Shaftmount

A game for 2 to 4 players by Igor Alba

This game uses 2 standard decks of cards without jokers (104 cards). The cards rank from high to low: A, K, Q, J, T, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2

Shaftmount is a game of penalties, in which the objective is to be the last player to accumulate a total of ten penalty points. These points can be marked with poker chips, toothpicks, tallies, etc. A player's current penalty total must be openly visible to all players at all times.

The dealer shuffles and deals cards clockwise around the table, starting with the player to his left. The dealer gives cards to each player face-down, poker-style. Each player gets a total of nine cards if there are 2 players in the game, eight cards total if there are 3 players in the game, and seven cards total if 4 players. These are hand-held private cards. After these cards are distributed, the dealer distributes face-up cards for each player, continuing in the same order. Each of these distributed cards sits separately from the others, as shown in the diagram below, and forms the base for a pile of cards known as a sequence. If playing with two players, both players get 4 individual upcards in front of them. If playing with three players, all players get 3 upcards in front of them. If playing with four players, each player gets 2 upcards.

shaftmount initial layout

At any time, a player may draw cards from the deck into their hand as long as the number of cards in their hand does not exceed the maximum allowed (9, 8, or 7, depending on the player count). If at any time a player's hand contains more than the maximum number of cards allowed, and an opponent notices this fact and calls it out, the offender receives one penalty point and may not draw additional cards until they are normally allowed to do so. A player may not conceal cards and must prove the number of cards in his hand when requested. Formally, a player draws a card immediately after making a play, however, this is not mandatory. A player can choose to not draw cards at all.

On a player's turn, the player is allowed to play one card from his hand face up to the table. A player may play a card on top of any sequence pile owned by any player, including his own, provided that that the card is higher in rank and of the same suit as the card the player wishes to play on.

At any moment, each suit has one or two "closing cards". Initially the only closing card of each suit is the Ace. When a closing card is played on a sequence pile, this "closes" the sequence, and the sequence’s "owner" receives one penalty point. The player who plays this closing card must point to or tap the closing card to prove their action and force the opponent to take their penalty point. The "owner" has no obligation to take their penalty point if the closing isn't proven to them by an opponent.

When a closing play is announced, the closing card, which is the highest card of that sequence, is placed face up at the side of the table. If it is an Ace (as it will be at the start of the game), it begins a new "closing sequence" used by all players; otherwise it is used to continue a closing sequence, being placed on top of the next higher card of the same suit. (The closing sequences in this game are similar to the foundation piles in Solitaire, except that in this game these closing sequences run downwards in suit: A, then K, Q, J, etc.) The rest of the cards that were in the player's sequence under this closing card move to the discard pile, face down, with the exception of the very last card at the bottom of the sequence pile. The player owning the discarded sequence has the option of keeping this bottom card sequence where it is, without being discarded, or if he chooses to do so, he can discard it as well. If the bottom card is kept, play continues as normal, with the kept card being the card to beat. If discarded, the player then draws a card from the deck and places it face up in the open spot. This new card initiates a brand new player sequence, owned by the same player.

Any Ace can begin a closing sequence, so that in the long run there can be a total of eight closing sequences (one for each Ace). If any closing sequences already exist for a given suit, the card immediately below the last card of the closing sequence is a closing card for that suit. For example if there is just one Ace of Hearts on its own as a closing sequence, two closing cards now exist for Hearts: the King and the Ace. The player who now closes a heart sequence with a King would place the King on the Ace of hearts, and the Heart closing cards are now the Ace and the Queen. If instead he closes a Heart sequence with the other Ace, this starts a new and independent closing sequence, and the Kings of Hearts are the only closing cards in Hearts. Either play results in a similar effect for his opponent: the opponent takes a penalty for having a closing card played on a sequence owned by them, and the opponent is then able to choose what to do with their bottom card.

This game forces players to remain alert, so that if a player isn't paying attention, his chances of winning diminish. If at any time a player's opponents don't notice a situation that would otherwise result in said player receiving a penalty point, this player is not required to alert his opponents. He can play on as normal without penalty until an opponent announces the situation verbally or by tapping a closing card.

If a closing card is face-up at the very beginning of the game before any player has acted, this closing card (which must be an Ace) may be moved to create a closing sequence at no cost to the owning player, who draws another card to restart the sequence. This benefit expires immediately after the first player has acted, until the end of the game.

In some cases, after a closing card is played, the next highest card of the suit, which has now become a closing card, may be face up on top of some player's sequence on the table. Similarly, if a sequence is fully emptied and a card is drawn from the deck, this newly drawn card may also be a closing card. If the person who played the initial closing card notices any other closing cards on the table which may arise as a consequence of his play, he may announce them by tapping on the cards that continue this "domino effect", in order. It is possible for one play to result in several penalties to multiple players.

If a player who played a closing card has more than one option for a card to continue his "domino effect" (for example, two Queens of Hearts in separate player sequences which now became closing cards after the play of a King of Hearts closing card), he may choose which he would like to designate as closing its sequence (forcing the owner of said closing card to receive a penalty point).

If this player fails to notice any additional available closing cards on the board, or notices that one of his own sequences contains a closing card and he wishes to remain silent about it, any other opponent may tap another closing card existing on the board and penalize the player owning that card. If a continued domino effect remains possible, this new player "takes control" and designates which cards act as closing cards if any duplicates exist. When all players are satisfied that there are no more plays to be made, the player's turn is over.

There are some situations where a card may exist that is higher in rank than an existing closing card but may not be an available closing card itself. For example, if two Club closing sequences exist, one showing an Ace and one showing a Jack, a new Queen of Clubs that emerges later does not close anything until a new King of Clubs is placed over the Ace of Clubs in the closing sequence area.

