that a card in the game of Zwickern may have:

  • One matching value if it’s a number card or Ace
  • Two matching values if it’s a King, Queen, or Jack


When it comes to capturing cards, Zwickern allows its players to do more than simple one-on-one matchings. A player can employ his Great Queen to capture two other queens on the table, a striking strategy move indeed!

The game also allows multiple captures, adding a surprising tactical layer to it. And it’s not just a simple summation of cards’ value either. For instance, a Jack (value 12) can capture a 9 and a 3 on the table because they add up to 12, but it can’t capture a 6, 9, and 3, even though they also sum up to 18 like a Jack.


Clearing the table of cards is called Zwick. When this happens, the cards captured are placed face up as a single trick to keep a record. If there are cards left on the table after the last card play from the stockpile, the last team to capture them gets to take them home. But remember, it only counts as a Zwick if the last play validly captures all the table cards.


“Building” is another unique aspect of Zwickern gameplay. Here, a player can add to or even form a build using a hand card. But careful! The player must either have a card with that value in their hand or a previously declared build with that value by a partner. Multiple captures may be permitted, but players aren’t obligated to perform all possible captures.

End of the game; scoring

In the final phase of the Zwickern card game, each team evaluates and calculates the value of their accumulated cards or feats. This process involves a distinct system of assigning various weights to the game components. The resulting total is then combined to the team’s aggregate score.

Here’s the scoring system in the game; the Dithmarschen Zwicker with the three Jokers:

Card or featScoring value
Large Joker7 points
Middle Joker6 points
Small Joker5 points
♦ 103 points
Taking most cards3 points
♠ 101 point
♠ 21 point
Ace1 point
Each Zwick taken1 point

The awarding of points in this game does not end with the totals from captured cards. There’s a total of 30 points available per game, excluding Zwicks. Players can mutually agree on a target score, calculating the winner based on the team with the superior aggregate score from numerous hands in the session.

As the last hand of the game starts, it’s imperative for the players to understand the three stages of each hand. First, four cards are delivered to each player one by one, with three cards turned face up on the table, referred as the Picture or das Bild. The person sitting on the dealer’s left leads the first card with the others following in a clockwise fashion. The turn consists of exposing a single card from the hand to the table. This card could be laid down or used to capture other cards or establish a build. After these initial four turns, the dealer continues to distribute four more cards to each player. These are played in the same manner until all the cards are exhausted.

Crucially, in Zwickern, players must always be primed for both strategy and opportunity. It’s all about outwitting your opponent and making the most of the dynamic gameplay. Through these points accumulation and scoring tactics, the fascinating game of Zwickern truly starts to unfold its depth, always promising an unmatched card gaming experience.


Diving deeper into the world of card games, one cannot overlook the importance of Jokers. Unlike common cards, Jokers do not follow a standardized appearance across the cardmaking industry. Each company comes up with its own unique depiction of this important card. It’s fascinating to note how these renditions often mirror contemporary culture, deviating from conventional designs, and portraying Jokers as jesters or clowns.

Spicing up the game, usually, two Jokers are included in each deck, both expressing distinct aspects. Take the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC) for instance. They’ve chosen to print their warranty claims on just one of the two Jokers. Similarly, other publishers have tread their own path; applying creativity and trade secrets to distinguish their Jokers.

A striking feature is the color differentiation in Jokers as well. Quite often, Jokers are colored to match the hues of the suits; red for hearts and diamonds while black for clubs and spades. This aesthetic decision isn’t merely decorational, but holds value in games requiring comparison amongst Jokers.

Red JokerBlack Joker
Full-color/Large-graphicHigher rankLower rank
Monochrome/Small-graphicHigher rankLower rank

As it’s observed, if the Jokers share similar color schemes, red full-color or large graphic, Jokers usually hold a high standing compared to their black counterparts. Another intriguing factor is the absence of a guarantee on Jokers. When Jokers are similar in color, non-guaranteed ones outscore the guaranteed ones. Therefore, understanding these subtleties might give a leg up in outwitting opponents and leveraging the dynamic gameplay.

Zwicker with Jokers

Zwickern’s charm lies in its dynamic gameplay and the strategic depth it offers. The game’s unique scoring system, where points are awarded for feats and certain card values, adds an element of suspense. It’s a game where every card dealt and played matters, and where the clever use of Jokers can tip the scales in favor of the savvy player. The three-stage hand structure keeps players on their toes, making every round an exciting challenge. Whether you’re a seasoned card game enthusiast or a newcomer, Zwickern promises a thrilling card gaming experience, where strategy and opportunity go hand in hand. So, grab a deck of cards, gather your friends, and let the game of Zwickern begin. Remember, it’s not just about the cards you’re dealt, it’s about how you play them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Zwickern card game?

Zwickern is a unique card game that involves strategic gameplay and a distinct scoring system. The game unfolds in three stages per hand, with players collecting cards or achieving feats for points. Partnerships and strategy are key in this dynamic game.

What is the role of strategy in Zwickern?

Strategic play is absolutely essential in Zwickern. Players need to outwit their opponents, make certain plays, and leverage opportunities to maximize points. Understanding the value of certain cards and actions within the game can significantly improve the chances of winning.

What is the significance of the Joker in Zwickern?

Jokers play a crucial role in Zwickern gameplay. The appearance and color of Jokers can vary across different cardmaking companies, therefore understanding these nuances can provide a strategic advantage in the game.

How does scoring work in Zwickern?

The scoring in Zwickern is based on the value of collected cards and feats performed during the game. Points are awarded for capturing the most cards, taking Zwicks, and for the value of certain cards.

How is Zwickern gameplay structured?

Zwickern gameplay occurs in three stages per hand. They involve the dealing and playing of cards in a specific manner. It is during these stages that players get the opportunity to collect cards and perform feats for scoring points.