I recently took a break from my day job—designing video games—to create Suitors, an original card game for 2 to 4 players. It uses regular playing cards. It’s simple enough that just about anyone can play, but deep enough that adults will find it competitive. A game lasts just a few minutes. Give it a spin and tell me what you think.
In Suitors, each player controls a Jack. The Jacks are all romantically interested in the Queen of Hearts—they are suitors in the antique sense, vying for her hand in marriage. They have a long way to go to reach her, however. The first Jack to reach the Queen wins her affections and the game!
Be the first to move your Jack next to the Queen of Hearts.
Use an ordinary playing card deck with the Jokers removed. Search through the deck and pull out the four Jacks and the Queen of Hearts. Shuffle the remaining cards.
To create the playing field, place the Queen of Hearts in the center of your play area. Then deal, face down, a grid of 9 by 5 cards surrounding the queen. Leave the corners for the Jacks, though, and place them face up, one per corner. Jacks of the same color should go in opposite corners.
You’ll have a few cards left over. Just set them aside—you won’t need them.
Each player chooses a Jack. If you’re playing with fewer than four players, leave the unused Jacks where they sit. When playing with two players, it’s best to choose Jacks that are diagonally opposite each other.
Decide which player goes first. And begin!
Playing the Game
On your turn, you may either (1) reveal a card or (2) move.
To reveal a card, simply turn up a face-down card that is connected to your Jack. A card is connected to your Jack if there is an unbroken line of face-up cards between it and your Jack. Diagonals don’t count. In the following image, if you were controlling the Jack of Spades you could turn over any of the cards shaded in blue. If you were controlling the Jack of Clubs you could reveal any of the cards shaded in red.
Once you reveal your chosen card, your turn is over.
The other action you can take on your turn is to move. In a nutshell, you move by making a higher-ranked card jump over one or more lower-ranked cards of the opposite color. Here are the specific rules for a move.
- A move consists of a “jump” performed by a jumping card (the “Jumper”).
- The Jumper must have a higher rank than any of the cards it jumps. “Rank” follows the normal rules of cards: King beats Queen, Queen beats Jack, Jack beats Ten, and so on down. But Aces are special (more on that in a moment).
- The Jumper must be face-up and connected to (by the same definition as above) your Jack. You can also use your Jack as the Jumper.
- The Jumper must be the opposite color from all of the cards it jumps (black jumping all red or red jumping all black).
- The Jumper cannot have participated in a jump since your last turn. In other words, if someone else moved it since your last turn, you can’t use it as a Jumper.
- The Queen of Hearts cannot participate in a jump. No one can ever move her.
- Other players’ Jacks cannot participate in one of your jumps. You can never move someone else’s Jack.
- A Jumper can leap over any number of cards in a single move, so long as the cards are all legal and they lay in a straight, connected line.
- You can’t jump diagonally.
To actually make the jump, simply pick up the Jumper, shift all the cards that are being jumped toward the space now vacated by the Jumper, and then place the Jumper in the space just vacated by the farthest card.
A picture is worth a thousand words. In this series of images, the player controlling the Jack of Spades uses it to jump over the Nine of Hearts and the Two of Diamonds. This is legal because a Jack is higher than Nine and Two. Also, the Jack is black and the cards it’s jumping are red. Jack could not jump over the Eight of Clubs, however, because it’s the same color as he is.
In that example, the player’s own Jack makes the jump. But any legal card can jump. In the following figure, the green arrows show other examples of legal jumps for both the Jack of Aces player and the Jack of Clubs player.
Strategy Tip: It’s smart to try to make your jumps as long as you can. It is often best to queue up a series of cards that can be jumped all at once.
There’s one more rule, and it centers around Aces. Aces are special. In Suitors, Aces are both high and low. Specifically, when it acts as a Jumper, an Ace is high—it can jump any other rank. But when it is jumped, an Ace is low—anything can jump it. So we should add a few additional arrows to the examples above.
Not only can the Six of Hearts jump the Ace of Spades, but the Aces of Spaces can jump the Six of Hearts. In this case the effect is the same either way, but in other cases it matters. For example, notice that the Ace of Clubs can jump the King of Diamonds. It can even, if it wants to, jump the King of Diamonds and the Ten of Hearts in a single move.
Because of this special ability, Aces are especially important in Suitors. If you can find an Ace, you can often use it to rapidly shift several cards at once.
Winning the Game
The game is over when one player moves his or her Jack to one of the four spaces that are adjacent to the Queen of Hearts.
In the above diagram, the Jack of Clubs has beaten the other Jacks by moving into the space to the right of the Queen. It is love at first sight.
This game design is © 2012 Jeff Wofford. Play it with real, ordinary playing cards all you want, but please don’t make a software version of it, or sell it in any form. You have permission to republish these rules so long as you credit me, Jeff Wofford, and identify me as the author of the work.
If you play Suitors, please tell me what you think.