Written by Howard Fosdick © BestFreeNewGames.com
Overview: Yukon is an unusual trick-taking game that was played during the Klondike gold rush of 1898. It's tough to find rules for this quirky game, which seems to have all but died out. We include them here for both historical interest, and because it's certainly a fun game to try.
Players and Equipment: For two to five players. It works best for four playing as two partnerships.
Use a standard 52-card pack. Remove one 2 if three play, or two 2’s if five play.
Deal: Deal 5 cards to each player. Set the remainder face-down as the draw pile.
Card Rank: The four Jacks are called Yukons and are the highest ranking cards. The spade Jack ranks highest of all and is called the Grand Yukon.
Thus, card ranking is: Spade Jack - Other Jacks - A - K - Q - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2.
Play: Eldest leads the first trick. Others must follow suit if possible. If they cannot follow suit, they must play a Yukon if they have one. Otherwise they may play any card.
For example, if the lead is an Ace of hearts, everyone must play a heart if they have it. (For this purpose, the Jack of hearts is not considered an eligible heart, it is considered a Yukon.) If someone does not have a heart to play, then they must play a Yukon if they have one. If they have neither heart nor Yukon, they may play any card.
In the event that a player leads a Yukon, everyone must follow to the suit of the Yukon. If they can not, they must play a Yukon if they have one. Otherwise they may play any card.
For example, if the lead is the Jack of clubs (a Yukon), the other players must play a club if they have one. If they have no club, they must a play a Yukon. And if they have neither club nor a Yukon, they may then play any card.
A trick is won by the Grand Yukon if it is played. Otherwise a trick is won by any Yukon played (if two or more are played to the same trick, the first Yukon played wins the trick). If no Yukons are played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.
The winner of the trick now draws one card from the stock, followed by other players. He then leads the next trick.
When the draw pile is empty, players continue until all cards have been played to tricks.
Scoring: Scoring at the end of the end for cards won in tricks occurs as per this scoring chart--
|Grand Yukon (Jack of Spades)||15|
|Yukons (other Jacks)||10|
|all other cards||0|
Winning Game: The first player or partnership to accumulate 250 points or more across deals wins Game.
Recommended Rule: I recommend changing the above rules with one we’ve found useful -- no one can lead a trick with a Yukon. Otherwise, it is too easy to win tricks merely by leading a Yukon, since the only card that can beat a Yukon lead is the Grand Yukon (Jack of spades). It makes for a more interesting and challenging game if Yukon leads are forbidden.
Sources: These rules are based on the first card game book to contain Yukon rules, 50 Card Games for Children (original copyright 1933 by Vernon Quinn, and subsequently reprinted several times starting in 1946). The only other book containing Yukon rules that I’ve ever found is Oxford A-Z of Card Games by David Parlett. Another excellent resource is the card game website, Pagat.com.
It should be noted that these sources are not crystal clear on all rules. For example, some claim you can play a Yukon of the suit led even if you have other cards of that suit in your hand.