heart  club  CAGED RAT  diamond  spade 

Number of Players: Two.

The Deck: The standard deck of 52 cards.

Object: To feed two rats in a cage with the exact amount of captures in a suit.

The Deal: The red cards (diamonds, hearts) are dealt to one player (the red player), the black cards (clubs, spades) are dealt to the other (the black player). These piles are shuffled separately, and eight cards from the red pile are dealt to the red player; eight cards from the black pile are dealt to the black player. The remainder of each pile forms a face down stock pile; one for each player.

Caging the Rats: The non dealer plays two cards face up from her hand. The rank and suit of these cards, the rats, are significant; it signifies how many captures in the suit will exactly satisfy the rat. There are eight captures per player in any deal. The formula is one capture for one pip in the card. Picture card rats are worth ten captures. For example the 5heart rat signifies that five captures in hearts will satisfy the rat, the 10spade or Jspade would signify ten in spades. An ace rat signifies one capture (please see Feeding the Rats below).

The dealer then responds by caging two rats of her own.

Feeding the Rats: The non dealer then plays another card face up from her hand. This is the first capture card. The non dealer then bids for the capture by playing another card from her hand. The dealer must either top the bid with a higher ranked card from her hand (aces are high, suits are irrelevant) or discard. Ties are resolved to the player that led. If won (that is the player that led had the higher ranked card), the capture card must be "fed" to a rat of the same suit by melding the card face down so that the rat card is partially obscured; if lost then it is discarded. The cards that were used for bidding, along with the lost capture card where appropriate, are removed from play to a face down discard pile. The non dealer then replenishes her hand with three cards from the stock pile to make her hand seven cards.

For her first capture, the dealer uses the first card from her stock pile. Bidding and feeding proceed as above.

After this the game follows a standard procedure. Turns alternate between players, the next capture offered is from the player's hand instead of from the stock pile, and the player that led replenishes her hand with three cards from the stock pile until the stock pile is exhausted. The last few captures are then played from the remaining cards in the player's hand.

The player must monitor and decide which cards will be capture cards to be fed to the rats where appropriate, and which will be cards for bidding and thus discarded.

At all times both the rank and suit of the rat, and the number of captures fed to the rat, should be identifiable. A player may refer to the identity of either player's rat and the number of captures for that rat, but is not able to check the face down captures nor the discards.

With the exception of each player's first capture (explained above), or when the stock pile has run out, the player responding to a lead always bids from a hand of seven, while the player that led bids from a hand of five (after the card up for capture is offered).

Capture cards that have been fed to the rats cannot be removed. Thus if one rat is satisfied, then subsequent capture cards should be fed to the other rat; if this is not possible then the capture card/s are melded and the rat is "overfed".

The Scoring: Capture cards score two points per capture up to the value of the rat.

If a rat is overfed then all captures for that rat score one point each instead of two.

The trick is to satisfy the rats exactly. For each satisfied rat, captures for that rat are worth five points each. If both rats are exactly satisfied then the player scores ten points per capture for all captures.

The player that scored the most points deals the next hand, and play continues until victory is claimed. In a tie the deal alternates.

To Win: A rubber is played to 120 points, and a tie needs to be resolved in subsequent deals. Matches can be best of three rubbers if desired.

© Matthew Shields 2006