This description of the Georgia, USA version of Spoons was contributed by Bruce H. McCosar.
Spoons is a hilarious card game of the Eights group, closely related to Craits yet much more physically active. Television and card game trivia buffs might be interested to know there was a "Mork and Mindy" card game published back when the show was popular, the rules of which were almost directly copied from Spoons.
Note that Spoons is also the name of a version of the children's card game Pig, in which the aim is to grab a spoon when a player makes four of a kind. That game is described on the Pig page.
Principles of the Game
The objective of Spoons is to get rid of all your cards before anyone else. To keep this from being too easy, there are a number of rules to remember, violation of which always results in the same penalty (draw a card).
It is best to use a pack of 104 (two standard 52-card packs shuffled together, without any jokers).
Number of Players
From three to eight may play.
For a group of N players, there should be N-1 spoons. They should be piled in the center of the table, where any player can reach them. For safety's sake, do not attempt to use any other utensils (forks, knives, grapefruit spoons) in this game.
Rule violations are pointed out (literally) by "razzing". Any and all players who recognize the violation have to point at the perpetrator and make a certain noise -- the preferred sound is "ZZZZT!" or "ERRRR!", perhaps best described as the sound one hears on game shows when a question is answered incorrectly or time runs out. Players who can't make this noise can use one of their own, for example, "dingdingdingdingding!"
The razzed player has to draw a card. When doing this, he or she must say some interjection agreed upon at the start of the hand (this can change from hand to hand as well). Generally, this is a polite, yet humorous interjection, such as: "Curses, foiled again!", "Oy, Vey!", "Great Caesar's Ghost!", "Oh, woe is me!", or "Bummer!" If the razzed player doesn't say this exact phrase, he or she gets razzed again!
There is a statute of limitations on razzing, however. If the error is not pointed out before two other players have completed their plays (either drawing or discarding), the rule bender gets away with it -- and, in fact, can razz anyone who razzes them!
First dealer is determined randomly; in subsequent hands, the deal passes to the left. The number of cards the dealer gives out depends on the number of players: for three or four, deal seven each; for five or six, six each; and for seven or eight, five each. The remainder of the cards are placed in the center of the table, forming a stock. The top card of the stock is turned over to begin the discard pile. Whatever powers the turn-up has are deemed to originate from the dealer (e.g. if the dealer turns up a King, he or she determines who is affected by it). The dealer must announce the "name" of the card (explained below) as they turn it over, or else get razzed.
Unless a Queen was turned up, the game starts off with the person on the dealer's left and proceeds clockwise. In their turn, players must either draw a card or play a card from their hand face up onto the top of the discard pile. To discard, the card played must match the top card of the discard pile in either suit or rank (if the top card is a 5 of spades, for example, a spade or a five can be played). Upon discarding, the player must say the "name" of the card, or else get razzed. If you have a card you can play, you do not have to play it -- but if you do not play, you must draw (drawing a card of your own free will is not the same as being razzed; you do not have to say the agreed-upon interjection. Anyone who razzes you for not saying the phrase after you draw freely can be razzed!) If you can play the card you drew immediately, you may; otherwise, play passes on to the next person.
When a person gets down to one card, they have to announce "one card!", or else get razzed. Holding your cards to prevent others from seeing how many you have is not only unethical, it is punishable by razzing as well.
When a person discards his or her last card, they have to be careful to announce the "name" of that card as well -- otherwise, they'll be razzed and just have to draw another!
Names and Powers of Cards
Except for cards with special powers, all cards are "named" according to their rank, regardless of suit. For example, on playing a six of spades, one has to say "Six!" The following cards, however, have special powers.
- When a player plays a King, he or she must select an opponent and say, "Draw two, (opponent's name)!" The opponent can then either:
- Say the interjection phrase and draw two cards (or else be razzed in addition to their troubles), OR
- Play a King from their hand on the discard pile immediately -- returning the attack onto the attacker, at one card higher than before. The opponent should say "Draw three, (attacker)!"
