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QUANTUM

Also known as Flux, Shifts, Envidillo, (Steve's) Shoe, and Iraqi Camel Smoke. Created by Stephen Rogers and Jill Newman (capi3101a@netscape.net)

During the hubbub of moving in to our current apartment, my wife (fiancé then) and I got bored with moving stuff one day and decided to hammer out a game using what we could find. This game is the end result of that tinkering. We enjoyed the game so much that it makes an appearance in a novel I'm writing, entitled "Gateway", under the name Flux. Flux is the primary name of this game, but I'm presenting it as Quantum here for two reasons: Mr. McLeod's page of invented card games has no entries under "Q", and so that it won't be confused with the game "Fluxx" by Looney Laboratories.

Quantum is a card game born out of many of the established families of card games. The game distinctly borrows from Draw Poker, Red and Black Poker, Blackjack, the Spanish game Truco, Rummy, and Pinochle. The game has two distinct objects. First and foremost, players attempt to improve their hands to a point value, which changes from game to game thanks to the dynamics of the game. A secondary goal is to win a poker hand with the cards they have left at the end of the game. The game's dynamics ensure that neither goal is particularly easy to reach.

The game underwent some major changes from its original state to reach the final form presented here. However, in the interest of creative play, these "original rules" are listed below the core set of rules as game variations.

Quantum (Basic Quantum)

PLAYERS: 2 to 6. The game is best played cutthroat, though the game can be played with partnerships. The game is unusual, so asymmetric partnerships are allowed ... even 5 against 1 in a six player game!

EQUIPMENT: You'll need three decks of cards, sans jokers. More decks can be added if so desired, but three decks are the minimum number for play. In addition, you'll need four six-sided dice. Preferably, one of the dice should be distinguished in some manner from the other three (such as a different sized dice, or one of a different color). If no distinguishing marks are on the fourth dice, the game can still be played, but it will require a little bit of caution on the part of the players. The final absolutely necessary piece of equipment is some manner of scoring device. A cribbage board is recommended, but pencil and paper will do. Optionally, the dealer may use a dealing shoe to hold the cards; this is how the game got one of its names.

RANK AND VALUE OF THE CARDS: The cards rank A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low). Aces are worth one, while the other face cards are worth zero. All other cards are worth their face value. The suit of the cards also has a bearing on the card's value to the player's hand. Red cards (hearts and diamonds) are worth "positive" points, while Black cards (spades and clubs) are worth "negative" points.

THE DEAL: Cut cards to determine who deals first. Low card deals first. In case of a tie in rank, use bridge suit ranks to determine the lower card (spades high, hearts, diamonds, and clubs low). In the unlikely event that two players draw the exact same card, those players are ignored and the next lowest card gets first deal. In the very unlikely event that all players are tied up, either toss the cards and draw again, or put the cards away and play something else, whichever seems less clairvoyant to all players.

Once the dealer has been determined, that player shuffles the three decks together (so it's important to use three different backed decks, unless you don't plan on using the cards for something else). Afterwards, the deck is cut and reassembled, and then each player may make a standard cut of the cards. After the cut, the dealer burns the top ten cards of the deck, placing them face-up on the bottom of the draw pile. This sets the deck's "cut-off" point, signifying the end of the game. After those cards are burned, each player receives seven cards, dealt one at a time, starting with the player to the dealer's left. This sets each player's initial hand. After the cards are dealt, the dealer turns the next card face up in plain sight of all players. This card determines the trump suit for the hand and sets the value of the poker hand.

THE TARGET VALUE: After each player has received their hand, the player to the dealer's left rolls three of the six sided dice (not the one set apart). The sum of the result is the target value that the players try to reach, which ranges from 3-18. This value is regarded as an absolute value; a player who reaches the target value in "negative" black cards can still win. After this dice roll, the dice are set aside within plain view of all players.

