Exploding Aces

Introduction

This game, contributed by Luigi Skull , was inspired by the proprietary game Exploding Kittens but uses a standard 52-card pack.

Aces are bombs, and players are eliminated from the game when holding a bomb that explodes, the winner being the last surviving player. However, unlike the kittens, Aces do not explode immediately when they are drawn from the deck. You can secretly hold an Ace in your hand and survive so long as no one challenges you. A player who believes that an opponent holds an Ace can challenge at any time, and if correct this detonates the Ace and eliminates the holder, but the challenger must draw cards as a penalty is the challenge is wrong.

Kings, which correspond to the defusers in Exploding Kittens, also work differently. A King can only be used to defuse an Ace and place it in the drawing deck during a player's turn. So a player who obtains an ace as the card drawn to end their turn cannot immediately defuse it even if they have a King. The ace must be kept until the player's next turn or until there is an opportunity to discard it or pass it on to another player.

Setup and Deal

This is a game for 2 or more players. A standard international 52-card pack without jokers is used. If there are more than about 6 players we suggest using two decks shuffled together, so as not to run out of cards. The initial direction of play is clockwise, but this may be reversed in the course of play.

Remove all Aces and Kings from the deck, shuffle the cards thoroughly, and deal 2 cards to each player. Then return the Aces and Kings to the remaining deck, shuffle again, and stack it face down. This is the deck from which cards will be drawn during the game. Beside the draw pile will be a face up discard pile, in which played cards are placed after use. The discard pile is initially empty.

For the first game choose the starting player by any convenient method. Subsequently, the winner of each game begins the next.

Play

A turn consists of playing a series of single cards or combination of cards from hand, with the consequences described below. The played cards are placed face up on the discard pile after use. Some cards automatically end a player's turn, some require the turn to continue, and some allow the player to choose whether to continue playing or declare that their turn has ended. At any stage, instead of playing another card or set of cards, the player may end their turn by simply drawing the top card from the stock. It may happen that at the start of a turn a player has no cards at all in their hand, or no cards that they are able or willing to play. In this case the player simply draws the top card of the stock, ending their turn.

At any time during the game, any player may challenge any other player. The challenged player must show all their cards to the challenger, but not to the other players.

  • If the challenged player is holding one or more Aces (bombs), the bomb(s) explode and the player is eliminated from the game. The player's cards are placed on the discard pile (except possibly for the Ace(s) - see Ace rules below).
  • If the challenged player does not hold an Ace, the player who challenged must, as a penalty, immediately draw from the top of the deck the same number of cards that were held by the challenged player.

If at any time the face down drawing deck runs out of cards, a new drawing deck is made by removing all Kings from the discard pile, then shuffling its remaining cards and stacking them face down.

When all players except one have been eliminated, that last surviving player is the winner.

Effects of Individual Cards

Ace (bomb)

A player who acquires an Ace cannot play it as an individual card. They must keep it until either they manage to dispose of it somehow. A player may be able to get rid of an Ace by defusing it with a King on their turn, or through the effect of some other cards that enables it to be discarded or given it to another player, or sometimes by playing it as part of a combination. A player who is challenged while holding an Ace is eliminated from the game.

An Ace cannot be placed in the discard pile if that would result in the number of Aces in play (in the deck or the player's hands) being fewer than the number of players remaining in the game. Therefore, when using a single deck:

  1. If a player is eliminated and there are still four or more surviving players in the game, the eliminated player's Ace or Aces are added to the face down deck, which is then shuffled, while their remaining cards are added to the discard pile.
  2. If a player is eliminated holding more than one Ace and there are fewer than four players remaining in the game, only one of their Aces is placed in the discard pile along with the rest of their hand. Any extra Aces are added to the face down deck, which is then shuffled.

[If a double deck is used then the same principles apply, using rule 1 above when there are more than 8 remaining players and rule 2 when there are fewer than 8.]

