Loser's Game

Release Date: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Setup Time: 
Play Duration (experienced): 

by Jonathan Leistiko

Object

Take 50 points in cards.

You Need

A poker deck – jokers removed
Paper and pencil to keep score

Setup

Shuffle the deck. Deal it out evenly among the players. Set excess cards aside, face up.

Card Rank

The rank of a card determines its value relative to other cards in the same trick. The highest-ranked Trump card played on a trick takes the trick. If no Trump is played on a trick, the highest-ranking card of the suit led on a trick takes the trick. Aces are high, twos are low.

The Bid

Once the cards are dealt, the player with the lowest score picks trump. If there is a tie, the youngest player picks trump. Next, starting with the player to the left of the player who called trump, each player announces what his or her bid is. Refer to the Scoring section (below) to get an idea of how many points you may be able to take in the upcoming hand. You should make a bid that’s as close to what you think you can take in tricks as possible. If you take more points than your bid, you’ll only get the amount you bid. If you fail to make your bid, you’ll lose your bid in points. Note all bids on the score sheet.

Play

If you called Trump, begin the first trick by playing a card from your hand face-up on the table. Continuing clockwise, each player must play a card on the card led in accord with the following rules:

  • Trump does not have to be led on the first trick of a hand, but may be led if desired. You must play a card of the same suit as the card that started the trick, if you can. This is called, “playing in suit.” If you can not play in the suit that is led, you may play any card – either Trump or non-Trump.
  • If Trump is led on a trick and you can play Trump, you can play any Trump card you want to; you don’t have to “overtrump”. The same is true if Trump is played “out of suit” (that is, is the suit led was not Trump, but another player has played Trump on the trick).

Once everyone has played a card, the player who played the highest card within the suit lead on a trick takes the trick unless one or more players have played Trump. In this case, the player who played the highest Trump card takes the trick. When you take a trick, set the cards aside face-down in your trick pile. No one may look at cards in trick piles until the hand is over.
If you take a trick, begin the next trick.

Scoring

Once all players are out of cards, the hand is over. Tally the cards you took. Every trump card is worth 1 point. Every 3 of a kind is worth 3 points. Every 4 of a kind is worth 9 points. (A 4 of a kind does not also count as a 3 of a kind.) If you made points equal to or greater then your bid, score your bid in points. If you didn’t, subtract your bid in points from your score.
If no one has won once all scores are tallied, shuffle all cards together to form a new deck. Deal new hands to the players. Start over with the bid again.

Winning

If a player has 50 points or more at the end of a round, and no player has the same score, the game ends. If you have the most points at the end of the game, you win.

Origin and Credits

I wrote a brief idea for a game in my notebook back in November of ‘05. I found that note sometime around the 14th of March ‘06. The note suggested a game where the losing player got a significant advantage – perhaps a trick-taking game? Although I was busy making up dice games for the 2006 About.com game design contest, another part of my mind kept working on this game that favored the loser. Also, I needed a Game Of The Month for March of ‘06. So, here it is.

Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Play Duration (new players): 
Minimum Age: 
9
Game Type/Context: 
Price: 
$0(USD)