It’s an unwritten rule that every home should have a deck of cards somewhere in a drawer or a cupboard.
Why? Because card games are one of those ageless classics, guaranteed to bring out your competitive streak and keep the whole family around the table for hours.
So lay out some snacks, grab a seat where nobody will see your hand and warm up your winning (and losing) face for these epic card games.
Solitaire, also known as Patience
The king of the solo card games is Solitaire, or Patience as it’s also known. Ask anyone who’s ever played it and they’ll likely tell you it’s incredibly addictive.
You start by dealing out seven columns of cards, with the number of cards included in each column going up by one each time. So, the first column has just one card, the next column has two cards, and so on up to seven. The top card in each pile is turned face up.
You turn over one card at a time from the remainder of the deck, placing it on one of the seven columns so long as it is one rank lower and of a different coloured suit. So, let’s say that you turn the eight of hearts over and one of your columns is headed by the nine of jacks. You can then place your card on that column.
Should you turn over an ace at any point, you can start a ‘foundation’ for that suit away from the rest of your columns. You can then add to this when you find the next card in that suit.
As the game progresses you may be able to move one collection of face-up cards onto a run from another column.
For example, let’s say one column is headed by only the king of hearts, while another column starts with the queen of spades and continues down from there. You can move that latter run of cards over to the king of hearts.
If you move a run of cards and expose a face-down card at the top of a column, you can then turn it over.
The idea of the game is to end up with a full run of each suit, in rank order, from ace upwards.
This is where things get competitive.
One of the best things about card games is that a game can have many different names and variations of rules. So if your opponent is explaining a new game to you, chances are you’ll already know it, just by a different name.
In essence, Rummy is a ‘draw and discard’ game. Generally, you will be dealt seven cards, with the aim of forming sets which account for all seven cards. It may be that you collect three of one rank of card and four of another (three kings and four queens for example), a run of cards of the same suit (ace, two, three of hearts perhaps), or a mix of the two (such as the four queens, and the ace, two and three of hearts).
Cards that haven’t been dealt are placed into a pile, facedown. The first player will take a card from the top and choose whether to keep it or discard it. Should they keep it, they will need to discard one of the cards from their initial hand, so that they always only have seven cards.
The next player can choose to either pick up their opponent’s discarded card or take the top card from the facedown pile. They will then have to discard a card of their own so that they too only have seven cards.
This continues until one player has formed sets accounting for all seven of the cards in their hand.
If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, and a pencil and paper, then you’re ready to play Hearts.
Ideally you’ll have four players, who are all dealt 13 cards, though you can adapt this if you have more or fewer players. You will then choose three cards to pass, still face down, to the player to your left.
You’ll then compete in a series of rounds, with the aim of picking up as few hearts as possible.
The player with the two of clubs lays that card first, with the other players required to lay a card of the same suit if possible. If they are unable to, they can lay a card of a different suit.
The person that laid the highest card of that initial suit wins, so the first hand will be won by whoever laid the highest club. They take all of the cards laid in that round.
The person that wins the hand gets to lay the first card of the next round. Hearts cannot be laid until a heart has been discarded in a round, or the queen of spades has been played.
You continue playing rounds until all cards have been played. Each player then tallies up how many hearts they have collected through their winning hands, with one point for each, while if you won the queen of spaces that’s 13 points.
The game continues until one person reaches 100 points, with the person with the lowest score the winner.
You can subvert the rules and ‘shoot the moon’ by collecting all 13 hearts and the queen of spades in one run through, in which case all of the other players get 26 points.
Go Fish is an easy one to play with the kids, and works a little like Rummy. Each player is dealt seven cards, with the rest of the pack placed face down in a pile.
The person that goes first starts by asking another player for cards they are hoping to collect. So, if you have two kings in your initial hand, you might ask another player for their kings. If they have those cards, they have to give them to you. You can then ask that same player again for other cards you might be looking to collect.
If the person doesn’t have the cards you’re looking for, they will tell you to ‘go fish’. At this point you’ll pick up a card from the pile. The person who said ‘go fish’ goes next, asking another player for a card, and so on.
Once you collect all four cards of a set (all of the tens for example) you place them face down in front of you. The winner is the first person to have no cards left in their hand.
With Crazy Eights, the idea is to get rid of all of your cards first.
Each player is dealt five cards, with the rest of the deck placed in a facedown pile. The top card is turned over. The first player then needs to lay a card from their hand that follows either the suit or rank of that first card.
So, let’s say the starter card is the five of diamonds. The first player needs to lay down either another five or a diamond. If they cannot do so, they pick up a card from the pile.
Each player then does the same, with the one wrinkle in proceedings coming from the fact that eights are wild ‒ you can lay them at any point, irrespective of what’s gone before.
The winner is the first person to empty their hand.
These classic favourites will no doubt keep the whole family entertained for hours.