As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified, more and more of us are subject to furloughs and stay-at-home orders. Many of us have the fortune to be at home with a loved one or roommate. Having someone else to spend time can make things a lot more tolerable.
However, those with a regular card game night may have some trouble adjusting to life with just two players. After all, poker gets pretty boring when it’s nothing but heads-up play. Partnership games like Canasta or Contract Bridge are obviously a no-go. If you want to pass time with a game of cards with a friend, but need guidance on what to play, try these five games. (If you happen to be isolated at home by yourself, check out last week’s recommendations for solitaire games.)
- Gin Rummy: Any discussion of two-player card games has to start with Gin—it’s a classic for a reason. It takes the traditional draw-meld-discard format of Rummy, but adds the simple twist of having the players keep the melds in their hands. Since you can’t see your opponent’s melds, you need a good memory and abductive reasoning skills to know what is and isn’t a safe discard. The result is a game that’s simple to pick up, but challenging to master. Our Gin Rummy strategy guide might help, though.
- Turnover Bridge: Actually a Whist game despite the name, Turnover Bridge is strategic for the exact opposite reasons that Gin is. In Turnover Bridge, all but two of each player’s cards will be exposed to their opponent. That means that each player has enough information to devise a strategy to outplay their opponents, barring some surprises.
- Mate: Mate takes the idea of the perfect-strategy game even further. The goal is forcing your opponent into a situation where they can’t play a card matching the card led in suit or rank. However, you want as many turns to pass as possible before that happens. After the hand ends, you swap cards with your opponent. Then you see if you could have done any better with their hand!
- Cassino: Cassino is a fairly straightforward game of capturing cards by matching them in value. You do that either by matching in pairs, or by putting together two cards and using a third that matches their total value. Cassino is the only member of its family of games that’s popular in the English-speaking world. If you like it, give some of the other games of the fishing family a try.
- Pishe Pasha: This game plays a lot like a solitaire game, because there’s four foundation piles in the center of the table that you’re building up in order by suit. However, instead of a tableau, the only other place you can put cards is on your opponent’s discard pile. The goal is to run out of cards first, though, so that’s not a move your opponent will be particularly happy about.
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Pishe Pasha is a simple competitive solitaire game for two players. In Pishe Pasha, players turn over cards one at a time from a stock pile, trying to get rid of them. This can be done by building up foundation piles in the center of the table, putting the cards out of play. However, you can also get rid of cards by forcing your opponent to take them. Unfortunately for you, though, they’re going to be trying to do the same thing to you!
Object of Pishe Pasha
The object of Pishe Pasha is to be the first to run out of cards. Players can get rid of cards in two ways. One is by playing them to a set of shared foundation piles. They may also play cards onto their opponent’s discard pile.
To play Pishe Pasha, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To ensure a smooth, trouble-free game, we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Shuffle and deal out the cards as far as they will go, so that each player has 26 cards. Players cannot look at their cards. Instead, they should collect them into a squared-up pack, keeping it face down. This pack constitutes the player’s stock.
The non-dealer turns up the first card of their stock to form their discard pile, placing it face-up next to the stock. If is this card is not an ace, the hand begins with the dealer’s first turn. However, if this card is an ace, the non-dealer immediately moves it to the center of the table to form one of the foundation piles. They then turn over another card. If this card can also be played to the foundation piles, as described below, they continue moving cards to the foundations and turning cards face up until they find a card that cannot be played.
On a player’s turn, they may move cards from their discard pile to one of two places. As aces are turned up, they are moved to the center of the table to form the foundation piles, shared by both players. The foundation piles, one per suit, are then built up in sequence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low. If a player is able to play a card to the foundations, they must do so first. They may not take any other action before doing so.
On their turn, a player may also play a card to their opponent’s discard pile. To do so, the card must be one rank above or one rank below the top card already showing on the discard pile. Suit does not matter. For example, with a 7 showing on a player’s discard pile, their opponent may play any 6 or 8 to it.
