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What are the Best Card Games?

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published December 13th 2012
There are an endless amount of card games out there, and it would be impossible to name them all. While some are classics that get passed on from generation to generation, others fall into disuse. For example, everyone has heard of poker, but ask a child what pinochle is at you won't get much more than a shrug of the shoulders. When I was little, I used to think it was a cross between a peanut and a pickle.

And of course, new card games are being invented all the time; one of the most popular types of card games these days are trading card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon.

You can tell how often 'Donkey' has been played.

One of my favourites is the family card collecting game, Donkey. It is in the same vein as Happy Families, only instead of collecting sets, you have to make pairs. There is one odd card, which is the donkey, and the person left with it at the end is the loser. These types of collecting games are great for rainy days when the family is stuck in the house. They don't require much thought, and don't take too long, so are good for parents who want to keep the kids occupied, but aren't really game lovers. Children will also enjoy them because they are so easy to play, and don't require huge amounts of concentration.

When it comes to card games played with a classic playing deck, I have a particular love for Canasta and Cribbage. In the 1950s, Canasta was the most popular card game in the United States; I don't know how popular it was in the UK, but these days I don't think it is played much.

I used to play Canasta on a Friday night with my dad and grandparents, which is how I learnt to play. The game uses two decks, including the jokers, and the aim is to create a set of seven (a 'canasta'), then get rid of all your cards to go out. You need to score 5000 points to win, so there are several rounds. Our games usually went on past midnight.

Cribbage is a shorter game; it only uses one standard deck of 52 cards, and the idea is to make as many variations of 15 with your five card hand as possible. So if a player puts down a 10 of hearts, and you have a 5, you'll put that down and get a point.

Cribbage comes with a playing board and pegs, which you use to keep your score. Once your peg has made two lengths of the board, you have won.

Sometimes, it is not possible to play with others. If you live on your own, or with someone who doesn't like games, then finding something to play can be tricky. Solitaire is the best option. There are a number of versions, but I quite like Clocks, where you lay the cards out in the shape of a clock and try to turn them all over before getting four kings. I don't think I've ever won.

Another type of card game I became obsessed with a few years ago is Top Trumps. It first became popular in the UK in the late 1970s, particularly with boys who liked to compare stats on vehicles like motor cars and planes. The game faded away for a little while, but in 1999 was relaunched and became a collectible craze. I should know, I've got about twenty packs.

Not only is Top Trumps fun to play, but depending on which decks you get, they can be educational too. Some of my favourites include Wildlife in Danger and Dangerous Predators, which provide mini fact files about animals on the cards.

A final favourite, which has made a recent addition to my list is the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I don't have anyone to play with at home, and have not got a proper deck, so instead I have started playing the online version. There you can play against the computer or against friends, while earning accolades and building virtual decks.

What are your favourite type of card games?
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Monopoly Deal is my new favourite - fast and furious with all the tension of the board game, but portable. Great for camping!
by Anita Coia (score: 2|477) 2124 days ago
Cheat is by far the most entertaing card game for all ages. Using a single deck, deal all cards out. Players arrange their cards to suit their needs and play begins. The first player places 1-4 cards face down on the table and declares what the cards are -say, three fours - the next person plays 3s.4s. or 5s on to that pile until someone has no cards left. UNLESS, someone calls cheat and the player has to prove their innocence or guilt. If the player is 'cheating' then they pick up ALL the cards and continue. If the player is innocent, the accuser cops the cards. Success in this game depends on having fun, looking innocent at all times, and engineering the cards played to your needs.
by LawrieA (score: 0|4) 2113 days ago
Oh I love canasta! It's such a fave for all ages. I have to try cribbage now after I've read your article Bryony.. I also love euchre, 500 and Sequence is good too.
by annet (score: 0|7) 1847 days ago

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