Shamus

Contributed by Erin McGilvray

Introduction

Shamus gains its popularity from being the only 2 person cooperative card game, where opponents play together towards a common goal. Legend holds that this game was actually jointly developed by a Catholic and a Protestant near the border separating Northern Ireland from the Southern Republic.

Brief Summary of Play: One player (the dealer) will be playing a game similar to Uno while the other player will be playing a game similar to Rummy 500. After each turn of the Uno player, a card will be discarded from the "Circle of Shamus", which is used to measure the length of the game. The players must jointly accomplish their objectives before the "Circle of Shamus" is depleted. After each game, the roles and dealing responsibilities switch between players.

The Deck

One standard deck of 52 cards is used.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to win "Senior Shamus". If that goal can not be accomplished, the players must try for "Junior Shamus". Although a lesser honor, "Junior Shamus" is still considered a victory. Please carefully read the rules for each below as some objectives change between the two games.

"Senior Shamus" - The object of the game is for both:

  1. The Uno player (the dealer) to discard all cards from his hand. (In Senior Shamus, it does not matter how many cards the Rummy player has at the end of the game.)
  2. The Rummy player to secure at least a total of 50 points.

"Senior Shamus" is only accomplished if the two objectives above have been met BEFORE the "Circle of Shamus" cards have been played. If at any time, the number of cards in the Uno player’s hand exceeds the number of cards in the "Circle of Shamus", you will be forced to play for "Junior Shamus" as "Senior Shamus" has already been lost.

"Junior Shamus" - The object of the game is for both:

  1. The Rummy player to secure at least a total of 100 points.
  2. The Rummy player to discard all cards from his hand, with his final card being placed into the Discard pile to go out. (In Junior Shamus, it does not matter how many cards the Uno player has at the end of the game.)

"Junior Shamus" is only accomplished if the two objectives above have been met BEFORE the last round of the "Circle of Shamus" cards have been played.

Playing

The first dealer is chosen randomly and assumes the "Uno" position, while their partner assumes the "Rummy" position. Each player is dealt six cards face down, one at a time. The dealer then deals out the "Circle of Shamus" which consists of 10 cards dealt facedown in a clockwise circle. This circle is used during the game to count the number of turns left to play.

To begin the game, a card from the remaining deck is turned face up to start the discard pile. The remainder of the deck (Stock pile) is placed face down beside it. The Uno player (the dealer) starts play. If the first card is a 2 or a 4, the Uno player must pick up the corresponding number of cards and both his turn and the "Circle of Shamus" are skipped.

Play continues in the following order: Uno player, "Circle of Shamus" card, Rummy player. Because it is possible for the Rummy player to pick up multiple cards from the Discard pile, discarded cards should be placed face up, only partially covering any previously played card. Play ends when all cards from the "Circle of Shamus" have been played, when the Stock pile has been fully used or when the objectives of Shamus have been met. Although the game is cooperative, there should be absolutely no communication between the two players, other than what is outlined below.

Uno player

The Uno player abides by rules similar to that of Uno. Instead of using an Uno deck, a standard card deck is used with 2s representing Draw 2 cards and 4s representing Draw 4 cards. The Uno player must match either the suit or number with the top card of the discard pile. Aces will be considered Wild and are always playable irrespective of the suit of the top card. When an Ace is discarded by either the Uno or Rummy player, the Uno player can call out the suit he desires. However, when an Ace is played from the "Circle of Shamus", the Uno player does not have the right to call the suit. If no match can be made, the Uno player must pick up cards from the Stock pile until a play can be made. If all Stock pile cards are drawn, the game is over and both players lose. The Uno player is not allowed to pick up from the Stock pile if he can make a play, only when no play is possible. When the Uno player has one card left in his hand, "UNO!" should be announced to alert his partner that he only has one card left.

Every time the Uno player discards a card, he must turn over a card from the "Circle of Shamus" and place it face up on the discard pile. If this card happens to be a 2 or a 4, the Rummy player must pick up the corresponding number of cards prior to his turn (commonly referred to as the "wrath of Shamus"). This is the only Uno-type rule that is relevant for the Rummy player. If the Uno player discards a 2 or a 4, it has NO effect on the "Circle of Shamus" nor the Rummy player.

"Circle of Shamus"

Every time the Uno player discards, a card from the "Circle of Shamus" is taken in a counterclockwise fashion (starting with the last one dealt to the circle) and placed face up on the discard pile. This circle of cards counts down to the end of the game. Once this circle is depleted, the game stops. There is no way to add cards to this circle.

