How To Play Bartok

Bartok Game Start Bartok is a fun and entertaining game of the Stops family which is played similar to Crazy Eights. However, in Bartok (and some of the other variants listed below), the rules of the game can drastically change as the game progresses. This is because this game features the addition of player created rules which can make for a very unpredictable and hilarious game. This game is sometimes known by a variety of other names, including Bartog and Last Man Standing. Bartok is also quite similar to games such as Mao and Mau Mau, both described in the variants section below.

The game uses one standard 52 card deck. There is generally no real concept in this game of ranking amongst the individual cards in the deck (unless, of course, a player creates a new rule during the game to enforce this in some manner). The game is intended to be played by 2 to 8 players. Even larger groups can be accommodated (up to about 12), however two standard decks should then be used.

To begin, the players usually all sit at the table in no particular arrangement. One player then shuffles and mixes the cards together. This is usually not an organized pile but rather a kind of disorganized pool of face down cards in the center of the table. Each player then takes five cards from this pool, creating their original hand. The player who mixed the cards then selects any one card from the pool and flips it face up. This starts the discard pile.

Whichever player then makes the first play to the discard pile becomes the first player. This must, of course be a legal play. After this first play, whichever of the two players to either side of the first player makes the next legal move becomes the second player. The game then continues in whichever direction was started by these first two players. If neither of the players to the left or right of the first player can make a legal move, the game then rotates in a clockwise rotation from that first player.

The legal plays a player can make on his turn are as follows (these rules are subject to change on the second and subsequent hands as winners add new rules to the game): If a player on his turn is able to play a card, his turn ends and the turn rotates to the next player in whichever direction was determined by the second player to make a valid play to start the hand. If a player is unable to play (or elects not to) on his turn, he must draw one card from the discard pile, which also ends his turn. As soon as a player finds himself in the situation in which he only has one card remaining in his hand, he must clearly state "Bartok" such that all other players can hear. Failure to do this is a breach of the rules, and if any other player notices this and calls attention to it, the player who failed to state "Bartok" must immediately draw a card from the draw pool, adding it to his hand.

When a player is able to legally play his last card to the discard pile, he is declared the winner. If the pool runs out of cards before any player has managed to play their last card (winning the hand), all but the top card of the discard pile are gathered up and reshuffled to start a new draw pile.

No questions allowed during play What makes this a rather hilarious and unpredictable game is that the winner of each hand then adds their own rule which is then enforced for the remainder of the game. The variety of rules a player can create is practically unlimited. However there are a few basic guidelines that should be followed when creating a new game rule. A rule should never be directed at or biased towards a specific player or groups of players. New rules usually take the form of a condition and event (if x then y). The new rule immediately takes effect when the next hand begins. A few example rules are described further below. At the time the rule is created it must be clearly described to all players. However, once a rule is described, players may not ask about the rule during gameplay. In fact, questions are strictly prohibited during play of the hand. This includes any questions about the current rules for the game. By mutual consent of the players, however, a timeout may be called in which a rule or rules may be clarified. During a timeout, the players may ask questions of the creator of a specific rule. Also by unanimous consent of all players, a previously created rule can be repealed. In addition to creating a new rule, a player may elect to modify a previous rule (either a core rule or a rule created by another player).

If a player breaks any rule during the game (whether it is his turn or not) he is obligated to draw one card from the stock pile. However, the rules infraction must be pointed out by at least one opponent. If a player makes a false accusation that another player has broken a rule when they have not, the player who makes the accusation must draw a card instead.

If the draw pool runs out of cards, all but the top card of the discard pile should be shuffled, turned over and spread on the table to start a new draw pool. The game usually continues from hand to hand until the number and type of rules becomes so confusing that play is almost impossible to continue.

There are almost an endless variety of rules that a player can make. Below is just a small sampling of some such rules:

Variations and Optional Rules

Since almost every game of Bartok is, by nature, different, every game is itself a variant of the base game. Thus, every hand played is usually very different than any other. Players have invented a great number of crazy new rules to add to the game, with the example described above just a small sampling of the rules an enterprising group may create.

In addition to Bartok, however, there are other games that use a similar concept, where the rules of the game change, and new players may not be privy to what the specific rules are and must learn through continued play. One of the most popular of these games is the great game Mao.

Mao: Mao, sometimes played as Mau Mau, is another hilarious variant of Crazy Eights (also called just Eights) or Bartok, featuring intentionally confusing or silly rules. It can be played by from two to twelve players. Usually, the more participating in the game, the more hilarious the game becomes. For five or fewer players, one standard 52 card deck is usually used. If the game is to be played by more than 5 players, a double deck should be used consisting of two standard 52 card decks shuffled together.

The preliminaries are similar to Bartok or Eights with each player receiving 5 cards face down, the remainder of the pack is set down as a stock and the top card turned over to start the Play pile. In addition to dealing the first hand, the dealer is also assigned the special role of "Mao Master" also sometimes called the Chairwoman or Chairman. Whoever wins each hand becomes the dealer and Mao Master for the next hand. While Mao Master, a player can modify the rules as they prefer but, of course, must abide by their own rules once made.

The basic rules which often get augmented or changed by the Mao Master are as follows:

As in standard Eights, the object of play is to rid your hand of the last card, with the first to do so being declared the winner. On a players turn they may play a card that matches either the suit or rank of the top card of the play pile. When doing so, his turn ends and play rotates to the next player in rotation. A player unable to (or opting not to) play a card must draw a card form the stock. If this is a card he can legally play he may do so, but otherwise he adds the card to his hand and the turn advances to the next player in rotation as normal. When the stock runs out, the Play pile is turned over (except for the top card) and reshuffled to make a new stock pile. By default, eights are not considered wild cards in Mao although they could certainly be set that way by the Mao Master.

One detail which is never modified and which is the first and foremost rule of Mao is that no player may speak of or state the rules of the game. If someone asks about the rules, the only information that is provided is something such as "The only rule I can explain is this one". In fact, almost every group has their own house rules for Mao, and the rules often change or get extended as the game progresses. To break the rules is to incur a penalty which usually consists of being forced to immediately draw a card into the hand (this rule too can be modified by the Mao Master as he sees fit). Generally, this occurs when another player points out the player's mistake and states the rule but does not explain the rule. The offending player would normally then draw one card.

There are a large number of custom rules commonly used in the game or added during the game by the current Mao Master, some of which are as follows: There are many custom rules in Mao
Violating any of the custom rules results in an appropriate penalty, usually drawing of one card from the stock.

Mao Meow: This is the cats own variation of Mao with a few changes to fit the cats:

When a player wins the hand and becomes the "Meow Master" he must add or change one current rule of the game. To add even more confusion, in most versions, the Meow Master does not state the rule and the other players must try to figure it out through play of the hand. When a player plays their last card they must say "Meow".

After a certain number of hands or at the beginning of a new game session, the game is usually reset to the basic rules with all the custom rules being removed as if the game was starting from the beginning.  
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