Cactus is a card game for two players where memory plays a crucial role. Initially, all of a player’s cards are face down, so they will have no knowledge of the value of their hand. However, as the game continues, the initial, unknown cards will be replaced with cards the player does know the identity of. They still can’t look at the cards, though—so they have to remember which card is which to make sure they don’t accidentally discard or reveal the wrong card!
Cactus is part of a small family of games collectively referred to as “Golf” (distinct from the better-known Golf solitaire game). They carry this name because, like in the sport of golf, the goal is to end with the lowest score. Cactus is a Golf variant hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Object of Cactus
The object of Cactus is to end the game with the lowest point total. Players try to reduce their point total by selectively discarding and drawing cards.
To play Cactus, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. To make sure that your cards are always durable enough to stand up to your game, always use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Each player arranges their cards in a two-by-two grid in front of them, making sure to keep them face down. Place the stub face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.
Game play in Cactus revolves around players trying to reduce the total point value of the cards in their hands. The values of each card are as follows:
- Aces: one point.
- Kings: zero points.
- Queens and jacks: ten points each.
- All other cards: pip value.
The non-dealer goes first. They draw a card from the stock and look at it, keeping it hidden from the dealer. They may then swap it with any of the face-down cards in front of them. The player may not look at the face-down cards before deciding which to swap. The player then turns the card they wish to remove face up and places it next to the stock, forming the discard pile. The card drawn is placed face down in the vacant spot in the layout.
Once a card has been placed on the layout, a player cannot look at it again. Instead, they must remember which card is which for the rest of the game!
After the non-dealer has discarded, the dealer plays. On this and all subsequent turns, a player may choose to draw the top card of the discard pile rather than from the stock.
At any time, even if it’s not their turn, if a player believes a card in their layout matches the top card of the discard pile, they may turn the card face up. If the card does indeed match, they may discard the matching card. Their layout will now be one card smaller. If the card does not match, they turn the card back face down, then draw two penalty cards from the stock and add them to their layout without looking at them.
Queens through 6s are called power cards, allow a player to invoke a special move when drawn from the stock. Instead of swapping the power card with a card from the layout, a player can simply discard it, then perform the appropriate action, according to the card’s rank:
- Queen: Swap any card from your layour with a card from your opponent’s layout. You may not look at either card before swapping.
- Jack, 10, or 9: You may look at any one of your opponent’s cards. They don’t get to know what it is.
- 8, 7, or 6: You may look at any one of your own cards.
A player may also choose to play a power card to their layout, as normal. Doing so does not invoke the special power associated with the card.
If a power card ends up in the discard pile without having been used, that is, if it is discarded from a player’s layout, the opponent may draw it off the discard pile. They may then immediately re-discard it and invoke the power.
Ending the game
Game play continues until one player is satisfied with their layout. At the end of their turn, they call out “Cactus!” Their opponent then has one more turn in which to act. After the opponent takes their turn, both players turn up all of their cards. Whichever player has the lower total score is the winner.
Concentration (also known as Memory, and, in the UK, as Pelmanism), is a simple game of memory. It is also a game with no luck involved; the only way to win a game of Concentration is through the skill of memorizing the layout.
Object of Concentration
The object of Concentration is to be the player to match the most pairs by remembering the locations of cards in the layout.
Concentration uses one standard 52-card pack. While Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards won’t necessarily help you remember the cards better, they do look rather nice, in our opinion, at least.
Shuffle thoroughly and spread the deck face-down on the table. Separate the cards so they do not overlap. If you wish, you may arrange the cards into some sort of tidy pattern, like a grid, but this is not necessary.
The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They flip any card, face up, then a second, trying to find a card of the same rank as the first. If they successfully find a match, they remove the two cards from the layout, keeping them in a personal discard pile, and then play again. If the two cards revealed do not match, they are turned face down and the turn passes to the next player to the left.
Game play continues until the entire layout has been paired off in this way. The winner of the game is the player with the most pairs.
The game may be played with two or more decks shuffled together. This allows for more players and makes finding matches more difficult (as well as making the game longer).
If more difficulty in finding matches is desired, you may require each card only be matched with the card of the same rank and color as the first card revealed. Note that no matter how difficult you make matching, it will gradually become easier as the layout is cleared.