Two of Diamonds: Unauthorised Games

Alcatraz rules and regulations: Authorized card games are Hearts, Cribbage and dominoes. No card game will be allowed if it is a "draw" type of game or does not use the full deck on the dealAccording to the two of diamonds from my Alcatraz rules and regulations deck, for prisoners, ‘authorized card games are Hearts, Cribbage, and dominoes. No card game will be allowed if it is a “draw” type of game or does not use the full deck on the deal.’

This sounded like a challenge to me. Why must I use the full deck when I have a perfectly good pile of twos of diamonds? And what’s a “draw” type of game? If you’re ever incarcerated at my place, the only authorised card games will be ones that use entirely twos of diamonds, and one might expect them to end in a draw. Let’s see what happens when some normal card games are played this way:


Assuming automatic snap (when whoever puts down the matching card wins the pile) when this is played with two cards, the second player will always win. With three cards, the second player wins if they start with the extra card. In all other cases, the game goes on forever. Have fun! If it is not automatic snap, then I predict much fighting over who touched the pile first.

Last Card

If played with the rule that cards of the same value can all be put down at once, the first player wins provided he or she declared ‘last cards’ before the game started. Nobody has to worry about the 2 meaning that the next player should pick up 2, since they can always counter it with another 2 to make the player after them pick up four (unless they too can put down a 2, which they can.) However, players should still act surprised when this happens, and behave as if their opponent will have to pick up cards. If this game is played with the optional rule that one must not put down a 3, 5 or 2 as their last card, the game reduces to much frustrated staring at each other.

Now, let’s say we add a single joker or other card that is not a 3, 5 or 2 into the deck. Players will want to pick up as many cards as they can in the hope of getting this card and being able to put it down to win the game. Since there is no penalty to having a lot of cards (as they can all be put down in one move) optimal play would be to pick up 2 whenever a 2 is put down, and never put down more than one 2 at once, since it would just allow an opponent to pick up more cards. Assuming the player who picks up is not allowed to play anything, if this is played with an even number of players, eventually the even-numbered players will have a lot of cards while the odd-numbered players would have one or two, up until the point where an even-numbered player gets the joker and actually wants to shed their cards.

Once they have the joker, a player will probably want to put down all their 2s at once, say ‘last card’, and on the next turn put down the joker and win. But other players will certainly put down 2s, and without a 2 to counter them, the holder of the joker will have to pick up. So they must try not to make it too obvious that their last card is the joker, and make sure the player before them picks up (either because the previous player played a 2 and they don’t realise they should force you to pick up rather than picking up themselves, or because they only have one card left and they can’t play it because it’s not a joker) rather than playing a 2. But how do you get rid of your cards without making it obvious that you now want to get rid of your cards instead of accumulating them? You probably bluff throughout the whole game, occasionally countering somebody else’s 2 with your own rather than picking up. And that’s how the game gets interesting. Maybe with all this bluffing, you’ll forget to say ‘last card’ when you’re supposed to.

But of course, once you have the joker, you’re still the only person who can win, even if it takes you hours to do so. So I would add another rule: on their turn, a player can accuse another player of having the joker. If they guess correctly, they win. If the person they accuse does not have a joker, the accuser is out of the game. There; it ends, but not in a draw. I’ll call this variant of the game ‘Last Two’. Players start with two cards, to minimise the chance of starting with a joker, while ensuring nobody starts with just the joker and could potentially win on their first turn.

I’ve been trying to invent an interesting game involving only twos of diamonds all week, and I came up with a few ideas, but just by spending an hour investigating Last Card and inventing Last Two, I think I’ve come up with something better than it. Sure, it doesn’t use only twos, but it’s close enough. I don’t think I’d ever heard the rule about not ending on a two before, though; nor did I realise that Last Card is (according to wikipedia) only played in New Zealand. Let’s make sure Last Two is played by people all over the world who happen to have large collections of twos of diamonds.

Here’s are a few of the simpler games I came up with, which are similar to Cards Against Humanity but with silly poses, acting and writing in the place of white cards.

Cards Against Sanity

This works best with a wide variety of different twos of diamonds. Cards are dealt out evenly to all players. On each turn, a player plays one card from their hand, and all the other players do their best to imitate the card, either by following any instructions on the card or by posing as whatever pictures or shapes are on the card. The player who played the card judges whose impression they like the best, and gives them the card face down to mark that they won a point. Play continues clockwise  until there are no cards left or they’re sick of playing, at which point the person who won the most rounds is the winner. If anyone plays the Alcatraz two of diamonds, they immediately win the game because nobody can obey its instructions while still playing the game. The player holding this card must decide whether they value winning more than continuing to play a fun game with their friends, and/or making their friends strike silly poses.

Writing Cards Against Sanity

As above, but instead of acting out the cards, each player must write a story, poem, or list of made-up card games based on the selected card.

I did come up with a game called ‘Miners and Dragons’ played only with plain twos of diamonds, which was going to be the main subject of this post. But it’s kind of complicated to describe, has been play tested only a trifle more than these games, might work better with dominoes, and probably isn’t even as much fun as Last Two. Feel free to leave your own suggestions for two-of-diamonds-only games in the comments.

While you’re thinking about that, here’s a video I shot of The Burning Hell playing a half-hour concert at 6:30a.m. in Trogen as part of their world-record-breaking tour I mentioned in previous posts:

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  1. #1 by mtgordon on July 15, 2012 - 4:27 pm

    In my mind, the following should hold:

    Cards Against Humanity : Cards Against Sanity :: Fluxx : Cthulhu Fluxx

    It’s CAH, but with a Lovecraft-themed deck.

    (For purposes of understanding this joke, it’s useful to have played the “Call of Cthulhu” role-playing game, which introduced the concept of “sanity points” as a game mechanic.)


    • #2 by Angela Brett on July 15, 2012 - 5:08 pm

      I haven’t played Call of Cthulhu, but I’ve played Arkham Horror, which also has sanity points. Having played Writing Cards Against Sanity for several rounds now, I’m considering taking a taxi to the sanitorium, or at least playing a new goal card.

      Maybe my game should be named Cards Against Inanity instead.


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