Ribs is an interesting mash-up of a trick-taking game for four to ten people. While most of the usual aspects of a trick-taking game are there, nearly all of them are modified in one unique way or another. Players bid to determine a target score to reach—at the beginning of every trick. Each person plays two cards to each trick. It’s not a given that a player will win the entire trick—very often, it’s a split decision, with one player winning some cards and losing others!
Object of Ribs
The object of Ribs is to capture the most point-scoring cards over the course of a hand.
The game is played with a deck that varies in size based on the number of people playing. Each suit extends from ace to 7 inclusive (6s and below are discarded). One full suit is included for each person playing. Since each suit contains eight cards, the deck will always have eight cards for each player. More than four players will require using multiple decks. It’s all right if some suits appear twice and others don’t. If you decide on the thematically appropriate choice of eating ribs while playing Ribs, we highly recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, since they’re washable.
Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player, exhausting the entire deck.
The cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. Although they are the highest ranked card, aces have no value for scoring. Face cards are worth two points each, and number cards are worth one point each. There is a total of ten points available per player on each hand. Suits are wholly irrelevant to the game—there is no requirement to follow suit.
Unlike most trick-taking games involving bidding, a new round of bidding occurs before each trick. On the first trick, bidding begins with the dealer. They must make an opening bid of at least two points. The next player to the left may either pass or raise the bid by one point (multiple-point raises are not allowed). Once a player has passed, they may not bid again for this trick. Bidding continues until all players but one have passed.
On the second and subsequent tricks, bidding begins with the high bidder from the previous trick rather than the dealer.
Play of the trick
The high bidder selects two cards from their hand and plays them face-down in front of them. These cards are called the ribs. The next player to the left then plays any two cards from their hand, face up. There is no need to follow suit or follow any other restriction in playing. This continues on around until every player has played two cards to the trick.
Once per hand, a player may fold by playing their cards face-down to the trick. These cards are not in contention for taking the trick, but cannot be won by any player. When everyone has played to the trick, folded cards are simply discarded to the discard pile without being revealed. Once a player has folded, they may not do so again for the rest of the hand.
After all players have contributed to the trick, the high bidder turns the ribs face up (this must always be done, even if the player knows they haven’t made the bid). They are then compared to all of the other face-up cards. If anyone played a pair of cards that matches the ribs exactly in rank, e.g. Q-7 against Q-7, they are said to have been cracked. The player who cracked the ribs immediately captures all of the face-up cards on the table, including the ribs, and places them in their captured-cards pile.
If nobody cracks the ribs, they are compared to each pair of cards in turn. The following rules are applied:
- If both of the cards on the table are higher than the ribs, those cards defeat the ribs. The person that played those two cards captures them.
- If the ribs match just one of the cards on the table, the ribs defeat the cards played. This applies even if the other card is higher than the ribs. For example, if the ribs are J-9 and the cards on the table are A-J, the ribs win, because the jacks match.
- If the ribs outrank both of the cards on the table, the ribs defeat the other cards played.
This continues, with the ribs being compared against each player’s cards in turn. When players defeat the ribs, they take their cards off the table and put them in their won-cards pile.
Eventually, the only thing left on the table will be the defeated cards. The value of these cards (not including the ribs) is totaled and compared to the high bid for the trick. If the points on the table are greater than or equal to the amount of the bid, the high bidder captures all of them and the ribs. If the total is less than the amount of the bid, then the ribs are discarded, each of the high bidder’s opponents capture their own cards, and the high bidder captures nothing. Bidding then begins for the next trick.
Scoring and ending the game
After four tricks, each player will have played all eight of their cards. Each player then totals the values of the cards in their won-cards pile. Whoever has the highest score wins the hand.
The deal passes to the left, and the next hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player wins an agreed-upon number of hands (such as five). That player wins the entire game.
Mighty is a trick-taking game for five players. While not strictly a partnership game, the player that wins the bidding round has the option of selecting a partner. Unusually, though, which player is the partner remains unknown to everyone but the person selected—even the player that selected them!
Mighty originates from South Korea, having been invented there by college students in the 1970s. It is still mostly played there, especially by students, but it has spread to other countries as well.
Object of Mighty
The object of Mighty is to score points by capturing tricks containing 10s and higher.
