Scum of the Earth - card game rules

Scum of the Earth

Card game for 4-10 players ages 8 and up.

Contributed by Ryan McGuire


1.1New special power for the extra 7 card.
A couple small rules.
Reworded some stuff.
Spelling and grammar fixes.
New email address.

Variants of this game have been played with regular playing cards under the name Asshole and other more descriptive names and is sold commercially by Wizards of the Coast (makers of Magic: The Gathering) as The Great Dalmuti and Dilbert Corporate Shuffle. Scum of the Earth as described here is closest to the Dilbert game but potentially uses more cards for additional players. The name was chosen to try to stick to the Asshole tradition but still be playable at Grandma's house.

Object of the Game
The object of the game is to get rid of the cards in your hand, thereby moving up in rank. The winner of one hand becomes the Head Honcho for the next hand, and the loser becomes the Scum of the Earth.

Number of Players
4-10. You could play with more than 10 but then each player doesn't get very many cards and the value of a good play is decreased.

The Cards
The deck for this game can be created from three standard decks of playing cards. Use 1 Ace, 2 2's, 3 3's, etc. The highest denomination is determined by the number of players.

Number of playersHighest denominationNumber of cards *
4 or 510 10's60
4, 5 or 611 Jacks71
5, 6 or 712 Queens83
6, 7, 8, 9 or 1013 Kings96
* = ...assuming you use only the five extra cards described below. Using the experimental cards described in the optional rules section will of course add more cards.

Additional Cards
Use a Sharpie fine point permanent marker or ball point pen to write on some of the cards (yes actually write right on the cards -- you'll 'ruin' only one deck) to make the following aditional cards. If you're concerned with recreating the three standard decks, you can use jokers for all six extra cards; otherwise it looks nicer if you use cards that already have the correct number/letter in the upper left corner (e.g. use Aces for the A-K WILD! cards). I used a black pen to write on red suited cards and then underlined the index digit in the upper left so that people would know to look for more text. I used a 4 to make the thirteenth King.

A-K - WILD! A-K - WILD! J 0
J Infinity
6 K
Both WILD! cards (before Bonuses) equals a Takeover. Both WILD! cards (before Bonuses) equals a Takeover. A great big zero. Winner of this trick adds this card to his/her hand unless this is the only card played or the player goes out. Select a player to pass for the rest of this trick. This is nothing special -- just the thirteenth king if needed.
(Don't really write this note.)

Card Ranks
In general small cards are good (Aces count as 1's). Notice that the range given on the WILD! cards is A-K. WILD! cards may not be used as 0 or Infinity. For drawing for initial seating, A-K WILD! cards are better than any numbered cards. The special 6 is better than a normal six.

The cards are ranked as follows for Bonuses and Initial Seating:

(best) A-K WILD!, 0, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, Infinity (worst)
(Where the underlined cards are the ones with special meaning.)

Initial Rank
Players draw cards to determine their initial rank, and therefore seat. Ties are broken by a redraw between the tying players. The person who wins this draw is the Head Honcho and gets the first position. The second-to-winner of the draw sits to the Head Honcho's left. Seating continues clockwise around the table to the loser of the draw who is the Scum of the Earth.

Shuffling and Dealing
The Scum of the Earth shuffles the cards and deals one at a time clockwise around the table, starting with the Head Honcho. It doesn't matter if some players get more cards than others.

If the Scum of the Earth accidentally (it darn well better have been an accident) shows a card while dealing, the Head Honcho decides whether A) the intended receipient gets the card, or B) the Scum of the Earth gets the card and has to give the intended player a random card from the Scum's pile.

If anyone is dealt both WILD! cards (before bonuses), they may declare a Takeover (Corporate Takeover, Revolution, whatever). They immediately become the Head Honcho; the person currently to their left becomes the second in line; etc down to the person on the new Head Honcho's right becoming the new Scum of the Earth. If the seating option is used, this may involve a rotate around the table. Don't redeal; just go right on to Bonuses.

This takes place before the first trick of a hand. The Scum of the Earth gives the Head Honcho his best two cards and the Head Honcho gives the Scum, any two cards. Likewise the second ranked player and the second-to-Scum exchange only one card.

The Head Honcho leads to the first trick. The winner of one trick leads to the next. The lead player plays any number of matching cards, such as four Jacks. For both leading to and continuing a trick, any special cards may only be used when cards of that rank are usable -- you can only play the special 6 when a regular 6 is a valid play.

