Botifarra is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships. Unlike many trick-taking games, Botifarra includes a number of rules restricting which cards can be played when. As a result, players are able to deduce information about what their opponents may hold.
The game originates from the disputed region of Catalonia (currently a province in the northeast corner of Spain, but which declared its independence in October 2017). The game is popular enough that organized duplicate-style tournaments are played there.
In Catalonia, Botifarra is traditionally played counter-clockwise (all action proceeding to the right). The description below is written to follow the clockwise fashion most card games follow. If you wish to play it the traditional way, just reverse the directions.
Object of Botifarra
The object of Botifarra is to be the first partnership to reach 101 or more points. Points are scored by collecting face cards, aces and 9s in tricks.
Botifarra is typically played with a 48-card Spanish deck. To make an equivalent deck from the 52-card English deck, like a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 10s. You also need something to keep score with, such as paper and pencil.
Determine partnerships by whatever method is convenient, either randomly or by mutual agreement. (Players often choose to play three games per session, so that each player may play one game partnered with each of the other players.) As is typical, players should be seated across from their partner. This ensures that the turn of play alternates between partnerships as it proceeds around the table.
Shuffle and deal twelve cards to each player (dealing out the entire pack).
In Botifarra, the highest card is the 9. All other cards rank in their usual order. The full rank of cards, therefore, is (high) 9, A, K, Q, J, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).
Determining trumps and doubling
Unlike in most other trick-taking games with trumps, there is no bidding or random trump selection in Botifarra. The dealer simply chooses a trump suit for the hand, or botifarra, which is to select no trumps. The dealer may also elect to pass the right to choose to their partner. (They cannot then pass the decision back to the dealer.)
After a trump suit has been chosen, the dealer’s opponents may choose to double, thereby doubling the points scored by the winner of the hand. If the hand is doubled, the dealer’s partnership may redouble, multiplying the value of the hand by four. The opponents can then reredouble, increasing the multiplier to eight. (This is the highest multiplier possible.) Players get the opportunity to speak in turn order from the last player to make a declaration.
A botifarra bid automatically doubles the value of the game, so
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads any card they wish to the first trick. Each player in turn then plays one card to the trick. Once all four players have played a card, the highest trump played, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick.
Botifarra has a number of unique restrictions on which card you can play. First, of course, you must always follow suit if you can. Secondly, you must head the trick if you are able. The only exception to this is when the trick is currently being won by your partner. When this is the case, subject to suit-following rules, you may play any card worth points (9s, aces, or face cards). If you wish to play a card worth no points, it must be the lowest card you hold of the suit you’re playing in. (Because of this rule, your opponents are able to determine that any other cards that you hold of that suit must be higher.)
Once a player wins a trick, they place it face-down in a shared won-tricks pile located in front of either them or their partner. Tricks should be kept distinct from one another somehow, such as by putting them at right angles to the previous trick. Whichever player won the trick leads to the next one.
Once all twelve tricks have been played, the players count up the value of their tricks captured, as follows:
- Tricks taken: 1 point each
- 9s: 5 points each
- Aces: 4 points each
- Kings: 3 points each
- Queens: 2 point each
- Jacks: 1 point each
The maximum trick score possible on one hand is 72 points. Whichever partnership scores more subtracts 36 from the value of their tricks to arrive at their score for the hand. This score is multiplied as decided before the hand and recorded on the scoresheet. (If the partnerships tie at 36 points each, neither team scores.)
Game play continues until one partnership exceeds 101 points. That partnership is the winner.
Totit is an extremely simple fishing game from the Indonesian island of Java. It can be played by two to six people. In Totit, it’s all about making pairs—while pairs of the same rank can be captured, only pairs of identical copies of the same card score!
Object of Totit
The object of Totit is to capture the most cards from the board by pairing them with the corresponding cards from your hand.
Totit uses a special 60-card deck. To build such a deck, start with two standard 52-card decks of the same back design and color—we always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, naturally. From each deck, remove the aces through 10s of clubs. From the other three suits, remove the 10s and face cards. You’ll be left with two 30-card decks consisting of A–9♠, A–9♦, A–9♥, and J-Q-K♣. Shuffle these two 30-card decks together to form the full 60-card deck. (Note that this is the same deck used for Kowah, another Javanese card game.) You should also have something handy to keep score with.
