A trick taking game for 2 - 5 players

As interpreted by Milton Soong (soong@apple.com)


Rats is a trick taking game with an Asian twist. My grandmother taught me the game when I was a kid, and this version of the game adapts the game to the western deck. The original game was played using Chinese Dominoes, the kind you see in Vegas as Pa-gao.


The biggest difference between standard Asian trick taking games compared with those of the West are as follows:

  1. A player does NOT have to follow suit.
  2. There're usually no trump suit in the game.
  3. The lead player of a round may lead with "multi-tricks" (more explanation about multi-tricks later).

All of the above apply to the game of Rats.

The Objective

The objective of the game is to be the only player to have any cards at the end of the game. The game contains multiple rounds of trick taking. All the tricks taken in a given round become part of that player's hand for subsequent rounds. Thus a player who does not win any tricks will eventually run out of cards; in which case he is out of the game. The sole survivor of the game is the player who runs all other players out of cards.

The Cards

A standard deck of 52 cards is used. A popular option of the game includes the 2 jokers.

Suit Ranking

There's a ranking among suits as follows: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs. Spades is the highest suit, and Clubs is the lowest suit. The suit ranking is only important when the leading player leads with a multi-trick "sequence".

The Deal

The first player is chosen by lot. The first player will deal an equal number of cards to all players. Any cards not evenly divisible will remain face down in a pile set in the middle of the table to form the "stock". The player who wins the LAST trick of the current round will take the stock and add it to the rest of his reserve cards. The initial hand size should be remembered. It has a bearing as to how many cards to deal out in subsequent rounds.

A Round

The dealer will lead on the first round. The winner of the last trick of the current round will lead in the next round.

Leading to a Trick or Multi-trick

The first player leads first and the winner of each trick or multi-trick leads to the next.

The player on lead may play:

  1. a single card
  2. a pair of two cards of equal rank (i.e. a pair of 3's)
  3. a set of three cards of equal rank (i.e. three 6's)
  4. a set of four cards of equal rank (i.e. four king's)
  5. a sequence of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. For the sake of sequences, A's counts as ones. (i.e. 2-3-4 of Clubs, or 5-6-7-8-9 of Hearts).

Following to a Trick or Multi-trick

Play follows clockwise. Each player tries to beat the trick or multi-trick if desired, or else discards the appropriate number of cards face up. A player do NOT have to follow suit.

The winner of the trick(s) will collect all the winnings, and put them face down in front of him to form his "reserve" pile. In future rounds, a player's cards comes out of his reserve.

End of Round

At the end of a round, all players should have some (or none) cards in their reserve. At this point, if a player does not have any reserve, he is out of the game. Every player will now count the size of their reserve without turning any of the cards over. The next hand size is the smaller of:
  1. The initial hand size.
  2. The smallest reserve on the table.

(e.g. The initial hand size is 10. At the end of the round, player A has 0 cards (he hasn't won any tricks in a while), so he is out of the game. Player B has a reserve of 10, player C has a reserve of 4, and player D has a reserve of 38. The next hand size is 4).

Subsequent Rounds

Each player now shuffles his reserve, and deals out the next hand to himself. A new round is played, led by the winner of the last trick of the last round.

Optional Rules: Jokers

The players may add one or both Jokers into the deck. Jokers are treated as a wild card ONLY if played in a multi-trick situation. i.e. the joker can be used to complete a pair, set, or a sequence. The set must contain at least one non-joker card (i.e. a pair of jokers is NOT a legal pair). If played as single cards, jokers are treated as the worst card in the deck. A player can NOT lead with a single joker if he has a choice. If he must lead with a joker, then the next non-joker card played in the current trick will determine the suit led. A single joker that follows always loses.

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell