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Rugby League

Contributed by Joe Foxon

You need: A standard 52-card deck, Paper, Pencil, Coin. Cards rank from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

On the paper, draw out the following diagram:

T | 1 2 3 | 3 2 1 | T

The diagram represents the pitch, with the home team on the left and the away team on the right. The coin will be placed on the diagram to represent its position on the pitch. There are three positions within each half of the pitch, and the 'T' at each end reprents a try (touchdown). The verticle lines mark the centre and ends of the pich - the coin cannot be placed on a line.

At the start of the game and at the start of each new set (see below), deal two rows of 6 cards face down on the table, one row for each player as follows:

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Leave the other cards in a pile face down in reaching distance (they will be needed later on). The 'home team' places the coin on the 1 at their end of the paper like this:

T | O 2 3 | 3 2 1 | T

The home team attacks first and the away team has up to six opportunities to tackle them.

First Tackle

Each of the players chooses one of their 6 cards without looking at them. They turn over the cards and whoever has the higher wins the 'tackle'. The attacking team advances the coin (ball) one space towregardless of the result (the reason will be explained later). In the case of a tie, each player takes a card from the top of the draw pile, and whoever draws the higher card wins. Further ties are dealt with in the same way.

Second Tackle

The two cards from the first tackle are discarded. Both players choose one from their remaining 5 cards. The higher card wins, but new rules come into play from this point on. If the attacking team loses two tackles (not necessarily consecutive) in the series of 6, they kick forward 2 spaces (or to the defence's 1 space, whichever is closer). If the ball is already on the defence's 1-space it does not move.

If either team plays the same rank card for two consecutive turns, a penalty is conceded (penalties will be described later on).

Subsequent tackles

Play continues as in the first two tackles until either:

  • A try is scored by moving the coin onto the opponent's T-space.
  • A penalty is given, which restarts the set from the first tackle and resets the number of tackles lost to zero.
  • The attacking team loses 2 tackles in the current series, in which case the opponent gets possession of the ball and becomes the attacker.


A set is any series of tackles between changes in possession or points being scored.

A set ends when either the attacking team loses 2 tackles or points are scored, but not when a penalty is conceded by either side.

For example:

  • First tackle: Home team: 7 of spades, Away team: 5 of diamonds, Home team advances to 'Home 2'.
  • 2nd tackle: Home team: 3 of hearts, Away team: Q of diamonds, Home team advances to 'Home 3'.
  • 3rd tackle: Home team: J of clubs, Away team: Q spades, Penalty, Home team kicks forward 2 spaces to 'Away 2'. The tackles lost count returns to zero and players' hands are restored to the full 6 cards.
  • 1st tackle: Home team: 4 of hearts, Away team: 8 clubs, Home team advances to 'Away 1'.
  • 2nd tackle: Home team: 10 spades, Away team: J diamonds. Home team loses 2 tackles. END OF SET


A penalty is awarded against any player who chooses a card of the same rank as in their previous turn. Cards drawn to break ties are included. For example if a round is tied 6-6, then the redraw is 8-6, the attacking team wins a penalty. If there is a 10-10 tie, the redraw is 4-7, then the next turn is 10-3, it is not a penalty, because the two 10's were not played consecutively.

When a penalty is awarded against your opponent you can:

  • Kick for touch - if you are in your own half of the field, you can advance the ball 2 spaces towards your opponent's try line.
  • Kick for goal - if you are in your opponent's half of the field, you can attempt a kick at goal.
  • Tap and run - you take your turn as normal (good if you are close to your opponent's try line and have a good chance of scoring)


A try is scored when the 'ball' is advanced to the opponent's 'T space'. A try is worth 4 points. After a try is scored, the team attempts a conversion.


Any remaining cards in the player's hands are collected and discarded. Each player is dealt a row of three cards face down.

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These cards are played in the same way as in a set, redrawing after any ties. If the try was scored without losing a tackle, the attacking team must only win one of the three rounds to score the conversion. If one tackle was lost, the attacker must win at least two of the three rounds. A conversion is worth 2 points.

After the conversion attempt, successful or unsuccessful, the scoring team restarts play as the attacker with the ball on their 1-space.

Penalty - kicks for goal

Any remaining cards are collected and discarded, and three cards are dealt to each player as in a conversion. The number of wins required depends on field position. If the kick is being taken from the opponent's '1 space', 1 win is needed, from the '2 space' 2 wins and from the '3 space' 3 wins. Successful penalty goals are worth 2 points and the scoring team starts a new set from their 1-space. If unsuccessful, the attacking team restarts play from their '2 space' with the full set of 6 cards.

Drop Goals

If you are in your opponent's half of the field, you can attempt a drop goal. The procedure and the number of round wins is the same as in a penalty goal attempt. If a drop goal is successful, it scores 1 point and the scoring team starts a new set from their 1-space. If unsuccessful, the defending team restarts play from their '2 space'.

Half time and full time

The first half ends after a total of 10 sets have been played. The second half ends after a further 10 sets. The winner of the match is the team with the most points after 20 sets. If it is a tie, extra time (5 sets each way, or until any points are scored) is played.

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Last updated: 28th June 2010