Shuffle and deal eighteen cards face up to the table. Then, deal seven cards to each player, or eleven cards to each player in a two-player game. Set aside any unused cards; they will have no bearing on the game.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. If they have any cards identical in rank and suit to any of the cards on the table, they may capture the table card by revealing the matching card in their hand. They then place both cards in a face-down captured-cards pile in front of them. A capture must always consist of one card from the hand and one from the table. Players can never capture a card with another one from the table. Players may only make one capture per turn. If a player cannot make a capture, they must trail one card of their choice face up to the table. The turn then passes to the left.
On the second and subsequent turns, a player may capture a card if they hold a card of the same rank as a card on the table, regardless of suit. All of the face cards and aces are considered to be equivalent to one another. The A♠ can be captured by the K♣ and vice versa, the J♣ and Q♣ can capture each other, and so on.
One special restriction occurs when two cards of the same rank and suit appear alongside one or more cards of that rank, but a different suit. In this case, any cards of the odd suit must be captured first. Only when the two identical cards are the only cards of that rank left on the table can one be captured.
Ending the hand
The hand ends when the players’ hands are depleted. Any cards remaining on the table are discarded. Each player scores one point for each pair of captured cards of the same rank and suit. (Note that they need not necessarily have been captured with each other. Both cards could have been on the table at the same time and captured one at a time by different cards, or the first one captured early on, and the second trailed by another player and then captured, for instance.)
The deal passes to the left, and game play continues. The game ends when every player has dealt once. Whichever player has the highest score at that point wins the game.
Delphi is a simplified version of Eleusis for three to seven players. As in Eleusis, the central premise of the game is discovering a secret rule created by the dealer. Accomplishing this goal is done by looking over the line of previously-played cards and attempting to spot a pattern. The main difference between Delphi and Eleusis is that in Delphi, each card played to the table is one randomly drawn from the deck, rather than intentionally placed by the players. Players are rewarded for correctly declaring which cards correctly fit the pattern and which do not.
Delphi is the creation of the American scientist and mathematician Martin David Kruskal. Dr. Kruskal published the game in 1962 while a professor of astronomy at Princeton University. Noted for his playfulness, Dr. Kruskal also devised the “Kruskal count”, a magic trick that could even stump other magicians because it was based on deep mathematical principals, rather than the usual sleight of hand.
Object of Delphi
The object of Delphi depends on whether you’re the dealer or just a player. For the players, the object is to figure out the dealer’s secret rule as quickly as possible. For the dealer, the object is to create a secret rule that’s neither too hard nor too easy to figure out (ideally, about half the players should be able to guess it).
For a game of Delphi, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Of course, we very much recommend using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need pencil and paper (or something similar like a smartphone app) to keep score with, as well as some form of marker or token (like poker chips, beans or other counters) to keep track of the number of correct guesses a player has made on that hand. You should have around 25 tokens for each player (other than the dealer) in the game. If desired, you may also give a decision marker to each player, something that clearly indicates a yes or no response, such as a coin (heads being yes and tails being no) or simply an index card marked “YES” and “NO” on opposite sides.
Determine the first dealer, who is also referred to as the oracle. The oracle devises a secret rule and writes it down on a scrap of paper, keeping it concealed from the players. The rule dictates which cards will be considered “correct” throughout the play of the following hand. The rule must determine this based solely on the cards previously played, and not anything outside the game. (Further explanation and some example rules can be found in the Eleusis setup section.)
Give each player one token, keeping the rest as the oracle’s bank. Shuffle the deck and turn one card, face up, to serve as a starter. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
The oracle turns one card face up from the stock, placing the card where it can be easily seen by all of the players and announcing its rank and suit. The players then decide whether this is a “correct” play according to the dealer’s secret rule. Obviously, on the first turn of play, this is likely little more than a 50/50 guess, but as the game goes on players will become more confident in their knowledge of the rule and thus be able to decide more accurately.
Once players have reached a decision, they set their decision counter, if playing with one, to reflect this, keeping it concealed with their hand from the other players. If not playing with a decision counter, each player just takes a token or other small object in their hand, shuffles it from hand to hand under the table, and places their closed fist above the table. If they have something concealed in their hand, it indicates a “yes”, and if their hand is empty, it indicates a “no”.
