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El Royale

Contributed by Adomas Milius


This game is for 2 to 8 players using a standard 52-card pack, cards ranking from King (high) down to Ace (low). Players can play individually or in teams, for example 2 against 2 or 3 against 3.

At the start of the game each player has a hand of 4 cards. Cards are played in a series of battles between two players, during which other players can also throw in cards. After each battle players with fewer than 4 cards replenish their hands to four cards. To win the game a player has to complete a set of four equal ranked cards on top of the battle pile, and have no other cards left in hand at that moment.

The Deal

To begin the game four cards are dealt to each player, one card at a time, clockwise, beginning with the dealer. The remaining cards are stacked face down to form a drawing deck.

For the first game the dealer and the starting player (who begins the first battle) are chosen at random. In subsequent games the loser of the previous game (or a member of the losing team) will shuffle and deal and the winner of the previous game will start the new game.

During the game there will be (up to) three piles of cards on the table:

  1. The deck or "new cards" - a face down pile from which cards are drawn to replenish players' hands when they have fewer than 4 cards at the end of a battle. At the start of the game this contains all cards not dealt to the players.
  2. The battle pile (face up) - cards that have been played during the current battle. This is empty at the start of the game and after each battle. These cards should be overlapped so that players can clearly see the rank and value of each card in the pile.
  3. The discard pile or "old cards" - a face down pile cards that have been played in previous battles and not picked up by any player. This is empty at the start and accumulates cards during the game. Any time that the "new cards" pile becomes empty, the discard pile is shuffled and stacked face down to make a new deck of "new cards" from which cards can be drawn.


In each battle there is an attacker and a defender. The defender is the player sitting to the left of the attacker. The starting player is the attacker for the first battle.

To begin a battle the attacker plays a single card or any number of equal cards face up to the battle pile. There is a short pause during which any players other than the defender, in clockwise order beginning to the defender's left, can play cards of the same rank as the attacker's card(s) on top of the battle pile if they wish to. Then it is the defender's turn, and there are two possibilities.

Case 1. The defender beats the attack

The defender beats the attack by playing either

  1. a card of the same rank as the top card of the battle pile, or
  2. a card of same suit and higher rank than the top card of the battle pile.

After this, all players, again in clockwise order, beginning with the defender, may if they wish throw in further cards equal in rank to the top card of the battle pile.

There is now an opportunity for a player to pick up the whole battle pile and add it to their hand. If more than one player wants it, the attacker has the highest priority, then the other players in clockwise order. However, the defender is not allowed to pick up the battle pile if no cards have been added to it by other players after the attack was beaten. In practice, the attacker either takes the battle pile or pauses briefly to see whether anyone else wants to take it. If no one else claims it the attacker sets aside all the cards played in the battle, placing them face down on the discard pile.

After the battle pile has been cleared (discarded or picked up), all players who have fewer than 4 cards in hand must draw cards from the deck (the "new cards" pile) until they have 4 cards again. The attacker draws first, then the defender, then the other players in clockwise order. After everyone who needs to has drawn cards, the defender becomes the new attacker and begins the next battle.

Example. The attacker plays the club7 and another player throws in the diamond7 on top of it. Now in order to beat the attack, the defender can play an equal card, in this case the heart7 or spade7, or the defender can play a diamond higher than the 7, for example the diamond10. If the defender played the diamond10 everyone can now throw in 10's. If the defender played a 7, then the only card that can be thrown in is the fourth 7.

Case 2. The defender concedes

If the defender cannot or decides not to beat the attack, all the cards played to the battle pile are picked up and added to the defender's hand. That ends the battle.

All players holding fewer than four cards must now draw cards from the top of the deck so that they have four cards again. The attacker draws first, then the other players in clockwise order. (The defender will always have more than four cards after picking up so does not draw any.) Having lost the battle, the defender does not get a turn to attack. The next attacker is the player to the defender's left.

Winning the Game

The play continues until a player satisfies the winning conditions. In order to win you must

  1. play the last of four cards of equal rank to the battle pile, and
  2. having played that card have no cards left in your hand.

Play continues until some player satisfies both conditions and wins. In a partnership game, when a player meets the winning conditions, the player's team wins.

Some examples of winning situations:

  1. Suppose you have collected a hand consisting of four nines and no other cards. If the player to your right is the defender and loses the battle, picking up the battle pile, it is now your turn and you can attack with your four nines and immediately win the game. This is lucky for you but quite unusual.
  2. Suppose you have collected a hand containing four queens and nothing else. You are the defender, and the player to your right attacks you with some card(s) lower than a queen, for example one or more jacks. Irrespective of what jacks are thrown into the attack, you can beat the last jack with your queen of the same suit and then throw in your other three queens, winning the game.
  3. Suppose your hand consists of 5, 5, J, J. You attack with your two fives and the defender beats your second five with a jack. Your partner now throws in a second jack. You can now throw in the last two jacks, winning the game.
  4. You are neither the attacker nor the defender and your hand is 8, K, K, K. Your partner attacks the defender with an 8 and you throw in your 8. The defender beats your 8 with the king of the same suit. You can now throw in your three kings to win the game.
  5. It is possible to win even if you have more than 4 cards in your hand. For example your hand is 4, 4, 4, 10, 10. You attack with your three fours and unwisely the defender beats the last 4 with a 10. Your partner throws in a 10. Now you can throw in the other two 10's to win the game.

Some examples of non-winning situations:

It is impossible to win if you have more than two different ranks in your hand. In any battle at most two different ranks can be played, so you cannot get rid of all your cards.

Although an attack can be beaten by playing an equal card, it is impossible to win by this method. For example if you are attacked with an 8 and you hold the other three 8's you can win the battle by playing them all. This ends the battle but you have not won the game because you must have at least one card left over (you always have at least four cards in your hand at the start of a battle). So the game continues. You must replenish your hand to four cards and then it is your turn to attack.

Your hand is J, J, Q, Q and you are neither the attacker nor the defender. The attacker plays two jacks. You cannot win by throwing in your jacks because you would still have two queens in your hand, so you wait. Defender beats the second jack with a queen. Now you can throw in your two queens, but you can no longer get rid of your jacks because the top card of the battle pile is now a queen, not a jack. Unless someone kindly throws in the missing queen, there is no way you can win the game during this battle. You can get rid of all your jacks and you can empty your hand, but your hand cannot be empty at the moment when you play the fourth jack.

It is impossible to win if you are attacked by a king. Since the king is the highest card, no cards other than kings can be played. Normally it will be best to concede the battle and pick up the king to use later.

Communication, Conventions and Etiquette

Table talk is permitted throughout the game. This is particularly useful in a partnership game. For example the defender might ask a partner to throw a card of a different suit into the attack, if unable or unwilling to beat the original attack card. Or any player might ask a partner to throw in a card if this enables them to win the game by playing the remaining cards of that rank. Or a partner might ask the next attacker to attack with a particular rank, so as to get rid of some cards of that rank by throwing them in.

Players are allowed to show their cards. In particular, when you know that an opponent is collecting a particular rank, and you have a card of that rank, you may like to reverse it in your hand, with the back facing you and the card value visible to the other players, to remind yourself not to give it to the player who wants it.

Any information exchanged must be available to all players. Private conversations are not allowed and any card shown to another player must be shown to all players.

The "new cards" (draw) pile and the "old cards" (discard) pile are kept face down and players are not allowed to inspect the cards in these piles.

Players should hold their cards so that everyone knows how many cards each other player holds at all times. If asked how many cards you hold you must answer truthfully.

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Last updated: 2nd January 2019