Schwarzer Peter (Old Maid) – A Card Game

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1874

Creator(s): Hans-Joachim Behrendt, Beatrice Braun-Fock, Dick Bruna and Wilhelm Busch (artists)

Who’s got the lucky black cat?

Schwarzer Peter is the German version of Old Maid. As I was unable to find accurate dates for Schwarzer Peter, I have here included the details for Old Maid instead.

What’s In The Box:


One deck of cards!

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the most pairs at the end of the game, and not be holding the black cat card.

To begin the game the deck is thoroughly shuffled and the entire deck is dealt out to the players. Players then find all pairs that they have in their hand and place them on the table like this:

Each player has laid down the pairs they had to start with.

Once every player has finished laying down their pairs they take it in turns to take one card at random from one other player. When playing with two this means you will always (unless you draw the Black Peter card) manage to make a pair.

Winning The Game!

Once all the pairs have been made the player left with the Black Peter card is the loser, and the player with the most pairs is the winner. In the event that the player with the most pairs is also holding the Black Peter card, the player with the next highest number of pairs is announced the winner.

In this game I have clearly won, as my opponent was left with the Black Peter card, despite having quite a lot of pairs.


There’s little to be said for strategy in this game. It’s generally chance as to whether or not you will be dealt the Black Peter at the beginning or will draw it from another player. When playing with two players you both know from the beginning which of you has the Black Peter, but this doesn’t actually make much difference, in that the second player can still accidentally draw it on their turn. You just have to hope to get lucky.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Although there are many different published decks of cards with nice illustrations on them for playing this game it can also easily be played with a regular deck of cards.
  2. The name Schwarzer Peter is thought to be reminiscent of a comrade of Schinderhannesthe robber Johann Peter Petriwho was also known as Black Peter. It’s thought that the game originated in his prison years, from 1811 onward, however, the true origin is probably older.
  3. Old Maid is a Victorian card game, for 2+ players, believed to have been derived from a drinking game, in which the loser buys the next round/pays for the drinks.
  4. It is known by many different names; Schwarzer Peter in Germany, Svarte Petter in Sweden, Svarteper in Norway, Sorteper in Denmark, Fekete Péter in Hungary, Musta Pekka in Finland, Asino in Italy, Le Pouilleux in France and Babnuki  in Japan.
  5. There is an English variation of the game, known as Scabby Queen which is played with a standard 52-card deck in which the loser has an additional punishment, on top of losing the game. When played with a standard deck of cards the odd card is usually a queen and the punishment inflicted in this game is this:

When the loser (the player with the single remaining queen) is found, the deck of cards, including the remaining queen but not the jokers, is shuffled and the loser cuts the deck. The card on the bottom of the pile they picked up then decides their “punishment”. If a red card (heart or diamond) is chosen, then the player is rapped on the back of the hand with the deck. If a black card (spades or clubs) is chosen, then he has the entire deck scraped across his knuckles (known as snipes. A skilled player can draw blood with the opening ‘snipe’). The number of times this is performed is decided by the value of the card. Cards 2-10 carry face value, jacks and kings have a value of 10, aces are 11 and queens are 21. Be aware that this can rip the skin of your hands, and can be extremely painful, hence the name Scabby Queen. It is also better to use old or cheap cards, as the cards can also be damaged (cheap and older cards also tend to be softer and more bendable, so the “punishment” is less severe). However, today the game is often played without this punishment, especially where the pain inflicted is not considered appropriate by the players (such as when parents are playing with their children), though the game is still called scabby queen. As with all playground games, the rules are often lost in translation and regional variations are common (school-specific rule-sets are not unusual). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Please note that this variation of the game is rarely played now.

To Conclude:

It’s a good game for families, it teaches kids to identify matching pairs, as well as providing a learning opportunity if you’re using an animal deck. You can get the children to identify different types of animal in their masculine and feminine forms (if they have them) and also what the babies are called. On top of that the game is very straightforward, so it’s hard to get confused when playing it. I rated this 5 because there’s nothing I would change about it.