Once all players have reached a decision on the card, on a signal from the oracle, they all reveal their decision. The oracle then declares whether the card was “correct”. If so, the card is placed to the right of the last card played, forming a continuous line of correct cards across the table. If the card is incorrect, it is placed below the last correct card played. The oracle then pays out one token to each player who guessed correctly and collects one token from those who did not. (If a player does not have a token to collect, no penalty is assessed.)
The next card is then drawn, and the process repeats until all 52 cards have been placed on the table.
After the hand ends, each player counts the number of tokens they have. Their hand score is the difference between their own token count and that of each player who collected fewer tokens, added together, minus the total count the difference between their count and that of each player who collected more tokens.
For example, consider a game where Player A collected 29 tokens, B collected 26, C collected 19, D collected 11, E collected 9, and F collected 6. Player C’s hand score would be the difference between their count of 19 and that of D, E, and F, minus the difference between their count and that of A and B. Thus, their score would be (8 + 10 + 13) – (10 + 7) = 31 – 17 = 14. Note that it is possible to get a negative hand score, as F’s score would be 0 – (23 + 20 + 13 + 5 + 3) = –64.
The oracle’s score for the hand is the total of each player’s difference between their count and that of each player who collected more tokens. (That is, everything that is subtracted when each player calculates their score.) In the example above, Player A’s total difference is 0, B’s is 3, C’s is 17, D’s is 25, E’s is 27, and D’s is 64, so the oracle would score 136 points.
All of the tokens are then returned to the bank, and the next player to the oracle’s left becomes the new oracle. Game play continues until each player has been the oracle once.
Khanhoo is a rummy game for two to four players. It was originally from China, though it experienced a period of popularity in England at the end of the nineteenth century. Khanhoo may be one of the earliest rummy games ever to be played. It seems likely that it at least influenced Conquian, considered to be the ancestor of most rummy games.
Object of Khanhoo
The object of Khanhoo is to be the first player to form their entire hand into combinations called melds.
A special 61-card deck is needed to play Khanhoo. To make one, take two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 10s. Then, take out the face cards in hearts, spades, and diamonds, and all of the remaining number cards from the clubs. Shuffle these two decks together, and add one joker, and you’ll have your Khanhoo deck. It will contain the joker, two each of the J-Q-K♣, and two each of aces through 9s in the other three suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with.
Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Then deal a sixteenth card to the player to the dealer’s left. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. (In a four-player game, the entire deck will be dealt out, so there will be no stock.)
Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left choosing one card to discard. This starts a discard pile, usually placed to one side of the stock. The turn then passes to the left. This player draws one card, either from the stock or the discard pile, and then discards one card. Turns continue in this manner, with a draw and a discard by each player in turn.
If the stock runs out, its top card is set aside, the discards are flipped over, and then shuffled to form a new stock. The old top card then forms the new discard pile.
As the entire deck is used in the four-player game, there is no stock. Instead, each player simply draws the card that was discarded by the player to their left.
The players’ goal is to form their hands into melds. The valid melds, and their point values, are as follows:
- Sequence (1 point): Three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order, e.g. 6-7-8♥. Note that sequences will never include face cards or clubs, as the only “sequence” that can be formed using them is actually the more valuable royal assembly (see below). Aces are considered low in sequences (just below the 2). Note that the point value does not increase if more cards are added.
- Aces (1 point): Three aces of any suit (duplicates are allowed).
- Triplet (2 points): Three number cards of the same rank and of three different suits (no duplicates allowed).
- Royal assembly (3 points): J-Q-K♣.
- Court melds (4 points each): K♣-9♥-9♥, Q♣-8♠-8♠, or J♣-7♦-7♦.
- Khanhoo (5 points): A♥-2♠-3♦.
- Double aces (10 points): Six aces of any suit.
- Double triplet (10 points): Two triplet melds of the same rank. That is, six number cards of the same rank, with each suit appearing exactly twice.
- Double royal (10 points): J-J-Q-Q-K-K♣.
- Double khanhoo (15 points): A-A♥-2-2♠-3-3♦.
As players form melds, they keep them in their hand (that is, they do not lay them out on the table). Thus, the players can rearrange and expand or split melds at will. The joker is wild, substituting for any other card in a meld without restriction.
In a three- or four-player game, after a player discards, another player may intervene by claiming the discard before the next player can draw it. They may only do this, however, if they can immediately use the card in a meld other than a sequence. Taking the discard out of turn in this way is called bumping. When a player bumps, they must place the meld that the discard is part of face-up in front of them. They may then no longer alter the meld in any way (e.g. by making it from a khanhoo to a double khanhoo). They then discard as normal and play passes to the left, with the intervening players skipped.
