Wildcat Rummy

Invented by Howard Fosdick © BestFreeNewGames.com

Overview: Here's a scoring rummy that evolved from our own extensive play. What makes it unique is that one can win either by going out ("rummying") or by scoring meld points. You'll have to pursue the optimal strategy to best your opponents.

Players: For 2 to 5 playing individually.

Equipment: Take two standard 52-card packs with identical backing. Remove all the 2’s. If two play, add two Jokers, for a total of 98 cards. If three play, add three Jokers, for a total of 99 cards. If four or five play, add four Jokers, for a total of 100 cards. The Jokers are wild cards that can be used to represent any other card.

Deal: Deal each player 11 cards. Turn one card face-up on the table to start the discard pile. The remaining cards become the drawing stock.

Goal: Score the most points in a single hand (or deal of the cards). Win the Game by being first to total 500 points across as many hands as needed. Players score points by laying sets of cards or melds face-up on the table.

Play: In his turn, a player:

(1) Either he draws one card from the draw stock OR he takes the entire discard pile into his hand.

If the player chooses to take up the discard pile, he must first take the topmost card only and meld it to the table. Only after melding it does he take the rest of the discard pile into his hand (which he is then required to do).

(2) The player makes any and all legal melds he wishes.

(3) The player discards one card face up onto the top of the discard pile. If he took up the discard pile into his hand in his turn, this single card forms the start of a new discard pile.

Visibility: Players must keep their hands in view of others at all times and tell opponents how many cards they have in hand upon request.

Discard Pile: Must be keep squared at all times so that only the topmost card is visible. Players can not “peek” to see cards below the top card.

Hand End: A deal ends when one player goes out by melding his entire hand to the table. The player may go out (or rummy) with or without a discard. The player who rummies scores a 50 point rummy bonus.

Each player scores the difference between the point total of the cards he has melded to the table versus the point total of those cards still in his hand. If a player has more points in hand than he has melded to the table, he receives a negative score for the hand.

In the rare event that the draw pile goes empty while play is in progress, the player who drew the final card finishes his turn (including his discard, if any). Then the hand ends.

If the hand ends and no player has rummied, then no player scores the 50 rummying point bonus for the hand.

Melding: There are two kinds of melds:

Sets 3 or 4 cards of the same rank (suits are irrelevant) Example: K-K-K
Sequences 3 or 4 cards of the same suit in sequence Example: 3-4-5-6 of spades

Player can only play to their own melds – not their opponents.

No meld can contain more than four cards.

Once played to the table, melds may not be altered in any way, other than to add a fourth card to a three-card meld.

Aces -- In sequences, Aces are the highest card (A-K-Q). They cannot be played low.

Queens of Spades -- Players can only discard a Queen of Spades if they have no other cards in hand (if they are rummying).

Jokers -- Jokers may be used to represent any other card in the deck. Every meld must contain at least one card other than a Joker.

Jokers score the same as the card they represent in the meld. They score -20 points if held in hand at hand's end.

Jokers may only represent a Queen of Spades when played to a sequence meld, such as the Spade melds Ace-King-Joker or King-Joker-Jack-10.

A Joker can not represent the Queen of Spades in a set of queens.

Scoring: At hand end, players score points for cards they've melded to the table. They're penalised points for cards left in their hands when their opponent rummies:

Card: Melded Points: Penalty Points:
Ace 20 -20
King to 10 10 -10
9 to 3 5 -5
Queen of Spades 50 -50
Joker Same as the card it represents -20
Going out Bonus ("rummying") 50 n/a
Optional Rule -- Completed Sequence Bonus 20 n/a

Optional Rule - Completed Sequence Bonus: We recommend adding this rule once you've become familiar with the basic game.

For each 4-card sequence you've melded, you score an extra 20 points.

To signify a completed sequence, place the highest card in the completed sequence at right angles to the other three in the meld.