Crush the Crown

As promised in Update – April 2014 here is the card game we have invented… CRUSH THE CROWN! Click the link to see the rules and try it yourself.



So we’ve change the layout of a few things on the site for this. We’ve created a Games We’ve Made page and a separate page with the rules on it, which you can find here, and a printer friendly page without pictures here.


We would like your feedback, play the game and tell us what’s good about it (or bad about it, as the case may be). Either comment on the page or on this post OR email us at if you want to give us a large exposition of everything that’s wrong with it.

Irish Snap

3 - 5 Strike Thro

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – as many drunk people you can fit round a deck of cards (wouldn’t recommend with less than 3 people)

Year of Publication: Who knows?

Creator: The Irish

I Guarantee You Will Laugh More Than Any Other Game:

So this has to go down as one of my favourite card games of all time. It’s very simple, huge amounts of fun and anyone can play it (they might just be bad at it, which will make it funnier).

Appreciate our custom cards!
Appreciate our custom cards!

What’s In The Box:

Unlike most of the games we review this game only needs one thing:

1 x Standard 52 deck of cards

Playing The Game:

Objective: Don’t be the person holding all the cards at the end of the game!

Now there are quite a few variations of this game what with it being quite ambiguous and not actually having an official publication or official set of rules, so it’s up to the people playing it to decide what to play by. But here’s how we play it:

The basic principle is the same as Snap (I hope you are all familiar with the concept of Snap – although its real name is Slapjack). The difference between it and snap is that it’s the card that matches what the person is saying rather than the card under it. So the cards are split, face down, equally between players. The first player puts a card in the centre and says Ace, now if the card is an Ace hands go in, the last hand in is the loser and picks up the cards. If its not an Ace the next person puts a card down face up and says Two, if it’s a two hands go in, if not play continues to Three, Four etc. all the way to King and then back to Ace. The picture below should demonstrate what I mean:

You only snap when the card put down meets the card said.
You only snap when the card played is the same as what was said

Now in addition to this you can also choose to snap on actual snap cards, say someone puts a ten down and the next card is also a ten. The game gets interesting when people start to lose all the cards. The person who loses all their cards is NOT the winner, in fact they’re not even out of the game, they still have to say the right card when it comes round to them and their hand still has to go in when snap happens. This way a player can go through phases of having and not having cards multiple times in a game. The game is only over when only one person is left with all the cards in their hand. So even when there’s only one person, or even in a rare case where no one is playing any cards the game is not over until the final snap and one person is left with the whole deck.

For a more concise and directly playable version of the rules see here.

Additional Rules:

These rules you may only want to introduce after playing it a few times:

  1. Flinching – if a person flinches they have to pick up all the cards.
  2. Pace – You have to keep a steady fast rhythm to the game and if you break it by forgetting what you’re supposed to be saying or by not noticing it’s your turn you have to pick up.
  3. Queens – Some rules state that you snap on a Queen too, but this is really up to you.
  4. Change of direction – When Jacks are played (or a card of the players choosing) the direction of play changes.
  5. Word confusion – Changing the word for some of the cards to something obscure and if a player forgets this when saying it they have to pick up.
  6. DRINKING! – This is the most obvious additional rule (it being called Irish Snap and all) but the player who picks up has to drink.


  1. Winning – The first and most major variant is that players to lose all their cards are actually out of the game and win… I personally believe this version is for losers with no real commitment.
  2. No speaking – Numbers are counted in your head and you snap in the same way you would if they were said. Makes it much harder as you have to pay even more attention. I tried an interesting variation of this rule (sort of) where half the people playing were Polish and they said the cards in Polish and the English people said them in English… It got very interesting.


  1. HAVE QUICK HANDS! – There is very little strategy that can actually be applied to this game except having quick hands and not getting distracted!
  2. DRUG THE OTHER PLAYERS! – We don’t actually suggest this… But it would help. Also keep in mind you just want to make them a bit slow, not knock them out.

