Manipulation Rummy, Machiavelli, Carousel, Vatikan, Shanghai

This page is about a group of rummy variations in which the melds on the table can be rearranged. At your turn, in order to meld extra cards, you can reorganise the existing melds, breaking them up and regrouping them into new melds in any way you wish provided that you add at least one new card, and you end with all the table cards forming valid melds. In these games there is no discard pile - players can only draw and meld. Cards not melded are retained in the player's hand.

A number of different versions are described on this page:

  • Carousel - in which from one to three cards are drawn per turn
  • Machiavelli , Tahiti and Vatikan - in which zero or one cards are drawn per turn
  • Guadalupe, in which one or two cards are drawn per turn
  • Shanghai (contributed by Doug Stein) - in which unlimited cards can be drawn in a turn
  • Manipulation (contributed by Paul Welty), also known as Finagle - another version with unlimited drawing

The best known version of the tile game Rummikub®, formerly known as Sabra style Rummikub®, is a game similar to Vatikan but played with tiles.

Note: all detailed information on Rummikub® has been moved from this page to a new Rummikub® page.

A general problem with manipulation rummy games is that laying down sets and runs helps the other players by giving them extra manipulation possibilities. The result is that players tend to hoard cards, waiting for others to meld, and hoping to go out by playing their whole hand at once. One solution to this problem is to limit the number of cards that can be played on one turn, as in the proprietary game TZAP Rummy, which also features TZAP cards that can be used as wild cards or to zap other players, forcing them to miss a turn and draw a card from your hand.

If you are not familiar with Rummy games, please refer to the Basic Rummy page for definitions of meld, group, sequence, stock, draw etc.

This can be played by two people using a pack with one joker (53 cards) or by 3-5 people using a double pack including two jokers (106 cards). Ten cards are dealt to each player.

A turn consists of drawing one or two cards from the stock and then melding, or drawing three cards without melding. You always begin by drawing a card; you must then either meld or draw a second card. If you draw a second card you must either meld or draw a third card. If you draw a third card you are not allowed to meld on that turn, and the turn passes to the next player.

Melds are sequences or groups of three or more cards. In a sequence, ace can be high or low but not in the interior of a sequence (so Q-K-A and A-2-3 are valid but K-A-2 is not). In a group, the cards must be of different suits (no duplicates). A joker can stand for any desired card.

In order to meld you must play one or more cards from your hand face up on the table, and arrange the cards on the table in such a way that they form valid sequences or groups. At the beginning of the game, when nothing has yet been laid out, the first player to meld will have to play one or more complete sequences or groups from hand. Subsequent players can form new sets, add to existing sets, and break up existing sets to reform them into new ones. The only requirements for a valid meld are that you must add to the table at least one card from your hand, you cannot take any cards from the table, and all the cards you leave on the table must be arranged into valid disjoint sets.

When a joker is played to the table, the player must state what card it represents, and its value cannot be changed, unless the joker is released by substituting the actual card that the joker represents. The card used to replace the joker may come from the player's hand or from elsewhere on the table. It is possible to move a joker from one meld to another without replacing it, provided that the rank and suit of the card it represents are not changed.

Example: someone plays heart8-heart9-joker, with the joker representing the heart10. A subsequent player cannot simply add the heart6 to this sequence, changing the joker to represent the seven, but a player with a real heart10 could play this, substituting it for the joker, and then use the released joker in another meld, specifying a new card for it to represent. Alternatively, a player who had heart7, club10, spade10 could play these three cards, adding the 7 to the lower end of the sequence and then using the joker to make a set of three tens.

A joker released by substituting the card it represents cannot be taken back into the player's hand - it must immediately be used it a new meld.

The object of the game is of course to get rid of as many cards as possible from your hand. Cards remaining in hand are worth penalty points: jokers are worth 25, picture cards 10, and other cards face value (aces 1). If after drawing one or two cards and melding the cards remaining in your hand add up to 5 points or fewer you can knock. This immediately ends the play (there is no laying off of cards as in Gin Rummy), and the player with fewest points in hand is the winner.

In the two player game the winner scores the difference between the number of points in the two players' hands. With more than two players, the winner scores the differences from all the other players, added together (for example if the winner has 4 and the others have 6, 12 and 17, then the differences are 2, 8 and 13 so the winner scores 23 (2+8+13)).

In addition, if the winner is someone other than the knocker, the winner scores an undercut bonus of 10 points. If there is a tie between the knocker and another player, the other player wins and scores the undercut bonus. If two players either than the knocker tie for lowest, they both score as though they had won, and both get an undercut bonus.

If you win by getting rid of all of your cards, you score a bonus of 25 in addition to the sum of the points in the other players' hands.

If no one has knocked when the stock is exhausted, everyone has one more turn to meld (obviously without drawing from the stock). Then all the hands are counted and the lowest wins (if two tie for lowest both win).

The game ends when someone's score reaches or exceeds 150. They then get a bonus of 100 and each other player receives a bonus of 25 for each deal they have won.

Machiavelli

This Italian game for 2 to 5 players is played with two 52 card packs without jokers (104 cards). Deal and play are clockwise.

The dealer deals 13 cards each one at a time; the remaining cards are placed face down to form a drawing stock.

The aim is to get rid of all your cards, which you do by laying them on the table in valid combinations. The possible combinations are:

  1. A set of three or four cards of the same rank and different suits.
  2. A sequence of three or more cards adjacent cards of the same suit. Aces can be high or low but not both (2-A-K is not valid).

Each card can only belong to one combination at a time.

At your turn you may either:

  1. Play one or more cards from your hand to the table, provided that you can then arrange all the cards on the table into valid combinations, or
  2. Take the top card from the drawing stock and add it to your hand.

You can only do one or the other of these - either play cards ot take one card - then it is the next player's turn.

If you start making a move of type 1, either by playing cards from your hand or by rearranging cards on the table, but find you are unable to complete your move (you cannot arrange the table cards into separate complete combinations) you must take back any card(s) you played and instead draw three cards from the stock as a penalty.

The play ends when a player manages to get rid of all his or her cards onto the table. The other players then get 1 penalty point for each card remaining in their hands at that moment (they have no further opportunity to get rid of cards).

Variants

In their book I Giochi di Carte, E. Fantini and C.E. Santelia describe some further variations of Machiavelli:

Tahiti
In this game 4 jokers are added to the deck (108 cards). Only 5 cards are dealt to each player, and four are dealt face up to the table. These four table cards can be used to help form melds, but do not have to be used - until used they remain as separate single cards in the layout. A joker can be used as as substitute for any card needed in a meld, but a meld cannot contain more than one joker. A player who has in hand the card represented by a joker on table can replace the joker by the real card and then use the joker in another combination on the table. A meld that contains a joker cannot be rearranged (unless the player first replaces the joker by the real card that it represents). A joker cannot be replaced by a card that is already on the table - the card must come from the player's hand. When a player goes out the other players get penalty points based on the cards in their hands: 2-10 face value, pictures 10, aces 11, jokers 30 points.
Guadalupe
This variant of Machiavelli is played without jokers. The players are dealt 5 cards each initially. On your turn you draw two cards from the deck if you have not put down any cards; if you put down cards from your hand without going out you draw one card from the deck at the end of your turn. When a player goes out the others score 1 penalty point for each card remaining in their hands.

Antonio Ferraioli has published a Machiavelli game for iPhone.

Vatikan

This game is described in Andrew Pennycook's "A Book of Card Games" and is said to be of Central European origin. It is very similar to Machiavelli.

There are from two to five players and a double pack with two jokers (106 cards) is used. Thirteen cards are dealt to each player.

At your turn you must either draw one card or meld one or more cards. You cannot both draw and meld in the same turn. The valid melds are sequences and groups as in Carousel. The jokers are used and substituted in the same way, with one exception: a joker cannot be moved from one meld to another on the table - to move a joker you must first replace it by the card it represents, either from your hand or from another meld on the table.

The first time that each player melds, they must begin by putting down a sequence of three cards in suit from their hand. Having done this they can then, in the same and in subsequent turns, add more cards and rearrange melds to form seuences and groups at will.

The game ends when someone manages to get rid of their cards, and that player wins outright. There is no scoring, and this game therefore suffers from the problem that there is no incentive to put down melds, since this only helps the other players.

Robbers' Rummy, a Hungarian game similar to Vatikan, can be played online at the Rummy Network, the English edition of the Hungarian UltiNet site.

Shanghai

This description was contributed by Doug Stein. Note that there is also a different game called Shanghai Rummy, which is a type of Contract Rummy and is described on the Contract Rummy page.

The object of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards by melding cards in your hand with those on the table in legal group and run combinations.

Players and Deck

The game can be played by 3-5 players; 4 or 5 players make the best game. It is best to use two standard 52-card packs shuffled together with no jokers. Cards rank from Ace (low) to King (high). It would be possible to accommodate more than five players by adding extra decks, but with so many cards the game becomes less interesting.

The Deal

The dealer deals each player 10 cards in batches of 3, 3, 3 and 1. The undealt cards are placed face down to form the reserve stock. In subsequent hands, deal passes to the left.

The Play

Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, and continuing clockwise, each player in turn plays cards from hand to the table. Cards played must be melded in one or both of the following two ways:

Set meld:
a set meld is a grouping of at least 3 and no more than 4 cards of the same face value but different suits. Therefore, heart3-spade3-diamond3 is a valid set meld. This meld could be expanded by adding the (missing) club3. However, the combination heart3-heart3-diamond3 is invalid, as all suits in a set meld must be unique.
Run meld:
a run meld is a grouping of at least 3 cards of the same suit in sequence. Therefore, spade7-spade8-spade9 is a valid run meld. Note that Ace is a low card, so while heartA-heart2-heart3 is valid, heartQ-heartK-heartA is not, and nor is heartK-heartA-heart2. Run melds can theoretically be up to 13 cards in length, assuming a run of Ace-2-3...J-Q-K in the same suit.

