Okay, earlier I put up some draft rules for a card game called Four, and said they were “barely tested”. I probably should’ve known better, since those rules were basically un-playable.
So, here’s a revised set of rules: actually tested a little, working, and reasonably nice to play.
It’s designed for four players, and works reasonably well with 3 or 5. Not much fun with only 2 people, and would need some modification for 6 or more.
A stripped deck, including Aces, twos, threes, fours, and all face cards (28 cards total).
Choose the first dealer however you like. After the first game, the previous winner is the next dealer.
Deal a hand of four cards face-down to each player. Place the remaining 12 cards face-down to make the draw pile. Turn the top card on the draw pile face up to make the discard pile.
The goal is to “go out” by showing a hand that has either one Ace (more is okay), two twos, three threes, or all fours. However, once a player goes out, only higher hands are acceptable after that. For example, if someone shows twos, then only threes and fours will do. Once a player goes out, he or she sits out the rest of the game. The last player to go out (and therefore having the highest hand) is the winner.
Play starts from the dealer’s left, and goes around in order (dealer last), skipping any players who have gone out.
If your hand is acceptable, you may go out. Place your hand down, face up.
Otherwise, take one card from either the top of the draw pile, the top face-up card on the discard pile, or any card placed face up by a player who previously went out. Place any card from your hand (the card just taken is not allowed) face up on the discard pile. You must take and discard cards; passing is not allowed.
After exchanging cards, you may again go out, if your hand is acceptable. Otherwise, your turn ends.
Play ends immediately if anyone goes out with fours. Otherwise, play continues until the draw pile is exhausted. If you take the last card of the draw pile, you may still finish your turn; that is, you still have a chance to go out.
Four can optionally be a betting game. At the start of a game, everyone places a small bet (say $1) in a pot in front of them. Whenever a player goes out with threes or less (not ending the game), all remaining players (who haven’t gone out) must add another bet to their pot, or forfeit the game.
When the game is over, any players who went out but did not win are “safe”: they keep their pots, but win nothing. The winner takes everyone else’s pots.