Kings (game)

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Circle of Death
Kings Cup.png
Cards during a game of Circle of Death
Origin Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Alternative names King's Cup
Ring of Fire
Type Drinking
Players 2+
Age range Varies by legal jurisdiction
Cards 52
Deck 1 Deck of Standard Playing Cards
Play Clockwise or counterclockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) Ace (A) – two (2)
Playing time 20 to 40 minutes

Circle of Death (also known as Kings, king's cup, donut, jug, oval of fire, or ring of fire) is a drinking game that uses playing cards. The player must drink and dispense drinks based on cards drawn. Each card has a rule that is predetermined before the game starts. Many houses have their own variation of rules.


  • 1 Deck of Cards
  • 2 or more players
  • Alcoholic beverages - typically wine, beer, or mixed drinks - or non alcoholic beverages
  • A large cup which will be used as the King's Cup

Setup and common rules[edit]

In this game, players perform actions associated with each card. Sometimes, rules on the cards "reveal interesting things about the participants."

Usually, cards are shuffled and dealt into a circle around either an empty cup or a full can of beer (or a shot/cup of spirits or wine). Each player takes turn drawing cards, and the players must participate in the instructions corresponding to the drawn card.

This game is highly open ended and all of the cards can signify any mini-game, the rules and the card assignments are normally confirmed at the start of the game. Depending on house rules, the game either ends when the last rule card has been pulled, or when the king's cup has been consumed; or when the cards are placed on top of the king's cup the game is over when the cards fall off, the one that knocked them off must consume the king's cup.

It is also common for the players to make up and agree on a set of rules every time the game is played.

Common card assignments[edit]

Card drawn Title Instruction
Ace Waterfall To perform a waterfall, each player starts drinking their beverage at the same time as the person to their left. No player can stop drinking until the player before them stops.
2 Give 2 take 4 You point at two persons and tell them to drink. You can also tell one person to take two drinks.
3 Take 3 "Three is me." You take three drinks.[1]
4 Give 2 Take 2 You give out two drinks, and take two yourself.
5 Rule Set a rule to be followed, e.g. drink with your left hand, tap your head before you drink, don't use first names, etc.
6 Thumbs Place your thumb on the table, and try to do this without anyone noticing. As people notice, they will also have to put their thumb on the table too. The last person to place their thumb on the table drinks.
7 Raise your hand to heaven Last person to raise their hand will drink.
8 Mate Choose a person to be your mate and they drink when you drink for the rest of the game.
9 Rhyme Time "Nine is Rhyme". You say a word, and the person to your right has to say a word that rhymes. This continues around the table until someone cannot think of a word. This person must drink. The same word may not be used twice.
10 Categories You come up with a category of things, and the person to your right must come up with something that falls within that category. This goes on around the table until someone can't come up with anything. This person must drink.
Jack Jack Off Find the closest hat and wear it.
Queen Gals Drink All the gals at the table must take a drink
King King's Cup When each of the first 3 Kings are drawn, the person who drew the card puts some of their drink into the King's Cup at the center of the table. When the 4th King is drawn, the person who drew the 4th King must drink the contents of the King's Cup.

Variations and other rules[edit]

Like almost all other drinking games, Kings has endless variations of rules, and individual drinking groups usually have their own set of card effects. There will be similar rules, but there will most likely always be some that some players have never encountered before. Some games specify that playing a certain card allows that player to make up a new rule which lasts for the remainder of the game.

A major variation in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Canada is that the contents of the King's Cup are drunk by the player who breaks the circle of cards (known as the Ring of Fire in the UK).

A popular variation in Australia is the Smoko or Toilet Card replacing Give Two Take Two. In this version, a player needs to possess a Smoko Card to leave the table to smoke or use the toilet. A player can have multiple copies of the card and they can be traded, typically under conditions such as; the recipient must refill drinks on demand, crawl for the rest of the game, talk in a funny voice, etc.

See also[edit]