Why millennials are playing card games this winter

Posted by
Gemma Crisp and Emily Reynolds
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Put down your phone and pick up a pack – card games have moved from the retirement village to the cocktail bar. Say hello to a new breed of card sharks… 

It started back in August. 

Upon joining some friends at the end of their Sunday roast, as soon as the plates were cleared one of them delved into his Balenciaga belt bag, pulled out a pack of David Shrigley-designed playing cards and started to deal a game of Scabby Queen. Two weeks later, I was in Whitstable where I noticed a group of 20-somethings playing cards over a bottle of picpoul and some freshly-shucked oysters. The following month at a Biarritz cafe, a table of French surfer girls were sipping espresso and shuffling a deck while waiting
for the swell to pick up. Then came the clincher: while talking about her upcoming Maldives honeymoon, my very chic PR director friend declared, “All I want to do is relax and play cards with my new husband.” 

Sound the social trend klaxon – playing cards is officially no longer something we only associate with the elderly.

Cards are cool again

Really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that traditional card games (and not-so-traditional ones) have made a comeback. With more and more of us trying to reduce our screen time, it makes sense that we’re swapping endless Instagram scrolling for endless card games. Rather than sliding into someone’s DMs, you’re sliding a deck of Smythson’s finest across the table and chatting to them in real life.

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How novel. And how welcome. Want in? Here’s the Stylist edit of the best games… 


How many players? 2-5

How to play:
 Each player is dealt three cards face-down, three cards face-up and three cards to hold.

• The player with at least one three in their hand starts, placing it face-up to start a new pile. As soon as one card is put down, the player replaces it with a new one.

• Players must then play a card equal to or higher than the last card played – if they can’t, they must pick up the entire pile, and the next player restarts with any card. Playing a two ‘resets’ the number, and a ten can also be played at any time which also ‘resets’ the pile, starting a new one, as does laying four cards of the same number.

• Once the pile is gone, the face-up cards and then the face-down cards are played – but you can’t look at the latter before you play them. If the card played is lower than the one at the top of the pile, the entire pile must be picked up by that player.

• The last player standing is the sh*thead. 

Scabby Queen 

How many players? 3 or more

How to play:
 Remove the queen of clubs, then deal the rest of the cards to each player one by one.

• Players then go through their hand and match up any pairs and place them face down on the table. Pairs are cards which are the same value and the same colour.

• The dealer offers their cards to the player on their left by spreading them out in a fan, with the suits facing inwards. The player on the left chooses a card. If it matches a card in their hand they place the pair on the table.

• The next player to the left takes their turn in the same way, and so on.

• Once a player has no cards left in their hand, they sit out of the game. The game keeps going until a player is left with the single queen of spades (aka, the scabby queen). This player is the loser. 

Go Fish 

How many players? 2 or more

How to play:
 The goal of Go Fish is to collect ‘sets’ of cards. The suit doesn’t matter – the aim of the game is to collect four of the same numbered cards. Each player is dealt seven cards.

• The player to the left of the dealer can ask any other player for any cards they like (for example, “Give me your sevens”), but they must already have at least one card of the number they’re requesting.

• If the player has none of the requested cards, they say, “Go fish”, and the requesting player must pick up a card from the pile.

• If they do, their turn continues and they can ask the same or another player for more cards.

• When a player gets a set of four, they must lay them down in front of them and play another turn.

• The game ends when all sets have been won. The winner is the player with the most sets. 


How many players? 3 or more

How to play: Deal out the entire deck to each player one by one.

• The first player puts several cards face-down on the table and declares a number and amount (for example, “Three sevens”).

• If nobody disagrees, the next player puts their cards down, which must be one higher or one lower than the last played card.

• But if a player does want to dispute the cards laid down, they must say, “Cheat!” before the next player puts their cards down, and the cards are then revealed.

• If the first player was lying, they must pick up the whole pile. If they weren’t, the accuser has to pick them up.

• The winner is the first player to get rid of all of their cards. 


How many players? 2-10

How to play: The aim of the game is to end up with a set of four. Each player is dealt four cards, with the rest of the cards placed in a pile to the right of the first player.

• Players start the game by picking up a card from the top of the pile, then either discarding it or replacing one of their existing cards.

• Meanwhile, four spoons have been placed in the middle of the table.

• When someone gets four of a kind, they grab a spoon from the centre of the table and everyone else must try to get one too – the slowest player left without a spoon is then knocked out of the game and a spoon is removed from the table.

• The game continues until there are two players left competing for one spoon. Whoever gets the spoon wins. 

Illustrations: Drawn by Adam


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Gemma Crisp and Emily Reynolds

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