Winter activities: A brace of classic family card games...

Winter Activites family card games When you've got friends and family visiting, especially if they range from little ones to grandparents, it's difficult to keep everyone entertained – even if the weather's crisp and dry...

We've fond memories of playing cards at family gatherings, an activity that really brought everyone together for a spot of light-hearted fun, so here are a couple of classic games that young and old can enjoy together – but do expect there to be cries of, 'can we just play a little longer?' by the end of a couple of games!

Draw the Well Dry

This game dates from the mid-1800s and has been know by a variety of names, many of which aren't suitable for a family environment! It doesn't involve gambling so is eminently suitable for little ones or those who find themselves financially inconvenienced by the festive season!

  • Remove the Jokers from a deck of cards, shuffle and deal equally between the players.
  • Players take turns placing a card face-up in the middle of the table until an Ace, King, Queen or Jack card turns up.
  • The player before the one who turned up the Ace or picture card must then pay them a penalty of four (Ace), three (King), two (Queen) or one (Jack) cards, which are placed face-up on the top of the pile.
  • If an Ace or picture card doesn't turn up while paying the penalty, then the other player wins the hand, takes all of the cards that have been laid down, and places them at the bottom of their stack. They then lay the first card in the middle and the next round begins...
  • However, if while paying the penalty, the payee turns up an Ace or a picture card, then the player they're paying must pay them – this switching of payer / payee can go on seemingly indefinitely, which is where the fun really begins!
  • The first player to accumulate all the cards is the winner.

Chase the Ace

Once again, as with many card games, this has been known by a plethora of names, but this is the most common! Its origins are lost in time, but ex-servicemen may remember it being hugely popular during their time in uniform...

  • Appoint a dealer, discard the Jokers from the pack of cards and shuffle.
  • Each player places equal piles of tokens in front of themselves, one for each round – for family gatherings, use buttons or de-headed matchsticks.
  • The dealer gives each player just one card, which they may look at but then must place face down on the table in front of themselves.
  • The aim of the game is to secure the highest value card – Kings are highest and Aces the lowest – but the only way of doing this is by swapping your card with the player to your left.
  • Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each has just one chance of swapping their dealt card, sight unseen, with the player to their left.
  • However, if a player is dealt a King by the dealer, they can turn it face up on the table and it becomes a block to all the players, who must immediately turn their cards face up rather than swap, and face the music! This 'King stops play' option – the player can still choose to swap it sight-unseen, as normal – introduces all kinds of fun into the proceedings...
  • The dealer is the last player to take a turn in each round and can choose to swap their card with the top card on the pack.
  • The dealer and the other players then all turn over their cards, and the person with the lowest card loses one pile of tokens to the pot in the middle of the table. The pack is then reshuffled, and the next round starts...
  • When a player loses all of their piles of tokens, they're out of the game. The last remaining player 'wins' the pot of tokens.