Favorite Card Games of SCA Alumni

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (which was after we took the photo above), SCA alum Sarah spoke about how her SCA experience helped to build coping skills like, “how to make bread. how to spend time alone, in the forest in quiet contemplation, or play killer card games.”

It got us wondering: What are some favorite card games alumni would play to pass the time during their service? We posted the question on social media to get some answers:
 


The results? Here are three of their favorites that can be played with a regular deck of cards.

1. Hearts

Hearts is easy to play, yet there is plenty of room for high strategy. 
 
Many trick-taking games are not directly related to Bridge or Whist. Perhaps the foremost one is Hearts, which is truly one of the greatest card games ever devised for four players, each playing individually. 
 
THE PACK 
 
Standard 52-card pack
 
OBJECT OF THE GAME 
 
To be the player with the lowest score at the end of the game. When one player hits the agreed-upon score or higher, the game ends; and the player with the lowest score wins. 
 
CARD VALUES/SCORING 
 
At the end of each hand, players count the number of hearts they have taken as well as the queen of spades, if applicable. Hearts count as one point each and the queen counts 13 points. 
Each heart - 1 point 
The Q - 13 points 
The aggregate total of all scores for each hand must be a multiple of 26. 
The game is usually played to 100 points (some play to 50). 
When a player takes all 13 hearts and the queen of spades in one hand, instead of losing 26 points, that player scores zero and each of their opponents score an additional 26 points. 
 
THE DEAL 
 
Deal the cards one at a time, face down, clockwise. In a four-player game, each is dealt 13 cards; in a three-player game, the 2 of diamonds should be removed, and each player gets 17 cards; in a five-player game, the 2 of diamonds and 2 of clubs should be removed so that each player will get 10 cards. 
 
THE PLAY 
 
The player holding the 2 of clubs after the pass makes the opening lead. If the 2 has been removed for the three handed game, then the 3 of clubs is led. 
 
Each player must follow suit if possible. If a player is void of the suit led, a card of any other suit may be discarded. However, if a player has no clubs when the first trick is led, a heart or the queen of spades cannot be discarded. The highest card of the suit led wins a trick and the winner of that trick leads next. There is no trump suit. 
 
The winner of the trick collects it and places it face down. Hearts may not be led until a heart or the queen of spades has been discarded. The queen does not have to be discarded at the first opportunity. 
 
The queen can be led at any time. 

2. Spoons

Dig into this fast-paced card swapping game!  
 
THE PACK 
 
Standard deck of 52 cards is used plus a number of spoons, using one fewer spoon than the number of players playing in the game.
 
OBJECT OF THE GAME 
 
Players take turns trying to collect a four-of-a-kind. Once someone does, everyone tries to grab a spoon. Without a spoon, you get a letter. If a player spells “S-P-O-O-N”, they’re out! The last player standing wins! 
 
THE DEAL 
 
Arrange the spoons in a small circle in the center of the table, handles outwards, and deal four cards to each player. 
 
THE PLAY 
 
Each player tries to make four of a kind. The dealer takes a card off the top of the deck to have five cards in their hand, removes one and passes it face down to the left. Each player discards to the person on their left. 
 
The last player places their discard into a trash pile. Cards are picked up and passed quickly around the table until someone gets four of a kind and takes a spoon from the center. Once the player with four of a kind takes a spoon, anyone can take a spoon. The player left without a spoon gets a letter. Alternatively, he or she is eliminated, the game reducing by one player each round. If at any time the draw cards run out, pause to reshuffle the trash pile and keep going. 
 
HOW TO KEEP SCORE 
 
The winner is the last player remaining. Players move closer to elimination each time they don’t get a spoon and take the next letter in the word S-P-O-O-N. Spell it and you’re out. 
 
As SCA alum Sarah notes in her text, Spoons can get pretty competitive!
 
 
After you master Hearts and Spoons, try the more advanced Euchre.

3. Euchre

Euchre is an offshoot of Juckerspiel, a game that became widely popular throughout Europe during the Napoleonic era. In the 1800s, it became one of the most popular card games in America and Australia. 
 
Euchre (and its variations) is the reason why modern card decks were first packaged with jokers, a card originally designed to act as the right and left “bowers” (high trumps). Although later eclipsed by Bridge (as with so many other games of this type), Euchre is still well known in America and is an excellent social game.
 
 
The game is best for four participants, playing two against two as partners. Therefore, the rules for the four-hand version are given first.
 
THE PACK 
 
Special Euchre decks are available, or the standard 52-card pack can be stripped to make a deck of 32 cards (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 of each suit), 28 cards (7s omitted), or 24 cards (7s and 8s omitted). In some games, a joker is added. 
 
OBJECT OF THE GAME 
 
The goal is to win at least three tricks. If the side that fixed the trump fails to get three tricks, it is said to be “euchred.” Winning all five tricks is called a “march.” 
 