This rule adds challenge because it means that even low cards can have significant value, if played as a completed sequence of four. For example, 3-4-5 in Clubs only scores 15 points. But add the 6 of Clubs to it, and you've more than doubled the total value of that meld to 40 points. (Adding the 6 of Clubs adds 5 points for the 6-Clubs plus 20 points for completing a 4-card sequence meld).

Optional Rule for a Faster Game: To shift the focus from scoring table melds to “sudden death” rummying, for the 2 player game, add 2 more Jokers to the playing deck for a total of 100 cards. For 3 to 5 players, play with two full standard decks totaling 104 cards. Do not use any Jokers. All 2's are wild cards. To shift the focus away from “sudden death” rummying to scoring table melds only, play without any Jokers or wild cards.

Tips for Play: This game involves many trade-offs and finer points, some of which are subtle and only become evident after players become experienced. We describe the more salient ones here.

High cards score more points but beware getting caught with them at hand's end. Some seek high cards early in the game and dump unmelded ones to the discard pile late in the hand. Only do this if it doesn't help your opponent score these cards, or get himself out of a difficult situation.

Don't waste a Joker in a low meld, score it high, especially as an Ace or Queen of Spades. Remember, you can only meld a Joker for 50 points in a natural spades sequence such as Jack-Joker-King or Joker-King-Ace.

By remembering all cards in the discard pile you can ensure you take it up only when it truly benefits your position. Taking a deep discard pile means big scores and increases your future meld potential but exposes you to a massive loss if your opponent rummies soon after.

The Queens of Spades present a quandary. Since one can not discard them unless one rummies, melding them is key. If possible meld them early on to avoid 50 point penalties. Keeping a Joker or other Queens around for this purpose is sometimes useful. On occasion you'll draw a Queen of Spades late in the hand and have no real chance to meld it. Oops!

Discards can be deployed as either defensive or offensive weapons. Carefully consider their use.

Beware the “small hand trap”. If you end up with one or two cards in hand late in the game, your chances of rummying directly correspond to how many available three-card melds you have on the table. It often it becomes difficult to rummy unless you can reestablish your hand by taking up the discard pile. Either retaining a few more cards in hand or leaving melds open with only three cards may be prudent.

Differences from Other Rummies:

There are literally hundreds of rummy variations.

Often, what determines the "best" rummy is personal preference. Based on extensive play and minor adjustments over many years, our feeling is that the combination of elements here present an optimal mix.

We especially like the tension between two possibly successful strategies: scoring lots of meld points to the table, versus rummying to sting one's opponent with many penalty cards still in hand. Most rummies reward only one of these strategies.

Here are some other distinguishing features of Wildcat Rummy:

  1. Composition of the card deck. (Carefully selected membership as even slight changes can alter the feel of the game.)
  2. Ditto for the 11-card hand.
  3. The mechanics of picking up the Discard Deck. (It's important that the player picking up the discards prove he meets the requirements to do so before actually picking it up. Some rummies are much given to reneging by players who improperly pick up the discards and place them in hand before discovering their error.)
  4. Limiting the maximum meld to four cards. (Larger combinations dilute the challenge of assembling melds.)
  5. Set melds do not require one card of each suit, which makes them easier to obtain. Hence the counterbalancing completed sequence bonus.
  6. The role of the Jokers. (Some rummies make them too powerful and either introduce too much randomness or distort the game around the role of these few cards.)
  7. Simplified scoring. (Scoring cards by their face values, as many table-meld rummies do, increases the burdern of after-game scoring to little discernable benefit.)
  8. Adjustable for faster or slower play. (No other rummies of which we're aware tell players how to fine-tune play to their own preferences for how suddenly hands may end.)
  9. The size of the bonus for rummying. (Some games put such emphasis on rummying that it overshadows players' efforts to score meld points. This delicate balance needs to be respected by any table-melding rummy, unless the primary goal of the game is simply to rummy.)

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