Goofspiel is a strategic game created by Merrill Flood in the 1930's. This game is also commonly known as GOPS which is an acronym for Game of Pure Strategy.
Although the rules and play for Goofspiel appear to be quite simple, there are an almost endless number of possibilities for strategy during play of each hand. For this reason, there have been quite a few thesis papers and detailed analysis reports written about this game, particularly in the realms of game theory and artificial intelligence.
Goofspiel is designed for two or three players, but can easily be adapted for more with the addition of another deck (see variations section below). The basic game uses the standard 52 card deck which is divided in a specific manner. First, the entire suit of spades is removed, shuffled and placed face down as the Prize pile. Then, both players each receive a complete set of cards (Ace through King) in a separate different suit, which forms their hand. For the two player version, one suit is set aside and not used in the game.
The object of this game is to capture the most prize points at the end of the hand. Players earn these points by capturing prize cards through a silent and hidden bid for each prize card.
Each card has a certain point value the player will earn if they successfully capture that particular card. The value and ranking of the cards in the Prize pile are detailed on the following chart:
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|Card||Point Value and Card Rank|
Each hand consists of 13 rounds, coinciding with the 13 prize cards. Thus, to begin, the dealer exposes the top card of the Prize pile. Each player then selects a card from their hand and places it face down in front of himself, to represent his bid for the exposed prize card. After all players have had the opportunity to place their bid card, they all simultaneously expose their card. The player with the highest value card bid wins that Prize card. All the players bid cards are removed from the table and further play in the hand. The Prize card is then placed face-up near the player who won it in their Trophy pile. In the event that two or more players tie for the top bid on the card, no player wins that Prize card and it is discarded along with the bid cards.
The dealer then exposes the next card of the Prize pile and the players again place a card face-down in front of themselves from their hand representing their bid for the Prize card. The hand continues in this way until all 13 Prize cards have been bid on and the players have played their last card from their hand.
At the end of the hand, the player who has captured the most points from Prize cards is declared the winner. If multiple players tie for the top score, the game is considered a tie.
Variations and Optional Rules
Alternate Rules on Tied Bids: There are numerous methods on dealing with multiple players tying for the high bid on a card from the Prize pile. In the base game described above, when there is a tie, the card is discarded, however there has not been universally acceptance of any specific rule regarding ties. The following are some additional rules that might be used in the case of a tie in the high bid for a card from the Prize pile:
- No one wins the card, and it remains on the table being won by the highest bidder on the next exposed card. If the next bid is also a tie, both cards remain on the table until there is a clear winner of the cards. If a tie for high bidder occurs on the last card of the hand, no one wins the card and it is set aside.
- Each tying player earns a portion of the total. Thus, each high bidder on the card would earn an equal amount of the total value for that card. The sum of all players portion of the score should equal the value for that specific card. Depending on the denomination of the card and the number of players who tied on the high bid, this may require fractional points be distributed to these players.
- This version also awards each tying player a portion of the total. However, in this case, fractional values are not added but rather the total is rounded. Any fractional values are discarded.
- For three or more players, another variation on ties can also be used. In this case, all tied cards (even if the tied cards were the highest) are removed from the bid. The highest bid card remaining wins the card and it's constituent points. If no bid cards remain after removing all tied cards, the Prize card is discarded with no player winning it.
- The players take their bid cards back into their hands and the Prize card is shuffled back into the Prize pile. If this tie occurs on the last card in the Prize pile, no one wins the card and it is discarded.
Goofspiel for 4 or More: This game can also be played by more than 3 players. In this case an additional deck should be added. Each player would still receive a full set of cards (Ace to King) in one suit. Since multiple players may be using cards of the same suit, players should be careful to keep their cards in front of them self when bidding. Since each additional player increases the odds for tied bids, seven should be the maximum number of players in one game.
No Shuffle Prize Pile: In some variations, the Prize pile is not shuffled before the bidding, thus each player will know the exact order in which the Prize cards will appear. It should be decided upon before the game if the Prize pile cards should be arranged in descending (King to Ace) or Ascending (Ace to King) order.
Trophy Piles Face down: In the standard variation of the game, the Prize cards won are placed face up in a players Trophy Stack. In this version, the cards are placed face down and no player is allowed to look at any Trophy stack until the end of the hand.
Blind Goofspiel: This version of Goofspiel adds a large element of the unknown. The card from the Prize pile to be bid upon is placed face down before the bidding. Thus, the players do not necessarily know the denomination of the card they are bidding on. Only after the bids are made is the card revealed and the winner adds the card to his own Trophy pile. The cats originally thought they had solely invented this game, but while doing further research this version of the game was found in an analysis of Goofspiel from 1970 from the University of Berkeley.
Defeat the Dealer: This version of the base game which was created by the cats, takes the Blind concept even further. This version is similar to Blind Goofspiel, however before bidding on each card begins, the dealer has the privilege to view the card, but no other player may see the cards denomination. After the dealer views the card, he must then be the first to bid, also playing his bid card exposed. After the dealer places his exposed bid on the table, the remaining players all place their bid card face down. After all remaining players have placed their card all these cards are exposed simultaneously by the players. As before the highest bid wins that card. The game ends after each player has had the opportunity to be the dealer for one hand. After this time, the player with the highest cumulative total score is considered the winner.
92 Makes Game: In some variations, instead of each deal being a separate game, players may play to a certain total, with the first player obtaining or exceeding that total at the end of a hand considered the overall game winner. As there is 91 total prize points in each hand which the players vie for, a possible total for winning the game might be 92 points. If more than one player reach or exceed this total at the end of a hand, the player with the highest total is the game winner.
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