Mighty uses a standard 52-card deck to which one joker has been added. We highly recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. This is partly because we sell them, but mostly because they have a cool dragon on one of the jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with. You can use pencil and paper or chips (which may or may not represent real money) for that.
Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player, then a three-card widow. Traditionally, this is done by dealing one card to each player, then a batch of two cards to each player, then a batch of three, then a batch of four. The three remaining cards become the widow.
In Mighty, the cards mostly rank in their usual order, with aces high. The only cards worth any points are the aces, kings, queens, jacks, and 10s. This means there are 20 points available in any given hand.
Additionally, three cards have special powers:
- The mighty—The A♠, unless spades are trump, in which case the A♦ is the mighty. The mighty always takes the trick.
- The joker—The second-highest card. It can only be beaten by the mighty, unless the ripper is played.
- The ripper—The 3♣, unless clubs are trump, in which case the 3♠ is the ripper. If the ripper is led, if any other player holds the joker, they must play it to that trick. The joker then has no value and cannot win the trick.
Bidding starts with the dealer on the first hand. A bid consists of a target number of points and either a suit or “no trump”. A no trump bid is considered higher than a trump bid, but the suits have no relative value to one another. A player may also pass, but is out of the bidding for this hand.
After the dealer has bid, the next player to their left bids higher or passes. This continues for as many rounds as it takes until all the players but one have passed. That player becomes the declarer, and their bid becomes their contract.
By winning the bid, the declarer has the right to exchange cards with the widow. They take the three widow cards into their hand, then discard three cards from their hand face down. Any point cards discarded to the widow will count for the declarer at the end of the hand.
After exchanging cards, the declarer announces the trump suit. By default, this will be the suit stated in their bid. If they wish to change the trump suit from this (usually due to an unexpected find in the widow), they may do so, but this will increase their contract by two points. If a player changes from a no trump to a suited contract, this will also increase the contract by two points. Going from a suited contract to a no trump contract only increases the contract by one point.
A player may not increase their contract without changing suits.
Calling a partner
Before actual play begins, the declarer may announce any of the 53 cards in the deck. The player holding this card becomes the declarer’s partner. This player will share in one third of the declarer’s win or loss for the hand. The partner does not reveal themselves at this time.
If the declarer wishes to play without a partner, they may simply declare “No partner”. More deviously, they may name a card in their own hand, or even more sneakily, in the discards.
If a player bid 20 no trump, the maximum possible bid, they may also state a suit that it would be helpful for their partner to lead.
Play of the hand
The declarer leads to the first trick. Neither the mighty nor the joker can be led to the first trick, but they can be led to subsequent tricks. Each player in turn must play a card to the trick, following suit if able; if they cannot, they may play any card. The trick is won by the player who played the highest-ranked card, in the following order: the mighty, followed by the joker, then the highest trump played, and finally the highest card played of the suit led.
The cards in the trick are not added to the player’s hand. Instead, any point cards won by the defenders are placed face up in front of the player that won them. All other cards (non-scoring cards, point cards won by the declarer) are placed face down in a discard pile in front of the declarer.
The mighty can always be played (except as a lead to the first trick), whether or not it would be considered following suit. When led to a trick, other players still have to play whichever suit the mighty belongs to. If the mighty is the only card you have in its suit and that suit is led, you have to play it in order to follow suit.
The joker cannot be led to either the first or last tricks. On the second through ninth tricks, it can be led, and the person playing it declares which suit everyone else has to play in order to follow suit.
The identity of the declarer’s partner remains secret until one of two things happens. When they play the card that was called, this obviously reveals who the partner is. Also, when the partner wins a trick that contains a scoring card, they may reveal themselves as the partner (but are not compelled to). When the partner’s identity becomes known, any cards in front of them are added to the declarer’s discard pile.
The hand ends when all ten tricks have been played (and every player is therefore out of cards). The point cards won by the defender are counted. This total is then subtracted from 20 to determine the number of points won by the declarer and their partner. If this number is greater than or equal to the contract, the declarer has successfully made their contract.
In Mighty, whenever a score is recorded for the declarer, an equal but opposite amount is scored to the defenders to balance it. The total of all scores recorded on a hand must equal zero, as described below.
