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Eleusis

Game Type
Stops Family
Age
Adults
Players
4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Deck
Standard
A modern classic, Eleusis is one of the most unusual card games ever devised. It is a game that makes people think in reverse as the players actually create the rules! A new "secret rule" is created by the dealer for each round, which the other players must try to discover. Playing Eleusis requires a peculiar mental approach which may not appeal to everyone.
 
Eleusis was invented in 1956 by Robert Abbott. The rules presented below feature his latest edition of the official Eleusis rules, copyright 1977, and are used with his permission.
 
Number of Players. Usually, four to eight players participate. Although it is possible for more than eight to play, it is best for a large group to split into two separate games.
 
The Pack. There should be enough cards so that the stock does not run out. Initially, two standard 52-card packs are shuffled together to form the stock. If the stock is reduced to four or fewer cards, another 52-card deck is added immediately. Three decks will usually be enough, but if more cards are needed, a fourth 52-card deck is added.
 
Choosing the Dealer. The dealer plays a special role in Eleusis. The choice of dealer is usually made informally. It is often the first player to have a good idea for a secret rule (explained below). If inexperienced players are involved, an experienced player should be the first dealer. In formal play, players can draw for high card to determine the first dealer.
 
Rounds of Play. A game consists of one or more rounds of play. A different player is chosen as the dealer of each new round.
 
The Central Layout. All plays are made to a central layout which grows as the round progresses, beginning from an initial "starter card." A layout consists of a horizontal "mainline" of cards that follow a certain pattern. Below this are vertical "sidelines" of cards that are exceptions to the pattern.
 
Eleusis is normally played on a large table or the floor because the central layout often becomes too large for a standard card table.
 
Object of the Game. The person who deals a round does not play during that round; instead he is responsible for creating and controlling a "secret rule." His score as the dealer is based on the scores of the
other players.
 
Players score points by getting rid of the cards in their hands, usually by playing cards that are accepted on the mainline of the layout. Players may also score by acting as the "Forecaster."
 
The Secret Rule. Each round has a different rule that determines which cards are accepted on the mainline and which are rejected. At the beginning of a round, no player knows this rule.
 
This secret rule is devised by the dealer. He does not tell the rule, but, when a card (or string of cards) is played, the dealer announces whether it is accepted or rejected. 
 
Cards that are accepted are added to the right of the mainline, beginning with the starter card and forming a sequence. As more and more cards are accepted, the pattern involved becomes clearer, and players are better able to make more accurate guesses as to the secret rule. Cards that are rejected are put below the mainline.
 
Players try to figure out the rule by observing the pattern that emerges on the layout. The closer a player gets to understanding the rule, the more easily he is can take advantage of this knowledge to score points.
 
Examples of Secret Rules. The secret rule can be simple or clever and is most easily understood by analyzing some examples:
 
Rule: If the last card is an odd-numbered card (ace, 3, 5, etc.), play a black card; if the last card is even, play a red card.
 
Rule: If the last card was black, play a card higher than or equal to that card; if the last was red, play lower or equal.
 
Rule: If the last card was a spade, play a heart; if the last card was a heart, play a diamond; if the last card was a diamond, play a club; and if the last card was a club, play a spade.
 
Rule: The card played must be one point higher or one point lower than the last card.
 
In all these rules, "last card" refers to the last card accepted on the mainline, or, if no card has yet been accepted, it refers to the starter card.
 
When numbers are involved, ace is usually 1, jack is 11, queen is 12, and king is 13.
 
The dealer should write the secret rule on a piece of paper which is put aside to be examined later. Before play begins, the dealer may, if desired, offer a "hint" about the rule. However, once play begins, no hints should be given.
 
The rule should be straightforward and involve one basic conceptdealer for "interesting" rules. (See Scoring, p. 279)
 
The Deal. The dealer shuffles the stock and deals 14 cards to each of the other players. The dealer receives no cards. He then places one card, face up, in the center of the playing area. This is the starter card and the first card of the mainline.
 
