A Few Card Games for Isolation Entertainment

Go Fish

Requires

  • A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
  • 2 to 6 players

How to play

Go Fish rules aren’t particularly complex. If there are three or more players, each player is dealt five cards. If there are only two players, deal 7 cards to each. The remaining cards are placed in a pile between all the players. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player takes a turn asking another player if they have a specific card rank (e.g. “Phoebe, do you have any nines?” or “Joe, do you have any Queens?”). If asked for a rank they have in their hand, a player must hand over all of the cards of that rank. The asker then gets to take another turn. If a player has no cards of the requested rank, they respond, “Go fish.” The asker then draws a card from the pile. If they happen to draw the card they were requesting, the asker shows the card to the group as proof and takes another turn.

Objective

Players try to form sets of four-of-akind. When they do, the four cards are immediately placed on the table face up. Play continues until all books have been made. Winner is the player who makes the most books.

Crazy Eights

If you don’t have a deck of Uno cards, this game is a great alternative. Play a card that matches the number or suit of the previously played card. Eights are wild.

Requires

  • A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
  • 2 to 5 players can play with one deck (shuffle in a second deck for more players)

How to play

Deal 5 cards to each player. If there are only 2 players, deal 7 cards to each. Place the remaining cards face down in the centre of the table. Turn the top card face-up next to the stack. The player to the dealer’s left will then play a card that matches either the rank or suit of the face-up card. For example, if the face-up card is 4 hearts, then the player can play any 4 or any heart.

If a player cannot play on the faceup card, then they draw facedown cards from the stockpile until they find a playable card. Whenever the stockpile runs out, the top card is removed from the face-up pile and the cards are reshuffled.

All 8s are wild and players can use them when they don’t have another card to play or at other strategic times. The person who plays the 8 calls out what suit they want it to represent and the next player must play a card of that suit.

Objective

The first player who runs out of cards wins the game.

Make it more fun

Spice it up with your own rules. Make 4s reverse the order of play. Or have Kings skip the next player. Make it sillier by having 7s mean the players have to touch their nose. Let your imaginations run wild.

Hearts

In this twist on trick-taking games, players want to have the fewest points by taking the smallest number of tricks. Don’t get stuck with the Queen of Spades. She carries a stiff penalty!

Requires

  • A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
  • A pen and score sheet
  • 3 or 4 players

How to play

Deal 13 cards to each player, if there are four players. For three players, remove the 2 hearts and deal 17 cards to each player. Players assess their hands and pass three cards to another player. Typically, cards are passed to the left, but players can pass cards across the table, to the right, or in whatever fashion the table agrees. Players must accept the three cards they are given.

Play begins with the person to the left of the dealer. Each player plays one card. Players must follow the suit of the card that is lead. If they have no cards of that suit, they may get rid of whatever card they choose. The person who plays the highest card of the lead suit takes the trick.

The game is called Hearts because the cards of that suit play a critical role in determining the winner. Each heart taken in a trick is worth a point. The goal is to end up with as few points as possible. The only non-heart card that is worth points is the Queen of Spades. This is by far the worst card to take in a trick, because it is worth 13 points by itself!

During play, a heart can only be lead if the hearts have been “broken,” which occurs when a heart is played in a trick where another suit is lead.

After each hand, tally the number of points each player has accumulated and write it down.

Objective

If, after a hand is completed and the points are tallied, a player has reached 100 points, then the game is over. The player with the fewest points when this happens is the winner.

“Shoot the moon”

Most versions of this game include the option to “shoot the moon.” This is when a player tries to get all the points in a hand, rather than avoiding them. If they can successfully capture all 13 hearts and the Queen of Spades, then they get a huge point boost. But this is a very dangerous move, because getting all but one point will leave a player with a huge point penalty of 25 points. But if they do shoot the moon successfully the player may either A) subtract 26 points from their point total or B) add 26 points to all the other players’ point totals, whichever suits their strategic needs.

Slapjack

Great for young children and family game nights, this crazy game is as simple as its name. See a Jack? Slap it! Slapjack, also known as Slaps, is a simple single deck card game. Fast paced, and interactive, it’s a great game for introducing children to card games. It’s easy to learn and this guide will teach you everything you need to know to play.

Requires

  • A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
  • 2 to 8 players

How to play

Deal the cards as evenly as possible. Without looking, players take the cards in their hand and form them into a neat pile facedown.

Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player quickly places the top card from their stack onto the middle of the table. Cards will start to stack up there. The middle cards don’t need to be neatly stacked. It is more important that the game moves quickly from player to player. Players continue to play cards and keep a watchful eye on the middle stack. When a Jack is played, the first player to slap the card wins the entire pile.

Players who have no more cards left to play (or players late joining the game) may try to slap their way back in. If they slap a Jack first, they collect the pile and start playing again. If a player incorrectly slaps the pile when it is not a Jack, they must pay a penalty card, facedown, to the player who played the card.

Objective

The person who collects all the cards wins the game. If the game is taking too long, you can set a time limit and count cards to determine a winner when time expires.

Switch it up with Slapjack variations

If this game seems too simple or the players start losing interest, throw in some challenges. One popular variation is to have each player “count” as they play a card. The first player says “Ace,” the next says “two,” and so on up to “King.” If the card played matches what the player said, then the first person to slap wins the pile.

Spades

Requires

  • A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
  • A pen and score sheet
  • 4 players (2 teams of 2)

How to play

Players split into teams of two and sit across the table from their partners. Decide who the first dealer will be and deal the cards evenly (13 to each player). Players take a moment to assess the relative strength of their hands. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player announces the number of tricks they believe they can take (this is called ‘bidding’). The total number of tricks that each team bids is the number that team must meet or exceed during the hand. There is a point reward for capturing as many tricks as you bid and a penalty for coming up short.

A bid of zero tricks is called going “nil.” If a player chooses to bid nil, then they must take no tricks. There are bonus points for successfully losing every trick and a stiff penalty if a player attempts this bid and fails. The smallest standard bid is one trick.

Once the bids have been placed, play begins. The person to the left of the dealer plays a card. Play proceeds around the table to the left with each player putting down one card. If a player has a card of the suit that was lead, they must follow suit. The person who plays the highest card in the suit or the highest spade as trump wins the trick for their team. The winning team should collect each four-card trick and organize it in a manner that provides for easy counting at the end of the hand. If a team successfully captures the number of tricks it bid, it is rewarded with 10 times the number of tricks it bid. For instance, if a team bids 5 tricks and achieves that number, then it would get 50 points. Each additional trick won yields only one extra point. In the above example, if a team won 7 tricks on its bid of 5, then it would get 52 points. If a team fails to achieve its goal, it is penalized 10 times the number of tricks it bid. If a team bids 5 tricks and only takes 4, then it loses 50 points. A successful nil bid is worth 100 points, while failing to take zero tricks will result in a penalty of 100 points.

Objective

Teams determine the benchmark for the end of the game before play begins. Often, this is simply deciding how many points to play to. The first team to reach these points wins. A time limit or a number of hands can also determine the end of the game. The team with the most points wins.

Encourage better bidding

To add complexity to the game, penalise frequent underbidding. A team that bids four tricks but takes eight underbids by four. If a team accumulates ten overbid tricks during the course of a game, it is penalized 100 points. This will keep teams from bidding too conservatively and increase the need for correct bidding strategy.

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