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.
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.
Salute the King is a card game for three or more players. No great skill or strategy is needed to play—it’s a purely a game of quick reactions and silliness! That makes it a great game to play as a family, especially with children.
Object of Salute the King
The object of Salute the King is to be the first player to run out of cards.
To play Salute the King, you’ll need one standard 52-card deck of playing cards, or two decks if playing with more than eight people. Because games of Salute the King can get pretty rambunctious, use a sturdy deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards to eliminate any risk of damage to the cards.
Shuffle and deal the cards out as evenly as they’ll go. It’s okay if some players have one card more than the others. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, each player gathers their cards into a face-down pile in front of them.
The player to the dealer’s left plays first. They turn a card from their pile face up and quickly place it in the middle of the pile. Players should turn the card by grabbing it from the far edge and flipping it away from them, so that they don’t glimpse the card before anyone else. After the first player turns over a card, the next player to the left does the same thing, and so on around the table. The idea is to get everyone into a rhythm of quickly turning up cards, one after another.
Whenever anyone turns up a face card or an ace, each player must react as follows:
- Ace: Stand up
- King: Salute
- Queen: Place your hand over your heart and bow (staying sitting down)
- Jack: Applaud
The last person to do the required action must collect all of the cards from the middle of the table and add them to the bottom of their card pile. Note that it’s important to do the correct action—saluting a jack or standing up for a queen isn’t going to cut it!
Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player is the winner.
You can easily spice up your game of Salute the King by switching out the gestures you have to perform when a face card or ace is turned up. Pretty much any simple gesture or reaction will do. You can also change the ranks that trigger the reactions. You can even make it into a mathematical brainteaser by requiring actions out of players when the pip values of the number cards on the table reaches a certain number, or when prime numbers are played, or whatever else you can come up with!
For a particularly zany game, allow the dealer to choose four triggers and the accompanying reactions at the beginning of each hand!
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.
Through the Window is a simple game of quick thinking, perfect for children. It can accommodate three to thirteen players. Although it’s played with cards, it’s really more of a word game than anything else!
Object of Through the Window
The object of Through the Window is to be the first player to name a noun that starts with the same letter as the card just revealed.
Through the Window is played with a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. Kids tend to get rambunctious with cards—make sure you use durable Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal four cards, face down, to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Set the rest of the deck aside; it will not be used in further game play.
The dealer goes first. They say “I looked though the window and saw…” and, at that point, turn over one of their face-down cards. Players immediately say any noun that starts with the same letter. (For those of you who don’t remember, or haven’t yet taken, English class, a noun is a person, place, or thing.) For example, if a 3 is turned up, players might call out “tree”, “tiger”, “tank”, “tomato”, “Texas”, or whatever else they might think of. Whether or not something might realistically be seen out the window is beside the point, and coming up with particularly amusing things to see outside is part of the fun.
Whichever player was first to name a word collects the card and keeps it face up in front of them, separate from their face-down cards. The player to the dealer’s left goes next. They, too, say “I looked through the window and saw…” and turn over a card. Again, the players call out nouns to try to win the card. At this point and beyond, players may not repeat any words that successfully won a card. (Words that were called out but beaten to the punch by another player, however, are fair game.)
Game play continues until all of the cards have been awarded to a player. Each player counts the number of cards in their won-cards pile. Whoever has the most cards wins.
Most of the game involves quickly seeing the card, recognizing its first letter (which may not be as obvious as it seems at first; 8→E is not necessarily a quick association for some people due to the A sound at the beginning of it), and recalling a word that starts with the right letter. The first two parts are just practice. If you’re having problems thinking of words, come up with some before the game. You only need words starting with A, E, F, J, K, N, Q, S and T. At this point it just becomes an exercise of quick memory.
Snap is a simple children’s game with the distinction of being entirely skill-based, which is fairly unusual among the category. Specialized Snap decks are available for sale, but the game works just as fine with standard playing cards. Snap can be played by two to six players.
Object of Snap
The object of Snap is to gain all 52 cards in play.
Snap can be played with any deck of cards that has several matching pairs or sets of cards. However, using a standard 52-card deck of cards, such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, is most common.
Shuffle and deal the cards out as evenly as they will go. It doesn’t matter too much if some players have one card more or less than the others. Players may not look at the cards; instead, they form them into a face-down pile called the stock.
The player to the left of the dealer plays first. They simply turn the top card of their stock face-up, grab the card from the far side and flip it up away from oneself, as in games like Egyptian Ratscrew and Slapjack. This is done to prevent the player from getting an early peek at their card. This first card forms the player’s discard pile. The person to the left plays next, in a similar way, and so on.