The Play. The player who goes first is chosen by the following method: Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, count around the table (skipping the dealer) up to the number value shown on the starter card. The player on whom the the count stops takes the first turn. Thereafter, the turn passes to the left. Play continues until the round ends, at which time scores are counted.
 
During each turn, a player may: 
1) Play one card. 
2) Play a string of cards. 
3) Declare no play.
 
Playing One Card. To play a single card, the player takes the card from his hand and shows it to the dealer. The dealer then says "Right" or  "Wrong," depending on whether the card is playable at that point under the secret rule.
 
If "right," the card is put on the layout to the right of the last mainline card.
 
If "wrong," the card is put below the last card played (it either starts a sideline or continues one) and the dealer gives the player two cards from the stock. Thus, a right play will decrease a player's hand, and a wrong play will increase his hand.
 
Playing a String of Cards. A string consists of two, three, or four cards, which, if correct, will extend the mainline pattern. To play a string, the player takes the cards from his hand, overlaps them slightly to indicate their exact order, and shows them to the dealer.
 
A string of, say, three cards is the same as three consecutive plays of a single card each. The dealer calls this string "right" only if all three cards would be right. If one or more of the cards in the string are wrong, the dealer declares the entire string wrong. The dealer does not reveal which individual cards in the string are wrong.
When a string is called right, it is placed to the right of the last mainline card. Thus, a correct string of four cards would look the same as four correct plays of a single card each. If a string is called wrong, its cards remain overlapped, and the entire string is placed below the last card played. The overlapping is necessary to retain the information that these cards were played as a string and to show the order that the player gave to the string.
As penalty for a string wrongly played, the player is given cards from the stock equal to twice the number of cards in the string.
 
Declaring No Play. A player has the option of declaring that he has no correct card to play. A player who declares "no play" must show his hand to everyone, and the dealer says whether the player is right or wrong.
 
If the player is right (that is, there was no correct card to play), and his hand is down to four cards or less, the cards are returned to the stock and the round ends at that point.
 
If the player is right but still holds five or more cards, the cards are counted and put on the bottom of the stock. The player is then dealt a fresh hand from the top of the stock, but the player's reward is to receive four cards less than the number he held previously. (For example: If the player originally had six cards, he would be given only two.)
 
If the player was wrong (i.e., at least one of his cards could have been played correctly), the dealer takes one of these correct cards and puts it on the layout to the right of the last mainline card. The player who was wrong keeps his cards, and as a penalty, is dealt five more cards from the stock.
 
Becoming a Forecaster. Once a player believes he has discovered the secret rule, he has the opportunity to prove his assumption, and score higher by forecasting how the dealer will speak. In other words, he becomes the Forecaster.
 
The new Forecaster does not state what he believes the secret rule to be. Instead he calls "right" or "wrong" when others play, and takes over other functions of the dealer, as explained below.
 
A player becomes a Forecaster simply by declaring, "I am the Forecaster." However, the player can make this declaration only if: 
1) He has just played (right or wrong) and the next player has not
yet played.
2) There is not already an existing Forecaster.
3) There are at least two other players still in this round (besides himself and the dealer).
4) The player has not been the Forecaster before in this round.
 
When a player declares he is the Forecaster, he puts a marker (a poker chip) on the layout on the last card of the mainline. This records the point where the player became the Forecaster. The Forecaster keeps his hand but will play no more cards from it unless he is "overthrown."
 
The Forecaster will receive a bonus score if he succeeds in remaining the Forecaster until the end of the round without being overthrown.
 
Acting as Forecaster. After a player has declared he is the Forecaster, the play continues as usual, but the Forecaster does not take a turn.
 
When a player plays a single card, the Forecaster says "Right" if he thinks the card is playable under the dealer's secret rule, or says "Wrong" if he thinks the card is not playable. The dealer then confirms whether the Forecaster made the correct call. If the dealer says "Correct," the Forecaster completes the play, putting the card on the mainline or sideline, and giving the player cards from the stock if the play was wrong.
 
