Kill

Invented by Eden Cohen : Oct 2003.

A strategy card game for four players.

1.0. Players and Cards

Kill is a game designed to be played by four players. There are no partnerships, but there are times when players will find it in their interest to help each other. A standard card deck is used, with two Jokers; hence all 54 playing cards are needed. The game could be also played with three players by applying the same rules, but some of the excitement and action are reduced.

2.0. Card Values

The cards rank from Ace (lowest) to King (highest). The value of Ace is one, all the way to King, which is worth thirteen. The Joker is the strongest card, as it can represent any other card. All suits share the same value.

3.0. Objective

We'll start with the general objective of the game.

The game is played in rounds, and at the end of every round players get points according to their achievements in that round. The game ends after a certain amount of points is reached by any of the players, or, possibly, after a pre-specified amount of rounds. The player with the most points wins, 2nd place goes to the player with the most points after the winner, and so on.

Now, for the objective in each round, which is actually the game itself. Each round starts with each player having a hand of four cards, three of them shown and known, and another random card, known only to the player. The objective of each player is to exchange his/her cards in such a way that he/she has a winning hand. A winning hand must have the following cards: 10, J, Q and K, all of the same color (but not necessarily suit). Please note that a winning hand can have one or two Jokers in it; Jokers can legally replace any card. For example a hand of spade10, clubQ and two Jokers is also a winning hand. Nevertheless, a round may also be won in other ways, without having a winning hand, as will be mentioned later.

4.0. The Starting Hand

At the start of each round each player receives the Ace, Two and Three of a suit, each player starting with a different suit. Player one starts with heartA, heart2 and heart3. Player two begins with diamondA, diamond2 and diamond3, and so on. These three cards are shown to all players before the beginning of the round. After this, each player gets a card dealt from the shuffled pile (the remaining cards - 42 in number). The identity of this card is secret from the other players at this point. After this, the game can begin with each player having four cards. It can be decided to allocate a suit to each player for the whole duration of the game. In that case each player will always start each round with his own suit. However make sure that in each round the starting player will be the one who started last the previous round, in such a way that will promise the most equal chances for all (as the starting player has a very slight edge over the rest).

5.0. Passing

Play is clockwise. This order of play cannot be changed during the game.

6.0. In A Turn:

When it's a player's turn, that player can decide to do one of the following:

  1. Deal a card from the deck, and play according to the rules (read later on).
  2. Show a true win.
  3. Kill another player.
  4. Claim a Joker.
  5. Show a trio.
  6. Fold.

On the first hand after the deal, only the first option is allowed.

The following is a detailed explanation of each option.

6.1. Option #1: Dealing a card

This is the classic option of the game, and by far the most common one.

When it's a player's turn, that player deals a card from the deck.

Since the objective of each round is to achieve a winning hand, the most trivial way to achieve this is by exchanging a "bad" card into a better one, thus improving your hand. For example, by exchanging a Three into a Queen (if you haven't got one), you get closer to having a winning hand, and thus winning. This, in a way, is quite similar to many other card games, such as Poker.

There are several rules for exchanging the card from the deck into any one of your cards. But before this, please remember: the card dealt from the deck must be shown to all players. So, if a player chooses to deal a card from the deck (this option), he/she must first place the card on the table for all players to see and then either exchange it for one of their cards (according to the rules) or decide not to take it and put it aside in a (face-down) pile of used cards.

If the dealt card is exchanged for a card from the player's hand, the player discards the card eliminated from his/her hand face down on the pile of used cards, without showing it to the other players.

A card dealt from the deck may be exchanged in the following ways:

  1. To any other card the player holds of the same suit.
    Example: a Two of Diamonds may be exchanged for a 10 of Diamonds.
  2. To any other card the player holds of the same value.
    Example: a Six of Spades may be exchanged for a Six of Hearts.
  3. To any other card the player holds whose value is bigger or smaller by one.
    Example: a Five may be exchanged for a Six or a Four, of any suit.
  4. Using the two cards method: the player must show he has two cards that sum up to the value of the dealt card. Then the player can take the dealt card, keep one of the two cards and give and give the other one of the two cards face down to any other player he wishes. The player who received the extra card, must discard one of his other cards face down into the pile of used cards.
    Example: If the dealt card is a Queen, and the player has a Seven and a Five (7+5=12,Q), he/she displays their Five and Seven to all players, then give one of them to any one of the other players, and take the Queen. The player, which got the Five or the Seven, must secretly return one of his/her other cards onto the pile of the used cards.

