Rummikub (it's pronounced "rummy cube") is a popular game that takes many of its rules from the card game rummy. But Rummikub is played with tiles instead of cards.
Rummikub, best played with two to four players, is recommended for ages 8 and up. But if you've never played before, the official rules can seem much more complicated than they really are. So let us break them down.
The object of Rummikub is to be the first player to eliminate all the tiles from your rack and form one or more sets. It sounds easy, but there are numerous ways to achieve it, so understanding the rules is key.
Setup is simple. To start a Rummikub game, each player gets a rack, and the players agree on the number of points that will end the game.
two sets of tiles numbered 1 through 13 in four colors: black, red, blue and orange
two joker tiles
Each player picks a tile (either from a pouch or from the tiles facedown on the table). The player with the highest number goes first, and play proceeds clockwise around the table. Players add the tiles removed back to the pouch or table.
Each player draws 14 tiles and places them on their rack, and the opening set starts.
Types of Sets
Remember, the goal is to be the first player to remove all the tiles from your rack as quickly as possible and create legitimate sets on the table. There are two types of sets:
A group: Groups consists of three or four tiles of the same number in different colors.
A run: Runs are three or more consecutive numbers in the same color that do not have to start with 1, but cannot skip any numbers in the sequence played.
How to Play Rummikub
On each player's first turn, they try to make a set of one or more groups or runs that adds up to at least 30 points. These points must come from all the tiles on their rack. They can't draw from the pool of tiles on the table or pouch. If the player uses one of the two jokers on the initial set, its point value is the same as the tile it represents.
Once each player has made their first turn, they can then add more tiles to groups and runs already on the table. This is called melding, and there are a lot of strategies to do it (more on those in a minute). It's wise to pay attention to every player's turn to look for melding opportunities as the tiles on the table accumulate.
If a player can't or doesn't play a turn for any reason — they can't play on their first turn because their playable tiles don't add up to at least 30 points, they can't add to the tiles on the table on subsequent turns or they choose not to play their turn for strategic reasons — they must draw a tile, and their turn ends.
On the next round, each player can place new groups or runs of their own, but it's more advantageous to meld with groups and runs already on the table. Again, the goal is to get as many remaining tiles off the rack as possible, but strategically.
Here are four ways to meld:
Add one or more tiles to an existing group or run on the table.
Take the fourth tile from a set to complete your initial set.
Add a tile to a set and then take a tile from that set to complete your own set.
Split a run by adding at least one tile from your rack — for example, a run of five tiles can be split into two runs of six if you have a duplicate of the middle tile.
Playing the Joker Tiles
Playing combinations with the jokers can increase your point value, but you have to follow certain rules.
Any player can use a joker tile as any tile in a set, and its number and color will act as the tile needed to complete the set.
Any joker that has been played and is part of a set can be played by another player as long as the player has the exact same tile the joker is representing; the player must use the joker in the same turn to create a new set.
A joker cannot be taken from the table by a player who has not yet played their first set.
A joker remaining on a player's rack at the end of a game has a penalty value of 30 points.
Other Rummikub Rules
Each player has a time limit of two minutes for each turn, and a player who exceeds the time limit must draw a tile from the pouch as a penalty.
A player who makes mistakes during their turn by incorrectly manipulating sets must put those sets back, replace their played tiles back into their rack and draw three tiles from the pouch as a penalty.
Tiles with the No. 1 must come before No. 2 in a sequence; they cannot follow No. 13.
If all tiles are drawn from the pouch before any player empties their rack, the player with the lowest tile value in their rack is the winner.
How to Win Rummikub
A round ends when the first player empties their rack and calls out, "Rummikub!"
The losing players add up the value of all their tiles left on their racks at the end of the round. A negative score is totaled. A positive (plus) score is awarded to the winner based on all the losers' points.
A new round starts and Rummikub continues until a player reaches the score agreed upon at the beginning of the game. Each player totals their minus and plus scores at the end of each round. Whoever reaches the target score first wins!
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