Anomie - an experimental card game

‘Anomie’ is an experimental card game I’ve developed as part of a project examining jokes as disruptive agents in social relations. It looks at what happens when you incorporate a zone outside of the rules of the game into the rules of the game itself. I’ve tried it with three groups so far, and so I’m throwing it out into the internet ether in the hope people might give it a go and let me knows what happens!

As it happens, the game itself tends to be pretty anarchic, partly because it is a bit complicated and very hard to tell what’s going on in the game, but also because of the powers given to the Joker card. It tends to get a little silly as well. I would recommend using a deck of card you wouldn’t mind, say, seeing physically destroyed.

The rules are below. The game is an experiment and is very much in development, so thoughts, feedback, ideas, feelings, experiences would be brilliant. Also let me know if anything is horribly ambiguous, then I will amend the below accordingly.

###Set up

At the beginning of the game, the two jokers are removed from the deck, and each player draws a card. This card becomes their objective card. The jokers are then added back in, and all players then draw a further 3 cards.

###Sequence of play

The game progresses by each player taking turns to lay cards face up into one of two piles - an IN pile and and OUT pile, and then taking another card from the main deck (which is face down). The aim of the game is to get as many cards with the same suit and rank in the IN pile, and as many cards of the opposite colour in the OUT pile. The composition of these piles determine the players score at the end.

The game ends when all cards have been played into either the IN or the OUT pile.

To make it a little easier, I’ve made a little print out game board which shows you where to place the cards. Completely non-essential, but might prevent initial confusion.

###Special cards

If we left it at that, the game would proceed via mere luck. But all the picture cards (Jack, Queen, King, Ace and Joker) all have special powers as described below.

Jack: Allows you to take the top two cards from the opposite pile to which you’ve played it. So if you play a Jack into the IN pile, you can take the top two cards from the OUT pile and place them in the IN pile as well.

Queen: Make another player pick up 3 cards from the opposite pile. So if you play this in the OUT pile you can make another player pick up the top 3 cards from the IN pile. The player who picks up the cards carries on as normal, but won’t pick up an additional card on their go until they are back to three cards.

King: Force any player to swap their objective card for another card. First they discard their objective card(s) into either the IN or OUT pile, face down. If there are cards left in the main deck (i.e. that haven’t come into play yet) then they have to take the first card from the main deck. Otherwise, whoever played the King picks a card from their hand at random - this becomes their objective. (Note that you cannot make a player with no cards change their objective)

Ace: Force another player to discard their entire hand, face down, into either the IN or OUT pile at your discretion.

Joker: This is the fun one. This gives a complete free move. What does ‘free’ mean? Exactly what it says. You can do anything. You can seize another players hand, you can give yourself twenty objective cards, you can throw the IN pile out of the window, whatever you want. There are logical restrictions though: this is a free move, not a series of free moves. Whatever you do has to be defendable as a ‘move’. And I guess really it shouldn’t result in the joker you’ve played ending up back in your hand (the other joker is fine however). Apart from that, you can do whatever you like.


Once the game is over, everyone shows their objectives. You then need to go through the IN and the OUT pile, and allocate points to player as follows (it helps to have a bit of paper to do this!)

The IN pile:

  • for each card of the same suit as the player’s objective: 1 point.
  • for each card of the same rank as the player’s objective: 3 point.

The OUT pile:

  • for each card of the same colour as the player’s objective: -1 point.
  • for each card of the same rank as the player’s objective: -3 points.


I’ve not tried most of these - really they are ways of getting you to mess with the games rules just to see what happens.

  • If you have a large group (6 or more) try having two decks in play.
  • For more tactical play, instead of placing cards into a single pile, lay the IN and OUT cards as you would in solitaire, allowing you to see the entire composition of each pile.
  • With the above variant, have it so the Jack and the Queen can take any continuous set of cards, and not the last two or three played.
  • Experiment with changing what you can do with the Joker - for instance, have it so you can do anything for 10 seconds rather than a single free move.
  • Try setting secret objectives other than getting the most points - e.g. (1) make all players including yourself end in negative points (2) make the player next to you get the least points (3) attempt to get at least two thirds of the other players to achieve their secret objective (4) be the only player in negative points and so on. I’m going to make a deck of these you can print at a later stage.