Skitgubbe (a.k.a. Flurst)
A Belorussian translation by Martha Ruszkowski is available. Here's an indirect link to it: a Google search whose only hit is her site.
Rules for the card game
a.k.a. Flurst, is a very friendly, entertaining, and playable game. It's
simple enough that it doesn't generally require great thought, but varied
enough to keep interesting. Each game lasts long enough to get emotionally
invested in its outcome, but short enough that you can play over and over
in a single session, giving everyone a chance to lose. Once a session starts,
most everyone always wants to keep playing over and over [in some circles,
the phrase "last game" has come to mean "just two or three more"].
For added amusement, despite its simplicity, the game is completely befuddling
For amusing and befuddling further information, look here.
Use a standard poker deck, 4 suits of 13 cards each, ranked 2 (low), 3,
4, ... 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace (high).
Number of players:
Requires 3 players minimum. Plays best with 4 or 5 players. Above 6 players
works technically but plays absurdly (or requires variants described below).
The game has no winner. Just one loser, known as the
A single game plays through fairly quickly (5-10 minutes). In a
given session the group plays games over and over, with everyone trying
to avoid being goat as much as possible.
Experienced players might also have personal goals, such as grudges
in which they try to cause a specific other player to goat [verb 'to
goat' meaning to be the goat], or attempts to make sure that everyone
else goats at least once in an evening.
There are two parts to the game, known as the first part and the
In the first part, players collect cards by taking tricks. Each
player's collected cards form that player's hand for the second part.
In the second part, all players try to get out of the game by playing
all their cards. The last player with cards loses and must bleat once.
okay to just say "baah"].
The rules are deceptively simple. (Or do I mean deceptively complicated?)
At any rate, they work simply in practice but can appear confusing at first
glance. To help remember the rules, each part has its own mantra,
Learning Tip: The second part is easier to learn, and provides
motivation for the first part. Suggested way to teach is to start by distributing
the cards arbitrarily and playing the second part open-handed once or twice.
Then play the first part open-handed and continue to open- or closed-handed
second part, once or twice. By then it'll be easy.
1. The First Part: "Match If You Can"
The first part has two purposes: to have the players collect the cards
to use as their hands in the second part; and to determine which suit will
be trump in the second part.
At its essence, the play in the first part resembles a trick-based version
of the child's card game "war": each player plays a card in turn, and the
player who played the highest card wins the trick and takes all the cards.
This gets dressed up with asynchronous side activity of players sloughing
and picking cards in what appears like a frenzy.
The mantra "match if you can" applies both to playing and sloughing.
Here's the details:
Start by dealing three cards to each player. (It doesn't matter who deals;
deal can rotate around the table, or whatever.) Put the remaining deck
in the center of the table, face down. Players always maintain three cards
in their hands -- upon playing or sloughing a card from one's hand, a player
immediately draw the top card from the deck to replenish the hand. (This
continues until the deck gets exhausted, at which point the hand just stays
Play a series of tricks, until the deck is exhausted and at least one player
runs out of cards and so can no longer play. To start things off, the goat
from the previous game leads the first trick. [Game play traditionally
commences with some other player telling the goat "Lead, goat."] After
that, whoever wins a trick leads the next trick. (For the very first game
of the session, anyone can volunteer to be goat and lead the initial trick.)
In each trick, play proceeds clockwise with every player playing exactly
Here's the structure of a trick:
The leader may play any card from his/her hand, or may turn over the top
card from the deck and play that.
[Upon making your play, it is customary
to announce "play".] If played from the hand, remember to replenish
from the deck.
Each subsequent player makes a single play similarly-- either a card from
the hand (& replenish) or the top card of the deck--with one important
restriction: If your hand has a card of the same rank as the highest card
played thusfar in the trick, you must play that card. That is, the rules
say, for your play:
you must match if you can!
If someone has already matched the highest card, you must match it anyway.
If you don't have a match for the highest card in the trick, you may freely
play any card from your hand, higher or lower than what's already been
played, or flip from the deck, whether or not there's a match on the table.
