Release Date: 
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
PDF icon trumplestiltskin.pdf223.36 KB
Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Minimum Age: 


Make 200 or more points in bid. Do this by taking enough tricks to make your bid.
Alternately, you can force the Gnome to make 350 or more points (thereby ending the game) and you’ll win if you have more points than any other player.

Card Rank

The rank of a card determines its value relative to other cards in the same trick. The highest-ranked Trump card played on a trick takes the trick. If no Trump is played on a trick, the highest-ranking card of the suit led on a trick takes the trick.
(High to Low) – A,K,Q,J,10,9
Jokers have a rank one greater than the card underneath them.

Card Values

The value of a card determines how many points you get for it once you’ve taken it in a trick. These are the points that you’re tallying at the end of each hand. When you’re bidding, you’re trying to predict how many points you’ll take at the end of the hand.
A,K = 1 point each
Q,J,10,9 = 0 points each
Jokers = 2 points each
All cards in Trump are worth one point more than their normal value (making Jokers that are played as Trump worth 3 points).

Setting Up

Trumplestiltskin is played with a Pinochle deck, so you’d better have one.
You’ll also need paper and a pencil to keep track of score. Make one column for each player and one column for the Gnome.
Before the game begins, remove one 9 from each suit and both Jokers. These 6 cards are called the Blanket and are used at the beginning of each hand.
Shuffle the deck and deal the remaining cards to all players. You may look at your hand of cards and arrange them as you see fit.

The Bid

  • If you’re the Dealer, shuffle the Blanket and offer it to the player on your right, who must pick out one card from the Blanket and place it face-down in the middle of the table. This lone card is called the Gnome . The Gnome is not revealed to all players until bidding is finished.
  • The suit of the Gnome will determine the Trump suit for that hand. If the Gnome is a Red Joker, the player who takes the bid gets to make Diamonds or Hearts Trump. If the Gnome is the black Joker, the player who takes the bid may make Spades or Clubs Trump.
  • If you’re the Dealer, deal one card from the Blanket to each player. You must add the card you get to your hand. Set any cards left in the Blanket aside for the next hand.
  • Starting with the player on the Dealer’s left and proceeding clockwise, each player must bid or pass. When it’s your turn to bid, declare a number (the number of points that you think you can take in the coming hand) or say, “pass.” If you pass, you must refrain from bidding until the next hand begins. Each bid must be higher than any previous bids for that hand.
  • Before bidding or passing, you may look at the Gnome. If you look at the Gnome then you only score half of your points at the end of the hand, with the other half of the points going to the Gnome. See Tallying Points , below, for more details.
  • Once all players but one have passed, the player with the highest bid wins the bid for that hand and must turn the Gnome over for everyone to see. The suit of the Gnome is Trump for this hand. If the Gnome is a Joker, the player who took the bid must declare Trump as described above.
  • If you take the bid without looking at the Gnome, you score twice as many points if you make your bid.
  • Keep track of the top bid you made during this round. If you didn’t take the bid, you can not make more points on that hand than your bid, regardless of how many points you take. If you do not not bid at all, you can not make any points in the upcoming hand.


Play is very similar to Pinochle, without counting meld.

If you took the bid, begin the first trick by playing a card from your hand face-up on the table. Continuing clockwise, each player must play a card on the card led in accord with the following rules.

You do not have to lead Trump on the first trick of a hand, but Trump may be led if desired.

If possible, you must play a card of the same suit as the card that started the trick. This is called, “playing in suit.” If it is impossible to play in the suit that is led, then any card may be played.

If Trump is led on a trick, and you are capable of playing Trump, you must play a higher Trump card (overtrump) if possible.

If Trump is played “out of suit” (that is, is the suit led was not Trump, but another player has played Trump on the trick), you still need to play in suit if you can; if you can not play in suit, you must overtrump if you have Trump.

Jokers count as either suit of their color, and count as Trump if played as the correct suit. The suit of a Joker is declared when it is revealed, so you are never be “forced” to play a Joker in order to play in suit or to beat Trump.

  • If your Joker is the last red card left in your hand and a red suit is led, you must play your Red Joker in order to play in suit.
  • If Hearts are led, the next player Trumps them with Clubs, and you only have Spades and a black Joker, you may play the Joker and overtrump or you can play a Spade.

Once all players have played one card on a trick, the player who played the highest card within the suit lead on a trick takes the trick unless one or more players have played Trump. In this case, the player who played the highest Trump card takes the trick.

The player who takes the trick begins the next trick.

Tallying Points

Once all tricks have been taken in a hand, tally your points and compare that total to your highest bid.

  • If you did not take the bid, you may not make more points than your bid for that hand. Give any excess points to the Gnome. Note that if you took and made bid, you may count all the points that you took – even if the points taken exceed your bid.
  • If you took the bid and failed to make your bid, you must give all of the points you took this hand to the Gnome. You also lose points equal to the amount you bid.
  • If you looked at the Gnome before it was revealed to everyone, you must give half of the points you made to the Gnome. Remember that this applies even if you took the bid.
  • If you took the bid, looked at the Gnome, and failed to make your bid; the Gnome gains twice the number of points that you took in the hand. You also lose points equal to the amount you bid.
  • If the game is not over at the end of a hand, deal passes to the left and a new hand is set up.


Ending The Game

The game ends when:

  • A player has 200 or more points at the end of a hand or,
  • The Gnome has 350 or more points at the end of a hand.


The player with the most points at the end of the game wins unless the player who most recently took the bid has more than 200 points. If this is the case, then that player wins.

Origin and Credits

I had three goals when making up this game:

  1. Make a game that uses a Pinochle deck. Think about it: How many games use a Pinochle deck (other than Pinochle)? Not many.
  2. Make a game that has randomly-chosen Trump. I don’t know why I wanted this. I just did, that’s all.
  3. Reward risk-taking. All too often in a card game like Pinochle, I’ll play too conservatively and regret it, or I’ll risk it all and not feel adequately compensated for it (the gain fails to outweigh the risk). Trumplestiltskin is designed to punish conservative play and reward those who are willing to risk and those who are extremely lucky.

All in all, it’s just a card game. I’m not over-impressed with Trumplestiltskin, but if any of you have suggestions to make it better, I’d love to hear them! My favorite part of the game is the Blanket Gnome. That’s a big inside joke between a few friends and myself. About eight years ago I know this guy named “Rico”. I walked in on him one day when he was feeling especially weird; he was huddled in the corner of a dimly-lit room wrapped in a baby-blue blanket with just his head poking out. I looked at him quizzically and he turned to me. “I’m the blanket gnome!” he declared in an appropriately gnomish voice. I thought that this was hilarious , and I’ve “regressed to a blanket gnomish state” more than few times since then.