Barbu is played with a deck of 52 cards, from 3 to 7 players, ideally 4.
The location and the epoch of its origins aren't well known, but one can consider it as being inheriting from hearts and especially bouillabaisse, from which it takes most of the base principles, extending them to make the game richer and more various.
The goal of the game is to totalize as few points as possible, generally by avoiding to take high-valued cards.
Each player has a list of contracts to realise. They can be chosen in any order, but all of them have to be played exactly once.
At the beginning of each round, the contract to play is chosen by the player who starts the first trick, in clockwise order.
Once all contracts of all players have been played, the winner is the player with the fewest number of points. Generally, the objective is to avoid taking the cards that are worth the most, except in certain particular contracts.
There are several game modes, difining the contracts to play with:
- Classic: in this mode, the contracts of the traditional game are used (see below for the list)
- Random: in this mode, contracts are drawn at random, but all players have the same list of contracts to play
- Individual random: in this mode, contracts are drawn at random and are different for each player
- Custom: in this mode, the table master choose him/herself which contracts to play with. All players have the same list.
Except in individual random mode, all players have the same list of contracts. A complete game consists of 3 to 8 contracts per player, giving a total of 12 to 32 rounds in a 4 player game.
To take the most from barbu and appreciate the richness of the game, you are advised to play with at least 5 or 6 contracts per player. Games with 3 or 4 contracts are quicker, but some of the key contracts are absent.
Classic mode contracts
The classic mode contains the following contracts:
- Mini: each trick is worth 5 points
- No heart: each heart is worth 5 points
- No queen: each queen is worth 15 points
- Barbu: the king of heart is worth 60 points
- Salad: the four contracts above are combined
- Salad bonus: same as the salad, but points are counted negative
- Trump: a trump suit is chosen, that will win over other suits. Each trick is worth 5 points.
One can see that the five first contracts are identical to those of bouillabaisse. However, in bouillabaisse, contracts are played only once for the whole game and always in order, while in barbu they are played once per player and in any order.
The list of all possible contracts is quite consequent, and this makes the whole salt of barbu in random and custom modes.
Each contract has a positive and a negative version. Points are counted in one or the other direction according to the variant chosen.
It is also possible to reverse card order. When card order is reversed, 2s become the strongest card, and aces the weakest ones.
Mini and maxi
Each trick is worth 5 points. Mini is the positive version in which one need to take as fewest tricks as possible, while maxi is the negative version where each trick removes 5 points.
This contract is equivalent to the first round of bouillabaisse.
With or no suit
Each card of a defined suit is worth 5 points. IN classic mode, there's the contract "no heart" for example, in which you need to avoid taking hearts. IN the negative version called "with suit", each card of the suit removes 5 points.
When this contract is active, it is forbidden to start a trick with the suit of the contract, unless having nothing else to play.
This contract is equivalent to the second round of bouillabaisse.
With or no card
The four cards of a given rank are worth 15 points each, for example queens in classic mode. Aces, kings, queens, jacks and 10 can be selected.
This contract is equivalent to the third round of bouillabaisse.
IN classic mode, the king of heart is worth 60 points. You can define the ace, king, queen, jack or 10 of any suit to be the barbu. The round is terminated as soon as the card has been played.
The negative version of this contract is called the barber. IF the suit of the barbu is the same as the one of the "no suit" contract, then it is forbidden to start a trick with that suit unless having no other option.
This contract is equivalent to the fourth round of bouillabaisse.
The salad combines the mini, no suit, no card and barbu contracts together at the same time.
The negative version is called salad bonus and similarely combines maxi, with suit, with card and barber simultaneously.
This contract is equivalent to the fifth and sixth rounds of bouillabaisse.
The player who choose this contract also choose a trump suit. That suit wins over all other suits. Each trick tan removes 5 points, hance the goal will be to take as most tricks as possible.
In classic mode, it is mandatory to cut and overcut when possible, like in french tarot or belote. IN custom mode, it is possible to disable this obligation, like in jass.
The equivalent negative contract is called misere.
Contracts on tricks
One mor more tricks ammong the two first and two last are worth points: once 60, twice 30, four times 15, 15 and then 45, or 45 and then 15, depending on the exact variant chosen.
The round is terminated as soon as all valued tricks have been played.
When slam is activated, if a player takes all the points present in the played contract, then the points are subtracted from his/her score instead of being added.
Be careful that it is also valable with negative contracts! For those, you will thus need to take as most as possible, but not everything.
Slam doesn't apply for barbu, trump, misere, and contracts on tricks. It is valable for mini, maxi, salad, as well as for card and suit contracts.
Barbu with 3, 5, 6 or 7 players
Ideally, barbu is best played with 4 players. The following changes allow to play with 3 to 7 players:
- With 3 players, the 2 of club is removed from the deck and each player is dealth 17 cards
- With 5 players, the 2 of club and diamond are removed and each player is dealth 10 cards
- With 6 players, 2s are removed and each player gets 8 cards
- With 7 players, 2 of club, diamond and spade are removed and each player is dealth 7 cards
ADditionally, with 6 and 7 players, contracts are modified so to better spread points across players. Barbu is worth 40 points instead of 60, cards of the "no card" contract are worth 10 points instead of 15, and tricks are worth 10, 20 and 30 points instead of 15, 30 and 45 in contracts on tricks.
Keyboard shortcuts summary
- C: indicate cards currently on the table
- 1-7: indicate cards currently on the table one by one
- D: in a menu listing contracts, obtain a description of the contract. IN the menu of your cards, obtain the value of the selected card in points.
- S: Show scores
- T: Tell who's turn it is
- R: remind selected rules and current contract
In the contract selection menu for custom mode, use the following keys to change the contracts to play:
- Space or enter: enable/disable the contract. If the contract is unchecked, it won't be played.
- Left/right arrow: change the variant of the contract, such as the suit or card affected by the contract
- I: activate/deactivate card order inversion
- N: toggle between the positive and negative version of the contract
- R: draw a new random set of contracts