If a player notices that their opponent failed to play a card to the foundations when able, they may call “Stop!” The player calling Stop may then either force their opponent to move the card to the foundations, or force their opponent to end their turn and take their turn instead.
Play of the hand
The dealer plays first, turning the top card of their stock up to form their discard pile. If they can play this card according to the rules above, they may do so. Then, they draw another card from their stock. They may keep playing until they draw a card they are unable to play. They then place this card on their discard pile, ending their turn.
The non-dealer then plays, following the same rule. The dealer and non-dealer continue alternating turns in this way. If a card played to the discard pile on a subsequent turn (or one that is moved there by the player’s opponent) is exposed, it may be played just like any other card. As always, if the card can be played to the foundations, this must be done before the player can take any other action.
A player will eventually run out of cards in their stock, while still having cards in their discard pile. When this happens, they turn their discard pile over, without shuffling, to form a new stock.
A player wins when they have gotten rid of all of the cards from both their stock and discard pile.
Diloti is a Greek fishing game for two players (or four players in partnerships). It plays similarly to another Greek fishing game, Kontsina. However, it also incorporates bonuses for capturing all the cards in one fell swoop, as in Xeri. This, along with the ability to form cards into sets that can only be captured together, makes Diloti one of the most strategic games in the fishing family.
Object of Diloti
The object of Diloti is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured with a card matching them in rank, or by using one card from the hand to capture a combination of cards that add up to its rank. Particular attention is given to capturing all the cards on the table on one turn, which scores higher.
If you want to play Diloti, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you want to give your players the best Diloti game ever—and who doesn’t?—you’ll need a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app. You can also use a Cribbage board.
If you’re playing with four players, determine partnerships by some convenient method like high-card draw, or simply mutual agreement. Partners should be seated across from each other, so that as the turn progresses around the table players from alternating partnerships get a turn.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards face up to the center of the table. If three or more of these cards are the same rank, shuffle all four of them back into the deck and deal four new cards. Place the stub next to these four cards, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left plays first. On each turn, a player plays a single card from their hand. If it doesn’t match with anything else on the table, they simply play it face-up to the table. This is called laying the card. If possible, however, a player will try to capture cards from the table, since this is how points are scored.
A player may form one or more cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5 and form all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it. The declaration should be formed into a pile on the table, with all indices visible, to denote it can only be captured as a unit, as well as allowing players to see its value.
A player can also capture multiple cards by playing a card whose rank is equal to the total of the values of the cards being captured. For example, with a 5 and a 3 on the table, playing an 8 will capture both cards. Cards’ values are equal to their pip value; face cards have no value. If multiple combinations of cards add up to the card played, all of them can be captured at once. For example, if there are an 8, 6, 5, 3, and 2 on the table, an 8 could capture all five cards (8 alone, 5+3, and 6+2).
When a player captures cards, they place them, as well as the card used to capture them, face down in a pile in front of them. (In the four-player game, each player shares a captured-cards pile with their partner.) No player can inspect these cards for any reason until the end of the hand.
A player may form cards on the table into a bundle that must be captured as a single unit. This bundle is known as a declaration. For example, with a 2 and a 3 on the table, a player may play a 5, then group all three cards into a declaration with a value of 10. This declaration would only be able to captured on a later turn with a 10. Note that because face cards have no defined value, they cannot be included in a declaration. To avoid ambiguity, it is customary to state the value of the declaration when forming it.
After a declaration has been formed, any player can capture it if they have a card of a proper value. An opponent may also raise the declaration by adding an additional card to it, thus increasing the value of the card needed to capture it. A player cannot raise their own declaration or one formed by their partner. Of course, a player cannot raise the value of a declaration above 10, because no single card in the deck has a value greater than 10.
To form a declaration, a player must have a card in their hand that can capture it. Likewise, to raise a declaration, the raising player must hold a card with the new value of the declaration. The player that formed or raised the declaration cannot use the card for any other purpose but capturing the declaration (unless it is captured or raised by another player). After forming a new declaration, a player cannot lay cards, nor form new declarations until the existing declaration is captured (either by themselves or someone else) or raised by an opponent. This restriction passes to an opponent who raises a declaration already on the table.
