What it is: Awesome! That’s what it is. This game is so fun and I love it so much, it gets an exclamation mark in its title.
Oh, but what it is: A fast-paced, fast-moving card game, good for big or smaller groups of people, and always a crowd pleaser.
Best for: 4 to about 10 players.
What you need: You’ll need a deck of playing cards (two if you’re playing with a big group. It’s okay if they don’t match). You’ll also need spoons, either the metal or the plastic variety, enough so that every player minus one can have one.
How to play: Set the game up by sitting all players down in a circle on the floor. Put all the spoons carefully in the middle of the circle, with handles facing outwards, like this:
Shuffle the cards, then deal four cards to each player. Put the remaining cards face-down next to one player that you designate as the starter (we’ll call the starter Max for this game).
The final object of the game is to grab a spoon from the middle of the circle and not be the one player left without a spoon. You can grab a spoon when you either have four cards of the same kind (four aces, four kings, four twos, etc.) or when you see another player grab a spoon.
Play starts with Max, who draws a card from the deck, looks at it, and then either discards it or switches it for a card in his hand and discards that one. So remember: the goal is to collect four of a kind. If Max is holding an ace, a king, a two, and a six, and he draws another two, he’d probably want to keep it, so he could exchange the two for the six and discard the six.
Max discards the card face-down into a pile in front of the next player in the circle (say it’s Annie). Annie then picks up the card, looks at it, and either discards it or switches it for a card in her hand and discards another. She discards in front of the next player, and play moves like that all the way through the circle. Each player can only pick up the cards directly in front of them. The last player in the circle starts a discard pile near Max, which he will draw from when the original deck runs out.
So that’s basically how the game works, with each player trying to collect four of a kind. And all players are drawing and discarding at the same time, moving as fast as they can or want. Each card must go though every player’s hand, though, so if Annie is slow, she might have a pile build up in front of her (while the other players urge her on).
So the goal is to collect four cards of a kind. Remember Max with his two twos? Let’s say he finds the other two twos in the deck, so then he’s holding four cards of a kind. He can immediately grab a spoon from the middle of the circle. And as soon as the other players see Max grab a spoon (or, really, see Max starting to grab a spoon), they can grab a spoon, too, but one person, like Annie, will be left without a spoon. Then Annie would get a letter S. Next time she gets left without a spoon, she gets a letter P, then O-O-N, and then when you get all five letters, you’re out of the game.
When a player leaves, take one spoon away, too, so the number of spoons is still one less than the number of players. Play until one player remains: the winner.
Strategies: The “right” way to play this game is to carefully watch your cards, so you can collect four of a kind, but also always keep one eye on the spoons so you’re never left without one. If you wanted, you could also just watch the spoons and forget about your cards (but you still have to go through the motions of picking up each card and putting it in the discard pile).
When collecting cards, sometimes if you see two of one kind go through the deck, you might want to pick up the third one, so the people on down from you don’t collect four of a kind, or so if the other two cards make it through the rest of the circle unwanted, you can collect them.
If you’re the first to have four of a kind and grab a spoon, it’s fun to take it as quietly and as secretly as you can, and then hide the spoon and pretend to keep playing. If no one saw you, it might be a few minutes until someone looks at the spoons, counts them, and realizes there’s one missing. I’ve played sometimes when all but one or two spoons were taken, and the last two or three people in the game kept playing, searching for four of a kind, not even realizing that the spoons were gone. Those times are fun.
Variations: If you want a faster game, do single elimination: a player is out as soon as they fail to grab a spoon one time (no more counting S-P-O-O-N). You also don’t have to put the spoons in a neat circle. Sometimes we pile them all messy, like this:
Then (especially if they’re metal spoons), it’s harder to take a spoon without making noise, which makes the grabbing-for-the-spoons moment at the end more rowdy and rough.
If you really like rowdy and rough games, try putting the spoons not in the middle of the circle, but somewhere else, like in the next room, behind a couch, up the staircase…. That sure leads to some rowdy games. Then it’s pretty impossible to sneak away from the game to grab a spoon, so everyone ends up running and jumping over each other to get a spoon at any cost. It’s a lot of fun, usually something kind of like this:
Oh, and one more thing: if one time you really really want to play this game, but you can’t find any spoons anywhere, so you think, “Hey, why don’t we just play with forks instead?” … um, don’t do it. Just don’t.