Literature (card game)
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Literature is a card game for 4 to 12 players, most commonly played with 6 or 8 players in two teams. It uses a modified version of the Western 52-playing card deck; four cards with the same face value (typically 2's or 8's) are removed, leaving 48 cards. The game is sometimes called Canadian Fish, after the similar Go Fish.
|Players||6 or 8|
|Setup time||5 min|
|Playing time||20–35 minutes|
|Skill(s) required||Card counting, strategy|
The players are divided into two teams seated in alternating order. The 48 cards are dealt out to the players. Conceptually the 48 cards are divided into 8 half-suits, such as "low spades" or "high hearts". For the Literature variant where the 2's are removed, the 'low' half-suit contains cards numbered 3 through 8, and a 'high' half-suit containing cards 9 through Ace. For the variant with 8's removed, the low and high half-suits are 2-7 and 9-A respectively. The objective is to win more half-suits than the other team.
Play proceeds with a player requesting a card from a player on the other team. Players may only request cards in half-suits that they already partly have, and players may not request cards that they alreay have. For example, to ask someone for the 3 of hearts, the player must have at least one card in low hearts and must not have the 3 of hearts themselves. If the second player has the card requested, they transfer the card to the first player, who gets another turn. If the second player does not have the card requested, the turn goes to the second player.
When a player has collected all the cards in a half-suit by themselves, they can lay it down face-up and win it for their team. If a half-suit is scattered among the player's own team members, a player can declare a set on their turn by announcing correctly who has what card in the half-suit, by saying something like:
- Low spades, I have the 4 and 8, Mary has the 3, and Joseph has the 5, 6, and 7.
If the player was not entirely correct in saying who had what card, but the entire half-suit was owned by their own team, then the half-suit is forfeit and neither side can win it. If the player was incorrect and one or more of the cards were owned by the other team, then the half-suit is awarded to the other team.
Play continues until all half-suits have been accounted for. The team with more half-suits wins.
Since players can only ask for cards they do not possess, using the questions asked to others in the game, a player can deduce the card or set of cards a player has. From an information theory perspective, the optimal strategy for a player is to emit as much information as possible to his team-mates while simultaneously emitting as little information as possible to his opponents. Thus optimal strategy consists not only of asking for some cards that one needs, but not prematurely divulging the existence of all half-suits they have. Players need both strategy and memory skills to win the game.
Another common strategy adopted is the stalemate-breaker. If the members of a team come to the conclusion that all the cards in a set are all held by their own team and they can correctly attribute them, they don't declare the set immediately. This set is kept as a stalemate-breaker. If at a later point in the game a player in the team is at the verge of finishing a set (i.e., he knows which opponent has which card) but is unable to do so because he does not get a turn, the stalemate-breaker is used. One of his team-members can declare the stalemate-breaker set when he gets the turn and pass the turn to him.
Several variations exist, based on how cards are grouped into half-suits:
- The 2s can be eliminated from the deck, using 3-8 as low and 9-A as high.
- The 7s can be eliminated, using A-6 as low and 8-K as high.
- The 8s can be eliminated, using 2-7 as low and 9-A as high. This variant is common in India.
- The game can be played with 54 cards by adding the 2 jokers. The two jokers plus the four cards that are normally removed would form their own half-suit. Thus having nine half-suits makes it impossible for the two teams to tie.
- One variant uses sets of four cards with matching numbers rather than lows and highs of suits. This would result in 13 sets each having the same face value.
In addition, several house rules may be enforced, depending on the players:
- Players may be required to declare a set as soon as they possess all the cards for that set.
- Players may be required to announce when they have one card remaining, or announce and retire if they have no cards remaining.
- Incorrect declarations may result either in the half-suit being forfeit, or in the half-suit awarded by default to the other team. This rule is sometimes enforced to penalize random guesses from players.
- In some house rules the high set scores twice as many points as the low set.
- A variant played by some advanced players is to allow people to ask for cards they already possess, in order to confuse opponents. This variant is not very common among most players, because it can make the game very complicated and confusing.