To Conclude:

Ok, the loss of life may be a bit extreme.

First of all take heed of the picture above, this is why the drinking version is good… After a while you start to not feel the pain – but this also how hands are lost.

Note I have not put a “History and Interesting Things” section in this post; that’s because this game doesn’t seem to have a history. Well it probably does, but not a documented one, so if anyone knows anything interesting about it or finds anything beyond my lazy research capacity then please let me know in the comments. I would strongly advise playing this game, it’s only a 2 or 3 out of 5 on a purely objective level but is also a 5 out of 5  because of the huge amount of fun and endless hours of entertainment it has given me.



3 - 5


Number of Players: 3-8

Year of Publication: 1903

Creator(s): Edgar CayceHarry GavittGeorge S. Parker (Designers) and Randy AsherPaul CoutureOlivier FagnèreNick the Rat (Artists)

Corner the Market!

Pit is an interesting trading game. It’s got very few rules and can be played in any amount of time as the winner is the first person to reach a pre-determined amount of points. So games can be very very quick. Although the game is 3-8 players you should definitely opt for 8 if you can get the people, the more people, the better with this game.

What’s In The Box:

The stuff!
The stuff!
  1. One Pit “Corner” card
  2. One 72 card deck (8 suits of 9 cards)
  3. One “Bull” card and one “Bear” card

Playing The Game:

Objective: To be the first player to score 500 points by cornering the market on a specific commodity.

There are two ways of playing this game, basic, and slightly less basic. The only difference between them being that in the basic version the Bull and Bear cards are removed from the deck before play starts.

Setting Up:

  • Place the Pit Corner board in the middle of the table.
  • Prepare a score sheet.
  • Select a dealer and prepare the deck. The dealer takes one complete suit for every person playing (it’s not in the rules to do this, but we usually play with the highest-scoring suits) and shuffles them, together with the Bear and the Bull if they’re in play.
  • Deal 9 cards, face-down, to each player.

Once all this is done players can then look at their cards and choose which commodity they’re going to collect. It’s best to go for whatever you currently have most of in your hand. Once everyone’s had a chance to look at their cards the dealer announces “The Exchange is open!” It’s not compulsory, but you can do this with as much bravado as you like, just for fun.

Now the Pit is open players can trade cards. You can choose any number of cards from your hand and hold them face down in the centre of the table, you then announce the number of cards you want to exchange this is generally very noisy. You can then trade with any other player offering the same number of cards. If no one’s offering the same number you may want to higher or lower the number of cards you’re exchanging.

This continues until one player has all nine of one commodity in their hand. They then hit the Pit board in the center and announce “Corner on (insert commodity here)!” When playing without the Bear and Bull, the only player who scores is the one to hit the board. They score the amount of points shown on the cards of the commodity they collected, for instance, a corner on Corn would give that player 75 points. The winner of the hand then reshuffles the deck and deals the next hand.

Playing with the Bull and Bear:

When you add these cards in two players will receive 10 cards instead of 9 in the initial dealing. They can then call corner if they have all nine of one commodity and one of another, simply discarding the extra card when they lay down their hand to show the corner. The game is played as normal, but with these two difference:

The Bear is always a bad card, and you should try and get rid of it as soon as possible if you’re dealt it or traded it. If you hold the Bear, but have all nine of one commodity in your hand, you cannot lay it down whilst you hold the Bear, and if another player goes out whilst you have it you receive a penalty of -20 points, even if your current score is 0.

Our score sheet halfway through the game.
Our score sheet halfway through the game. I was spectacularly losing.

The Bull is a wild card and can be good or bad. If you’re holding the Bull and you call corner, your score is then doubled. However, if you’re holding the Bull and someone else calls corner, you minus 20 points, as if you were holding the Bear. With the Bull you can go out if you only have eight of the commodities you were collecting and the Bull, as only two players would be able to collect the full nine.

