Previously: The Synchronization Game.
Note: Please don’t copy/paste or republish the text of this post on other websites without permission.
The rules for the supernatural gambling game known as the Wager Game can be found within the creepypasta “A Deck Of Cards,” written by Micah Rodney and published at the Creepypasta Wikia (under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Creative Commons license, as all Creepypasta Wikia submissions are unless otherwise noted) in early 2015. It’s absolutely a piece of fiction, so if you actually do attempt to play it, it’s likely that nothing will happen. Still, though — if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, it’s a compelling setup — so for the curious, here’s a clarified set of rules organized into a set of step-by-step instructions for… well, maybe not easy gameplay, but… straightforward gameplay. Yes. That sounds about right. Do read the original story as well, though; it’s not just the rules — it’s also an account from a narrator who’s meant to have actually played the game.
(But also, please don’t actually play this game; depending on how it’s played, it can involve bringing harm to yourself or to others, which obviously we here at TGIMMM do not endorse. So, here’s your Breaking The Fourth Wall Reminder that This Is A Story and Should Not Actually Be Played.)
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
I say “clarified” because the way the story is written, there’s a lot that’s actually quite hazy about the gameplay. That’s intentional, I’m sure; even so, though, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not immediately obvious whether, for example, gaining the knowledge you desire is dependent on the card you play being higher than the card your opponent plays, or whether you’re required to perform the action dictated by your opponent’s card no matter what. Or, to put it another way: Is the game played such that you play a card and name your wager; your opponent plays their card and names their wager; and then both of you get what you wagered for — meaning that one of you may have to pay a less desirable price for you want than the other? Or is it played such that you play card and name your wager; your opponent plays their card and names their wager; and then whichever one of you played the higher cards gets what you wagered, while the other does not? Or, do you get to choose whether you set down a wager when you play your card, with your opponent’s ability to set down their own wager determined by whether you chose to wager something?
Something about the writing suggests, to me, that it’s the last option. For example, there’s a line in the story that reads, “If you’re wondering, I wouldn’t bother asking with anything less than an eight” — “eight” referring to playing a numbered card — with the narrator going on to note that what you can safely ask when you play a low numbered card only amounts to something innoccuous, like what tomorrow’s weather is going to be. This seems to imply that you can make a wager when you play a numbered card, but also that you don’t necessarily need to if you don’t want to.
Then, later on, the narrator states that most opponents “have a bit of an honor code” about how they play: “If they are able to, they will match you number for number” — that is, if you play an eight, they’ll also play an eight if they can, or at least a card close to eight. “Essentially, they try to make it worth your while,” the narrator says. “Make the answer you want equivalent to the damage you have to cause; you see?” I interpret this to mean that we’re dealing with a tit-for-tat situation — that, if wagers are made, then everyone gets what they wagered for at the end of a round, even if the cards played result in a tie. In this case, “winning” and “losing” aren’t defined by one person receiving a prize for playing a better card and the other receiving nothing for playing a weaker one, but rather by whether the price you had to pay for your prize was greater than, lesser than, or equal to the prize itself.
All of this is to say that that’s how things will work in the version of the rules put together below. However, that’s also just how I read between the lines of the story (and, admittedly, attempted to address some inconsistencies within the tale’s internal logic); there are other possible ways to interpret it — and no way to know which interpretation is correct.
Again, much of the haziness within the story is likely intentional. And that’s part of what makes the game so risky to play: There’s no way to tell whether you’re playing correctly or not.
There are other risks, too, though, of course. In terms of the level of danger involved, this one ranks quite highly, indeed.
As always, play at your own risk.
- One Principal.
- A standard deck of 52, French-suited cards.
- A table.
- Two chairs.
- A small light source, such as a flashlight or mobile phone.
- A dark, quiet room.
- Information you wish to know.
- A willingness to pay the price for that information — no matter how severe it may be.
Making The Preparations:
- Begin at night.
- Choose your deck of cards. Remove the jokers from it.
- Collect up any other decks of cards that might be in the vicinity of your playing space and remove both them and the jokers belonging to your chosen deck from the premises.
- Bring your prepared deck of cards and your flashlight or other small light source to the dark, quiet room in which you’ve chosen to play.
- If necessary, also bring the table and chairs to the room and set them up. Position the chairs on opposite sides of the table and pull them out slightly, such that you and your opponent are both able to sit comfortably at the table, facing each other.
- Clear the table’s surface completely. Set the deck of cards in center of the table. Place the small light source to the side of the table.
- Close the door to the room.
- Draw the curtains or otherwise block the windows.
- Turn off any lamps, overhead lights, or other major light sources present in the room.
- Turn on your small light source.
- Take a seat.
- Do not wait for a visual cue.
- Do not wait for an aural cue.
- If you see or hear anything, stand up from your seat, turn on the lights, and vacate the premises immediately. Do not return until daylight, and do not attempt to play the game in this location again.
- But: Wait.
