Introduction: Trick-taking and bidding

Nomination Whist is a fabulous trick-taking card game that’s a great introduction into bidding and contract games. While many more complicated bidding games involve contracts that you play out with a partner – like bridge – in Nomination Whist it’s every person for themselves. Nomination Whist is all about successfully predicting how many tricks you will take each round and it’s not only the trick taker that benefits. You are rewarded for matching your nominated bid, even if you predict you will get no tricks at all. As you gradually build up from a single-card round at the beginning to hands of seven at the half-way point, you are eased into bidding and can learn as you play. 


Trick: A set of four cards – one played by each player. 

Leading: The first person to lay a card in a trick is leading. Players take it in turns to lead the first trick in the round. Subsequent tricks are led by the player who won the previous trick.

Suit: There are four different suits – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades. Players are required to ‘follow suit’ by playing the same suit as the card led if possible.

Trump: Each round, there is a pre-defined trump suit. Rounds should rotate around the suits. When played, trumps beat all other suits to win the trick. If more than one trump is played, the highest trump wins the trick. 

How to play Nomination Whist

The scoresheet

First, you’ll need a scoresheet. I’ve created a scoresheet which can be used for games of up to 4 players. Download it here. If you prefer, you can draw out your own. You’ll need a row for each round and a column (split into four) for each player. While it looks complicated, it’s much easier to keep track if you have four columns for each player.

Nomination Whist has 17 rounds. It sounds like a lot, but some of them are very quick!  Each round has a set trump, (which is decided at the start of the game and written on the scoresheet) and a set number of tricks (also pre-determined and written on the scoresheet).

You may find it useful to put an asterisk next to the player whose turn it is to bid first on each round. Alternatively, you could have a token of some sort which you pass clockwise each round to indicate the starting player.

Game structure

Round 1, players only get 1 card each, as just a single trick will be played. In round 2, there will be 2 tricks. In round 3… 3 tricks. All the way up to and including round 7. Then there will be three special rounds (details below). The special rounds are followed by seven more rounds – this time decreasing in hand size – from 7 to 1. So in the final round (as in the first), just one trick will be played.

On each round

Each round is split into 3 phases.

Phase 1: Dealing.

  • Shuffle the deck.
  • Deal the correct number of cards to each player. In round 5 you will need 5 cards, for example.
  • Players may look at the cards they have been dealt, but they should keep them hidden from others.

Phase 2: Bidding

  • Beginning with the starting player (which rotates clockwise each round), each player nominates the number of tricks they will take on this round. These nominations are noted down in the first column for each player in the current round on the scoresheet.
  • The total number of tricks nominated MAY NOT add up to the same number of tricks in the round. Therefore, the last player to nominate in each round has a restriction placed upon them. They are not allowed to nominate a number of tricks that would make it possible for every player to achieve the number of tricks they have nominated. At least one player must always fail to achieve what they have nominated. This sometimes means that the last player to nominate is forced to make a bid that they don’t believe they will manage. For example, in the fourth round, four tricks will be played. The final player to nominate believes that they will not win any tricks, but the total nominated tricks of the other three players is 4… so this player is not permitted to nominate ‘zero’. They must nominate at least 1 – to make the total tricks nominated 5 and therefore impossible.

Phase 3: Playing

  • The starting player leads a card from their hand.
  • Proceeding clockwise – all other players must play a card, following suit if they are able to.
  • The player who has played the highest card in the suit led – or if a trump has been played, the player who has played the highest trump – takes the trick. The trick is put face down in front of this player.
  • The player who won the trick now leads the next trick with a card from their hand. Again, in clockwise order, other players each play a card – following suit where possible.
  • Continue until all the tricks have been played.

Phase 4: Scoring

  • On the scoresheet, the second, third and fourth column for each player are now filled in.
  • Second column: Write the number of tricks this player won during the round.
  • Third column: Write the player’s score for this round. Players receive 1 point per trick they won during the round and 5 points if they achieved their nominated number of tricks.
  • Fourth column: Add the player’s score for this round to the player’s previous total. This is the player’s current score for the game.

Special rounds

The three rounds in the middle of the game are special rounds. Players are dealt 7 cards each for all three of these special rounds.

No Trumps: In this round, there are no trumps. The highest card in the suit led will always win the trick.

Misère: There is no bidding phase in this round. Players aim to take as few tricks as possible. Each trick taken gives the player negative two points. This round can really change the overall scores!

Forced Bid: Write bids on pieces of paper, shuffle the papers and deal one to each player at random. Players are forced to bid the number on their paper, regardless of the cards they have in hand. Remember, the forced bids can’t add up to 7. In a 4-player game use 0, 1, 2, 3. In a 3-player game use 1, 2, 3.  Please note: My husband made up this round! I can’t actually remember what the third special round was when we played as children – nor can anyone else in my family. But Forced Bid is brilliant!


Final thoughts

This is such a fabulous game. There’s real tension as points can be quite close for the whole game. The misère round usually changes the scores significantly. 

I love the fact that you can get lots of points just by nominating what you’re going to take this round. You could win no tricks for the entire game, but if you say that’s what’s going to happen, then you’re still getting loads of points. 

It’s great training for trick taking games as it helps players to develop a sense of how strong their hand is and when to play cards to try to win or try to lose tricks. 

Are you looking for new games to play with the family? Check out the Dark Imp games – all designed for families. 

Video: How to Play Nomination Whist

I was clearly having a bad hair day!

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Other Great Family Games

Dark Imp Games

We specialise in creating original family games. You’ll find our Online Shop packed with options! If you love bidding games, try Top Cake – a card game in which you bid on layers of cake and then stack them on top of each other!

Card Games & More

In The Dark Imp Blog you’ll find all sorts of games you can play at home with regular playing cards or just with pen & paper. If you enjoyed the misère round in Nomination Whist,  try Black Mariah. It’s a trick-taking game where you’re aiming to score as few points as possible.