Family card game for mixed skills and size?
January 5, 2017 11:52 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a card game with strategy, lots of luck (my poker-playing kid stopped playing chess with any of us years ago) and for 2 to 5 teen/adult players to play in an hour or less. I really want one that uses decks of plain cards as we end up losing bits of game pieces after a few months. We'd be willing to put in time learning the rules but Bridge is too rigid, Uno way too simple. Meaningless points betting is fine. What's worked for your family?
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (41 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Fluxx fits your needs; although it is a special deck, you can easily lose some of the cards and still play.
posted by The otter lady at 12:11 AM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

My family really liked Hearts and Oh, Hell (rules easily googled- it's a variant of Spades) growing up for groups of 4 or more. We played Hearts with some special house rules regarding passing and dealing with the kitty if a strange number of players which made it a little more luck-based.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:20 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Partnered five hundred is essentially a dumbed down version of bridge where bidding only takes up ten percent of any hand.
posted by smoke at 12:50 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by paduasoy at 12:56 AM on January 6, 2017

Came on to suggest O Hell too. It is a bidding game, so requires strategy, but as the game progresses you leave out more and more of the deck so it slowly becomes more about luck. Used to play it with adults when I was a teen and have many happy, sweary memories.
posted by Heloise9 at 12:57 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

We always played Pitch growing up. It is strategic, but also you must have the cards in your hand to win. You first go around bidding on you many points you're going to get (max 4) and then the dealer decided to take it or let the highest bidder go. The suit of the first card is trump and the goal of the game is to get the highest card of trump, the lowest card of trump, the jack of trump (not always present) and game, which is determined as the team that received the greatest value of game point cards (where A = 4 K = 3 Q = 2 J = 1 and 10 = 10 no others cards matter)

It is played in teams so you would need an even number, unless you play my friends variant of cut-throat pitch.
posted by koolkat at 1:27 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I was growing up my family played Euchre and later Five Hundred. They are trick-taking games (like Bridge) but my sisters and I were able to pick them up without difficulty as tweens/early teens. Lots of strategy, lots of fun.
posted by Cheese Monster at 1:51 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Phase 10 sounds like it would meet your criteria. Though it uses a special deck of cards. Make sure to play by the accelerated rules (everyone advances a phase each round) else it takes way longer than 1 hour!
posted by newsomz at 2:45 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Exploding Kittens (also special deck) is a card-based variation of Russian Roulette that has a pretty good balance of luck and strategy, with a healthy dose of screwing over your opponents.
Fluxx, as mentioned above, is nearly totally luck. Strategy and planning last not a whole lot more than one turn because of that, it can get somewhat tedious as rounds tend to drag on. The entertainment is how ridiculous the rules get.
Gloom (also special deck) is a game wherein you have a family and you win by killing them through interactive story telling, while at the same time attempting to prevent the death of your opponents families with the same. Essentially, you kill your family by playing cards with unlikely events that cause more and more misery and you prevent the death of your opponents' family by playing cards with unlikely events that cause joy. Your job is to weave a narrative to explain it all and in the case of your opponents, you have to pick up their narrative. The artwork is similar to Edward Gorey and is like a live version of the Gashlycrumb Tinies. Rounds can drag on a bit.
posted by plinth at 3:04 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Came to recommend exploding kitties. We have the app installed on our phones and could play it forever. It's fast paced and rounds end within 10-15 minutes usually for 4 players. Lots of chances for redemption and good combination of skill and luck.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 3:20 AM on January 6, 2017

This multiple deck version of Rummy stays interesting and challenging, but isn't too hard to master since it's a twist on usual rummy rules.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 3:38 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My gaming group has really enjoyed Tichu in the past -- it's a variant on one of the games known as Chinese poker. The game has its own deck, but I've played it with a 52-card deck + labeled Jokers after we lost a card from the actual game.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 3:40 AM on January 6, 2017

You seem to be describing euchre, which is a great mix of luck, skill, and speed. It's a very regional upper Midwest game, but you'll find lots of rule guides online. It uses a standard deck of cards.
posted by ohio at 3:43 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Our favorite is a rummy variant known as Back Alley Bridge or Open Rummy. It's great for a gang.
Rules here.
posted by Jode at 4:12 AM on January 6, 2017

Canasta! It uses two decks of regular playing cards, and you can play individually (works great with 2-5 players) or as teams of two, but you probably want to get a handle on the game before you play partners.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:32 AM on January 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Egyptian Rat Screw was our game of choice for a few years in there. It's fast paced and enjoyable for all ages. Plus it has that wonderful name.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:57 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

My family has played Tripoley (aka Rummoli) for many years. It has a good mixture of luck, betting, & strategy. Plus, part of each round actually involves playing a poker hand, so your poker-playing child might appreciate that.

