Rules for Hamlet

Family: Bisley
Categories: Popular, Thinker's, Two-Deck, Long
Variants: Baker's Dozen,Good Measure
Also Known As:  

This fascinating game, named for Shakespeare’s famous Melancholy Dane, has the same rules as Baker’s Dozen but uses two decks. Because the Kings are buried twice as deep, this is a tougher game than Baker’s Dozen. A good and determined player can win perhaps one game in five or better, but with indifferent play wins will be rare.


Lay out the entire deck in 13 tableaus of eight cards each, face-up and fanned down. When Kings appear, slip them under their tableaus instead of placing them on top, so that no lower-ranked cards start out under the Kings. Eight foundations start the game empty.


Top cards of tableaus are available for building on each other, and on the foundations. Tableaus build down regardless of suit or color; empty tableaus are never filled. The foundations begin with Aces and build up in suit to Kings.


The goal is to move all cards to the foundations.


It’s wise to build the foundations somewhat evenly; think twice about playing up a five until all other foundations are built at least to the three. But you’ll need break this rule quite often in order to make progress, so consider it a suggestion and not a firm rule.

All the Kings are buried deep, so you’ll have trouble moving Queens until you can expose some Kings. But it is important to move the high-ranking cards onto Kings, so that lower-ranking cards aren’t buried beneath them. Make this a priority.

A pile whose bottom card is high-ranking is almost as good as a pile with a King at the bottom, if you can expose that bottom card and build on it.

Never empty a pile unless its last card can go to a foundation, and even then only if it’s useful or harmless to do so. Empty piles are useless in Hamlet.

It’s always safe to play onto a pile that has only one card in it, or any pile that contains only a single continuous build.

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