|Designed by||Greg James|
Ferret is a 2 player game with a unique card drafting mechanism which gives the game its title. Each turn, players play a card from their hand in order to move a card currently on the table. Depending on the relationship between the suits of the played card and the target card, the target will either enter the player’s hand or his tableau. The played card replaces the card won. Players arrange the cards in their tableaux into sets of 3 card straight flushes or single card layoffs to score points. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Basic Decktet A, 2-9,
Visual aid if desired
Deal each player a 5 card hand and then flip over the next 3 cards to form the Pool between the two players. The non-Dealer plays first.
Players may wish to set up a visual cue off to the side in order to see the 3 pairs of suits which define the game. You can use suited tokens, Aces from another Decktet, a scrap of paper with the suits doodled on it, or if you made the Decktet tuckbox created by John Milanese like I did, it has the pairings on its side.
Play a card or pass
Each turn, the active player may play a card or pass. To play a card, the active player selects one card from his hand and chooses where to play it, obeying the ferreting rules outlined below.
If a card is ferreted into the active player’s tableau, scoring (if any) is resolved and then a card is drawn from the draw pile and added to the player’s hand. Play then passes to the opponent.
If a card is ferreted into the active player’s hand, the player’s turn ends here. Thus, the Pool will always have 3 cards in it and each player’s hand will always have 5 cards.
The game ends at the moment the draw pile is depleted or if both players pass in succession.
Note that in order for cards to score during the course of the game, they must be in your tableau. The 5 cards in player’s hands aren’t scored until the end of the game. Only at that time are they placed in your tableau to create sets or layoffs.
How to Ferret
The defining rule of Ferret is based on the concept of “Antipathetic Suits” which is discussed on p. 12 of The Decktet Book. The idea is that in the basic deck, there are 3 pairings of the suits which do not occur on any of the cards. These are:
I have used these pairings to create the “currency” in this game. In order to get a card into one’s tableau, a player must “pay” for it with a card having it’s antipathetic suit. Thus, if there is a card with a Moon on it on the table, a card with a Wyrm must be used in order to get it into your tableau.
Likewise, if you wish to draw a card into your hand, a card with no antipathetic suit corresponding to the target card must be played. Thus, if there is a card with a Moon on it on the table, a card lacking a Wyrm must be used in order to get it into your hand.
Example: The three cards in the pool are:
The Soldier 5 The Lunatic 6 The Sailor 4
The active player plays The Penitent 6 . With this card, the player may take either The Lunatic 6 ( b/c of the antipathy) or The Sailor 4 ( b/c of the antipathy) into his tableau. The player may also choose to take The Soldier 5 into his hand ( b/c of the lack of antipathy). The Penitent 6 is then placed in the pool in the target card’s place. If he took The Soldier 5 into his hand, his turn ends. If one of the other cards was ferreted into his tableau, the top card of the draw pile is added to his hand and play then passes to his opponent.
Ferreting a card from your opponent
If there is a card in your opponent’s tableau that you want, it may be ferreted in the same manner as ferreting a card from the Pool described above. Thus, if you want the card to enter your tableau, the card you play must have an antipathetic suit with the target card. If you want the target card to enter your hand, you must play a card which lacks either antipathetic suit. In either case, the target card in the opponent’s tableau is replaced with the card from your hand.
If the target card enters your tableau, you draw the top card from the draw pile, replenishing your hand to 5 cards as usual.
Scoring: Sets and Layoffs
Once cards enter a player’s tableau, they can be arranged in any way the player sees fit - until a set of 3 cards can be formed. A set is simply 3 cards in rank order which share a common suit. When a set is formed, it is immediately deemed to be complete and is scored. These three cards are locked in for the rest of the game and they are placed off to the side face up in clear view.
Completed sets may have single cards played to them as layoffs by either player. Layoffs continue a set in rank order in both directions until they reach the Ace (low end) or the (high end). In the unusual case that a layoff could be played to 2 different sets, it is considered to belong to both sets for the purpose of additional future layoffs.
Cards scored as layoffs are always added to the score pile of the player who had the layoff card in his tableau.
Note that players may not choose in this. If a card is in your tableau, it must be played as a layoff the moment a set is created with which it could meld. This means that when your opponent scores a trio of cards to form a set, it may affect your tableau by causing a card to score that you may have been hoping to use in a set of your own!
The exception to this is if you ferret a card into your tableau to complete a set when the two other cards are already in place.
e.g. Your opponent has this set in his score pile: The Mountain - The Discovery - The Penitent, which is a 4-5-6 in Suns. The Castle is in the Pool (along with 2 other cards). If you make a play to get The Castle into your tableau, it will score as a layoff unless you have 2 Knot cards in your tableau with which to form a complete set (any 2 of The Market, The Betrayal, the Ace of Knots or The Windfall). Scoring the Knot set would override laying off The Castle to the 4-5-6 Sun set in this case.
Scored cards are out of play for the rest of the game and cannot be ferreted.
Ace and Crown rules
Aces and Crowns may be used as wild cards to help form sets in their own suit.
Normally, Aces are below 2s and Crowns are above 9s, so they must be used as naturals if they are used in a set where their value could occur. Wraparound sets aren’t allowed, so a set formed of A-2- would be read as an A-2-3 run. Similarly, a 9--A set must be read as an 8-9-.
An Ace or Crown may only be played as a layoff if it can fit into a set as its natural value.
Players should be mindful of the draw pile as they will want to have their plans in place when it runs out. The game ends immediately when the last card is taken from the draw pile or if both players pass in succession.
When the game ends by depleting the draw pile, the player who did not draw the last card scores his cards first. If the game ends by consecutive passes, the first player to pass scores first. For final scoring, the 5 cards from his hand are placed in his tableau in order to make sets. Any cards in his opponent’s tableau which could be scored as layoffs after he forms sets are scored as usual.
The 3 cards in the central Pool remain and are unavailable to either player.
After the first player has scored his cards, the second player scores his hand. When he is finished, the first player may now add any singles as layoffs to any new sets that were formed (if possible) and final scores are tabulated.
The player with the highest number of cards in his score pile wins. If the game ends in a draw, play another game to resolve it or rejoice in your shared victory.
… are obviously due to my wife & son for playtesting my creations. I should also acknowledge Jonathon Warren’s soon to be renamed The Gaston Game and Rebekah Bissell’s Livestock Market as unconventional Rummy games which must have subconsciously influenced Ferret. Thanks also to PD Magnus for creating and gifting the Decktet.