If the player who would have normally had the right to the bumped discard (i.e. the player to the left of the player who discarded it) also wants the card, they may challenge the bump. Both players must then declare the type of meld they wish to use the discard for. If the player that wishes to bump can form a higher meld, they get the right to the discard. If the other player can make a meld of equal or higher value to the bumping player, then no bump happens, and play proceeds as normal.
Ending the hand
When a player has formed their entire hand into melds, they make one final discard and announce that they are out. Each player then reveals their hand, placing it on the table with each meld broken out. Each player then scores the value of their melds, with the player that went out also getting a five-point bonus.
The deal passes to the left, and a new hand is dealt. Game play begins until one or more players reaches a score of 50 points or more. Whichever player has the highest score at that point is the winner.
Schafkopf is a trick-taking game for three players. Sometimes called the national game of Bavaria, it has been played throughout southern Germany for at least 200 years. Schafkopf is one of the ancestors of Skat, and the two share quite a lot in common.
There are two theories for why the game is named Schafkopf, which translates to “sheep’s head”. One is that originally the score was kept by making tally marks on a sheet of paper in such a way that, when the game was finished, the marks made the outline of a sheep’s head. Another is that the name is really a corruption of Schaffkopf, meaning the top of a barrel. A barrel often made a convenient card table in the early days of the game.
Because Schafkopf has been in play for such a long time, dozens of variations of it have been developed over time. Many of these rival Skat in complexity and capacity for skillful play. We’ve chosen one of the simpler variants to describe here.
Object of Schafkopf
The object of Schafkopf for the declarer is to collect at least 61 points in tricks. For the defenders, the object is to stop the declarer from doing so.
Schafkopf uses the 32-card deck common to German card games. To make an equivalent deck from the international standard 52-card deck, start with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all of the 2s through 6s. What will remain is a deck with aces through 7s in each of the four suits. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like the venerable pencil and paper.
Shuffle and deal out the whole pack according to the following order: a set of three cards to each player, two face down to the center of the table, a set of four cards to each player, then a set of three cards to each player. Each player will have ten cards, with the two-face down cards forming a widow. (This is the same dealing procedure used in Skat, by the way.)
Schafkopf uses a highly unorthodox card ranking. First off, 10s are ranked above the king, just below the ace. Secondly, all queens and jacks are not considered to be part of their own suit, but are considered trumps! Queens and jacks rank in the following order: (high) clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds (low). Lastly, all of the diamonds are considered trumps, too, ranking in order just below the J♦.
Taken altogether, that means that the rank of cards in spades, hearts, and clubs is (high) A, 10, K, 9, 8, 7 (low). The full rank of the trump suit is (high) Q♣, Q♠, Q♥, Q♦, J♣, J♠, J♥, J♦, A♦, 10♦, K♦, 9♦, 8♦, 7♦ (low). Got all that?
Picking up the widow
The first order of business is determining who will take the widow. The player to the dealer’s left has the first opportunity to do so, or they may pass. If the first player passes, the next player to the left can choose to pick it up. If they, too, refuse, the dealer gets the last chance at picking up the widow. Should the dealer decline to take the widow, the hand is played “least“, as described in “Playing least” below.
If a player does decide to take the widow, they become the declarer, and their two opponents become the defenders. The declarer adds the two cards from the widow to their hand, then discards two cards, face down. This restores their hand to ten cards.
Play of the hand
The player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick, until all three have played. Players follow suit if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card, including a trump. Whichever player played the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played, wins the trick. They collect the cards from the trick, placing them in a won-tricks pile in front of them. They then lead to the next trick.
It is important to remember that the queens and jacks are trumps and not part of the suit printed on the card. For example, if a spade is led, playing the Q♠ is not following suit, it is trumping!
After all ten tricks have been played, the declarer totals up the value of the cards they took in tricks, as follows:
- Aces: eleven points each
- 10s: ten points each
- Kings: four points each
- Queens: three points each
- Jacks: two points each
None of the other cards have any value.
If the declarer successfully captured at least 61 points in tricks, they win the hand, and score two victory points. Should the declarer have collected 91 or more points, this is called a schneider, and they score four victory points. If they successfully captured all 120 points available, i.e. they captured every trick, it is called a schwarz, and they score six victory points.
