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Rules of Spades
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synSpades is one of the toys which can be played in Arcadia. It is a multiplayer card game. The card game itself is for four players, but each synSpades server hosts 4 tables, so up to 16 people may play at the same time, while others are spectators.

To get SynSpades, download Arcadia then Fetch Toys

How To Play:

synSpades works like most Arcadian toys in that you first must find or create a server which is hosting the game. (Or play in solo mode, of course).

Once there, you will see a table in the foreground, a table selector in the upper right, and a score panel in the upper left.

  • Click on a table on the table selector to bring that table into view.
  • Click on a face on the current table, to bring that 'seat' to the front.
  • If the seat is occupied by a bot, and no game is in progress on that table, a panel will appear which invites you to take that seat.
  • The first person to sit at a table is the 'dealer' for that table, and the game starts once the dealer pushed the deal button.
  • The person whose turn it is will spout flames from their head, for no other reason than I felt like making a flame animation. You can pretend their head is hot from all that thinking.
  • You can right-click on a face to get a little menu of goodies.

After that, you're playing the card game "Spades" whose rules are recapped here. There are some rule variations allowed, and you can review them by pressing the "Toy Options" button on the Arcadia tool bar.

The Rules of Spades

Spades is actually a very simple game, and easy to play. Of course, you won't believe this after having read my convoluted attempt at describing the rules here. Also, there are many variations allowed in the game (many of which are supported in this program as options selected by the host of the game).
First, however, let's try to describe the basic game without making too many errors. Try not to cringe.

The Deal

Spades is played with four players and a deck of 52 cards. Players earn points according to a horribly complicated scheme. The first player to reach the winning score (usually 300 points) is the winner. Along the way it is possible to lose points. In fact, it is quite possible to accumulate negative points. And, in fact, people seem to have the most fun when they are forcing YOU to have negative points!
To get things started, the dealer deals out the entire deck, 13 cards to each player. Players then take turns exposing one card at a time as a series of tricks. (Each trick is 4 cards, one from each player). Basically, the high card 'takes' the trick. Thirteen of these tricks form a 'round' and thereafter the next player deals for the next round. This continues until someone wins.

The Bid

However, here is where it starts to get interesting. Before playing the first trick of the round, each player looks at his or her cards and makes a 'bid' as to how many tricks they think they can take. (For example, if you have a lot of high cards, you might think you can take a lot of tricks, so you would bid higher.) The number of points you earn at the end of the round is a function of your bid and how many tricks you actually take in that round. Your bid might be anywhere between zero (This is called bidding NIL and means you think you can take NO tricks) and 13 (which means you are incredibly optimistic and/or naive)

The number of points you earn is computed as following. If you meet your bid (take as many tricks, or more, than you bid), you earn 10 points for each trick you bid, and an additional 1 point for any 'overtricks' (tricks you took in excess of your bid). For example, if you bid 3 and took 5, you would earn 30 points for meeting your bid, and 2 more for your two overtricks, for a total of 32 points for that round.

BUT.. if you FAIL to meet your bid, you LOSE ten points for each trick bidded. For example, if you bid 5 and only took 4, then you would LOSE 50 points. So, don't bid for more tricks than you really think you can take.


Just to make the game REALLY tension-inducing, there is a penalty for taking too many overtricks. You are penalized one HUNDRED points each time you accumulate 10 overtricks. So if you take 4 overtricks in the first round, 3 in the next, and 3 in the next, then you will earn a whopping -100 point penalty. This is how we make the game last a VERY long time. So, ideally, it is important to EXACTLY meet your bid and not to exceed it.

Bidding NIL

Well.. I can hear you wondering, what if I bid NIL (0) and am successful in taking no tricks. This might be tough, is my reward zero points? NO, because you will have done something wonderful (especially considering that your 'friends' will have done everything in their power to FORCE you to take a trick), you will receive ONE HUNDRED POINTS!

Of course, spades is a game of high risk and high reward, so if you bid NIL and then you DO take one or more tricks.. you guessed it.. you LOSE ONE HUNDRED POINTS. But, in an unusually fair gesture, those 'overtricks' don't get counted against your total overtricks.