[When playing a match, it is customary to announce "them's the rules",
or simply "rules", instead of "play".]
After each player has played once, if the highest played card is unmatched,
whoever played that card wins the trick and takes all the cards and sets
them aside face down. (The winnings don't get looked at again in the first
part, just accumulated for use in the second part.)
But if the high card was matched, two or more players are tied for high
card, causing a war. (Note that not all matches lead to wars; two
players may match but a subsequent player might play a card higher than
the match.) To resolve the war, those involved play an separate mini-trick.
Whoever first played the card that got matched leads the mini-trick, and
the other involved players continue in the original order. If the mini-trick
also ends in a war, then another mini-trick must be played by those who
tied this time. Repeat until finally a mini-trick ends with an unmatched
high card. Whoever played that card wins the trick and takes all the cards
from the original trick and all mini-tricks.
In addition to, and separate from the orderly sequential play of tricks,
players may slough [pronounced "sluff"] cards. That is, at any time
if a player's hand has a card that matches a played card, the player may
toss that card face-up onto the table (and replenish the hand from the
deck). That is, if you want to slough,
Players may slough at any time -- during another player's turn, or before
or after one plays one's own turn. Several players may slough at the same
time. A player may slough several times in a row. A player may slough a
card matching the player's own played card. During a war, any player, involved
or not, may slough any card that matches any card in the trick or any mini-tricks.
[It is customary to announce "sluff" when playing a slough.] Sloughing
may continue after a trick has been won -- the winner should not gather
the winnings until after all players have agreed they have finished sloughing
on the trick.
you may match if you can!
Sloughed cards have no impact on determining who wins the trick. They
do not cause wars. Sloughed cards simply lie on the table. But, whoever
wins the trick takes all the cards sloughed onto the trick and includes
them with the winnings for the trick.
A player is never obligated to slough. However, a player is forbidden
from sloughing a card "to avoid a war". That is:
A player who has not yet played in the current trick may not slough a card
if that card matches the highest card played so far in the trick -- because
that card may be a required play when the player's turn comes along. (Note
a card may become forbidden in a trick then later may become OK if someone
else plays higher than it.)
A player who is involved in a trick with potential wars may not slough
at all if sloughing would cause the player's hand to run out (because the
deck is exhausted) before finishing the trick. In effect this means: don't
slough on the last trick until you are certain that you have won or lost
Last card of the deck
The last card of the deck gets treated specially. The last card may not
be turned over as a play. Additionally, whoever draws the last card does
not use it to replenish the hand; instead, without looking at the card,
that player sets it aside face down (separate from the player's stack of
winnings). It will be looked at after the first part ends.
Ending the first part
The first part ends as soon as a player needs to make a play but can't
because the deck is exhausted and the player's hand has run out of cards.
This may happen in the middle of a trick or a war's mini-trick; if so,
the trick remains unresolved and aborts immediately. All players (warring
or not) take back whatever cards they played since the start of the trick
and add them to their stack of accumulated winnings. Players who still
have cards in their hands add them to their winnings as well.
Remember who won the last completed trick.
At this point, some or all players have varying-size stacks of winnings
in front of them. These winnings now become their hands for the second
But there are a few simple steps to prepare for the second part.
One player got the last card of the deck and kept it aside. That player
now looks at it and announces its suit [e.g. "clubs are trump"].
That suit will be trump in the second part. The player adds that card to
[Traditionally, whatever suit is announced, one or more
players look at their cards and grumble disgustedly "of course they are."]
Make sure everyone has at least six cards
At this point, all players count their cards, to make sure they
each have six or more. If at least one player only has five or fewer cards
[in some circles, such a player is termed a "bozo". In other circles,
Note that it's possible for a player to have started with a hand having
six or more cards, but after giving away the low cards, ending up with
five or fewer. That's fine, the player does not join in the redistribution.
