Card Games Home Page | Other Invented Games

Barra-Can

Contributed by Carlos De La Riva (carlos.delariva@bbsrc.ac.uk)

A game for two, three or four players. Between four it can be played in partnership.

Use two packs or 104 cards and 4 Jokers.

Deal 13 cards to each player.

The rest go to form the Stock. The top four cards are turned over to form the first of the four discard piles placed around the Stock to begin four face-up piles. The four discard piles accumulate in this central area, in overlapped stacks showing all their cards by covering the card below but allowing its number and suit to be visible.

In the four-player game, one discard pile belongs to each player. Each player discards to his own pile and may take from the others. Each player's pile is on the side of the stock nearest to him. When there are three players, three of the players own discard piles and the fourth pile is neutral. With two players, each player owns two piles: a principal pile (nearest to him) and a secondary pile.

The game is constituted by the following items:

Categories and Sets

The categories are card collections of 5 types (described later) and a group of five categories makes a set. Tricks or Flushes can only be collected from the central discard piles and three make a Trio. Ladders are a consecutive criss-cross numerical collection of the five categories and can be built up gradually or melded directly from the hand. A set forming a Ladder or not, melded directly from the hand can be used to "Flash exit" thus ending a playing hand.

Melding out is accomplished with or without a discard card and is rewarded by a 4 point bonus. A player or partnership can only meld out if there is a complete set. [This is presumably intended to mean that if a player takes his turn in such a way that after melding he holds no cards at all, or only one card which he then discards to empty his hand, the play ends at that point, and the hand is scored. A player is not allowed to empty his hand if a complete set has been melded. Probably it is intended that the complete set must have been melded by the side that "melds out" - the fact that your opponents have a set probably does not permit you to meld out.]

If there are 2 or 3 players, the scores are individually kept. If there are four players, two partnerships are formed, each partnership having a common score.

Melds

At least two categories of types 1-5 are required initially to start a meld, either from the hand or with the aid of a discard pile pick up. Thereafter all categories can be melded singly again from the hand or as part of a pick up.

It is permitted to add other categories later, either singly or in criss-cross fashion by one self or one's partner to form a Ladder. Single card additions are not allowed to any category. The categories remain as melded; nothing can be added or taken away from them. It is not permitted to meld out and exit from the game, unless a complete set of categories 1 to 5 has been melded first.

The Categories 1 to 5 are as follows:
  1. Evens or Odds.- are made up of a minimum of two cards, either either even or odd numbers but of different colours, one red and one black. This category can increase its numbers to three cards (like 2,4,6) of alternate colour or to a maximum of four cards (like 3,5,7,9) in the same fashion. All numbers must make up the category from the start, none can be added later. [In correspondence, the author has explained what is meant by the 'alternate colour' requirement: it must be possible to arrange the numbers in ascending sequence with colours alternating. They do not have to be in arithmetic progression as in the above examples: club2-heart6-club8 would be OK. Equal numbers can be arranged in any order to achieve the alternation: spade3-heart5-spade5 and diamond3-spade5-heart5 are both OK.]
  2. Opposites.- are composed of two card numbers adding up to 11, one red one black.
  3. Runs.- are made up of 3 consecutive cards, of the same suit or alternatively two cards of the same suit plus a Joker. The Joker can not be taken away or replaced.
  4. Triplets.- are made up of three cards with the same number, regardless of suit, or two similar numbers plus a Joker that can not be replaced or taken away.
  5. Families.- are made up of a King, Queen and Jack. The jack must be of the same suit as that of the King or Queen that should be of different suits to each other. Of course a Family consists of a minimum of three members, the parents and a child, but more children can be added. Other Jacks of the suit of the parents can increase the family. The Jacks of Spades and Clubs are the male children and the Jacks of Diamonds and Hearts called Jackies constitute the female offspring. Therefore the maximum number of members in the family can be six, the King and Queen and all the four Jacks of the parent's suits.

Jokers

These can only be used to make Triplets or Runs in the categories 3 and 4. Only one per category is allowed, but only when the category is not part of a ladder.

They can also be used to take Tricks, where they have higher status than the top card of any suit. All four Jokers are of equal rank so they can not compete.

Central Discard Piles

Four lots of single cards are turned over initially and arranged in the central area of the table around the Stock.