A more complex type of declaration is the group declaration. A group declaration is a set of multiple single cards or bundles of cards, where the value of each set is equal. For example, with a 2, 6, and two 4s on the table, a player could make a group declaration with a value of 8 (the first set being 2+6 and the second being 4+4). Later, all four cards could be captured by playing an 8. When forming a group declaration, a player should state that they are doing so by stating “group of 8s”. This avoids ambiguity regarding the type of declaration being made.
The real power of a group declaration is that it can incorporate existing regular declarations as one of the sets. For example, Alpha creates a declaration of 7 by playing a 3 onto a 4. The next player, Bravo, raises the declaration to 9 by adding a 2 to it. Then they combine it with another 9 on the table to make a group declaration. Bravo (or any other player) could then capture all four cards with another 9.
A player is permitted to incorporate an existing regular declaration that they are obliged to capture into a new group declaration. This is the only way a player can form a new declaration while they already have a uncaptured declaration on the table. A player may also incorporate their partner’s declaration into a group declaration. All of the same restrictions that apply to a player with a pending regular declaration apply to a player that has formed a group declaration as well.
Beginning on the second turn of the hand, when a player plays a single card that captures every face-up card on the table, they are said to have captured those cards xeri (an Greek word meaning “plain” or “dry”). A xeri capture scores more points than cards captured otherwise. Because of this, a good deal of the strategy in Diloti involves blocking your opponents from getting xeris, while seizing any opportunities your opponent may leave open to get one.
To record a xeri, the player places one card from the batch captured face up and at right angles to the rest of the their won-cards pile.
Replenishing the hands
After six turns, the players will have run out of cards. The dealer then deals every player a new hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.
When the last batch of cards has been dealt from the stock, the game continues until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining on the table and adds them to their won cards. (This does not count as a xeri.)
After the hand ends, each player or partnership looks through the cards in their won-tricks pile and totals up their score for the hand, as follows:
- Ten points for each xeri
- Four points for capturing the most cards. If both players or teams tie at 26 cards, neither side scores these four points.
- Two points for capturing the 10♦
- One point for each ace captured
- One point for capturing the 2♣
The scores are recorded on the scoresheet, the deal passes to the left, and another hand is played. Game play continues until a player or partnership reaches a score of 61 or higher. Whichever side has the higher score at that point wins the game.
Xeri is a simple fishing game for two players. In Xeri, players alternately discard single cards to a pile in the middle of the table. When someone plays a card that matches the rank of the top card of the discard pile, they get to claim all the cards in the pile!
Xeri originates from Greece, and xeri is a Greek word meaning “dry” or “plain”. This comes from the bonus scored when capturing a single-card pile. The notion of collecting bonuses for capturing cards one at a time is also found in the more complex and strategic Greek game Diloti.
Object of Xeri
The object of Xeri is to capture as many cards as possible. Cards are captured by matching cards from the hand to the top card of the discard pile.
To play Xeri, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. As a discerning host that wants to provide the best to their players, you’ll of course want to play with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper or a smartphone app.
Shuffle and deal six cards to each player. Then, deal four cards, face up, to form a discard pile. Take a look at these cards to see if the top card of the pile is a jack, or if the card on top of the pile and the card below it are the same rank. If either of these are true, shuffle the discard pile back into the deck and deal a new four-card discard pile. After the discard pile has been formed, place the stub next to it, forming the stock.
The non-dealer goes first. They may play any card they wish to the discard pile. The turn then passes to the dealer, who also discards a card, and so on.
If a player plays a card of the same rank as the card currently showing on top of the discard pile, they capture the pile. They take the whole pile and place it face down in front of them, forming a won-cards pile. Their opponent then discards a card, starting a new discard pile.
Jacks are essentially wild. When played, they capture the pile as if they matched the top card, whatever its rank is.
