Make Your Own Dang Card Games

Travis Nichols
Jun 16, 2016 · 4 min read

You’re in a cabin with no internet access. Your phone is dead. The books on the dusty shelves are all in Dutch. (If you can read and understand Dutch, just pretend you can’t for the sake of this piece, okay? Have some imagination.) You’re at the table with a friend. Or, like, two or three friends. You’ve got a deck of cards. You’ve already played every game you know. What now?

“Hey, let’s make up our own dang card game.”

Great idea, pal.

“Thanks, handsome. But wait. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. HELP!”

Ssssssh. Defeat doesn’t look good on you. You’re gonna be fine. Let’s break this down into five steps loaded with questions.

1. Start at the End

Decide on the objective of the game. Run out of cards? Make your opponent(s) run out of cards? Obtain or avoid a certain card or cards? Get the most matching sets? Start there and work your way backwards.

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2. The Road to Victory

You’ve got loads of options here. Drawing, discarding, trading, memorizing, building, removing, betting, stacking, bluffing, etc. Is this a game of speed or of thoughtful calculation? Of reading your opponent or of chance? Are certain cards special?

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3. Get Slim

Things are taking shape. Now… strip down the rules if possible. I know. It’s tough. But a game should be able to be taught to a new player pretty quickly.

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4. Analyze

Play your game ten times. Then ten more. How long does a round typically take? How’s the speed and difficulty? How much luck is involved, and how much skill? What are the odds of coming back and winning once the scales are tipping in your opponent’s favor? Are you cool with that?

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5. Tweak and Deal

Change things up a little or a lot, then play again. Repeat. Bring in some noobs. Do they get it? Do they want to play again, or are they asking if you want to play Go Fish?

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And there you have it. That’s how you make a—ummm… you look a little uncomfortable. Is something wrong?

“Like, what if the ideas just aren’t, like, flowing?

Ah, that happens. Well…

Think outside the deck

What games do you enjoy? And not just card games. Board games, video games, playground games, etc. Heck — movies, books, cartoons. Are there elements you can bring in?

About face

There’s a lot more to playing cards to what’s on their faces. Think about other ways you can play with them. Toss them, stack them, balance them, flip them.

Great gamers steal

Don’t reinvent the wheel (or do). A few tweaks to an existing classic can open up a whole new world of gameplay.

Speaking of stealing…

Consider the very foundation of games. The rules and fairness. How could you knock tradition on its boo-tay? What if cheating was okay if you didn’t get caught? What if each player gets to make up a rule mid-game? What if each player gets to hide a card at the beginning of the game?

“These are all great ideas, and you are so wise.”


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To take card game creation further, I’ve created a deck of 160 playing cards. It’s the deck you know and love… and much more. There are eight suits of 16 cards each, and all sorts of non-suited, double-suited, and all-suited cards to play all of the games you love—with a twist—and to create new games. Check it out.

And if you have game ideas, or would like to check out ideas from others, head to, okay? Okay!

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