Please note that if a Joker is dealt, it can be exchanged for any card. Alternatively, a player can take any card in exchange for a Joker, though this isn't a smart thing to do.

Please note that only the fourth way (two-card method) requires that the player authenticate his/her move, by showing move to the public (the two cards). This requires that players are honest and do not exploit the secrecy of some moves for cheating.

After the move is made:

After the player makes his/her move, the player may have a winning hand, or a trio.

A trio is a hand that is missing one card to become a winning hand. For example, a hand of spade10, clubQ, clubK and club4 is a trio, because if the Four of Clubs were a black Jack it would have been a winning hand.

And so, if after a move is made, the player has a trio or a winning hand, that player can decide to claim a win or a trio, and receive the points for this achievement. Claiming a winning hand after a move grants the player 5 points (and ends the round). Claiming a trio after a move grants the player only 2 points and folds that player out of the game, without ending the round.

However, a winning hand or a trio can grant a player holding it more points, but only if they are shown before making a move. You'll read more about it on the next option (#2 - show a true win) and option #5 (show a trio).

6.2. Option #2: Show a True Win

If the player whose turn it is, has a winning hand before making any move, that player can show/declare a true win. This is done by the player stating that he/she has a winning hand and showing it to all other players. If the hand really is a winning hand, the player gets 10 points for his effort (instead of 5 points for claiming a win after a move), and with this the round ends.

If, for some reason, the player was wrong and doesn't have a winning hand, the play passes to the next player, and the player who declared a true win is hurt by the fact that not only has he/she lost a turn, but all other players have seen their cards.

6.3. Option #3: Kill another player

The name of this card game derives from this deadly 'all or nothing' option. Killing a player can be done by any player at any time when it is their turn to play (except for the opening move, and one more exception regarding to claiming a Joker, described later on).

What 'killing' is, is actually accusing another player of having a winning hand, but not yet showing it. As mentioned before, if a player has a winning hand right after making a move (dealing a card, or claiming a Joker), the win is not really considered a true win, and is only granted 5 points. However, by dragging the win one more hand, the player can show (declare) a true win, and thus receive twice the points (10 points). The side effect of this is that players tend to drag a winning hand, i.e. they have a winning hand but don't yet declare it. Killing is accusing a player of having such a winning hand during the game.

If at any time during the game a player suspects another player of having a winning hand, that player can attempt to make a kill.

Killing is done as follows. The player who has the turn names one of the other players and declares that he/she kills that player. The player who against whom the kill is attempted (the one accused of having a winning hand) must show his/her hand to all players. If that hand really is a winning hand, the player who made the kill wins 11 points, and the round is over. On the other hand, if the kill is unsuccessful (the player who was accused doesn't have a winning hand), the player who attempted the kill folds out of the round immediately with a heavy penalty of 4 points (i.e. loses 4 points).

Indeed, killing is a very dangerous and risky move. It can either gain the killing player a big win (of 11 points) or drop that player out of the round with a fine of 4 points. However, if you have a good basis to suspect another player has a winning hand, don't be afraid to kill him, especially if your hand is bad. This move can totally change the game.

Keeping track of the moves of a player and what cards that player deals may be the best way to be able to determine whether the player might have a winning hand, and then attempt to make the kill.

6.4. Option #4: Claim A Joker

Instead of dealing a card from the deck, a player may choose to claim a Joker. Claiming a Joker means to take a Joker from one of the other players. The way it works is that instead of dealing a card from the deck, the player whose turn it is, asks one of the players for his/her Joker. But before getting the Joker (or not, in case there was no Joker), the player who claims the Joker must reveal all of his cards to all players. This is the price you have to pay to steal the Joker from another player.

Then, if the player who is asked for the Joker, has a Joker, that player must pass the Joker to the player who claimed it. The player who just gave the Joker must then secretly take a new card from the deck, without anyone else seeing that card. The player who claimed the Joker, must get rid of one of his/her cards, discarding it face down into the pile of the used cards.

If the claim is false, and the player asked to give his/her Joker doesn't have any, the play simply passes on, but not before the player who made the claim reveals all of his/her cards. If a player asked for a Joker, has two Jokers, he/she must give only one of them.

