Designed by | Kerry Handscomb |

Players | 2 |

Length | 30 minutes |

Extra Material | Cribbage board |

Bhargage is a Cribbage-type game for the Decktet. Quincunx has some similarities to Cribbage, but it is a Decktet version of Cribbage Squares, which is quite different from Cribbage itself.

## Introduction

Bhargage plays similarly to Five-card Cribbage, with the Decktet cards instead of regular cards. Of course, Bhargage has some different scoring combinations, because of the unusual cards of the Decktet. The *linear* deck of Cribbage is substituted by the *fluid, interwoven* deck of Bhargage. The Decktet cards and scoring combinations give Bhargage an entirely different flavour. Frequently, Bhargage presents interesting decisions that are quite alien to Cribbage thinking.

Bhargage, a game of the Jacynth taverns, is remarkably similar to our own game of Cribbage. Curiously, however, Bhargage most closely resembles five-card Cribbage, the original version of Cribbage, which is still played here and there. It will be easier to follow my description of Bhargage if you have some background familiarity with Cribbage.

## Players and cards

Bhargage is a game for two players.

Use one Decktet set of cards with all extension cards, including Courts, Pawns, and Excuse, making a deck of 45 cards.

The cards have ranks in the following order: Excuse, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, Pawn, Court, Crown. Including the numbered cards, the Aces, Crowns, Pawns, and Courts, there are twelve ranks of cards—plus, of course, the Excuse. There are three of each numbered rank, six Aces, six Crowns, four Pawns, and four Courts. The Excuse, a rank with a single card, is the lowest rank; the Crowns are the highest rank.

## Object of the game

Bhargage is usually played up to 111 points, “Eleventy-one,” in the game’s vernacular.

## Board and pegs

Players in Jacynth usually use something like a Cribbage board to record scores, and a Cribbage board will do for us, too. Play up to 121 points, as for a game of Cribbage, but start the scoring with 10 points for each player.

## Deal

The two players cut for deal, and the player cutting the lowest rank of card becomes the dealer. If the two cuts have equal rank, the players cut again. The deal rotates between the players. The mechanism for choosing dealer is identical with that of Cribbage.

The dealer deals 5 cards face down to each player, and places the remainder of the deck face down between the two players.

## Discard

The players look at their cards. Each player discards 2 cards face-down to the *bhargage*. The bhargage belongs to the dealer and is scored by the dealer at the end of the deal, as with the crib in Cribbage. Ownership of the bhargage rotates with the deal, and only the dealer ever counts the bhargage, again, analogously with Cribbage.

## Up-card

After players have discarded their two cards to the bhargage, non-dealer lifts a portion of the remainder of the deck. Dealer takes the top card and places it face up on top of the deck once the non-dealer has restored together the two portions of the deck—just as the players do in Cribbage.

If the up-card is a Character, the dealer scores 2 points, “2 for the Chief.”

The up-card plays no further part in the game, until the players score their hands. In this respect, it is the fourth card in each player’s hand and the fifth card in the bhargage.

## Play of the cards

The cards have the following values: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 have their number value; Ace has the value 1; Crown 10; Court 0; Pawn 0; Excuse 0.

After each player has discarded two cards face down to the dealer’s bhargage, non-dealer leads a card. Play alternates, with each player placing her played cards face up in a pile in front of her, splayed slightly so that the values and any suit(s) of previously played cards can be seen, as in Cribbage. When a player plays a card, that player must state the running total of values of all cards played so far.

The running total of values can never exceed 23.

Players must play cards, if they are able, including zero-value cards, while keeping the total no greater than 23. If one player has no cards left which will keep the total count no greater than 23, that player must pass, and then the opponent must continue, if possible, with more cards played, one by one, while maintaining the total no greater than 23.

When the players have taken the count as close as possible to 23, the play of the cards finishes. One or both players may then have cards left in their hands unplayed. (This situation is analogous to five-card Cribbage, which counts up to 31 just once, unlike the six-card game, in which the play can continue, with another count up to 31.)

## Scoring during play

Combinations of cards played can be scored. The collection of the last few cards actually played are considered for scoring, whoever played them, exactly as in Cribbage. A player who makes the following combinations scores them immediately.

**Last card**

When no more cards can be played, the player who played the last card scores 1 point (“1 for last”), unless the total is 11, which scores 2 points (“11 for 2”), or 23, which scores 3 points (“23 for 3”).

