Impossible Poker is a fun, social card game where the players do not know the rules. This simple game can be playable with a single deck of playing cards and several tokens. It was originally conceived by Kelli Dunlap, Eric Vignola, James Kim, and Taro Omiya at Global Game Jam 2015 at MAGFest. The original game source can be found on the jam’s website, but an improved version is listed below.
This game was funded by David Lin, Joshua Jennings, Tommy Pedersen, Jacob Clark, and Adam Vierra on Patreon. Thank you for your patronage.
The objective of the game is to discover the secret Rule(s) governing the card game created by the RuleMaster. The game can be played cooperatively or competitively.
- A deck of playing cards.
- Some tokens, preferably poker chips.
- 4 or more players.
- A card to indicate ‘Yes’ and a card to indicate ‘No.’
- Designate one player as the RuleMaster.
- The RuleMaster secretly creates Rule(s) which will apply to the playing cards.
- The RuleMaster may not reveal the secret Rule(s) until it is correctly guessed by the other players.
- The Rule(s) must follow the guidelines listed at the bottom.
- The players should agree on the number of secret rules to be created. It is strongly recommended to start with only one Rule. However, more rules = harder game!
- For some examples, we created a random rules generator to help come up with a few playable rules. It even supports 3 difficulty levels: 1, 2, and 3 rules!
- The RuleMaster deals five face-down cards to each player.
- Each player is provided 3 chips or tokens.
- The RuleMaster must say the following rules:
Unless the rule(s) say otherwise, assume that:
- High card wins the round.
- Aces, Jacks, Queens, and Kings are valued as 1, 11, 12, and 13 respectively.
- Jokers should be removed.
There is 1 (or whatever number of rules agreed upon) secret Rule(s), and you the player must decipher it.
How to play:
- All players receive 3 tokens.
- All players receive cards from the RuleMaster until they have 5 cards in their hand.
- All players play one card at the same time.
- The RuleMaster determines how the card ranks based upon the Rule(s), starting with the highest valued, winning cards first.
- The cards are stacked in ranking order so that all cards are visible, and the highest-valued card appears on the top of the stack. If there are any ties, the cards are positioned side-by-side to indicate the tie. This is the end of round one.
- These steps are repeated for round two and round three.
- At the end of round 3, players publicly ask a yes/no question of the RuleMaster pertaining to the Rule(s). In competitive mode, the RuleMaster answers privately by passing the player either the Yes or No card, while in cooperative mode, the RuleMaster answers publicly.
- Players may choose to guess the Rule(s) (rather than ask a question) during this inquiry period. The RuleMaster responds publicly by telling the player that his/her Rule guess is correct or incorrect. If a player successfully guess the Rule(s), the game ends and the player becomes the new RuleMaster. If not, see below.
- If a player guesses the Rule(s) and is incorrect, play resumes as before with players allowed to ask a question or guess the Rule(s) every three rounds.
- If a player wishes to ask a question or guess the Rule(s) out of turn (not on the third, sixth, ninth, etc) round, they must play one token. Players may only play one token per round. If the player uses all three tokens, they may no longer ask questions or guess the Rule(s) out of turn, but may do so during the scheduled inquiry.
- Players are free to communicate with other players and regarding their thoughts, questions, responses, and other game information. However, the first player to correctly identify the Rule(s) wins and becomes the new RuleMaster. Therefore, sharing information and ideas may put the player at a disadvantage.
- If during the game there are no more cards to be dealt to the players, the players continue playing one card per round until they have no more cards in their hands. Once all cards are played, players are allowed one last chance to guess the Rule(s) regardless of the round.
- Should the above occur and no player has correctly identified the Rule(s), the RuleMaster remains the RuleMaster for the next game.
- At the start of a new game – whether a player won and is the new RuleMaster or if the original RuleMaster remains – new Rule(s) will be created.
The Rule(s) created by the RuleMaster should determine the winning card played by the players based on what cards were played that round.
- Ties are allowed.
- The RuleMaster distributes one new card to each player at the start of each round.
- The Rule created by the RuleMaster must pertain to the cards; number, suit, color are all acceptable. Basing the Rule on the shirt a player is wearing or who has the next upcoming birthday is not.
- The Rule(s) can transform the features of the cards. For example, the Rule may add 2 points to all diamonds that were played, or the highest played odd number card wins.
- The Rule must be guessable. Rules such as “add 100 points to all hearts” or “Kings always wins” are not allowed.
- The more likely a combination of cards that would make the Rule apparent appears, the better. “Red cards always wins” is a good rule because both red and black cards appear in 50/50 chances, while “card with the value closest to 2” is not, as only Ace, 2, and 3 cards would reveal the nature of the rule
Feel free to make your own Rule(s), or use the random rules generator below.
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