King (defuser)

A King can be played to defuse a bomb (Ace) (the suits of the cards do not matter - any King can defuse any Ace). The player shows the Ace and then secretly inserts it face down into the deck in any position that they choose. For example the Ace could be placed as the top or second card of the deck, to try to ensure that it is drawn by the next player, who can then be challenged. The King is then placed in the discard pile and the player's turn continues.

Note that a King can only be used to defuse an Ace during a player's turn. If the player draws a card to end their turn and that card is an Ace, they cannot defuse it immediately as their turn is already finished. They must wait for their next turn for an opportunity to use the King.

If the number of players in the game is greater than the number of Kings in the pack, then a number of Kings equal to the difference are recycled after use as defusers. For example, in a six-player game with a single deck, on the first two occasions that a King is played as a defuser, the player does not discard the King but inserts both the King and the Ace into the drawing deck.

Queen

Playing a Queen ends the player's turn. The next player must either draw two cards or respond by playing another Queen. If they play another Queen the following player must draw four cards or play yet another Queen, and so on until some player is unable to respond with a Queen and draws two cards per Queen played. The player who has drawn cards then continues their turn in the usual way, and will need to draw a further card to end their turn unless they play a card that ends it.

Jack

The player looks at the top four cards four cards of the deck without showing them to the other players, takes one of these cards into their hand, rearranges the other three as they choose and replaces them face down on top of the deck. The player chooses whether to end their turn immediately or continue playing.

Ten

Shuffle the deck. The player's turn continues.

Nine

You cannot play a Nine in your own turn. A Nine can only be played immediately after another player has played a card (other than a King) or a combination. If they played a card, the card they played has no effect. The played card and the Nine are both discarded. A Nine cannot be played to annul the effect of a King or Ace. A Nine can be played to annul the effect of another Nine - the two Nines are discarded and the previously played card or combination is effective again.

If a Nine is played on a combination it annuls one card of the combination, chosen by the player of the Nine. The player of the combination must then either play one of the remaining cards as a single card, or some subset of the remaining cards as a smaller combination. The remaining cards of the original combination are placed on the discard pile without effect. If the original combination contained any Aces and those are not replayed as part of a smaller combination, the player of the combination is eliminated.

Eight

The direction of play is reversed - clockwise to anticlockwise or vice versa. Playing an Eight ends the player's turn.

Seven

The player of the Seven must predict the rank of the top card of the deck, then draw it and show it to everyone.

If the prediction is right, each of the other players in turn in the current direction of play must draw a card from the top of the deck. If the player correctly predicts an Ace, it is returned to the deck, and the deck is shuffled before the other players draw. If the player correctly predicts any other card, the predicted card is discarded and the other players draw. The player's turn continues.

If the prediction is wrong and the top card is an Ace, the player is eliminated. If the prediction is wrong and the top card is not an Ace, the shown card is discarded and the player of the Seven must draw the next two cards from the top of the deck. The player's turn continues.

Six

The player of the Six chooses another player. Each of these two players selects two cards from their hand and passes them face down to the other player. If either the player of the Six or the other player has only one card, then only one card is exchanged. If the player of the Six has no more cards after playing the Six, the chosen player discards all their cards and draws an equal number of new cards from the deck.

If the chosen player holds a Six, they can respond by playing it, in which case there is no exchange.

If playing the Six results in an exchange in which the player receives one or two cards, the player may choose to end their turn or continue playing. If the player of the Six does not receive any cards, the turn must continue.

Note: if a player receives an Ace as a result of an exchange of cards with another player, they are eliminated, because they can immediately be challenged by the player who have them the Ace.

Five

The player of the Five must choose another player who gives them a card from their hand. The card is selected by the chosen player. If the card given is an Ace the player of the Five is eliminated because they will immediately be challenged by the chosen player. If the card given is not an Ace, the player of the Five can choose to end their turn or continue playing.

Four

Playing a Four ends the player's turn, with no other effect.

Three

The player looks at the top three cards of the deck without showing them to the other players, and replaces them face down on top of the deck without changing their order. The player's turn continues.

