8 of the best card games to play with friends – and how to play them

Is your favourite card game on this list? (Photo: Shutterstock)

As lockdown eases, many people are opting to holiday close to home this summer, with staycations and camping trips popular options.

But how do you keep entertained – especially when the British weather is so unreliable?

All you need is a standard 52 card deck.

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Here is a roundup of some of the best card games you can play, no matter how many players you have in your party.

Gin Rummy

For 2-4 players

Gin Rummy is a version of another card game called Rummy – the aim of the game is to rack up more than 100 points using the cards in your hand before your opponents.

The value of each card is related to the number on the card – ones and twos are low and jacks, queens and kings are high. In Gin Rummy, aces are low in the game, worth one point.

An example of a set would be a 10 of diamonds, 10 of spades and 10 of clubs.

An example of a run would be if you had the Jack of diamonds, Queen of diamonds and King of diamonds.

Spread the desk of cards out on the table and each player can take a card – the player who drew the highest card chooses where to sit and deals out ten cards to each player, leaving the remaining cards in the centre of the table.

The remaining cards create the stockpile. The top card of this pile is placed face up next to it and this is now the discard pile. In following games, the player who won the previous hand becomes the dealer.

A player who was not the dealer starts the game, with the option to pick up the upturned card – if they want the card, they’ll have to discard one of their cards. If the card is of no use to the player, then you can pass without discarding one of your cards. The option then moves on to the next player, who can decide if they want the card or not.

Then the first player can now take the top card off the stockpile, discarding one of their cards in turn. The game continues like this, with each player being able to take the top card off the stockpile or the discard pile, then discarding a card – when discarding a card, it cannot be the same card that they just picked up from the discard pile. At the end of each round, each player should still have ten cards.

The game should be ended if only two cards in the stockpile remain – if a player takes the third to last card in the stockpile, then the hand is cancelled and no points are awarded to any players and the cards must be re-dealt.

A player can Knock if all their cards form melds (so either sets or runs) – if you’ve reached this point and have no rogue cards, then you’ve reached “Gin”. Reaching gin awards you 25 extra bonus points.

A player can Knock before this point however if they suspect their opponent might reach Gin before them. However, for players to Knock, all their unmatched cards (which are called deadwood) must amount to ten points or less.

When a player folds (exposing all their cards), the opponent does the same, which presents their opponents to get rid of their deadwood cards onto your cards. For example, if a player has made a meld of three Kings and the player in play has the fourth King, they may place it on the 3 King meld to complete the set. Likewise, if a meld is made of the 2, 3, and 4 of clubs and the player in play has the Ace of clubs, they may place it before the 2 to build upon the run.

After the non-knocking player gets rid of all the deadwood cards that they can, points are given to the knocking player based on the difference between the card values of the remaining deadwood in the game. If the non-Knocking player has less deadwood than the knocking player, it is known as an undercut and the non-knocking player receives the points along with a 10 point bonus.

How to keep score: The game ends when enough rounds have been played to allow one player to get 100 or more points.

The player who makes Gin, scores 20 points plus the value of the opponent’s unmatched cards. If the player who Knocks wins the game, they score the difference in the value of their unmatched cards with those of their opponent, while if the opponent wins, they score 10 points plus the difference in the value of the unmatched cards between both players. If there is no difference, the 10 point bonus remains.

Once the game has finished, the players note down the following bonuses: 100 points for winning a game, 20 points for each partial game won and 100 points for winning all the rounds of a game without the opponent having won any.

Spit

For 2 players

Perfect for two players, spit is a fast paced game where players aim to get rid of all their cards first. There’s no turn taking in this game – it’s purely a matter of speed.

Begin by dealing the entire pack out evenly between two players – do not look at the cards yet.

From there, each player will arrange five piles of cards in front of them arranged as such, from left to right – one card, two cards, three cards, four cards, five cards. The top card of each pile is facing up, with the cards underneath facing down.

The remaining cards are then kept by each player and are placed in the centre of the table with some space in between them.

Each player then takes the top card from their pile and places it in the centre of the table, which is when the game begins.

Using the cards in front of you, you can place a card that is one up or down in the sequence from the cards in the centre. You can play on either piles, not just the one you turned over.

When playing, if you have duplicates of the same card in your piles, you can double them up so that you can turn over the card from underneath to give you more options to play from, while maintaining your five piles. Only when you play or move the top card from a pile can you then turn over the next card.

Once one player has played all of their cards, they need to place their hand on the smaller pile and shout: “Spit!”

The winner then takes the smaller pile and the loser the larger pile and the process is repeated until one of the players runs out of cards.

If both players get stuck and neither can play any cards from their piles, then they will both turn over a card from their piles in the centre of the table to start a new round.

Egyptian Ratscrews

For 2+ players

Egyptian Ratscrews is a version of the game Snap, but more extreme. Unlike other card games, the aim of the game is to be the one to collect all the cards before your opponents.

