5 Card Games That Are Perfect For Emergency Situations...and Parties

5 Card Games That Are Perfect For Emergency Situations...and Parties

by Brandon Hunt

If you have purchased any emergency kits from Emergency Zone, then you’ve likely noticed that we include a deck of cards in our kits. And, because you are a smart cookie, you know why we include cards — to entertain and redirect attention away from the stress of an emergency situation.

But, if you’re like me, your knowledge of card games is, well…empty. Yeah, I wouldn’t know what to do with a card deck, other than flipping them into a hat. I would be that boring guy you wouldn’t want to hang out with during slow hours.

As I have come to the realization of how little entertainment value I have, I went on a search (an internet search that is) to learn games that only require a standard deck of cards. I did this so I could selfishly increase my value during an emergency.

While scouring the internet (for perhaps five minutes) I quickly discovered an abundance of games; I had no idea so many existed. 

Now I was faced with the task of sifting and sorting through them all. My goal after all, is to make the acquisition of prepping knowledge easier for you, my reader — and to keep your attention through this post.

Suffice it to say, I sorted through the games and picked out ones I thought would be quick to learn, and be fun for kids and adults.


A Quick Reiteration

Before moving on to the games and their rules, let’s quickly go over why you would want to know a few card games.

No matter the situation, whether it’s a natural disaster, a wildfire evacuation, or hurricane notice, there will be down time. Periods when you have done all you can and the next step is to wait. The waiting time is the hardest, because your mind kicks in and you replay and question everything you did, which also ramps up the stress and anxiety.

The best way to deal with down time and avoid the mind games is to occupy your mind through entertainment. Not only do you help yourself, but you’ll be helping your family, especially your kids.

If you have no other games on hand, fortunately all of our survival and emergency kits come with a pack of cards.

And since I’ll be providing some games and their rules, you’ll be ready to entertain with a simple deck of cards at a moment's notice. 


The Card Games

Some of the games you might already be familiar with, and others might be less well known. I hope I have chosen ones that fit the range between fun and…more fun. 

War (2 Players)

This one should sound familiar. It’s a simple card game that requires no skill, but is perfect for kids. And all you need is a simple deck.

The Deal

Deal out all cards, face down, between the two players. Be sure to remove Jokers and that there is an even amount of cards for each player.

The Game

Both players flip the top card of their pile. The one with the stronger card wins, taking both cards and adding them to the bottom of the pile. The game continues until one player has all of the cards.

The War

If both players flip the same card, then war occurs and they…

  • Put both cards on the table face up.
  • Secondly, they place another card face down on top of the previous card.
  • Lastly, they put a card on top, face up. The player with the highest card takes all of them.

In case the new top cards are the same again, just keep stacking the cards until someone wins.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/J5vT33Vo04s


Cuckoo (2 or more players)

This is another simple game, which makes it great for families to play together, and is fun for most ages. The objective is to capture cards and score points for combinations.

The Deal

When you start the game each player will have three “tokens”, which players keep in front of themselves on the table. Each player also places a stake in the pot. With the pot being taken by the winner.

A dealer is chosen at random, who passes a single card to each player, starting on the left and continuing clockwise around the table, and ending when the dealer gets a card. The dealer places the remaining deck in front of him. Then all the players look at their card.

The Play

The objective of each hand is to avoid being the player left holding the lowest card.

All players have one turn, starting with the player directly to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise around the table.

When it’s your turn you can either keep the card by saying Stand, or try to exchange it with the neighbor on the left by saying Change. Your neighbor is required to exchange cards, swapping them face down so that others do not see the card values. However, if the player on the left has a King, the player must expose the King, whereupon both players keep their cards. Each player gets a turn up to the dealer, who goes last.

The dealer can choose to exchange the card with the top card of the undealt deck. If the dealer happens to grab a King, the dealer does not take it, but keeps the original card.

After all players have had a turn, ending with the dealer, everyone turns their card face up. Whoever has the lowest card loses one of their tokens, which is placed in a pile at the center of the table. If two or more players are tied for the lowest card they all lose one token, placing them in the pile.

For the next hand, reshuffle and cut the deck, where the new dealer is the person to the left of the last, or first, dealer. Play through the same process. When a player has lost all tokens, that player drops out of the games. The winner of the game is the last player who has at least one token, when all others have lost all of theirs.