- You will know when your opponent has arrived.
- And when they do — when they take a seat at the table with you — you may begin.
Dealing The Cards:
- Pick up the deck of cards and give it a few good shuffles.
- Now: Deal. Three cards, face down, for your opponent, and three cards, face down, for yourself.
- Place the rest of the deck back on the table, face down. Then, pick up your cards, look at them, and assess your hand. Do not reveal them to your opponent. Do not attempt to sneak a peek at your opponent’s hand.
- It is your turn. Select one card from your hand to play and place it, face up, on the table. (See: The Cards And Their Functions.)
- If you choose to make a wager, do so now. (See: Concerning Wagers.)
- It is your opponent’s turn. Wait for them to select one card from their hand to play and indicate to you which card they have chosen. (See: Additional Notes.) When they have indicated this card to you, turn it face up for them. Do NOT turn over ANY OTHER CARD than the one your opponent has chosen to play.
- If your opponent chooses to make a wager, they will do so now. (See: Concerning Wagers.)
- If wagers have been made, each player will now collect on their wager.
- When both players have taken their turn, clear the played cards and place them in a discard pile off to the side. Then, before beginning the next round, take up the remainder of the deck and deal each player’s hand back up to three. Players should always have three cards in their hands on the beginning of each round.
- You may continue in this fashion, repeating Steps 4 through 9, for as many rounds as you like.
Ending The Game:
- When you are ready to end the game, pick up any undealt cards remaining in the deck, turn them face up, stand up from your seat, and turn on the lights.
- You do not have to vacate the room, although if you feel unsafe for any reason, you may do so.
- And that, truly, is all there is to it — but do not let the simplicity of the gameplay deceive you.
- We’ve only just begun.
The use of candles as the small source of light is permissible, but not ideal. Candles, you see, can go out quite easily — and although the game room should have only minimal illumination, you do not want to end up entirely in the dark.
Do not bring any food or drink with you into the game room.
Do NOT fail to remove the jokers from your deck of cards before playing.
The method your opponent uses to indicate which card they wish to play their turn may vary. You may witness the card in question move toward you, for example. You may hear a voice — in your ears, or in your mind — that tells you which one to turn over. You may even be handed the card outright, although if this occurs, it is not recommended that you continue playing.
If you play long enough that the deck runs out of cards to deal, you may, if desired, gather up the discard pile, shuffle it, and continue dealing from it. However, this is NOT RECOMMENDED and should be avoided if at all possible.
You may, however, play this game as many separate times as you like. Be aware, though, that your opponent may not always be the same; indeed, you may never play the same opponent twice.
Some opponents, you may find, are kinder than others.
Do not cheat. Not by accident — and certainly not intentionally.
Your wagers are, essentially, information. Knowledge. Things you wish to know. When you lay down a wager, you are asking for your opponent to impart that knowledge unto you.
Your opponent’s wagers are, essentially, pain — pain you must cause either yourself or someone else, whether physical, emotional, or both. When your opponent lays down a wager, they are naming the price you must pay for knowledge you have just gained.
Your opponent may not lie to you. They may not always know the answers to the questions you pose, but they will not deliberately mislead or deceive you when they reply.
You may not refuse to complete a task assigned to you through an opponent’s wager. You may tally them up to complete after the conclusion of the game, and you may carry out them out however you wish, but you cannot simply… choose not to do them. Failing to carry out a wager is akin to being caught.
Do not be caught.
See also: If You Are Caught.
The Cards And Their Functions:
The numbered cards, the aces, and each of the royal cards all have particular functions when played during a turn or round.
These functions are not always the same for the Principal as they are for the opponent.
There are also several individual cards which have specific functions differing from the rest of the cards within their grouping.
The functions of each of the cards is as follows:
- Numbered cards, ranging from deuces (twos) to 10s, may be best understood as the cards played during a “standard” round. When you play a numbered card, you may make a wager if you like. The number of the card indicates the intensity, import, or significance of the wager you may safely make while playing that card: The higher the number, the valuable the information you may inquire about. You do not have to make a wager if you do not wish to. (See: Strategy.)
- When your opponent plays a numbered card, they, too, may make a wager, although they may only do so if you, the Principal, have previously chosen to make a wager during your turn. The number of the card indicates the severity of the wager your opponent is permitted to make while playing that card: The higher the number, the greater the pain.
- The suits of numbered cards in play are unimportant, unless one of them is the Two of Clubs.
The Two Of Clubs:
- When you play this card, the card your opponent plays during their turn will not have its standard meaning or effect. Rather, it will provide a “truthful assessment” of their character: If your opponent plays another two or a similarly low-numbered card in response, for example, they are relatively benign; however, if they play a high numbered card, a royal, or an ace, they are hostile or malicious.
- When your opponent chooses to play this card, it functions as a regular numbered card.
- When you play an ace, you are protected from your opponent for the duration of the round. Any effect had by the card your opponent chooses to play during their turn will be nullified. If you choose to play an ace, you may not make a wager.
