Original Card Games by David Parlett



A leisurely way of passing time on a desert island

Players 2   Cards 52   Type Melds, tricks, and card-shedding
Galapagos is the Spanish for 'tortoises' and the name of a group of Pacific Islands largely inhabited by these reptiles. This game runs faster than tortoises, however, and is only so called because it started out as an elaboration of Gops. (Gops > gallops > galapagos.) It has since become a three-part compendium game, in which, however, you can play each part with a strategic view to the ensuing one.

Deal 13 cards each from a well-shuffled 52-card pack ranking AKQJ1098765432 in each suit. Stack the rest face down and turn the top card face up. The game consists of three phases as follows:

1. Melds. In Phase 1 you both try to improve your hands by bidding for new cards from the stock. When none remain in stock, you score for any melds (card combinations) contained in your revised 13-card hands. This phase is rather like Gops.

2. Tricks. In Phase 2 you play out your revised hands to 13 tricks, aiming especially to win an odd number of tricks (1, 3, 5 etc). This phase is rather like Piquet.

3. Play-off. Finally, you each pick up as a new hand the 13 cards you used for bidding in the first phase, and aim to be the first to play out all the cards from your hand. This phase is rather like Arsehole / President / Trouduc (the game with a thousand names, most of them scatological).
100 bonus
If at the end of any scoring phase one of you reaches a score of 100 on that hand and the other has not, the one who did so gets a bonus. The bonus is 100 if the hundred is reached at the end of Phase 1 (melds), 50 if at the end of Phase 2 (tricks), or 30 if at the end of Phase 3 (play-off).
Phase 1 (bidding)
At each turn the top card of the stock is faced. Following an auction, one player takes the faced card and the other takes the one below it, sight unseen. Whoever bids higher gets to choose whether to take the known top card, or to cede it to the other player and take the unknown next card instead.
    You bid by each choosing an unwanted bid-card from your hand and both exposing them simultaneously. Whoever shows the higher card wins the choice. If both bid equally high, the winning card is that of the same suit as the turn-up; or, if neither matches suit, that of the same colour; or, if neither matches colour, that of the same parity as the turn-up. (Spades and hearts are of major parity, clubs and diamonds minor.)
    Whoever wins the auction may either take the top card and take it into hand, leaving the opponent to take the next, or, if preferred, may cede the top card to the opponent and take the next card instead, sight unseen. The bid-cards are then turned down, and the next card of stock is faced and bid for in the same way.
    This continues till no more cards remain to bid for. You will then each have 13 cards in hand and 13 face down on the table.
Scoring for melds
Each of you in turn, starting with whoever took the last card, scores for any sets and sequences you declare. A set is three or more cards of the same kind (Aces, Twos, Kings, etc). A sequence is three or more cards of the same suit and in ranking order, for which purpose an Ace may count high (A-K-Q...) or low (A-2-3...), or both (A-K-Q... and A-2-3...) but not 'round the corner' (K-A-2). Any individual card may used in both a set and a sequence. Score as follows:
  • Sequence of three = 10, of four = 20, of five = 50, six = 60, and so on up to 13 = 130.
  • Set of three = 15, or 30 if the missing card is of the proposed trump.
  • Set of four = 40, but four Threes = 60, four Twos = 80.
Announce a sequence as 'Three hearts', 'Six clubs', or whatever, and a set as 'Three Aces', 'Four Nines' etc. Any combination scored for must be shown if requested.
    If you have now reached a score of 100 and your opponent hasn't, you get a bonus of 100.
Phase 2: Tricks
Before playing for tricks you each declare which suit will be your personal trump. Whoever took the last card of stock then leads to the first trick. The second player to a trick must follow suit if possible, otherwise may play any card. The trick is taken by the higher card of the suit led, or by a personal trump to the lead of a non-trump suit. If your opponent leads a personal trump and you cannot follow suit, you can only beat it by playing a higher card from your own personal trump suit. An equal or a lower personal trump loses. The winner of each trick leads to the next.
    Whoever wins the odd number of tricks scores 10 points per trick taken, and the other 5 per trick taken. You add this score to your existing score for melds. If now you have reached 100, not having done so for melds, and your opponent has not, you get a bonus of 50.
Phase 3: Play-off
Each of you now picks up the 13 cards you used in the auction and arranges them as a playing hand. The aim is to be the first to play them all out from your hand in the following way.
    The winner of the last trick leads to the first round of play, and the winner of each round leads to the next. The leader may play out -
  • a single card, or
  • two or more cards of the same rank, or
  • three or more cards in sequence (not necessarily of the same suit), for which purpose Ace counts high or low.
The other must either play exactly the same number and combination of cards, but higher in rank, or else pass. If you play, the leader may either match and beat the combination you played, or pass, and so on. This continues until one player cannot or will not match and beat the last-played combination. (You may always pass even if able to beat.) As soon as one player passes the other thereby wins the round, turns the played cards down, and leads to the next round.
    Play stops as soon as one of you plays the last card from your hand. That player scores 10 for each card left unplayed in the other's hand. Reaching a total of 100 or more by this process, if the other has not, earns a bonus of 30.
Keep playing to the end of phase 3 of the deal in which one player has reached 1000 points or more. After the play-off, the player with the higher point-total scores a single game if the loser reached 1000+, a double if the loser has less than 1000, a treble if less than 750, or a quadruple if less than 500.

Optional Jokers

If you like adding Jokers (I don't) you can add two, one red and one black. Each player starts with one Joker and is dealt 12 cards instead of 13. You may play your Joker, once only, at any point in the game. How it's used depends on when you play it, as follows.

In bidding.
A Joker played as a bid-card always wins. If both are played simultaneously, that of the same colour as the faced card wins.
In melds.
Before scoring for melds, you may, if you still have your Joker, exchange it for any one of your played-out bid-cards. This may yield a higher meld, or an extra trick.
In tricks.
You can play your Joker as a personal trump. It ranks lower than a Two.
In the play-off.
A Joker may be added to a singleton to make a pair, a pair to make a triplet, and so on. In a sequence it counts either higher than an Ace or lower than a Two (thus enabling a sequence beginning Joker-2-3 etc).
Copyright © renewed 2017 by David Parlett