Continuing a Trick
After the lead, play passes clockwise around the table. To play to a trick a player must play the same number of a lower denomination than the current lowest. For example, if the lead the was four Jacks, the next player must play four of any lower denomination or pass. As you might guess, a WILD! card can be used as any other card ranked A-K. In response to a lead of four Jacks, a player could play three 8's and a WILD!. A WILD! card may not be used as either 0 or Infinity.

If a player cannot or chooses not to play to a trick, she passes. Once a player passes she may resume playing if the trick gets back around to her.

When all players pass in response to a play, the trick is over. The Scum of the Earth then collects the cards played. The player who played last to one trick leads to the next trick. There's no need to keep track of who won which tricks -- it just doesn't matter. Some first-time players ask, "I played three fives and then everyone passed. Can't I play my three fours to this trick?" The answer is, "Once everyone else passed you won that trick. You could lead your fours to the next trick if you think that's best."

Going Out
As soon as a player (legally) plays his last card he is out for the current hand. No need to wait and see who wins the trick -- play it and you're out. If a player goes out and ends up being the last person to play to the trick, the first person to that player's left who is still in leads to the next trick. Play for a hand continues until all players are out of cards.

The first person to go out for one hand gets to be the Head Honcho for the next hand. The second person to go out is the second in line next hand, etc. The last person to go out becomes the Scum of the Earth for the next hand. Between hands, everyone moves to their new position. The new Scum of the Earth shuffles and deals, and the whole thing starts all over again.

Freedom of Information Act
The question of the number of cards remaining in a player's hand must be honestly answered whenever asked.

Optional Rules
If possible, use seats that are obviously ranked. The Head Honcho may get a nice leather recliner with a built-in cup holder, the second in line gets a nice chair (but not quite as nice). Some people play where the Scum of the Earth gets no seat at all and has to kneel or stand. Between hands, everyone gets up and moves to their new position. Optionally, if all the the seats are basically the same, the Head Honcho may decree that she doesn't have to move between hands and everyone else has to arrange themselves from there. Basically the Head Honcho's position is, by definition, the head of the table.

To provide some sort of end to the game, you can provide each position with an annual salary after each hand (after trading places). The current Head Honcho gets 4 points; the second in line gets 3 points; the middle players each get 2; the second to bottom gets 1; and the Scum of the Earth gets zippo (just being allowed to be around the other players should be reward enough). Pick some end point, say 25 points -- as soon as someone earns that many points, they win and the game is over.

Experimental Cards
You could try making up other cards. Again you could just write on some of the cards that already have the right number/letter in the upper left. The table below shows some cards not in the Dilbert game.

3-9 wild... 5 7 8 9 10
...but not as wild as the A-K WILD! cards. You may look at any one player's hand. You may take another turn right now. This card may NOT be played as a single unless it is the last card in your hand. This card may only be led to a trick. It may not be used for subsequent plays. This card may be used as either one or two 10's.

The cards are ranked as follows for Bonuses and Initial Seating:

(best) A-K WILD!, 3-9 wild..., 0, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, J, Q, K, Infinity (worst)
(Where the underlined cards are the ones with special meaning.)

If you come up with any good new card ideas, send me some e-mail.

Play the whole 'rank' thing to the hilt. The Head Honcho should make the Scum of the Earth go gets drinks between hands. Everybody should compliment the Head Honcho on his wise decision of cards to play. Barely masked forms of ingratiation should be directed up the line, while stupid comments and arrogance should be sent down the line.

You may want to pick a 'theme' for the game before you start. This will change the names of positions. This also defines how much the top-ranked player can get away with because "it's just part of the game."

Dilbert Corporate Shuffle: Big Boss, Little Boss, Workers, Senior Intern, Junior Intern. "We need to create a cross-functional task force to better manage chaos."
Sports: Head Coach, Assistant Coach, Players, Rookie, Tackling Dummy. "He moved down in rank?... must be diminishing skills."
Military: General, Major, Sergent, Corporal, Recruit. "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!", "YES SIR!", "DROP AND GIMME TWENTY!" This one just begs for abuse.

Strategy Tips
You don't have to play to a trick just because you can. You may want to keep a four-of-a-kind together for later rather than breaking it up to play a pair now. This goes for bonuses as well; the Head Honcho may want to keep his six Queens together and give the Scum of the Earth a Jack and a 10. (Of course the Scum of the Earth doesn't have the option of which cards to pass.)

Well planned use of the dreaded Infinity Card near the end of a hand often determines who gets the joy of being the Scum of the Earth. Think before you play this card. Go reread the Going Out and Fredom of Information Act sections.

Wizards of the Coast, Magic: the Gathering, Corporate Shuffle, and The Great Dalmuti are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
DILBERT © United Features Syndicate, Inc.

Last updated: 24th April 1999