Original Hand: If a player has a starting hand with the same value as the target value, they can claim their original hand before the first card to the first trick is laid down. In this case, the claimant is awarded fifteen points for the value game and play progresses immediately to the poker game. In case there are two or more claimants, the values of their red and black cards are considered separately. Whoever has the higher red or black value may claim original hand. If this doesn't settle the hand, whoever has fewer face cards in hand wins the hand. If this still doesn't do it, each claimant is dealt one card. Low card wins and these extra cards are immediately discarded. This continues until a final valid claimant is decided.

THE PLAY: Once target value has been set for the hand, the game can begin. Tricks are played to determine who takes command of the game. Player to the dealer's left leads off to the first trick. A new card is dealt to each player immediately after they play a card to the trick. Any card may be played to the trick by any player; it isn't necessary to follow suit. The winner of the trick is the player who played the highest trump, or, if no trump was played, the player who played the card of the highest rank. If two or more players played a card of the same rank, those cards are ignored and the next highest card wins the trick. If all cards are tied, the trick is dead. Those cards are thrown out and a new trick is played. Winner of the trick scores one point and takes command of the game.

The player who commands the game then rolls the single six-sided die set apart from the others. This "discard die" will determine the number of cards that the player can change out of their hand. This dice must be rolled before anything else occurs.

Once the discard die has been rolled, the "commander" has two options:

DISCARDING: If the player chooses to discard, they select which cards they want to discard from their hand, and expose them face up in front of everyone. The dealer replaces each card discarded. In this way, every player's hand remains at seven cards at all times. After a player has chosen to discard, they lose command of the game and a new trick is played, in which the player leads off. Any number of tricks may be played in the hand, until a player elects to call the hand.

Flux: If the player rolls a six on the discard die, that player undergoes a "flux". The player scores five points immediately, but must discard their entire hand at once. The dealer then deals out seven brand new cards to the player. The player examines their new hand. If the value of the new hand equals the target value, the player may call the game immediately. Otherwise, play continues as normal. This is the only situation in which a player may call the game after taking discards.

CALLING: If the player chooses to call, all players expose their hands, face up, on the table, and state the current value of their hand. If requested, they must demonstrate that they indeed have the value that they claim. A player may call with any value of cards in their hand. After the call, all players must calculate the "distance" away from the target value of their hand, which is the players' "score" for the hand. Remember that the target value is an absolute value, so if a player has -12 and the target value is 11, they still have a score of 1. Lowest score wins the hand and scores a number of points equal to the difference between his score and the scores of his opponents. In the event that the player is tied with a second player for distance from the target value, the player scores no points from that player. For example, in a five player game, the target value is twelve. A player calls with -14. The values of their opponents' hands are: -19, 6, 3, and -10. The first player's score is 2 (|-14|-12=2). The other scores are 7, 6, 9, and 2. The player scores five points from his first opponent (7-2=5), four from the second, seven from the third, and none from the fourth, so he scores a total of sixteen points this hand (5+4+7+0=16).

Undercut: If a player calls the game and one of their opponents has, in fact, got a hand closer to the target value than the player, then that opponent scores the points for the win. In this event, the opponent scores a bonus five points for undercut.

Bull's-eye: If a player goes out with a hand equal to the target value, they score a ten-point bull's-eye bonus. If the player goes out thanks to a flux, the bonus is increased to twenty points. If two players are tied at the target value at the end of the hand, only the player who goes out may score bull's-eye bonus. Only the player who calls out may claim bull's-eye bonus; if a player is undercuts by an opponent who has the target value, that opponent may not claim bull's-eye.

Zilch: If a player goes out and one of their opponents has 21or -21 points in their hand, they "zilch" that opponent and score twice the number of points they would normally score from that player.