If any player (not necessarily the player whose turn it is!) notices that the top cards of any two discard piles match, they call out “Snap!” That player takes both of those discard piles and adds them face-down to the bottom of their stock. (If more than one player calls “Snap”, whoever said it first gets the win—be honest!) Should a player call “Snap” erroneously, that player’s discard pile becomes a snap pool, being moved to the center of the table. This pile can be claimed in much the same way as the others, except players must call “Snap pool!” to gain a snap pool.
If any player’s stock is depleted, they are eliminated from the game. Game play continues until there is only one player remaining; that player is the winner.
Slapjack is a classic children’s game for two to eight players. It’s one of the rare games whose main game mechanic is named in its title—you pretty much slap jacks, and that’s the game. This card-spotting-and-slapping mechanic shows up in a few other games, such as Egyptian Ratscrew. Those games probably inherited it from Slapjack, however.
Object of Slapjack
The object of Slapjack is to collect all of the cards in play by slapping jacks as they appear.
The usual game of Slapjack uses one standard 52-card deck. A second deck can easily be added for a longer game or to expand the game to more players. It doesn’t matter much if the backs are different. Because Slapjack can be boisterous enough that it’s bad on a deck of cards, using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is highly recommended. They’re durable enough to handle even the most excitable players.
Shuffle and deal the entire deck out, starting with the player to the left of the dealer and continuing clockwise, as evenly as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others, which is okay. Each player squares their cards up into a neat stack. Players may not look at their cards at any time.
The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They begin by flipping one card face up from their stack and playing it to the center of the table. Since the player would have an advantage if they turned the card up the normal way, since they would glimpse the card before anyone else, Slapjack convention is to grab the card from the far side and flip it up away from oneself. The next player to the left does the same, flipping a card face up and adding to the central pile. Cards played out of turn remain on the pile, and are considered dead cards. Any effect their rank would have on game play is ignored. The player who played them must play again when it becomes their turn. This, in essence, charges them a fee of one card for playing out of turn.
When a jack appears atop the central pile, the first player to slap the jack wins the entire pile of cards. If multiple players slap the jack, the player whose hand is on the bottom, skin in direct contact with the jack, wins the pile. The winner takes the entire pile and places it face down at the bottom of their stack. If a player slaps a card other than a jack, they pay one card, face down, to the player who played the erroneously-slapped card to the pile.
Players who run out of cards are eliminated for the time being. So long as there are two active players in the game, they may slap a jack and winning the pile as per usual. This is called slapping in to the game. This privilege is revoked if the player makes a false slap, permanently shutting them out of the game. If a jack appears and a player fails to slap it, they are also permanently shut out of the game.
Game play continues until one of the final two players is eliminated from the game. The other player will have all of the cards, winning the game.
Speed is a two-player card game that really lives up to its name. In Speed, players compete to get rid of their cards as quickly as possible—which involves lots of fast movement. Fans of Spoons and Egyptian Ratscrew will probably like Speed a great deal.
Object of Speed
The object of Speed is to be the first player to run out of cards in both their hand and stock.
Speed is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. While game play is not quite as boisterous as it is in Spoons, it’s still a good idea to use sturdy cards that aren’t easily damaged, meaning Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is the safest option.
Shuffle and deal a hand of five cards to each player. Then, deal fifteen more cards to each player, each pile forming that player’s stock. Then deal two piles of five cards in the center of the table, which form the two talon piles. Finally, place the remaining two cards face down next to one another between the talons, forming the discard piles.
Players pick up their hands and examine them. Both players then place a hand on one of the face-down discard pile cards, and on the count of three, flip them face up. Players may now play cards from their hand to either of the discard piles; the players make their moves simultaneously, not taking turns. To be played to a discard pile, the card must be of consecutive rank from the top card of that discard pile, as in Neosho Rapids. Card ranks go “around the corner”; a king may be followed up on by an ace, which may be followed by a two. If two players attempt a play at the same time, the player whose card or hand is on bottom is accepted.
As players deplete their hands, they may draw replacement cards from their stock, up to a hand limit of five cards. Eventually, possible plays usually dry up, and both players end up being blocked. When this happens, both players count to three and flip the top card from one of the talons over onto the discard pile on the same side. Play then resumes if possible; otherwise, another card is flipped up from each talon. If cards from the talon piles are needed but they have been exhausted, each player shuffles one of the discard piles, forming a new talon.
Game play continues until one player has exhausted their hand and also has no cards left in their stock. That player is the winner.
Egyptian Ratscrew is something of a hybrid of War and Slapjack, for two or more players. Like Spoons, the physicality of the game makes it a potential source of injury if players get too exuberant. While there’s slightly more strategy in Egyptian Ratscrew than there is in War, there’s still not much, so this game is generally enjoyed most by those who aren’t yet old enough to drive a car.
