Bartok is a cross between Uno and nomic. As a member of the Eights Group of card games it has a familiar basic set of rules:
  • Get rid of all your cards
  • Single discard pile
  • Discard a card that matches rank or suit of top of discard pile
  • If you can't play, draw from the deck

Bartok itself goes about like this...

  1. Players are dealt 5 cards
  2. Remaining cards are placed face down in the center, forming "the deck". The dealer turns over the top card from the deck, this card has no effect on play. If a joker is turned up, then the dealer may turn over another card, and so forth.
  3. The first player is the first one to place an eligible card after the card is turned over.1
  4. Play proceeds clockwise, unless any other rule states otherwise.
  5. On a player's turn, the player may either play an eligible card from the player's hand onto the discard pile, or pick up a card from the deck (but not both).
  6. Unless rules state otherwise, an eligible card to play must be of the same rank or the same suit as the card on top of the discard pile.
  7. A joker is a wild card, and so may be played as if it were any other eligible card. The player paying the joker must announce which card it represents.
  8. When a player's hand changes to only one card, the player must say "Bartok".
  9. Players may not ask questions during play.
  10. Players may not make (provably) false statements during play.
  11. If the player is deemed (by general consensus) to have broken any rule, the player must draw a card from the pack. Such a draw does not constitute a player's turn.2
  12. The winner of a round is the first person to have zero cards in the hand. Generally, a player is deemed to have won before the final card played takes effect.
  13. A round ends when the winner is decided. The winner shall then invent a new rule which will come into effect in the next round. New rules may repeal or override older rules. New rules must not be obviously biased towards or against any player. New rules may not directly effect the creation or content of later rules. Other players may express their dissatisfaction with any new rule, but so long as the rule meets the previous guidelines, the winner's word is final.
  14. The winner then becomes the dealer for the next round. If the winner so desires, any other player may be designated the dealer instead.
  15. During a round, timeout may be called by the players for rule clarification. During this time, questions may be asked of the player who created the rule in question without penalty. In all cases, the word of the rule's creator is final. If two or more rules conflict or combine with unclear effect, the player who created the most recent of those rules may decide the effect. Questions of the topic of rules clarification are not allowed during timeout. Trivial questions, or questions which have been already clearly answered should not be tolerated.
  16. IMPORTANT: If any player enters the game and is unfamiliar with the rules in effect at the time, the other players ought not explain any more than the general basics of the original rules. If the new player receives a penalty for some reason, then a brief (and not necessarily clear) reason for the penalty ought to be given. New players should be encouraged to work out the current rules by their own ingenuity.3

There exist many suggested rules for creation including switch, reverse, swap hands, changing places.

  1. All of the cards that aren't on the bottom are penalized as if they had been played.
  2. This penalty may only be incurred if the breaking of the rule is announced within a reasonable time after the event.
  3. Asking "what are you playing?" or "may I play" should be dealt with as follows:
    • 1 card penalty for asking a question
    • 1 card penalty for not saying "Bartok" when only having one card in hand.
The above writeups, although they explain the basic rules, fail to convey the anarchic experience that is a good game of Bartog, Bartok, Barthog or Bartock (Henceforth referred to as Bartog).

For one thing, ditch that 3-8 players bit. Bartog is simply dull with less than 8, and unmanageable with more than 20. If you've got less than that, rope in some passers-by. If you've got more, consider a game of Battle Bartog or even Three-Way Bartog. You'll probably need approximately one deck per three players. Try and find unusual decks, such as Tarot, Spanish, French, etc.

Find yourself a good, busy room, and set yourself up in the corner. You don't want people walking on you, but you want plenty of prospective players/victims. Spread the cards out in a messy ring, with a hole in the middle for the discard pile. Play begins once the basic meta-rules have been communicated and all players have drawn five cards.

The dealer (or winner of previous round) flips over a random card. Anyone may then play on this card. Then either of their neighbours may play on *that* card. Play proceeds in that direction.