Two

The player draws the bottom card of the deck. They may then choose to end their turn or to continue playing.

Effects of Card Combinations

Note. These are the only card combinations that can be played. Aces do not explode if included in a played combination. After the combination's effects have been carried out, the Aces are returned to the deck, which is shuffled, the player survives and the game continues.

Pair

Two cards of the same rank. The player chooses an opponent and names a card rank (for example 'King' or 'Jack'). If the chosen player has any cards of that rank they must give one card of that rank to the player of the Pair. If not, the player of the Pair must draw the top two cards from the deck. The player may choose to end their turn or continue playing. You may end your turn or continue playing.

Two Pairs

Four cards: two of one rank and two of another rank. The player chooses an opponent, looks at their hand, selects a card from it and takes it for themselves. The player may then end their turn or continue playing.

Three of a Kind

Three cards of equal rank. The player draws a card from either the top or the bottom of the deck - their choice. They may either keep the card or reject it. If the rejected card is an Ace, it is put back into the decks and the deck is shuffled; if it is any other card it is discarded.

The first card drawn is rejected the player draws a second card in the same way. If the second card is also rejected the player draws a third card which must be kept.

The player may end their turn or continue playing.

Straight

Five cards of consecutive ranks, not all the same suit. Aces can be high or low. For example 7-8-9-10-J or A-2-3-4-5. All players other than the player of the straight must draw two cards from the top of the deck. They do this in turn in the current direction of play, beginning with the next player after the player of the straight. After this, the Straight player's turn continues.

Flush

Five cards of the same suit, not all consecutive. Each opponent of the player of the Flush must pass their hand face down to the next player in order of play. The player just before the Flush player passes their hand to the player after the Flush player. All cards are passed simultaneously. Note that if any of the passed hands contain an Ace, the player receiving the hand will be eliminated because they will immediately be challenged by the player who passed them the Ace. After this the Flush player's turn continues.

Full House

Five cards: three of one rank plus two of another rank, for example 8-8-8-6-6. All other players who have cards keep just one card of their choice from their hands. All their other cards are returned face down to the deck after which the deck is shuffled. Players who have no cards are unaffected. The Full House player's turn continues.

Four of a Kind

Four cards of equal rank. The player draws one card from the hand of each opponent who has cards. The opponents offer their hands face down and the player of the Four of a Kind draws a card unseen from each. The opponents then discard all their remaining cards. If any of these cards are Aces they are returned to the deck, which is shuffled: other cards are discarded. If the player of the Four of a Kind drew any Aces, they will now be challenged and eliminated. If not, they can choose to end their turn or continue playing.

Straight Flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit, Ace counting as the lowest card of its suit. All other players give all their cards to the person who played the Straight Flush. If any of those cards are Aces, the Straight Flush player will be challenged and eliminated. If not, the player may choose to end their turn or continue playing.

Royal Flush

Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of the same suit. All opponents must show a King from their hand. All those who do not hold a King are eliminated. The player's turn continues.

Advice

Luigi Skull offers the following tactical tips.

  • The Three is a support card. It is best to use it at the start of series of plays. For example if you play Three and find that the top card of the deck is a bomb you can:
    • Use a Two to draw from the bottom of the deck instead of the top
    • Use a 10 to shuffle the deck.
    • Use a 4 to end you turn, leaving the problem of the bomb to the next player
    • Use a Queen to force the next player to take the bomb
    • Use a Seven and predict that the next card is a bomb. You save yourself from the bomb and everyone else will have to risk drawing a card. This is the best follow-up to a Three
  • You are least likely to draw a bomb early in the game. The fewer cards remain in the deck the more likely you are to draw a bomb.
  • The best time to challenge a player is when he has only one card, so that you only need to draw one card if you are wrong.
  • The 6 is most valuable when you do not have any cards, so try to play it as your last card.
  • The two is useful to avoid bombs.
  • The 9 is useful against combination plays.