A winning corner on Wheat, with the Bull. Whoever laid this down scored 200 points.
A winning corner on Wheat, with the Bull. Whoever laid this down scored 200 points.

If someone calls corner and you’re holding the Bull and the Bear, your penalty is -40 points. If you’re unlucky, you can end up getting to fairly high minus numbers when playing with the Bear and Bull. You can trade the Bull and the Bear individually, or in combination. But you can never trade more than four cards at a time.


There’s no strategy to this game. Get rid of the Bear fast, and try and trade the Bull if you suspect the round might be about to end by someone else calling the corner. Other than that, try and trade as fast as possible and hope no one else is trying to collect the commodity you want!

History and Interesting Things:

  1. It was first sold in 1904.
  2. The inspiration was the Chicago Board of Trade.
  3. The game has been marketed under all of the following names: Billionaire, Business, Cambio, Dulux pit, Quick 7 and Zaster.
  4. Versions of the game published, starting in 1970, included a bell to start trading.

To Conclude:

This game’s fun, quick and easy, and you can teach it to anyone! It’s a fantastic family game, or just a quick one for playing with a bunch of friends.


Poker – Five Card Draw

4 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – 10

Year of Publication: 1810

Creator: Unknown


So the time has come to review the almighty Poker. Now I must admit to not actually being able to play poker before learning it to write this review. This is not to say I hadn’t played it before, I had a couple of times, but always while being guided like a baby by people who were already in the know. I find this is a bad way to learn games because as well as learning the rules you tend to learn things that aren’t the rules and are just made up by these people, but they’ve convinced themselves they are the rules, and also things that are part of the rules get forgotten. As I’m sure some of you are aware there are like a million different versions of poker, but this is a review specifically of the five card draw version. We will endeavour to play and review all versions of poker in the future (over the next 20 – 60 years) but we thought this was a good starting point.

What’s In The Box:

Card from our amazing Jack Daniel's poker cards.
Cards from our Jack Daniel’s poker set.

To play poker all you really need is a standard 52 card deck. However, we used our Jack Daniels Poker Set which contained:

  1. 1 52 deck of Jack Daniels Cards.
  2. 10 x Black Chips.
  3. 10 x White Chips.
  4. 1 x Small Bottle of Jack Daniels Old No.7.

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the highest ranking hand after two rounds of betting. Also to take all the other peoples money, until everyone else goes bust.

Now for a good and clear set of exact rules to this game see here (these are the rules we learnt from).

To start choose to play the game either with or without betting. It’s far more fun with betting:

The Stuff.
The starting set up.

With betting you set a starting bet, which is the bet everyone has to put down just to be dealt cards. We set it as one white chip and we decided black chips where worth two white chips. Once the starting bet is placed by everyone five cards are dealt to each player by the dealer. The players then look at those cards and, from the left of the dealer, choose to either:

  • CALL – The player decides to match whatever’s already in the pot. If no one has put anything extra in the pot this means they put nothing in.
  • RAISE – The player decides to raise the pot (normally you set a maximum raise, we set it as one black chip). They do this by adding more money to it. Any player who then wants to stay in the round has to match the amount they’ve added.
  • FOLD – The player decides there’s no point continuing with the round and folds by not matching the raise in the pot and puts their cards face down on the table, taking care not to show any of the other players their cards.

After that round of betting anyone who owes the pot anything (because it was raised after their turn to bet) decides whether to call it or to fold. Then each player, from the left of the dealer, then has the chance to switch up to three cards in their hand. Once each player has done this another round of betting is done, exactly like the first, and then cards are revealed.

The Reveal.
The Reveal.

The person with the highest hand wins the round and claims the pot. The hands are (listed from highest to lowest):

Five of a Kind –  A five of a kind (which is only possible when using wild cards) is the highest possible hand. If more than one hand has five of a kind, the higher card wins (Five Aces beats five kings, which beat five queens, and so on).

