Carousel is a rummy-type game for two to five players. Carousel is one of a small family of “manipulation rummy” games. The chief feature of this group that all of the melds on the table are shared between the players. Players can lay off on any meld on the table, and not only that, they can move cards between melds, break them apart, and reform them at will! Rummikub, a proprietary tile-based game, fits into this game family quite well, and was probably derived from one of its members.
Object of Carousel
The object of Carousel is to get rid of as many cards as possible by putting them into melds. That allows a player to knock, hopefully ensuring that the total of their unmatched cards is lower than that of their opponent.
The number of cards used in Carousel depends on the number of players. For two players, use one deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, including one joker. For three to five players, use two decks with two jokers. You’ll also need something to keep score with, such as the traditional pencil and paper, or a smartphone app dedicated to the task.
Shuffle and deal ten cards to each player. Place the rest of the deck face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. A player begins their turn by drawing one card from the stock. If they are able to meld, they may do so, melding as many cards as they legally can. Once they are done melding, their turn ends, and play passes to the next player to their left. If they cannot or do not wish to meld, they may draw a second card from the stock. Again, they may meld after their second draw if they can, which ends their turn. Otherwise, they draw a third card from the stock and their turn ends at that point. (Unlike most other rummy games, there is no discarding.)
Each card has a point value assigned to it. Jokers are worth 25 points each, face cards are worth 10 points each, and aces are worth 1 point each. All other cards are worth their pip value.
There are two types of valid melds in Carousel. The first is a set, which consists of three or four cards of the same rank and different suits. You cannot have two cards of the same suit in a set.
The second type of meld is a sequence, which is made of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. For the purpose of sequences, cards rank in their usual order. Aces may start or end a sequence, but cannot be in the middle (A-2-3 and J-Q-K-A are both perfectly fine sequences, but K-A-2 is not).
When melding, you may rearrange the cards on the table to whatever combination of meld you see fit. For example, you may take a 10 from a set of four 10s on the board to use it in a run. Or you can take a card off the end of a run of more than three cards to form a set. The important thing is that at the end of your turn, every card on the table must still be part of a valid meld. (You cannot, say, take a card from the middle of a sequence, or leave only two cards in a meld.) You cannot take any cards from the table and put them into your hand.
Below is an example of a meld a player might make. Suppose two of the melds previously on the table were 8-9-10-J♦ and J-Q-K-A♠. The active player has the J♥ in their hand. They may remove the J♦ and J♠ from their existing melds and combine them with the J♥ from their hand in order to form a new meld of three jacks. The melds on the table at the end of the hand would be 8-9-10♦, Q-K-A♠, and J♦-J♠-J♥.
Using the joker
The joker is wild and can represent any other card in the meld. When playing a joker, you must specify the exact rank and suit of the card that it represents. The joker is then treated as though it is a natural card of that rank and suit. The joker can only be moved to a new meld where the card it represents would legally fit.
If the natural card that a joker is substituting for is in play, a player may remove the joker from its meld and add the natural card in its place. The natural card can come from either the player’s hand or another meld. The joker can then be moved to a different meld. It can once again represent any card that the player names. The joker cannot be returned to the player’s hand, however.
If a player ends their turn with less than five points in deadwood (unmatched cards), they may knock before the next player takes their turn. This ends the hand immediately, and no further melding may take place at that point. All players reveal their hands and total their deadwood score. The player who knocked wins the hand, unless any of their opponents has a lower or equal deadwood total. In that case, the player with the lowest score wins and scores a ten-point bonus for undercutting. (In the event that multiple players tie for the lowest deadwood score, every tied player other than the player who knocked is considered to have won and scores accordingly.) If a player melds all of their cards (and thus has a deadwood score of zero), they score a 25-point bonus.
The winner’s hand score is determined by calculating the difference between the winner’s deadwood and that of each of their opponents. They then total all of the differences, along with any relevant bonuses, as described above. No other players score for that hand.
The deal passes to the left and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one player reaches a score of 150 or more. That player is the winner, and receives a game bonus of 100 points. Each player also scores a 25-point box bonus for each hand that they won.