All players, including those with too few cards, rummage through their
hands and remove the 2-5 of each suit as well as the 6 of trump. This yields
a pile of seventeen cards on the table [often referred to as the 'dreck']
to redistribute to those who had too few.
If there was only one player with too few cards, that player gets all seventeen
cards [known as the "bozo hand"]. If several players had too few
cards, the pile gets shuffled and dealt out to them [a situation is
known as "split bozos"]. Note that there's no way to divide 17 cards
evenly among more than one player, the players agree who will get the leftovers
(as of this writing, nobody really know whether it's better to get or avoid
It's even possible for a player to start with six or more cards and
give them all away. That player ends up with no hand at all and thus goes
out before the second part even starts. (It's considered quite a coup.)
Sort the hands
The players now sort their hands. Group by suit, and sort by rank within
each suit. [Some players may take an inordinately large number of cards
in the first part; local customs vary as to how much hand-sorting time
to allow them before administering derision.]
2. The Second Part: "Beat It or Eat It"
In the second part, the players try to "go out", by getting rid of the
cards from their hands.
This part is played with a trump suit. That is, the cards are ranked
normally, 2-Ace in each suit, but any card in the trump suit is considered
higher than any card in one of the other three suits.
The second part is played as a series of tricks, with simple but somewhat
unusual rules. Each trick can end by having all its cards picked back up
or by having its cards "killed" and removed from play. Here are the details
of the play:
Eventually players will drop down to two. And then one of those two will
go out, leaving the other to bleat.
Cards that touch
Throughout the second part, adjacent cards in a suit are said to touch.
A player may always play any length run of touching cards as if it were
a single card. A player is not obliged to do so, however, and may play
only part of a run or any individual card from the run.
Leading a trick
Upon getting the lead, a player may freely play any card (or run of touching
cards) from his/her hand, trump or non-trump. Play proceeds clockwise with
each player in turn folowing the trick as described below. Depending on
circumstances, a trick may last long enough that play comes back around
to the leader who would then have to follow it.
The player who won the last trick in the first part (remember?)
leads the opening trick of the second part. The lead of the remaining tricks
will be discussed below.
Following a trick
When it's a player's turn to follow a trick, one or more plays will have
already been made on the trick. The player must do one of two allowable
Beat it or eat it!
Play higher than the highest play so far, i.e.,
beat what's on the
table. In other words: if the highest play so far is non-trump, play any
higher-ranking non-trump or any trump; and if the highest play so far is
a trump, play any higher trump. If the player has several options for beating
what's on the table, the player may choose to use any one of them. And
as always, the player may beat with a run of touching cards.
Pick up, i.e. eat the lowest run of touching cards on the table.
That might be just a single non-touching card. Or it might be a run that
a previous player played as one card. Or it might be a run that spans several
previous plays. It might be all the plays on the table. In any case, if
picking up, the player must pick up the entire run of the low card; the
player does not have the option here of breaking up a run.
If a player doesn't have cards high enough to beat what's on the table,
the player has no choice but to eat the low touching cards. If a player
does have high enough cards, the player may choose to eat or to beat. (Beating
is usually preferable to eating since the goal is to shrink one's hand;
but not always.)
For game mechanics, as plays get placed on the table, they should be
kept separate from each other (even if the cards touch in runs). That way,
even after any arbitrary series of intermingled plays and eats, it is always
easy to count at a glance how many individual plays remain on the table.
Ending a trick by eating
If the cards on the all touch and a player eats them, the trick is over.
The next player clockwise gets to lead the next trick.
Ending a trick by killing
A trick gets killed when as many plays are on the table as the number
of players in the game.
That is, in a four person game the simple scenario would be: if
A leads, then B beats, then C beats, then D beats, that kills the trick
in four moves. But it can be messier, such as: A leads (1 play on table)
then B beats (2 plays) then C eats A's lead (down to 1 play on table) then
D beats (2 plays) then A beats (3 plays) then B beats (4 plays) for a kill.
Actually, the number of plays required to kill a trick is the same as
the number of players in the game when the trick was led. That is, a player
might go out (see below) in the middle of a trick, but the number of plays
needed to kill that trick remains unchanged.