- When your opponent plays an ace, the remaining two cards of your opponent’s hand must be turned over. Your opponent may then make wagers on these two cards (they do not make wagers using the ace itself). They MUST be allowed to collect on both of these wagers; you may not block them or escape them in any way. After the round is over, deal your opponent three new cards before beginning the next round.
- You are ONLY protected by an ace if you play it during YOUR TURN. Note that the Principal always goes first. This means that, should your opponent play an ace during their turn, and you have an ace in your hand which you have not played, you MAY NOT pull that ace from your hand in an attempt to protect yourself from your opponent’s upcoming wagers — for the simple reason that you have already taken your turn and did not play an ace during it.
- If both players play an ace in the same round, neither card has any effect on either player. No wagers are made or collected upon; quite simply, nothing happens. At the end of the round, move the two played aces to the discard pile and deal each player’s hand back up to three.
- The suits of aces in play are unimportant.
- When either you or your opponent plays a jack, your opponent is permitted to “prank” you — either now, or sometime in the future. It is up to them when they prank you, and how. Pranks may be relatively benign, or they may be extremely malicious; the only stipulation is that the prank may not physically harm you.
- Neither player may make a wager if they choose to play a jack.
- The suits of jacks in play are unimportant.
- When you play a queen, it has no effect whatsoever. You may not make a wager if you choose to play it.
- If your opponent plays a queen, end the game immediately, vacate the premises — and keep running. Do NOT let your opponent catch you. Ever.
- The suits of queens in play are unimportant, unless one of them is the Queen of Spades.
The Queen Of Spades:
- If you choose to play this card, you must turn over all of your opponent’s cards.
- If your opponent has another queen in their hand: Discard their entire hand, deal them three new cards, and continue playing if you wish.
- If your opponent does not have another queen in their hand: Run. Immediately. Do not bother with ending the game. Just start running. Go as far away as you can, and then keep going. DO NOT LET YOUR OPPONENT CATCH YOU. EVER.
- If your opponent chooses to play this card, you must turn over all of your own cards.
- If you DO NOT have another queen in your hand: You are safe. Discard your entire hand, deal yourself three new cards, and continuing playing if you wish.
- If you DO have another queen in your hand: There is no point in even trying to run. Your opponent has, essentially, already caught you. I’m sorry. (See: If You Are Caught.)
- When you play a king, it gives you the power to play a second card immediately, while simultaneously rendering your opponent unable to play a card during their turn. If the second card you choose to play is a numbered card, you may make a wager if you wish. (You may not make a wager on the king itself.) Your opponent will not be able to make any wagers this round.
- When your opponent plays a king, they may also play a second card immediately. This generally does not have a strategic advantage for them — there is nothing they can’t do with their second card they couldn’t do by simply playing that card on its own — but playing a king does allow your opponent to refresh their hand somewhat more than playing a single card does.
- The suits of kings in play are unimportant, unless one of them is the King of Hearts.
The King Of Hearts:
- When you play this card, it functions as a regular king.
- When your opponent plays this card, it has a particular wager associated with it.
- The wager is a life.
- You must choose whose life.
- And you must be the one to take it.
Notes On Strategy:
Playing the Two of Clubs early in the game can be advantageous for the Principal. Knowing your opponent’s true nature may affect whether or not you choose to continue playing.
Choose when to make a wager carefully — as carefully as the wager itself. If you choose to play a low-numbered card, it may be advisable NOT to make a wager; if you do, you will be required to carry out the task assigned to you by your opponent’s wager — and the information you can safely acquire with a low-numbered card may simply not be worth the price of the wager. Experienced players recommend only making wagers if you are able to make it playing an eight or higher.
If your opponent meets an ace you played with another ace of their own, it may be an indication that they are at least somewhat benign. Doing so is, as some experienced players have noted, a relatively selfless act; they have, after all, freely given up a card that would otherwise have granted them the power to extract two wagers from you during a single turn. However, be wary — your opponent could also simply be attempting to lull you into a false sense of security.
Playing a king and following it up with a 10 as your second card is a sound strategy. Doing so will allow you to extract an answer from your opponent for your most valuable wager without having to pay the price of their wager in return — and, if you so desire, will allow you to put an end to the game immediately after you have collected this wager, as well. However, it is not recommended that you open — and then immediately end — the game with this move. Your opponent will not get the chance to play… and they may not like that very much.
Keep track of what’s been played, and what your opponent is likely to have their hand — if you can. Doing so may help you choose what to play, when to play it, and whether or not to make a wager.
But do not make any errors.
If you miscount — if you miscalculate — the consequences could be dire.
You could, for example, wind up on the run from your opponent.
But you might not always be able to escape them.
You might, one day, be caught by them.
If You Are Caught:
Do everything you can to avoid it.
If you are caught… well, let’s just say that there are fates worse than death.
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