Black Bess

Black Bess is a card game which is similar Hearts. It uses a standard deck of cards and is lots of fun when played with some friends. You don't want to win Black Bess or any tricks with hearts. (For some other variations of this game see, Hearts, Black Lady and Black Maria.)Players try to avoid winning tricks which contain penalty cards, with Aces High.

Age: Adults and older children

No. of players: 3-7

Equipment: One standard deck of cards (remove the jokers)

Time: 20 minutes+

Aim: To be the player with the least number of points at the end of the game.

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(See Glossary if you are confused about any card game terms. The Glossary will open in a new window.) Depending on the number of players you may need to remove some cards from the deck.

    3 players - Remove the 2♠
    4 players - No cards removed
    5 players - Remove both black 2s (2♠ and 2♣)
    6 players - Remove all four 2s (2♠, 2♣, 2 and 2)
    7 players - Remove 2♠, 2♣ and 2

1. The dealer is chosen by cutting the deck. Lowest card becomes dealer. All cards are dealt, one at a time, face down in a clockwise direction starting with the player on the dealer's left.

2. Player One (to the dealer's left) leads the first trick by putting any card from their hand face up in the middle of the table. Player Two must follow suit (if possible) but can play offsuit if necessary. Other players also play their cards to complete the trick.

3. The player with the highest card of the suit which was led wins the trick. If the trick contains any penalty cards, they are placed face up in front of the player who won the trick. The penalty cards in Black Lady are all the hearts and the Queen of Spades (Q♠, known as the Black Lady). All other cards are placed in a pile at the side of the table, ready for the next hand.

4. The player who won the trick leads the second trick, and so on. Players must follow suit if they can, but it is good strategy to play their highest heart (e.g. A) if they offsuit (since they cannot win that trick with an offsuit card). Likewise, if you must lead a heart make it small (e.g. 3), hoping that another player will win the trick with a larger card.

5. Once the hand is finished, each player adds up their score, depending on the penalty cards in the hands they won. Each heart is worth its face value (e.g. 6 = 6 points) with court cards worth ten points, the Ace worth 11 points and Black Bess (Q♠) worth fifteen points. The maximum score is 110 points per hand. Players who renege (play off suit when they should have followed suit) score ten points extra.

6. The player to the left of the dealer becomes the new dealer for the next hand. Round 2 has clubs as trumps. (Round 3 has diamonds, round 4 has spades (watch out for Black Bess) while the final round has hearts as trumps.)

7. The overall winner of Black Bess is the player with the lowest score at the end of the fifth hand.


(a) After the cards are dealt but before play starts, each player chooses a number of cards to pass to the player on their left. The number of csards passed depends on the number of players.

    3 players - 4 cards
    4 or 5 players - 3 cards
    6 or 7 players - 2 cards

Players usually choose to pass any high hearts but could also choose to pass other cards, especially the Ace and King of spades, other Aces or suits with only a few cards (in order to short suit their hand) so they have less chance of winning any tricks which contain penalty cards.
(b) A player cannot lead a heart until another player has 'broken hearts' by offsuiting.

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Go Fish
Hockey Card Game
Old Maid
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Clock Patience (for one player)

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