Similarly, if a player plays a string of cards, the Forecaster calls the string right or wrong, and the dealer reveals whether the Forecaster is correct or not.
 
Overthrown. If the dealer says the Forecaster is incorrect, the Forecaster is overthrown and suffers a penalty described in the next section. But first, the turn is completed by the dealer, according to special rules:
 
The dealer completes the play as usual, except that the initial player is not given any penalty cards. (This exception to the normal procedure has a purpose: It makes it more likely that a player will attempt a tricky play, even a deliberately wrong play, in hopes of overthrowing the Forecaster.)
 
There is a rare case with a special rule. If a player declares a "no play" and the Forecaster incorrectly says the no play was wrong, the dealer challenges The Forecaster to pick one correct card from the player's hand and play it on the mainline. If the dealer says that the Forecaster is "Right," the Forecaster then deals the player the five penalty cards as usual. But if the Forecaster plays a wrong card, the dealer steps in, returns the card to the player's hand, and picks the correct card. This card is put on the mainline. The player who originally declared "no play" is not given any penalty cards.
 
After a Forecaster is Overthrown. When a Forecaster is overthrown, he is given five cards from the stock as a penalty. The ex-forecaster (or "false Forecaster") then resumes his normal place in the game. He may not become Forecaster again during that round, and his marker is removed from the layout. Other players are now free to declare themselves Forecaster, subject to the usual restrictions.
 
Expulsion. After a round has lasted for a specified time, players may be expelled from the round when they make incorrect plays. (An incorrect play is either a card or string played wrong or an incorrect declaration of "no play.") If all the players (or all players except the Forecaster) have been expelled, the round ends.
 
If there is no Forecaster, a player is expelled if he makes an incorrect play and there are 40 or more cards on the layout before the play. If there is a Forecaster, a player is expelled if he makes an incorrect play when there 30 or more cards after the Forecaster's marker. However, no one is expelled during a turn in which a Forecaster is overthrown. (When there is a possibility of expulsion, the marker makes it easy to keep count.) 
 
An expelled player makes no further play during the round (and may not become Forecaster). However, he is given the penalty cards for his last incorrect play and retains his hand for scoring purposes.
 
Scoring. When one player gets rid of all his cards, the round ends. It also ends if all players, or all players besides the Forecaster, are expelled. The players, including any who were expelled, now receive scores based on the number of cards in their hands.
 
Player Scores. First, determine the "high count," the greatest number of cards in any one player's hand (including the Forecaster's). Each player (including the Forecaster but not the dealer) then scores this high count minus the number of cards in his own hand. If a player had eliminated all of his cards, that player receives a 4-point bonus. Example: Player A has four cards, Player B has 10, Player C has six, and Player D has zero. The high count is 10. Therefore, Player A scores 6 points (10 - 4), Player B scores 0 (10 - 10), Player C scores 4 points (10 - 6), and Player D scores 10 (10 - 0) plus 4 bonus points for a total of 14 points.
 
Dealer's Score. The dealer's score equals the highest score in the round, with one exception: If there is a Forecaster, count the number of cards (mainline and sideline) that precede the Forecaster's marker and multiply this number by two. If the resulting number is smaller than the highest score, the dealer scores that smaller number. (The dealer is thus rewarded for creating a secret rule that is "just right"- difficult enough so it won't be quickly discovered, but easy enough so it won't stump the players for too long.)
 
Forecaster Bonus. The Forecaster receives 1 point for every card played correctly after he became Forecaster, plus 2 points for every card played incorrectly. This amount is added to the points the Forecaster scored as a player.
 
One player should keep a running total of scores in each round. Participants play as many rounds as there are players to determine an overall winner. Alternatively, if there is not enough time to play that many rounds, 10 points is added to the total score of any player who has not been the dealer.