Card Games


Card games, the recreation of kings, queens, princesses, princes, emperors, empresses and peasants alike! Card games, the common thread that runs from wealth and aristocracy down to the lowliest street urchin! Who isn't overcome with happiness while pouring a tall glass of lemonade and feeling the breeze from shuffling a crisp, unplayed deck of cards? Who doesn't smile inside while sitting stoically among friends or strangers, with or without sunglasses on, indoors or outdoors, leaving them to guess at one's next move? What greater joy is there than the sleight of hand that goes unnoticed during a high-stakes game? Your sleeve — you trickster, you — is full of aces! Your sleeve is spilling aces!

Let's switch from the realm of frivolity to the halls of academia. What is so remarkable about card games? They have a history going back thousands of years and we are hardwired with the instinct to play cards. A deck of playing cards embodies the raw power of nature, the survival of one creature at the expense of another. Playing cards were invented by Cleopatra (work cited: the Rosetta Stone). Many scholars dispute this fact, which only proves how important card games are.

When the human race is a distant memory, these seemingly simple stacks of marked paper/bark/camelskin rectangles will live on in the informatoria of our successors.

Here are some exciting new card games that I invented. I hope you like them.

Gregory Lovitt "Card Games" Reinfeld

Phonetics Is Crazy
That's The Dumbest Shit I've Ever Heard!
Arsonists and Firefighters
Joker Soup
52 Snowball Card Decks
Business Card Buffet
Rock, Paper, Milk and Cookies

Phonetics Is Crazy

Players: 2-5
Location: on a bus or in a library
Materials: custom card deck

Have you ever noticed that in English there are words that aren't pronounced consistently with other words containing common letters in the same order? For example, 'Wednesday' and 'tiredness'. It's because spellings in English have traces of their words' origins, and perhaps not in the case of my example, but that need not concern us for the sake of this game. Phonetics Is Crazy is inspired by Crazy Eights. That game's rules require that players contribute to a sequence of cards on the table by playing a card of the same rank across suits as the card last played, or by playing a card within the same suit as the card last played. Eights are wild! (EXPLANATION POINT?)

When I used to read a lot about linguistics, which is the science of language, -- an aside, 'lengua' means tongue and the Latinate word for a certain part of the female anatomy is a word that starts with the letter C, and the word for contact between a tongue and that part of the female anatomy is 'cunnilingus' -- I learned about something called the International Phonetic Alphabet. This is like a legend (as in a legend for a map) that allows linguists to document the way people speak around the world in a way that is independent of writing systems. Any given language contains just a portion of the possible sounds that a human can make, and if I remember correctly from being a baby, babies babble because they are making all possible sounds and then eliminating the sounds they don't hear spoken by their parents or family.

So it's very interesting, I think, and it occurred to me that a good way to study the International Phonetic Alphabet would be a game with a custom card deck. It would also be a good way for people to expand their notions of speech sounds beyond the boundaries of their own language. Each sound has three attributes:

Location of articulation (tongue, top of mouth, both lips, and more)
Type of sound (plosive, fricative, and more)


There is also aspiration which is air. Vowels are the wild card and allow a player to switch to any other consonant. Glottal stops end the game. You'll have to guess what that means.

To play a consonant on another consonant, the card played must share two attributes with the card currently at the top of the discard pile.

If the discard pile has a B, you can play a P

voiced bilabial plosive
voiceless bilabial plosive

or a V

voiced labial fricative

That is a labiodental sound, actually, meaning that your bottom lip touches your teeth. We might have some grey area in terms of how similar sounds can be.


or a D

voiced alveolar plosive D

on which one can play voiceless alveolar plosive T

Some examples:

Voiced bilabial plosive - B
Voiceless bilabial plosive - P
Voiced labiodental fricative - V
Voiceless labiodental fricative - F
Voiced bilabial(?) nasal - M

G could get K

And so it is that I am a cardshark who eats butterflies, not a cardsharp who eats flutterbys. A voiceless velar plosive (k) is not so far removed from a voiceless bilabial plosive (p), and a voiced bilabial plosive (b) is not so far from a voiceless labiodental fricative (f). On the subject of insects, it's understandable that people mix up the words 'etymology' and 'entomology'. The only thing that keeps them from being homophones is a voiced alveolar plosive (d) in one and a voiced alveolar nasal (n) in the other. Why the sound of D for etymology? In relaxed speech with these particular syllables, people say ed- instead of et-. Now think about what your vocal cords do when the tip of your tongue is in close proximity to your top teeth: etiquette D, attic D, attack T, article D, articulate T, particle D, particular T, photograph D, photographer T. The Italian artist in Italy was artistic? Pardon the tautology, but Eureka! Stress on the second syllable means T.

