Last Cards is more prevalent in New Zealand. It is a card game played in schools and major gaming venues alike.
The objective of the game is to be the first player to play all cards.
Players must have a 52-card deck to play the Last Card. You can use the standard poker deck or a Last Card-specific deck (which has somewhat different rules).
The dealer deals five cards to each player, and the starting card is selected randomly. The remaining cards are placed at the center of the table facing down.
The Last-Card-specific deck has four “change-color” cards, and the rest of the cards are of 4 different colors – red, yellow, purple, and blue. Every color has each of the following 12 cards: numbers 1-8, Draw Two, Reverse, Draw Three, and Skip.
Gameplay flow (For Last-Card-Specific Deck)
Once the first player has played, the gameplay moves in the clockwise direction. This means that the second player will be the player to the left of the first player.
The second player must match either the suit or the value of the card on top. If this player lacks legal play, he/she must draw a card from the deck, and the turn shifts to the next player.
If you are playing using the Last-Card-Specific deck, value cards have no special effects, and they are hence played as regular cards.
- The Skip Card: When this card is played, the next player misses a turn, and the subsequent one gets to play.
- Reverse: This card serves to reverse the gameplay’s direction from clockwise to anticlockwise and vice versa.
- Draw Two: When this card is played, the next player must either play another Draw Two or draw two cards from the deck. When a second Draw Two is played, the following play must either play yet another Draw Two or collect four cards and so forth.
- Draw Three: When this card is played, the effects are similar to those of Draw Two, only that the next player draws three cards and so on.
- Color Change: This card does not necessarily have to match the current suit or value. It’s a wild card, and when played, the player chooses the suit or color he wished to change to.
Pick up rules (For a Standard Deck)
When someone plays a 5, the next player must either play another 5 or draw five cards from the deck. If this second player were to play another 5, the third player would have to play a five or collect a total of ten cards from the deck. Since there are only four 5s in the deck, the maximum number of cards that one can draw is 20 cards.
This rule holds even when a player has used his/her last card but still needs to draw.
Whenever a 2 is played, the next player must either play another 2 or collect two cards. If the second player plays a 2, the subsequent player must either play yet another 2 or draw four cards from the deck. With only four 2s, the maximum number of cards one can draw is eight cards.
If a player has played a 10, the next player misses his/her turn.
One can play an Ace regardless of the current suit or value. To put it simply, players can play an Ace at any time of the game. The player that plays the Ace gets to decide the suit to be played next. When playing an Ace to finish the game, its suit must match the current suit.
When you have just one card remaining, you must announce that you are holding the last card. Failure to make the announcement subjects you to a fine of two cards, and you will have to continue playing.
A general exception to the pick-up rules is that you can play a 2 to add to a 5 and vice versa, but only if the suit matches the current card. The effect is that the draw limit increases from 8 or 20 to 28.
The common variation regards the pick-up rule whereby if a 2 is played, the next player must draw two cards with no defense available. When a 4 is played, the next player must either draw four cards or stack a 5 of any suit.
When the second player stacks a 5, the play is reversed, forcing the first player to draw five cards. However, the first player can defend himself by playing a 6 to reverse the game.
Starting card rule
After the dealer has dealt five cards to each player, the card on the top of the deck is flipped to start the game. In the Last Card, the commencing card will only dictate the suit of the play and nothing more.
If the first card does not follow suit, the dealer must pick a normal card. A Joker can never start a Last Card game.
Below are some of the optional rules that apply in Last Card games:
- 7s and 3s can serve as block cards, nullifying the effects of the 5 or 2 cards.
- You cannot play a 2, 3, or 5 as your finishing card.
- You can finish the game with multiple cards of a similar number, but only after declaring “Last Card.”
- You cannot finish with an action card such as an Ace.
- Jokers can be used as any card provided that it’s a valid card to play on the current card, including 5s and 2s. When a joker is played on a 2 or 5, the draw limit is increased to 12, 30, or 38, depending on the game’s pick-up rules.