Once cards are captured and placed in the won-cards pile, neither player can look through them to see what has and hasn’t been played yet.
After a player captures cards, their opponent starts a new discard pile with a single card. The capturing player is then faced with a discard pile with only one card in it. If they capture this card with a card of the same rank, they are said to have captured that card xeri (an adjective meaning “plain” or “dry”). Capturing xeri scores more points than cards captured otherwise. To signify this, the card captured xeri is turned face up and placed at right angles to the rest of the pile.
If a single card is captured by a jack, it does not count as a xeri capture unless the single card in the pile was also a jack.
Replenishing the hands
After six turns, both players’ hands will have been depleted. The dealer then deals each player a fresh hand of six cards from the stock. Play continues as before.
When the stock is depleted, the hand is played out until all the cards have been played. This ends the hand. The last player to capture cards takes any cards remaining in the discard pile and adds them to their won cards.
At the end of the hand, each player calculates their score for the hand as follows:
- 10 points for each xeri (note that the xeri cards also count as captured cards, and so should be included when considering the scoring options below)
- 3 points for capturing more cards than the opponent
- 1 point for each ace, king, queen, jack or 10
- 1 point for capturing the 10♦ (note that the 10♦ also counts as a 10, so capturing it is worth two points altogether)
- 1 point for capturing the 2♣
Whichever player scores the most points wins the hand. The deal passes to the other player, and the next hand is played. Whoever won more hands at the end of a predetermined number of hands wins the overall game.
Russian Bank, sometimes known in France, Brazil, and Portugal as Crapette, is a card game for two players. In Russian Bank, players take turns moving cards around a shared layout between the two players. Their hope is to eventually move all of the cards from their deck out onto the layout, and be left with nothing. Because the rules of where cards can and can’t be played are so similar to those found in solitaire games, it’s entirely accurate to say Russian Bank is really a form of competitive solitaire!
Object of Russian Bank
The object of Russian Bank is to be the first player to get rid of all of their cards. This is done by playing cards to the foundations, the tableau, and their opponent’s stock and reserve piles.
To play Russian Bank, you’ll need two standard 52-card decks of playing cards. Although it’s not strictly required, it’s quite helpful for the two decks to have different back designs, to allow them to be easily separated after each hand. (The back designs have no effect on game play.) Fortunately, any two-deck set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards will meet these criteria. You’ll also need something to keep score with, like pencil and paper.
Each player takes one of the decks and shuffles it. Deal twelve cards into a face-down pile to your right, then deal a thirteen card to it, face up. This pile constitutes the reserve, also known as the talon. Then, deal a column of four cards, face up, starting just above the reserve and extending toward your opponent. This line, and the line being dealt by your opponent, make up the tableau. The players should space their tableau lines at least two card-widths apart. The space between the tableau columns will be used for the eight foundation piles.
The remainder of each deck becomes the stock, and is placed to your left. The space between the stock and the reserve will be used for the discard pile. (See the image at the top-right for an illustration of the full layout.)
Whichever player has the lower card on top of their reserve goes first. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.
As in most solitaire games, not every card that belongs to a player is available for play. At first, only the top card of your own reserve pile and the top card of each of the tableau piles are considered available. When the top card of the reserve is played elsewhere, turn over the next card; this newly-exposed card also becomes available. Additional cards become available later in the turn, once any priority moves are completed.
Cards in the foundation piles are never available for play; once a card is moved to a foundation it will remain there for the rest of the hand. Cards in the discard pile are also unavailable, though these may become available again when the stock is exhausted.
At the start of a player’s turn, they are required to perform a number of priority moves, if possible. If, later on in the turn, a priority move becomes possible through the movement of cards, the player must complete the priority move before doing anything else.
First, a player must move any available cards to the foundations that they can, starting with the top card of the reserve, followed by any cards from the tableau. Aces must be moved to an empty foundation space when they become available. Foundation piles are then built up by suit, in ascending order. When a foundation pile reaches the king, no more cards may be added to it; further cards of that suit must be played to the other foundation of that suit.