Relaxed speech is used in every context except job interviews, where for some reason people talk like machines instead of humans.

M N 'ng'?

I am so over my head with this. It seemed like a good idea on paper. Half-baked as my first game might be, I will bet the farm on Game #2. Are you ready for . . . THAT'S THE DUMBEST SHIT I'VE EVER HEARD!?


If you cannot play a card, you have to draw until you draw a card that you can play, whether that is a vowel or a consonant sound common by two attributes to the top card on the table. The player who runs out of cards first wins. If you play a consonant card that does not meet the two-attribute requirement you have to draw a lot more cards.

Despite my intentions, Phonetics Is Crazy never moves beyond English and expands no horizons but the patience of imaginary readers.

1. Deal each player 4 cards.
2. Tongue twister! being a baby, babies babble because being a baby, babies babble because being a baby, babies babble
3. The winner is the person who can say this the most times without slipping.
4. Holiday variation: Steve's seven soiled Santa suits smell so stale and sour, sixty sick kids stopped celebrating Christmas.

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That's The Dumbest Shit I've Ever Heard!

Players: 3-6
Location: at work
Materials: customizeable cards, paper, writing implement(s)

"That's The Dumbest Shit I've Ever Heard!" is a card game for coworkers to build camaraderie and feelings of togetherness.

Materials for playing this game are a) what is in essence a standard card deck but with different names for each suit and face card, b) twenty-six blank cards, c) paper for scorekeeping and brainstorming and d) a writing implement or implements. All cards share the same pattern on the back and, unless turned over, are indistinguishable from one another. For best results, the total number of players should be from three to six.

The four suits are

Human Resources
Accounts Payable
Accounts Receivable
Research and Development

2-10 are ranked in that order and have no significance beyond their number.

King for each suit is Senior Vice President, Queen is Director (yes, it is offensive that the queen is ranked lower than the king, but cards are named in this game to have no gender), and Jack is Project Manager. Ace is the intern because, despite being at the bottom rung of the ladder, the intern doesn't need to put up with this shit and can leave at any moment.

There are two other cards which make up a standard card deck: the Jokers; Jokers are called a Pranksters in "That's The Dumbest Shit I've Ever Heard!"

The first step of preparation is for all players collectively to come up with a list of the 26 dumbest things they have ever heard in their workplace. If the list is shorter than 26 items, the employees have not been working there long enough and have no business playing the game. The list can be written in teams ("breakout sessions"), individually, or as a group. Regardless, what matters is that the final number is exactly 26.

The second step of preparation is for the players to agree upon a ranking of these items. Which of the dumbest things they have ever heard is the dumbest, and which has the mildest degree of dumbness? Once a consensus has been reached, the items should be written out on the fronts of the blank cards with a number above each description. 1 is the mildest and 26 is the dumbest.

Now the game proper can begin:

1. The dealer, who is the newest employee, shuffles all 80 cards (54 + 26) and deals 10 cards to each player. Cards are to remain concealed to the rest of the players until played.

2. All undealt cards are placed in a Draw stack.

3. As is the custom with card games, the first play belongs to the person to the left of the dealer. Clockwise and one at a time, each player puts a card from his or her hand (hand referring here to a collection of cards, but elsewhere referring to the sequence of turns around the table) on the center of the table faceup. Whoever has the highest-ranking card wins the hand and has the privilege of going last for the next hand; in other words, the player to his or her left begins the next hand. The winner of the previous hand, though, might not play at all during the new hand if that hand, or the game as a whole, ends before each player has a turn.

Rankings are as follows:

Interns are lower than cards 2-10 with one exception detailed later.

10 is lower than Project Manager. Project Manager is lower than Director and Director is lower than Senior Vice President. Suits (HR, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and R&D) don't matter in any significant way.