Begin by dealing out all the contents of a pack of cards amongst all the players – the players cannot look at their cards.

Then, taking it in turns, each player turns over their top card and places it in the centre of the group for everyone to see.

The following times are when players are allowed to snap:

  • Double: when two of the same cards are placed on each other
  • Sandwich: when two of the same cards are only separated by one other different card (e.g 5, 9, 5)
  • Tens: when two cards played consecutively add up to ten – for this rule, an Ace counts as one
  • Joker: if either of the Jokers are played, the pile can be snapped – variations of the game also have players snap on the number seven card instead if Jokers are not in playFour in a row: when four cards are played in ascending or descending order in a row (e.g 4, 5, 6, 7)
  • Marriage: when a Queen is played next to a King, either before or after

When a player correctly snaps the pile, they get to add it to their hand. If a player snaps the pile, but there are no snappable cards, then they must forfeit two of their cards to the pile.

The game continues until one player holds all the cards.

Cheat

For 3+ players

Best played with a larger group of players, the aim of Cheat is to get rid of all your cards first.

Begin by dealing out the entire contents of the pack of cards between all the players. The players are allowed to look at their cards, but no-one else should be able to see them.

From there, group your cards into any pairs or sets you might have of the same cards.

Next players take it in turn to place their cards in the middle of the table, face down so that no one can see them, and then tell the group what cards they’ve placed down – for example, two fives.

The person next to them would be able to place down cards one above or one below the person before them – so either fours or sixes.

The twist is that you don’t have to actually be putting down the cards you say you are – you could put down a six and a Queen and lie and say you’re putting down two sevens.

If you suspect someone is lying – for example, someone says they’re putting down three eights, but you already have two eights, then you shout: “Cheat!”

If the person who has been accused of cheating is actually cheating, they have to take all the cards in the centre and add them to their hand.

If the person accused of cheating is actually telling the truth, then the person who accused them in the first place must take all the cards in the centre of the pile.

Scabby Queen

For 2+ players

Scabby Queen is a game of bluff and trying to avoid being landed with the dreaded Scabby Queen.

Begin by taking out all the Queen cards except one and shuffling the deck. Deal the entire deck equally between all the players.

The players can look at their own cards, but should take care not to let other players see them. From here, take any pairs of cards (like two sixes, or two Kings etc.) and remove these from your hand, placing them on the table.

Then, players take it in turns to take a random card from the player next to them. The aim of the game is to avoid the Queen card. As the game goes on, players should continue to remove any pairs of cards from their hands.

The game continues until there is only one card left – the player left holding the Queen card is the loser.

21

For 2+ players

This card game has players aim to get as close to the number 21 without going over. There are many versions of this game with more rules, but this is the simplified version.

Players are dealt two cards, face up, and they have to tell the dealer whether they’d like to “stick” or “twist”. A player might stick if their cards, when added together, are close to 21 and they fear they are in danger of going over.

Alternatively, if the player has been dealt low cards, they can twist, and the dealer will give them another card. They can then decide again whether they would like to twist or stick with their hand.

If a player goes over 21, then they have lost and are out of the game. The player with the hand closest to 21 is the winner.

Face cards are worth 10 points and Aces are worth one.

Go Fish

For 2+ players

This game is great for younger players as well, as it’s not too difficult or fast paced. The aim of the game is to have the most sets of four of the same cards in each suit – like the four of diamonds, four of clubs, four of hearts and four of spades.

Each player is dealt five cards, with the remaining cards placed face down in the centre of the table.

Players take turns asking other players if they have a certain card – for example, “Have you got any fours?” If a player does indeed have fours, then they have to give the player who asked all of their fours. If they don’t, then they tell that player “Go fish!” and the player picks up a random card from the pile in the centre of the pile.

To ask a player if they have any fours, the player asking must have at least one four – they cannot ask for a card that they do not already hold.

The game continues until all the cards in the centre of the table have been picked up and whoever has the most sets of cards is the winner.

Crazy Eights

For 2-5 players

The aim of Crazy Eights is to reach a specific number of points – for two players, it’s 100 points, for three players it’s 150, for four it’s 200 and for five players it’s 250.

Five cards are dealt to each player (or seven cards for a two player game), with the remaining cards placed face down in the centre of the table. The top card is then placed face up to begin the game.

Players then have to then play their cards depending on the card that’s in the centre of the table – for example, a seven of clubs is played, so the next player can play any seven card or any card that’s a club.

Alternatively, a player can play an eight at any point – that player can then declare what suits the players then have to play, such as hearts, diamonds etc.

If a player cannot play a suitable card, then they have to draw a card from the stockpile and skip their turn.

The game ends when one player successfully empties their hand. That person then collects a payment from each opponent that’s equal to the point score of the cards remaining in the opponent’s hand.

Eight’s score 50, face cards score 10 and other cards are face value. The winner of the game is the first player to reach a specific number. For two players, it’s 100 points, for three players it’s 150, for four it’s 200 and for five players it’s 250.

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