Getaway

This page is based on information from David Nijjar and Zia Chaudhry, and from various websites.

Introduction

Getaway is played in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan and also in Bangladesh. The aim of the game is to "get away" by playing all of one's cards. The last remaining player who fails to get away and is left holding cards is the loser.

Unfortunately, this game is also known by many players as Bhabhi, which in Hindi means "brother's wife". This name, which is applied to the loser of the game as a mocking insult, is extremely offensive in the context of Punjabi culture. It belongs to a tradition, sadly not yet extinct, in which women were regarded as property and treated with disrespect and cruelty. The game is sometimes known as Bhabhi Thulla, "thulla" being a Hindi slang word for police, applied to a card of a different suit that interrupts the play of a trick.

Players and Cards

Getaway is played with a standard 52-card pack without jokers. In each suit the cards rank from high to low A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.

At least 3 players are needed for the game to be interesting, and up to around 8 people can play. With more than eight, the hands become too small unless one adapts the game by adding a second pack of cards - see variants.

Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

Any player may deal. The cards are shuffled and dealt out as equally as possible to the players - some players may have one more card than others. The players each pick up their cards and look at them, without showing them to any other player.

To even out any advantage or disadvantage of starting with more or fewer cards, I recommend that the players take turns to deal.

Play

First trick

The player who holds the Ace of Spades begins by playing it face up on the table, and each of the other players must play also a card face up. For convenience, this may be done in clockwise order, but in this first trick it is not strictly necessary for players to wait for their turn before playing. Those players who have a spade must play a spade of their choice; those who have no spades may play any card they wish. When everyone has played one card, these cards are gathered and set aside face down, beginning a waste pile. The player who had the Ace of Spades now begins the second trick by playing any one of his her remaining cards face up on the table.

Second and subsequent tricks

Each trick is begun by the player of the highest card in the suit that was led to the previous trick: this player is said to "have the power". The player leads any card, placing it face up on the table. Then the other players, in clockwise order, must if possible play a card of the same suit as the card that was led. If they have several cards of the suit they have a free choice which of them to play. A player who has no card of the suit led may play any card. This card of a different suit, sometimes known as a 'tochoo' or a 'thulla', and it ends the play to that trick. Subsequent players, to the left of the one who played the tochoo, do not get to play a card.

  • If everyone plays a card of the same suit as the card led by the first player, then when all have played one card, these cards are gathered and added face down to the waste pile.
  • If someone was unable to follow suit and played a tochoo, then whoever played the highest card of the suit that was led picks up all the cards played to the trick and adds them to their hand.

In either case, the player who played the highest card of the suit that was led now "has the power" and begins the next trick by leading any card from hand.

Example of the beginning of a game between North, East, South and West.

  • First trick: West has the Ace of Spades and plays it, North plays spadeJ, East, having no spades, plays heartA , South plays spade10. These four cards are placed face down on the waste pile and since West played the highest spade it is West's turn to start the next trick. Note that the cards from the first trick are always thrown on the waste, even if someone is unable to follow suit.
  • Second trick: West plays heart5, North heart9, East heartQ, South heartJ. These four cards are thrown on the waste, and East, who played the highest heart, starts the next trick.
  • Third trick: East plays heart3, South heart7, West heartK, North heart8. These four cards are thrown away and West plays next.
  • Fourth trick: West plays heart2, North plays heart6, East, who has no more hearts, plays clubK. This tochoo ends the trick - South does not get a turn to play. The first card was a heart, and the highest heart was played by North, so the three cards of this trick are added to North's hand and North plays next. North now has 12 cards, East 9, South 10 and West 9.
  • Fifth trick: North plays diamondQ, East diamondJ, South diamondA, West diamondK, these cards are thrown away and South plays next.
  • Sixth trick: South plays diamond5, West, having no more diamonds, plays spadeK. North and East do not get a turn. Since no other player played a card of the suit that South led, South's diamond5 remains the highest card of that suit in the trick, and South must pick up the two cards and lead again. South now has 10 cards, West 7, North 11 and East 8.

Notes:

  • In the first trick, everyone plays one card, even if some player has no spades and therefore throws a card of another suit, and this first trick is always thrown on the waste pile.
  • In the second and subsequent tricks, play must stop if there is a tochoo. If anyone else makes the mistake of playing to the trick after the tochoo, then as a penalty they have to pick up all the cards in the trick and lead next. The same penalty is applied for other mistakes, such as playing out of turn or wrongly playing a tochoo when in fact holding a card of the suit that was led (played first).

