Stowaway: A Quick Idea for a Tavern-Style Card Game

Here's a quick idea for a little tavern-style card game where everyone has a hand of cards, but one of which is moving around secretly from hand to hand. I imagined it as a stowaway on a boat sneaking around trying not to get caught.


The Stowaway
A tavern-style card game for large groups, from 5-10 players.

You’re the crew of a pirate ship hiding an innocent stowaway. The Stowaway sneaks from one dark corner of the ship to the next, trying to avoid being caught by the cruel Captain. Eventually the crew will have no choice but to point out where they think is currently harboring the Stowaway.

  • From a standard deck of cards, gather two cards per player, minus one.
  • Take the joker and add it to these cards. The Joker is called the Stowaway.
  • Shuffle the cards (including the Stowaway) and deal two cards to each player’s hand.
  • If you ever hold the Stowaway, you’re called an Accomplice.

Each player simultaneously and secretly passes a card to the player on their left. Repeat this two more times.

Then players discuss where they think the Stowaway is hidden. Players may negotiate and debate as long as they like, but eventually all players must simultaneously count to 3. Then each player must point a finger at who they think is currently harboring the Stowaway. Whoever has the Stowaway must reveal it now.

If you have the Stowaway and fewer than three fingers are pointing at you, you and the Accomplices win.

If three or more fingers are pointing at the player with the Stowaway, anyone pointing at the Stowaway wins. The Accomplice and whoever is harboring the Stowaway loses.


This is the bare seed of an idea. Not even tested yet. I'm sure there are all sorts of bugs and broken strategies inherent in it, but I find it useful to get these loose thoughts down into something "discussable." What do you think?


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