If you do play it, the first variant listed in the "variations" section is superior to the "official" rules.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:58 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Euchre indeed fits the bill. The rules can be explained in ten or fifteen minutes. It's a Bridge light game and has lots of strategy. At the same time, hands are small enough for luck to be very important. It plays out with "pots" of points over multiple hands. A typical game runs 30 minutes to a full hour, mostly depending on how many points you play to (and how much table talk there is). Played in groups of four.

Cribbage works too, for two players, but you need a board for it.
posted by bonehead at 5:09 AM on January 6, 2017

Cribbage can be played with 2,3 or 4 players. 5 would be hard

Codename is a board game. I bring it up as we had a lovely discussion about whether it was a board or card game on New Year's Day. No dices or pieces. It's a bunch of small cards so wouldn't be terrible if you lost a few. I enjoyed playing as it really forced me to think.

I used to play a homegrown expanded version of Rummy. We called it Rummy 500. It used 2-3 decks. Deal out 10 cards to start, and the biggest change was that you could take any card from discard pile by taking all the cards on top of it. And you had to play it right away.
Aces were 15 points, face cards and the 10 were 10, rest were 5. Except if you got caught with the joker in hand it was -50. On the table it was the points of whatever it represented. You could replace a joker on the table with a real card.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:01 AM on January 6, 2017

6 nimmt (pick 6) is really popular with my friends and family right now.
posted by _cave at 6:05 AM on January 6, 2017

bonehead: "
Cribbage works too, for two players, but you need a board for it.

While a board makes it easier cribbage can be played with anything that can keep score. I've played hundreds of hours with pads of paper and a pencil. And it's probably a good fit for the OP as the piece that tend to go missing are the pins which can be substituted for with toothpicks, pieces of wire, skewers, matchsticks, pipe cleaners, basically anything that will fit in the holes on the board.
posted by Mitheral at 6:49 AM on January 6, 2017

Munchkin requires only cards and 10 counters per player (coins etc) but there is a fair amount of backstabbing other players.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:08 AM on January 6, 2017

Acey Deucey is a really easy gambling game that requires some common sense, probability-based betting and a lot of luck. Very fun for big, mixed groups!
posted by snaw at 7:46 AM on January 6, 2017

2nding Canasta as favourite in my family. I started to play when I was 7 or 8 but I still play as do my now grown up cousins, their kids and our parent generation.

A few hands can be played in an hr, if you have a whole evening even better. It's designed to keep a running total of points after each hand. I've known people to keep the running total for whole vacations.

You can accommodate individual players if you have odd numbers or play in pairs if you have even numbers.

You can also adlib rules, add one or more additional decks of cards to make it more or less complicated or perhaps that's just my family being weird.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2017

Cribbage is my favorite plain-card game. You would need a board but it's 2017 so you can just use a tablet app instead. There's a lot of interplay between skill and luck.

Second Codenames. Fun but simple all-ages game. There are cards/pieces but they're not strictly essential, since you could theoretically play the game with a stack of Post-Its and a word list.
posted by neckro23 at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2017

Every Thanksgiving at my inlaws house we play 31 (a slight variant from the one described here, but not significantly different - we only use one card as the "widow" and not three.) We usually play with three quarters apiece so that the winner actually makes a little bit of real money but it's not enough to bankrupt anybody! It's been picked up easily by people of all ages including kids of around 12 or so. I always forget the rules between visits but pick it back up within a hand or so. The games move quickly and it's a lot of fun.
posted by PussKillian at 8:53 AM on January 6, 2017

The best strategy/luck game I ever played is the version of Napoleon played in Asia. And I want to thank the OP for asking this question, because it forced me to finally track down the (long-forgotten) rules here.

It's a trick-taking game in which partners are changed every hand - and you don't know who your partner is until a specific card is played.

There are a ton of variations, but once you settle on rules, the strategy is intense.
posted by sixpack at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2017

Sushi Go! is card game with a specialty pack, but a lot of fun and goes quickly. I've enjoyed it with 8-year-olds and grandmas, so pretty universally appealing.

