Aggravation is a simple game of quick reactions for two players. As in California Speed, players each have half of the deck they’re trying to get rid of by spotting two or more cards of the same rank and dealing new cards to cover them. However, in Aggravation, the number of cards in the layout— and thus the possible number of matches—keeps going up and up!

Object of Aggravation

The object of Aggravation is to be the first to play all of their cards to the tableau.


To play Aggravation, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since you’re going to be moving quickly and placing cards as fast as you can, cards can get damaged very easily in this game. Make sure you have a deck of cards which can escape even the most boisterous games unscathed by always playing with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Shuffle and deal 26 cards (half the pack) to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, they hold them in their hand as a squared-up, face-down pack.

Game play

On the count of three, each player simultaneously plays one card from their deck, face up, in front of them. If these cards are not of the same rank, the players turn up another card, again at the same time. The players should place their cards on the table so they form a neat grid. The cards played by one player should form one horizontal row near them. Meanwhile, the cards played by the other will line up vertically with their opponent’s cards. These cards collectively form the tableau.

So long as no cards in the tableau are of the same rank, this continues, with players adding more and more cards to the table. Whenever a player notices two or more cards of the same rank, they quickly cover the matching cards with cards from their deck, hoping to beat their opponent to doing so. If this forms any new matches, then whichever player notices it first may likewise cover the matching cards. This continues until all cards in the tableau are of different ranks. Players then resume simultaneously turning over cards, as before.

If both players spot a match and try to cover it at the same time, whoever has played cards to cover it may leave them there. It is fine if a match is partially covered by one player and partially covered by their opponent.

Running out of cards

When a player is reduced to having one card or less left in their deck, their opponent continues turning cards over, one by one, on their own row. A player with only one card can play it to cover part of a match.

When a player has no cards remaining, the next time a match forms, they touch two of the cards and call out “Aggravation!” That player wins the game.