Hidden Rules

Hidden Rules banner.
Release Date: 
Monday, November 30, 2009
Setup Time: 
Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Minimum Age: 

Game Idea / Object

Each player gets a secret rule at the start of the game. All rules are in play – including the ones you don’t know. It’s up to the person who has the rule to enforce it or not. Your goal is to be the first player to accumulate 3 points. The best way to do this is by learning the secret rules of the game faster than the other players and taking tricks.

You Need

A standard Poker deck (Jokers removed)
A Hidden Rules trigger deck
A Hidden Rules action deck

Paper and pencil to track scores (optional, but recommended)


Shuffle the Hidden Rules trigger deck. Shuffle the Hidden Rules action deck. Deal two triggers and two actions to each player. Set the rest aside, out of play. Pick one of your triggers and one of your actions to keep. Set the cards you do not keep aside, out of play. You may look at your trigger and action any time during the game, but you should keep them secret.

Shuffle the Poker deck and deal 5 cards to each player. You may look at your cards. You may keep them secret. Set the Poker deck face-down in the middle of the table – this is the deck. Turn the top card over to start the first trick.

Variant—You may find the game more enjoyable if you deal out one fewer card per player for every player more than three. (Four players get four cards each. Five players get three cards each.)


(Note: The basic game is simply Up ‘N Over (http://stonesoupentertainments.com/content/and-over).)

The basic game is played in tricks. The dealer begins the first trick of the game; after that, each trick begins when the last player to take a trick takes the top card of the deck, places it face-up on the table, and announces its value. Starting with the player to his or her left, and proceeding clockwise, each player must play a card from his or her hand on the trick, calculate the sum of all cards in the trick, and announce the sum.

Card Values: 2 through 10 are worth their face value. Aces are worth 1 or 11 (declared when played). Jacks are worth 0 points, Queens are worth -2 points, and Kings are worth -4 points.

If the sum is less than 21, play continues normally. If you bring the sum to exactly 21, you take the trick. If you push the sum over 21, the player to your right takes the trick, for forcing you to exceed 21. When you take a trick, add one to your score, and gather the cards from the trick into a pile face-down in front of you. Once taken, the cards from a trick may not be looked at.

When a trick is taken, draw your hand back up to a full hand of cards. If there are not enough cards to fill all players’ hands, take the cards from all previous tricks, shuffle them to create a new deck, and continue filling hands and playing as normal.

Playing out of turn is illegal. Taking more than 5 seconds to play your card is also illegal.

All hidden rules are also in play. Each combination of a trigger and an action is a rule. It’s up to you to enforce (or not) a rule that you know about. When you enforce a rule, you must give the person information to indicate in what way their action violated the rule. The information you provide must be more specific than the violation. If you violate a rule, take back the card you played (if applicable), lose a point, and your turn ends (if it’s your turn).

For example, trigger #13 says, “When you play a card that makes the total exactly zero…” and action #5 says, “…Name a Peanuts character that hasn’t been named previously this game before you announce the sum of the trick.” If I make the total 0 and don’t say anything, you can make me take back my card and say, “You didn’t say a name.” The next time I make the total 0, If I say, “Neil Armstrong,” you can correct me again and say, “Neil Armstrong isn’t fictional.”

You do not have to show your rule to the player who violated it. If you violate a rule and you think that the player who’s enforcing it is making it up, you can challenge the rule. If a player challenges your rule, you must show that player your rule card. If you’re not enforcing the rule correctly, you lose a point and that player gains a point. If you’re enforcing the rule correctly, you gain a point and the challenger loses a point.

If you’ve seen another player enforce a rule but they’re not enforcing it right now (You may not want to enforce your rules on yourself, for example.), you can attempt to enforce that rule (even though you don’t have it). If someone challenges you, the player who you think has the rule must show it to the challenger. If the player who you think has the rule show the rule you’re enforcing, you gain a point and the challenger and the rule holder lose a point. If the rule holder can not show the rule you’re enforcing, you lose a point and the challenger and the rule holder gain a point.

No player’s score can go lower than -10.


The first player to end a round with 3 or more points more wins.

Origin and Credits

I thought of this game as I was preparing dinner on Saturday, April 29th, 2006. I wanted to have a game where every game was different, and each player had limited, imperfect knowledge of how this instance of the game was different. I wish I could make it so repeated plays of the game would not lend a player an advantage, but that’s not really possible.

