Mao Variants

This page is part of the Invented Games section of the Card Games web site. It is a collection of variations of the card game Mao.

People's Democratic Dictatorship

Contributed by Marcus Graly

There is a variant of Mao called People's Democratic Dictatorship. It is like standard Mao, except each player makes up one rule and is responsible for enforcing that rule only. In my experience, this game is better than standard Mao, because everyone is on equal footing, rather than those who know the rules lording over those who don't.

This variant was invented by my brother, Joseph Graly, and some of his friends at Carleton College.

The problem of contradictions between different players' rules, which is rare to begin with, can be largely avoided if rules are of the prescriptive form. (ie. In situation A you must do B) However, this is not required. In my view, contradictions in the rules are perfectly consistent with the spirit of the game, and it would be interesting (although somewhat frustrating) if in some situations you could only satisfy one player's rules.

The name of the variant assumes that the name the original card game refers to Mao Zedong. This etymology, while possibly incorrect, is still appropriate, since in Mao's China people were often punished for breaking rules whose existence they could not have been aware, as "the party line" was constantly changing.

Rose Mau

A variation of Mao (Mau) with some similarities to Bartok, by Guy Srinivasan

Best with 5 to 9.
One or two standard 52 card decks, with or without jokers.
The dealer gives each player seven cards, one at a time, and then gives herself an additional two cards. Finally, one card is turned face up as the beginning of the discard pile.
Player to the left of the dealer plays first. A play consists of placing one card from the hand face up on the discard pile, matching either value or suit. If this is not possible (or if chosen), player draws one card instead.
The player who first has zero cards in her hand is the winner and the dealer of the next round. Note: The two extra cards given to the dealer are intended to compensate for the dealer's natural advantage in this game. The handicap of beginning with nine cards rather than seven makes it more difficult for the dealer to win and keep the deal for the next round.
The Rules:
Before each round, the dealer makes up a rule and writes it down. He may also cross out any or all existing created rules. There are to be a maximum of three created rules in effect at once, so if three created rules are already in effect, to create a new rule, the dealer must cross out at least one rule. These rules are not shared with non-dealers.
Play under the Rules:
Players other than the dealer may not talk during a round other than to say "Mau" (or some agreed phrase), after which they may clarify the game state (or request a drink, etc.) If a player talks otherwise, or if a player attempts to play an illegal card, plays out of turn, fails to draw a card, takes too long, or otherwise breaks the rules, the dealer should give that player a card.
Examples of typical created Rules:
  1. Aces reverse order of play.
  2. Only even, non-face cards may be played after 5's.
  3. 6's skip two players.
  4. Playing a 7 gives the player another turn.
Examples of wacky created Rules:
  1. Apply all existing rules other than this. If a card is playable, it is now not, otherwise, it is.
  2. 2's may be played at any time, during any player's turn.
  3. After a king is played to some discard pile, that discard pile is shuffled and dealt face up one at a time into two discard piles.
Last updated: 27th October 2019