It is in a player's best interest to hold onto high-ranking cards if a higher card is already on the table. It is also in a player's best interest to get rid of high-ranking cards because there is a steep penalty for holding cards at the end of the game. Unless the hand has ended, no player can forfeit his or her turn, that is, decline to place a card on the table ("pass" in card game parlance).

If an Intern card is played while a face card is already on the table, the Intern outranks all face cards. If an Intern card is played before a face card is on the table, the Intern keeps its lower status. If one or more Intern cards are played before a face card is on the table and one or more Intern cards are played after a face card is on the table, "pre-face card" Interns are still ranked low. If the highest-ranking cards in a hand are Interns, those players will enter tie-breaker play, which is documented later.

A Prankster beats an Intern and ends the hand. Pranksters are the most powerful cards, with the caveat that, unlike the 52 standard suited cards, a Prankster card is removed from the game after the hand in which it is played. The 52 standard suited cards are discarded following each hand. Discards will be explained in more detail after a point about Pranksters and a discussion of trumps and tie-breakers.

The person who plays a Prankster card goes last in the next hand; again, the player to the winner's left begins the next hand. This rule is broken in the event that the hand or game ends before play returns to him or her.

A Dumbest Shit I Ever Heard card trumps any standard suited (non-Prankster) card, and a Dumbest Shit I Ever Heard card (heretofore Dumbest Shit card) is trumped by a higher-ranked Dumbest Shit card. If the highest cards on the table (and this only applies to the standard suited cards) match, then those two, three, or four players (three or four instead of just two because there are four suits) each play another card at the same time until one plays a higher card (or THE highest when three or four players are facing off). In these disputes, Intern cards are always ranked low. For two players breaking a tie when neither has claimed victory with a higher card: if one player runs out of cards, the other player wins the hand. If both players run out of cards, each draws 10 more cards (deck allowing) and they continue playing cards until the tie is broken. For three or four players breaking a tie: a player is eliminated from the dispute a) if he or she runs out of cards and others still hold one or more cards or b) if one or more of the other players play a higher card. If any two or three players play matching higher cards, those players play tie-breaker cards until one player wins. If all players run out of cards in the same turn, each draws 10 more cards, deck allowing. At any point in the game that the Draw stack is empty, the Discard stack is shuffled and those cards become the Draw stack. If there are not enough cards for 10 to be drawn per person, the drawable cards are distributed evenly among/between these players in the same fashion as the dealing of cards (one at a time). Any remainder of drawable cards are left in the Draw stack after the even count has been distributed to both/all involved parties. Tie-breaker play continues accordingly.

In no case does a hand (as in a round of turns) involving Dumbest Shit cards lead to extra (tie-breaker) play in said hand.

All standard suited cards (not Pranksters) are placed into a Discard pile after a hand ends. As mentioned earlier, a Prankster is removed from the game after being played. "That's The Dumbest Shit I've Ever Heard!" is an at-will employer. Pranksters will almost never be played against each other, as a hand ends after one of these cards is played. The exceptions are a) if two players play a Prankster card when Dumbest Shit card #26 is on the table, detailed later, or b) if two Pranksters are played in a tie-breaker. In the latter situation, both players continue as if they had just played a matching standard suited card. Prankster cards will be removed from the game in this case too, even though the play of these cards benefited no one. The winner of each hand in which a Dumbest Shit card was played gets to keep all Dumbest Shit cards played in that hand and shall display it or them faceup in front of his or her part of the table. If a Dumbest Shit card is on the table when a Prankster card is played, the person who played the Prankster collects all Dumbest Shit cards in that hand (sequence of turns). This means that the Prankster outranks all Dumbest Shit cards.

For Dumbest Shit cards, the descriptions on these cards should be read aloud by those who play them. When someone plays Dumbest Shit card #26 and after he or she reads it, all other players have to shout "THAT'S THE DUMBEST SHIT I'VE EVER HEARD!" in unison.