As far as a fun family non-card game, I recommend Wits and Wagers, a trivia game mixed with betting, but you really don't need to know anything to play. The questions are meant to be a bit obtuse (ie what percentage of a watermelon is water?) and then you come up with guesses and bet on which guess is right. Great with a group.
posted by LKWorking at 9:29 AM on January 6, 2017

Came in to suggest Five Hundred, glad to see it's already been mentioned. Another one that goes a little higher on the luck than strategy side is Pinochle. Yes, it requires a Pinochle deck, but you can also build Pinochle decks out of regular card decks. It's another trick-taking game, but you get points for having certain combinations of cards in your hand, too.
posted by freezer cake at 9:44 AM on January 6, 2017

Five Crowns is a rummy-like game that has a different wild card, and number of cards per hand, every round. Also seconding Sushi Go. And you might want to look at Guillotine too. There's a lineup of nobles to be beheaded, and you play action cards to manipulate the line and capture the highest-value nobles. All of these are special decks, but losing a few cards shouldn't affect game play too much.
posted by expialidocious at 10:03 AM on January 6, 2017

It's another special deck game, but consider Wizard, as well, if you find bridge a little too fussy, but are leaning in that general direction. It's a bidding and trick-taking game, but much simpler.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:37 AM on January 6, 2017

Smear card game is what my family plays. You team up, which is fun. You can bad-talk through the whole thing. The rules are easy to learn. Luck plays a factor (even when that jerk cousin-in-law deals from the bottom of the deck!) and games go pretty quickly. We usually play a foursome.

Looking over the Wiki article on that, our game scoring only uses Hi, Lo, Jack, Game.
posted by jillithd at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2017

Try Mille Bornes. Played with two teams of two people each. Full game runs about an hour or so. There's luck - because you shuffle and deal cards. And skill - because of the options you have for the way you play your cards. Easy enough for young 'uns and strategic enough to turn adults into cutthroat players.
posted by John Borrowman at 12:46 PM on January 6, 2017

Whist, which is the original game from which Bridge, Spades, Hearts, Oh Hell, etc., are descended, has about a hundred variations.
posted by decathecting at 2:50 PM on January 6, 2017

Hand and Foot is a great game, based on rummy. You use 5 decks of regular cards. It's skillful and luck-based. It's similar to (or maybe the same as) Canasta.

I also second Phase 10 - the cards, not the dice, but it's a longer game. Might take a full hour with 5 players, maybe more. Specialty cards too. But it's a great game.

Lastly, another fun game with little equipment is 10,000. It just needs 6 dice, some math skills, and a scorepad. Different rules explanation here.
posted by hydra77 at 3:23 PM on January 6, 2017

You could try your hand at 1000 Blank White Cards. The group builds the deck themselves and keeps cards between games, but it doesn't matter if pieces go missing.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:39 PM on January 6, 2017

nthing the Multiple Deck version of Rummy mentioned above, which turns out to be Shanghai Rummy, the house game at my house and others (with a few variations). We called it Crazy Rummy. We only played 3-5 people. Phase 10 is very similar and we like it too. Both are complex enough to be interesting but easy enough to learn quickly.
posted by MovableBookLady at 4:42 PM on January 6, 2017

My family also played Pitch, it's really fun. Excellent combination of strategy and luck. Some players can get really skilled. There are also fun variations like playing 9 point pitch, which consists of the original 4 points (H, L, J, G) with the addition of trying to also capture/keep the 5 of trump, which is worth five points on its own. You can also play to a higher score.

Skip-Bo requires a special deck of cards, but we play it a lot because although it's more complicated than UNO, it's still easy enough for kids to understand. We also love it because you can customize the length of the game by dealing less cards into each player's stock.
posted by katyggls at 1:33 AM on January 7, 2017

Another game which is more pokerlike is called Kings or Screw your neighbour. EVeryone puts down 3 tokens in front of them. (we usually play with quarters, but it doesn't matter essentially you have 3 lives) You take a shuffled deck and deal out one card to each player. Starting to the left of the dealer the person looks at their card and decided if they want to exchange it with the person to their left. The person to the left must change their card unless it is a king in which case they flip it over and the exchanging person is blocked. When it gets to the dealer they have the option of trading with the top card of the deck. Then everyone turns over their card and the low card puts their token into the centre. The variant that we play uses poker scoring in the sense of if there is a pair then they count as higher than an ace and therefore are going to be safe. As long as you can assemble a poker hand out of the cards then the poker ranking will work, so for example if six people are still in then if there is an ace of hearts and the other five cards are clubs then the ace loses because of the flush. One you lose the 3 tokens you're out. It usually takes about 20 minutes to play for 10 people.
posted by koolkat at 3:29 AM on January 7, 2017

Oops forgot to add that deal passes to the left after each round and you only reshuffle if there aren't enough cards to continue. That is where the skill comes in being able to remember the cards that have been played to know your chance of having a good card with a low card. If nearly all the face cards have been played and you've got a 9 then chances are you won't be the lowest card.
posted by koolkat at 4:10 AM on January 7, 2017

Casino (aka Cassino) sounds like it would be a lot of fun for you. It's got a moderate amount of luck involved, plus a very significant strategic element.

You play with a regular deck of cards, so you won't have to purchase anything else to play.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:43 PM on January 8, 2017

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