Crazy Eights

This page is partly based on a contribution from Szu Kay Wong

Contents

Introduction and Alternative Names

Crazy Eights is a game for two or more players, in which the object is to get rid of the cards in your hand onto a discard pile by matching the number or suit of the previous discard.

There is a huge number of variations of this game, and many alternative names. It is sometimes called Crates, Switch, Swedish Rummy, Last One or Rockaway. In Germany it is Mau-Mau; in Switzerland it is Tschausepp; in the Netherlands it is Pesten. Some British players call it Black Jack, which is unfortunate as it can lead to confusion with the well-known American banking card game Blackjack.

Basic Game

The basic game of Crazy Eights uses a standard 52 card pack, or two such packs shuffled together if there are a lot of players. The dealer deals (singly) five cards to each player (seven each if there are only two players). The remainder of the pack is stacked face down on the table as a stock from which cards will be drawn. The top card of the stock is turned face up and placed beside the stock to start the discard pile.

Starting with the player to dealer's left, and continuing clockwise, each player in turn must either play a legal card face up on top of the discard pile, or draw a card from the undealt stock. The following plays are legal.

  1. If the top card of the discard pile is not an Eight, you may play any card which matches the rank or suit of the previous card (for example if the top card was the king of hearts you could play any king or any heart).
  2. An Eight may be played on any card, and the player of the Eight must nominate a suit.
  3. If an Eight is on top of the pile, you must play either another Eight or any card of the suit nominated by the person who played the Eight.

If an Eight is turned up by the dealer as the first card of the play pile, it is treated as though the dealer had played it. The dealer looks at his or her hand and nominates a suit, and the first player must play a card of that suit or another Eight.

A player who has only one card left in their hand must alert the other players by saying "last card". A player who fails to do this before the next player takes their turn must draw two cards from the top of the stock as a penalty.

The first player who gets rid of all their cards wins, and the other players score penalty points according to the cards they have left in their hands - 50 for an eight, 10 for a picture, and spot cards at face value (one point for an ace, two for a two and so on).

If the stock pile is exhausted, the played cards, except for the last card, are shuffled and stacked face down to make a new stock and the game continues.

Special Cards

Apart from the Eights, usually there are other cards that have special effects when played. Typical rules are as follows.

Skip
When a Queen is played, the next player in rotation misses a turn, and the turn passes to the following player. In a two-player game the opponent is skipped and the same player plays again.
Reverse direction
When an Ace is played, the direction of play reverses, becoming anticlockwise if it had been clockwise, or vice versa. In a two-player game an Ace has no effect.
Draw cards
When a Two is played the next player must either draw two cards or play another Two (an Eight cannot be played in this case). If several Twos have been played by consecutive players, the next player must either play another Two or draw two cards for each two in the sequence. The penalty cards cannot be played in the same turn - after the penalty cards have been drawn, the turn passes to the following player, who can continue with any card of the same suit as the last Two, or another Two or an Eight to change suit.

If one of these special cards is turned up as the first card of the play pile, it is treated as though the dealer had played it. If the turned up card is an Ace, play begins anticlockwise and the player to dealer's right has the first turn. If the turned up card is a Two the first player must play another Two or draw two cards. If the first card is a Queen, the first player is the the player two places to the left of the dealer.

If the last card played by the winner happens to be a special card, the special effect is ignored. For example the card on top of the play pile is the spade10 and the next player's only remaining card is the spade2. The player plays the spade2 and immediately wins. The hands are scored as they are - no one has to draw cards as a result of the 2.

Variations

Crazy Eights is one of the easiest games to modify by adding variations. In particular the roles of the special cards are often changed, for example using a different card, such Jack instead of Queen to cause the next player to skip a turn, or Four instead of Ace to reverse direction. Sometimes there will be additional special cards with other effects - for example it may be agreed that the Queen of Spades requires the next player to draw 5 cards. The result is that almost every group of players has their own house rules, and it would be rare to find two groups that play exactly the same way.

