Game Rules for State Cards

1.  War - (2-8 players; Easy level)

Objective: To win all the cards.

  1. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals ALL of the cards out. The players do not look at their cards but keep them in their hands face down.
  2. The person to the left of the dealer plays first. He turns over the top card in his hand and announces which of the six State Characteristics will be the basis of the war. For example, John plays first, turns over Florida and says, “Hottest Place: Monticello 109 degrees.”)
  3. The other players then turn over their top card and compare the values of the indicated State Characteristic with each other.
  4. The person playing the state with the highest value of the indicated Characteristic wins all the cards played, and adds them to the bottom of his stack.
  5. If two state cards tie for the highest value of the indicated State Characteristic (only possible with Hottest Place), then each player turns up another card and compares again – the winner taking all the cards.
  6. Play continues clockwise allowing each person to choose a different basis of comparison.
  7. The player who ends up with all the cards wins! (This could take a very long time.)

2. Give-It-Up! - (2-10 players; Intermediate level)

Objective: To collect the most cards.

  1. Deal 5 cards to each player. Any cards left over will not be used.
  2. The person to the left of the dealer is first to be the “Giver.”
  3. The “Giver” chooses one card from his hand to “Give up.”
  4. Without showing this card to the others, he reads out loud three of the six State Characteristics and their values in the bottom section of the card (e.g. land area, total population and hottest place).
  5. Each player is then given one chance to guess what state it is. The first player to guess is the person to the left of the “Giver.” If the player knows which state it is, he says, “Give-It-Up!” and then names the state. If it is correct, the “Giver” gives the card to that player who then places it face up in front of him. If the player guesses the wrong state, the next person gets to guess. This is repeated until each player has a chance to guess or until someone guesses the state correctly. If no one guesses correctly, the “Giver” says, “Give-It-Up!” and reveals the card to all and places it face up in front of him.
  6. The player to the left is the next “Giver” and repeats steps 3-5.
  7. After all of the State Cards have been laid down, each player counts how many he has collected. The player with the most State Cards wins!

NOTE: To shorten game time, deal 2-4 cards per person. To increase difficulty, allow only 2 Characteristics (or city/river names) to be read.

Variant #1: Give-It-Up! – Cities: All the rules are the same as above except in step 4. Instead of reading three State Characteristics, the “Giver” reads three City Names. The cities must be located within the state (not in a neighboring state).

Variant #2: Give-It-Up! – Rivers: All the rules are the same as above except in step 4. Instead of reading three State Characteristics, the “Giver” reads three names of rivers or lakes that are in the state, or border the state, but not one that is entirely outside the state.

3.  State Rummy - (2-6 players; Intermediate level)

Objective: To form matched sets in your hand that consist of 3, 4, or 5 cards of the same region (color). Each card played has a value of 5 points. Be the first to score 100 points through a series of rounds to win the match.

  1. Deal -- Dealer gives 1 card at a time, face down, to each player until each has: 10 cards, when two play; 7 cards, when three or four play; 6 cards, when five or six play. The remaining cards are placed face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. The top card of the stock is turned face up and placed beside the stock - this is the discard pile.
  2. Play -- Beginning with the player left of the dealer, each player must draw the top card - either from the stock or the discard pile. He may then lay down any matched set of 3, 4, or 5 cards of the same region. He can also add a card to his own matched sets previously laid down.
  3. Blocks -- The player also has the option of laying down a block. This is when he has one or two cards in his hand of a matched set already laid down by another player. For example, if someone has already laid three states from the south region, he can lay down one or both of the remaining states from that region as a block.
  4. Discard -- The player must then discard one card on top of the discard pile.
  5. If the last card of the stock has been drawn, the next player may either take the top of the discard pile, or may turn over the discard pile to form a new stock (without shuffling) and draw the top card, after which play proceeds as normal.
  6. Going Out -- When a player lays down all of his cards (no discard is necessary), the round is over and scores are recorded.
  7. Scoring -- The player going out gets 5 extra points. Each card laid down (including blocks) counts as 5 points. However, any cards still in a player’s hand will reduce his score by 5 points each. Have someone keep score on a piece of paper. Continue playing rounds (start with step #1 again) and accumulate each player’s total score until someone reaches 100 points - that player wins! If two people reach 100 at the same time, the person with the higher score wins!

4.  Rat Race! (2-4 players; Intermediate level)

Objective: Be the first to score 50 points by placing states that are adjacent to each other in the longest possible path.  Print a Map of the US for game play.

  1. Deal all the cards out equally to each player.
  2. Start the timer. Determine the skill level of the players, time should be set at 6 minutes for novice, 3 minutes for expert. Use any nearby device to set a suitable time (the goal is to make people race).
  3. After time starts, each player sorts through his/her cards and lays them all face up. Each player attempts to form the longest possible path from one state to another by connecting states that are next to each other (share the same border). When placing a card in the path, it must be adjacent (share a border) to the state before AND after it. See the example below:
  4. Alaska and Hawaii are wild cards and can be used in place of any state.
  5. When time is up, the players must stop making their paths.
  6. Scoring – count up the total cards used in the longest path and verify that the path is valid (all the states actually connect). Only one path is counted. One point is scored for each card.
  7. Bonus – if a player forms a path that spans the whole country from the east coast to the west coast, 10 Bonus points are won! (East coast is Maine to Florida).
  8. The player to reach 50 points or more wins! If multiple players reach 50 points after the same round, the person with the highest score wins.
    Print a map of the US for game play

5.  Capital Jackpot (2-8 players; Intermediate level)

Objective: Be the first player to collect 10 cards by knowing their capital cities.

