So we play a card game at home, I have no idea what it should be called, it is certainly not the game you play in the casino, or does it have any relation to “Vingt-et-un” (21) or similar.

I learnt this game when I was in the 6th form – a long, long time ago. Last century in fact. Anyway – I taught it to the kids in steps, and now I decided I should write it down.

The Premise of the Game

The game consists of 2 or more players using a single (or multiple) pack of cards, jokers removed.

The goal is to get rid of all your cards first.

Order of Play

  1. The pack is shuffled and each player is dealt 7 cards face down.
  2. The remaining cards are left face down in a pile – we’ll call this the “pickup” pile – in the middle of the game and the card on the top of the pile turned over to be the “top card” tostart a pile next to the pickup pile, which we’ll call the discard pile. The initial top card at the start of the game has no behaviour and is played on he basis of the number and suit (so an Ace of Clubs means you have to play a Club or an Ace which is then subject to the behaviour). Variation: resuffle to get new “top card”.
  3. If you run out of cards in the “pickup” pile, the top card of the “discard” becomes the the “top card”, and the rest turned over to become the “pickup” pile.
  4. To start – if this is a new game, you can either go with youngest player, or use some method to select a first player. Play then proceeds in a clockwise direction (left of first player) – this is importart for later. If there is a winner from a previous round, they go first.
  5. If you can’t or do not wish to play a card, you have to pick a card up from the discard pile and the next player has their turn. You may not play a card if have just picked up until your next turn.
    1. Variation: Must play card if you have one that can be played
    2. Variation: Can play a card on pickup
  6. As an aide to players – it is recommended to call out the cards as you play them
  7. You MUST call out “last card” when playing the last but one card even if the last card is part of a sequence (see rules). Failure to do this carries a penalty of picking up 2 cards.
  8. The last card’s behaviour has no effect since it finishes the game.

The Card Rules

1. The basic rule is that to play a card it must match either the suit or the number of the top most card on the discard pile, so 7 of Clubs can be played on 7 of Hearts, and a 5 of Hearts can be played on top of a 7 of Hearts.

2. Sets – you can play the same number card as a set – so for e.g.:

5 of Spades, 5 of Hearts, 5 of Clubs, 5 of Diamonds.

3. Sequences – where the cards are in sequence, a sequence is a set of cards of the same suit, that run in order either backwards or forwards, so for e.g.:

3,4,5,6 of Hearts or 9,8,7,6 of Spades, or 2, Ace, King, Queen, Jack of Clubs.

4. You can combine the runs and sequences, within a single turn

3,4,5 of Hearts, 5 of Clubs, 5,4,3 of Spades

Individual Card Rules

Certain types of cards have their own behaviour, however once a card is played it is “spent” and doesn’t count again unless it is specifically cumulative. A card’s behaviour – unless cumulative – has no effect if it is not left at the top of the discard pile at the end of the turn. If it is cumulative, it must be at the top of a set of those cards at the top of the discard pile. If the card results in a penalty (“picking up”) the player picking up cannot play a card until their next turn. There are variations as noted, always calrify the rules prior to the game.

1. Ace of any suit – change suit – when played must be followed by thge player saying “change to …” and stating the suit which ends their turn. Can be played on any card. If played as part of a sequence, no effect unless it is the last card on top of the pile.

2. 2 of any suit – next player picks up two cards, unless they also have a 2 (or multiple), in which case they can play the 2 to avoid the penalty. The next play in turn who does not have a two must pick up as twice many cards as there are 2 in the pile. Once a player has picked up cards, the penalty is spent. e.g. for a 4 player game:

player 1 – 2 of spades

player 2 – 2 of Hearts

player 3 – no 2’s so picks up 4

player 4 – 2 of clubs

player 1 – no 2’s, picks up 2

3. 4 of any suit – “go again”, effectively get another turn – you can play another card of the same suit except for the ace. If you can’t play another card, you have to pick up a card. Variation: don’t pickup. Good to connect a set of cards with a higher value card, e.g.

2,3,4 of Hearts, “go again”, Queen, King of Hearts.

4. 8 of any suit – next player in the game misses their turn “miss a go”, in a two player game it is the same effect as playing 4.

9. Black Jack (either Spades or Clubs) – next player must pick up 7 unless they have:

  1. Another Black Jack – they can play that, and the next player must pick up 14 cards. No other card can be played after it in this scenario.
  2. A Black 7 – cancels out the Black Jack or Jacks played. No other card can be played after it in this scenario.
  3. If multiple packs are in play then it multiplies by the number of Black Jacks that are played.
  4. In all cases, the player picking up cannot play a card so the play passes to the next.
  5. Variation: Don’t play cumulative – can pick up max of 7
  6. Variation: Red Jack cancels
  7. Variation: Must play as many cancel cards as Black Jacks

10. King of any suit – reverse direction of play – not cumulative, for e.g. if you play 3 Kings, only the top one takes effect so a player cannot reverse the play multiple times in a turn. In a two player game has no effect. Variation: Cumulative, so 2 kings maintains play in current order.

Introducing the game

When I started introducing this game – we played versions which included:

  • Card Rules 1 and left out Order of Play 7 (Easy for 4 year olds)
  • Card Rules 2 and/or 3 and left out Order of Play 7 (building up)
  • All Card Rules, All Order of Play and the Individual Rule for 4
  • All Card Rules, All Order of Play and the Individual Rule for 4, 8,  and King (no Penalties)
  • Full & Variations