Leopard

An example diagram showing the layout of the card game Leopard.
Leopard is a card game for two players. Each player uses the cards in their hand to manipulate a pair of three-by-three tableaux by playing cards to them. The players try to form lines of cards of the same suit or the same color and prevent their opponent from doing so.

Leopard was created by Robert Abbott, who is best known for creating the more popular game Eleusis. It was published as part of Abbott’s 1963 book Abbott’s New Card Games. A proprietary version of the game, Sabotage, was produced in Germany in 1996.

Object of Leopard

The object of Leopard is to build the highest-scoring tableau. This is done by forming lines of three cards of the same color or the same suit. At the same time, players attempt to disrupt their opponent from doing the same thing.

Setup

Leopard uses a deck of 104 cards, formed by shuffling together two standard 52-card decks without jokers. While we’ve never tested Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards against a leopard attack, we’re fairly confident they’d do better than paper cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper or a smartphone application.

Each player should be seated such that they have enough space between them to fit a three-by-three square of cards in front of them. This initially vacant area is the tableau. Each tableau consists of nine empty spaces corresponding to the ace in the upper left through the nine on the lower right. (See the image above.) Shuffle and deal eight cards to each player. Place the deck stub face down to the side, midway between the two players, forming the stock. The area immediately adjacent to the stock is reserved for the discard pile.

Game play

Game play begins with the non-dealer. Their turn begins by drawing one card from the stock. They may then either play one card to either of the tableaux. If they cannot or don’t wish to, they can simply discard a card to the discard pile. The turn then passes to the dealer. Cards in either the discard pile or either tableau cannot be returned to a player’s hand.

The value of each player’s tableau is determined by the combined total of each of the tableau’s lines. A line is a vertical column, horizontal row, or either of the diagonals (from upper left to lower right and from upper right to lower left). A line is worth three points if it contains three cards of the same suit. If it contains three cards of the same color but not the same suit, it is worth one point. All other lines are worth zero points.

Leopard scoring examples.

Most cards can be played either to your own tableau or to your opponent’s. Also, some cards may be played face down to the tableau. When a card is played face down on top of another card, it is treated as though that spot is vacant until another card is played on top of it.

Role of each card

Each card has a slightly different set of restrictions on where and how it can be played:

  • Aces through 9s can only be played in their designated spots in either tableau.
  • 10s can be played in any empty space on your own tableau.
  • Jacks are always played face down on top of another card. They may be played to either tableau.
  • Queens are always played face down, like jacks. However, they can only be played to your own tableau.
  • Kings are the most powerful cards in the game. They may be played on top of any card or in any blank space in your own tableau.

In some cases, it can be ambiguous which spot in the tableau a 10 or a king may be played to. A player may require their opponent to clarify which space a given card is intended to occupy, if necessary.

Going out

When the point value of your tableau reaches seven or more points on your turn, you may go out. You must go out before you have played or discarded any cards, i.e. right after drawing. Going out is entirely optional; you may choose to continue playing in order to increase your score. Unlike most games, the player that goes out is charged a one-point penalty for doing so, in order to provide an incentive to not go out immediately when able.

When the stock is depleted, play continues as usual, although players do not draw at the beginning of their turn. They must, however, still play a card or discard on each turn. If both players exhaust their hands before one of them goes out, the game is simply scored at that point, with neither player taking the penalty for going out.

Scoring

When the hand ends, both players calculate the final value of their tableau. To this, each player also adds one point for each point in excess of seven that their tableau was worth. For example, a player with an ending tableau worth 7 points would have a final score of 7. A tableau worth 8 points would score 8 + 1 = 9 points, a tableau worth 9 points would score 9 + 2 = 11 points, and so on. The player going deducts their one-point penalty from this total. These final scores are then recorded to the scoresheet.

The player with the highest total score at the end of four hands wins the game.

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