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Dice and Card Games for the Traveller  

How To Play S***head

This game is currently being played all over the world by students, backpackers and inmates, and requires a pack of card for every two people playing i.e., one pack of cards for two players, two packs for four, etc. The object of the game is to be the first person to get rid of all their cards. The last person to do so is the sh**head (or silly-billy if you’re playing with children under 12).

How to Start

Deal three cards face down for each player, then on top of them lay another three cards facing up. Deal each player three cards to hold in their hand, then turn over the top card of the pack to start the discard pile off. Now the player to the left off the dealer starts play, by laying down an equivalent, higher or power card.

Power Cards

Aces are high.

2 can be played at any time, and drops the value of the discard pile back down to 2.

7 can be played at any time and changes the direction of play.

10 can be played at any time; whatever is on the discard pile is set aside for the remainder of play and the player may take another turn.

Rules of Play

1. You must have a minimum of three cards in your hand at all times until the stock pile has gone. If you play one card you must pick up another, if you play two, pick up another two etc. If you have more than three cards in your hand you need not pick up another until you are back down to three again.

2. You must always match or beat the value of the card laid down by the previous player, otherwise you have to pick up and keep the whole of the discard pile. If this happens then the previous player gets another turn.

3. If a 10 is played then the discard pile is set aside for the remainder of the game and the player takes another turn. 

4. If you have more than one card of the same value you can lay them down simultaneously; if you can lay four cards of the same value down at once, then the discard pile is permanently thrown out and you get another go (this discarding of the discard pile is quite handy, as then there are less cards for you to pick up if you can’t manage to match or beat the previous card).

5. When all the cards in your hand are gone and there are no more to pick up from the stock pile, you can then play your three top cards.

6. When you have exhausted these you can play the bottom three. Obviously you are playing blind here as you don’t know what they are but this is the best bit as it can completely turn the game around; if you can’t play the card you’ve turned over you have to pick the discard pile up! 

7. If you manage to get rid of all your cards first then you’ve won! If not, then you get called names all evening.

8. Some people play a variation where upon being dealt three cards into your hand at the start at the game, you can swap any or all of them for the three cards facing upwards. This is the only time in the game you can do this.


How to play the dice game Mia, or Mire

This is a game which seems complicated to explain, but is incredibly good fun to play, based as it is on bluffing and lying to your friends. Medieval re-enactors particularly enjoy this game round a campfire when they’ve spent the evening doing the best part of a bottle of mead and reliving their finest bruises.

You will need two play dice, an opaque cup or beaker with a lid (even a beer mat will do) and a dice or 6 matchsticks for each player to record how many lives they’ve lost on.

How to Start

Players start with six lives, so turn their dice with the six up. Player One rolls the two play dice in the cup, has a discreet look, and then makes a decision based on the following three choices…

  • Tell the truth and say what he has just rolled,
  • Lie and say announce a greater value than the one he actually rolled, or
  • Lie and announce a lesser value (useful if there aren’t many players and there is a good chance play will come around to him again).

The dice are concealed with the lid and carefully passed to Player Two, who now also has three options.

  • Believe Player One, in which he has to roll either the same or higher without looking.
  • Call Player One a liar, and look at the dice to see if he was right. If the dice was lower than Player One announced, Player One loses a life. However if it was equal or higher, then Player Two loses a life.
  • Pass the dice without looking to the next player; this relieves Player One of all responsibility and the bluff is now on Player Two’s shoulders. Player Three can now either call or believe the pass, or pass it on.

Each player must always match or beat the previous value, or pass it on blind and take his chances.

If the game continues all the way round the circle back to Player One, then he cannot continue without raising the score.

When a player loses a life he must either lose a matchstick or turn his life dice down by one. The play then returns to the player who preceded him.


Lowest come the numbers made of mixed dice with the highest number always coming first, e.g., 31, 54, 63 etc. Next come the doubles running from a low of 11 up to the highest 66.  Highest of all is Mia, or 21; nothing can beat this and if it is rolled or announced the losing player will lose two lives. Thus the complete order of rolls runs like this, from lowest to highest



This is much easier to play than it sounds; just remember that you must either trust, or match and beat the player who came before you, so if you can’t, lie, lie, lie!! Often the player who follows you won’t want to risk losing a life by challenging you incorrectly and thus will just take your call at face value. Likewise, don’t trust anyone else, there is always a good chance they’re lying too!


How to Play Nine Men’s Morris

This is another incredibly ancient game; not only was it mentioned in Shakespeare, boards have been found as far back as Ancient Egypt, China and Rome.

