Diplomat is a game that takes the core game play of Authors (Go Fish) and runs with it—rather than just asking if someone has a card or not, you may ask anything so long as it can be answered with a yes or a no! This makes for some very strategic play as the players try to whittle down the possibilities of cards in their opponents’ hands.
Diplomat is a simple enough game that pretty much anyone can learn it, but experienced players will generally do better at it. It can be played by three to six players.
Object of Diplomat
The object of Diplomat is to be the player to collect the most books (sets of four of a kind).
Diplomat is played with one standard 52-card deck. We’d like to diplomatically recommend that you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, one at a time, as far as it will go. Place any remaining cards face-up in the center of the table.
The player to the left of the dealer goes first. On their turn, if a player can form a book (four of a kind) from the cards in their hand and any cards that are face-up on the table, they may collect all four cards, reveal them to the other players, and then discard card them face-down in a pile in front of them. Books may be played at any time on the player’s turn.
The bulk of the player’s turn is spent questioning the other players as to the content of their hands. Any question that can be answered with either a “yes” or a “no” is admissible, though of course some questions are more likely to be useful than others. Each question must be directed at a specific player. Some sample questions:
- “Sunny, do you have any even spade number cards?”
- “Jack, do you have any hearts lower than 7?”
- “Tyler, do you have any one-eyed jacks?”
And so on. The named player must truthfully answer the question yes or no. (There is no bluffing in Diplomat!) If the question is answered “yes”, the active player may continue asking questions. If they receive a “no” answer, their turn is over immediately.
If a player suspects that they have identified a particular card in a player’s hand, they may ask them to lay it out, e.g. “Jen, can you lay out the jack of diamonds?” If the player has the card name, they lay it face-up in the center of the table, where it can be used by any player to complete books. If not, they simply say “No,” and the turn passes as usual.
Game play continues until all thirteen books have been assembled. The player with the most books is the winner.
Gong Zhu (拱猪), which roughly translates into English as Chase the Pig or Catch the Pig, is a Chinese trick-taking game for four players, similar to Hearts. The “pig”, of course, is the Q♠, which reprises her role in Hearts as the card to avoid at all costs; here, she’s worth a whopping –100 points!
Object of Gong Zhu
The object of Gong Zhu is to avoid being the first player to reach a score of –1000 points by avoiding capturing certain cards (chiefly hearts and the Q♠).
Gong Zhu is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We certainly recommend that you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper or a scorekeeping app on your smartphone.
Shuffle and deal the cards out one at a time until the entire deck has been dealt. Each player will have been dealt thirteen cards.
On the first hand of the game, the player with the 2♠ begins play by leading it to the first trick; in every other hand, the player that captured the Q♠ on the previous hand leads whatever card they desire. Each player to the left then plays a card. They must follow suit if they can; otherwise, they may play any card they wish. The trick is captured by whoever played the highest card of the suit led.
When a player wins a trick, they do not add the cards captured to their hand. Instead, they pull out any point-scoring cards (see below) and place them face up in front of them, then put the other cards face down in a discard pile in front of them. The player that won the last trick then leads to the next one.
Game play continues until thirteen tricks have been played, at which point the players have run out of cards. The hand ends at that point and is scored.
The only cards relevant for scoring in Gong Zhu and their point values are:
- Q♠ (the pig): –100
- A♥: –50
- K♥: –40
- Q♥: –30
- J♥: –20
- 10-5♥: –10 each
- 4♥, 3♥, 2♥: 0 each
- J♦ (the sheep or goat): +100
In addition, capturing the 10♣ doubles the net point value for the hand. So if a player captured the Q♠ and K-Q-8♥, their point score for the hand would be –180; if they captured those cards and the 10♣, their score would instead be –360. (Note, however, that the 10♣ can well be beneficial if the J♦ is captured alongside it. It can also be useful when shooting the moon; see below.) If the 10♣ is captured without any other point cards, it has a value of +50.
No other cards have any bearing on scoring.
Prior to the first trick, the players holding the A♥, Q♠ J♦, and 10♣ may elect to reveal these cards to the other players at the table. In so doing, the cards’ effects are effectively doubled:
- If the A♥ is exposed, the point values of all hearts (not just the ace) are doubled.
