Phalanx

Contrived and created by Stefan D. Farias

Phalanx is a card game played with a typical deck of playing cards, including four suits of 13 cards with no jokers.

At the beginning of the game the deck is divided evenly between both players (it is possible to play phalanx with more then two players, but this will be discussed later). These cards become the players’ reserve.

Games of phalanx are broken up into battles. At the beginning of each battle each player draws a hand of 7 cards from the top of his reserve. If a player does not have 7 cards remaining in his reserve he looses the game.

Cards are played in one of three zones; both players will play cards in the same three zones, however each player’s cards are kept separate.

Phalanx layout

At the beginning of each battle both players place one card face down, from their hand, in the center zone. These cards are then flipped and the owner of the higher value card will play first. Face cards are considered to have a value of 0, if there is a tie the higher suit plays first: Spade, Diamond, Club, Heart from high to low.

The first player places one card from his hand face up into any of the three zones. The other player then plays one card face up into any zone, then the first player plays another card, and they continue to play alternately until both players run out of cards in their hands. The two initial cards that were used to determine who plays first stay in play in the centre zone and count toward the battle.

Once both players have run out of cards in their hands the battle is resolved. In each zone, whichever player has the highest total value from his cards in the zone wins that zone. Players take all cards from the zones they win, theirs and their opponents, face up and face down. If there is a tie in a zone players take their own cards back. All cards taken after a battle are then shuffled into the players’ reserves and a new battle begins.

Forming: Placing multiple cards of the same suit in the same zone increases the value of some of your cards. A pair of cards of the same suit doubles the lowest value card of the same suit, three cards of the same suit doubles the two lowest value of the same suit, four cards doubles the lowest 3, etcetera. Face cards do not count for purposes of forming. Which cards are doubled by forming is calculated at the end of a battle, not when the cards are played.

Face Cards:

  • Jack: Jacks double your lowest value card that hasn’t already been doubled through forming or another jack in the zone that it is played. Unlike other face cards jacks stay in play, however they themselves cannot be doubled by any means and do not count for purposes of forming. Though they alone have a value of 0, they can be used to prevent flanking. Which card a jack doubles is calculated at the end of a battle, not when the jack is played.
  • Queen: Queens destroy all cards in the zone that they are played at the time that they are played. When a queen is played flip all cards in that zone face down, including the queen. Face down cards have no effect on the game, but they are taken the same way face up ones are when a battle is resolved.
  • King: Kings destroy one card of your choice. When a king is played its owner selects one opposing card in the same zone, the selected card and the king are then turned face down. Face down cards have no effect on the battle, but they are taken the same way face up ones are when a battle is resolved.
  • Ace: Aces have no special properties; they have a value of 1 and can be used for forming
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Flanking: If you are unopposed in a zone, meaning you have face up cards in the zone but your opponent does not, the cards in that zone are flanking. The value of your cards in a zone that is flanking counts for any zones adjacent to the one that they are in. Flanking does not allow face cards to affect cards in other zones nor does it allow forming with cards in other zones. Flanking with cards in the center zone causes their value to be added to both side zones. Cards that are flanking are not taken by the opponent when an opponent takes the zone that they are aiding.

More Than 2 Players

When playing with more then two players each player can play cards in 3 different zones. Each player has one zone shared only by the player on their left, another shared only by the player on their right, and a center zone shared by all players. When a battle begins the owner of the highest value card plays first and play travels clockwise. If two or more players are tied for a zone, and others are below them, the players tied for the lead retake their cards and the other player’s cards become spoils. Spoils are placed face down in the center zone, under no ownership, they stay there until a player wins that zone where they are then taken just as if they had been won off another player; if there is a tie, and no one wins a zone with spoils they are left for the next battle. Any extra cards that cannot be dealt out evenly at the beginning of the game are also placed as spoils.

Potential Variants

Possible alternate rules that need to be tested.

  • In the case of a tie all cards in that zone become spoils
  • In the case of a tie each player takes the other players cards from that zone, instead of his own. (Tied players’ cards traveling counterclockwise for ties of 3 or more people)
  • Aces count as 4, 10, or equal to the highest value opposing card when doubled.
  • A spoils ante, where players have to place cards from their reserve as spoils at the beginning of a battle.
  • A gambling version, each player has one deck and no cards are ever exchanged. There are no spoils, and in the event of a tie in a zone with more then two players all players get their cards back. Players must ante in each zone, and may raise whenever all players have an equal number of cards in their hands and have at least one card in their hands. Bets are kept separately for each zone, and players may raise in one zone and not another. Players may not play a card in a zone where they do not have the same amount of money as an opponent. Alternatively players may simply need to place money in the zone that they play a card.