Obviously, this game owes a lot to the children’s “folk game” Mao. ( http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1280231 ) I did a lot of research into Mao to prepare for making the game. Following is a lis of all the Mao triggers and effects I found:

Never tell anyone Mao rules.

4 = Barbaric Yawp
Spade = Say, “Spade”
7 of Spades = Say the card
Cumulative effect
Break = Point of order – do talk and discuss things.
End Break = Un-point of order.

  • Penalty for touching cards during a P of O
  • forbidden words (P of O)
    No talking – only dealer can talk
    Failure to say “last card”.
    “Snoopy Flying Ace of Spades”
    Reverse order of play
    Drop all the cards


The Cards

Unless otherwise specified, assume the same number in different suits maintain the same rules. The name of the card must also be declared as it is being played.

2-Failure to say, that’s the deuce, homey!”
Failure to say, “That’s the duece of Spades, homey!”
Failure to declare a new suit.
3-Failure to play a another card.
4-Failure to play another card.
5-Failure to play card with both hands.
6-No Rule.
7-Failure to compliment someone.
Sucking up to the dealer.
8-Failure to quote a holy book.
9-Failure to insult someone.
Offending the dealer.
10-Failure to observe change in rotation.
Jack-Failure to say, “Have a nice day.”
(To person next in rotation) Failure to draw to cards.
Queen-Failure to say, “That’s the lady on the corner.”
(To person next in rotation) Failure to ask, “What corner?”
Failure to declare a corner
(To question asker) Asking a question.
King-Failure to say, “It’s good to be da king!”(ala History of the World Part I)
Ace-Failure to shout, “YAWP!” (think Dead Poet’s Society)

Two sixes are played in a row-Failure to say, “It’s on the root.”
3 sixes are played in a row-Failure to say, “It’s the sign.”
Failure to make the sign.(Players who have not made the sign are given cards repeatedly until they make the sign of the cross)
Two Jacks are played in a row-Failure to say, “Have a very, very nice day.”
(To next person)Failure to draw four cards. *Note: As the number of Jacks in a row continues to grow, so do the number of “very’s,” and the number of cards drawn by the person next in rotation goes up by two to power of the number of “very’s” said. Example: “Have a very, very, very nice day.”= 8 cards drawn from the pile.
Two Aces are played in a row-Failure to say, “Barbaric Yawp.”
Three Aces are played in a row-Failure to say, “O Captain, my Captain.”(4 Aces resets back to “Yawp”)

Point of Order

A point of order is essentially a time out. Questions may be asked if they are not involving the game, and everyone is more or less free to chill out for awhile. They are most often called to settle a dispute a play or to allow time for a bathroom/food/orgy break. Only the dealer can call a P of O, but others can imply they would like one or take a card for asking for one and most dealers are nice enough to comply.

For any Spade(except 2)-Declaring the card’s name
For any Heart-Playing with the incorrect hand(use your left one)
Person has one card left-Failure to say, “I’m riding one horse.”
If the person before you lays down a queen, and you have the king of the same suit, instead of taking the “what corner” question foul, you can opt to place the king down after they say, “That’s the lady on the corner,” and reply with, “And that’s her pimp!”
-Saying mao while playing(this is a five-ten card foul and is held even during P of Os’)
-Being a dumbass
It may be noted that in mao the dealer=god and can handle situations that annoy them or amuse them by giving or taking away cards.

Most variants share a few basic types of special cards. These include:

* A face value that reverses order of play when played (commonly eight,8111215 but not always9) * Aces cause the next player to skip his turn89111415 * Jacks are commonly wild, allowing any player to call out a new suit when a jack is played891112 * Spade cards must be named when played (eg, playing an ace of spades requires the player to say “ace of spades”)891113 * A seven forces the next player in order to draw a penalty card and requires the person who played it to announce “have a nice day.” If the next player also plays a seven, he announces “have a very nice day” and the player after that draws two penalty cards. The number of “very“s and penalty cards can increase as long as sevens can be played.911121315

Further rules

As noted above, in many variants an additional rule is silently and secretly added to the game with each round. There may also be additional rules that are already in effect at the beginning of the game, just to get things moving, and these rules may be known to all players, or perhaps only to the dealer. The rules will vary from group to group, and possibly from game to game, but most rules fall under one of the following four categories5.