Deal

The number of cards dealt to each player initially may vary. For example some begin with eight cards each.

Drawing Cards

In the normal game, you may always use your turn to draw a card. However, some people play that you may only draw if you are unable to play - if you can play you must.

Some allow the drawn card to be played immediately if it is a legal play.

Some allow more than one card to be drawn - either up to a fixed number of cards, after which if you still cannot (or will not) play the turn passes to the next player. Others require you to continue drawing until either you can play or the deck is exhausted.

Changing Suit

The special card that changes suit is nearly always the Eight, at least in places where the game is called Crazy Eights. In many countries and regions the equivalent game goes by other names and a different card may be used to change suit - for example in the British game Switch it is often the Ace, and some other variants use the Jack or the Seven.

Some play that you can only play an Eight that matches the previous card's suit or rank.

Some play that you can play an Eight at any time but when playing an Eight you do not nominate a suit. The next player must simply match the suit of the Eight you played or play another eight.

One correspondent (Szu Kay Wong) gives the rule an Eight can be played on any card, but the player can only nominate a different suit if the Eight matches the rank or suit of the previous card. Some players use jacks or aces rather than eights as the cards which have the power to change suit.

Multiple Equal Cards

Some allow a player holding two or more equal ranked cards to play them all at once, provided that the first of them is a legal play. If they are special cards all the special effects take place. For example if the top card of the play pile is the diamond5, the next player could play diamond9, club9 and heart9 in that order, and the next player would have to play a 9 or a heart. If the equal cards are special cards all the special effects take place. For example if an Ace reverses direction, playing two Aces together will reverse it twice, leaving the direction of play unchanged. If a Queen skips the next player, a pair of Queens will skip two players (in a two-player game that would be your opponent's turn and your own next turn, leaving your opponent to play next). If a Two requires the next player to pick up twos cards, a pair of Twos will require the next player to pick up 4 cards (or play another Two).

Last Card

Some groups have a special word that must be said by a player when they have just one card left. On the other hand, some groups do not require a player with one card to warn the other players.

End of Stock Pile

When the stock pile is exhausted, the rules given in most books to not envisage shuffling the play pile to make a new stock. Instead they specify that play continues without drawing. A player who cannot or does not wish to play just passes. If all pass, the game is blocked. Play stops and everyone scores for the cards remaining in their hands. I think that in practice this version of the game is rarely played.

Crazy Eights Countdown

This variant has become popular in North America. Each player begins the game with a score of 8, and eight cards are dealt to each player. When a player gets rid of all their cards, this does not end the play. Instead, the player subtracts 1 from their score, and is immediately dealt a new hand of cards equal in size to their new score. The other players keep the cards that they have and the play continues. The winner of the game is the first player who reduces their score to zero.

Each player's current score determines the rank of the card that is wild for them. So at the start of the game everyone has Eight as their wild card, and the game is like normal Crazy Eights. But later in the game it is possible for each player to have tyheir own, different rank of wild card, which can be played on any card and allows the player to nominate the suit to be played next. Each time a player runs out of cards, their wild card changes, first from Eight to Seven, then Six and so on down to Ace. When a player with a score of 1 and Ace as wild card runs out of cards, their score becomes 0 and they win the game.

The changing wild card introduces several new situations and players need to agree how to resolve these. The following rules are suggested.