Only the cards from these piles can be used to make Tricks when exposed. Tricks can be taken at any time, even before a player has melded his categories. The only requirement is that 3 cards of the same suit should be exposed in three different packs [and not covered by a black ace - see below] and that the player taking the trick, should use a fourth card from his hand. The player is not allowed to take cards, for any purpose from his discard pile, or the one in front of him, but can take cards from the other three.

To start play and at every turn thereafter, the player either

  1. picks up the top card of the Stock, or
  2. picks up one of the other three discard piles for one of three categories (using its top card to make a Triplet, Run or Family - see below), or
  3. takes a Trick by collecting one card from the other three discard piles.
When one of the above tasks is completed the player discards one card face up.

A discard pile can only be taken in full (all cards contained in it) if the top card can be used to make Runs, Triplets or Families. The player must hold the other two cards that make the category. It is not allowed to pick up for Evens/Odds or Opposites.

Initially the discard pile can only be taken if the player melds two categories from the 1 to 5 and thereafter for a single one, which must of course only be one of the three mentioned above. Jokers can not be used to make a duo of cards that allows a pick up. A single card from any depth of the discard piles can be taken to make Tricks, or only the top card can be used to make a run, triplet or family. When taking the top card of a pile for one of the categories above mentioned the player also takes all cards in that discard pile that lie beneath.

Each player is allowed to take cards from any one of the other three discard piles but cannot take any cards from his own pile.

Black Aces have special powers; they become stoppers when discarded. They lay across the discard pile and prevent other players taking any cards below it. This even applies to single cards needed for a Trick. This is a blocking tactic to prevent too many cards being taken. Only when the cards above it are taken, together with the blocking Ace that goes with them, are the discard pile cards below free to be used again.

The rules for taking cards from the discard piles are:

  1. Any single card can be picked up from any depth of the three allowed piles if it goes to make a Flush or Trick, together with a fourth card from the player's hand (either a natural card or a Joker)

  2. If the top card from any of the other three piles can be used to make a Run, Triplet or Family, any player is allowed to take it, but must do so together with all the rest of the cards in that pile. In other words the player takes all the cards or none.

  3. A black Ace laid across a discard pile prevents, players from taking any cards beneath until the Ace is removed by a Category pick up from that pile. The blocking Ace also prevents the pick up of a single card for a Flush beneath it.

  4. When melding for the first time in each round, the pick up for a category is conditional upon melding two Categories at the same time. This applies to a single player or to the first to meld in a partnership.

  5. Jokers are not allowed to make up a pair of cards for a category that could as such achieve a pick up from a discard pile. They can alone take three other single cards from three different piles to gain a Flush or Trick.

Tricks or Flushes

Tricks are another type of card collections, used to build up score.

Tricks can only be made with the revealed cards from the central discard piles. There must be at least 3 cards of the same suit revealed, one in each different pile for a player to take them as a Trick, together with a fourth card from the player's hand. The fourth card that gains the trick, must be of the same suit and higher ranking in number than the other three, or be a Joker. Jokers win over all other cards.

If more than one card of a particular suit is exposed in a discard pile, the player taking the trick chooses which one to take. For example if a King and a six are revealed in a pile from which a player proposes to take the trick, holding only a Jack, he chooses to take the six because he can not win against the King.

A collection of three tricks makes a Trio and it is worth 3 extra points. Tricks can be taken at any time, if the cards are there, even before a player has melded his categories. The only requirement is that three of the cards should be from three different piles, excluding the player's own [and that none of them should be covered by a black ace] and the last card that makes the trick, should come from the player's hand.

Ladders

These are composed of the five categories inter-linked in a vertical and horizontal order. For example a vertical sequence of Ace, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8 and 7 can accept horizontal members, added to form the other categories. To the Ace is added sideways a 10 of a different colour to form the opposites. The king, queen and jack are the family. The 10, 9 and 8 of the same suit are the sequence. The 7 with a sideways 3 of another colour, makes a pair for the category of odds. This leaves only the triplet to be added to the ladder. With this last category there is more flexibility as either three 8s, 9s, 10s, Js, Qs or Ks can be added sideways to the corresponding number, making a side chain of numbers or picture cards.

If all the cards in the vertical chain (except the Queen) are of the same suit with consecutive numbers, the Ladder is a Royal one and will score double for its top card points.

The Ladder does not necessarily have to start with an Ace. The next highest starting card can be the King of a family and the Ladder will run down to the six. [In fact the six is not needed - it might run only down to the eight.] The Ladder cannot be built up by single cards but only admits the addition of categories of two or three cards.