After a player has moved any cards to the foundations that they can, they must then fill any empty spaces in the tableau with cards from their reserve, if it has not been depleted. During the process, if they reveal any cards that can be moved to the foundations, they must do that first before filling any more tableau spaces.
After a player has resolved all possible priority moves, they are then free to make any moves they wish. A player may build upon any of the tableau piles, in descending rank order and alternating colors, as in Klondike. Cards can also be moved between tableau piles, if desired; however, only the top card of each pile may be moved. Batches of properly-sequenced cards may not be moved as a unit, as is allowed in most other solitaire games.
A player is also allowed to play any available card to their opponent’s stock and reserve, which is called loading it. To do this, the being loaded must be of the same suit and either one rank above or one rank below that of the card it is being played atop.
So long as there are no priority moves that must be made, a player may turn up the top card of their stock. This card becomes an available card, which is subject to the usual priority move rules. It may otherwise be played to the tableau or the opponent’s stock or reserve, if possible. Any stock card so played is then replaced with another card from the stock. This continues until a player is unable or unwilling to play a card from their stock. They then discard it to their discard pile, ending their turn.
If a player depletes their stock, but still has cards in the discard pile, when they need to draw a card from the stock, they turn the entire discard pile face down. This forms a new stock they can draw from, as usual.
Players should watch their opponent carefully during their turn. If a player notices their opponent break any of the rules of play, they may call out “Stop!” A player can call “Stop!” if their opponent fails to complete any priority rules, or if they perform the priority moves in the wrong order (first reserve cards to the foundations, then tableau cards to the foundations, and filling empty tableau spaces from the reserve last). A player can also call “Stop!” should the opponent attempt to build incorrectly on the tableau, or otherwise play a card somewhere it doesn’t belong.
If a player was caught trying to place a card in a location it’s not allowed to be played (such as illegal play on the tableau), that move is reversed. When a player is called out for failure to properly perform priority moves, the priority moves must be carried out as required. In both cases, the player’s turn immediately ends, and it becomes their opponent’s turn.
End of the hand
The hand ends when either a player successfully depletes their stock, discard pile, and reserve, leaving them with no cards on their side of the table, or when a stalemate is reached where nobody has any legally-playable cards in their stock, discard pile, or reserve. Each player counts up the number of cards in their stock and discard, which are worth one point a piece, and the number of cards in their reserve, valued at two points each. Whichever player has the lower score wins the hand and scores the difference between the two players’ counts. A player ending the hand with no cards at all also scores a 30-point bonus.
The cards are then turned face-down and separated back into 52-card decks, which are shuffled for the next hand. Game play continues until one player reaches a predetermined score, such as 300 points. That player is the winner.
California Speed is a fast-paced game for two players. Much like regular Speed, in California Speed each player controls half of the deck, quickly playing cards from their hand to a tableau shared between the two players. To win a game of California Speed, a player has to be able to quickly read the board in front of them and react before their opponent does.
Object of California Speed
The object of California Speed is to be the first to play all of their cards to the tableau.
To play a game of California Speed, you’ll need a standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Because this is a game that involves a lot of quick movements, with cards flying everywhere, you need a deck of cards that can stand up to the abuse. You don’t want cards that will chip or bend. You’ll want a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal 26 cards, face down, to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, they should keep them in a squared-up pack, face down in their hand.
On a count of three, each player deals four cards face-up in a row in front of them, aligning them so that they form a box. This box forms the tableau.
As soon as the tableau is dealt, each player begins looking for cards of the same rank. If players find a match, be it a pair, three- or four-of-a-kind, they immediately deal more cards from their hand to cover up the matched cards. There are no turns; players act simultaneously. Should both players notice a match and begin covering cards at the same time, it is perfectly fine to leave the match partially covered by one player and the rest by the other.
If no further plays are available because the tableau displays eight cards of different ranks, each player picks up the four stacks of cards on their side of the table, turns them face down, and puts them under the stack of cards in their hand. Each player then deals four cards from their hand to form a new tableau, as at the beginning of the game.
