Tuesday, December 11, 2007

#6 Favorite Christmas Game: Card Games

We like card games. Or rather, I like card games and my family obliges. These are a few of our favorites. With the exception of Rook, all of these games can be played with a regular deck of cards. (You can sort of force Rook, if you use a Joker, but it's just kind of hard. And since a deck of Rook cards is relatively cheap and comes with much better instructions then you're going to find here, just go buy the cards!)

I have very fond memories of playing Rook with my grandparents. My grandmother was a Rook champion. You always wanted to be on her team. She loved to "shoot the moon" and she usually made it too! My very loud and entertaining children will play Rook with me, but they are calm and reserved in comparison to playing with my aunts, uncles and cousins.

Having been around for more than 100 years, there are a huge variety of ways to play Rook. There are also many deck designs. This is their 100th anniversary edition, which is sort of cool but mostly kind of on the ugly side, but you can get cheaper ones too. You can read how to play a basic game of Rook here.

Background info stolen from another website: Rook is a simple trump-based trick-taking game played with a deck of Rook playing cards. It was first sold in 1906 by Parker Brothers. At a time when many religious leaders called the use of a standard deck of playing cards "evil" because they were also used to tell fortunes, The Rook deck, with no-face cards or suits, was used as a way for ultra-conservative religious people to enjoy card playing. For this reason, Rook has been referred to as Missionary Poker. There are many variations on the standard game, some quite good!

I first heard of Scum when I was visiting relatives in Kentucky. The grown-ups were busy talking when I suddenly realized the older kids were all missing. We found them in the living room sitting in a big circle playing Scum. You can have as many players as you want, but you may need to add additional decks. You can use regular face cards or buy a Scum pack. (Amazon doesn't have them but I saw them at my local Wal-Mart last week.)

There is also a variation of a Scum deck that uses jungle animals instead of the traditional face cards, but I'm not sure where to get that. Read how to play Scum here.

Game info: Scum is a game of trying to rise in the social order. One player is the president. The others are in decreasing social position, with the lowest player being scum. The object of each round is to deplete your hand of cards. Whoever does so first will be the new president down the line until the last one out becoming the new scum. The game is weighted so that those who are higher up in the social order will have a playing advantage over those below them, so it will take skill to rise to a higher position. Scum adds trump cards of the President and the Wild president to the standard numbered cards. Also, there are variants that cause the color of the cards to have impact on the game play.

Phase 10 is another family favorite. We use the Phase 10 deck that you can buy special at the store because we're gullible and have fallen prey to the idea that specialized decks are better than a plain old deck of cards. But you really don't need it to play the game.

Phase 10 is a variant of the classic Rummy card game. When I played it in college we called it "Shanghai." It's also called "Contract Rummy" and a few other creative names which I can no longer remember.

You need a double deck if you're playing with regular cards. It's seven to ten hands (10 if you're using the Phase 10 deck, but you can do fewer if you use a regular deck). It takes about an hour to play but it's lots of fun—especially for teens and adults.

You create "runs" and "sets," matching suits or numbers. Each hand has a different "contract" that you're trying to make. Winner of the hand is the person who creates that contract first. You can read instructions for playing the non-commercially hyped version here. (You can also play Phase 10 dice, but I like the card game much better.)

Last is a new game for our family, Five Crowns. Megan is the only one who has played it but she came home a few weeks ago from a friend's house just raving about it so I decided to add it to the list here. It's similar to Phase 10/Shanghai but it has five suits. They add stars to the deck. Like many other card games, you make "sets" and "runs" but the twist here is that on each hand, you have more cards and different cards are Wild. You can read how to play Five Crowns here.

Game info: Five Crowns is rummy, with a twist. The set collection aspect of rummy is basically the same; with groups of 3 cards in either runs or denominations making a valid meld. The difference is that in each hand the number of cards increases, from 3 cards in the first hand to 13 in the last. The game, therefore, consists of 11 hands. In each of these hands, in addition to the 6 Jokers, there are other wild cards. These are determined by which hand it is. In the first hand 3s are wild in the second hand it's the 4s, and so on until in the last hand the Kings go wild. This is made easy to remember because the wild card is the same as the total number of cards you hold. (ie. in the first hand 3 cards, 3s are wild). A hand finishes when someone can meld all cards in their hand (after the discard) and, as the designers say, "the game isn't over 'til the Kings go wild!"

Now playing on my iPod: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (the jazzier version) performed by Hilary Duff (only one I could find on YouTube)

1 comment:

Janette Rallison said...

I grew up playing Rook! It's been so long since I played any card or board games. (too much writing . . .)