Once a player has no cards left, they make up a new rule. This is where the fun starts. Bartog is quite a boring card game until the fifth or sixth round. It takes an experienced Grand Master to survive more than twenty.

Here are a list of "fun" rules. They are split into three sections, triggers, specifics and globals.

These are triggers. When any of the following occurs, one of the specific rules is used.

  • Card number: Fairly common; self-explanatory.
  • Suit: Also common and self-explanatory, only good for weaker effects.
  • Snap: When two cards with the same number and suit are played, the effect comes into play.
  • Picture cards: Kings, Queens and Jacks. Again, only for weak effects.
  • One-eyed jacks: Certain jacks have one eye, others have two. Gives an advantage to experienced players, unless unusual decks are being used.
  • Violent royalty: Some picture cards have weapons, need I say more?
  • Previous rule: When a specified rule is invoked, this rule is also applied.
  • Draw: When a player draws a card for any reason, this rule is invoked.
  • Suit Change: Self-explanatory again.
  • Specific deck: If the different decks being used are identifiable from the front, this rule is invoked whenever a card from a specific deck is played.
  • Specific card: When a specific card and suit are played. Only to be used for major, game-altering rules.
And here are a list of rules which can be caused by these triggers:
  • Reverse: On a specific trigger, direction of play reverses.
  • Skip n: On a specific trigger, the next n players are skipped.
  • Draw (Cumulative) n: On a specific trigger, the next person must draw n cards. If this is cumulative, this player can trump this by playing the same trigger card. The next player must then draw 2n cards, and so on.
  • Question Time (Toggle): When this rule is invoked, all players must speak only in questions. If the rule is a toggle, playing the same trigger again returns the game to the original state. If not, the game remains this way until the end of the round, or another rule resets play.
  • Swap Cards: When the rule is invoked, the player must swap their hand with another player. If playing Battle Bartog or Three-Way Bartog, this must be in one of the other games.
  • Shut Up Richard: On this trigger, the player must say "Shut Up Richard", "Quack", "Bartog", the name of the card, or some other piece of nonsense.
  • Swap Places: On this trigger, the player must get up and switch places with another player. This may or may not involve swapping cards. Again, in a Battle Bartog situation, the player must go to a different game.
  • Virtual Swap: Very annoying. Once a trigger has been played, that player takes the place of another player, but without physically moving. So when it's A's turn, B plays and when it's B's turn, A plays. Very very confusing after a while.
Then there's the global rules. Generally, these aren't a big deal on their own, only when combined with other rules.
  • Revalue: Ranges from the simple (7s and 8s are switched in value) to the complex (All cards are switched with their multiplicative inverses modulo 13, except spades which are tripled modulo 13).
  • Hands: Certain cards must be played with certain hands. Again ranges from simple (Play 3s with your right hand) to the downright nasty (All red primes must be played with your right hand, all other reds with your left, hands reversed for black cards).
  • Change of name: The game is no longer called "Bartog". Great fun with experienced players.
  • Speaking: Things like avoiding the letter 'e' or seven-letter words. We tried not speaking in English once, but we felt it gave an unfair advantage to Belgians.
  • Jump In: Any player can "jump in" in a specific way. This can range from the simple (same card, same suit) to the hideous (multiplicative inverses modulo 13, suit above in bridge bidding order).

As an example, allow me to quote the rules to a recent game:

  • 8s reverse.
  • 6s draw 1, non-cumulative, and skip next player.
  • Aces swap hands with the other game. (I have no idea what the rules were like over there).
  • Must say "Shut up, Richard" on a 7
  • Must say "Kangaroo!" on a Heart
  • Must say the name of the card on a Diamond
  • All primes must be played with the left hand, all others with the right
  • Jump in if card values add to 14, e.g. 7 and 7, 2 and Q
  • All clubs are tripled modulo 13
  • Queens toggle question time
  • 3s skip three players

At this stage the Australians present went off to give koalas to the French, and us Irish went downstairs to watch The Life Of Brian.

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