The game is for four players, two teams of two partners.
Two will play the Younger suits (Diamonds, Hearts)
Two will play the Elder suits (Clubs, Spades)
Players sit in a circle, each opposite her partner.
Hand: The game is played with a hand of three cards.
Scheme: Cards to be drawn into hand. Each player's Scheme consists of the 2-9 of their chosen suit, plus the Queen (considered as 0) and the Ace (considered as 1). Each player arranges her cards into a face down stack, in any order, before the start of play. She then draws three cards from this stack to begin her hand. During the game, players may look through their Scheme, but not alter its order once play has begun. It is an expected part of play to confer with a teammate before a game to establish strategy and coordinate card sequence.
The Oubliette: A common discard pile, used by all players.
The Chateau: A 3x3 grid of Rooms that is the playing field. Cards in the Chateau are considered "in play".
The Clock: Any means of tracking the increment from 1 to 6 (the "Hours"). The Day begins with with the Clock "wound and set" to 1.
Order of Play
Hearts always goes first.
1. Choose to pass turn or not.
If a player chooses to pass her turn, she must discard one card and then draw the top card in her Scheme as a replacement.
Skip to step 8.
2. Declare and resolve any Intrigue.
A player may reveal her Queen from her hand to do the following:
The revealed Queen is then placed at the bottom of her Scheme.
- Exchange a card in the Chateau with a card of the same suit or the same value from the Oubliette.
3. If desired, place a card into an empty Room according to the Hour or Introduction.
- By The Hour: A player may place a card into play from her Hand whose value is equal to or less than the current Hour.
- By Introduction: A player may reveal and discard any number of cards from her Hand. She may then place a single card from her remaining Hand into play whose value is equal to or less than the total value of the discarded cards.
For example, if a player discards a 4 and 5, she may then play a 9. The 9 is said to have used the 4 and 5 to obtain an "introduction" to the Chateau. Since the Clock can only increase to 6, a player will have to Introduce cards 7, 8 and 9 or use some other means like Intrigue to place these high cards into play.
[Ed. Note: Cards used for Introduction end up in the Oubliette; social politics is a dirty business.]
It is permissable for a player to discard her entire hand in this manner and play nothing (a move known as a Squander), or a Queen (since Queens are considered zero).
4. Determine Conflict.
NOTE: For the purposes of this game, cards in play are never considered diagonally adjacent. "Adjacent" will always refer to cards that share a side.
The placed card is considered the Instigator. Whenever a player places a card into a Room in the Chateau:
- If the adjacent Rooms are empty or occupied only by friendly cards, then that player has claimed the Room without Conflict.
- If any of the adjacent Rooms are occupied by opposing cards, then the Instigator has initiated a Conflict with a declared target among the adjacent opposing cards. This target is known as the Innocent.
5. Resolve any Conflict.
- The value of cards in Conflict is modified each adjacent card. For each adjacent friendly card, add 1 to the value of the card in Conflict.
- Players with cards in Conflict may discard any number of cards. For each discarded card, that player adds 1 to the value of her card in Conflict.
- Compare the results.
- The card with the lowest modified value is defeated. It is removed to the bottom of that player's Scheme. In the event of a tie, the defending player may choose to accept defeat or not. If not, then both the Instigator and the Innocent remain in play.
6. Declare and resolve any Intrigue. see Step 2 above.
7. Draw to refill Hand to three cards, if possible.
8. Advance the Clock.
At the end of each turn, the clock is advanced one Hour. After the Hour has reached 6, the next increment rewinds the Clock back to 1, and so on. However, if all four Queens are in the Chateau, the Clock does not advance.
Queens and Conflict
For the purposes of Conflict, Queens are considered to be 0.
Regardless of the value of the opposing card, Queens may only be defeated by Aces or other Queens (except for Sabbath games, when any card may defeat a Queen).
For example, a 9 is in Conflict with a Queen. The Queen (value 0) has support from two adjacent friendly cards and so her total value is 1+1+0 = 2. The 9 cannot defeat the Queen, but the Queen is not able to defeat the 9 either. The conflict is moot.
Whenever a Queen wins a Conflict, the defeated card is removed to the Oubliette.
In the event of a tie with a Queen, the opposing card always loses (i.e. tied Queens, both lose). However, this card's player may chose whether to have her defeated card removed to the Oubliette or to the bottom of her Scheme.
Storming the Oubliette
At any point in play, if all four Queens are in the Oubliette, each player may choose to immediately remove their highest value card from the Chateau and place it into the Oubliette. Any player who can do this may search through the Oubliette and select any number of cards of her suit with total the value equal to or less than the card removed. Note that this selection can freely include the Queen (considered a 0) as well as the card that was originally removed (as it is now in the Oubliette!) These selected cards are returned the bottom of her Scheme in any chosen order. Play then resumes as usual.
For example, all the Queens are in the Oubliette! A player chooses to send her 6 that is in play to the Oubliette and returns her Ace, 2, 3, and Queen to the bottom of her Scheme.
Ending the Day
The game ends if the Chateau is full at the end of any turn. Sum the values of all Younger and Elder cards in the Chateau. The team with the highest total has won the Day. For the purposes of this summation, Queens have a value of 10.
If a player's Scheme runs out, she is still considered playing, but is unable to draw. As it is possible through the use of Queens to reclaim cards from the Oubliette to a depleted Scheme, the team is still viable. However, if both players on any team are unable to draw, that team has lost the Day.
Every seventh consecutive game (a "week") is designated a Sabbath game. During this game, any card may defeat a Queen in Conflict, not just Aces and other Queens.