Getting away

As the game continues, since not everyone plays to every trick and players sometimes have to pick up cards, the players will run out of cards at different times. Players who run out of cards have "got away": they take no more part in the play and are therefore safe from losing. However, it is not possible to get away if you "have the power". If your last card is the highest in a trick in which everyone is able to follow suit, then it is your turn to lead to the next trick but you have no card. In this case you must draw a card at random from the (shuffled) face down waste pile, before the cards from the trick just played are thrown onto the pile. You must lead the card that you drew to continue the game. If you are lucky, and a higher card of that suit is played to the trick, then you will be out of the game and safe. If no one plays higher in that suit then you will have to lead again, either from the cards you pick up if there is a tochoo, or otherwise by drawing from the waste pile again.

Taking cards

Before any trick, any player is allowed to take all the cards from the player to their immediate left - or if that player has no cards, the next player in clockwise order who still has cards - and add these cards to their hand. The player whose cards were taken has got away and cannot lose.

At first sight it may seem surprising that anyone would wish to do this given that the aim is to get rid of cards. In fact it is often the best move if the player to your left does not have the suits that you have, or has some low cards that you need.

End of Play

As players run out of cards they get away and drop out of the game, and the last player left holding cards is the loser. There is no formal scoring system, but if playing a series of games, players may like to keep track of how often each player has lost.

Two players

When only two players remain, the play continues as normal. If one of the players plays his or her last card as a tochoo, or the player's last card is the same suit and lower than the card played by the other player, then the player who still has cards is the loser. The game descriptions below treat as a special case the situation where player A leads his or her last card, and the opponent B plays a lower card of the same suit. If that was also B's last card then A is the loser, but if B still has cards, then A as usual has to draw a card at random from the waste pile (excluding the two cards from the trick just played) and lead it. There are now three possible outcomes:

  1. Player B responds with a higher card of the same suit. In this case player A has got away and player B has lost (even if this was also player B's last card).
  2. Player B responds with a lower card of the same suit. If that was player B's last card, B has got away and player A loses. If B still has at least one more card, the game continues. A has to draw again from the waste pile (excluding the two cards just played) and lead the drawn card.
  3. If B has no card of the suit that A drew, and therefore plays a tochoo, A loses immediately. This is just to save time, because if play were to continue, B would have a sure way to avoid losing. All B has to do is always to play the highest legal card available. In that case A will never be able to give B the lead, and will never be able to get rid of the card on which B played the tochoo, since B will never have a card of this suit.

Variants

In some places, instead of dealing the cards to the players, the dealer shuffles the cards and divides them face down piles of roughly equal height, one per player. The dealer is not allowed to count the number of cards in each pile, but can transfer cards between piles until they look about equal. Traditionally, the youngest person (usually the child of the family) gets to pick what pile she wants first, which will probably be the pile that looks as though it might contain the fewest cards.

In some places the whole game is played anticlockwise. In this case, before any trick you can take the cards from the player to your right, who is the next to play after you.

In the descriptions I have seen, there are several different versions of the procedure when a player's last card is the highest played to a trick and everyone follows suit to the trick.

  1. As in the description above, the player draws a card from the waste pile (excluding the most recent trick) and leads it.
  2. Instead of drawing a card from the waste pile, the player who is due to lead may draw one card at random from the hand of the next player to the left who has cards (or alternatively from any other player).
  3. When there are more than two players, then playing your last card allows you to get away, even if you should have been next to lead. The lead passes to the next player to the left who still has card. However, if there is only one other player in the game, you do not get away. You must draw from the waste pile and lead as in the main description above.

With a large number of players the game can be played with a double pack of cards, and some rules will then be needed to deal with duplicates. I suggest that one of the Aces of Spades should be marked, and the holder of the marked Ace of Spades played first. If there is a tie between two players for the highest card of the suit that was led, I suggest that the first played card should count as higher. It is the player of this first of equally high cards who has to pick up the cards if there is a tochoo, and in any case lead to the next trick.

Other websites and software

Bhabhi.org offers a fairly primitive online game against computer players, and now also an online game against live players.

Zymbiotic offers a Bhabhi game for iPhone, playable against live or computer opponents.

Mark Klassen has posted a description of Bhabhi on BoardGameGeek.