Game play continues until one player plays all of the cards from their hand to the tableau. That player is the winner.
Turnover Bridge is, despite its name, a variant of Whist for two players. Unusually among trick-taking games, each player only has two cards that they can keep secret from the other player. The rest of their cards can be seen by their opponent, helping both players form ideal strategies. Almost half of the cards in the deck are dealt face down at the beginning of the game, however. That means that as the game goes on and those face-down cards are turned over, what constitutes an “ideal strategy” might change quite a bit!
Object of Turnover Bridge
The object of Turnover Bridge is to capture fourteen or more tricks.
To play Turnover Bridge, grab a deck of bridge-size Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Shuffle and deal twelve cards, face down, in a line in front of each player. Then, deal twelve cards face up, one on top of each face-down card. Deal two more cards to each player, face down, exhausting the pack. The players may look at these last two cards, but not the face-down cards on the table covered by the face-up cards.
In Turnover Bridge, not all of the player’s hand is accessible to them at any given time. Initially, the only cards they may play are the twelve face-up cards from their hand, plus the two cards they hold hidden from their opponent. When a face-up card is played, the face-down card beneath it, if any, is then turned face up and becomes available for play.
The non-dealer leads any card they can access to the first trick. The dealer then responds by playing an accessible card, following suit if able. If a player can’t follow suit, they may play any card they wish. Whichever player contributed the highest spade (spades serving as a permanent trump suit) wins the trick. If nobody played a spade, the higher card of the suit led takes the trick. (Note that this means that when a player cannot follow suit, they cannot take the trick except by playing a spade.) Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high.
When a player wins a trick, they collect the cards and set them aside in a won-tricks pile. Each trick should be kept separate, such as by placing them at right angles to each other. The player who won the trick then leads to the next one.
Game play continues until one player captures fourteen tricks (a majority of the 26 tricks in the game). That player is the winner, and play normally ceases at that point. If all 26 tricks are played out, and it is found that the tricks have been split 13–13, then the game is a tie.
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.
James Bond is a card game from the Commerce group of games. It can be played by either two or three players. It plays very similarly to a smaller, non-partnership version of Cash (Kemps), with each player holding multiple hands. In James Bond, players manage several four-card piles of cards, swapping cards with those on the table to make four-of-a-kinds.
Object of James Bond
The object of James Bond is to be the first player to collect four of a kind in each of their four-card piles.
James Bond is played using one standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Believe us, if you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’ll definitely be as cool as James Bond.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out into piles of four. With two players, give each player six of the piles; with three, give each player four piles. Players should keep the piles in front of them, clearly separated, and not look at them until the game begins. You’ll be left with one extra pile; turn it face up and spread it in the center of the play area, easily accessible to all players.
Players do not take turns in James Bond. Instead, every player acts simultaneously, playing as quickly as they can. Claiming cards is very much a first-come, first-served sort of ordeal!
Upon a signal from the dealer, all players begin play at once. They may pick up any one of their piles and look at it. If they wish to look at a different pile, they must place the first one face down on the table before picking up another one. A player cannot hold one or more piles in their hand at the same time. Piles cannot be combined, and cards may not be switched directly between piles.
When a player is holding one of their piles in their hand, they may switch any one card from that pile with one of the cards on the table. A player cannot switch more than one card at a time. If a player wishes to take multiple cards from the table, they must switch one card, then the other. Players may move cards between piles by swapping them with cards on the table, then switching piles and swapping again. Of course, this runs the risk of an opponent claiming the cards during the time that they’re on the table.
Game play continues until one player has collected four of a kind in every one of their piles. They call out “James Bond!” and turn their cards face up to allow the opponents to verify that they do, in fact, have four of a kind in each pile. If so, the player wins the game.
A decent amount of skill in this game is simply being fast. A player swapping cards quickly is more likely to establish a four-of-a-kind before their opponent. Part of this is inherent reflexes, and part is just practice.
