5 Classic Family Games That Only Require A Deck Of Cards

April 2015 Web Exclusive

Is your family a big rowdy bunch of gamer-lovers? Sometimes there's nothing better than to host a showdown of epic card-playing proportions when the crowd needs a break from swimming or sunning but wants to do something together. These five games are easy to play on a houseboat since they're very space-efficient, requiring nothing but your basic deck of cards (with the exception of Spoons, which requires—you guessed it—spoons. And if you don't have some in the galley, go out and get some, you crazy!) Some of these top family picks from About.com you probably were born playing, while others might be a fun new challenge or a twist on a game you used to play. Check out what you think below. All of these are designed to be fun for the variety of ages you're bound to find in any family, and most are simple enough for the little kids to grasp quickly so they can feel included in game night. Most importantly of all, don't forget to have fun.    

1.  Crazy Eights

Variations of this 2 to 4 player game date back to the mid-1600s. In Crazy Eights (also known as Eights and Swedish Rummy), cards are dealt to each player and the rest are placed in a draw pile. Flip the first card over, and whatever suit is exposed is the suit each person must discard. If a 5 of diamonds is flipped over and you don’t have diamonds, you can either lay a 5 of another suit (and change the suit that those after you must follow) or draw cards until you can lay something down. Eights are wild cards and let you change the suit to whatever you want. Whoever discards all of their cards first wins.

2.  Go Fish

A classic 2-6 player kid’s game that most everybody probably knows, the aim of Go Fish to collect as many sets of four cards of the same rank as you can by taking turns asking other players for cards they might have. If you’re asked if you have any kings, for example, you have to hand over all the kings in your hand, and if the person asking gets what they ask for, they get to keep continuing their turn. When they run out of luck and their request can’t be fulfilled, the player draws a card from the draw pile and it’s the next person’s turn. Kids sometimes love shaping the draw pile into whatever picture they want, keeping the cards face down, of course. This game is easy for the independent youngsters who want to join in game night.  

3.  I Doubt It

A great game for a mixed-age group, you can play with 3 to 5 players with one deck of cards or 6 to 11 players with two decks. Deal out all the cards and have the first person lay one or more cards face down in the middle, saying the amount (however cards they just played) and rank (starting with Aces and going to twos). The next player must lay down however many kings she has, the next player discards and says something like, “Three queens,” and so on. If you suspect someone is lying about what cards they discarded, call them out by saying, “I doubt it.” If you were right, they have to take the whole pile of discarded cards. If you’re wrong, you have to take the cards. The game keeps going through the cycle until the first person can successfully get rid of all of their cards.

4.  Spoons

A fast-paced game for up to 13 players, Spoons is a fast-paced game where everyone tries to be the first to collect four of the same-ranking cards, such as four jacks. Everyone is dealt four cards and sits in a circle with spoons spaced in the middle. You must have one less spoon than there are players. The person sitting by the deck flips over a card and passes a card facedown to the next person, who picks it up and passes one to the next person, and so on. You can each choose to swap the card you’re handed out for one in your deck or reject it and pass it to the next person, depending on what rank you’re going after. As soon as the first person gets four of a kind, they grab a spoon. This is the trigger for everyone to snatch a spoon as fast as they can, because whoever’s left without one is eliminated from the round and everyone starts again with one less spoon. You can either grab it sneakily and see who’s paying attention and how sneakily the others can claim spoons, or you can swoop in like a sea gull and watch quick-fingered pandemonium ensue.

5.  Go Boom

The goal of this trick-taking game is to get rid of your cards as fast as you can. The dealer gives each person 7 cards and the rest of the cards form the draw pile in the middle. The first person plays whatever card they want from their hand. Each player then has to lay down something that is the same suit or rank (so if the first card is an Ace of hearts, the next player has to lay an Ace or a heart). If you can’t lay anything down, you have to draw until you’re able to. Once the draw pile runs out, you have to skip your turn. Once everyone has a chance to lay a card down, the highest card of the initial suit wins the trick. Keep playing until the first person can get rid of all their cards. If you want to play a mini-game score card version, give each card a point value. Aces are one, face cards are ten, and everything else is worth whatever the number value is. Each time a player wins a trick they add up the points in their hand, and the first to reach 200 wins the game. 

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