What follows is an in-depth explanation of drawing new cards: As the game progresses, if a player runs out of cards, he or she will draw 10 more cards from the Draw stack. When the Draw stack has been exhausted, cards in the Discard stack are shuffled and moved to the Draw stack. A player who empties the Draw stack at a time when the Discard stack is also empty must wait until he or she runs out of that card or cards to replenish his or her hand. Said player can draw 10 cards (or fewer if at that time there are still not enough cards) only when he or she runs out of those recently drawn cards. That player can draw 10 after the next hand if he or she has zero cards, but for any count less than 10 has no recourse to draw the difference between that number and 10. If no card or cards are available to be drawn, a player must wait to draw more cards until right before the start of a hand in which the Draw stack is not empty. If more than one player with an empty hand is waiting for drawable cards, at the time that cards are available those cards will be distributed evenly as with the similar situation involving tie-breakers. The remainder of an uneven number of cards in that later Draw stack will not be dealt. Players with empty hands cannot play until their hands are no longer empty. Any player who is eliminated from tie-breaker play due to running out of cards must wait to draw cards until before the next hand in which there are drawable cards.

If Dumbest Shit card #26 is played, the hand ends unless another player chooses to play a Prankster card. If two players who have not played yet this hand each hold a Prankster card and both intend to use it, whoever plays it first wins the hand. Should they happen to play their Prankster cards at the same moment, the player whose turn would have been first in the regular clockwise rotation wins. Barring a Prankster play, the player who used Dumbest Shit card #26 wins the hand. The player to that hand's winner's left begins the next hand.

4. There are a total of 351 points (26 + 25 + 24 + 23, etc.) to be won during the game. After the hand containing the last Dumbest Shit card or cards has ended, the game is over and any players who have won one or more such cards throughout the game count their totals. Values of standard suited cards and Prankster cards still held are subtracted from the total of each player's points. Players with no remaining cards take no in-hand penalty. Players with a penalty greater than the sum of their Dumbest Shit cards are given a negative score.

An unplayed Intern card at the end of the game carries a special penalty in that it is ranked with its higher status.

Prankster: 100
Intern: 14
Senior Vice President: 13
Director: 12
Project Manager: 11

2 through 10 hold their exact value.

The winner is the player who has the highest total points (Dumbest Shit cards less an in-hand penalty). To fill an entire workday, more than one game can be played, with a cumulative score tallied across games. Players can tell their managers that the game is a skillbuilding activity and thus can make a case for it being a valid use of company time.

Thank you for playing "That's The Dumbest Shit I've Ever Heard!"

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Arsonists and Firefighters

Players: 2-10 and a scorekeeper
Location: Outdoors (a parking lot, clearing or anywhere with no trees)
Materials: Lighters or matches
One card deck per player
Water pistols
Writing implement
Fire extinguisher
Number for fire department

Each player makes a card house using at least 13 cards. The more cards beyond 13 a player uses, the greater the reward but the higher the risk. A scorekeeper records the card count for each house, determined by its owner before building begins. The player whose house has the most cards is guaranteed a point bonus in the amount of half the total cards of the least expensive house. In Arsonists and Firefighters, odd numbers are rounded up, so half of 13 will be 7. The guarantee is defaulted by the bank (scorekeeper) if the house collapses during construction. Players have just one try to build a house.

If the greatest total cost of materials (number of cards) is shared by two or more players, the point bonus is guaranteed to the player whose house stands with the greatest number of cards at the end of the game. If at that time there is a tie, those players are eliminated from the game and the bonus is passed on to the player with next greatest final number of cards. In this way, ties can eliminate all players except the last person, who becomes the winner, in which case points are irrelevant. If, before construction, all players have an equal number of cards planned for their houses, no bonus will be rewarded.

After the card houses are completed and any overly ambitious builders have cleaned their construction sites, each remaining player, using a lighter or matches, must set fire to his or her own card house. Players are allowed to shoot water pistols at their own houses to stop the spread of the flames. Of course, water can destroy a card house too. Depending on how structurally sound a card house is, it will better resist both fire and water.

The objectives at this stage of the game are a) to mentally hope that one's house suffers the least amount of damage while burning, or b) to put the fire out entirely using the water pistol.

The game is over when the first house completely collapses, meaning no cards are upright. If no house collapses and all burning has ceased, the game is over after 60 seconds of inactivity. In either scenario, the scorekeeper will count the cards still standing for each house. If all houses collapse at the same moment with no cards upright, the scorekeeper wins.

Whichever player, if any, was due to receive the point bonus will have that number added to his or her total card count.

