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 heart  club  NOBILITY  diamond  spade 

Number of Players: Three.

The Deck: 54 cards (the standard deck of 52 cards plus two Jokers).

Other Equipment: 180 units of currency. For convenience Monopoly™ money or poker chips may be used; otherwise can be scored on paper. The amount of currency in circulation must not exceed 180 units, and is tabulated in whole units.

Object: To control all 36 "province cards"; that is 2-10 of a suit in all four suits.

The Deal: Three cards are dealt to each player. The remainder of the deck forms a face-down stock pile. The top card of this pile is turned face up to form the stock discard pile.

The Play: The player to the dealerís left begins play. A turn generally comprises of four elements: draw, meld or battle, replenish and discard. First the player draws a card, either from the top of the stock pile or from the top of the stock discard pile, in order to have four cards in his hand. She then can, if she wishes to, put down in front of her any melds of three or more province cards of the same suit in sequence (in a cyclical fashion, the 2 following the 10 - e.g. heart9, heart10, heart2 is a meld), or use her noble cards in battle (please see Battles below). If she does so, then she immediately replenishes her hand from the stock pile until she has four cards again. The final phase, the discard, is removing one card1 from the four in her hand and placing it, face up, on the stock discard pile.

A player can meld to any province meld (his, or his opponents) with another province card. The longer the chain, the more income the chain generates (please see table under Income below).

In all cases where a hand, through picking up, capturing, or retrieving cards exceeds three cards, the surplus cards are melded where possible, discarded in the stock discard pile, or melded in the noble discard pile (for income) or discarded in the noble discard pile (after battle).  Please see below for elaboration.

Special cards:

  1. Aces and picture cards: Aces and picture cards are known as nobles and have several properties:
  2. Jokers: Jokers are corruption cards, and may be added to any province meld with the immediate effect of depriving that meld from any further income in the game. Once played, a joker cannot be retrieved.

Income: Each meld generates a certain amount of income every time a player melds a noble (as opposed to discarded; please see Battles below) in the noble discard pile, according to its suit.

Number of Province
Cards in Meld
clubsdiamonds   heartsspades
3123
4345
5678
6101112
7151617
8212223
9282930

If the meld is a part of a majority (please see Election below), then incomes for that meld are doubled.

Each player must pay maintenance (please see below) of nobles once her own income is claimed, followed by income for the other players in clockwise order if there is sufficient currency in circulation.  If a player does not control a province, then the player to her left claims income first.

If there is not enough currency in circulation to pay income, then the remaining income is forfeited. However there are several ways to bring currency back into circulation (please see below) in order to claim further income.

Battles: A player may, instead of melding, use her turn to attack another playerís province meld and/or hand with her nobles (from her hand). When played in battle, the attacking and defending nobles are immediately withdrawn to the noble discard pile. Each noble has an offensive and defensive value of one, and the meld or hand itself has a defensive value of one. If the attacker has more attack strength than the defender has defense strength, then she takes over that meld or hand. The defender discards all her nobles, and the attacker if successful discards a number of nobles that is one greater than the defense strength - i.e. two more nobles than the defender discarded. If unsuccessful then the attacker discards one more noble than the defender.

So if two nobles are used to attack a meld without a noble, that meld is taken over by that player, and the two nobles are discarded in the noble discard pile. If the meld had a noble, then that noble is also discarded but the meld is retained. If it had two nobles, one of those along with the two attacking nobles are discarded.

Nobles discarded in the noble discard pile do not generate income. A hand won in a battle may be immediately melded (possibly generating income) or discarded.

The strongest possible offensive value from one player is four, that is all four cards (after a pickup from the discard pile) in the hand being nobles. The strongest defensive value is five, that is all four nobles in that suit holding the meld. Thus it is possible to protect the meld from a singular attack - this however comes at an economic cost (see Maintenance below) and may not be advisable.

The minimum amount of nobles required to capture a province meld or hand without a noble defending it is two.

Election: When the stock pile is exhausted, an election phase is held. To hold the majority is to have under control, that is to have in front of a player or an alliance of players, 19 province cards. Players may form alliances using their melds to form a coalition. The coalition is honoured until a battle between the coalition partners is played or new elections are held when the stock pile is exhausted. As mentioned above, income from melds in a majority and/or coalition are doubled. The stock discard pile is then shuffled and turned over to form a new stock pile, and play continues. Once the stock discard pile is completely exhausted majorities and/or coalitions may be claimed, formed or disbanded at any time.

Maintenance: With the exception of the king, which offers free support, a noble defending a meld costs 15 per noble every time income is claimed. This expense is paid for each protected province meld after income is claimed.  The payment is returned into circulation. If maintenance on a noble cannot be paid, then the noble must be returned, face up, to the stock discard pile.2

Retreiving a noble: Once a noble has been melded or discarded (through claiming income or in battle), they are effectively out of play. However a player can use the draw and meld phase of her turn to retrieve a noble of her choice from the noble discard pile to either her hand or to her meld at a cost of 15 per noble. (Nobles in the stock discard pile cannot be retrieved in this way.) The payment is returned into circulation. The surplus cards are then discarded as normal, however income cannot be claimed nor battles be played in the same turn as the retrieval (i.e. the option of melding further and claiming further income, or engaging in battle, are used up in that turn).

A player may also use the draw and meld phase of his turn to retrieve a noble from a meld back into her hand, at no cost, as long as there are card/s discarded until there are three cards in the hand again.

Other moves:

Diplomacy: With currency in circulation, bargaining can be a factor. A player could offer another player compensation to form a coalition, or to accept a card/s in her province melds.  She can also demand tribute, bribe another player, or hold to ransom with the threat of the corruption card or noble/s.  An alliance can be struck where two players attack a third for a meld, and the second player offers the first player compensation for the nobles spent and the melds. Province melds could be dispersed between players, or a player could choose to fold and merge with another player. There are other possibilities.  The only restriction is that a bargain should be honoured until mutual agreement or until a battle.

Pass: If the stock pile is exhausted, a player may choose to pass on her turn. She may also choose to move her province melds into another playerís, effectively merging with that player.

The middle of the table should look something like this:

heart    club

NORTH
MELDS (or
"Provinces")
 

diamond    spade

heart    club

EST
MELDS (or
"Provinces")
 

diamond    spade

heart    club

STOCK
PILE
(Face Down)
 

diamond    spade

heart    club

NOBLE
DISCARD
PILE
 

diamond    spade

heart    club

STOCK
DISCARD
PILE
(Face Up)

diamond    spade

heart    club

SOUTH
MELDS (or
"Provinces")
 

diamond    spade

To Win: Once a player controls all 36 provinces in melds, with the other players unable to recapture, then he claims the rubber. This would be achieved by both military (where the other players do not hold sufficient nobles to dislodge his melds) and economic (where the other players are unable to procure more nobles due to currency being exhausted) means.

Matches can be best of four rubbers (i.e. first to two), but are shorter if required.


Notes:

  1. Province, noble or corruption cards may all be discarded.
  2. This play returns nobles into circulation, possibly at a lower cost than through battle.  One tactic could be to claim income when your opponent is overextended through either scarcity of province melds or monetary deals – returning their nobles to the stock discard pile.

© Matthew Shields 2005


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Last updated 17th June 2011