[Requests for a reminder,
such as "how many plays to kill?" or "is this a kill?" are OK and should
be answered truthfully.]
When a player kills a trick, all the cards on the table are immediately
removed from play for the remainder of the game. The player who killed
the trick leads the next one. Yes, that means a player who kills a trick
gets two moves in a row. (If a player kills and goes out at the same time,
the next player clockwise gets the lead.)
A player goes out by playing his or her last card (or run of touching
cards). This may happen on a lead or on beating. The player announces "I'm
out" [or simply "out"] and is no longer involved in the game play.
(There's no way, e.g., for the player to eat and come back in.) The play
continues to progress clockwise as normal, skipping over the out player(s).
[A player who goes out and gets bored can gather up the killed cards
and start shuffling them in preparation for the next game.]
On the way to going out, if a player's hand drops to exactly three
cards, the player must immediately announce "three cards". If a player's
hand drops to exactly one card, the player must immediately announce "one
card". [A player who fails to announce "one card" or "three cards" is
said to be "cheating".] Note that because a player may play runs of
cards together, it's entirely possible for a player to go out without ever
having had exactly one or three cards.
[In some circles, if, after announcing
"one card" or "three cards", the player eats cards the next turn, the player
will announce "not one card" or "not three cards".]
In no particular order. All heavily playtested.
No sloughing for trump
To avoid the mad sloughing scramble for the trump card, we add the rule
that the bottom card can not be used to replenish a slough, only a play.
(A.K.A. "restaurant rules", it was introduced to avoid knocking over water
glasses when playing in restaurants.)
No bottom card
To avoid the mad sloughing scramble for the trump card, we set aside the
bottom card after dealing. When the first part ends, we look at that card
to determine trump, then discard it from play. (Like restaurant rules,
and also the game is played with one fewer trump card, which makes an extra
High trump rule
"The highest trump left in the game may only be used to kill a trick".
That is, the only legal play for the Ace of trump is to kill, it may not
be used for a lead or merely to beat without killing. Once the Ace gets
used for a kill and hence removed from the game, the rule applies to the
highest remaining trump, iteratively. With this rule, a player who gets
the lead and whose only card is the high trump has no legal move. In this
case, the lead transfers to that player's right, i.e., backwards.
If a player loses track of which card is remaining high trump, any player
may say "I believe this card to be the high trump," and all other players
must confirm or deny that suspicion. (Recomended to improve the flow in
3-4 player games. Not for beginners.)
Aces low in first part
In the first part of the game, rank Aces low, below 2's. In the second
half of the game, resume their high value. (Helps eliminate the development
of monster power hands by lucky & cunning Ace- & King-hoarders.)
After each game, the goat gets to move to a different spot in the table.
(Allows goats who feel put-upon to rearrange their relationship to their
Play using two decks at once. The rules are the same except that each player
needs 12 cards rather than six at the end of the first part. Note that
two cards that have the same rank and suit do not touch and must
be played separately. E.g. if you have the 5 of clubs, two 6's of clubs
and a 7 of clubs, it will take at least two plays to get rid of them all,
e.g. 5-6-7 then 6. (Makes for a good 7-8 person game.)
Set up two tables, and split into two groups of players. Designate one
table the "winners table" and one the "losers table". Play one game at
each table independently and simultaneously. Then the goat from the winners
table moves down to the losers table and the first player to go out at
the losers table moves up to the winners table. (Allows 10-12 people to
3 players, 6 hands. Each player is dealt two hands. Play is in the order
"player A right", "player B right", "player C right", "player A left",
"player B left", "player C left". (subsitute the players' names as appropriate,
and chant it out loud as needed during play.) Your right and left hands
play as a partnership. Yes, they may look at each others' cards, or rather,
you may look at both hands simultaneously. Yes, through adroit play, it's
possible to "pass" cards from one hand to the other. (For three players
who've played the game so many times they've seen all the 3-person patterns.)