THE POKER GAME: After each player scores their hand for target value, they toss out two cards to form a five card poker hand. When all players are ready, they expose their desired poker hand. Highest hand wins this part of the game, earning a number of points dependent upon the turn-up card. In case of a tie, the hands are ignored and the next highest hand wins the poker game. In the event of an absolute tie, the hands are thrown out and no one scores for the poker game. The following hands are legal poker hands, listed in order from highest to lowest:

The number of points scored in the poker game is equal to the value of the hand's turn-up card. The value is the same as the value used for play, except in the case of face cards, which serve as "the great equalizers".

After the score is determined for the poker game, the deal passes to the left. Cards dealt during the current hand are collected and discarded. They are not reshuffled into the deck.

FINAL PLAY: The game is played until the first burned card is reached. At that point, several things may happen.

GAME: The player with the highest score at the end of the last hand wins the game. If two players are tied, their scores are ignored and the next highest score wins. In the incredibly statistically unlikely event that all hands are tied, the game is drawn and may be settled through a card draw, fisticuffs, nuclear exchange, or whatever the players see fit to do.

IRREGULARITIES in QUANTUM

EXPOSED CARD: If a card is accidentally turned up when it is dealt, that card may be burned or accepted, at the intended player's discretion. If a card is accidentally exposed during the course of play, it must be discarded and replaced as a normal card.

WRONG NUMBER OF CARDS: If a player discovers they have too few or too many cards, they may discard cards of their choice or draw cards to have their hand match up at seven. If a player calls out with the wrong number of cards, they must draw or discard to have their hand match up at seven cards. They may not reverse their decision to call out. If the player has the wrong number of cards in their poker hand, they may not play for the poker hand. If the player makes it through the entire hand without anyone noticing that they have the wrong number of cards, they get to keep any points they made.

DICE: If the wrong player rolls for the target value, that roll is ignored unless at least one trick is played through, in which case the roll stands. If any of the target value dice become turned over during play, they must be reset to their original values.

INCORRECT TRICKS: If the wrong player claims a trick, and it is discovered before they've accepted any discards, their trick is cancelled and awarded to the appropriate player instead. If the wrong player has accepted discards or called out, the correct player still gets the point for the trick back.

FALSE ORIGINAL HAND: A player may only claim an original hand if their hand is exactly at the target value. If the player's claim is proven to be false, they must discard all of their cards and sit out for the remainder of the hand.

STRATEGY of QUANTUM

As previously stated, Quantum is an extremely difficult game to play well, for one reason: before you go out, you're guaranteed to have at least one card in your hand change on you, so you really don't know whether you're going to go out or not until it's time to decide. And, even if you get your hand on the target value, an untimely flux can waste all your efforts away.

There are, however, some basic guidelines to follow during the course of the hand. First of all, remember that you can win with either a score in "positive" or "negative" points. You should count the number of points available by each and determine which one can get you closer to the target value faster, whether red or black. This will determine which cards to play for tricks. If you don't take command, don't worry too much, especially if the commander rolls for three or more discards. Fluxes score five points for a player, but the chances of them drawing a bull's-eye hand are pretty slim.

If you do win the trick, be careful how you choose to play your discards. If you flux, don't worry: it's five points with a possibility for twenty more. If you don't flux, look at your hand. Generally, you'll want to go out if you're within five points of the target, you'll really want to go out if you're only one or two away, and you should go out if you're at the target value, obviously. If you're close, you don't want to have to throw away a large number of cards: this could set you back tremendously.

Taking tricks for the sake of taking tricks often hurts your overall strategy. As a general rule, the few points you may gain from tricks will be totally overrun by the points your opponents may score when they call out. The lone exception to this strategy is a concerted attempt to flux, and even that can be questionable.

As a general rule, don't let the upcoming poker game affect your value game strategy unless the turn-up card is a face card. If the turn up is a face card, you'll want to concentrate on getting cards for a good poker hand, so that you can assure your success in the poker game. Go out as soon as you've got a hand you think you can win with. Obviously, the best strategy is to try to balance the good poker hand with a value hand close to the target value. This optimizes a player's chances for winning the whole kit and caboodle, pushing them way ahead of the competition.