Likewise, if the declarer collects 60 points or less, they lose two victory points. If they are schneidered (capture 30 points or less), they lose four victory points, and if they are schwarzed (capture 0 points), they lose six victory points.
If all three players pass on taking the widow, the hand is played least. All three players play alone, with a goal of taking the fewest points possible. Whichever player takes the fewest points scores two victory points. If they captured 0 points, they score four victory points.
If two players tie, whichever one less recently took a trick wins and gets the two points. In a three-way tie, the dealer wins. In the event that one player takes all 120 points (meaning the other two tie at 0), that player loses four victory points and the other players do not score.
Ending the game
The game ends when a pre-specified number of deals take place. (For the sake of fairness, every player should have dealt an equal number of times.) Whoever has the highest score at this point is the winner.
East–West is a poker game for two players. Much like Pai Gow Poker or Chinese Poker, the challenge in the game is placing cards you receive into one of three hands. East–West has two major differences with those games, though. First, there is one community card that you share with your opponent. Second, there is no gambling in this game at all!
East–West was created by German author Reiner Knizia. It was first published in German, in his 1995 Wild West-themed compendium of family-oriented poker games, Kartenspiele im Wilden Westen. The book was translated to English and published in 2007 as Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games.
Object of East–West
The object of East–West is to strategically place cards drawn from the stock into one of three poker hands. The ultimate goal is to win two out of the three hands.
East–West was created to be played with a German deck of cards. To make an equivalent pack from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck containing aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all.
Both players should sit on the same side of the table. One player will play the left or “West” side of the board, while the other will play the right or “East” side.
The nondealer goes first. They draw a card from the stock and place it next to any one of the three board cards, on their designated side. The dealer goes next, doing the same thing, placing their card on the opposite side. Players continue alternating in this way, drawing cards and placing them.
Each player thus builds three poker hands. Each hand consists of one of the board cards and the other cards on that row on their side. A player may only place cards on their side, not on their opponent’s. Once a player has placed four cards on a row, the hand is complete (making a five-card hand, including the board card) and no more cards may be added to it.
After both players have completed all three hands, players compare each hand with their opponent’s on the same row. Whichever player wins two out of the three hands wins the game.
Twenty-Four is a card game for either two or four players. While there are lots of card games that involve adding card values, Twenty-Four is fairly unique in that it allows players to subtract, multiply, and divide, too! Figuring out how to use the four mathematical operators to reach the target value of 24, and doing it quickly, is what the game is all about.
Twenty-Four likely originated in Shanghai, China, during the 1960s. Since then, it has spread to other Chinese cities, and it can be found in several other pockets of the world.
Object of Twenty-Four
The object of Twenty-Four is to be the first player to run out of cards. This is accomplished by using the values of four cards and the four mathematical operators to reach a solution of 24.
Twenty-Four is played with a 40-card deck consisting of only number cards. To form such a deck, just take a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and remove all the face cards. You’ll be left with aces through 10s in each of the four suits.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out. Each player will receive 20 cards in the two-player game and 10 cards in the four-player game. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, each player squares up their cards into one face-down pile in front of them.
For two players
Each player turns up the top two cards from their stack and places them face up in the center of the table. Each player then tries to mentally reach a solution of 24 by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing the pip values of the four cards. The solution must equal exactly 24, and use all four cards, in any order. Parentheses may be used to make the operations come out in the order the player wishes.
For example, with a board of 5, 7, 8, 9, a player might come up with the solution of 8 × 5 – (7 + 9) = 24.
When a player believes they have a solution, they slap the table. They then state their solution. If the other player agrees it is a correct solution, the player calling out the solution wins that set of cards. If the result of the equation is not actually 24, the other player wins the set. Whichever player loses takes the four cards and places them at the bottom of their stack.
If neither player can find a solution using the four cards on the table, they may each choose one of the cards they played to take back, placing it on the bottom of their stack, then play one new card from the top of their stack. They now attempt to solve this new set of four cards. Note that mathematically, 80% of sets are solvable, although some might be harder than others!
Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player is the winner.
For four players
The four player game is the same as the two-player game, with the following exceptions. First, each player contributes only one card to the table per set, rather than two. (This means if all agree that there is no solution, each player swaps the one card that they played, resulting in a totally different board.)
