Boston is an 18th-century trick-taking card game played throughout the Western world apart from Britain, forming an evolutionary link between Hombre and Solo Whist. Appropriately named after a key location in the American War of Independence, it was probably devised in France in the 1770s, combining the 52-card pack and logical ranking system of partnership Whist with a range of solo and alliance bids borrowed from Quadrille (card game). Other lines of descent and hybridization produced the games of Twenty-five, Preference and Skat.
History of the game
Two early forms of Boston, Le Whischt Bostonien and Le Mariland, are described in the Almanach des Jeux of 1783.
The object of the game is: a player pledges himself to perform a certain task, which we shall call an announcement. That player who makes the highest announcement, is entitled, if successful, to the contents of the pool, and a certain number of counters from each of the players.
The game of Boston, Boston De Fontainebleau or French Boston, whose appearance dates of around 1810, is played by four persons with a pack of 52 cards, which rank as at Whist. There are, moreover, four baskets or trays of different colors, one for each player, containing each five round counters, which represent one hundred each; twenty short counters which represent fifties, and twenty long counters, which represent fives. The deal is decided by cutting, and the player cutting the lowest card deals. The cards are not shuffled by the dealer, but each player has the privilege of cutting the pack once, the dealer last. The deal is performed by giving each player four cards twice around, and then five, thus giving thirteen cards to each. Each dealer deposits one short counter of fifty in the pool for the privilege of dealing.
After the preliminaries of cutting and dealing have been concluded, the eldest hand proceeds to make his announcement, or pass; the succeeding players have then, each in his turn, the opportunity of over bidding or passing. Thus, if the eldest hand thinks he can get five tricks with Clubs for trump, he announces, "five in Clubs". But if the second player undertakes to make five tricks with Diamonds for trump, he supersedes the first, and may in his turn be superseded by the third engaging to get six or seven Levees, or play Little Misere. The fourth hand, or dealer, may also supersede the third hand by announcing Picolissimo, or eight Levees, or any of the other chances lower down on the table. In short, whoever undertakes to do more than the other players has the preference. When a player has once declined announcing, he cannot afterwards do so in that hand; but if he makes an announcement, and it be exceeded by some other subsequent announcement, he may, in his regular turn, increase his first announcement if he chooses. If all pass without announcing, then the hand must be played, and he who takes the least number of tricks wins the pool. In this hand there is no trump. Any player whose announcement proves to be the highest can, if he pleases, call for a partner. The privilege of calling for a partner extends only to announcements number 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10; the other being bids to play solo.
The eldest hand leads first, and the hand is played and tricks taken in the same manner as at Whist, with the exception that partners play precisely in the order that they sit.
Honors in this game count the same as at Whist, but cannot be counted in as tricks bid, thus: if a player bids for eight tricks and only takes seven, he loses, even if he has four honors; but if he succeeds in taking eight tricks, then his four honors added would entitle him the payment of twelve tricks. If the player wins his announcement, he receives everything in the pool, and from each player the amount named in the table of payments, for instance: if he announces five Levees in Hearts, and makes two over, this would make seven, he would then receive thirty from each player; but if he had two by honors, that would make nine, and he would receive forty from each player; but if he had announced seven in Hearts, and made it, and had two by honors, then he would receive seventy from each player. In the same way, if he had announced seven in Hearts, and lost it by two tricks, this would be nine, and his two by honors would make it eleven lost, then he would pay into the pool eighty, and the same to each player. The adversaries merely play to make the announcer lose, and therefore cannot, even if successful, win the pool, which stands over to the next hand. The pool can only be taken by a successful announcer; or, in the event of all having passed without announcement, it becomes the prize of the player who takes the least number of tricks.
Laws of the game
Le Whisch Bostonien
The last card is turned up for trump and no other suit may be nominated. The lowest bid is a Demande, equivalent to Ask-Leave, to win five tricks solo. To this, any other player may call je soutiens (I support), thereby allying themselves with the bidder in a contract to win at least eight tricks between them. The higher bid of Independence offers to win at least eight tricks playing solo. In either way, there is an extra bonus for winning all thirteen tricks formerly called la vole, but now le chelem, from English "Slam".
All bids are solo, the lowest being to take four tricks in any suit. Each may be over-called by bidding higher number of tricks, or the same number in a better suit. For this purpose a better suit is that of Preference, previously determined by turning the last card of the deal, and best of all is Superpreference, which for the whole session remains the suit turned for Preference upon the first deal.
American Boston is a game for 4 players in two partnerships with 2 packs of 52 cards. The cards are never shuffled; one of the packs is dealt, and the other cut alternately to determine the trump, which governs the game. The dealer deals 5 cards to each player twice, and 3 the last time around. If the first player can make 5 tricks, he says: "I go Boston" and his competitors may overbid him by saying: "I go 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11,12, or 13", as the hand of each may warrant. Should either of them fail to make the number of tricks he bids for, he must pay to each competitor a forfeit regulated by a card of prices, which must he prepared beforehand.
Played as in Boston de Fontainebleau, except that a player who does not hold trump may declare "chicane" before play, and collect two chips from each of the other players. This variation differs slightly from Boston De Fontainebleau, with Diamonds, not Hearts as the preferred suit.
Boston de Nantes
An apparent compound of the original Boston and Mariland, which appeared around the turn of the 19th century. With two preferred suits: Belle for permanent and Petite for each deal, it also features the addition of the Jack ♦ known as the "carte de boston", or simply Boston, as a permanent top trump. It contains the bids of Proposal, which may be accepted by another player, and Solo, for playing alone.
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