After a player finishes a play, action rotates clockwise to the next player, who plays a card from hand on top of a sequence and performs any resulting actions, as above.

In the event that a player has no legal card to play on an opponents' sequence, but a self-destructive play is available in one of the player's own card sequences, the player is required to play it. This even applies if the result of the play causes a player to give himself a penalty. This is colloquially referred to as "shafting yourself".

If a player truly has no plays available, including self-destructive plays against himself, the player must expose his whole hand to his opponents. After the player's opponents confirm that none of the exposed cards can be used on any player sequence, the player takes all of his cards and discards them into the discard pile. He then takes all the cards in the discard pile, along with all the remaining cards in the deck, and thoroughly shuffles them together to the satisfaction of his opponents. He then deals himself a full new hand and receives a penalty point as a cost for receiving a new hand. It is the responsibility of the player's opponents to make sure the player applies his penalty. At this point, there are no cards in the discard pile and all of the shuffled cards become part of the remaining deck. This ends the player's turn and the next player acts.

If, while exposing his hand for this purpose, a players' opponents notice that he does, in fact, have an available play, an opponent can announce the available card and force the opponent to play it. The unobservant (or sneaky) player who exposed his hand would then receive one penalty point, ending his turn. If the available card is a closing card which would otherwise result in a penalty point for that player, the player then receives three penalty points: one for missing or deceptively disguising the possible play, one for the penalty that they would have otherwise received for playing the closing card, plus an extra, third penalty point due to the severity of the disguised play avoided by the player.

If, at any point, the deck runs out of cards, the current player is required to thoroughly shuffle the contents of the discard pile. This now becomes the active deck. If no cards remain in either the deck or discard pile, the game ends. The player with the fewest penalty points wins the game.

At any point, if a player has a total of ten penalty points, the player is removed from the game. All of the cards in his hand, as well as all the cards in sequences owned by that player, are emptied into the discard pile. If there is more than one player remaining, play resumes in clockwise order, excluding the player who just lost. Play resumes until only one player is left standing, and this player is the winner.

Advanced Rules

The rules above cover everything required to play a very basic game of Shaftmount. The following rules, however, are usually all put into play as well. These rules provide more options for players and add a new level of complexity to the game's decisions. While the following rules create additional possible plays with cards of rank 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, a player is never required to make any of these plays for any reason. Cards of these ranks are treated like any other card when assessing the possibility of playing any available cards over an existing player sequence.

A) 2 Rule

If a player is in a situation where he has no plays available, but has a 2-rank card of a suit found in one of the player sequence piles, they are allowed to use this Two as a closing card in a player sequence of the same suit. Prior to this, they must expose the entirety of their hand to the table, proving that there are no other plays available other than closing with a 2. If a player has more than one Two, he can choose which Two to use when making the play. Unlike all other closing situations, when a player closes a sequence with a Two, the closing card (the Two) also gets discarded along with other cards in the sequence. After making this play, a player is free to draw a card to fill their hand. A player does not need to expose his hand again until facing a future situation which calls for re-exposing the player's hand. A player is not required to draw to the maximum number of cards in their hand to make this play. Late in the game, a player may skip drawing additional cards to fill their hand in order to maximize the potential of making this play. However, the "5 rule" (mentioned later) can be used as a defensive tactic by the opponent if a player decides to short-hand to play 2-rank cards. As with the previously mentioned rule about exposing one's full hand to his opponents, all previously mentioned penalties apply if the player does, in fact, have a play available and gets caught.

B) 3 Rule

During any turn, instead of playing a card that is higher in suit than another card in an existing sequence, a player may create a brand new player sequence with a 3-rank card. This brand new player sequence belongs to the player that created it, with the player receiving any penalties that may result when a closing card eventually gets played on that sequence. When a closing card is played on this new sequence, no new cards come out to replace it. All cards, except the closing card, are discarded into the discard pile.

C) 4 Rule

During any turn, instead of playing a card that is higher in suit than another card in an existing sequence, a player may play a 4 by placing it in the bottom of a sequence of that 4's suit (under all other cards). It is now the "bottom" card of that suit in case a closing card eventually gets played on it. This rule is often utilized if a player wishes to "buy" an extra turn and draw an additional card.

D) 5 rule

Whenever a player faces an opponent attempting to play a 2 closing card while following the 2 rule posted above, while having less than the maximum allowed number of cards in their hand, the defending opponent has an option of using a 5-rank card of ANY suit, despite it not being their turn. The 5-rank card is placed on the discard pile. In defense of their sequence, when the defending player uses a 5-rank card, the player attempting to use the 2 closing card must first draw to the maximum number allowed cards in their hand. If they still do not have any other available plays, they must prove it to the other players, then they can continue to use their 2 closing card. However, after the draw is complete, the opponent draws a card that they are able to play on any other sequence on the board, the opponent must choose a mandatory play to make instead of using the 2 closing card. Either of the two players involved may afterwards draw a card, at their discretion.

E) 6 rule

Whenever any player imposes the “4 rule” by playing a 4-rank card, any other opponent may “block” that play by exposing a 6-rank card from their hand and placing it on the discard pile. The player who wished to play a 4 may no longer play that specific card, but may attempt the same thing again using a different 4-rank card, provided a sequence of that suit exists on the board somewhere. Any player may then defend against this new play with a different 6-rank card. This “6 rule” can be interpreted as a punishment for the opponent who’s trying to procrastinate on the inevitable outcome of them “shafting themselves”.