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.