If the contract was fulfilled, the defenders each lose one point for each point bid beyond twelve. The declarer scores two points, and the partner scores one point, for each point bid beyond twelve. For example, with a made contract of seventeen points, there are five points bid beyond twelve. The declarer scores 5 × 2 = 10 points. The declarer’s partner scores 5 points. Each defender scores −5. The three defenders scored −15 between the three of them, and the declarer and their partner scored 15 between the two of them, so the scores balance.
If the contract was not fulfilled, it is scored the same way, except the declarers lose points and the defenders gain them. For a broken contract of fourteen points, the defenders would each score two points. The declarer would lose four points and their partner two. The scores balance (2 + 2 + 2 = 4 + 2).
If the declarer played without a partner, the declarer scores double, scoring or losing four points for each point bid above twelve. This works out, of course, because with no partner there are four defenders instead of three, so the scores still balance.
A special scoring rule applies if either side collects a large number of points. If the declarer captures all 20 point-scoring cards, it is called a run. If the defenders capture eleven or more point cards, this is a back run. Should either of these happen, all point scores for the hand are doubled.
After the hand is scored, the deal passes to the declarer’s partner. On every hand other than the first, the declarer of the previous hand gets the first bid. Game play continues until any predetermined stopping point (such as a certain time or number of hands played).
Paks is a game in the same fishing family as Cassino. Unlike many of the other games in that family, however, Paks can support up to six players. Two or three players play as individuals, while four or six play in two- or three-player teams, respectively. (It cannot be played by five.)
Phil Laurence, a structural engineer and nuclear power expert, is the inventor of Paks. Game collector and author Sid Sackson helped Laurence to clean up its rules, and like Mate, he spread Paks to a wider audience by including it in his 1969 compendium A Gamut of Games. Sackson praised the game’s “delightful originality” and declared it “could easily start a craze”.
Object of Paks
The object of Paks is to be the first to score 500 or more points. This is done by forming combinations of cards called paks. Paks are formed by using cards from the hand to capture cards from the table. A player may also steal their opponents’ paks.
Paks uses a standard 52-card deck when played by two players and a 104-card deck, formed by shuffling two 52-card decks together, when played by three or more. It’s not necessary to ensure that the backs are the same, so a two-deck set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is all you need for a larger game. You will also need pencil and paper to keep score with.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Then, deal three face-up board cards to the center of the table. Place the stub face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. This player begins by drawing one card from the stock and revealing it to the other players. If it is of a suit that isn’t represented on the board, the player must play it to the board. This action, called feeding the table, ends their turn.
If it the card drawn is the same suit as one of the board cards, the player adds it to their hand. Then, their turn proceeds as follows: they may form one pak, then, if they do, they may steal one or more paks from their opponents.
When there is at least one card of each suit on the board, it is called a full table. In these situations, a player does not have to show their drawn card to the other players. However, they are compelled to make a pak, if able. If they are not, they must reveal their hand to their opponents and their turn ends.
If the player can add the drawn card to their hand, they then have the opportunity to capture a card from the board. This is done by playing one or more cards of the same suit that have a higher combined value than the card captured. For the purposes of capturing, the cards have the following value:
- Ace—20 points
- K, Q, J—10 points
- all other single cards—face value
- 5-5—55 points*
- 5-4—54 points
- 5-3—53 points
- 5-2—52 points
- 4-4—44 points*
- 4-3—43 points
- 4-2—42 points
- 3-3—33 points*
- 3-2—32 points
- 2-2—22 points
*There is only one card per rank in each suit in a two-player game. Therefore, the pairs, denoted above with an asterisk, are not available in two-player games.
For example, to capture the J♦, worth ten points, the player must play any combination of cards with a value of eleven or greater. Therefore, the A♦ alone (20 points) will do it, K-2♦ (10 + 2 = 12 points), 9-4♦ (9 + 4 = 13 points), or even a combination such as 5-5♦ (55 points) or 3-2♦ (32 points).
Upon capturing a card, the player places it, plus all of the cards from the hand used to capture it, face-up on the table in front of them. They overlap the cards slightly to allow all of their indices to be seen. This group of cards is called a pak.
If a player already has a pak of the same suit as the new one, the two are kept separate. They do not combine the new pak with the existing one.