Other than that, the best strategy in this game is to simply be aware of what’s going on. It’s easy to get lost in the frenzy of card swapping and get tunnel vision for what you need to complete your piles. Try to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, though. If you can remember what your opponent has been taking, you can retain cards of that rank in your piles until you are ready to complete a four-of-a-kind. If you have multiple cards of that rank split across piles, you can seriously delay them in completing their piles.
Nuts, also known as Nerts, Pounce, and Racing Demon, among other names, is a competitive solitaire game. It can be played by two to four players, although more may be accommodated by dividing into partnerships. Functionally, Nuts resembles multiple frenzied games of Canfield being played simultaneously.
Object of Nuts
To play Nuts, you’ll need one deck of cards for each player. Each deck of cards in play must have a distinct back design. The frenzied pace of Nuts means cards can get bent up and damaged pretty easily. With a sturdy deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, you’re far less likely to have to stop the game and hunt for a replacement deck. Plus, they come in a two-deck set, which is perfect for a two-player game of Nuts.
You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as the venerable pencil and paper.
Players should seat themselves such that they are all facing a central area, where the foundations will be played. This central area should be accessible by all players, with plenty of room between players to allow for easy movement. If playing with an even number of players greater than four, players should pair up by any convenient means. Partners should sit next to one another. In a partnership game, the partners cooperate, however they see fit, to play more quickly. (We will describe the game as though it were being played by solo players below; any time a “player” is mentioned it should be understood that this applies to a partnership, where appropriate.)
Each player shuffles and deals thirteen cards from their own deck, face down, into a pile. They then square up the pile, and turn it face up, so only the top card can be seen. This forms the reserve. To the right of the reserve, deal a line of four cards, face up, forming the tableau. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
There are no turns in Nuts. Instead, everyone plays simultaneously. When conflicts arise, the first card to be played (usually the one that ended up below the other) takes precedence. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Play of the hand
The tableau is built down by alternating colors (red cards are played on black cards and vice versa), in descending rank order. When a card is moved, all cards on top of it are moved as well. In other words, the tableau works pretty much exactly like that of Canfield or Klondike. A player may play to their own tableau only; their opponents’ are off-limits.
The top card of the reserve is available to be moved to any legal location at any time. Cards beneath the top card are not accessible and should not be known to the player.
Cards may be drawn, three at a time, from the stock and placed in a discard pile, from which they may be moved to any location. Only the third card is available for play, freeing up the second card when the third is played, etc. After the stock is fully depleted, the discard pile is flipped over to replenish it.
When an empty spot appears in the tableau, any accessible card (the top card of the reserve, a card from the discard pile, or cards from elsewhere in the tableau) may be moved to fill the vacancy.
When a player encounters an ace, it may be moved to the central area to form a new foundation pile. The foundation piles are built up by suit, in ascending rank order. Any player may add to a foundation pile, not just the player that started it. Players may create a new foundation whenever they have an ace, even if another incomplete foundation pile exists. No new cards may be added to a foundation whenever a king has been played to it. Once played to a foundation, a card cannot be removed from it.
After the hand has gone on for a while, players will be unable to make any additional moves, due to a lack of necessary cards (trapped either in the reserve or in inaccessible parts of the stock). When all players reach this state, or otherwise agree to do so, they may flip their discard piles to reform their stock, then, move its top card to the bottom. This is usually enough to adjust the deck so new cards are now accessible.
Ending the hand
The hand ends whenever a player depletes their reserve. They call out “Nuts!” and game play immediately ceases. (Players in the process of moving cards may complete their moves, but no new cards may be picked up.)
It occasionally happens that none of the cards in a player’s stock are playable. If every player finds themselves in this situation, the hand ends.
The foundation piles are collected, then separated based on their backs. This allows a count to be made of the number of cards each player contributed to the foundations. Each player scores one point for each card played to the foundations. Two points are then subtracted for each card left in their reserve.
Players collect their cards back into full decks, then shuffle and deal new hands. Game play continues until at least one player exceeds a score of 100 points. The player with the highest score at that point is the winner.