Secondly, the first player to slap the table does not immediately announce their solution. Instead, each player slaps the table as they arrive at a solution. When three players have come to a solution, the last player left chooses one of their opponents to state their solution. If they are unable to, or it is incorrect, the odd player out wins the set. Otherwise, they lose and must add the cards to their stack.
Carioca is a rummy-type game for two to five players. It is a good example of a member of the Contract Rummy sub-group of the Rummy family. In Contract Rummy games, each player’s first meld must meet certain requirements called a “contract”, which change from hand to hand.
Carioca is mostly played by that name in Argentina, but it has been known to appear in Chile as well. In Central America, a version of the game with some variations is played under the name Loba. (There’s a game called Loba played in Argentina, but it’s not the same as Carioca.)
Object of Carioca
The object of Carioca is to score the lowest number of points by being the first to deplete your hand. Cards are disposed of by forming melds. In order to do so, the player must first make a certain combination of melds that meet the contract for the hand.
Carioca requires the use of two standard 52-card decks of playing cards, including jokers, shuffled together to make a 108-card pack. While you could use any old cards you have lying around, we know you’ll get the best results if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Trust us on this one. You’ll also want something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.
Shuffle and deal eleven cards to each player, or twelve cards on the seventh and final hand of the game. Place the remainder of the deck face-down in the center of the table, forming the stock. The first card of the stock is turned face up; this card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.
The player to the right of the dealer goes first. This player may draw either the current upcard or the top card of the stock. If they are able to meld any cards, they do so after melding. Finally, they discard one card, ending their turn. The next player to the right goes after that.
There are two types of melds in Carioca. One is the trio, which is three cards of the same rank. The other is the escalera, which is four cards of the same suit in sequence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces either high or low (but not both at the same time).
Melding is subject to one big restriction: on each hand, on the first turn in which a player melds (their initial meld), they must, all at once, make the contract for the hand. The contracts for each hand are as follows:
- Two trios.
- One trio and one escalera.
- Two escaleras.
- Three trios.
- Two trios and one escalera.
- One trio and two escaleras.
- Three escaleras.
Note that on the sixth and seventh hands, meeting the contract will exhaust the player’s entire hand. On the first five hands, players will have cards left over when they make their first meld. On later turns, a player who has met the contract may extend any meld on the table with cards from their hand. That is, a player may expand a trio with more cards of the same rank, or they may add extra cards on the end or the beginning of an escalera. Any meld on the table can be expanded, whether you melded it or not.
Jokers are considered wild cards, and can substitute for any other card that you wish in a meld. However, when a player makes their initial meld, only one joker is allowed per meld. After making their initial meld, players may freely add as many jokers as they wish to a meld.
If there is a joker in an escalera, and you hold the natural card that it represents, you can play that card to the escalera in place of the joker. The joker then moves to either end of the meld. You can then extend the meld further from the joker, if possible.
Ending the hand
The hand ends whenever one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand and scores zero. All other players count up the value of their deadwood (unmatched cards in hand) as follows:
- Jokers: 50 points each.
- Aces: 20 points each.
- Face cards: 10 points each.
- All other cards: Face value.
Each player’s deadwood value is their score for the hand. The deal then passes to the right for the next hand.
Whichever player has the lowest score at the end of seven hands is the winner.
Kabu is a Japanese banking game for two to six players. Kabu is quite similar to the game of Baccarat, where players do their best to reach a score of nine, and scores above nine have their first digit dropped.
Traditional Kabu is played with a deck of Japanese hanafuda, or “flower cards”. This adaptation of the game for the Western deck was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, who published it in his 1981 book Card Games Around the World.
Object of Kabu
The object of Kabu is, through selective drawing of cards, to obtain a score of nine or as close as possible to it.
Japanese Kabu is normally played with hanafuda, a traditional Japanese deck featuring four cards each of twelve “suits”, one for each month, January to December. In Kabu, the November and December cards are set aside. Each card uses the numerical value of the month it represents (1 for January, 2 for February, etc.) in adding up the player’s score.
To play Kabu with the typical English-style deck, simply remove all of the face cards from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck: ace through 10 in each of the four suits. You’ll also need some chips for betting. Distribute the chips evenly to each player. (Sackson recommends a starting stack of ten credits, plus fifteen for each player in the game. This would yield 40 credits for the two-player game, 55 for the three player game, etc.)