Straight Flush – A straight flush is the best natural hand. A straight flush is a straight (5 cards in order, such as 5-6-7-8-9) that are all of the same suit. As in a regular straight, you can have an ace either high (A-K-Q-J-T) or low (5-4-3-2-1). However, a straight may not ‘wraparound’. (Such as K-A-2-3-4, which is not a straight). An Ace high straight-flush is called a Royal Flush and is the highest natural hand.

Four of a Kind –  Four of a kind is simply four cards of the same rank. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the higher-rank four of a kind wins. If, in some bizarre game with many wild cards, there are two four of a kinds with the same rank, then the one with the higher card outside the four wins. General Rule: When hands tie on the rank of a pair, three of a kind, etc, the cards outside break ties following the High Card rules.

Full House –  A full house is a three of a kind and a pair, such as K-K-K-5-5. Ties are broken first by the three of a kind, then the pair. So K-K-K-2-2 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-J-J. (Obviously, the three of a kind can only be similar if wild cards are used.)

Flush –  A flush is a hand where all of the cards are the same suit, such as J-8-5-3-2, all of spades. When flushes tie, follow the rules for High Card.

Straight – A straight is 5 cards in order, such as 4-5-6-7-8. An ace may either be high (A-K-Q-J-T) or low (5-4-3-2-1). However, a straight may not ‘wraparound’. (Such as Q-K-A-2-3, which is not a straight). When straights tie, the highest straight wins. (A-K-Q-J-T beats K-Q-J-T-9 down to 5-4-3-2-A). If two straights have the same value (A-K-Q-J-T vs A-K-Q-J-T) they split the pot.

Three of a Kind – Three cards of any rank, matched with two cards that are not a pair (otherwise it would be a Full House). Again, highest three of a kind wins. If both are the same rank, then compare High Cards.

Two Pair –  This is two distinct pairs of cards, and a 5th card. The highest pair wins ties. If both hands have the same high pair, the second pair wins. If both hands have the same pairs, the high card wins.

Pair – One pair with three distinct cards. High card breaks ties.

High Card – This is any hand which doesn’t qualify as any one of the above hands. If nobody has a pair or better, then the highest card wins. If multiple people tie for the highest card, they look at the second highest, then the third highest etc. High card is also used to break ties when the high hands both have the same type of hand (pair, flush, straight, etc).

Hand descriptions loving borrowed from:

As you may have gathered from those descriptions you can play with the jacks as well, these are wild cards and allow the Five of a Kind had to be played. Also you can play Aces high or low depending on how you’re feeling.


Now there are whole books on poker strategy and the art of reading a persons tell, etc. But I’m not even going to pretend to know even 0.001% of that information. HOWEVER, this is a list of things you should keep in mind when playing with very low level amateurs:

  1. THEY’RE PROBABLY BLUFFING – The other player is probably bluffing because it’s far more fun than not bluffing, especially if you’re not betting anything of real worth. They’re almost definitely going to bluff rather than go out.
  2. KNOW WHICH HANDS ARE WORTH WHAT – This is hardly a strategy comment more a comment of common sense, but having just learnt the game I made quite a few mistakes by not knowing what was worth more that what.
  3. DON’T BET ANYTHING OF WORTH – If you’re learning the game don’t go straight into high stakes betting, it’ll just make you hate each other and give the person who wins false confidence is their poker skills.

History and Interesting Things:

Again there’s whole books full of history and interesting things on poker so I’ll just cover a few:

  1.  One of the earliest recorded uses of the game is by Joseph Cowell who wrote that it was played in New Orleans in 1829 with a 20 deck of cards.
  2. The exact origins of the game are uncertain.
  3. While there are a LOT of different versions of poker there are only four main categories of poker and these are; Straight poker, Draw poker (what this is, as the name might tell you), Stud poker and Community Card poker.
  4. It is possible the most popular card game of all time.
  5. It is probably the most popular gambling game of all time.
  6. It has featured as plot devices in many films and books including the James Bond film/book Casino Royale and in many other Bond films. It has also been shown as a common recreational activity in films and TV shows alike. For example in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the film How to Lose a Guy in Tew Days.
  7. The example of poker in film and TV mirrors the spike in interest in it that happened in the 21st century. With the introduction of online poker and hole-card cameras it became a spectator sport and something you could do from the comfort of your own home.
  8. With this spike and the ability to make it a spectator sport many poker tours emerged, including World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour, both of which were televised.
  9. In 2009 the International Federation of Poker was founded to be its governing body and to promote it.
  10. They then launched two new events; The Nations Cup which was held on the  London Eye and The Table which featured 130 of the best poker players in the world.

To Conclude:

Poker is an interesting game and I can see why it has mass appeal. However, can someone please explain to me the appeal of online poker? Apart from the fact you don’t have to get out of the chair by your computer or off your bed with your laptop why would you gamble with people whose faces you can’t see? Does that not defeat the whole point of trying to read peoples tells and take away a large part of the whole psychology of the game? Correct me if I’m wrong.

Also, we all know Casinos fix games in their favour (and who can blame them? It would’t make a very good business if they didn’t) but to gamble online in any form is surly to leave yourself open to an even larger con? I could write a fixed version of any gambling game as a computer program in like a day and I’m a bad programmer. With poker there’s less of a fear of this because everyone playing is supposed to be a real person and there is no “house” to take the money… Eccept how do you know all these people are real and one of then isn’t the “house” and the game isn’t fixed in their favour? I’m half tempted to write a fixed version of poker, put it online, and see how many people I could convince to play it… Except then I could be arrested for all kinds of things… But it would make for a rather interesting experiment/business… But anyway, I have digressed.

Back to the point, poker is a good game, if you don’t know how to play it, learn as undoubtedly you’ll be somewhere with some people and they’ll be like “lets play poker” and you’ll be that one person who doesn’t know how to play and they’ll “teach you” but in that way where you only ever really pick up half of it.



Switch (Blackjack)

4 - 5

Number of Players: 2-lots

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator(s): Unknown

Appreciate Our Custom Made Cards!

Switch is one of the many versions of Black Jack around, we aim to cover them all between now and eternity, but that could take years, so don’t hold your breath for any exciting Blackjack posts any time soon. I think this game is good because it’s simple, can be played anywhere, and is very quick.

What’s In The Box:

Well, as it would transpire…. Nothing! All you need to play this game is a standard deck of cards, and at least two willing people.

Playing The Game:

Objective: To be the first to play all the cards in your hand.

So to start the game each player is dealt a hand, usually of seven cards. The remaining cards are placed face down in the middle of the table, and the top card is drawn to determine how play starts. If the top card is a Power Card, then another card is drawn until a card is revealed that has no other purpose in the game. The starting player (typically left of the dealer) should then find in their hand a card that matches either the suit or the rank of the face up card. If a player cannot play a card from their hand they must draw cards from the deck until they can.

The starting set up for Switch.
The starting set up for Switch. Appreciate our custom made cards!

Power Cards:

  • 2 – if a player places a two in their turn the player next to them then has to draw two cards, unless they have a two in their hand, they can then play this and make the player next to them pick up four cards. This can continue round players until all four twos are played if possible, forcing the last player to pick up eight cards. The player that has to draw cards also forfeits the right to play any cards that turn.
  • 7 – a seven must be covered, so the person who played it must put another card of the same suit over it, or pick up a card if they cannot. If they pick up the next player must then cover the seven, or draw a card, this continues until someone has managed to cover the card.
  • 8 – when played eights make the next player miss their turn. There is an optional rule that allows that player to also play an eight, passing the missed turn on in the same way stacking two’s works, with the last player who cannot play an eight missing the same number of turns as there are eights in play.
  • 10 – reverses the direction of play.
  • Black Jacks – a black jack is similar to a two, when it’s played the next player must pick up five cards or play the other black jack, which would then make the next player pick up 10 cards.
  • Red Jacks – a red jack can be used to cancel out a black jack, if two black jack’s are in play then to cancel them both you must play both red jacks.
  • Ace – an ace can be played onto any card, irrespective of suit or value, whoever played the ace then chooses which suit play will continue in, and the game carries on, but with the new suit instead of whatever was being played before.

