Playing cards have been around for quite a while — hundreds of years — and with all the games to choose from, both modern and classic, cards are even more fun today than they were in 867 BCE.
Whether you’re looking for a quick and simple game to play at parties or a strategic partnership game, there are plenty of games you can play with a standard deck of cards.
1. Party Games
These are games that are quick to teach, quick to play, and always hilarious.
3 to 13 players
In Spoons, there are no turns — players are quickly passing cards to try to get a hand of four of a kind. There are several spoons (or similar objects) in the middle of the table, one fewer than the number of players.
You can pass as quickly or slowly as you want, but if you go too slowly, you might end up with a buildup of cards next to you. Once a player has four of a kind in their hand, they may grab a spoon from the middle. As soon as one player grabs a spoon, anyone else can grab one. The player who fails to grab a spoon loses a life, and play continues until there is a winner.
If you don’t have spoons, you can also play by having players stick out their tongue when they have four of a kind or when they see another player sticking out their tongue.
3 or more players
This incredibly simple game is a great choice for families, though it works just as well in a bar.
Each player has three lives, which can be marked with a token or simply remembered. The dealer deals one card to each player, and the player to the left of the dealer goes first.
The objective is to avoid being the player with the lowest card at the end of a round. On your turn, you may choose to keep your card or swap it with the player on your left. After everyone has gone, the player (or players) with the lowest card loses a life. The last player in wins.
2 to 5 players
James Bond is a lightning speed game of racing to make groups of four cards. The deck is divided into thirteen piles of four cards, with one pile dealt face up to form a central group of four cards that everyone can reach. The remaining decks are divided among the players.
When the game begins, each player can look at any one of their piles at a time and may swap cards with the middle cards. The first player to have only groups of four of a kind wins.
2. Strategic games
If you have a small group looking for a clever game of wits, there are many classics to choose from.
This game for four pits players against each other to see who can take the fewest points.
The entire deck is dealt out, and players take turns playing cards in tricks (in which one card is played per player). The highest card of the suit led takes the trick.
Every Heart in the game is worth one point, and the dreaded Queen of Spades is worth a massive thirteen points, so winning tricks is usually a bad thing.
The endless strategies make it easy to play this game for hours and hours.
Grab a partner for this cunning game of trust and trick-taking.
Spades is a trick-taking game in which two teams of two make bids to guess how many tricks they can win. Spades is always the trump suit, so a Spade will beat a card of any other suit. Your team’s bid determines how many points you earn (or lose if you don’t take enough tricks). The first team to 500 points wins.
Knowing your hand—and trusting your partner—are key to this sometimes cutthroat trick-taking game.
3 to 8 players
Also known as “Oh, Hell!,” this trick-taking game has its roots in other classics like Whist and Bridge.
Each player is dealt a number of cards (which will change from one round to the next) and must guess how many tricks they will win. The number of tricks in a round is equal to the number of cards the players are holding.
The trump suit changes from one round to the next. Because you can only score points if your bid is dead-on, this tense game leads to great failures and great victories.
2 to 4 players
Palace is a “shedding” game in which players are racing to be the first one with no cards left.
Each player is dealt three cards face down and a hand of six cards, of which they choose three to put face up on their three face down cards. Then, everyone is dealt a draw pile.
Players take turns playing cards from their hand to the center of the table. Each card played must be equal or greater in value than the previous card, or you must pick up the entire pile.
Once your draw pile is gone, you can start playing from your three piles. The first player to empty all three piles wins.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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