Regardless of whose turn it was at the beginning of the Trump War (as this is called), normal play is considered to start again from either the left or right of the person who played the final King, depending on the direction of play. Anyone who plays out of turn should be razzed.
- When played, this reverses the direction of play. The correct phrase to say is "Switchback". Anyone who plays out of turn (for example, the player to the left after play has shifted to the right) should be razzed.
- When played, the player (and everyone else) has to yell "Spoons!" and grab for a spoon. Since there is one fewer spoon than the number of people, someone ends up without one. That person has to say the interjection phrase and draw two, or else be razzed. If someone grabs more than one spoon, they (not the spoonless ones) are the ones who have to draw. In cases where two players have grabbed the same spoon, the one who has a hold closer to the end of the handle wins. Brute force should never prevail, as this often leads to disputes.
- A person who plays a ten has to play again. The name of this card is "Repeat!" As in a normal turn, the player must either draw or play another card -- which can also be a ten! This is a sneaky way to win a game, holding onto three or four tens then going out in a big burst, but beware -- the more you hold in your hand, the more it will count against you if someone else goes out first (explained in the scoring section). Also, your final card cannot be a ten -- if you play a ten then have no more cards, you then cannot play again so must draw!
- Eights are wild. They can change the suit of the discard pile to any suit; upon playing an eight, one must announce the name of the suit, as in "Spades!" Failing to announce this is, as usual, punishable by razzing.
- Starts "the Count". When a two is played, this changes the nature of discarding. The player announces "Two!", and the following players have to either play an ace (counting it as 1) or a two, and announce the total of all the twos and aces played in the count so far. The first player who cannot play a two or an ace has to draw as many cards as have been counted out (after, of course, saying the appropriate interjection phrase, on penalty of being
For example, player A plays "two!" Player B drops an ace on the pile (any suit) and announces "three!" Player C drops a two on the pile and says "five!" Player D has no aces or twos, and so says "Oy, Vey!" (or the appropriate interjection) and draws five cards. Play continues with the person following Player D.
"The Count" can get pretty vicious if you have a crowd that likes to hang on to their aces and twos just in case of just such an emergency. The theoretical maximum anyone could ever have to draw is 24 cards, but this would surely be a rare case. Usually it is anywhere from two to six.
If anyone gets down to one card during "the Count", they must announce it after their play. If anyone goes out of cards during "the Count", the game continues until someone is unable to play a deuce or an ace, and draws their cards. There is the possibility that someone will go out, play will continue around the table, and they (with no cards, unable to play a two or ace) will be the ones having to draw! If, after the Count victim has drawn his or her cards, one or more players are still out of cards, the one who went out first is the winner; the others each have to draw a single card off the discard pile, saying the appropriate interjection.
- An ace has no particular powers, but does have two different ways of being announced. In regular play, it is called "Ace"; in "the Count", it is called by whatever total it brings the count up to.
When the Stock is Exhausted
The player whose turn it is must take all the cards under the top discard (which remains the same) and shuffle them, placing them back on the table to form a new stock.
Whoever has went out scores zero for that round. Everyone else scores points for the cards remaining in their hand according to the following schedule:
30 points: each 10 or 8 20 points: each K, Q, or J 10 points: each A or 2 5 points: each of the remaining ("powerless") cards.This game is played to different endpoints. Typically, game ends when someone reaches 500 points. This is not a tight rule, however; some groups who play this can reach 500 in just two or three hands, especially when they're learning the game (being "razzed", blasting each other with Kings, hoarding aces and twos to drive up the count). On the other hand, more efficient players, especially a smaller group, may need only play to 200 or so.
The use of objects other than spoons: Spoons are not available everywhere (riding the bus, goofing off in the office, visiting a bachelor's apartment), so a variety of substitutions have been used over the years. Acceptable substitutions should be small enough to grasp in one hand easily, sturdy, and have no sharp edges or points. Here are some examples of acceptable and unacceptable spoon-substitutes.
- Stones, bottle caps, empty aluminum cans, chess pieces, poker chips, large coins...
- Marbles (they roll away and get lost), drinking glasses (they shatter), valuable items such as rings (they always get lost), edible items (always having to be replaced)...