Winning The Game!

The first player to play their last card immediately wins the game. However, to win you must call LAST CARDS as soon as you are able to go out, this must  be noticed by other players. If you fail to do this and then play your last card you must pick up another card. Play also cannot end on an  Ace, if you finish with an Ace you must pick up another card.

History and Interesting Things:

There’s not a lot of history going on for this game, but there are a few entertaining things I can tell you:

  • There’s a variation of the game called Peanuckle in which player with only two cards left in their hand must say “peanuckle”, and a player with only one card left must say “supper-peanuckle”. I have no idea why this is, but this is the way of it.
  • There are loads of variations of Black Jack, most of which are played in Casinos around the world, like 21 Blackjack, also known as Pontoon.
  • We were familiar with this game before we decided to write about it, but the variation we’d previously played had slightly different rules and Power Cards.
  • Three points is two more than I thought I’d write, so I’m doing well!

To Conclude:

A good game, I like it a lot because it’s easy to learn and you can play it anywhere with anyone. I also like that there are so many variations of it, makes it always interesting to play. Although, because there are so many variations of the game it can lead to interesting disputes over Power Cards and rules regarding winning the game. We played with a bunch of people when we were in Brazil and we had three different ideas of what the rules should be. There had to be a little bit of universal rule deciding before we could start playing.

The most comprehensive information I found on this game was on Wikipedia, but most of it’s in this blog post. Annnnnnnd, yeah, that’d be about it, have fun playing cards!


Cripple Mr Onion!

Disclaimer: No onions were crippled in the making of this post… Much.
Meet Mr Onion!
Meet Mr Onion!

4 - 5

Number of Players: 2-7

Year of Publication: 1993

Creator(s): Andrew MillardTerry Tao (Designers) and concept created by Terry Pratchett

We’re all aware that it’s Terry Pratchett month, and that the last official post for this month has now gone up – The Witches. So now we’ve played all four officially produced Discworld games we wanted to have a look at the slightly more unofficial games. The most well known of these is Cripple Mr OnionThis is a fictitious card game that Terry Pratchett invented that’s played all over the Disc. It features in Wyrd Sisters, Reaper Man, Witches Abroad and Lords and Ladies. A game called “Shibo Yancong-San” (Cripple Mr Onion in Chinese) also appears in Interesting Times

The game is played with an 8-suited deck of cards, the Discworld has its own deck of cards, called the caroc deck. However, for the purposes of playing in our universe a deck with the following eight suits and suit-pairs is acceptable: Spades and Axes, Clubs and Tridents, Hearts and Roses and Diamonds and Doves.

With the intention of learning the game, I acquired one such deck from the Fat Pack Playing Card Company, which has made learning the game easier, as the other alternative is to shuffle two normal decks together, but this presents the problem of having then two of each suit, and could get very confusing.

The game is a little like Poker in two respects, the first of which is that you must make the highest scoring hand to win the round, and the second of which is that, if you don’t play it often, the rules are such that’s it’s easy to forget them and end up both confused and annoyed. There’s a dealer for each round, which changes at the end of every round. The game starts by each player being dealt five cards face down, which they are immediately allowed to look at and can then discard up to four of them, being given replacement cards by the dealer. Once everyone’s done this a further five cards are dealt face up onto the table in front of each player – except the dealer, who receives theirs face down.

The first player then begins by trying to assemble a high-scoring hand (I’ll list the different hand in point order in a minute), once they’ve done this, the player to their left must assemble a higher-scoring hand, or fold. If they succeed in creating a higher scoring hand the first player is then allowed to try to rearrange their cards to score even higher, or fold. Once on player has been forced to fold play continues to the left until one player remains. This player wins the hand and becomes the dealer for the next round.

