Contributed by Vinay Kolhatkar who writes: "We just invented this card game whilst playing cards within the family over the Christmas break. It is simple to understand, yet has many entertaining permutations of play."
Players and Cards
Conspiracy is played with 4 players. The players form 2 teams of 2 each and the partners sit opposite each other like in the game of bridge.
Conspiracy is played with a normal deck of cards. First up, once the teams are formed and seated, discard all the cards below the 7's and discard the jokers.
Now we have 32 cards. Let's call the players A, B, C & D. Imagine A is shuffling the deck and the dealing clockwise is B, C, D and then back to A. A & C are the dealing team and B & D are the "calling" team.
Deal and Conspiracy
The 32 cards are dealt one at a time, face down, in a clockwise circle. Each person will then have 8 cards. All can then have a look at their own cards. Then B and D get to exchange their cards and ideas for exactly one minute. Either B or D can walk across to the other, see each other's cards and whisper a bit to each other. At the end of this timed minute, B & D must take their place with their own cards. Other than this timed one minute (any wristwatch with a third hand will do), no player may talk to any other player during play. Discussions may happen between rounds of play.
Call and Scoring
Having seen D's cards and having had a minute of whispers, B then calls the trumps and says how many tricks BD as a team will make ("the call"). If BD make exactly as many tricks as the call, they score twice the amount of points as the call and the team AC make 0 for that round. If they make less or more tricks, the team AC get 5 points instead whilst BD make 0.
B can call any number from 0 to 8. Of course, there is no incentive to call 0, unless the team BD cards are so bad that there is no hope of making even 1 trick, as the downside of making a trick or two is still the other team winning 5 points and the upside is twice 0, which equals 0. At the end of the round, team AC makes either 0 or 5 whilst team BD may make either 0 or any even number between 0 and 16 (including 16).
Once the first round is over, B then deals the pack and C makes the call on behalf of team AC and the game continues. Play may be terminated at the end of any even number of games. The team with the higher number of points is the winner.
The Play of the Cards
Tricks are determined in the normal manner. [The player to the dealer's left (B in the above example) leads to the first trick.] Trumps surpass all other suits. In the absence of trumps, the suit of the first laid card surpasses other suits. In the same suit, the pecking order is A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 (in the descending order). The playing suit must be played when available [i.e. players must follow suit]. [A player unable to follow suit may play any card. The winner of each trick leads to the next.]
Any player may 'throw' their hand, in that they need not necessarily try to win any particular trick. But where they have only one card of a particular suit left and that suit is being played, they must play that card. In the above example, BD may conspire to call a lesser number than the best possible and throw tricks. Of course, they may also choose an infrequent suit amongst the two of them as trumps if they deliberately call a lesser number. The team AC meanwhile can only silently conspire to jig the balance toward less or even more tricks in favour of BD so that the call is not exactly met. Typically a player will notice the conspiracy from their partner's play. Of course the conspiracy of AC may change during the same round from making less than 8 minus the call number to more than.
If readers come up with variations, the above version is to be called Basic Conspiracy.