Moleicki, the basic rules (version 1.1)

Moleicki is a game of chance and skill for ages 8 to 80 (approx.). It has evolved quite a bit from the simple country pastime, played with two pinecones and a wheelbarrow, invented by William "Snack" Blake in 1793, but documentation on the game, especially in its modern form, has been scanty at best. Edmund Hoyle dismissed the game in print as "Masonic nonsense," and Goren's attempts to write a systematic account on the subject ended in his madness and dismemberment. The following monograph is an attempt to rectify this situation and bring moleicki to a new generation of players, in the hopes that it will regain the popularity it enjoyed in its heyday, when icons Maggie and Jiggs used to play a hearty game every Sunday in the funny pages, and John Hilton incorporated literally pages of moleicki lore into his blockbuster novel Goodbye, Mr. Chips. These rules were written by Johnson Hal and approved (nihil obstat) by Kenneth Franco of the Moleicki Steering Committee (MSC). Instructions on ritual purification before play have been omitted, on the advice of a respected confidante, as being somewhat de trop.

Two or more. Although there is no theoretical limit to the number of players, practically the game becomes unwieldy around eight. If more than four wish to play, it is advisable to play with two decks; increase the number of decks proportionally for larger groups.

The pack of 52, plus two jokers and a twenty-five cent card, which is represented by any extra card in the deck with an identical backing, such as a blank card, a "Rules of Poker", an order form, etc. Multiple decks can be used, as stated above. If there is difficulty obtaining multiple complete decks, fewer jokers or 25 cards can be employed, so, e.g., a double deck can contain three jokers and one 25 card. In any case, all players should be aware of how many decks, jokers, and 25 cards are in play. The sequence of the cards depends on which vector is being played (see below). The 2, 10, joker, and 25 card are special cards, called aargh. With the exception of certain optional rules, suits never come into play in moleicki.

Cards may be drawn for choice of seats and first deal. High card deals, and the deal rotates to the left. Any player may shuffle, the dealer last, and the player to his right cuts the cards. The eldest hand has the responsibility of collecting the discarded piles.

The dealer in moleicki decides what form the deal will take, bound by certain parameters. The dealer deals one card at a time, beginning with the eldest hand, to every player, including himself; cards are first dealt into each player's hand, and the dealer decided the size of the hand. With one deck, the minimum number of cards in a hand is four, with two decks eight, etc. There is no upper limit to the size of a hand, except that governed by the number of cards in the deck. All players must receive the same number of cards.

After the dealer has dealt everyone's hand, he deals each player a tableau. The most common tableau consists of three cards face-down in three piles, three cards face up on top of them (comprising the base), and one card face down in front of those three piles (the barrier). However, the dealer has great leeway in crafting a tableau. As many piles of cards as are desired may be made, and each pile may contain any number of cards, one or more. Cards in each pile may be dealt face up or face down. Piles may be organized in any number of rows, and each row may contain any number of piles. The row closest to the player is his base, and any other rows in front of it (i.e., further from the player) are called barriers. Note that sober dealers will limit the number of barriers. If the top card on a pile is dealt face down, the player may turn it face up, unless it is the only card in that pile. Each player's tableau must be identical to every other player's. Excess cards dealt neither into the hands nor the tableaux are placed in a draw pile.

Any player dealt every 10 in the deck (i.e., four in single deck, eight in double deck, etc.) into his hand automatically wins the game.

The object of play is to be the first to discard all of one's cards from both one's hand and one's tableau, or to fulfill an alternate victory condition, such as being dealt all the 10s, as explained above, or employing the K K K 9 rule (see below).

The Opening
At any time after all players have had a chance to pick up and examine their hands, any player may start the game by playing a 3, that is, by placing a 3 in the center of the table and starting the center pile. Speed is of the essence here, and the first card on the table constitutes the valid play. Magdalena Krzywicka may not play the opening 3 unless no other player is able to play one. Subsequently, any player immediately to the left or right of the opening player may follow up by playing any legal card along the up vector (see below); again, it is only the first card down that constitutes a play. Note that although any legal card may be used to follow up, good sportsmanship dictates that one should not rush to play if the card one is playing is very high. If the player to the opener's left played next, play continues to the left; if the player to the opener's right played next, play continues to the right.

If no player has a 3, the ace corollary to the three rule comes into effect, and any player (including Magdalena Krzywicka) may play an A, as above, and play continues along the down vector. If no player has a 3 or an A, the eight corollary comes into effect, any player may play an 8, and play continues along the middle vector.

The Play
The basic sequence of play is this: one player discards a card from his hand (or, in later stages of play, his tableau) into the center pile. The player whose turn is next must then beat it by playing a higher card or cards into the center pile. Should the player be unable to beat the card, he must pick up the entire center pile and incorporate it into his hand. Play in any event continues to the next player in turn.

A player may elect to tie a card before beating it. Tying is accomplished by playing a card identical in rank to that of the top card on the center pile. After tying, a player must always then beat the card.