Object of Egyptian Ratscrew
The object of Egyptian Ratscrew is to get all of the cards. All of them.
Egyptian Ratscrew features people smacking cards excitedly, so you need some sturdy cards. Fortunately, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards fit the bill perfectly. Most games will be adequately served by one 52-card deck, but there’s no reason you can’t shuffle in a second one for larger games (and it doesn’t matter too much if the backs don’t match). Some players add one or more jokers to ensure the deck divides evenly between players.
There are many variations on the rules to Egyptian Ratscrew, so make sure everyone is on board with the particular set of rules being used.
Shuffle and deal out the cards one at a time, starting with the player at the dealer’s left, and continuing clockwise from there. Some people might end up with one more card than others, which is okay. Players may not look at their cards. Each player’s cards should be kept in a neat stack in front of them, face down.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They begin by flipping one card face up from their stack and playing it to the center of the table. Since the player would have an advantage if they turned the card up the normal way, since they would glimpse the card before anyone else, Egyptian Ratscrew convention is to grab the card from the far side and flip it up away from oneself. The next player to the left does the same, flipping a card face up and adding to the central pile, and so on.
Cards played out of turn remain on the pile, and are considered dead cards. Any effect their rank would have on game play is ignored. The player who played them must play again when it becomes their turn. In essence, they’re charged a fee of one card for playing out of turn.
When a player reveals a face card or an ace, the next player after them is challenged. The challenged player must flip up a number of cards as a response, looking for another face card. A jack requires one card to be revealed in response, a queen two, a king three, and an ace four.
If the player successfully reveals a face card, the challenge passes to the player to their left. That player must turn over the number of cards required by the most-recently turned over face card. If they, too, reveal a face card, the challenge passes to the next player, and so on.
If a challenged player reveals all numeric cards, then the challenge is lost. Whoever was the most recent player to play a face card adds the entire pile of played cards to the bottom of their stack.
Should a player run out of cards mid-challenge, the next player to the left has the option to continue the challenge. If they do, they reveal the appropriate number cards minus those already revealed. They may also decline the challenge, awarding the stack to the player who played the most recent face card.
Another opportunity to win the pile is when a pair is played consecutively. The first player to notice this and slap the pile is awarded the entire thing, which is added to their stack. If multiple players slap, the player whose hand is on the bottom (i.e. in direct contact with the pile) wins. Slaps preempt any challenge taking place at the time.
If jokers are used, jokers are also slappable. Some players add other slappable combinations, such as a sandwich (a pair separated by one card of another rank, like 7-4-7), or a sequence of three or more cards.
To prevent players from slapping everything, players who make unwarranted slaps must pay one penalty card to the pile. This penalty card is considered a dead card. It may also be helpful to require players to designate one hand as a card-flipping hand and the other for slapping, to allow everyone to be on the same footing when it comes to slaps.
Running out of cards
When a player runs out of cards, they are eliminated for the time being. They may slap in to the game, so long as there are two active players in the game, by slapping a valid card combination and winning the pile as per usual. This privilege is revoked if the player makes a false slap, permanently shutting them out of the game.
Game play continues until only two players are in the game, and one runs out of cards. The sole remaining player takes the pile, and thus becomes the winner.
Spoons is essentially a card game version of Musical Chairs for three to six players. Players race to be the first to complete a four-of-a-kind, at which point they grab a spoon. However, there’s one fewer spoon than there are players. The person left without a spoon feels very sad about the whole affair.
Object of Spoons
The object of Spoons is to simply not be the last player left without a spoon.
You will need at least one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Because Spoons can get out of hand rather easily, be sure to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Other cards may not be sturdy enough to withstand the gameplay unscathed. A single deck of cards will work well for three to six players. If you wish to add more players, add a second deck of cards. It probably doesn’t matter if the backs match up, so you can use the other deck in the set if you’re using a set of Denexa cards.
You will also need some spoons, specifically one fewer than the number of players in the game. Any spoons will do, although plastic spoons may break and produce sharp edges. It may be better to use your regular spoons from the silverware drawer to avoid any cutlery-induced lacerations. Place the spoons where they are equally accessible to all players. Usually, this is the center of the table. Some players prefer to put the spoons somewhere further away to cause everyone to have to get up and race to the spoons (and probably fall over one another along the way).
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Place the deck stub to the left of the dealer, this becomes the stock.
Game play begins with the dealer. They draw one card from the stock, then discards one card face down onto the table, to their right. The player to the dealer’s right draws the dealer’s discarded card, then discards to the right, and so on around the table. The player to the left of the dealer simply discards, face down, into a discard pile to the left of the stock. There are no turns, however—the dealer can immediately draw again as soon as they have discarded, and then discard and draw again, as can every other player in the game. A player may never have more than 5 cards in hand at one time. As a result, slower players may end up with a pile of unprocessed cards to their left as faster opponents send cards down the line toward them.
