The exact origin of this unusual two-player game is unknown. Dating from the 1970's at the latest, it is the earliest example I have found of a combat card game.
The aim is to be the first build a layout worth at least 21 points. Cards can be used for their point value, or to attack your opponent's layout by destroying or capturing cards.
It is described in Richard Sipie's Cuttle FAQ which used to be at geocities.com. I have preserved a copy below and an archive copy of the original page is available at geocities.ws. I have tried and failed to contact Richard Sipie to ask his permission to publish this. If anyone has any further news of him or his plans for this FAQ, please let me know.
Richard Sipie's Cuttle FAQ
1. What is Cuttle?
Cuttle is a game for 2 players, played with a simple 52-card pack.
The objective of the game is to have 21 points worth of "Point Cards" on the table. A game takes approximately five minutes, although anything between twenty minutes and twenty seconds is possible!
2. How do I play it?
Play begins with the dealer, who deals six cards to himself and five to his opponent. This opponent then takes the first turn.
On a turn, a player may play a card (see #3), or draw one. If a player has 21 or more points worth of "point cards" on the table at the end of his turn, that player is victorious - otherwise the turn passes to his opponent.
3. What do the cards do?
Firstly: ANY numbered card (A-10) may be played as a "point card". In this case, the player puts the card face-up on the table in front of him, and it is worth as many points as the are spots on its face (1 for an ace, etc).
Secondly: ANY numbered card (A-10) may be played, instead, as a "scuttle". In this case, it is played ON TOP of a point card which it exceeds in value*. Both cards are then moved directly to the scrap pile (face up, as is everything there)**.
*: Value is not just numerical, but alphabetical: clubs - diamonds - hearts - spades. The eight of clubs will scuttle the seven of spades, but not the eight of hearts.
**: Cards in the scrap pile have no controller, and do not effect the game in any way.
The numbered cards may all be played as a one-off, except for the eights and tens. In this case, they are placed directly into the scrap pile, with the following effects.
ACES: Put all point cards on the table into the scrap pile.
TWOS: Place any card on the table into the scrap pile, except a point card. (In practice, Kings, Queens, Jacks and the "glasses" eight)
Place any one-off just played into the scrap pile. This occurs before the effect of that card is accomplished, and, uniquely, can be played during the opponents turn, as well as your own.
THREES: Rummage through the scrap pile, taking a card of your choice into your hand.
FOURS: Opponent must discard two cards of his choice from his hand into the scrap pile.
FIVES: You may draw two cards.
SIXES: All cards on the table except for point cards are moved into the scrap pile.
SEVENS: Draw a card. You can, and must, play this card immediately - whether as a point card, a scuttle, a one-off, whatever. If you are unable to play the card, it is discarded. (This may only happen in the event of drawing a jack).
NINES: Return any permanent card to its controller's hand.
ROYALTY can only be played on your turn, and count as no points.
JACKS: Are placed on top of a point card already on the table. Kept there, the card is moved across the table and is now owned by the opponent of its original owner (who is generally your opponent!)
QUEENS: Are played on the table, like a point card. With a queen in play, none of your other cards may be the target of opposing cards that target a single card, such as jacks and twos. However, this offers no protection against those like aces that target more widely, even if there is only one card the table that will be effected. Nor do Queens offer any protection against scuttle attacks.
KINGS: Are played like queens. With a king in play, a player can win with just 14 points worth of point cards on the table. With two kings he needs just ten, with three, seven, and with all four just five points! (Mathematically, a player needs 21/(1.5^k) points to win, where k is the number of kings controlled by that player).
THE "GLASSES" EIGHT
The final card! As well as a point card, an eight too has a secondary use, although it is not a one-off. Instead, the card may be placed rather like a king or queen, but at right angles to the opponent (and his other cards). This differtiantes it from point card eights, and simultaneously makes it look like a pair of glasses! The effect is that the opponent must play with his hand exposed until he finds a way to transfer the eight to the scrap pile.
And we're done!
4. What happens if the pack is exhausted?
Although I am no authority, I can find no other guide to the question online. The rule I have played for twenty-five years is that it is unfair (and dull!) to end the game while a win may still be forced. Therefore, I play that "taking a card" in this situation becomes an effective pass, and that if three of these occur in a row, it is only then that the game is declared a draw.
5. Can I play a two to "counter" a point card? How about a scuttle?
The single most common question I am asked :-). Players who are used to Magic: The Gathering are often surprised to find out that this is not allowed - a two is not a universal counterspell. It may only "counter" a one-off, nothing else.
6. Do Queens protect against "countering" twos?
The second most common question I am asked :-). The answer is yes: queens prevent the targetting of any single card controlled by that player, however briefly.
7. May a two be used to cancel an opponent's two?
Absolutely! A last-in, first-out order seems the only sensible one to employ - ie in this situation the last-played card (the second two) moves the first to the scrap pile. From there it cannot effect the game, so the original card is played unscathed.
8. May I use a three to rummage for the three I just played?
I don't think so. Since cards in the scrap pile do not affect the game, I believe a card sits in a kind of suspension until its effect has been resolved. This also gives clarity to the protection of one-offs by queens.
9. Suppose the only point card on the table is mine, and my one-off seven comes up as a Jack. What happens
To me, the only logical answer is that the card switches sides, with the jack on top of it!
10. This game is has similarities with Magic: The Gathering!
It's been remarked on. It does however predate it considerably - I learnt the rules in 1975. A reverse genealogy would be fascinating - I would love to know if Richard Garfield has heard of the game.
J. Who is the author?
Richard Sipie has been playing games since 1951. He also enjoys walking, collecting (especially theatre paraphenalia) and flattery :-). He is happily married and lives in Bloomington, IL.
(do E-mail me!)
[but the address given - firstname.lastname@example.org - unfortunately no longer works - JM]