Continuing with my project to create a list of great games you can play for free, this post features an intriguing card game that I first saw being played at my university bar a couple of years ago. Commonly known by a more unsavory name, Karma requires players to get rid of all cards from three separate piles. Different cards have different effects on play, which can make watching a game (as I found out) somewhat confusing.
Number of players: 2 – 6
Playing time: 20 minutes
You will need:
- A standard deck of playing cards
- Brown paper bag (optional)
Each player is dealt nine cards. Three of these cards are laid face-down next to each other (down cards), three of these cards are laid face-up on each of the three down cards (up cards) and the other three cards go to the hand (hand cards). All remaining cards are stacked in a communal face-down deck in the centre of the table. Before play commences, players can exchange any number of their hand cards with a corresponding number of their up cards.
The player who is chosen to go first discards one, two or three cards of the same rank from their hand cards to a common discard pile. That player must then draw cards from the deck to bring their hand size back up to three. Play progresses clockwise with each player discarding one, two, three or four cards of equal or higher rank onto the top of the discard pile. It is not necessary for the number of cards discarded to be the same as the number of cards discarded by the previous player. Additionally, there is no requirement for a player to discard all cards in their hand of that rank if they choose not to do so. After discarding, that player must then draw cards from the deck to bring their hand size back up to three. If, on their turn, a player can’t or won’t discard any cards, they must add all cards in the current discard pile to their hand. Thereafter, a new discard pile is started.
Cards are ranked Ace high with certain ranks conferring various effects on play as follows:
- Jokers may be discarded at any time. Discarding a Joker causes a reversal in the rotation of play. If a second joker is played, the original order of play is restored. Following a Joker, the next card to be discarded must be higher than the card discarded before the Joker itself (i.e. the Joker is treated as invisible).
- 8s have the same effect as Jokers, each 8 played changes the rotation of play, but is to the next player treated as invisible (You may want to use these rules for 8s instead of including Jokers in the game).
- 2s can count as either high or low. In effect, this means they can both be discarded onto any other card and any card can be discarded onto them.
- 10s cause the current discard pile to be removed from the game. After playing a 10, the person who played it takes another turn by starting a new discard pile.
- If a player discards a card that results in the last four cards to have been discarded be of the same rank, the current discard pile is removed from the game. The player who played the fourth card of that rank takes another turn by starting a new discard pile.
- 7s require the next discard (and only the next discard) to be of equal or lower rank than the 7.
When there are no cards remaining in the deck, play continues. From this point, following discarding cards, no new cards are added to the hand. A player who has no cards left in hand must play instead from their up cards in the same manner as playing from the hand as described above. If a player who is playing from their up cards can’t or won’t discard any cards, they must start a new hand with all cards in the current discard pile. They must then discard all the card in their new hand before being able to discard up cards once again.
Once a player has successfully discarded all their up cards, they may then discard their down cards. Each of their turns thereafter, that player must turn over one of their down cards (which, up until that point, no one has known the identity of). If it can be successfully discarded, it is placed on top of the discard pile. If not, that player must start a new hand with the down card just turned face up and all cards in the current discard pile. They must then discard all the card in their new hand before being able to discard down cards once again.
The winner is the player who first discards their card. The last player with cards remaining must wear the paper bag on their head for the next game.