These strategies have been formulated in just the first few days of play, so the amount of stock you place in them is entirely up to you. You may find that none of these strategies work nearly as well for you as one you create yourself.

VARIATIONS on QUANTUM

Original Variant 1: Third discard choice - If a player has command and doesn't want to go out, they may discard a number of cards up to and including the number rolled on the discard dice. If they so choose, a player may decide not to call out, but not to make any discards as well.

Original Variant 2: Different dice types - The original game utilized a set of role-playing dice, using non-standard dice types for different game functions. In this variant, a twenty-sided die (D20) is used in place of the target value dice and an eight-sided die (D8) is used as the discard die. Flux is scored on a roll of 8 instead of 6.

Original Variant 3: Maximum tricks allowed - A twelve-sided die (D12) or two D6s are rolled at the onset of the game. This sets the maximum number of tricks to be played during the course of the game. If the allotted number of tricks has passed and no one has called out, the hand is settled. No undercut scores are allowed in this case.

Original Variant 4: Valueless poker hands - If a Jack, Queen, or King is turned up at the beginning of the hand, no points are scored for the poker hand.

Original Variant 5: Bonus point for poker hand - Highest poker hand scores one point, in addition to any other bonuses.

Original Variant 6: Zero for zilch - In addition to 21 and -21, a player is zilched if one of their opponents go out and their hand is worth zero points.

Original Variant 7: Two value dice - Instead of rolling just a D20 to determine target value, a ten-sided dice (D10) is rolled along with the D20. The two dice are summed together to determine target value, with the zero on the D10 counting as zero. The range of possible target values are from 1-29 in this variation.

Original Variant 8: Maximum score - In keeping with the rules of cribbage, the game ends if anyone reaches a score of 121 points or more during the course of the game.

Original Variant 9: Point dice - When a player wins a trick, after they've decided whether or not to take discards, they are awarded a D6 for that trick. They must immediately roll that die. The result is a number of dice which they may add to the value of their hand, subtract from the value of their hand, or ignore all together.

Original Variant 9a: In totality - A player with multiple point dice must select the same action for all trick-earned dice. Thus, they must add them all, subtract them all, or ignore them all.

Original Variant 10: Variable target bonus - At the onset of the game, a D10x10 (a ten-sided dice with its values multiplied by ten) is rolled. The result is a number of bonus points that the player may earn for bull's-eye. In this case, the player is not allowed to go out after a Flux.

Original Variant 11: Bonus trick dice - At the onset of the game, a D6 is rolled along with a D4 (four-sided dice). The result of these dice rolls acts as a bonus for the player who wins a particular trick. The four-sided dice determines which trick wins the bonus (first trick, second trick, third trick, or fourth trick) and the value of a bonus dice given to the winner of that trick. This bonus dice is given along with any usual dice for that trick. Like other bonus dice, the result of this bonus dice can be added or subtracted to the value of their hand, or ignored.

Original Variant 12: Pseudo-Truco Count - The original game used a ranking system similar to the Spanish game Truco, with a few changes. In this version, the turn-up card only sets the Pelico and Pelica. Since there are no 8s, 9s, or 10s in a Spanish deck, these cards were added to the bottom of the ranking order. So, from highest to lowest, the cards rank: Pelico (Queen of Trumps), Pelica (Jack of Trumps), Ace of Spades, Ace of Hearts, Seven of Spades, Seven of Diamonds, Threes, Twos, Ace of Diamonds/Ace of Clubs, Kings, Queens, Jacks, Seven of Hearts/Seven of Diamonds, Sixes, Fives, Fours, Tens, Nines, and Eights. Aside from where it matters, cards of the same rank but of different suits tie with one another.

Original Variant 13: Seven-card poker hands - The final original variant to the game utilized all seven cards in the final "poker" showdown. As such, more hands had to be created, which rank as follows:

Naturally, keeping track of this many poker hands is probably impossible. Players are encouraged to select which ones they wish to use. The ones selected should be agreed upon by all players before the game begins and a list of those cards should be drawn up for reference.