A player can create melds by providing all the necessary cards from his hand, (in which case he would have to play at least 3 cards from his hand), and / or can add cards to a meld already on the table. For example, if the meld club8-club9-club10 was already on the table, a player could add a club7 from his hand. A player should always play as many cards as possible. In the previous example, if the player held club7-clubJ-clubQ, he could play all three cards to the existing meld.

A player who can meld one or more cards must do so. You do not necessarily have to meld all the cards that you can, but if you are able to meld you must put down at least one card, and the turn then passes to the next player.

A player who does not hold any cards that can be successfully melded must draw the top card from the face-down stock. If this card enables him to play he must do so; if not, he draws further cards from the stock until he can play. As soon as he can play, he does so, and the turn passes to the next player.

As soon as a player plays (melds) his last card(s), the hand is over.

Shanghai

A "Shanghai" is when a player rearranges the melds on the table in order to allow the playing of cards from his hand. A player may freely rearrange the melds on the table so long as, upon completion of the player's turn, all cards on the table are formed in legal melds. A couple of examples:

Table:heart3-heart4-heart5-heart6
club3-club4-club5-club6
You hold: spade6
Rearranged:heart3-heart4-heart5
club3-club4-club5
heart6-club6-spade6
You "shanghai" the heart6 and club6 from their current melds and remeld with your spade6.
Table:club7-club8-club9
diamond7-diamond8-diamond9
spade8-spade9-spade10
You hold: heart7 spade9 spadeJ
Rearranged:club7-diamond7-heart7
club8-diamond8-spade8
club9-diamond9-spade9
spade9-spade10-spadeJ
You remeld the runs into a combination of runs and sets. Note that you could have played only the spadeJ if you hadn't shanghaied cards. With some rearrangement you managed to get rid of three cards! Note that if you also held clubQ spadeQ diamondQ that you could play those card in addition to the heart7 spade9 spadeJ!

Scoring

The player who went out scores zero points. All other players score 1 point for each card left in their hand. There is no set ending to the game - you just continue until the players agree to stop settle up for (say) a nickel a point.

Hints and comments

Some table etiquette:

  • Players should announce "one card" if they end their turn with one card
  • "Test rearrangement" is OK. In other words, players are allowed to freely move cards around (on their turn) in order to decide whether or not they can reconfigure the table to accept cards from their hand. Other players should watch to assist restoring back to the original configuration (or to any legal configuration) in case the player decides that he can't do what he had in mind (and therefore either needs to draw cards or simply make a less aggressive play).
  • Note that it is both bad manners and illegal to pretend to be unable to meld when you can, and thereby to draw more cards than necessary in the hope of collecting enough to make an aggressive (ie multi-Shanghai) play.

Hints:

  • 4-card sets are ripe for Shanghai, since one card can be stolen and still leave a valid set. Two 4 card sets close in sequence provide an easy way to get rid of at least one card. For example, if club4-spade4-heart4-diamond4 and club6-spade6-heart6-diamond6 are on the table, a player can obviously play any single 5 by building a run using the extra 4 and 6 from the table.
  • The end cards of a 4+ card run are ripe for Shanghai, as are the middle cards on a 7+ card run.

Manipulation

This section is based on a contribution from Paul J. Welty. Craig Hanson reports that Manipulation is also known as Finagle.

Manipulation is almost the same game as Shanghai, described above. There are 3-5 players and two standard 52 card decks are used. It would be possible for more than 5 people to play; in that case a third pack should be added. Seven cards are dealt to each player. The person to the left of the dealer plays first.

At your turn you must meld if you are able to. If you cannot meld you draw cards one at a time from the stock until you can. As soon as you are able to you must stop drawing and meld.

The possible combinations that can be melded are sets of three or more cards of the same rank (which must be of different suits), or runs of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. In runs, the ace counts high only: Q-K-A is valid but K-A-2 and A-2-3 are not. Sets are kept on one side of the table and runs on the other. You can also meld by manipulating existing combinations on the table, rearranging the cards in any way you like, provided that you add at least one new card to the table from your hand, and you leave all the cards on the table arranged into valid combinations.

The first player who uses all their cards wins the hand. The others count what they have left in their hands against them, scoring penalty points as follows:

  • Aces - 15 points each
  • Tens and face cards - 10 points each
  • All other cards - 5 points each

The game can be played to 200 or 300 points by prior agreement. When a player's cumulative point score reaches or passes the agreed target, the player who then has the lowest score wins.

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