Pebbles and Nuts

Invented by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: This game requires players to "thread the needle" by winning certain cards in tricks while avoiding others. The challenge is to collect the tasty "nuts" whilst evading unappetising "pebbles".

Pebbles and Nuts is among the rare good trick-taking games for two. It also makes an engaging three-player game.

Players: 2 or 3 players recommended. Also playable by 4 in two partnerships.

Equipment: Use one 32-card French deck. (You can create this deck by removing all cards below 7's from a standard 52-card pack. Also, remove any Jokers.)

Cards rank from high to low: A-10-K-Q-J-9-8-7. The 10 ranks second-highest.

Objective: Win a deal by winning the most points. Win Game by being first to win 70 points across deals.

Deal: Deal 7 cards to each player. Remaining cards become the draw pile.

Trump: Hearts are always trump in this game.

Play: Non-dealer leads any card to the first trick. His opponent must follow suit, if able. If he cannot follow suit, he may play any card.

If no trump (no Heart) is played to the trick, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. If any Heart(s) are played to the trick, the highest Heart wins.

Players then draw one card each from the draw pile, and the trick-winner leads any card to the next trick.

Ace of Spades: If a player leads a trick with any Heart, the follower may play the Ace of Spades at will, and it trumps any Heart. The player following the lead can play the Ace of Spades even if he has Heart(s) in hand. One is never required to play the Ace of Spades in response to a Heart lead.

In all other respects, the Ace of Spades is simply a normal Spades-suit card. It counts as a spade when played to a spade lead, and one must play it in response to a spade lead if it is the only spade one has in hand.

Scoring for Melds: Players can score points by creating certain combinations of cards called melds. After each trick, both players each draw one card from stock. The winner of the trick may then optionally declare one meld. He scores meld points by laying the appropriate cards face up on the table before him:


King and Queen
  of same suit
King and Queen
  of Spades
Spade Marriage
Adding a Jack of
same suit to an
existing Marriage

Though placed face up on the table, melded cards are still considered part of the player's hand. They are played to tricks as either desired or required, in the same manner as any of the cards hidden in the player's hand.

Score for a Ménage by adding the Jack of the same suit to a Marriage already on the table. The Marriage must have been scored in a previous trick, with both cards still on the table, with the Jack added after winning a separate subsequent trick.

Scoring for Card Points: After all cards have been played to tricks, players score points for cards they've won:

King Queen 8
Hearts  5  10  10  10



Example Scoring: A player wins the Ace, King, and Queen of Hearts, the Ace and King of Diamonds, and the Ace, King, and Queen of Spades. He scores 5 + 10 + 10 for his Hearts, 5 + 5 for his Diamonds, and -5 + -10 + -10 points, for a grand total of 10 points.

End of Play: Play continues until all cards have been played to tricks. Players may meld, if able, after the draw pile has been depleted.

For 3 Players: Add an extra 8 of Hearts to ensure an even draw from a 33-card deck. There will be two 8 of Hearts in the deck, each worth 10 points. First to 50 points across hands wins the game.

For 4 Players: Partners sit across from each other and their scores are added together at hand's end. Players cannot play off their partners' declarations (melds remain unique to each player). Optional Rule: After a partnership wins a trick, either member may make one declaration.

Partnership Play with 2 Decks: Shuffle two 32-card packs together. If identical cards are tossed on a trick, the first wins the trick. A single King or Queen can be used in two declarations. To do this, a player wins a trick and scores one marriage, then he plays either the King or Queen from the meld to a subsequent trick. After winning another trick, he may re-constitute the declaration by adding a King or Queen (as appropriate) to the remaining face up card before him. First partnership to 130 points wins Game.

Playing Tips: To win points in tricks, one must "thread the needle" by winning positive point cards (nuts) and avoiding negative card points (pebbles).

Oftentimes there exists a trade-off between winning trick points versus scoring melds. Try to maximise scores for both. Or concentrate on one or the other, depending on the direction fate forces your hand.

Hearts have a special role since they are always trump. They are potential trick-winners. As a suit they offer the highest card points. Optimise Hearts to win tricks and try to make good the lower-ranking Hearts like the Queen and 8.

Whilst melding scores points, it also exposes part of one's hand to the opponent. Clever opponents use this to their advantage. For example, a Spade Marriage scores 20 points. But the downside is that the opponent may force their declarer to "eat" (win) the exposed spades in subsequent tricks. The Ace of Spades is similarly dicey. Trump a Hearts King, Queen, or the 8 with it, and score 5 points on the trick (10 for the Heart minus 5 points for the Ace of Spades). Or slough off the Ace of Spades on a losing trick, forcing -5 points upon one's opponent. Avoid winning the Spade King, Queen, or 8 with the Ace of Spades!

A net total of 30 card points are winnable in tricks the two- and four- player games. 40 points are out in the three-player game, due to the addition of the second 8 of Hearts to the deck. Meld points scored per hand vary.

Players with good memories will know what cards the opponent holds after all card stock has been drawn. They should use this to their advantage.

License: Feel free to print, copy, and distribute these rules, so long as you retain this paragraph. Invented by Howard Fosdick © 2023, distributed under Creative Commons License BY-ND.      HOME