In the full game of bridge a conversation—the auction—determines which suit, if any, should be trumps. Opposing partners will often have different ideas and the conversation may become competitive!
In Minibridge the auction is simpler. Each player examines their hand and evaluates it valuing honour cards only, counting 1 for each J, 2 for each Q, 3 for each K and one for each A. A bad hand might have none. The best possible hand would have 37 (4 Aces at 4 points each, 4 Kings at 3 points each, 4 Queens at 2 points each and a Jack). Realistically, hands are usually in the range of 3 to 20 points.
Starting with the dealer, players in turn announce their total of high card points. Together, they will total 40 as each of the 4 suits has ten points having one A, K, Q & J! The winners of this mini-auction are the partners with the highest combined points. If each side has 20 the cards are thrown in, shuffled and redealt.
The player in the auction-winning pair with the higher point count becomes declarer. His partner becomes dummy. If both have the same point count, the first to announce becomes declarer.
Once it is decided who is declarer, his partner—dummy—puts all his cards on the table with the suits arranged in columns. The columns face declarer in descending priority order. It is usual to arrange the columns alternating red and black.
Declarer examines his combined resources and decides which suit he wants for trumps or if he wants to play with no trumps. If he chooses a trump suit, dummy moves the corresponding column of cards to be the rightmost column (on the left as seen by declarer).
In the play, declarer and the defence—his opponents—can make use of the knowledge that they gained in the auction of the high card strength in the closed hands.
Tricks are made by force, by length or by trumping. By force: unless trumped, an ace of the lead suit wins the trick on which it is played. By length: unless trumped, the lead card will win a trick to which no-one can follow. By trumping: a trump, even a small one wins the trick beating any card of another suit no matter how grand (a higher trump always beats a lower one, as usual).
It will usually be best to choose for trumps a suit where declarer holds at least 8 cards in his hand and dummy’s combined. Declarer will usually to choose to play with “No Trumps” if neither hand has a short suit
Which Card to Play
In bridge, you will always know something about the cards in other people's hands. Sometimes, you'll know quite a lot. The auction tells you something about the suits lengths and high cards in other players' hands. But here in minibridge you have fewer clues. So, usually, try and establish your own longest suit or your partner's longest suit. Everyone has at least one suit with 4 or more cards! Why the longest suit? Because once the high cards have gone on earlier tricks, length cards win tricks when no-one else can follow suit. When the other twelve cards of the suit have gone, the 2 is a high card!
If you have several honours in a sequence (like KQJ or QJT) in your long suit, it's usually best to lead one of them. Otherwise, it's usually best to lead your fourth highest. Why the fourth? So that partner gets a clue how many you have. If you lead the 2: you only had 4. If you lead some other small card and your partner can see all the lower ones (because he holds them or they are in dummy), likewise he knows you only started with 4.
Usually, first and second hands play small cards. The third hand usually plays their highest card in the led suit. The fourth hand beats it as cheaply as possible or plays small.
Whoever won the previous trick plays the first card to the next trick. Often, it will be best to continue with partner's suit. But, especially if you have a longer suit and high cards to get in with, it may be correct to work on establishing your own. More later.
In bridge a conversation–the auction–establishes a target for the number of tricks one partnership promises to make. In minibridge, the conversation is shorter, but still declarer says if he plans to make game or just a part-score. The scoring (of which more later) provides an incentive to to contract for a game if it seems likely to make.
Having trumps makes an enormous difference to which card to play when leading and following suit. A player who can follow suit must still follow suit. But a player who can't follow suit now has to choose between discarding something useless (and so standing no chance of winning the trick) and trumping and being sure to win the trick unless a higher trump is played. Length cards will not make tricks on which someone plays a trump.