If a player forms a pak on their turn, they may steal one or more paks from the other players. A pak is stolen the same way as a single board card is captured: by playing one or more cards that have a combined value higher than that of the pak.
The value of a pak is calculated by adding together the values of each of the individual cards. Combinations in the pak now count as their singleton values. For example, a consider a pak that was formed by capturing the A♣ (20 points) with the 5-2♣ (52 points). The value of this pak is only 27 points (20 + 5 + 2), not the 72 points that one would get by continuing to count the 5-2 combination as 52 points.
A player may not steal any paks of the same suit as the pak they formed at the beginning of the turn. Additionally, a player may not steal paks of the same suit from multiple players. The only time a player may steal more than one pak of the same suit is if they all belong to the same player. In this case, the player need only play a combination of cards with a value greater than the total value of the paks they wish to capture. A player does not have to be able to steal each pak singly. For example, if a player holds 10-5-2♠, this is 62 points, more than enough to steal an opponent’s paks of K-7♠ and 9-6♠, which have a combined value of 32 points.
When a player steals multiple paks of the same suit, they combine all of the cards stolen and the cards used to steal them into one big pak. (Using the example in the previous paragraph, the player would now have a pak of K-10-9-7-6-5-2♠, with a value of 49 points.) If a player already had paks of that suit, however, the pre-existing paks are kept separate from the new one.
A player may steal paks from teammates in four- or six-player games. However, there is usually little reason to do so.
Ending the hand
Game play stops when the stock is exhausted. The player drawing the last card takes their turn as normal, and the hand ends after their turn. In a partnership game, each of the partnerships now move their paks so that they are together in front of one of the players. They do not, however, combine the paks together. Each player simply discards the cards in their hand, which take no part in scoring.
Each player or team counts the number of each paks that they held of each suit. The lowest number of paks held in each suit is then noted. The players or teams must then choose that number of paks of that suit and discard them. For example, at the end of a game, Alpha has four paks in hearts, Bravo has three, and Charlie has one. Each of them must choose one heart pak to discard.
The players or teams then calculate their score for the hand by adding the values of their remaining cards. For the purposes of scoring, the cards count as follows:
- Aces—20 points.
- Kings through 8s—10 points each.
- 7s and below—5 points each.
The scorekeeper then records these hand scores on the scoresheet.
The deal then passes to the left, and another hand is played. Game play continues until one of the players or teams scores 500 or more points, winning the game. In the event of a tie at 500 or more, tiebreaker hands are played as necessary.
Pitch (also known as Setback) is a trick-taking game played in the United States. In the Midwest and central parts of the United States, it is most commonly played as a partnership game. On the coasts, Pitch is more frequently played as a cutthroat, every-player-for-themselves game, often for money. The four-player partnership game is described here.
Pitch is essentially an American adaptation of the old English pub game All Fours. Pitch uses a more conventional bidding system to fix the trump suit, rather than the more complicated procedure found in All Fours.
Object of Pitch
The object of Pitch is to be the first team to score 21 or more points by successfully fulfilling bids.
Pitch is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Because you need a deck of cards that can stand up to whatever you throw at it, make sure you always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Partnerships may be determined by any agreed-upon method, including mutual agreement or any sort of random process. Partners should sit across from each other, so as play proceeds clockwise, each player’s turn is followed by one of their opponents’ turns.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player, in two batches of three. The stub is set aside and is not used for the rest of the hand.
Game play in Pitch revolves around scoring points for the following achievements:
- High—playing the highest trump in play during the hand,
- Low—capturing the lowest trump in play during the hand,
- Jack—capturing the jack of trumps,
- Game—accruing the highest total of cards captured during the hand, scoring as follows: ten for each 10, four for each ace, three for each king, two for each queen, and one for each jack. 9s and below do not count toward the game score. If the teams tie for game, the point is not scored.
Because not all of the cards are dealt on each hand, the trump scoring for High is not necessarily the ace, and the trump scoring for Low is not necessarily the two. Likewise, the point for Jack sometimes goes unscored, since the jack of trumps is not always in play.
