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.
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.