Cucumber is a game for two to seven people, played throughout Northern Europe, with a heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. Cucumber works as kind of the inverse of Agram—the object is to lose the last trick, and nothing else matters.
Many regional variations of the game exist, most of them bearing the name “Cucumber” in the local language. The version described here is Agurk, the Danish variant of the game.
Object of Cucumber
The object of Cucumber is to win the last trick.
Cucumber uses the standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards would make you pretty cool. Some might say…cool as a cucumber. But not us. That’s not a thing we would say. We would just say you’re pretty cool.
You will also need a pencil and paper to keep score with.
Shuffle and deal seven cards to the player to the left of the dealer, then to the next player to the left, and so on through the dealer. The deck stub is set aside and takes no further part in game play.
The cards rank in their usual order in Cucumber, with aces high (A, K, Q, J, 10, … 2). Suits are irrelevant and play no part in the game.
The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, leading any card. The next person to the left must play either a card higher than the lead, or, if they do not have one, the lowest card in their hand. This continues on to the left, with each player either laying down a card higher than the highest card in play, or the lowest card they can. This continues until everyone has played.
The person who played the highest card is the winner of the trick. If there are multiple cards of the same rank tied for high card, the most recently-played of these takes the trick. The winner of the trick leads to the next one. Unlike in most games, the cards of the last trick aren’t collected or turned face-down; they simply remain on the table and can be inspected by any player at any time (although it may be prudent to push them into a loose discard pile to prevent confusion as to whether a card was played on the current trick or a previous one).
On the seventh and final trick, the player with the highest card is charged a penalty according to the rank of the card they used to take the trick. Aces score fourteen, kings thirteen, queens twelve, jacks eleven, and all other cards their face value. Should there be a tie for high card, the last card of that rank wins the trick and thus takes the penalty, as per usual; the others who played a card of that rank score negative points equal to the value of that card (though their score cannot pass below zero).
Should a player’s score exceed 21, a cucumber is drawn next to the score to highlight this. Their score then resets to the score of the next-highest active player. If a player who already has a cucumber goes over 21, they are eliminated from the game.
Cards are collected and shuffled, the deal passes to the left, and the next hand begins. Game play continues until all players but one have been eliminated; that player is the winner.