Hearts and Spades Review
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Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+

The first thing my family and I noticed as I unpacked the Hearts and Spades box was the large number of cards inside. My daughter estimated there to be five million of them, but actually there were 164. But as I shuffled them all, it did seem like five million. That task took a while, making me wish I had one of those Las Vegas-style shuffling machines.

I read the rules on the smallish inside cover, and we started to play. But I must have read them fast and maybe skipped a few (the rules were numerous and the text size was rather small). The result was that neither game we played went smoothly.

The object of the game is to be the first to exhaust your stockpile of twenty cards. You do this by playing the five cards in your hand, your discards, and the one upturned card on your stockpile. You use your cards to create community piles of either hearts or spades, in order of one through five. Wild cards in both suits are also included. There are two piles for each suit, and once the pile reaches five, you sweep them away for future use.

A mighty stack of cards (the draw pile) sits between the community piles. You start each turn by taking cards from there to augment your own hand so that it has five cards. You play all the cards you can. When finished, you discard once, which tells the other players that you’re done.

When one member uses up all their stockpile cards, the hand is over and the others count up their unused stockpile. Each card counts as one point. The rules say the game stops when one player reaches 30, and the lowest score player wins. But we came nowhere close to 30. The kids got a little silly—we had to constantly remind our son (age 11) to take his turn amidst the fits of giggles. In the first game, we called it quits after one long hand. Since Mom had the lowest score, she was declared the winner.

Both kids referred to another card game called UNO, saying it was more fun. All of us felt that Hearts and Spades was a little repetitious, and that it could benefit from simpler rules and fewer cards. One good thing: I was able to find and download the rules from the company’s Web site. Reading those were a lot easier on my 47-year-old eyes.

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