How to Play Machiavelli

Machiavelli is a fun Italian game heralding from the Rummy family of card games. It is named after the Italian Statesman and Politician Nicolo Machiavelli, presumably for the way in which a player can totally change the current layout of melds on the table.

Machiavelli is designed to be played by 2 to 5 players all playing independently, using two standard 52 card decks thoroughly shuffled together. The ranking of the cards in Machiavelli is as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace. Note that the Ace is considered high or low. Thus, a sequence meld may only contain an Ace as the first or last cards in a meld (i.e. Ace, 2, 3, 4 or Queen, King, Ace).

Determination of seating positions and first dealer can be done in variety of way, with drawing of high cards a common method.

Meld Rearrangement in Machiavelli
In this example the player, on his turn, rearranges the melds on the table to allow him to play the 10 of Diamonds from his hand.
Once the players are seated and the first dealer is determined, he distributes 15 face down cards to each player in a clockwise rotation starting with the player to his immediate left. The remainder of the cards should then be placed in a face down pile to form the stock pile.

The player to the dealer's left then has the first turn. A player begins his turn by making a valid play if able. A valid play consists of making a new meld from a player's hand to the table or adding to a meld already on the table. In addition, he may re-arrange existing melds on the table as necessary (see below). After a player plays one or more cards to the table, his turn ends. If a player manages to play his last card to the table in legal melds during his turn, he is declared the winner of the game.

The valid melds in this game are as follows: In addition to playing a new meld to the table, a player can add to any meld already on the table, regardless of which player made that meld. However, he must ensure the meld remains a valid meld. What makes this game unique is that in addition to just adding to an existing meld, a player may actually change the layout of melds currently on the table. In order to do this, however, he must play at least one card legally to the table. The player may completely re-arrange the meld layout, however, all the original cards must remain on the table and all melds that are still found on the table must be legal melds. This is usually done to allow the player to play cards from his hand.

After a player plays any cards to the table, their turn ends. If a player is unable to play at least one card to the table during his turn, he must draw a card which also ends his turn. The turn rotates around the table in a clockwise rotation.

If a player during his turn, in an attempt to re-arrange the cards on the table, is unable to create all new valid combinations and is unable to restore the original layout, he must immediately take up into his hand any cards he added to the layout during his turn, draw three cards from the layout and end his current turn. That player's opponents will then attempt to restore the layout as possible. Any cards that cannot be restored remain face up as Free cards on the table. These cards can be used by a player on his turn in creating new or adding to existing melds.

Once a player plays his last card to the table he is declared the winner of the game. The winner of each game deals the next game.


Variations and Optional Rules

Free Cards: Another common version of this game which is often encountered, features the use of "Free" cards.

In this variant, each player is distributed 12 cards to begin the game. Afterwards, four cards are dealt face up to the center of the table. These are called Free cards. Any player on his turn may use these cards to form melds. These cards may never be taken into a players hand but may be used by a player to add to an existing meld or create new ones. Playing one of these Free cards counts as a play for the player, so he would not need to draw from the stock, even if a Free card was the only card played by that player on the turn.

Smaller Playing Hands: There are several variations of this game in which the only difference is the number of cards dealt to each player. The following are the most common other hand sizes seen when playing this game. Other than the differing number of cards dealt, the game itself is played identically to the standard game.

Joker Substitution Jokers: Another variant of Machiavelli is to add two Jokers to the deck. These Jokers are wild cards and may be used by the player to replace any other card. Any particular meld may contain at most one Joker. If there is an existing Joker already on the table on his turn, a player may replace the card the Joker is substituted for and use the Joker in a new meld. When used in this manner, the Joker may be used to represent a different card than originally replaced. However, in order to do this, the new meld created using that Joker must contain at least two cards from that player's hand. The Joker may never be taken into the players hand but must be used immediately as part of a legal meld.

Around the Corner Aces: In this variant, the Ace, being considered both high and low can be used internally in melds. Thus, a sequence meld can contain both an Ace with a King on one side and a two on the other (this is called going Around the Corner). As an example, such a meld might be (Queen, King, Ace, two, three of Spades).

Carousel: Carousel is a game played very similarly to Machiavelli. Carousel is designed for 2 to 5 players. For 2 players one standard 52 card deck is used with one Joker added. For 3 to 5 players, two standard 52 card decks are used with two Jokers total added. The ranking of the cards in this variant is the same as in the standard game. A Joker may be used by a player as a replacement for any other card in the deck when making or enhancing melds.

After determination of seating positions and first dealer, the dealer distributes 10 face down cards to each player. The remainder of the deck is placed face down near the center of the table as a stock pile. The player to the dealer's immediate left then takes the first turn.

Each player begins the game by first drawing one card from the stock. If able, he may make one or more legal melds to the table. When there are other melds on the table the current player may also add cards to existing melds on the table, regardless of who originally made that meld. After melding that player's turn then ends. If the player was unable to make any melds after drawing his first card, he must then draw a second card from the stock. After drawing this second card the player again has the option to meld to the table if able and willing. If the player melds after drawing a second card his turn ends. If the player was again unable to or elected not to meld after drawing the second card he must draw a third card. His turn immediately ends after drawing a third card.

The valid melds in this game are as follows: When creating a meld that contains a Joker, if there is any doubt about what card the Joker may be representing, the player must state what specific card the Joker represents (such as in a three card group meld).

In addition to creating new melds or adding melds to existing melds on the table, a player may also, on his turn re-arrange cards on the table to make different. In order to re-arrange the cards in this way, however, the player must meld at least one card to the table. After the rearrangement, all cards on the table must remain in legal melds. The Joker may also be moved in this way, but it must retain the card value for which it was originally intended to replace.

On his turn, a player may also exchange for the Joker if he has the specific card for which the Joker is a replacement in the meld for. He may not take the Joker back into his hand, but may use the Joker in creating a new meld or adding to another meld already on the table.

If a player plays his last card to the table he immediately wins (with special bonuses added). In addition, at the end of a players turn, he may elect to Knock if his hand contains a total of five or fewer points. When he does this the hand ends immediately and scores are totaled. The cards remaining in each players hand are then added as per the following values:
Jack, Queen, King10 Each
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10Value marked on card
If a player wins by playing his last card to the table, he earns a bonus of 25 points in addition to the total of cards remaining in all other player's hands. After a knock, all cards remaining in all player's hands are totaled. The player with the fewest total in points wins the hand. If one or more other players tie the player who knocked, these other players are actually considered the winner of the hand. The player with the lowest total wins an amount equal to the difference between the points form his own hand and the total remaining in each opponents hand. If the player who has the lowest total is not the knocker on the hand, the winner wins an additional 10 point bonus.

Once, at the end of the hand one or more players score reaches or exceed 150 points the game ends. Each player that managed this earns a 100 point bonus. Then, each player receives a 25 points bonus for each hand they won during the course of the game. The player with the highest grand total is declared the overall game winner.

Manipulation Rummy: Manipulation Rummy is another game which is played similarly to Machiavelli. In fact, Manipulation Rummy is played identically to Machiavelli with the following discrepancies from that game: Differing meld types are kept in separate areas of the table In all other respects Manipulation Rummy is played the same as Machiavelli as described above.
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