The right to choose the trump suit is given to the player who makes the highest bid. Available bids in Pitch are two, three, four, and smudge. The first three of these bids represents a commitment to score at least that many points on the following hand. A bid of smudge, the highest bid, is a bid to score four points plus all the tricks. However, by bidding four or smudge, you may unknowingly get yourself into a situation where it is impossible to make your bid. The jack of trumps is not always dealt, and in hands where this is the case, the point for Jack is not scored, meaning the most you can score is three. Even if you take all six tricks, you will not make your contract.
Bidding begins with the player to the dealer’s left. They may either bid or pass. Bidding continues clockwise, with each player passing or making a higher bid than the players before them. The dealer makes the last bid, and has the right to bid the same as the player before them, called stealing the bid. If every player passes, the dealer is compelled to make a bid of two, called a force bid. There is only one round of bidding; the high bid stands after the dealer makes their bid. The player making the high bid is called the pitcher.
Play of the hand
The pitcher leads to the first trick. The suit of the card they lead off with becomes the trump suit. Each other player plays to the trick in turn, proceeding clockwise. Each player must follow suit, unless they are unable, in which case they may play any card. Additionally, playing a trump is always allowed, even if the player could follow suit. The player who plays the highest card of the suit led (aces rank high) collects the trick, unless a trump is played, in which case the highest trump played wins the trick. Collected tricks are not added to the player’s hand, but rather a score pile shared with their partner. The winner of each trick leads to the next one.
Ending the hand
When all six tricks have been played, the hands are scored. If the pitcher’s team makes at least as many points (as described above) as they bid, they score one point for each point made. When a bid of smudge is made, the pitcher’s team scores five points (the four points they scored, plus one for the smudge). If the pitcher’s team failed to make their bid, they are said to have been set. They are set back the amount of their bid instead, i.e., the value of their bid is deducted from their score. Regardless of if the pitcher’s team makes their bid or not, their opponents always score the number of points they made.
The deal passes to the left, the cards are shuffled, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until a partnership reaches a score of 21 or more after having successfully made their bid. Note that it’s possible for a team to score above 21 while not being the high bidders. In this case, the team must remain above 21 points and successfully make a bid before they can win. (In some cases, the winning team may even have a lower score than their opponents, simply because they made a winning bid and crossed 21 before their opponents, already over 21, could.)
Pitch is one of those games with lots of variations—tell us how you like to play in the comments!
Kings in the Corner
Kings in the Corner, also known as Kings Corners, is a simple game for two to six players. Kings in the Corner plays a lot like a multiplayer competitive solitaire game. As in Klondike, players build piles of cards descending in rank and alternating colors. Unlike in Klondike, however, kings have their own reserved spots on the layout, and vacant spots can be filled by any card a player desires.
Object of Kings in the Corner
The object of Kings in the Corner is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards. This is done by playing them to the four (eventually eight) piles in the middle of the table.
Kings in the Corner uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re looking for a particularly kingly deck of cards, why not give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try?
Shuffle and deal seven cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Draw four cards and place one, face up, on each side of the stock (above, below, to the left, and to the right of it). These four cards form the tableau. (See the image at right for an example layout.)
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. If this player has any cards which are one rank lower than and of the opposite color of any of the four cards in the tableau, they may their card on top of the card in the tableau. When placing a card, it should overlap the other card slightly, leaving enough of the first card exposed that the index can be easily read. Aces are considered low, and nothing can be placed atop them.
When a player holds a king, they may place it in any one of the four corner spaces formed by the initial tableau piles. It then becomes available for further building, as with any other tableau pile.
If the bottom card of a tableau pile and the top card of another pile form part of a continuous sequence—for example, if the top card of one tableau pile is the 8♥ and the bottom card of another pile is the 7♠—the piles may be combined. (In the example given, the pile headed by the 7 could be placed on top of the 8.) When this happens, the vacant space formed may be filled by any card.
A player continues making as many plays as they wish as long as they are able to. If they cannot or don’t want to play any further cards, they draw a card from the stock. This ends their turn, and play passes to the left. When the stock is depleted, players simply knock on the table and end their turns without drawing.
Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player is the winner. If all of the players knock consecutively, the hand ends and the winner is the player with the lowest number of cards.
Card Stock Market
Card Stock Market is, true to its title, a stock-trading game played with cards. It can be played by two to six players.