Shuffle and deal two cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They look at their cards and add up their total value. Aces are worth one point, and all others their face value. If the score exceeds nine (the best possible score), the first (tens) digit is dropped to arrive at a score under nine. If the player is satisfied with their score, they may pass. Otherwise, they may request a card from the stock. Then, the next player has the opportunity to draw, and so on around the table. Players may draw a maximum of two cards (making a four-card hand altogether). Drawing continues until all players have either passed or drawn twice.
After the drawing portion of the hand is complete, each player reveals their hand and announces the total. Each player then pays each opponent with a higher score the difference between their hands’ values. For example, if Jim holds a seven-point hand and George holds a four-point hand, George would pay Jim three credits.
The cards are collected and shuffled, then the next hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player does not have enough chips to pay the amount owed to their opponents. That player does not actually pay any of their opponents. Instead, each player counts up the number of chips they hold. Whoever has the most chips wins the game.
Écarté (pronounced \e.kaʁ.te\ or roughly ay-car-tay) is a French trick-taking game for two players. A novel feature of the game is that rather than the traditional bidding round prior to trick-play, the players shape their hands into their final form by discarding and drawing cards. The winner might well be decided before the first card is played!
Écarté was at its height in the 19th century. It was mentioned in several works of fiction of the day, such as The Count of Monte Cristo (where it was noted as being preferred over Whist by the French) and the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The game gradually lost its popularity, however, and is now relatively obscure.
Object of Écarté
The object of Écarté is to form a hand capable of taking the majority of the five tricks, and then doing so.
Écarté uses the same deck as Piquet. If you don’t happen to keep a Piquet deck laying around, just grab your trusty deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and take out all of the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck having aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper works, as well as the Card Caddy Connector, or chips or other tokens (you’ll only need nine of them).
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the stub in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn the top card of the stock face up and set it aside. The suit of this card, the upcard, determines the trump suit. If the upcard is a king, the dealer scores one point.
The cards rank a little out of their usual order in Écarté. The ace ranks between the face cards and the number cards. This makes the full rank of cards (high) K, Q, J, A, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).
The non-dealer decides whether or not they wish to play with their hand, as dealt. They can either play with what they’ve got by saying “I play”, or propose an exchange by saying “I propose.” If the non-dealer proposes, the dealer has veto power—if they decline, then the play proceeds without an exchange.
If the exchange is accepted, the non-dealer discards any number of cards they wish, then draws back up to five cards. The dealer then has the opportunity to do the same thing. The non-dealer may then propose again or start the actual play of the hand, and the dealer may refuse the proposal, as before.
Should there be less than ten cards left in the stock and exchanging still going on, the non-dealer always has the first priority in taking the number of cards they want, even if that doesn’t leave enough for the dealer to make their desired exchange. When the stock is depleted, there’s no further exchanging—the hand immediately begins. (Neither player can ever draw the upcard, no matter how bad they might want to.)
After the exchange, if either player ended up with the king of trumps, they can show it to their opponent. Doing so scores one point.
If either player prevents an exchange at all, whichever one turned it down (the non-dealer if they call “I play”, or the non-dealer if they reject the proposal) is said to be vulnerable. A vulnerable player’s opponent can score extra points if they win the hand, so it’s important not to be too overconfident with your hand.
Note that it is possible to avoid vulnerability by starting an exchange and then discarding no cards. This allows your opponent a chance to improve their hand, however.
After the first exchange has taken place, neither player becomes vulnerable by turning down the opportunity for an exchange.
Play of the hand
The non-dealer leads to the first trick. The dealer then plays a card in response, following suit and heading the trick if possible. That means that if they have a card of the suit led, they must play it, playing a higher card if possible. Otherwise, they must trump, if they can. Only if they cannot do either of those are they free to play any other card.
Whoever played the higher trump, or the higher card of the suit led if neither player played a trump, wins the trick. They take the cards and put them in a won-tricks pile on the table in front of them. (It may be helpful to put each pair of cards crosswise, so the number of tricks taken is easily counted.) That player then leads to the next trick.
After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. Whichever player takes the majority of the tricks (i.e. three or more) scores one point. If they took all five tricks, they score an additional point. One more point is scored if the opponent was vulnerable on that hand.
Further hands are played until someone reaches a score of five points. That player is the winner. (If the winning point is scored prior to the actual play of the hand due to the king of trumps, the hand is not played out.)