Variant 14: Poker variations - If so desired by the players, any variant of poker may be used to play out the poker hand, using the seven cards of the players' hands as an original draw.

Variant 15: Reshuffling - If the players so choose, a new shuffle can be made at the end of each hand. Game ends after each player has dealt a number of times or a set score is reached.

Variant 16: Moving target (Temporal Flux) - In temporal flux, the target value dice are re-rolled instead of the discard dice. No discard dice is used. The commander may discard as many cards as they choose after this is done. On a target of 3 or 18, the commander's hand fluxes. This variation can be played with a discard dice, to be rolled immediately after the target dice are re-rolled; this can make for a truly wild game.

Variant 17: Stationary target (Momentum Flux) - If players so choose, the target value dice are cast once per game. That value becomes the target for every hand until the game is completed. This may be the easiest way for beginners to play.

Variant 18: Short Stack (Intense Flux) - If three decks just seem like too many, fewer decks can be used. An alternate ending to the game, such as when one player reaches fifty points, is recommended.

Variant 19: Absolute Values (Unbalanced Flux) - Black also counts as "positive" points, making it much harder to reach a small target value.

Variant 20: Reversed Poles (Anti-Flux) - Instead of trying to reach the target value, players attempt to get as far away from the target as possible, with all other rules the same as normal. A player caught within five of the target is zilched.

Variant 21: No bonuses (Iron Man Flux) - The only time a player scores points is from their opponents if they win the game. No bonuses are awarded for original hands, going out on a flux, hitting the target, or rolling a flux.

Variant 22: Elimination (Mafia Flux) - At the end of each hand, the player furthest from the target is eliminated from the game, and must sit out. This continues until one player is left standing, who wins the entire game. In the event of a tie, the tied players roll the discard dice and are dealt the number of cards indicated by the dice. First one to draw an Ace of Spades loses. This happens multiple times when more than one player is tied.

Variant 23: Gambling (Money Flux) - Blackjack, Poker, and Truco are gambling games, and it's in this grand tradition that Quantum can also be played as a gambling game. The following set of variants lists possible ways that people can gamble to Quantum. The suggested dollar structure is in place only as an example.

Variant 23a: Poker style - At the beginning of each hand, each player antes $1 to the pot. Any bonuses a player receives are paid to the pot by the other players, but the player will not receive their own bonus unless they win the hand. Players pay the final difference between their total and the winner's total to the pot before the winner collects the final pot. In the event of a tie game, the pot is split.

Variant 23b: Blackjack style - One player acts as the house, preferably the dealer. Each player places a bet up to a table maximum before the game begins. The game is played versus the house only; the final outcome of the game only makes a difference in relation to how well a player does against the house. Fluxes are awarded by an immediate payback of half the player's bet, original hands pay time and a half, and going out on a flux pays two to one. If a player beats the house, they collect even money, while they lose their bet if the house beats them.

Variant 23c: Horse Race - Instead of gambling on the game, outside participants gamble on the players themselves, attempting to guess the final winner of a hand or an entire game. Winners collect even money minus a house commission, while everyone else loses their bet. As time progresses, the odds on an individual player (along with the associated pay off) may increase.

Variant 23d: Lottery Style - Before a hand begins, players and observers place bets on the cards in the pack. The hand is played out. The winner's hand determines who wins the lottery, paying even money for each card in the winning hand. If more than one copy of a card is used in the winning hand, the amount won doubles per copy.

Variant 23e: Truco Style - Before the game begins, players put as much money as they wish into a pot, which must be met by all other players. When the final pot is agreed upon, a full game is played out. Whoever is the final winner of the game collects the entire pot and may leave without giving their opponents opportunity to reclaim their money.

Copyright © 2002 by Stephen Rogers and Jill Newman


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Last updated 24th October 2003