- If the Q♠ is exposed, its value becomes –200.
- If the J♦ is exposed, its value becomes +200.
- If the 10♣ is exposed, it quadruples the net point value for the hand.
Using the above example, if a player captured the Q♠ and K-Q-8♥, and the A♥ had been exposed, the player would score –260, because the –80 they scored for the hearts would be doubled to –160 (and the Q♠ would score –100 as normal).
If a player chooses to expose a card, it cannot be played on the first trick of that hand where that suit is led. This is to allow the other players an opportunity to get rid of cards that may force them to capture the exposed card. (If the exposed card is the only card of the suit led that the player holds, they must still play it in order to follow suit, as normal.)
Shooting the moon
Collecting all of the hearts (including the 4♥, 3♥, 2♥) is called shooting the moon. Instead of scoring –200 points, a player who does this instead scores +200. If the pig is captured in addition to all of the hearts, it scores +100 instead of –100, for a total hand score of +300. The J♦ and 10♣ continue to function as normal, as well, so if all the hearts are captured along with Q♠-J♦-10♣, one would score a whopping 800 points (200 for the hearts + 100 for the Q♠ + 100 for the J♦ = 400 × 2 for the 10♣). Multipliers for exposed cards are also applied when shooting the moon, leading to the possibility of four-digit positive scores.
Ending the game
The game ends when one player reaches a score of –1000 points. That player loses the game. (If you desire a winner be named rather than just a loser, the player with the highest score can be considered the winner.)
Bartok is a game in the Stops family which starts out very similar to Crazy Eights, but, as the game goes on, accumulates more and more rules with each hand! It is best for six players, but can be played by as few as two.
Object of Bartok
The object of Bartok is to be the first player to discard all of their cards.
Bartok is played with a standard 52-card deck. We heartily recommend you use a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards if one is available. (And if one isn’t, why not?) You may also wish to have a large piece of paper or even a dry-erase board handy to keep everyone informed as to the ever-growing rules of the game.
Rather than have a typical shuffle and deal, in Bartok, the cards are placed face down in the middle of the table and washed, the resulting pool forming the stock. Each player then draws seven cards from the stock. One player flips a random card from the stock face up. This card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.
Game play begins with whichever player that takes the initiative to make the first legal play. Then, either one of their neighbors, to the left or the right, may make a legal play. Thereafter, play continues in that direction (i.e. if the first player was followed by the player to their right, then play continues on to the right).
On the first hand, Bartok is played with a simple set of rules similar to many other Stops games. On their turn, a player may play any card that matches the upcard in either suit or rank. For example, if the upcard was the 7♣, any seven or any club may be played. This card is placed on the discard pile, then the next player then must match the new upcard. If a player cannot or does not wish to play any of the cards from their hand, they may pass and draw one card; this ends their turn, and play passes to the next player.
When a player is down to one card, they must immediately (i.e. right after they set down their next-to-last card) call out “Bartok” to alert the other players. Failure to do so incurs a penalty (see below). If a player manages to successfully get rid of their last card, they win the hand.
Making a new rule
Before each hand is dealt, the player who won the previous hand declares a new rule that will be in force for the remainder of the session. The only restriction is that the rule cannot single out any particular player, and a rule cannot repeal or replace any previous rule, in whole or in part. Some example rules might be:
- When a club is played, the next card played must be even.
- When a red card is played, the next card must be black.
- When a face card is played, the next player is skipped.
- When an ace is played, direction of play reverses.
- When playing an 8, the player must say “Eight ball, corner pocket”.
- 2s are wild.
- When a 4 is played, the next player draws four cards and skips their turn, unless they can also play a 4, in which case the next player after them draws eight cards, and so on.
If all other players but the one proposing the rule unanimously agree, the rule can be vetoed, and the same player must think of an acceptable one. After a rule has been in force for at least one turn, all players may decide to repeal it at the beginning of a hand by unanimous consent.
The existing rules may be kept track of by keeping them written down somewhere visible to all players. Some players prefer instead, however, to make each player remember all of the rules currently in force, so as to make penalties more common.