* When happens, perform an action (say a phrase, knock on the table, etc) * When happens, something about the game changes (skip the next person’s turn, reverse turn order, anything can be played after a jack, etc) * An action must always, or never, be performed (no unnecessary talking, don’t straighten the pile, etc) * Something fundamental about the game changes (a king is treated as if it were a jack for all game purposes)

Note that the listed above can be absolutely anything. Common examples include playing a specific card (“the ace of spades”) or a specific type of card (“any red three”), but amongst sneakier players, the triggering conditions can become quite complicated. Such more complicated examples might include “when someone plays a face card on top of a non-face card”, “when someone plays a nine with their right hand”, or even “playing an odd numbered card on top of an even numbered card”.


Here is a list of some specific examples of triggering conditions, actions, and game effects. To “create” a rule, one could pick a triggering condition, and then one or more action and/or game effect. The spirit of the rule is generally something in good fun, and may make more sense when in context; such as saying “He’s dead, Jim” when playing what is known as “the suicide king”.[citation needed]

Triggering Conditions The choice of triggering conditions is highly important. You must be aware that for quite some period, you may be the only person capable of enforcing your rule, and that occasionally mis-enforcing it or failing to enforce it altogether is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the game. Hence it must be a rule of which you can easily keep track, and obviously, it must also be a ‘fun’ rule.

* Playing a card of the same face value * Playing additional cards of the same face value * Playing a specific number of cards of the same face value * Playing a card of a different-colored suit * Playing an identical card (when multiple decks are used) * Playing a specific card * Straightening the pile of cards * Switching from face cards to numbered cards * Switching from numbered cards to face cards * Playing a number card matching the number closest to the minute hand of the clock on the wall * Playing a prime card, or a fibonacci card * Playing a card ‘upside down’ (while many cards are vertically symmetrical, odd-numbered cards other than diamonds have a top and a bottom in most decks) * Playing a card whose face value is equal to the product of the face values of the two cards previously played (mod 13).


* Announce the name of the card being played * Announce the suit only of the card being played * Announce an incorrect name of the card being played (e.g., if the six of diamonds is played, the player must name any card other than the six of diamonds.) * Snap your fingers * Give the dealer (or perhaps the person to your left or right) a high five * Say a particular phrase * Say part of a particular well known phrase. Each time the condition is consecutively met, add more of the phrase. * Slap or knock on the table. If the condition is met on the next player’s turn, that player must slap or knock one more time than the previous player did * Convey the idea of a particular location in interpretive dance * Convey an idea via mime alone * Say (or sing) “Jim Morrison is dead” the first time a particular condition is met, and then each subsequent time the condition is met, the player must call “X is dead”, where X is a well-known dead person whose name has not previously been used in that session of play. Special penalties apply to any player who calls “Chairman Mao is dead.” * Name an animal (vegetable, city, …) that hasn’t been named before in the game * Name a word with length equal to the number on the card played * Name a word starting with the letter that the last named word ended with * Begin a mini-game in which players must take turns recreating a dialogue from a well-known movie, TV episode, etc. The first player who fails to correctly continue the dialogue suffers a penalty. * Describe the card you play in terms of a 5/7/5 haiku

Game Effects

* Skip the next player’s turn (or next two players’ turns, etc) * Create an additional ‘play’ pile * Name a player (other than yourself); that player skips their next turn * Reverse the direction of play (e.g., if it was proceeding clockwise, it now goes counterclockwise) * A player may lay as many twos (or another type of card) as he has in his hand in one turn * A player must play a second valid card or draw a card, effectively taking a second turn in a row * Give the next player one (or two) card(s) from the top of the deck. If the next player fufils the same condition that triggers this rule, the next player is given two (or four) cards, with each subsequent player upping the penalty for the next one. * A rule is only applicable after a certain condition is fulfilled (either only immediately after, for the rest of the round, until another condition is fulfilled, or the rest of the game) * The top card has a new value, and the next person who plays must play as if the card on top was that value * Give a card to anyone who does not perform a particular action * A particular card is now “wild” * Cards played by a player out of turn, while still earning that player penalty cards, still perform the special effect other rules might have established

In many variants, during the game, no speech is allowed other than that required by the rules. Some players feel that this rule reduces the amount of fun had while playing the game (especially for new players) and allow speech not required by the rules, as long as that speech does not conflict with any other rules in play.s