As a matter of courtesy and cooperation, after every turn the Uno player should announce how many cards he currently has, how many cards the Circle of Shamus has and how many points the Rummy player has showing on the table.

Rummy player

The Rummy player abides by rules similar to that of Rummy 500. His objective is to score points. To do so, the rummy player must lay down sequences and groups of cards. These will be scored as referenced below:

  • a sequence consists of three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order, such as club4, club5, club6 or heart8, heart9, heart10, heartJ.
  • a group is three or four cards of the same rank, such as diamond7, heart7, spade7.

A card can belong to only one set at a time - you cannot use the same card as part of both a group and a sequence.

At the start of each turn, the Rummy player shall pick up one card from the Stock pile OR one or more cards from the Discard pile. In order to pick up from the Discard pile, the Rummy player must subsequently lay down either a Sequence or a Group using the first card from the Discard pile cards he picked up.

At the end of each turn, the Rummy player must place one card onto the Discard pile. The Rummy player is not allowed to hold any cards in his hand that can be played as a sequence or a group, but he is permitted to discard a card that could have otherwise been played. Unlike the Uno player, the Rummy player does not have to match suit or number on his discard. However, if a 2 or 4 is discarded by the Rummy player, the Uno player will need to pick up the corresponding number of cards from the Stock pile and his turn will be skipped. Subsequently, no cards from the "Circle of Shamus" will be played either.

Scoring

Cards in each suit rank, from low to high:

    Ace 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Jack Queen King.

The cards have values as follows:

    Face cards (K,Q,J) and 10    10 points
    Aces5 points if used in A,2,3 straight or 15 points everywhere else
    Number cards 2-95 points

When counting points, the Rummy player must subtract all points still left in his hand at the end of play.

Tips for Winning

Although players are never allowed to share knowledge of their cards or speak outside the rules of the game, there are several things each partner can do to help out the other one and provide them with useful information.

Rank matching - The Uno player should always try to help the Rummy player achieve points by laying down cards that would be helpful to the Rummy player. For instance, when discarding, the Uno player should try to lay down the same rank card as the Rummy player to increase the probability of a Group.

Play high value cards early - In order to score enough points, both players should try to play all high value cards early in the game.

Wisely playing Aces - Because Aces are Wild and worth 15 points, they are very powerful cards. If played wisely, the Rummy player will be able to use the same Ace several times as a wild card (by not picking up the entire pile) before eventually using it for points.

Giving the Uno player 2s and 4s - By giving the Uno player 2s and 4s, the Rummy player can better control the game by ensuring exactly how many cards will be picked up and not leaving it to chance. This may be done to slow the pace of the game and prevent the Uno player from going out before the correct number of points have been scored.

Uno player discarding 2s and 4s - As the Rummy player can only throw 2s and 4s sparingly, he may be trying to collect these ranks but not be able to properly signal this to the Uno player. By throwing 2s and 4s, the Uno player can also allow the Rummy player to use them to control the pace of play, in addition to making Groups.

Ace on Ace - If the Uno player has only one suit left in his hand (Hearts, for example) plus an Ace, he can try to signal this fact to his partner through his actions. First, the Uno player may also choose to throw an Ace instead of a Heart on top of a Heart thrown by the Rummy player (even though Uno technically could match suit) to signal to his partner that he has only one suit left. Secondly, the Uno player can also choose to throw his Ace on top of an Ace thrown by the Rummy player and announce suit. Either approach would provide a signal to the Rummy player.

Variations

Advanced Shamus - The rules are the same as above except that 100 points are needed for "Senior Shamus" and 150 points are needed for "Junior Shamus".

Expert Shamus - The rules are the same as above except that 150 points are needed for "Senior Shamus" and 200 points are needed for "Junior Shamus".

Playing with 4 Players

4 person Shamus can be played as instructed above, except that only 4 cards are dealt to each player and the "Circle of Shamus" only consists of 8 cards. The dealer would play the Uno version, the person on the dealer’s left would play Rummy, the person across from the dealer would play Uno and the person to the dealer’s right would play Rummy. Only the Uno dealer pulls the circle of Shamus card. The Rummy players may combine points to get to their required score of 50 (or higher depending on the level of difficulty), but both left-over Rummy hands will need to be subtracted at the end of play. All other rules are the same. Be careful not to run out of cards.