If, at any point, the stock should run out, the discard pile is shunted over to take its place, and play continues uninterrupted.
When a player succeeds in assembling a four-of-a-kind, they discard their fifth card and grab a spoon. All other players grab one as well. The player left without a spoon is branded the loser, and gets the letter S from the word SPOON. Further letters are awarded for subsequent losses. When a player has lost five rounds and spelled out the word SPOON, they are out of the game. When a player is eliminated, so is a spoon, keeping the number of spoons one less than the number of players.
Game play continues until only one player remains.
Pig is a variant of Spoons with less spoons, less grabbing, less potential for injury, and more sneaky gameplay. Rather than grabbing for a spoon, in Pig, the player lays their hand face-down in front of them and places a finger on their nose. They continue to receive cards from their left but merely pass them to the right without looking at them. The hope is to keep the game flowing well enough nobody else notices what they are doing.
When another player notices the player with the finger on their nose, they also put their finger on their nose, lay their cards down, and continue to pass cards. This continues until only one player remains oblivious to what is going on around them. This last player to put their finger to their nose is the loser.
Cash (also called Kemps or Kent) is an interesting social card game for four to eight players. Players form two-player partnerships, competing to make four of a kind, then successfully send and receive a secret signal without it getting intercepted by their opponents.
Object of Cash
The object of the game is for one player of the partnership to call out “Cash!” upon receiving a signal from their partner that they have obtained four of a kind. Alternately, notice that one of the opponents is attempting to signal their partner, and call out “Counter cash!” before their partner calls “Cash!”.
All players divide into pairs. The game is best with four players (two partnerships), but can be played with six (three partnerships) or eight (four partnerships). Players may mutually decide a method for determining partnerships, which may be as simple as merely selecting who they would like to be paired with, or by some random process. One such method for a four-player game is to remove two red and two black cards from the deck, shuffle them, and deal one to each player. The players receiving the red cards play against the two with the black cards. Seating arrangements must take care to allow all players to be clearly visible to one another, and partners should not sit directly next to one another.
Prior to the game, each partnership excuses themselves to a secluded place where they are unable to be seen or heard by any other player. They then agree upon a secret signal, which can be a hand signal, innocuous action such as taking a drink or tapping the table with your cards, or a verbal phrase. Signals that might be unintentionally sent, like scratching your head or rubbing your eye should be avoided!
Cash requires one 52-card deck of playing cards. Since players will be quickly grabbing for cards, you don’t want a flimsy deck of cards that will get easily beaten up. Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are made to last and are sturdy enough for even the most rambunctious games.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. Then deal four cards face down to the center of the table, forming the board, and place the deck stub in front of the player to the left of the dealer, forming the stock.
The dealer calls, “3…2…1…GO!”, then turns the four board cards face up. Each player may then grab whatever board cards they find useful, take them into their hand, and discard back down to four (returning the board to four cards). There are no turns! If two players grab a card at the same time, whoever touched the card first (or whose hand is on the bottom!) is entitled to it.
Game play continues until this card-swapping stops because nobody wants any of the cards on the table. The player with the stock in front of them discards the board cards, then deals a new, face-down board, passes the stock to the left, and flips the cards over with a countdown, as before. (Passing the stock and the board-refreshing duties around the table ensures that the mental overhead of refreshing the board doesn’t burden any player greater than any other.)
Play continues, with players swapping cards out as they see fit, and refreshing the board as necessary.
Ending the hand
Whenever a player achieves four-of-a-kind, they send their secret signal to their partner. When the partner notices the signal, they call out “Cash!” (or “Kemps!”, or “Kent!”, or whatever the name of the game is). All players reveal their hands; if the player whose partner called “Cash!” does, in fact, have four-of-a-kind, that partnership wins. However, if there is no four-of-a-kind, they lose. If a player suspects at any time before “Cash!” is called that an opposing partnership is signaling, they can call “Counter cash!” The hands are revealed, and if a four-of-a-kind is present, the partnership that called “Counter cash!” wins (but, as with cash, if there is no four-of-a-kind, calling “Counter cash!” loses).
Some players play that the losing team receives a letter in the word “CASH” (or “KEMPS” or “KENT”, as appropriate), and that whichever partnership spells out the word first loses the match. Otherwise, play can continue indefinitely, with each hand standing alone as a separate game. Partnerships are given the opportunity to change their signal between hands, then all cards are shuffled and new hands and a board are dealt.
A real deal is when the stock runs out without “Cash!” or “Counter cash!” being called. In this case, the hand is a draw. If the game is being scored where partnerships receive letters for losses, no letters are received for a real deal.