Whenever people think of card games, the instinctive reaction is that they are games of chance and that no skill is required. While it might be true for games like Teen Patti, which are highly dependent on chance, games like Call Break require skills and finesse that put strategic games to shame.

As such, they can be an excellent way to teach kids about probability, cooperation/competition, inference, empathy, calculated risks, and presence of mind. As a matter of fact, families all over India and Nepal have used games like Call Break to teach and connect with their children for generations.

Here are some of the various dimensions of Call Break that possibly make it one of the most dynamic games. If you are unfamiliar with the game's rules, please check out this page first.

Balancing Risks with Benefits

Call Break Graphic Image Version 1. Artwork by Kaena

One of the critical elements of Call Break is the scoring which encourages calculated risks. If you bid too low and accrue extra points, you only get 0.1 points compared to the 1 point for each extra bid. However, if you bid too high and can't match it, you get a negative score in proportion to your bid.

As such, the capacity to balance risks and benefits is at the core of a successful Call Break player. People who are exceptionally skilled tweak their tolerance to risk based on:

  1. The bid of other players, especially the ones that are adjacent.
  2. How far ahead or behind they are in the game.
  3. And of course, the kind of cards they have, especially shield cards such as Jack, Tens, and Nines.
  4. The playing style of other players, especially the one that is upstream.

In addition to bidding, a risk-benefit analysis is also highly relevant throughout the game, especially when trying to minimize other players' scores.

Balancing Maximization with Minimization

While you are always looking to maximize your score, you are also constantly trying to minimize the score of other players. Moves such as holding aces and throwing shield cards to bring down kings and queens are important tricks skilled players use to one-up other players.

Cooperation and Competition

Call Break Version 2. Artwork by Kaena

Another exciting thing about Call Break is that while everyone seems to play independently, there are situations in which it is profitable to collaborate with other players. This is in contrast to Bridge, a close variant of Call Break in which opposite players are actually part of the same team.

Unlike Bridge, alliances in Call Break are highly situational and pop up under various situations such as:

  1. Players come together to corner the leader so she can't match the bid amount.
  2. Suppose a player has a limited number of hearts and another has a limited number of diamonds. In that case, it makes sense to help each other maximize the points collected by trumping those suits.

All-or-Nothing Vs. Little Wins

Unlike many games in which the winner takes all, Call Break is a game that encourages little wins. This is because the player that comes second usually pays a lower amount than the one who comes third or fourth.

As such, while winning has an element of luck and skill, the ones that can limit their losses by ranking second are the ones who actually accrue the winnings in the long term. Not unlike life!

Psychological and Probabilistic Inference

Call Break Version 3. Artwork by Kaena

Based on what cards have been played and what cards one is holding, good players are constantly reassessing the probability of card distribution. This helps them make informed decisions about what cards to play to maximize their score and minimize someone else's score.

In situations in which you have 6 trump cards and 6 clubs, chances are that you will be able to win even with the clubs after you finish everyone's trump cards.

In addition to the probabilistic inference, good players also think about the playing pattern of opposing players and infer why they played a particular card. Doing this helps them create countermeasures for those moves. For example, if you find that the player takes a lot of risks, chances are that the player will throw in a queen and hold the ace if they have a queen/ace pair.

Knowing the playing pattern of the player provides you with more data to gain an advantage over your opponents.

Memory

Needless to say, memorizing what cards have gone by is the data for inference and the players that can remember more make better decisions. Perhaps this can help old people with memory loss?

The Perfect Score Win

Call Break Version 4. Artwork by Kaena

All of the above are relevant only when the usual rules of the game apply and go topsy turvy when we introduce the perfect score win. In the perfect score win, the player that makes perfect bids on every round wins the game, regardless of the final score.

This suddenly introduces way more complicated heuristics. Your goal now is to get the bid perfectly right every time while other players scheme to maximize your score!

Rounds Vs. Game Perspective

Call Break Version 5. Artwork by Kaena

It is also essential to maximize your round in the game context. If bidding one is enough to win the game, there is no reason why you should be bidding more.

While the above is an extreme example, keeping the rounds' perspective in the game context is an essential skill that increases your chance of winning.

Bring all these factors together smoothly in a fun way.

However, the most essential point is not to obsess about these factors. At the end of the day, Call Break is just a game, and the point is to have good-hearted fun with your friends and families.

You will even pick up these skills faster if you have fun while doing it. :)


While we were writing this we can't help but wonder if computer programs or humans have an edge in Call Break.