NLK

This is a light-hearted game which is best for about six players. Gyula Zsigri and I learned it from Gábor Sperla and a group of students at Szeged university in Hungary. The initials stand for name of the game in Hungarian, which is obscene: N stands for nagy (meaning big); L stands for any nationality beginning with that letter, such as litván (Lithuanian), lengyel (Polish) or luxemburgi (Luxembourg); K stands for kibaszós, which is roughly translated as screwing.

Four players use a 32 card pack, the cards ranking from high to low A K Q J 10 9 8 7. Five players use a 36 card pack (6 low), six players use 40 cards (5 low), and so on, adding one more rank (four cards) for each extra player. With nine players a full standard 52 card pack would be used, ranking from high to low: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.

Each hand is in two phases. In the first phase the players accumulate cards, and in the second phase they try to get rid of them. The loser is the last player who is left holding cards at the end of phase two.

In the first hand the dealer is selected at random; thereafter the loser of each hand deals the next. Deal and play are anticlockwise.

First phase

The dealer shuffles, and the player to dealer's left cuts. The dealer then deals one card face up in front of each player. The remaining cards are stacked face down in the centre of the table to form a talon. In the course of phase one, each player accumulates a stack of face up cards; this stack becomes the player's hand for phase two.

The player to dealer's right begins, and players take turns, in anticlockwise order around the table, until the talon is exhausted. A basic turn consists of drawing the top card of the talon and placing it face up on the top of your stack. Each of your turns must end in this way, but before doing this, there are two methods by which you can give unwanted cards to other players.

1. Giving away cards from your stack.
At the beginning of your turn, you may move the top card from your stack onto the top of another player's stack, provided that your card fits there. A card fits if it is next in rank above the card it covers (irrespective of suit) - so for example you can place your six on someone's five. Also, the lowest rank in the pack fits on an ace - so playing with the full 52 card pack you can place a two on an ace. When you have given away your top card, you may then give away the next card in your stack, if it fits some card that is showing at the top of another stack. You can continue giving cards to other players in this way as long as you wish to and there is somewhere legal to put them.
2. Giving away talon cards.
When you draw the top card from the talon, if it fits on another player's stack, you may if you wish put it there instead of on your own stack. If you placed it on another player's stack, you must immediately draw another card from the talon, which you may also give to another player if it fits. Eventually you will draw a card which you place on your own pile - either because you wish to, or because there is nowhere else you can put it. This is the end of your turn, and the next person can play.
Note that once you have drawn from the talon, you can no longer move cards from the top of your own stack in that turn. Note also that you are never obliged to give away cards.
Example of first phase:
Four people (A, B, C and D) are playing using a 32 card pack (so sevens are lowest). It is A's turn and the following cards are face up:
A: heartJ, B: clubK, C: club9, D: spadeQ.

A cannot get rid of the heartJ anywhere, so draws a card from the talon; this is the diamond9, which A must keep.

B could put the clubK on D's queen, but prefers to keep it. B draws the diamond10 from the talon which could be given to A or C; B put's it on C's 9 and draws the next talon card, which is the spadeA. This goes on B's own pile. The cards showing are now:
A: diamond9, B: spadeA, C: diamond10, D: spadeQ.

C begins by moving the diamond10 onto A's diamond9, revealing C's club9. There is nowhere this can be placed so C draws from the talon - the heart7. As sevens are low, this fits on B's ace, so C puts it there and draws the club8, which also goes on B's pile. C would now like to give the club9 to B but cannot, having already drawn from the talon. B therefore draws another card, the spadeK, and keeps it.

It is now D's turn ...

Phase one ends when someone draws the last card from the stock. This card determines the trump suit for phase two. The player who draws it shows it to the other players. Everyone then picks up their cards. The player who drew the trump card keeps it and begins phase two.

Second phase

This phase is played in what I will call tricks, though they are not like the tricks in a trick-taking game. Any card may be led. When playing to a trick you must beat the previous card played to it, by playing either a higher card of the same suit or a trump. Note that there is no obligation to follow suit - the only requirement is to beat the previous card, which you can do by trumping, even when you hold cards of the suit led.

If you are unable or unwilling to beat the previous card, you must pick up the lowest card in the trick and add it to your hand. It is then the next player's turn to play to the trick. A trick can end in two ways:

  1. The number of cards played to it is equal to the number of players who were in the game at the start of the trick. In this case the cards in the trick are set aside, and the player who played last (and therefore highest) to the trick begins a new trick by leading any card.
  2. A player picks up the only (remaining) card in the trick. It is then the next player's turn to begin a new trick by leading any card.

Note that you are never forced to play to a trick (except when it is your lead) - you can always pick up the lowest card in it instead. Because of this, some tricks may go several times around the table before they are complete, and you might end up playing to the same trick more than once.

As players run out of cards they drop out of the game, and this reduces the number of cards in future tricks (but not in the trick currently underway). If the player due to lead to a trick has no cards (which happens when that player won the previous trick with their last card), then the lead passes to the next player in rotation.

The hand ends when only one person has cards left, and the last person left holding cards loses. Note that the hand can end in the middle of a trick. For example, if there are two players left, each holding just one card, then the player on lead wins even if the second player's card beats the led card.

Example of play in the second phase:
There are four players, A, B, C and D, hearts are trumps, and it is A's lead.

A leads the club9, B plays the clubJ and C plays the clubA. D does not wish to use a trump, so picks up the club9; for the same reason B picks up the clubJ, but C trumps his own ace with the heart7. D picks up the clubA and A picks up the heart7, which was the only card on the table.

Since A picked up the last card, it is now B's lead. B leads the diamondA and C decides to pick this card up.

It is now D's lead, and D leads the spade7. A plays the spadeJ and B picks up the spade7. C beats A's jack with the spadeQ, D plays the spadeA and A trumps this with the heart7 which she picked up earlier. There are now four cards in the trick, so these cards are out of the game, and it is A's turn to lead any card.