If a player is observed violating the rules of the game, they may be given a penalty of one card. Penalties may be declared by any player at any time. If multiple players notice the same violation, the penalty is considered to have been declared by the first player to mention it (i.e. a player cannot have the same violation charged against them by several players). If a player manages to skate by until the next person plays, with nobody noticing the violation, though, it is too late for the penalty to be assessed.
Note that if a player receives a penalty, they still have to play a proper card or draw on that turn. This means that it’s possible for a player to rack up multiple penalties on one turn.
Possible violations that might result in a penalty are:
- Failure to say “Bartok” when down to one card. May be declared at any time a player is noticed to have one card, although if they manage to play their last card, it’s too late for them to be penalized for it.
- Wrong card. Attempting to make an illegal play.
- Delay of game. How long before it is acceptable to call delay of game should be decided ahead of time. Some players require a play in no more than three seconds. Requiring play this quick, of course, helps encourage more wrong-card penalties. If a player still has yet to play after another delay penalty has elapsed, they may be penalized for it each time.
- Incorrect penalty call. A player who incorrectly declares a penalty on another player is themselves penalized.
Game play in Bartok continues until either all players mutually agree to end it or the accumulation of rules causes further play to become impossible.
Black Hole is a solitaire game that was invented by the British game expert David Parlett and first appeared in his 1979 book, The Penguin Book of Patience. It has a fairly simple premise, namely, moving cards of consecutive rank to the center of the layout. It is considerably easier to win than the similar Golf; a player can expect to win 86% of the time.
Object of Black Hole
The object of Black Hole is to move the entire deck to the foundation pile in the center of the layout.
Black Hole is played with one standard 52-card deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Remove the A♠ from the deck and place it in the center of the table, forming the foundation pile. Then shuffle and deal seventeen piles of three in a circle around the foundation. (Refer to the image for a sample layout). All of these piles, other than the foundation pile, are referred to as the tableau. Keep the tableau piles spread out slightly so that the indices of all three cards are visible.
There is only one valid move in the game, and that is to move cards from the tableau piles to the foundation. A card may be played to the foundation if it is one rank above or one rank below the top card of the foundation pile. For example, if top card of the foundation is a 5, a 4 or a 6 may be moved to it. Direction may be change at any time; one may play, for example, 6-5-4-3-4-5… The ace is considered consecutive to both the king and the 2.
The game continues until either all 52 cards are moved to the foundation (a win) or no more moves are possible (a loss).
Go Boom is a game in the Stops family that plays similarly to Crazy Eights. Unlike in that game, however, the rank of the cards played matters immensely—control of the game goes to the one who plays the highest card. Go Boom may be played by two to six players.
Object of Go Boom
The object of Go Boom is to be the first player to discard all your cards by matching cards played previously in rank and suit.
Go Boom uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. It should come as no surprise that we highly recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal seven cards to each player. The remainder of the deck is placed face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left leads any card. The next player to their left must then play a card of the same suit or the same rank. For example, if the card led is the 5♠, they must play any other 5 or any other spade. If a player is unable or unwilling to play a card, they draw from the stock until they are able to play. If the stock is depleted, their turn passes without playing a card.
Once all players have had the chance to play, the cards are examined to determine the highest played on that round. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. If multiple cards of the same rank tie for highest, the one that was played first is considered the high card. The cards are then moved to a discard pile, and the player who played the highest card gets to lead to the next round.
Game play continues until one player has discarded all of their cards. That player is the winner.
Rams is a trick-taking game for three to five players, related to Bourré and the English game Loo. The game’s main distinguishing feature is that, unlike most trick-taking games, you can choose to drop out of the hand rather than risk playing with a poor hand.
Object of Rams
The object of Rams is to accurately gauge whether your hand is likely or not to be a winner, and if so, to capture as many of the five tricks in the game as possible.
Rams is played with a stripped deck of only 32 cards. Starting from a standard 52-card pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s, leaving ace through 7 in each of the four suits.
Scoring in Rams is done with counters, so you will also need something to serve that purpose. Poker chips work well, but you can use practically anything, such as matchsticks, bottle caps, marbles, or whatever else is handy. If a betting game is desired, each counter may be purchased with and represent some arbitrary amount of real-world money, or may be simply left as a token with no value other than that which the game ascribes to it. Talk it over with your players and decide before playing. If the counters are not to represent a monetary value, distribute an equal number to each player.
