Mao, the Card Game
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Netscape 3 while in a comfortable chair, sipping a piña colada.
Also called Dictator (to match the "correct" name for Asshole, President, and the second name for Napoleon, Emperor), Mao is a game that was introduced to my high school a number of years ago. Mao uses a standard deck of cards, but is best with two or three decks. Based on the popular UnoTM game, Mao is a fast pased game which is played like Crazy Eights. The object of the game is to have an empty hand. The game is best when most players are unsure of the exact rules and/or drunk. The beauty of the game comes with not knowing all of the rules; playing or ruling incorrectly or in an unsatisfactory manner is cause for a penalty of one or more cards added to your hand.
Aside from its structual base (from Uno), Mao's rules are drawn as a parody of Communist China, named after its father, Mao Zedong. Players are uncertain of the rules (laws) and are penalized for not following them appropiately. The rules (laws) are strict and orderly, and there is much chaos. The rules are not written on the cards (the way they are in Uno--the "Draw Two" card is a seven, for example). If the rules are broken, the player is corrected with no explanation (beyond that of the call), and receives a penalty (usually in the form of being dealt an extra card). In some versions of the game, there is a marginal line of corruption; players can cheat by hiding cards (but never one of the last three). The penalty for cheating is three cards.
The point of the game is to leave. Since communism is "evil," you have to beat the system to leave, be it by cheating or playing by the rules. It is difficult to leave the game; you have to announce when you have only one card, and you have to be the first to slap the pile after you play your last card (in some circles, you have to yell "free," "done," "out," or "finished" before playing the card).
Before I begin explaining the rules, I should state that I am not trying to be anti-ethnic or racist. I'm not trying to be anti-communist, either. I am part Chinese myself and have strong support for a true communist government. Unfortunately, the world has never seen one outside the Israeli Kibutzim. This game is a parody to the struggles and lifestyles of Communist China. Please do not send me pro-ethnic letters, I did not invent this game and I do not play it for its hate crime content.
Deal: The deck for this game is a standard deck of cards, with or without jokers. If there are more than five players (recommended), two decks are preferable. There should be about one deck for every three or four people, but never more than four jokers. The deck is shuffled (at least three rifle/riffle shuffles--thanks, WoTC). The person to the dealer's left cuts and the dealer deals counterclockwise from his or her right (no penalties for mistakes yet). As soon as the dealer deals the first card, the game has begun. Any player who views any part of his or her hand before the dealer sees his or her own hand gets an extra card. If the dealer messes up and reveals a card, the penalty goes to the dealer and the card is exchanged for a new unknown card from the deck before it is reshuffled. Each player (initially) gets seven cards. If more than half of the deck would be dealt out, each player gets only five cards (there must be room for many penalties). The remaining cards are put in the center of the table (equal in distance from all players--essential for slapping the pile) and the first card is flipped over next to the pile, in the dead center of the table. No player may move the pile outside a point of order unless restocking the deck. The dealer views his or her hand and play begins. There is no penalty for the dealer if he or she views his or her hand before this process is completed.
Play: The person to the dealer's right goes first (hey, this is China--everything is backwards). The player must play a card of the same rank or suit, draw a card, or play a jack (or joker; see "special cards," below). Once a jack is played, the first suit that is announced is the new suit. Play goes counterclockwise until an eight is played, as an eight is the equivalent of the "Reverse" in Uno. Players play in order unless an ace is played; the ace is Uno's "Skip." There are other specialty cards, but they don't distrupt the order of play. When the deck is exausted, the discard pile is either flipped or shuffled then flipped. Only the top card stays (if there are multiple sevens, the player must remember how many there are; see "special cards" below. If at any time there are no cards left to be flipped, all "lost" cards are returned to the deck, no questions asked. Players cannot cheat by "returning" cards from their hands, only accidentally dropped cards or cards stashed by cheating (as per the rules) may be returned. In some circles, if there are still not enough cards to penalize a person, the person with the most cards is "executed;" removed from the game. His or her cards are shuffled into the deck. If this rule is not used, the penalty is not called. Players must be more conservative calling penalties. Another deck could also be shuffled in.
End: When a player plays his or her second-to-last card, he or she must announce "last card." If the call is missed, and another player has played a card, another person can announce it, invoking a four card penalty on the person with one card. Some circles make this more of a contest; any person can yell "last card" as soon as the card is played. If the caller is not the player then the penalty is invoked. When the last card is played, the player must be the first to slap the discard pile or get a five card penalty. In some circles, the player must first call "free," "done," "out," or "finished" before playing the card. If the player has successfully "escaped," the game is over. In some circles, the game continues until there are only three players (or even one). In rare cases, escaped players are allowed to make calls.
All penalties have a penalty of one card unless otherwise stated. A line that begins with an asterisk(*) is optional. Order of announcements does not matter.
Misdeal (dealer dealt too many/few cards to a person or showed another person a card, purposefully or not. One card for each hand messed up. Revealed cards are replaced).
Looking at your hand before the dealer.
*Failure to stand, salute with right arm forward, and declare "Hail, Satan" (once three sixes have been played).
Playing out of turn.
Taking too long.
Failure to draw X cards (often coupled with playing out of turn--playing instead of drawing is both penalties).
*Arguing with the rules.
Failure to declare spade (the name and then rank).
Failure to declare "last card" (four card penalty).
Failure to salute the chair (player must declare "salute the chair" after playing a king or queen).
Failure to declare "Snoopy flying" (must be declared after playing the ace of spades. Don't forget to declare "ace of spades").
Playing out of suit. (Some circles say "wrong card," combining this rule with playing out of turn and/or failure to draw X cards. This looks strange when more than one player gets a penalty, though).
*Incorrect call (also "illegal call" or "shit call") --works great with "arguing with the rules."
*Unnecessary call (calling something that is an optional rule not in effect or for another card. Not cumulative with the above call). Saluting the chair for a jack is a two card penalty.
*Cheating. (caller must declare where the cards were hidden. A cheater must confess once discovered. Penalty of three cards plus all the stashed cards).
Catching yourself (also "calling yourself").
Stacking the deck (call on the dealer or after a person puts cards back on the deck improporly (i.e. revealing something, etc.)).
Drawing too many cards.
Failure to slap the pile ("declared" by somebody else slapping the pile, five card penalty).
*Excessive swearing (sometimes extended to be called "Annoying").
Declaring the name of the game.
*Calling a pointless Point of Order.
*Viewing hand during a Point of Order.
*Giving a penalty during a Point of Order (except for "viewing hand during a Point of Order" or "giving a penalty during a Point of Order").
Ending a non-existant Point of Order.
*Slapping the pile (unless a person has just correctly played his/her last card).
*Failure to declare "blue twentytwo" (Penalty is either two cards or the entire discard pile).
*Failure to declare "X is a bitch" (X is the person next to the player)
Asking a question
*Discussing school/work (time limits, as in when next class/shift starts, are permitted).
Saying the name of the game.
*Mentioning sports (time limits, as in when the game starts, are permitted).
*Mentioning Magic: The Gathering.
*Mentioning Asshole/President (as in the card game).
*Mentioning B.S./Bullshit (as in the card game).
*Drinking out of turn.
*Failure to drink.
Spades (all). Player must announce the card's rank then suit.
Ace. Skips the next player.
*Ace. Skips a number of players equal to the number of aces on the pile.
Ace of Spades. Player must declare "Snoopy flying" (in addition to "ace of spades").
*2. The next player must declare "blue twenty two" if there are two or more consecutive two's on the pile. In some circles, failure to declare this gives the player the entire discard pile. Other circles have a two card penalty.
*3. A red three requires the player to declare the person to his/her right a bitch (ex. "Josh is a bitch"). A black three requires the player to declare the person to his/her left a bitch (ex. "David is a bitch").
6. All players must stand, place their left hands on their chests (or in some drinking games, drink), hold the right arm outward and shout "Hail, Satan!"
7. Next player must either draw two cards for every seven for which a player has not drawn for (and not play a card) or play another seven.
*Joker, option 1. Counts as two sevens, the suit of the previously played card is still the suit. No need to announce spades if that is the suit.
