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Honor of the Samurai

Contributed by Obinna Onwuka (

In Honor of the Samurai, the card values are regarded as such: Joker, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The Joker is an important card, and there should be only two in the deck when playing Honor of the Samurai (HotS).

Each person is dealt three cards face down, one on top of the other, like so:


They are also dealt three cards to their hand.

The first phase of the game is the Setup/Discard phase. First, bets should be decided on what value each head is worth - in other words, a set amount per head should be agreed. Heads are described later. In this phase, each player examines their hand. If a person has a King, a Queen or a Jack in their hand, they are dealt a disgrace and must discard all cards in their hand, then draw a new hand. If this new hand has a King, Queen or Jack, they are dealt another disgrace and must discard again, and this continues until they are dealt a hand without Kings, Queens or Jacks. If a person has drawn a Joker, each other player is dealt a disgrace. When a player gets three disgraces, they are out. Players may then exchange cards in their army (the face down pile). They may replace any card in their army with a card from their hand, without first looking at the card they are replacing. The replaced cards that were originally in their army are discarded into a separate pile.

Then comes the Battle Phase. Each player reveals their army. Aces are worth 13, Kings are worth 12, and Queens and Jacks are worth 11. If a Joker is in your army, you automatically lose the battle, no matter what your value. The person with the highest value in cards wins the battle. They take all the face cards (Kings, Queens, and Jacks), and they are added up as heads (point value). If there is a tie for most points no one wins that battle. Then, all the face cards and Jokers are put back into the pile. All cards in hand (including face cards) are discarded. The deck is shuffled and a new hand is played out. The game goes on until one person gains 10 heads.

Variation Rules

Kings. The Kings rule can be used when playing two or more consecutive games. The King is the person who won the last game. The King declares a suit illegal. Whenever any player (including the King) has a card of this suit in their army, they are dealt a disgrace.

Heads and Disgraces. Instead of the regular rule where heads and disgraces are separate, you can count disgraces as "negative heads". This means that you lose when you have -3 heads, but you can recover these lost heads by gaining heads. So, if I began with 5 heads, then I got a disgrace, I would have 4 heads instead of 5 heads and 1 disgrace.

Charges. When the battle phase begins, a player may choose, before seeing his/her army cards, to add a card from his/her hand face down to the army, to increase its attack value. But, if it happens that the player still loses, this player gains a disgrace as well. Each player in turn decides whether to add a charge. The players do not see the value of each other's charges until they are simultaneously revealed along with the armies.

Diplomacy. When playing with the Kings variation, you may also use this rule. When a Joker is drawn to deal disgraces, you may appeal to the King. The King may decide either to respond or reject this appeal. If he responds, he draws a card. If the card he draws is a face card, then the Joker's effect is nullified. Also, if you have a Joker in your army, you may appeal to the King. If he responds to your appeal and draws a face card, you may replace your Joker with a card from your hand.


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Last updated 29th October 2003