Any player whose house stands with the same number of cards as it had before it started burning will get 10 extra points. The player with the highest number of points wins.

Then all players can go inside and enjoy a refreshing glass of chocolate milk.

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Joker Soup

Players: 2
Location: in kitchens before dinner parties, elsewhere in hosts' houses during dinner parties, and on phone calls scheduled between dinner parties
Materials: a coin, ladles, cookware, miscellaneous Joker cards from multiple card decks old and new

For this game you need to regularly host dinner parties and you need a friend who lives in another city who also regularly hosts dinner parties. You must not have any friends in common who would be guests to both your parties and to those given by your friend. You must trust each other, as this game depends on the honor system. Call your friend, flip a coin and have your friend pick heads or tails. The winner of the coin toss goes first.

Player #1 makes soup for a dinner party with any ingredients he or she sees fit, but for the game is required to add a Joker from a card deck as the soup is being prepared. The card must remain in the soup for the entirety of the preparation time. It is not sufficient to add the secret ingredient for just a few minutes. Before the party starts, the player must remove the card from the soup using a ladle. If a guest to the party complains or says something is odd about the soup, Player #1 loses. If no guests mention the soup's poor quality, Player #2 will make soup with two Jokers and this soup will be served at Player #2's next dinner party. Ladles shall be used to fish out the cards from all soups prepared and, again, cards must remain in the soup for the entire preparation time.

The game continues with each dinner party soup including one more Joker in the Joker count. The loser is the host whose party is the first during which the soup is called into question by a guest. A complaint after a party does not end the game, but it may signal the player's imminent demise. A post-party complainant might raise the issue again at the host's next party. Advice for the host in such a predicament: Withhold that person's future invitations and word might get back to your other guests. A tip-off will all but ensure your loss, barring a loss first by your opponent.

Other ingredients, or greater amounts of the same ingredients, may be used to draw attention away from the taste of ink and paper. Players should alter recipes with caution because any complaint from a guest will end the game.

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52 Snowball Card Decks

Players: 2-52
Location: Outdoors when there is snow
Materials: 6-520 card decks, snow suitable for packing, gloves or mittens for each player

Each player brings between three and ten card decks. Remove cards from their rubber bands or boxes but keep the cards of a deck together. Leave Jokers out of this game. (See Joker Soup for an idea if your Joker cards are orphaned by 52 Snowball Card Decks.) Scoop up snow and make snowballs but put a card deck in the middle of each snowball. In turns, each player throws a card deck snowball at another player. If that player is hit with the snowball, the target player has to pick up all 52 cards. If the player who threw the snowball misses, it is the thrower who must pick up all 52 cards. If less than a complete deck is recovered, the person who was responsible for gathering the cards (target or thrower) cannot take a turn until all 52 cards are gathered. A player gathering cards can still be a target of another player's snowball. On-target snowballs will increase the victim's burden of cards to gather; cards from separate decks must not be mingled. The winner is the person who runs out of cards first. Then all players except the most buttermittened loser can go inside and enjoy a mug of hot cocoa.

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Business Card Buffet

Players: 3-13
Location: a brunch, lunch or dinner buffet where the front of the restaurant has a glass bowl like a fish bowl filled with business cards
Materials: card deck without Jokers, golf pencils, paper placemats and the restaurant's fish bowl filled with business cards

At the buffet restaurant, check that there is a bowl for patrons to drop their business cards. What are those business card bowls for? I think they're for random drawings with a catered party as the prize. Do losing cards ever get thrown out? That's not my problem, but it may soon be yours.

All cards are dealt until no cards remain in the dealer's deck. Cards will be treated as hands visible to their owners, not as decks. Unless there are four or thirteen players, total cards dealt to each player will not be even. This is because 52 is not divisible by 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12. Disparity of card totals should not affect the game's outcome.