**11**

If a player plays a card to make the total value of cards played so far equal to 11, that player scores 2 points (“11 for 2”). If the other player now plays a zero-value card (i.e., Court, Pawn, or Excuse), the score is again “11 for 2.” The original player can now play a second zero-value card for another score of 2. The players may continue with third and fourth zero-value cards, scoring appropriately.

**23**

If a player plays a card to make the total value of cards played so far equal to 23, that player scores 3 points (“23 for 3”). If the other player now plays a zero-value card (i.e., Court, Pawn, or Excuse), the score is again “23 for 3,” and so on, just as with the score for 11.

**Pair**

If the last two cards played by both players have the same rank, the player who played the second scores 2 (“2 for a pair”).

**Three of a kind**

If the last three cards played by both players have the same rank, the player who played the third scores 6 (“6 for three”).

**Four of a kind**

If the last four cards played by both players have the same rank, the player who played the fourth scores 12 (“12 for four”). There are only three of each numbered card rank, so numbered cards cannot score for four of a kind—nor can four Crowns, for example, because the count would be taken over 23.

**Five of a kind**

Five of a kind, likewise, scores 20 (“20 for five”).

**Six of a kind**

The only possible six of a kind is six Aces. The player who plays the sixth Ace immediately wins (“Game!”).

These combinations of cards of the same rank are called *sets*.

**Bharg**

If the last several cards played contain between then exactly one copy of each suit, then the player who played the last card scores 6 points (“6 for bharg”). The Excuse can be among these last few cards forming the bharg. In particular, if one player scores for bharg, the opponent can now play the Excuse and score “6 for bharg” in turn.

A player can create a count of 11 (or 23) and a set or a bharg with the play of a single card. All combinations are scored.

## Scoring the hands and bhargage

When the play of the cards has finished, by making the total of cards played as close to 23 as possible, but not greater then 23, both players pick up the cards they have played and score their hands. The non-dealer scores first, followed by the dealer, and then lastly the dealer scores the bhargage. Both players effectively have hands of four cards, their original three cards plus the up-card. The dealer's bhargage effectively consists of five cards, including the up card. The following combinations are scored.

Two combinations may differ only by one card. Every distinct combination scores. This understanding of distinct scoring combinations is just the same as in Cribbage.

**11**

A collection of cards whose total value is 11 scores 2 (“11 for 2”).

The most common 11 combination is Crown-Ace. The hand Crown-Crown-Ace scores 4 points for 11’s, two Crown-Ace combinations, which differ by one card and share the Ace. If the up-card is a Pawn, say, there are now four 11 combinations, scoring two each. Each of the Crown-Ace combinations can be with or without the zero-value Pawn. The total score is 4 x 2 = 8.

With zero-value cards, the scoring of 11’s may appear complex, although it is not really difficult. The best way to make the calculation is to evaluate how many points you score for 11, first without any zero-valued cards. Then, with one zero-valued card, multiply the score by 2, because the zero-value card can be included or not with each combination. With two zero-valued cards, neither can be included in each count combination, or either one, or both. Therefore, with two zero-valued cards, multiply the score by 4. Likewise, with three zero-valued cards, there are eight possibilities for making new distinct combinations with zero-valued cards, so multiply the score by 8. At least two non-zero-valued cards are needed to make a count of 11. Therefore, even in the five-card bhargage, we do not need to consider the multiplier with four zero-valued cards.

**Sets**

Sets score the same as in the play of the cards. A pair scores 2, three of a kind scores 6, four of a kind scores 12, and five of a kind scores 20. Even the bhargage has only five cards, so six of a kind is impossible in scoring of hand or bhargage.

**Bharg**

*bharg*is a combination of cards that together have each of the six suits once and only once. A bharg can consist of as few as two cards. The P and C is the only possible two-card bharg. Theoretically, a bharg can consist of as many as six cards. The six Aces in suits or the six Crowns in suits, for example, are two theoretical bhargs with six cards. However, in the hand, the largest bharg would have four cards, and in the bhargage five cards. Most bhargs consist of three or four cards.

A bharg scores 6 points.

Note that the set of all three of a particular number-value is always a bharg. Three 5’s, for example, would score 6 for the set and 6 for the bharg.