The aim is to leave your opponent with less than three stones, or unable to make a move. This is achieved by moving your own players into a row of three, also known as a mill; each time you create a new mill, you can remove another of your opponent’s pieces. 

Firstly you will need to draw a copy of the board below, either on the sand or on a piece of paper. Each player will also need nine counters; one person could use stones and another shells, or perhaps bottle caps, both face down and face up. You could even use different colour M and M’s, the advantage here being you get to eat them every time you remove one from the board.

How to Play

Each player takes it in turns to place his stones on the empty board, at any of the 24 points made by corners or intersections; at this stage making a mill will still entitle you to remove one of your opponent’s pieces. Two stones cannot occupy the same point.

After all eighteen places have been laid upon the board, each player takes it in turn to slide one of his stones along a line to an adjacent point. If a player manages to form a mill, he may remove one of the opposition’s stones, as long as it does not form a mill (if all the pieces are in a mill then an exception is made). A stone is not allowed to jump another, it must only move along the line.

The game continues until one player has only two stones left, or is blocked and cannot move. A wild rule is often played, however, that when one player is down to three stones, he need not slide his pieces any more, but can jump anywhere on the board, as a last ditch attempt to victory (it rarely works!)


Try not to lose any stones in the opening moves, this will leave your men weak and already open to defeat! Try to occupy intersections (where you have three options of move), as opposed to sides (two options) and corners (very weak as it is easy to become trapped in them). An ideal set up is one where you have  two mills available, simply by sliding backwards and forwards between an intersection, thus allowing you to decimate your opponent’s army (and hopefully thereby consume all his red M and M’s).



This is another popular dice game; all you will need is six dice, a cup and a pen and paper for scoring.

How To Play

Each player rolls a die in turn; the one with the highest score goes first by rolling all six dice. Each roll must end up with at least one scoring die or the go ends and the player loses all points accumulated in that turn.

Player One rolls all six dice; after each throw he must score points in the form of sets. If he wishes to collect these points he sets these dice aside, then he can either

  • Roll the rest of the dice in order to make more sets,
  • Or, if all his six dice are tied up in sets he can throw all six again and keep scoring or
  • Pass the game over to the next player in the circle, if he thinks the chances of failure are too high and he might lose his points.

The player’s turn ends when he fails to score with a roll (thus scoring nothing), or when he passes play over. Sets cannot be put together; for example, if Sarah rolls and puts aside a 5, and then rolls three 5’s in her next roll, she can only count them as one triple and one single, rather than four-of-a-kind.

Scoring and Sets

  • 1 =100
  • Triple 6 = 600
  • 5 =50
  • 1,2,3,4,5,6, = 3000
  • Triple 1 = 1000
  • 3 pairs = 1500
  • Triple 2 = 200
  • Four of a kind = 1000
  • Triple 3 = 300
  • Five of a kind = 2000
  • Triple 4 = 400
  • Six of a kind = instant win!
  • Triple 5 = 500
  • Two triplets = 2500

The first player to reach the 10,000 threshold wins, unless another player can beat him with their last remaining roll. Some variations include that a player must reach at least 500 per turn in order to be “on the table” and keep that turn’s score. Others say that four 2’s in a roll cancel that players entire score.



Aim: To sink the enemy fleet

How to play

From The Handy Book of Indoor Games, by Geoffrey Mott-Smith (Permabooks, 1949).

"Each player marks out two boxes on his paper, each box enclosing 100 small squares in a 10x10 square. One box represents the player's own battle zone; the other is the opponent's battle zone. For reference, the horizontal columns of each box are denoted by the letters A, B, C, etc ... , and the vertical rows are numbered from 1 to 10. The player also marks out four areas representing the opponent's ships, underneath.

"To commence the game, each player marks out his own fleet in his own battle zone. The fleet comprises four ships: a battleship of five squares, a cruiser of three squares, and two destroyers of two squares each. The player must dispose his fleet as he sees fit within the 10x10 zone, but the squares comprising any one ship must be adjacent in a straight line, on a row, column, or diagonal. An optional rule is that no two ships may touch each other.

"Player A delivers a salvo of seven shots upon B's battle zone. He announces the squares verbally as B2, D3, C5 ... etc. Both players mark these shots on their respective battle zones. At the end of the salvo, player B announces 'you hit nothing' or 'you hit my battleship once', whatever is the case. The number of actual hits must be stated, together with the class of ship, but the player does not reveal which shots were hits and which were misses.

