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a card game called shithead

As any good backpacker knows, one of the best ways to pass the time while travelling, or while relaxing at your destination, is to play card games. The best card games for travellers are simple, easy to learn, based on a healthy mixture of luck and skill.

While I've learned many card games across my different trips (most recently, the game "Seven" from the Swedes I've been hanging out with here at the Octopus Resort), the all-time classic card game for backpackers is Shithead. I am particularly fond of this game, and have no shame in quickly roping people into playing this game ad nauseum, even if the only person around is the same person that i've been travelling with for the last month.

Game of Shithead in progress.

The rules of Shithead, as we have pieced them together from other backpackers, go like this:

Each player is dealt three cards face-down, then three cards face-up, and then a hand of three cards face-down. The remaining cards are left in a stack in the middle of the table. Whichever player has at least one 4 in their hand and plays their 4(s) first, gets to go first. The rest of the players go in clockwise order, playing cards that are either equal to in value or higher than the card that was played just before them. Once they play their cards (if they have multiples of the same card value, they can play those at he same time), they draw that number of cards from the stack of remaining cards in the middle of the table. If a player cannot play any of their 3 cards, they have to pickup all the cards played so far, and take those into their hand.

When the stack of remaining cards is exhausted, and a player's hand is empty, they can then play cards from the three face-up cards in front of them. Once those cards are gone, they can then choose one card from the face-down cards in front of them when it's their turn to play. Once all those cards are gone, then the player has used up all of their cards and they have won the game.

Now, there are some cards that are special and have specific effects in the game. These are:

2: Can be played at any time. Playing this card means the next player can play any card.

3: "Transparent", and can be played at any time. Playing this card means that the next player has to play a card that is higher than or equal in value to the card played before you played the 3.

7: The next card that is played after the 7 must be lower than or equal to 7.

8: Playing this card means that the next player loses their turn, and the game moves on to the next player after that.

10: Playing this card clears the pile of cards played so far -- they are swept off of the table, and the player who put down the 10 can play another card as well. (Note that the pile of cards is also cleared when 4 cards of the same value are played sequentially, either by one player or different players. Whoever cleared the pile gets to play again.)

Ace: Because it's the highest-value card, it can be played at any time (except after a 7, as per the rules above.

So that's our version of Shithead. Have any of the rest of you played this game on your trips? If so, what are YOUR rules for it? (And if you have any other travel card games, pass 'em along, i definitely could use them...)


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Comments (6)

I am going to have to print that out.


Very good reading. Peace until next time.


If we put down a ace, we can give the pile of cards to another player, probably to the one who has the least cards. But that person can throw another ace on it and give the pile of cards again to somebody else, probably to the one that gave it to him. Or if you are the unlucky one that gets the pile, if you have a 2, you can put it on the pile as well and the game just continues.
This gives an extra exciting dimension to it!!


if you have 4 cards of the same value can you put them on a card of a higher value to clear the pack?


good question, jay! i would argue that four of a kind doesn't constitute a special card, so you can't play them against a higher card if they're not already one of the special cards, but i'm miserly like that.

feel free to make up your own rule about this! ;)

Hi All,

If you like this game you can buy a fully animated version with classic head piece. check it out here www.infeckious.com

use the promo code "pooisfun" for a 20% discount.

All the best


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