The Ladder can not be started with a Q or J because they are only part of a category. The next starting card is the 10 down to the 6, with all their side members followed by K, Q and J of the family.

Depending on the starting card, the Ladder will be given extra scoring points, as we will see later.

Unfortunately no complete definition of a ladder is given. The inventor has provided further information as follows:

Score

This can only come from the 5 Categories, Tricks or Ladders that have been melded. Any cards that remain in the hand do not count at all.

The points awarded to the categories are thus:

Three Sets or three lots of categories 1 to 5 have their score doubled.

Each Trick counts 4 points and three Tricks also score 3 extra points, making a total of 15 points.

The Ladders confer extra score depending on the staring card. The highest score is for a Ladder starting with the Ace. The next highest for one starting with the King, then come those starting with the 10, 9 down to the 6. In these last cases the family is always added at the bottom.

With the Ace at the top the points awarded are 14, the King at the top scores 13 and the 10, 9, 8 etc score respectively 10, 9, 8 points.

These points are over and above the score for the individual categories within the ladder, which are 12 for simple categories, more if categories 1 or 5 have more members. Hence the total score for a Ladder starting with the Ace and minimal categories is 26 points.

Non complete Ladders only score the points of its categories.

A Royal Ladder as mentioned before has its bonus points doubled, so one that starts with the Ace will score 14 x 2 or 28 points plus the score of the categories.

To win the game players must attain a score of 100 points, over however many hands it takes.

Tactics of the game

A strategy for the game is to order the cards in the hand, creating as many of the required categories as possible.

If a player can assemble all five categories in the hand, melding them straight from there allows a 'flash exit'. In this manner gaining a points advantage if no other person has melded. This is because only the melded categories accrue points for the score. Those held in the hand do not count.

Since a player can only meld out after having completed all five categories, melding less than five or for example the required minimum of two for an initial meld, depletes at least half the hand cards and makes it less possible to pick up the discard pile with the remainder.

Also in melding the 5 categories a player or a partnership need always check if the categories could be made into a Ladder as this would gain many extra points, even double if the Ladder is a Royal one.

Tricks can be taken from the central discard piles even before the categories are melded but this depletes the hand cards and difficults the exit from the game.

Score Table

CategoriesNo of cards Points
Odds or Evens
Odds or Evens
Odds or Evens

Opposites

Triplets

Runs

Families
Families
Families
Families
2
3
4

2

3

3

3
4
5
6
1
2
3

2

3

3

3
4
5
6
Three Sets of the five above Categories have their score doubled.
Tricks
A trio of Tricks
4
12
4
3 extra
Ladders starting with
Ace
King
10
9
8
7
6

13 or fewer
13 or fewer
13 or fewer
13 or fewer
13 or fewer
13 or fewer
13 or fewer

14
13
10
9
8
7
6
Royal Ladder Double score for bonus points
Flash Exit20
Melding out4

100 points are required to win a game.

Barra-Can Table Configuration

The table arrangement can be seen in the diagram above. Note that there is a definite way for melding all elements. It is important to follow this to avoid confusion.

The categories are arranged from left to right. First the Odds/Evens then the Opposites, followed by Triplets and Runs. The Families are the last category on the right followed by the Tricks. This configuration comes from their values where Odds score 1, Opposites 2, Triplets, Runs and Familes 3 and Tricks 4.

Ladders if started are arranged leftmost before the categories.

The rule for categories is that the cards are open if only one is melded. If more than one of a particular type is melded then these are stacked and staggered face down, not showing the numbers. Only the numbers of the last category are exposed, like in the example of category 3 of the above diagram.

Tricks are always collected and placed face down, near the extreme right corner of the table. If more than one is present they are crossed and stacked.

Ladders have mostly vertical cards with only a few horizontal side members. The cards are always placed face up showing the numbers.

In the centre there is the Stock pile with all the undealt cards and around it are placed the four discard piles. The cards discarded to these are face up showing the numbers so that anyone can see all the cards in each discard pile.

Book

The game of Barra-Can is described with further illustrations in Carlos De La Riva's book New Strategic Card Games, published in 2002 by Tridge Associates, 119 Scotland Road, Cambridge CB4 1QL, Great Britain.


Return to Index of Invented Card Games
Last updated 3rd November 2003