If you're feeling VERY risky (or desperate), you can earn TWO HUNDRED points by bidding BLIND NIL. This is done by bidding NIL BEFORE YOU HAVE EVEN SEEN YOUR CARDS. Needless to say, this is almost certainly an act of desperation. But if you are the last to bid and everyone else is bidding really high, maybe you got all the wimpy cards.

And, of course, if you FAIL in your BLIND NIL BID, you will, of course LOSE two hundred points.

Following The Lead Suit

Well, now back to that statement: "The high card takes the trick." Well, it isn't QUITE that simple, but almost. Basically, as we know, a trick consists of each player selecting a card and placing it on the table. The FIRST card played in the trick selects the LEAD suit. Everyone else has to play cards in the same suit for them to have a chance to win the trick. If hearts are 'lead', then you MUST play a heart (if you have one) and the highest ranking heart wins the trick. If you don't have any cards in the lead suit, then you can play any suit you do have.

And now we get to the name of the game - Spades. It is called Spades because the suit of Spades is TRUMP. A spade always counts more than any other suit. If someone leads hearts (for example), and you have no hearts, but you DO have some spades, you can play a low spade and still win the trick. (if two or more players play a spade, the high spade wins).

Who Takes the Trick?

So, for example, let's say three players have played the Ace, King, and Queen of diamonds. You don't have any diamonds. But you DO have the lowly 2 of spades, which you play. YOU win the trick.

On the other hand, if the 2, 3, and 4 of hearts are played, and you have no hearts AND you have no spades, and you play the King of Clubs... well, you do NOT take the trick. (the 4 of hearts would win in this case).

Well, I think that's about all the rules except: When can you lead spades? Generally you cannot put down a spade as the first (the lead) card of a trick. However, once someone has been forced to play a spade (because they didn't have any cards in the lead suit, or they had nothing left but spades), then the suit is said to be 'broken' and thereafter anyone can lead spades as if they were any other suit. (Until the end of this round, of course, spades becomes illegal to lead again as soon as the next round is dealt).

In fact, the computer is going to to keep you honest, so don't worry about it too much. Just obey any little edicts which appear from time to time.

Partner Play

One of the rules which the host can change is whether you will play as partners, or as individuals (as described above). In Partner play, two pairs of partners play against each other. Partners always sit across from each other at the table. Partner play is usually to 500 points, but the host may select a different finish score.

In Partner mode, each partner bids separately, seeing only his or her own cards and without any detailed discussion with their partner. Thereafter, however, their bids are considered collectively and the final tricks taken by the partnership is what matters. Hence if one partner bids 2 and the other bids 5, it is only important that, between them, they take a total of 7 tricks, not that the individuals meet their individual bids.

Scoring is the same (only using the collective bids and tricks taken) with a single score maintained for each partnership. Unlike Free-For-All, it is possible to lose in partner mode by collecting sufficient negative points. (one half the finish score, in fact.) So if the finish score is 500 points, your partnership will lose if it ever drops to (or below) -250 points.

There are two other special scoring considerations in Partner mode. The first is a 200 point BONUS if the partners manage to take all 13 tricks (no matter what they bid). The second is in the handling of NIL and BLIND NIL bids.

NIL Bids in Partner Play

If one (or both) partners bid NIL (or BLIND NIL), then their scores are handled separately for that round, and then added together at the end of the round. For example, if one partner bids 3 and the other bids NIL. Then, during the round the first partner takes 5, and the other takes none, the first partner will earn 32 points (30 for the bid, plus 2 overtricks accrued only by that player) and the second player will earn 100 points (for successful NIL) and the partnership as a whole will score 132 points for that round.

If the second player takes even a single trick, his NIL bid fails (the trick cannot be applied to his partner's bid in this case), and he contributes -100 points to his partnership for the round, which is then added to his (angry) partner's score for the round.

Toy Status:

The game is now a complete multiplayer game, though it could stand the application of some more animations, sound effects, and graphical depth.

The bots use my patented award-winning NetSpades 'bot AI, which hit the Internet in late 1994 as possibly the first Internet Spades Game.

To Install Toys:

  1. Run Arcadia
  2. Select your 'channel'
  3. Push the "Check for New Toys" button
  4. Follow Instructions.
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