Suspense: The Card Game


2–3 Players • Ages 10+ • 10–15 Minutes

Prototype D
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SUSPENSE: THE CARD GAME is a contest of wits, deduction, and cunning!  The deck has six white numbered cards 1–6, six black numbered cards 1–6, and one "!" card which is considered a zero. Each card also displays a unique victory condition.

The game is played in a series of matches. Each match is comprised of a series of turns.

In the first match, the youngest player is the dealer. To start each match, the dealer shuffles the cards and evenly deals them out to the players face-down. Players keep cards in hand hidden from other players.

Dealing the cards evenly should leave behind one extra card. The dealer places this secret card face-down in the middle of the play area.

Only the dealer may look at the secret card.

Each player takes turns, starting with the dealer, clockwise around the play area. On your first turn of a match, you MUST choose one card from your hand and play it face-up in front of you, visible to everyone.

On subsequent turns, do one of the following:
  • Play: Choose one card from your hand and play it face-up in front of you, visible to everyone. This card is now said to be in play.
  • Pass: Skip your turn. Note: You are still in the game.
Keep all the cards you have in play visible.

The match ends if either of the following occurs:
  • The sum of the face-up numbers is 15 or higher (in a 2-player game) or 20 or higher (in a 3-player game).
  • All players choose to pass. In other words, no one wishes to play any more cards.
Now each player, starting with the dealer, may choose to do the following:
  • Fold: If you believe that you will not win this match, declare that you fold. Keep your hand of cards hidden.
The dealer then reveals the secret card and all players reveal their hands.
  • The player who meets the secret card’s revealed victory condition wins 2 points. In a tie, both players win 1 point.
  • A player who folded and does not meet the revealed victory condition win 1 point.
  • A player who folded and meets the victory condition gets 0 points.
  • A player who did not fold and does not meet the victory condition gets 0 points.
The match is now complete. The player to the dealer’s left becomes the new dealer for the next match.

When a player has 6 points, she wins! If two players reach 6 points in the same match, they both win!

The game is a process of elimination. For example, when a card is played that says “Highest number in play,” you know the highest number in play will NOT win the match because it can’t also be the secret card.

1 and 6 in play or in hand are most likely to win any match. It’s an unfortunate circumstance if you have neither, but not insurmountable. If you deduce that the winning card is in someone’s hand, you can potentially bluff your opponent well enough that they bring it into play instead, thus giving you a better chance to win.

Watch the dealer’s choices for clues. If the dealer folds, she does not believe she has the card in play or in hand that would win the match, which may mean you do and probably should not fold.

EDITING: Will Hindmarch

PLAYTESTING: Chip Beauvais, Kevin Brusky, Kenneth Coble, Bryan Fischer, Matt Fowler, Darrell Louder, Ryan Macklin, Levi Middleton, Chris Norwood, T.C. Petty, Megan Raley, Brad Smoley


  1. Very nice. Bravo!

  2. Finally getting a chance to play this - thanks!

    ("A player who folded and does not meet the revealed victory condition win 1 point." - win wants an "s")

  3. A reader noticed the dealer in the third example diagram folded when he shouldn't have. Any ideas on how to revise that? I'm tinkering with it today.

  4. Perhaps if dealer knows the secret condition should he be not allowed to fold?
    And what about ! card - is it counted as the lowest when "lowest number in hand" is in play?

  5. The dealer being able to fold was very thoroughly tested and shown to be a valuable social mechanic. It gives the dealer a chance to save face at the risk of revealing valuable information. Having that choice is fun for the dealer and gives other players a chance for more clues.

    The ! is not a number, so it does not count as a number when determining a victory condition.


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