Card Stock Market was invented by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, and was published in his book Card Games Around the World. Sackson is perhaps best known for previously publishing another stock-trading game, the classic board game Acquire.
Object of Card Stock Market
The object of Card Stock Market is to end the game with the most money by buying and selling stock.
Card Stock Market uses a 104-card deck formed by shuffling together two standard 52-card decks. Naturally, we like using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Two jokers are also used in the game, but they are not shuffled into the deck until later on in the game.
You will need something to keep track of the money used in the game. Each player receives $200 as their opening balance. The best option is to use chips: give each player five white $1 chips, four red $5 chips, and seven green $25 chips. You should also have approximately 40 pieces of each denomination of chips on hand to serve as the bank. If chips aren’t available, play money (such as that used in Monopoly) can serve as an effective substitute.
Card Stock Market also requires an information strip that is used to organize the market and provide information to the players. An example of this information strip is shown above. You can create your own by hand, or download a copy of ours. The strip should be sized so that it is approximately 10 inches wide by 2½ inches high (25.4 × 6.4 cm).
Select one player to be dealer and banker. This player shuffles and begins turning over cards, one at a time. The first revealed number card of each suit is placed face-up under the appropriate space on the information strip. This continues until the banker has placed one card under each suit. The unused cards are returned to the deck, which is shuffled. Then, the banker deals eight cards to each player in batches of two. The deck stub becomes the draw pile (in most other games, we’d call it the stock, but that would get confusing in this game).
The player to the banker’s left goes first. A player’s turn consists of buying or selling stock and changing market values. Each of these options may be done up to twice, but the two actions of the same type must be done together (e.g. a player cannot buy stock, then change the market value, then sell stock). A player may skip either phase of their turn, or only perform one action of that type instead of two. Instead of taking their turn as normal, a player may simply discard up to four cards from their hand. At the end of each turn, the player draws back up to eight cards from the draw pile.
Buying and selling stock
A player may buy stock by placing a card face up on the table in front of them. The pip value of the card indicates the number of shares of stock being purchased. (For the purposes of buying stock, a face card is considered a 5.) This is multiplied by the pip value of the top card of that suit’s market pile to arrive at the total amount due to the bank. For example, if a player laid down the 7♦, and the 4♦ was showing on the market pile, the player would have to pay the bank $28 for the transaction. A player may not hold more than twelve shares of any suit’s stock.
A player may sell stock back to the bank as well. The value of the stock is calculated, as described above. Then, the banker pays the player the appropriate amount, and the sold stock certificate is placed on the discard pile.
If the bank does not have enough money to pay out a player who is selling stock, and no extra chips are available, every player deposits $100 into the bank. If a player has less than $100 when this happens, they pay all that they have on hand. They are then indebted to the bank for the rest and must pay when they can.
Changing the market value
A player also has the option to play a card to the appropriate market pile to change the value of that suit’s stock. The change must be within the limits posted on the information strip. For example, if the 9♠ is showing on the spade market pile, a player cannot play the 4♠ to it, since this would be a change of $5, greater than the $3 decrease limit for spades.
A player has two options for playing a face card to the market pile. A player may elect to have the face card increase the value of the stock. When used for this, a jack raises the price to $11, a queen to $12, and a king to $13.
A player can also use a face card to reduce the stock price to $0. Doing so bankrupts the company. All players must discard all of the stock they hold in that suit, receiving no money for their shares.
After a face card has been played to a market pile, regardless of whether it raised the price beyond $10 or lowered it to $0, it can be covered by any number card. It doesn’t matter if the change is within the allowed range or not.
Depleting the draw pile
When the draw pile is depleted, all of the cards in the market piles, except for the top card of each pile, are placed in the discard pile. Two jokers are then added to the discard pile. The banker then thoroughly shuffles the entire pile of cards (we recommend performing a wash before shuffling, since the deck will be separated by suit) and turns it face down to form a new draw pile.
Game play continues as usual until a player draws a joker from the draw pile. When this happens, they reveal it to the other players, and the game ends. Each player sells all of their stock to the bank for the current market values. The player who has the most money at the end of the game is the winner.