As with 11’s and 23’s, a card can be in more than one scoring bharg combination. Every distinct bharg combination is scored, where distinct scoring combinations may differ by only one card.

Any of the 45 cards can contribute to a bharg, even the Excuse, which has no suit. If a player has one or more bhargs in the hand, together with the Excuse, these bhargs can either be with our without the Excuse, each possibility constituting a distinct scoring combination. An Excuse in the hand or bhargage effectively doubles the scores for bhargs in the hand or bhargage, respectively.

Bhargs are uncommon, even in the bhargage. The proverb above, “A bharg in the hand is worth two in the bhargage,” refers to the advisability of trying to achieve a bharg in the hand, and not worrying too much about trying to make a bharg in the bhargage. The bhargage’s potential for bhargs is more difficult to control than the hand’s potential for bhargs.

**Friends of the Chief**

If the up-card is a Character, the dealer has already scored “2 for the Chief.” If the up-card is a Character, then any Character card in the hand of the dealer or non-dealer also scores 1 point, “1 for the Chief’s Friend.” Friends of the Chief are not scored in the bhargage.

Sequences are scored in Cribbage, but not in Bhargage, neither in the play of cards, nor in the scoring of hand or bhargage.

In the hand or bhargage, players usually evaluate their hands in the following order: any 11’s s (with multiplier for zero-valued cards), any sets, any bhargs (with multiplier for Excuse), and lastly any Friends of the Chief.

The players usually add up total scores in hand or bhargage before recording the score on the board.

## Shortage

After either player has scored their hand, or after the dealer has scored the bhargage, the opponent may claim *shortage* points. Points are scored for every suit that is lacking in the hand or bhargage, respectively:

- 1 suit lacking scores 1 point
- 2 suits lacking scores 3 points
- 3 suits lacking scores 6 points
- 4 suits lacking scores 10 points

No hand or bhargage can be composed entirely of one suit, even with the Excuse, so 4 suits lacking is the maximum.

The up-card belongs to the hand or bhargage, and the suit(s) of the up-card are included when determining shortage. Bhargage players usually take shortage points with great relish, as they are gifts from the opponent, given unwillingly!

## Winning

The order of scoring is non-dealer’s hand followed by shortage, dealer’s hand followed by shortage, and lastly bhargage followed by shortage.

Whenever a player reaches 111 (“eleventy-one”) or more, either in the play of the cards or scoring of the hand or bhargage, including scoring for shortage, that player wins immediately. Just as in Cribbage, Bhargage players do not bother to complete a hand if one of the two players has reached the winning score.

A loss by shortage is often accompanied by shouts of “Muggins!” When Bhargage is played for money, as it often is, the loss by shortage counts double.

## Variant

The rules above are complete. Cribbage players, when first learning Bhargage, may feel the impulse to score sequences. Sequences may be used in Bhargage and scored exactly as they are scored in Cribbage. On the other hand, players may find sequences too much to keep track of and that scoring for sequences unbalances the game. Probably not scoring for sequences results in the better game. In any case, not scoring for sequences is the standard game, as it is played in the taverns of Jacynth.

## Notes

Because there are six Aces and six Crowns, it is far easier to collect sets of Aces or Crowns than it is to collect sets of the numbered cards. Three Aces, for example, scores 6, as does three 5’s, which seems to be unfair, because three 5’s is far harder to achieve. However, a set of three of any numbered card is also a bharg, and so the three 5’s score another 6 for being a bharg—which helps balance the apparent disparity.

Again, because there are so many Aces and Crowns, it is easy to collect sets of them, but also it is easy to put them together to make 11’s. One might suppose that it were always good to keep Aces and Crowns in the hand, instead of putting them in the opponent’s bhargage. A second balancing factor, however, is the score for bharg, and more commonly the losing of shortage points. Aces and Crowns have only one suit, and getting rid of them may reduce the risk of shortage. Moreover, putting them in the opponent's bhargage may put the bhargage at greater risk of shortage.

## Credits

Thank you to my wife, Connie, for play-testing.

The rules were updated on February 23, 2021 to reflect further play testing and improvements. Specifically, Friends of the Chief are scored by both players, but only in the hand, not the bhargage; bhargs can be scored during play of the cards; 23 is not scored in hand or bhargage; and the points for more than one suit of shortage are increased.

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