RANK OF CARDS 
 
The highest trump is the jack of the trump suit, called the “right bower.” The second-highest trump is the jack of the other suit of the same color called the “left bower.” (Example: If diamonds are trumps, the right bower is J♦ and left bower is J♥.) The remaining trumps, and also the plain suits, rank as follows: A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7. If a joker has been added to the pack, it acts as the highest trump. 
 
CARD VALUES/SCORING 
 
The following shows all scoring situations: 
 
Partnership making trump wins 3 or 4 tricks – 1 point 
Partnership making trump wins 5 tricks – 2 points 
Lone hand wins 3 or 4 tricks – 1 point 
Lone hand wins 5 tricks – 4 points 
Partnership or lone hand is euchred, opponents score 2 points 
 
The first player or partnership to score 5, 7 or 10 points, as agreed beforehand, wins the game. In the 5-point game, a side is said to be “at the bridge” when it has scored 4 and the opponents have scored 2 or less. 
 
Keeping Score with Low Card Markers 
 
An elegant and widespread method of keeping score is with cards lower than those used in play. When game is 5 points, each side uses a three-spot and a four-spot as markers. To indicate a score of 1, the four is placed face down on the three, with one pip left exposed. For a score of 2, the three is placed face down on the four, with two pips left exposed. For a score of 3, the three is placed face up on the four. For a score of 4, the four is placed face up on the three. 
 
RUBBERS 
 
Many Euchre games are scored by rubber points, as in Whist. The first side to win two games wins the rubber. Each game counts for the side winning; 3 rubber points if the losers’ score in that game was 0 or fewer, 2 rubber points if the losers’ score was 1 or 2, and 1 rubber point if the losers scored 3 or more. The winners’ margin in the rubber is 2 points bonus, plus the winners’ rubber points, minus the losers’ rubber points. 
 
THE DRAW 
 
From the shuffled pack spread face down, the players draw cards for partners and first deal. The two players with the two lowest cards play against the two players with the two highest cards. The player with the lowest card deals first. For drawing, the cards rank: K (high), Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, A. Players drawing equal cards must draw again. Partners sit opposite each other. 
 
THE SHUFFLE AND CUT 
 
The dealer has the right to shuffle last. The pack is cut by the player to the dealer’s right. The cut must not leave less than four cards in each packet. 
 
THE DEAL 
 
The cards are dealt clockwise, to the left, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. Each player receives five cards. The dealer may give a round of three at a time, then a round of two at a time, or may give two, then three; but the dealer must adhere to whichever distribution plan he begins with. After the first deal, the deal passes to the player on the dealer’s left. 
 
On completing the deal, the dealer places the rest of the pack in the center of the table and turns the top card face up. Should the card turned up be accepted as trump by any player, the dealer has the right to exchange the turned up card for another card in their hand. In practice, the dealer does not take the turned up card into their hand, but leaves it on the pack until it is played; the dealer signifies this exchange by placing their discard face down underneath the pack. 
 
MAKING THE TRUMP 
 
Beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, each player passes or accepts the turn-up as trump. An opponent of the dealer accepts by saying “I order it up.” The partner of the dealer accepts by saying, “I assist.” The dealer accepts by making their discard, called “taking it up.” 
 
The dealer signifies refusal of the turn-up by removing the card from the top and placing it (face up) partially underneath the pack; this is called “turning it down.” 
 
If all four players pass in the first round, each player in turn, starting with the player to the dealer’s left, has the option of passing again or of naming the trump suit. The rejected suit may not be named. Declaring the other suit of the same color as the reject is called “making it next”; declaring a suit of opposite color is called “crossing it.” 
 
If all four players pass in the second round, the cards are gathered and shuffled, and the next dealer deals. Once the trump is fixed, either by acceptance of the turn-up or by the naming of another suit, the turn-up is rejected, the bidding ends and play begins. 
 
PLAYING ALONE 
 
If the player who fixes the trump suit believes it will be to their side’s advantage to play without the help of their partner’s cards, the player exercises this option by declaring “alone” distinctly at the time of making the trump. This player’s partner then turns their cards face down and does not participate in the play. 
 
THE PLAY 
 
The opening lead is made by the player to the dealer’s left, or if this player’s partner is playing alone, it is made by the player across from the dealer. If possible, each player must follow suit to a lead. If unable to follow suit, the player may trump or discard any card. A trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, or, if it contains trumps, by the highest trump. The winner of a trick leads next. 
 

10 Additional SCA Alumni Favorites:

1. Setback
2. Dutch Blitz
3. Yaniv!
4. Fruit Salad
5. Phase 10
6. Skip-O
7. Spades
8. Brazilian Truco
9. Spicy Uno
10. Catan
 
All of the card playing rules are courtesy of Bicycle Cards.