A member of the large rummy family of card games, Aggravation Rummy is a two- or four-deck contest that requires careful accounting, and more than a little patience, on the part of players. Although the rules vary from one set of players to the next, the basic game format is similar to that of other rummy games – you play for yourself and win by creating runs and sets of cards faster the other players.
You need two full decks of cards and at least three players to set up an Aggravation Rummy game. You also need to use the two jokers from each deck. Some Aggravation Rummy players use four decks. Shuffle the decks and deal 10 cards to each players. Set out a single card face up. The player to the left of the dealer starts the play.
Players must fulfill a series of “contracts” by melding (laying down) specified card combinations in a specified order. These range from sets (three or four of the same number or face card); to runs (of three or four, sometimes more, of sequential cards, such as 4-5-6 or J-Q-K, in a single suit). Aces count as high or low cards in your runs. Players will need pen and paper to keep track of the contracts they need to fill for each round. Check Internet sites to get an idea of the various contract combinations used and select one that seems easy to start.
In each turn, you must play a specific meld for that turn before you lay down any other cards. You may then add to your own melds, or to those of other players, during your turn. You may also use the Joker and 2 cards as wild cards – they can represent any number or face card. You can’t use wild cards to form more than half of the meld you lay down.
During your turn, you may pick up a single card from the face-down pile or pick up cards from the face-up discard pile. In some versions of Aggravation, you can’t just select a single card from the discard pile. Picking up a discard, for example, may also require you to take three cards from the face-down pile. Some Aggravation rules also state that you can only pick up the discards when you have a meld to lay down or to add to a meld you’ve already put down. When you're finished playing your round, you lay down a single card on the discard pile.
When one player runs out of cards, either by discarding or melding, the round ends and the other players count the cards in their hands against their score. One common scoring system has wild cards worth 20 points against you; aces 15; face cards 10; number cards 5. A new deal begins a new series of contracts. After a set limit of rounds is played – usually eight or 10 - the game ends and players add up their scores; the lowest score wins. Some versions of the game also use bonus points, subtracted from your score, for being the first player out in each round.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.