The King’s Court is a game of bluffing, strategy, and luck that is played all over the Realm of Thraul. It is played in taverns, royal sitting rooms, brothels, and among ship’s crews. All that is required is a standard deck of cards, though the quality, art, and construction of those decks varies from table to table. The game is played many different ways, depending on region, social status, and wealth of the players. It can be a sophisticated game of gambling played over drinks, pipe tobacco, and backroom politics, or a cutthroat game that ends in blood, brawls and even war.
The variety of ways to play often causes issues with new players, or those travelling through the realms. Merchants, adventurers, and gamblers have learned many of the variations, but it often seems like every town and hamlet has some twist on the game that features their loyalty to their King, or their hate for the same.
Objective: A game of 2–4 players in which the players attempt to collect all the face cards of one suit. Thus, forming the King’s Court.
Variations can be played with more players with the possibility of a 5-suited deck, or mixing two decks of cards.
Setup: The game requires a standard deck of 52 playing cards, and up to two jokers known as the agents of chaos.
- Separate out the face cards of every suit, Jack through Ace. Shuffle them. This is your court.
- Shuffle the remaining cards including 1 joker for 2 players, and both jokers for 3–4 players. These are the soldiers.
- Deal out three cards from the court to each player, and four cards from the soldiers.
- Once each player has seven cards shuffle the remaining court cards into the soldiers and place them all face down on the table. Turn over one card to start the discard pile. If that card is a joker, return her randomly to the draw pile. If at any time there is no card in the discard pile to begin someone’s turn, a new card should be turned over from the draw pile.
- Determine who goes first however your table wishes. Oldest, youngest, last player to win/lose, etc.
- Variant betting rules: To start the game, each player antes. This can be a coin (real or fake), a chip, food, a shot, or an article of clothing. This game is played in royal sitting rooms, and brothels alike, so betting is varied quite widely.
- Your turn starts when you draw a card from either the discard pile or the draw pile. When drawing from the face-up discard pile you may draw as many as you like, but you MUST be able to play the bottom card you pick up.
- During your turn you may play as many runs, or sets on the battlefield in front of you, called units. When you play a run, or set you may steal a card at random from one of the other players at the table for each unit you play. Only one steal per turn no matter how many units you put on the field of battle.
- A run is at least three cards in order of the same suit.
- A set is at least three cards all of the same number.
- When stealing a card, indicate the card you wish to steal by pulling it partway from your opponent’s hand to give them an opportunity to block.
- During your turn you may also add to one of your units, but this does not allow a steal unless you can play three cards.
- Adding to a unit means playing a fourth 7 on a set of sevens, for example. Or adding a 5 on the end of a run of 2–4 of spades.
- At the end of your turn draw up to the hand limit from either the discard pile or draw pile. This ends your turn.
- Variant attacking rules: During your turn you may attack your opponent with one of your units, but only if they have units in the field. They can choose to defend with any of their units.
- To resolve the attack, you simply count the number of cards in each unit and eliminate them in equal number. For example, you attack with a unit of 4, and your opponent defends with a unit of three. Three of your cards, and all of theirs are eliminated.
- Eliminated cards are shuffled back into the draw pile.
Blocking: A player may block a steal if an agent of chaos is in their hand. If they do block, the joker is placed at random in the draw pile. If the player stealing selects the joker from their target’s hand, the play cannot be blocked and the agent of chaos defects to the other side.
Hand Limit: At the beginning of play the hand limit is 7. Once the draw pile runs out of cards, shuffle all of the units on the battlefield into a new draw pile. Once the battlefield is reshuffled the second time, the hand limit is reduced by 1. Once the hand limit reaches 5 it is no longer reduced. Thus, the next day of battle begins.
Variant Betting Rules
- Paying Troops to Fight: Each day of battle costs another ante. Players may choose to leave the field and leave behind anything they bet on the game behind.
- Pay to Block: At some tables across Thraul, players are required to ante when they block, thus paying the agent of chaos to protect them. If they choose not to pay, they agent will not block the steal.
- Pay to Attack: Some games in certain circles require players to ante each time they attack, to pay for their extra service on the field. If you choose not to pay, they will not fight. Defenders do not require pay.