Determine who is the first dealer by some means like a high-card draw. The first dealer antes five counters to the pot. Shuffle and deal five cards to each player, as well as to an extra face-down hand, which is called the widow. Turn the next undealt card face-up; the suit of this card fixes the trump suit. All other undealt cards are set aside and take no further part in game play.
Determining pass or play
The first order of business is for each player to establish whether or not they will be playing the hand they were dealt. First action goes to the player at the dealer’s left, who has the following options:
- Play. Electing to play means the player is accepting their hand as-is, and is committing to win at least one trick with it.
- Switch with the widow. The player may discard their hand and replace it with the widow. The player is not allowed to look at the widow before doing so, and upon making the switch is compelled to play with the new hand (i.e. they cannot pass). Only one player may do this per hand; a later player cannot discard their hand to take up the discarded hand of the player who took the widow.
- Pass. Sit out of the hand, and thus have no obligation to take any tricks. A player may only pass if the pot contains more than five counters.
- Declare Rams. A bid of Rams is a bid to take all five tricks. When this declaration is made, all players are obliged to play, whether or not they previously declared that they were passing. Bidding immediately ceases when a Rams bid is made, although subsequent players still have to option to claim the widow if it has not yet been taken.
In the event that all players pass except for the dealer, the player to the dealer’s right pays five units to the dealer and a new hand is dealt. If one other player stays in and all others pass, the dealer is not permitted to pass, but is entitled to discard any card and put the face-up trump card into their hand.
Play of the hand
The next active player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they must play a trump, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played to that trick, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.
A player must always play a card that will take the trick, if they have one, while also abiding by the rules of following suit. If a player can play the highest card so far of the suit led, they must, unless a played trump renders it moot, in which case they can play a lower card of the suit led. If a player cannot follow suit but can trump, they must, and they must play the highest trump so far if able.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a won-tricks pile in front of the player. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, it’s a good idea to make sure the tricks can be easily separated after the hand by placing each one onto the pile at right angles to the one before it. The player that won the trick leads to the next one.
End of hand
In a hand where someone declared Rams, play immediately ceases when someone other than the declarer takes a trick. At that point, the declarer must double the size of the pot (e.g. if it contained 30 chips, add 30 more chips to the pot) and pay each opponent five counters. If the declarer wins all five tricks, on the other hand, each of their opponents must pay them five counters, and they collect the entire pot.
For all other hands, the hand ends after all five tricks have been played. Each player takes one-fifth of the pot for each trick that they won. If a player chose to play but failed to take any tricks, they contribute five counters to the pot, to be played for during the next hand.
Commerce is a French game that was popular in the 19th century. It was the forerunner of Whiskey Poker and other games that play similarly to it, like Knock Poker and Paiute, but unlike those games, it uses three-card combinations rather than five-card poker hands.
Commerce is originally a gambling game, but like Whiskey Poker, it is easily adapted to non-gambling play, where players compete to win just for the sake of winning. It is best for three to ten players.
Object of Commerce
The object of Commerce is to end the hand with the best three-card combination.
Commerce is played with a standard 52-card deck. We highly recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, of course.
You will need to establish whether or not the game is being played with betting. If so, all players should agree to the value of one stake. Each player antes this amount to the pot.
Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Then, deal three cards, face up, to the center of the table.
Commerce does not use poker hands to determine who wins. Instead, the following three-card combinations are used to gauge the value of a hand, from highest to lowest:
- 1. Tricon
- Three of a kind (e.g. three jacks). Ties are broken by the rank of the tricon (aces are high).
- 2. Sequence
- Three cards of the same suit, in sequence (e.g. 9-8-7♣). Aces can count as high (in A-K-Q) or low (in 3-2-A). Ties are broken by the highest card of the sequence (3-2-A is considered a 3-high and thus the lowest possible sequence).
- 3. Flush
- Three cards of the same suit. Ties are broken by the flush’s point.
- 4. Pair
- Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card (the kicker). Ties are broken by the rank of the pair, then by the kicker.
- 5. Point
- Three unmatched cards. The hand with the highest point wins; if two hands have the same point, ties are broken by the rank of the highest card, then that of the second-highest, then the lowest.
If necessary, a hand’s point may be determined by adding up the value of all of the cards in the hand. Aces are worth eleven points, face cards are worth ten, and all others their face value.
Play of the hand
Before the dealer looks at their hand, they may discard one to three cards from their hand, unseen, in exchange for one to three of the three board cards. Their discarded cards are then turned face-up and serve as replacements for the cards drawn. This is entirely optional, and the dealer may decline to take any of the face-up cards, choosing instead to start the game with the (unknown) cards in their hand.
Game play proper begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player may swap one to three of the cards from their hand for the cards on the board. Each player may only swap three cards on the same turn once per hand (if the dealer switched out all three of their cards at the beginning of the hand, this is counted as their one three-card swap for the hand). Play then passes to the player on their left.
When a player is satisfied with their hand, they may knock on the table rather than take their turn as usual. Each other player then has one more turn to act. The hand ends when the player to the right of the first player has played. The hands are revealed, and the player with the highest hand wins. If playing for money, the winner takes the pot. (If two hands tie for best, the pot is split.)
Pepper is a trick-taking game similar to Euchre, played in Ohio and Iowa. Though it’s quite a bit simpler and easier to learn than Euchre, it still provides ample opportunity for the use of cunning strategy. Pepper is best as a four-player partnership game, though variants for two and three players exist.
Object of Pepper
The object of Pepper is to accurately predict the number of tricks that you will capture in a hand if allowed to select the trump suit, or to stop your opponents from capturing the number of tricks they need.
Pepper is played with a stripped 24-card deck. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 2s through 8s, leaving you with 9s through aces (six cards) in each of the four suits. You will also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works well.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player.
Rank of cards
Pepper uses an unusual ranking of cards, although it will be familiar to those who have played Euchre or Five Hundred. In non-trump suits, cards rank in the conventional order, i.e., from highest to lowest: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9.
In the trump suit, however, the cards rank differently. The jack of the trump suit is called the right bower, and the jack of the same color of the trump suit is called the left bower. (For example, if the trump suit were diamonds, the J♦ would be the right bower and the J♥ would be the left bower.) Both are considered part of the trump suit, ranking above all other cards in that suit. The complete rank of cards in the trump suit, then, is right bower (J), left bower, K, Q, 10, 9.
Each hand begins with the bid, where the players compete for the right to choose the trump suit. The available bids are the numbers one through five, signifying an intent for their partnership to collect one to five tricks respectively, and bids of little pepper and big pepper, which are both bids to collect all six tricks. A bid of big pepper, which is higher than little pepper, essentially doubles the potential risk or reward to the partnership.
Bidding starts with the player to the left of the dealer, who may make any of the bids described above, or pass. Each bid must be higher than the bids preceding it. Bidding continues until there are three consecutive passes. The high bid becomes the contract for that player’s partnership. The high bidder’s partnership becomes the declarers, and the opposing side the defenders. The high bidder may name any of the four suits as trump, or declare there will be no trump for that hand.
Play of the hand
The high bidder leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if able; if not, they may play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played to that trick, in which case the highest trump takes the trick.
Captured tricks are not added to the hand. Instead, all of the tricks a partnership takes are kept in a combined pile in front of one of the partners. To speed scoring at the end of the hand, it’s a good idea to keep the tricks separate somehow, like by turning each trick at right angles to the previous one before putting it on the pile.
After all six tricks have been played, the hand is scored. If the declarers made their contract (i.e. they captured the number of tricks bid or more), they score one point for each trick taken by the partnership. If they failed to make the contract, they lose six points, regardless of the amount of the contract. If the high bid was big pepper, the partnership scores twelve points for taking all six tricks and loses twelve if they did not. The defenders score one point for each trick taken.
Game play continues until one partnership scores 30 points or more. Whichever partnership has the higher score at that point is the winner. If the score is tied, the game ends as a draw.
Variants for two and three players
Pepper can also be played with two or three players without partnerships. In both cases, three eight-card hands are dealt; in the two-handed variant, one of these is discarded unused. Bids in this version go up to seven, with the pepper bids representing an intent to take all eight tricks.
Failure to make a contract results in the loss of eight points. A successful big pepper bid scores sixteen points, while an unsuccessful one sets the player back sixteen points.