  1. DEAL - The dealer shuffles the deck and allows the player to the right to shuffle and cut the deck also. No cards are passed out, the dealer simply places the entire deck face down in front of him/her.
  2. PLAY - The dealer will ask the person to his left, “How many state capitals can you name?”
  3. The player responds with a number, for example, “two.”
  4. The dealer then picks up that many cards from the top of the deck and names the states (without showing the cards to anyone). In this example, the dealer picks up two cards and says the names of the states out loud.
  5. The player then must give the names of the capitals. If both capitals are guessed correctly, then the dealer gives the cards to the player who then places the cards face up in front of him.
  6. If the player can’t name both state capitals correctly, then the dealer should say which states, if any, were guessed correctly. The player can either “buy” an extra guess (see #9 below), or pass. If the player passes, the dealer puts the cards face up into the middle of the table forming the “jackpot.”
  7. Play continues by repeating steps 2-6 with the next player moving counterclockwise.
  8. When the turn reaches the dealer, count the number of cards available in the jackpot. If there are less than 10 cards in the jackpot, then play skips the dealer and continues as normal to the player left of the dealer. If there are 10 cards or more, then the dealer gets a chance to win the game. This is done by allowing the player left of the dealer to draw the top three cards of the deck and reading the states out loud. If the dealer guesses ALL of the capital cities correctly, then he wins all the cards in the jackpot and the game is over. If the dealer guesses incorrectly, the cards are added to the jackpot and play continues as normal to the player left of the dealer. (The dealer cannot “buy a guess.”)
  9. “BUY A GUESS” If a player fails at the first attempt to guess the state capitals, he can “buy” an extra guess only if he already possesses one or more cards. The player simply takes one card from his winnings and adds it to the jackpot. Now he is allowed to make one more guess at the state capitals. A player is allowed to repeat this as many times as possible, until he “spends” his last card.
  10. WINNING THE JACKPOT A player can attempt to win the jackpot only if he already possesses 3 state cards. Instead of saying how many state capitals he can name, the player says, “I’m going for the JACKPOT!” The dealer then picks up the top five cards from the deck and reads the state names out loud. If the player guesses incorrectly, he must give up three of his state cards and add them to the jackpot. If the player still possesses other state cards after guessing incorrectly, he can “buy a guess” as explained in #9 above. If the player guesses correctly, then he wins the jackpot AND the five cards from the dealer.
  11. WINNING THE GAME - The first player to win a total of 10 state cards wins! (This includes the dealer.)

Variant #1 – Name the State

Everything is the same except instead of having the dealer name the state and the player guess the capital, make the dealer name the capital and the players guess the state.

Variant #2 – Playing a Set

Feel free to play a “Set” of games, where the player to win the set is the first player to win two games (or three games to make the game longer).


  • When playing with larger groups (6-8 players) you might consider lowering the winning conditions to winning 8 state cards.
  • When playing with larger groups, you might consider allowing the dealer a chance to win only if there are 15 or more cards in the jackpot.
  • Try not to let the jackpot build up quickly, the dealer needs to only guess 3 capitals correctly to win the jackpot.

6.  Three-state Challenge - (2-6 players; Advanced level)

Print a US map per player

Objective: To collect as many state cards as possible by winning "open" states that border the states in your hand. Be the first to score 20 points to win!

Deal -- Dealer gives 3 cards to each player, face up. The remaining cards are placed face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. The three cards dealt to each player should be left face up on the table as in the drawing below:

The players should know their states and try to remember the states that border those in their hands.

  1. Play -- Beginning with the player left of the dealer, each player will turn over the top card of the stock and place it face-up in the center of the table. This is called the "open" state. While doing this, the player announces the name of the open state out loud.
  2. At this point any player who has a state that borders the open state can win the open state by shouting, "Mine!" But only the first player to shout "Mine!" wins the state.
  3. WINNING AN OPEN STATE -- The player who wins an open state by being the first to say "Mine!" must also tell everyone the name of the state, in his/her hand, that borders the open state. The winner must then replace the bordering state in the his/her hand with the open state. The bordering state just removed is then placed in the "winnings" pile behind the player's hand, as in the following illustration:

  4. If no players have any states that border the open state, then play continues to the next player.
  5. During play, a pile of open states will build up next to the stock. The top card of the "open-states" pile is always in play and can be won by any player at any time. Your hands will constantly be changing because of winning open states, so pay attention to the top card of the open states pile because you may be able to win the open state now that you have new states in your hand.
  6. CHALLENGING -- Any player can challenge the winner of an open state if the challenger believes that the open state does not border the state in the winner's hand. Use this map to resolve a challenge. If the challenger is correct, then the challenger actually wins the open state and places it directly in his/her winnings pile. If the challenger is incorrect, then he/she must give up one card from his/her hand and give it to the winner. The challenger then plays with only two cards in his/her hand until an open state is won, at which point the open state is placed as the third card of the hand (no increase in winnings).
  7. SPECIAL RULES -- If a player gets a hand where all three states are from the same region, then he/she is allowed to move all three cards into the winnings pile and immediately draw the top three cards from the stock to form a new hand.
  8. For purposes of this game only, Alaska borders Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California. Hawaii borders Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California. Michigan does not border Minnesota.
  9. Ending a round -- When all the cards are drawn from the stock and no player can win any open states, the round is over and scores are recorded.
  10. Scoring -- Keep score on a separate sheet of paper. Each player counts up the total number of cards in their "winnings" pile only (not your hand). Exception: if a player ends a round with Maine in their hand, he/she adds 3 points to his/her score. Each card is worth one point and added to your score. Scores are accumulated over a series of rounds until a player reaches 20 points - that player wins! If two players reach 20 points in the same round, the player with the higher score wins.