*Joker, option 2. Counts as two sevens and the first suit that is announced is the new suit.
*Joker, option 3. Counts as two aces (skips two players if not using the optional ace rule).
8. Direction of play reverses; the player who played before the player of the 8 must go again, as counterclockwise becomes clockwise or the other way around.
Jack. The first suit that is announced is the new suit.
Queen. Player must declare "salute the chair" in addition to "spades" if the queen is a spade.
*Queen of Spades. Player must declare "da bitch" in addition to the above.
King. Player must declare "salute the chair" in addition to "spades" if the king is a spade.
Extra Rules (all optional)
Point of Order: A player says, "Point of Order," and the Point of Order exists. All players must place their hands face down on the table, play must be stopped. Anything can be stated until somebody says, "end Point of Order." This is where you can argue about the rules. If the argument is stupid, somebody will end the Point of Order and penalize you for calling a pointless Point of Order. The most common question for a Point of Order is "who's turn is it?" This may or may not be reason to penalize for calling a Point of Order; it is legitimate if there was a long Point of Order or other interruption. Rules can be made, unmade, or altered during a Point of Order.
Cheating. Players can hide cards from their hands except the last three cards in their hands. Calling somebody at cheating requires knowing the stash. Once revealed, the player must take back ALL of the cards in that specific place and take a three card penalty. As with any other game, other cheating ("real cheating") is reason to kick a player out of the game and shuffle his/her hand into the deck.
Drinking. Yes, this can be a drinking game, too. Every time a card of the same rank as the original card is played, all players except the player of the card and the next player must drink (in some circles, the person to play the card has to say something like "gurgle, gurgle"). Another option (you could do both, too) is that all players except the person who should be playing a card must drink when a person plays out of turn. Warning: This game can cause big fights, especially if you are drunk.
Silent Mao. This is the strangest version of the game there is. Players say absolutely nothing (no point of orders or declarations, penalties go unannounced) except for the last play; upon slapping the pile, the winner may shout, "finished!" Some circles allow grumbles, grunts, and murmers, so long as they are not words or related to words. Gestures cannot be used as substitutes for words or to aid noises. All noises must be monosylabilic. A noise ending in a high note is NOT a question.
New Rules: The person who won the last game may make a new rule, sharing it with nobody. That rule comes into effect as soon as its creator must use it. It must be a rule that can eventually be
New! Mao on the net!
A secretive explanation of the rules, one good for teaching others without fear of revealing the game too much.
Play Mao online! (but don't expect the same rules). Most (if not all) of the rules in this variant are explained on the page linked to here.
Gnomic, a variant? Not much info here.
A variant with a Mao Master, who assigns all the penalties and is the only one to make new rules.
Pagat Rules of Card Games listing for Mao. Has more links. Good for looking up other games, too.
Every rule has a good reason for being in the game. Sure, some are just silly, but isn't that the point? That "communism" is screwed up? Many of the "silly" rules are actually in the game to get rid of annoying people, from those outside the game, saying "what are you playing" constantly, to those inside the game who aren't paying attention. Most rules are in the game to confuse the players, which is the point of the game. Playing groups should be encouraged to make their own house rules to add to the game and should pick a handful of rules from the optional rules presented here. Veterans of the game will find Points of Order necessary, and will find the game completely different when including/excluding the cheating rules.
Along with Bridge, Napoleon (a form of Spades/Pitch), Hearts, Bullshit, Asshole (also called Dalmuti, Corporate Shuffle (with Dilbert), President-look, its a evaluationware comuter game now!), I see Mao as one of the best group (4+ people) games out there. Well, okay. So Bridge, Napoleon, Spades, and Hearts (the trick-based games) aren't silly/party games but rather games of real strategy. Bullshit, Asshole, and Mao are party games that require not thought but attention. As for small group (2-4 people) games, I see Canasta, Ginn/Ginn Rummy/Rummy 500, Egyptian War/Egyptian Ratscrew/Egyptian Ratfuck (a combination of War and Slapjack), and Hearts as the best (Hearts can be played with three people by removing the three of clubs).