Player may always play more than one card of identical rank at a time; this is called matching. A player may therefore tie a card with several cards at once, and then beat the card with several matching cards. There is no limit to the number of cards that can be played at once, except the practical limit of the number of cards of that rank in the deck. In any case, playing multiple cards does not make it more difficult for the next player to beat them: one card of higher rank beats two, three, or more cards of lower rank. In general, if you can play one of a rank of cards, you can also play more than one, and if you can play more than one you can also play one (the sole exception is explained under the straight rule, below).

If at any time four or more cards of identical rank are on top of the center pile, either because they were all played at one time or because of a tying, the entire pile is immediately collected by the eldest hand and placed face down in the bad discard pile (see below).

In certain situations, a player will be presented with a center pile with no cards in it. The pile is then said to be blank, and any card may be played onto it. Additionally, any card can be played on a pile that has been reset by a 2, a joker, or a junction (see below).

The important question of which cards are higher than which cards is determined by the vector of play. There are eight vectors: up, down, middle, anti-middle, into the page, out of the page, north loop, and south loop. The sequence of the cards in each vector is, from high to low:

Up: A, K, Q, J, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3
Down: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, J, Q, K, A
Middle (proximity to 8): 8, 7&9, 6&J, 5&Q, 4&K, 3&A
Anti-middle (distance from 8): 3&A, 4&K, 5&Q, 6&J, 7&9, 8
Into the Page: 6&J, 7&9, 8, 3&A, K&4, Q&5
Out of the Page: Q&5, K&4, 3&A, 8, 7&9, 6&J
North Loop: 9, J, Q, K, A, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
South Loop: 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, A, K, Q, 9

In middle, anti-middle, into the page, and out of the page, cards linked by an ampersand in the above list are considered to be of equivalent value. In middle and anti-middle these cards are for all intents and purposes of identical rank: a 7 and a 9, for example, can be played at the same time (matching), can be used to tie one another, and any combination of the two involving more than four cards sends the center pile to the bad discard pile. However, in into the page and out of the page such matching is not allowed: equivalent cards must not be played together, and ties between equivalent cards are not allowed (although ties between cards with the same face value are still allowed, of course). So, in into the page and out of the page, a player could play two Qs at once, but not a Q and a 5.

The 8 in north and south loop is not listed because it is a junction card (see below).

2s, 10s, jokers, and the 25 card are not part of any sequence, but are special cards called aargh. Aargh are always legal to play in turn, and after playing aargh, another card must be played (unless the aargh is the final, winning card played). Each aargh has its own special function:

2 resets the pile: playing a 2 resets the center pile so that it is considered blank (see above), whereupon any card can be played on top of the 2.

10 clears the pile: playing a 10 causes the center pile to be collected and placed to one side by the eldest hand. All the cards except for the 10 are placed face up in a separate good discard pile ; the 10 is placed face down in the bad discard pile (see below). If a 10 is played on a blank center pile, the good discard pile that is created is said to be empty; this pile contains no cards, but the 10 is placed face up where the pile would be, as a reminder of its existence.

Joker: playing a joker resets the pile as per a 2 and allows the player to change the vector to any vector of his choosing. Changing the vector is optional, and it may be kept the same.

25 card: playing the 25 card allows the player to change vector as per a joker and causes the entire pile, including the 25 card, to be placed face down in the bad discard pile. Furthermore, the player must select one good discard pile and give it to any player of his choice (including himself if he wishes). It is not permissible to root through the various piles to determine their contents before electing which one to give away, although the top card of the pile, and the pile's approximate thickness, can, of course, be ascertained by sight. If an empty pile exists, the player can elect to symbolically give that pile to someone: no one gets any cards and the 10 used to represent the empty pile is placed in the bad discard pile. If there are no good discard piles extant, no cards are given to anyone; the other functions of the 25 card are unaffected.

Discard piles
It is stated above, but bears repeating here: throughout play the eldest hand is responsible for collecting and keeping a bad discard pile and several good discard piles. The bad discard pile consists of cards disposed of with four or more of a kind or with a 25 card, and of 10s; these cards are kept face down and may never return to play. Several good discard piles (comprising cards disposed of with 10s) should be kept, face up and distinct from one another.

Once all the 25 cards in the deck are played, the remaining good discard piles may be gathered and placed in the bad discard pile, and a distinction between the two kinds need no longer be kept.

Nine rule
Whenever a 9 is played, the player must say "Nein" in a German accent. If more than one 9 is played, he must say "Nein" once for each 9 played. Failure to say "Nein" before the next player has played a card results in the delinquent player's picking up the center pile. Additionally, if four or more 9s are played at once, every player at the table must say "Nein," or be punched in the face. It is customary to give warning, by shaking a clenched fist, before punching, so that the absent-minded may say "Nein" before being struck.

Draw pile
As long as cards remain in the draw pile, every player must have a minimum of three cards in his hand. Any time a play drops the number of cards in one's hand below three, the player must immediately draw from the draw pile until he has three. Replenishing the hand is considered to be done instantly, so it is permissible to draw before calling changes in vector or direction, and if a card drawn would make a legal play, e.g. if it would tie the card previously played, it may be played (whereupon another card must be drawn, of course).