If the last players in the game (each with one token left) all tie for the lowest card, they each keep their token for that hand and deal a new hand. If the players tie again, continue in the same manner until one player has lost all tokens.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/3dEpnlgQRaI

Cheat or I Doubt It (3 or more players)

This game is another fun one for families or friends, where how well you know your family or friends is an asset. In this game of observation and deception you are rewarded with victory if you are the best bluffer. Fail in your bluffing and you may be the one holding all of the cards.

The Deal

Select a dealer by having everyone randomly take a card from the deck. Whoever has the lowest card becomes the dealer.

The dealer shuffles the deck and passes out all of the cards face down to each player. Make sure everyone has an even amount of cards. If there are extra cards, place them face down in the center of the table as the discard pile.

The Play

Once again the play begins with the person to the left of the dealer. The player states how many Aces he is putting down ( One Ace or Two Aces)  and places his cards face down in the center of the table, on the discard pile. If the player does not have any Aces, the player may bluff and play non-Ace cards.

The play moves clockwise around the table. After the “Aces” are played the card rank is increased to 2, and the next player plays 2s, then player 3s and so on. Each player must play one card, if they don’t have the required card, the player must bluff and place one or more cards.

Before the next player lays down cards, if anyone suspects the current player is bluffing may call out Cheat! The person who placed the cards must turn them over and show the challenger whether he was bluffing or not. If the player is caught bluffing, he has to take the discard pile. However, if the player was not bluffing, then the challenger takes the discard pile instead.

When the rank cards reach King, the play returns to Aces and the numbers start again. The first person to discard all cards wins.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC-JWgeZbv4

Spoons (4 or more players)

A classic card game for four or more players using a standard deck of cards, and for larger groups a second deck is needed. Variations of the game are Pig, or Donkey. Focus and observation are key to this game. Be the first player to get four of a kind, or at the very least, don’t be the last person to notice that someone else has four of a kind.

The Deal

Select a dealer. You can have everyone draw a card and the one with the lowest becomes the dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck and passes out four cards, face down, to each of the players. The remaining cards are put to the right of the dealer.

The Play

Place spoons in the center of the table. There is always one less spoon than the number of players.

To start the game the dealer takes a card off the top of the deck and then decides to pass a card, face down, to the person to his or her left. This continues around the table with each person picking up the passed card from the right and discarding a card to the person on the left.

The play moves along quickly, which is part of the fun, until one person gets four of a kind. That person takes a spoon from the table. You can either be sneaky about taking the spoon or go for a snatch-and-grab, forcing everyone else to scramble for a spoon. The player left without a spoon drops out of the game for now. Also one spoon is removed from the center. This continues until only one spoon remains and someone grabs it for the win.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/bkDC3JoRjSk

Hearts (4 players)

This is a classic trick-taking card game best suited for older kids on up to adults. I’m sure this game will be familiar to many people, but I’ll provide the game rules as a refresher.

In this game you want to be the player with the lowest score, which is traditionally set at 100 points and ends the game. Obviously the player with the lowest score wins.

Card Values

At the end of each round the players count the number of Hearts they have taken, plus the Queen of Spades, if applicable. Hearts are one point each, with the Queen of Spades worth 13 points.

If a player takes all of the Hearts and Queen of Spades in one hand, instead of losing 26 points, that player scores zero and everyone else gains 26 points.

The Deal

Deal the cards one at a time, face down, clockwise. In a four player game, each is dealt 13 cards; in a three player game, the 2 of diamonds is removed, and the players are dealt 17 cards; in a five player game, the 2 of diamonds and 2 of clubs are removed, and the players are dealt 10 cards each.

The Play

The player with the 2 of clubs makes the opening lead. If you're playing a three person game, then the 3 of clubs leads. Moving to the left, players must follow suit and try to out rank the cards played. If players cannot follow suit, then any card can be played, with the lead suit trumping others. However, if on the first trick, a player has no clubs to match the 2, a heart or the queen of spades cannot be discarded. The highest card of the leading suit wins a trick and the winner leads the next trick.

The winner of the trick places the cards face down. Hearts may not be led until a heart or the queen of spades has been discarded. The queen of spades does not have to be discarded at the first opportunity.

 Video Link: https://youtu.be/XPWfL-0FGA8

To Conclude

I’m going to stop here at five games. With all of the rules for each game, this post is long enough. My intention is to provide at least a few interesting games so that you can put those card decks to good use.

If you feel you need more card games, then the internet is a great storehouse to find as many as you’d like.

So, then next time you examine or use an emergency kit, count that deck of cards as another asset to help with the down time.

5 Card Games for Emergencies


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