Each player writes a number between 2 and 10, or one of the letters A, J, Q, K on his or her placemat. The writing must be concealed for now with a napkin or dish but later should be fully visible after removing the item. Each player then selects a card from his or her hand and passes it facedown to the player on his or her right. Turns begin with the player to the dealer's left and continue clockwise around the table. Players announce one at a time what card rank they wrote down, then turn over the card passed to them and show it to the other players. Players should reserve a section of their placemat to keep track of their punishment letters. Punishment letters are the letters BUSINESS CARD BUFFET. Any players whose written rank matches the rank of the card passed to them will choose another player and assign that player the letter B, or U, etc., depending on how far along that player is in the punishment letters. A player whose written and actual card ranks match is exempt from being assigned a letter. If there is no player to punish, the game proceeds. A player can be punished more than once per round, though each subsequent letter must be assigned by a different player. If no player's written and actual card ranks match, the next round begins. Each round past round #1 must start with the previous round's card rankings scratched out. Following the round just completed, players add the card passed to them to their hands.

The first letter B shall be written with enough space to its right for 'USINESS CARD BUFFET' in a part of the placemat that can be seen from anywhere at the table. Whenever a player is assigned a second, third, fourth, etc. letter, that player appends the next letter in BUSINESS CARD BUFFET to the letter or letters already on his or her placemat. Spaces between words are only used to aid one's reading comprehension and as a courtesy to other players.

A savvy player of Business Card Buffet will take note, but not in writing, of what position around the table different cards might be. If a player has four cards of the same rank, he or she may discard all of them faceup on the table. These are removed from the game after being discarded. Eliminated cards make guessing at locations of cards still in play easier, whether those cards are being held or passed. Savvy players will also try to direct the flow of desired cards to them. A player who has discarded four cards of the same rank and has less than four cards remaining can then discard pairs. Discarded pairs are also removed. Any player who has disposed of all of his or her cards is no longer in the game. This is a bad thing for anyone who likes the taste of strangers' business cards.

What happens if a player gets all of the punishment letters?

Hey you, unfortunate card player! Surreptitiously walk to the front and steal a business card and eat it. The business card may be washed down with water but trips to the restroom are prohibited.

After finishing this delicacy, the gourmandizer continues with a blank slate (read: those three dramatic words are to be crossed out) and his or her next punishment letter will be the first letter B. Because a player can be assigned more than one punishment letter within the same round, the snack may occur in the middle of a round. The game continues until either the buffet closes or all business cards have been eaten.

Grab toothpicks on the way out.

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Rock, Paper, Milk and Cookies

Players: 2
Location: anywhere
Materials: card deck without Jokers

For the purposes of this game, cards of any rank in either spades or clubs will be called black cards. Cards of any rank in hearts or diamonds will be called red cards. The term 'suit' will be used interchangeably with 'color', as the suits have been subsumed under their parent colors.

1. Dealer shuffles cards and puts two cards faceup on the table. If both cards are of the same color, the dealer puts two more cards on the table faceup. If no deal of two cards produces both colors, the dealer will shuffle the deck and try again. Once a black card and a red card are on the table, the card with the higher rank is determined to be the higher suit for the duration of this game. Aces are high. If both cards are of the same rank, two more cards will be dealt onto the table until a higher suit is determined.

2. Dealer shuffles all cards.

3. Dealer distributes all cards facedown in equal amounts between both players. These cards are treated as decks and are not to be seen by their owners as with hands.

4. Dealer and other player play Rock, Paper, Scissors until there is a victor.

5. Whoever wins this preliminary step is assigned the word MILK. The other player is assigned the word COOKIES.

6. The MILK player will place four cards facedown on his or her side of the table while the other player places seven cards facedown on the other side of the table. There are four letters in MILK and seven letters in COOKIES.

7. Each player will put one card faceup on top of his or her MILK or COOKIES facedown stack.

8. If one player has a black card and the other has a red card, the winner of the trick is the player who played the card previously determined to be the higher suit of the game. If both players' faceup cards have the same color then MILK and COOKIES cards are played again, followed by a faceup card. The word 'trick' is a card game term.

9. Once a winner of the trick is determined, that person collects all cards on the table and places them facedown at the bottom of his or her deck. No shuffling is allowed.

10. If both players still have cards, another round of Rock, Paper, Scissors will precede the next trick. The winner of each Rock, Paper, Scissors determines who is the MILK player and who is the COOKIES player.

The objective is to win all the cards. If a player runs out of cards during a trick, the other player wins the game. If both players run out of cards at the same time, the game is a draw.

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The Fine Print

Reading descriptions of these games will turn you into a weregambler.