  1. When a wild card is played, the player nominates a suit. The next card played must either be a card of that suit or the player's own wild card.
    • Example. My score is 6. I play the spade6 and nominate hearts. If the next player's score is 7 that player must either play a heart, or play a wild 7 to nominate a suit, or draw a card. The next player is not allowed to play (for example) the diamond6 even though the rank is the same as my wild Six.
  2. When a player's wild card rank also has a special effect, the player nominates a suit and the card also acts as a special effect card as follows.
    • Wild / Skip. The next player is skipped and the following player must play the nominated suit or a wild card. For example, suppose that our house rule is that 4 skips the next player, 4 is my wild card, and I play the club4 nominating diamonds. The next player is skipped and the player after that must play a diamond or one of their own wild cards.
    • Wild / Reverse. The direction is reversed and the next player in the new direction must play the nominated suit or a wild card. For example, suppose that Aces reverse direction. We are playing clockwise and I play the heartA nominating spades. The direction reverses to anticlockwise and the player to my right must play a spade or one of their own wild cards.
    • Wild / Draw Two. The next player must either draw two cards or play a Two of the nominated suit. For example, the players in order and their scores are A(2), B(5), C(6). Player A plays the diamond2 nominating clubs. Now B must either play the club2 or draw two cards. If B plays the club2, C must either draw four cards or play any Two (since the club2 was not wild). If B draws 2 cards, C must play a club or a wild 6 or draw a card, since clubs was the suit nominated by A. Another example: player A plays the wild diamond2 and nominates diamonds. Assuming that we are playing with a single deck, player B is forced to draw two cards, and C will then have to play a diamond or a wild card. Playing with a double deck, B's only legal play to avoid drawing two cards would be the other diamond2.

Here is a blog post and discussion about Crazy-8-Countdown describing a version in which Jacks skip the next player, Twos make the next player draw two cards or play another Two as usual, and the Queen of Spades makes the next player draw five cards. Multiple cards of equal rank can be played together. No 'reverse direction' card is mentioned.

Variant: Some groups allow a card of equal rank to be played on a wild card even if it is not in the called suit. For example a wild heart5 is played calling 'diamonds' but the next player plays club5 instead of a diamond, even though 5 is not wild for them. This rule is the most frequent cause of arguments in this game so it is a good idea to agree in advance whether your house rules allow this play or not.

Gordon Lancop's Crazy Eights Countdown app for Android features special cards for Skip, Reverse, Draw Two and Draw Five which can be configured according to the player's preference.

Other variants described on this and other websites

See the following pages on this site:

  • Crates, described by Richard Hussong.
  • Spoons, described by Bruce McCosar.
  • Last One, contributed by Mark Alexander.
  • Bartok, in which the rules are modified during the game.
  • Mao, in which the rules may not be discussed.

More pages with rules of Crazy Eights variants:

  • Jose M. Carrillo-Muniz describes Ocho Locos, a version of Crazy Eights played in Puerto Rico.
  • Justin Tuijl's description of Jack Change, another variation.
  • Jean-François Bustarret's site has rules of Huit Américain in French.
  • The site Cribbage.ca has a description of a French Canadian variation known simply as Huit (eight).
  • Crazy Eights rules are available on the Card Game Heaven site.

Several Crazy Eights variants contributed by readers are listed in the Invented Games section of this site.

There have been many commercial versions of eights, designed to be played with specially produced packs of cards. Probably the best known of these is Uno, for which there are also many invented variations.

Crazy Eights software and online games

The collection HOYLE Card Games for Windows or Mac OS X includes a Crazy Eights program, along with many other popular card games.

At GameDuell, you can play Crazy Eights online.

Malcolm Bain's shareware Agony for Windows, which plays a Greek variation of Crazy Eights, is available from Card Games Galore.

You can play Crazy Eights online at CardzMania.com

You can download Laurent Pellenc's Crazy Eights Program for Windows from his page.

Mike's Cards includes a Crazy Eights program for Macintosh and Windows computers.

Games4All have published a Crazy Eights game for Android.

The Crazy Eights Deluxe program is available from Unique Games

PlayOK (formerly known as Kurnik) offers the similar Polish game known as Makao (which is listed at PlayOK/Kurnik as Switch).

Gameslush.com offers an online Crazy Eights game against live opponents or computer players.

At DKM Crazy Eights from the CardSharp suite you can play two-player Crazy Eights online against a computer opponent.

Einar Egilsson has published a free Java Crazy Eights program with which you can play online against one computer opponent.