Eight rule
In up and down vectors, playing an 8 entails special responsibilities. The player must immediately beat the 8 with a higher card; failure to do so requires the player to pick up the center pile. If the player beats the 8, he may then decide which player should go next (he may not choose himself), and the direction of play reverses, so that if the play had been proceeding clockwise it will now proceed counterclockwise, and vice versa. If the player fails to beat the 8, he does not get to choose, and the direction of play remains the same. Beating the 8 is required even if the eight is the final card played from a hand or tableau to end the game; a player with no card left to beat the 8 must pick up the pile regardless.

Another 8 played and beaten by the same or another player later in the game causes the direction to reverse again, etc. However, matching 8s are treated the same as one 8. Obviously, 8s in up and down may not be tied, because they must always be beaten before play passes to the next player.

This rule only applies in up and down. In other vectors 8 has no special functions, except as under the junction rule, below.

In north and south loop, the 8 is called the junction. Playing an 8 causes the vector to switch from north loop to south loop, or from south loop to north loop. The player's turn is over after playing the junction, and the pile is reset for the next player, who can play any card onto the pile. Playing several 8s simultaneously is permitted but does not cause the vector to switch back and forth several times: more than one 8 count as one junction.
Note that one cannot tie a junction before playing. Once one plays a junction, his turn is over.

Straight rule
In up and down, four cards in a sequence, such as (up) 3 4 5 6 or (down) Q J 9 8, can be played simultaneously as a straight. The cards can be of any suit. Remember that 10 is not considered to be in sequence, and cannot be played as part of a straight. Multiple cards of the same rank cannot be played in a straight. Cards in a straight must be laid down on the center pile in order, from low to high. If a straight ends with an 8, the player must beat the 8, either with a straight or with a regular play. An 8 can always be beaten with a straight provided that the lowest card in the straight beats the 8. Note that straights that begin with an 8, or have an 8 in the middle of their four cards, need not be beaten and do not invoke the 8 rule; only straights ending with an 8 do.

When the draw pile has been exhausted, and not before, a player with no cards in his hand must play from his tableau. Play from the last card of the hand to the first card of the tableau is fluid, so that a player playing the last card in his hand may, for example, match it with equivalent cards from his tableau; similarly, if a player has played an 8 in up or down as the last card in his hand, he may beat it with a card from his tableau, or if he has tied a card with the last card in his hand, he may follow it with play from his tableau, etc.

No player still holding cards in his hand may play from his tableau. If a player is forced to pick up the center pile after playing some cards from his tableau, he is now considered to have a hand again, and must play all the cards from it before he can play any more from his tableau.

A player may only play from his own tableau. Furthermore, not all cards in a tableau are in play. Cards must be played row by row, starting with the row furthest away from the player. All cards from each barrier row must be played before a player may play cards from his base (see Dealing, above), and each row must be exhausted of cards in turn before the row behind it can be played. Furthermore, in each row, all cards facing up must be played before any face-down cards may be played. Remember, however, that it is always permissible to turn face up a face-down card, provided it is the top card in a pile and is resting on one or more cards. Turning up a face-down card with no cards beneath it invokes the automatic lose rule (see below). Therefore, in a pile of three cards, the top card will be face up; once it is played the card below it is turned face up; once that card is played, however, the final card in the pile must remain face down. However, subject to the above rules, cards may be played within a row in any order. If he possesses a row of three piles, for example, each with a face-up card on top, a player may elect to play any of the cards on his turn.

Face-down cards that cannot be turned up must be played blind. That is, the player must play the card without knowing what it is. If the card played is not, by chance, a legal play, i.e., if it does not beat the card atop the center pile, the player must pick up the center pile.

If a player peeks at or exposes a face-down card when the card cannot be turned face up (i.e., when the card has no cards below it) and when he has an option of more than one face-down card to play in that circumstance, the automatic lose rule comes into play. He automatically loses, and must sit out until the next deal. The automatic lose rule does not apply when a player exposes a card he has no choice but to play.

It cannot be stressed too strongly or often that extravagant tableaux with multiple barriers of numerous piles make for a boring game. It is recommended that the tableau be restricted to a maximum of two barriers, that each row contain a maximum of three piles, and that each pile contain a maximum of three cards.

If the last card from a tableau is played legally, that player wins. If a player has no tableau left, then playing the last card from his hand makes him win. Remember that the last card played must not only be a legal play, it must also complete a turn. Therefore, if the last card ties the card atop the center pile, the player has not won, for he has not beaten the card; similarly, if in up and down the last card is an 8, the player has not won. In either case the player must pick up the center pile. Note however, that if the last card matches a card the player has just played (rather than ties an opponent's card), the player does win. Also, if the last card is aargh, or creates a blank center pile, the player need not play a card onto the blank pile, but simply wins.

K K K 9 rule
If a player with no cards in his tableau has only four cards in his hand, consisting of K K K 9, the player automatically wins the game upon proclaiming: "King king king nine."

The penalty for any irregularity such as playing out of turn, playing an illegal card, failing to say "Nein" at the right time, etc., is picking up the center pile. Note however that it is considered poor form intentionally to play out of turn in order to pick up a desired pile.

Take that, Franco
Other ancient texts spell it mo-lickie.