Scoring – lowest to highest hands:
  • Bagel – two cards with values totalling 20.
  • Two-card Onion – two cards with values totalling 21.
  • Broken Flush – three or more cards totalling between 16 and 21 inclusive with all but one in the same suit-pair.
  • Three-card Onion – three cards with values totalling 21.
  • Flush – like a Broken Flush but with all cards in the same suit-pair.
  • Four-card Onion – see other Onions.
  • Broken Royal – combination of 678 of any suit.
  • Five-card Onion – same-same, see above.
  • Royal – combination of 777 of any suit.
  • Six-card Onion – you get the idea by now.
  • Wild Royal – combination of 888 in a hand when eights are wild. (Wild eights’ll be explained a bit further down)
  • Seven-card Onion
  • Double Onion – two picture cards and two aces.
  • Triple Onion – three picture cards and three aces.
  • Lesser Onion – four picture cards and four aces.
  • Great Onion – five picture cards and five aces.

Thus ends how to make points in this game. But now you begin to wonder “Isn’t the game called Cripple Mr Onion? We’ve had a lot of onions so far, but no crippling…” and you’d be right to present this question. Crippling Mr Onion comes into play when we get to the modifiers for the game. This is the bit that confused me the most, simply because there’s a lot to remember. So what I’m going to do, for the purposes of keeping this post fairly short, is simply list all the possible modifiers that can be played, and link you to a proper explanation of them. Except Wild Eights, which I said I’d explain, Crippling Mr Onion, because it’s the whole point of this post and The Fool, because that one’s funny. So here we go:


These can be played through the game to increase the value of a hand and, with the exception of the crippling rule, are all optional extras to the game. I’ll list the ones I’m not explaining first, and finish with the most interesting ones.

  • Wild Crippling
  • Octavo
  • The Lady
  • Fate
  • Great A’Tuin
  • The Sender of Eights
  • Death
  • The Archchancellor

Now, on to the others! We’ll start by explaining how to Cripple Mr Onion:

In the event that a player displays a Great Onion as their hand for a round, another player may immediately display a nine-card running flush and thereby instantly win the hand. If a player’s displayed a Great or Lesser Onion another player may display a ten-card running flush to Cripple Mr Onion, they may also use this to steal a win from a player who’s just Crippled an Onion using only a nine-card running flush. This is the only non-optional modifier.

Once your onion’s been crippled, you may find it looks a little like this:

Poor Crippled Mr Onion...
Poor Crippled Mr Onion…

Wild Eights:

This modifier’s actually called Null Eights but it makes eights wild. So, in a normal hand, where eights are not wild, an eight may be played as if its value were zero or eight, to increase the size of a hand in order to score higher. Because of this you can include them in an Onion to improve its size. However, in the round following the one in which this took place, eights become wild for the duration of that round and this modifier cannot be used again until the following round.

The Fool:

This is the last thing I’m going to explain. If a player holds the Jack of Clubs, they may declare it before the first player’s played their first group of cards. If they do this, Onions and Bagels switch places in scoring so a Double Bagel or Triple Bagel etc, become the most valuable hands with the single exception that a Great Onion will still beat a Great Bagel. It also then becomes possible for another player to Cripple Mr Bagel. Which is the only reason I wanted to specifically explain this one. I just like the concept of crippling a bagel.


There you have an explanation of how to play Cripple Mr Onion, I promise it’s only complicated for the first few hands, after that it begins to get easier as you begin to be able to spot the most useful combinations of cards! It can be a really quick game too, so it’s good for if you’ve only got a few minutes (provided you don’t have to learn the rules first) and you can play with up to seven people, so play it with all you friends!

All the info I got for this post was got from here, plus there’s extra stuff to read there if you want it, and a full explanation of all the modifiers.