Twenty-Nine is a game that is played in South Asia, predominately in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. A trick taking game for four players in partnerships, Twenty-Nine is unique in that the trump suit remains concealed from the time it’s decided to the first time it becomes relevant.
The game is one of a family of trick-taking games played throughout the Indian subcontinent where the jack and 9 are the two highest cards in each suit. Most likely, these are descendants of the European Jass family of games (which Klaberjass is a part of), which use the same card ranking. One of the Jass games was probably exported to the region by the Dutch, which in turn spawned the South Asian family of jack-9 games.
Twenty-Nine is yet another game we’re writing about that has a numerical title; we’ve also posted the rules to 13, 28, 51, 99, and 500.
Object of Twenty-Nine
The object of Twenty-Nine is to be the first partnership to score six victory points. Teams score victory points by successfully fulfilling contracts, which is done by taking at least the number of card points bid.
Twenty-Nine is played with a 32-card deck. Starting with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s, leaving 7 through ace in each of the four suits.
The cards removed from the deck are traditionally used for scorekeeping and declaring trumps. Each side receives one black 6 and one red 6, which are used to indicate positive and negative points respectively. To indicate positive points, the red 6 is turned face-down and overlaps the black 6 in such a way that the number of pips visible equal the number of victory points the team has scored. Each player also receives one card of each suit for declaring which suit will be the trump suit.
The players divide into two partnerships, either by mutual agreement or through some random method. Partners should sit across from one another, such that each player’s opponents are sitting to their left and right.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table; it will be used after the bidding round.
As mentioned above, the two highest cards in each suit are the jack and 9. The 10 also ranks out of the typical order, raking above the king. The full rank of cards in Twenty-Nine is (high) J, 9, A, 10, K, Q, 8, 7 (low).
For the purposes of determining the value of tricks taken, the cards score as follows: jacks score three points, 9s score two, aces and 10s score one. The other cards do not have any value at all.
The astute reader will notice that there are seven card points in each suit, or 28 altogether. The name of the game Twenty-Nine, derives from the 28 card points plus one extra point that was formerly awarded for taking the last trick. Even though scoring this twenty-ninth point has fallen out of favor, the name Twenty-Nine has stuck.
Choosing the trump suit
Before actual game play begins, there is a bidding round where the players vie for the right to name the trump suit. The player to the dealer’s left bids first, naming any number of points between 15 and 28. This bid is a commitment for that player’s partnership to take at least that many points if they win the bidding. If a player doesn’t wish to bid, they may pass. The next player to the left may then either bid (higher than the first bid, if any) or pass. This continues on around the table until all players have passed but one. That player wins the bidding. If the first three players pass, the dealer is compelled to make a bid of fifteen, and bidding immediately ceases.
The high bidder selects one of the four suits to be the trump suit. To indicate this, they place one of the out-of-play cards of the corresponding suit face-down in the middle of the table. The high bidder and their partner become the declarers, while their opponents become the defenders. The winning bid becomes the declarers’ contract. The dealer then deals the remainder of the deck out, giving an additional four cards to each player.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick, with each player to the left playing in turn. Players must follow suit if able. Whoever plays the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. That player collects the cards played and puts them in a face-down won-tricks pile that they share with their partner.
The first time that a player is unable to follow suit, the high bidder must turn the card they used to declare trump face up for the other players to see. From this point forward, if one or more cards of the trump suit are played to a trick, the highest trump will take the trick. A player does not have to play a trump if they don’t want to.
The king and queen of trump is a special combination called the royals. If a player holds both of these cards, and the trump suit has been revealed, they may reveal the two cards immediately after their partnership wins a trick. If the declarers hold the royals, it reduces the value of their contract by four points. If they are shown by the defenders, it increases the declarers’ contract by four points. Note that both the king and queen must be in the player’s hand at the same time. If one or both of the cards have been played to a trick (most likely because trump hadn’t been revealed yet), they cannot be scored as the royals. The royals cannot reduce the contract below 15 points or increase it above 28.
The hand ends after the eighth trick has been played. The declarers count the number of points taken in tricks. If they successfully fulfilled their contract, they score one victory point. If they did not, they lose one victory point.
Game play continues until one team has scored six victory points. That team is the winner. On the other hand, it is possible for a team to reach −6 points; a team that does so loses.