"The salvos on each side are numbered, from 1 up. On his second turn, player A will write two in each square he chooses for a shot, and player B will write 2 in every corresponding square of his own battle zone. Thus when a hit is registered, the firer knows that it was one of seven (or less - see later) shots in the salvo. To record a hit, he writes the salvo number in the appropriate ship in the grid underneath the battle zones. When he hits the same ship again, he is well on the way to locating it. For example, suppose he hits the cruiser with a 2 and a 5, he looks for all places where a 2 and a 5 stand on one line.

"The game continues by alternate salvos. The game is won by the player first to hit every component square of all four enemy ships.

"The allowance per salvo is seven shots so long as the player has lost no ship. Loss of his battleship reduces his allowance per salvo by three shots; loss of the cruiser, by two; loss of the destroyer by one."


In the simpler game of battleships, players take it in turn to fire one shot at a time rather than salvos. This means that they will know the exact position of each hit or miss, and can plan subsequent shots accordingly.

Top tactic

Mott-Smith's advice is as follows: "The largest ship is the easiest to find, and sinking it most cripples the enemy's offensive power. If the first hit chances to be on the cruiser, or a destroyer, it pays to continue to search for the battleship. The natural pattern for an exploratory salvo is to separate the shots by a chess knight move. This touches upon a maximum of different lines."


Spit (also known as 'Slam' or 'Speed')

A game for two players that could go on forever (as you play rounds until all of someone's cards are gone; when that happens, the game has finished).

Players and cards

Two players, using a regular deck of 52 playing cards. Older decks are ideal because the cards may become damaged in play. Shuffle well and divide the cards equally - 26 to each player. The cards you use are a regular pack of cards without the jokers. If more than two players are desired then more decks of cards may be added, or each player starts with one less hand pile. This works with one deck until 4 players are playing and each player has 3 hand piles.

The layout

Each player now deals a hand consisting of five piles in a row, containing 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 cards, respectively. There is one card on each pile unless you have two or more of the same cards. The rest of the cards that are being unused by the player should be in a pile next to you. After the layout of the cards is ready for each player then you both take one card without looking and put it face up at the same time. Then when the cards are facing up you have to match them up by putting the same –card or a card one number higher or lower than the original card. You can put more than one of the same card on a pile if it matches up.

The play

After both players acknowledge readiness, both shout "Spit!" while turning over the top card in their respective stockpiles. Both cards are placed side by side between the players' hands. These two cards and the cards that will be played on top of them are the spit piles. There should be no more than two people playing. There should be five cards face up and the rest should be in a pile next to you. You should not look at them as that would be considered cheating. Then after you set up the cards each person should show one of the cards in their pile without looking. You should not have a pile of cards under the middle pile of cards facing up.

The players now play simultaneously as fast as they want. The object is to get rid of all the cards in your hand piles and the cards placed in front of you onto the spit piles. Moving only one card at a time in each of your hands, you can:

  • play the face up card from the top of one of your piles onto either spit pile. To play a card on a spit pile it has to be either next in sequence up or down, or the same number as the original card. Suit and color do not matter. Cards can turn the corner, i.e. on an ace you can play a two or a king (Optional slight variation: you may also play a card of equal value onto a spit pile, so an ace could then also be played on top of another ace).
  • if one (or more) of your piles has its top card face-down, turn the top card of such a pile face-up
  • move a face up card from the top of a pile into an empty pile space if there is one - note that you can never have more than five piles.
  • if two face-up cards in different piles are identical in number (e.g. Ace of spades and Ace of hearts) you can remove one card and stack it on top of the other and still have five piles.
  • If you have two face up cards of the same number, than you may place them on top of each other and filp another card right side up.

A card counts as played as soon as it touches the spit pile or space onto which it is to be placed. A played card cannot be retracted and as soon as it is played the opponent is entitled to play on it.

If a position is reached where neither player can play (i.e. none of the exposed pile cards can be played to either of the spit piles and it is not possible to turn up another card from a pile after moving cards into spaces if necessary) then both players optionally shout "Spit!" (or continue upon mutual assent), and each places the top card from their respective stockpile on top of the spit pile they started. Play then continues as before.

Play continues until either player has removed all of their cards from play. As soon as they have placed down their last card, then either player has the opportunity to be the first person to place their hand on whichever pile they want. They must yell out 'Spit' at the same time. You should choose the pile with fewer cards, as the aim of the game is to be the first to get rid of all cards. Under a different variation of these rules, the winning player can choose which pile they would like, the reasoning being that otherwise there is no reward for winning that hand.

When you have gotten rid of all your cards, and the other person has them all, you are the winner. You can only use one deck.

Copyright © AR Coombes 2007. All rights reserved.

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