There are two rules regarding a successful claim (if a Joker is passed to the player who claimed it):

  1. The player cannot claim a win or a trio right after getting the Joker, only on the next turn.
  2. The player cannot be killed by any other player on their next play.

Because after claiming a Joker, a player reveals all of his/her cards, other players would immediately know if he/she has a winning hand, and thus try to kill the player. For that reason the player who made the claim has immunity until all other players have had one turn.

In fact, the only way to stop a player who made a successful claim for a Joker, and has a winning hand, when nobody else has a winning hand, is to make use of the two-cards exchange method and reward the winning player with a card that will ruin his/her winning hand.

6.5. Option #5: Show A Trio

A player may decide to show a trio. A trio is a hand that is missing one card to become a winning hand. By showing a trio the player folds out of the round but gets a nice score of 3 points for making the effort. Using this method is good if you believe you have a low chance of getting a winning hand before all other players, and don't want to end the round with no points at all. As mentioned before, it is possible to claim a trio after making a move, but in that case you only get 2 points for it.

6.6. Option #6: Fold

At any turn during the round a player may decide to fold out of the round. The player is be rewarded with one point for doing so. If you believe your chances of having a winning hand, a trio, or a successful kill are very low, folding might be the best way not to have a zero score for the round. After a player folds, the player must reveal his/her hand to all, and takes no further part in the play of that round.

7.0. During a round

Two things may happen during a round that require special attention.

The first one relates to the used cards. Used cards are ones that are given away by a player after taking another card, or ones from the deck, which a player decides not to take. Such cards are put aside during the game. If at some point the playing deck is finished, the remaining used cards must be shuffled and will then function as the new deck. In a four-player game the deck must consist of 38 cards when it is full. (There are 54 cards in the deck anof which 16 are held by the players.)

The second possibility that requires attention is if only one player stays in the game. This can occur if all other players have left the game by either showing (or claiming) a trio, making an unsuccessful kill or just folding out. If only one player stays, that player is the winner. This is called a survivor's win and is rewarded with 6 points.

8.0. Scoring:

The following table shows the amount of points you get under several circumstances:

Event   Points   
Successful Kill*
True Win*
Survivor's Win*
Claimed Win*
True Trio**
Claimed Trio**
Fold**
Unsuccessful Kill**  
11
10
6
5
3
2
1
-4

* The player wins the round, and the round is over.
** The player ends the round, but the round continues.

For clarity, please remember that the difference between a True Win and a Claimed Win is that the first is declared before dealing a card, and the latter may be declared after making the turn and dealing a card.

The same applies to trios. A claimed trio is a when a player announces a trio right after making a move, instead of a true trio which is declared before dealing any card.

Obviously, if a player doesn't achieve any of this during a round, that player isn't awarded any points for that round.

9.0. Revealing Cards

All playing cards should be hidden, except for the following situations:

  • At the beginning, the three invariable cards must be revealed to all.
  • A new card from the deck must be revealed to all.
  • A player claiming a Joker must first reveal his/her hand.
  • A player claiming any type of win must reveal his/her hand.
  • A player claiming any kind of trio must reveal his/her hand.
  • A player that is being killed must reveal his/her hand.
  • A player that folds must reveal his/her hand.
  • The two cards in the two-card exchange method.

10.0. Recommended Games

It is recommended to play the game until a player reaches 31 points. For a shorter game, try playing until 21 or 26 points. The game can also be played to a certain amount of rounds that will be decided in the beginning.

11.0. Basic Strategies

Kill is a very demanding game. Although it could be played at lower levels, there is little limit to what level of skill you may achieve in it, with the right strategies and maneuvers. The following is a list of basic general guidelines to get started with:

  • Try to achieve a winning hand of the same color as your starting one
  • Only exchange a card to a negative color if it has a very high value (10+)
  • When using the two-cards method giving away the card to a player who started with another color.
  • Always keep track of who has the jokers.
  • Remember how many high valued cards (10+) each player got hold of.
  • If a player skips a high valued card, try to understand why that player possibly can't take it, and learn about his/her situation from this.
  • Don't kill if you have a strong hand and you're not very positive about the kill.
  • Claim a joker only if it drastically improves your hand. Revealing your hand to everyone is not a very good idea.
  • Try to decide at the beginning of every round how many points you'll be satisfied with. If three is enough, a trio might just be enough for you.