AKA Black maria
Aim To avoid totting up points. The first to reach 100 points is the loser
How to play
If you've never played hearts, you might be forgiven for assuming it's a terrible game, thanks to Microsoft. But this is unfair. Play with real people in the real world, and it's a wheeze.
Each player is dealt 13 cards. Left of dealer starts, and can play any card. Play progresses like whist - one player leads a card, everyone else follows suit if they can, the player of the highest card (or trump) takes the trick and leads to the next. Unlike whist, the object is not to win the most tricks, but to win as few tricks as possible containing hearts or the queen of spades (the "black maria"). To make things more interesting, before play begins, each player must pick three cards to pass on - to the player on their left in the first round, to the right in the second, across in the third, no passing in the fourth.
At the end of each hand, players tally up the points in their tricks. When one player reaches a pre-agreed number of points
- 100, normally, or 500 - the player with the fewest points wins. All hearts are worth their face value (the four is worth four points etc, jack 11, queen 12, king 13, ace 15, queen of spades 25) and there are different trumps each round. There are two ways of doing this - to rotate the trump suit each turn (hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades, no trumps), or to decide trumps by cutting before the deal. Things get fraught when hearts are trumps, as it's far harder to dump them on another player when you can't follow suit.
How to spice it up
What gives hearts its zesty twist is the possibility of "shooting the moon". Because while winning hearts and/or the queen is a bad thing, if you win all the scoring cards, you get no points and all opponents get the maximum penalty (130). If you decide to go for it before passing your three cards, it's not too hard to pull off.
When passing cards, try to become void in one suit, but not spades. If you get passed the black maria bare, you'll have to play it as soon as spades are led.