Mao is a card game, the point of which is to figure out the rules. Players give each other penalty cards when someone breaks a rule. The winner of each hand gets to add a new rule every time. This is mostly a game about asserting your superiority over those who don't know how to play, but it's really damn fun to watch your friends go completely postal when they end up with 11 cards in their hand by the end of the game!

The only rule I can tell you is this one.

Watch for my upcoming node How to Play Mao, in which I will tell you how to play the game without telling you a single rule.

The game of Mao is a member of the Eights group of card games. It has been popular with college students for well over 25 years. Part of its attraction is the mystery that shrouds it.

It is likely that Mao is a direct descendant of the German game Mau-Mau, which works on similar principles. There is also some speculation that Arthur Machen's short story The White People has some links to it:

I must not write down the real names of the days and months which I found out a year ago, nor the way to make the Aklo letters, or the Chian language, or the great beautiful Circles, nor the Mao Games, nor the chief songs.
The story was originally written in 1899 - which is likely to be several decades before the card game was invented. It is possible that whoever invented the card game had read the story and was influenced by it.

Mao rules

(Well, it does. But that's beside the point.)

Here are several Mao rules I am familiar with, from playing the game in various locations:

(What, you think I'd tell you what they all do? You are sadly mistaken; you'll have to read the main Mao node.)

If any of these rules sound similar to rules of Mao you have experienced, send me a /msg - it could give some insight into the murky etymology of the game.

There are two significant variations on the game of Mao.

For those unfamiliar, Mao is played (in my experience, which is therefore limited) with normal decks of playing cards. I say decks because if you have more than two people playing, you will quickly discover that a single deck is not nearly enough.

It runs much like Uno, in that, unless the rules provide, one card is played at a time...same suit on same suit, or same number on same number. The object (primarily) is to run out of cards.

Each round, the individual who ran out of cards first becomes the new "Mao", and may add a new rule to the mix, which they don't tell anybody must be discerned from observation.

Additionally, questions as to the rules are not allowed, and questions are rewarded with penalty cards, which may not be played in the same round in which they are awarded. Not only does this keep players in the game for another round, but it also keeps them from asking questions on purpose in order to draw a card to play.

Now the important bit. If you're the kind of person who wants to encourage a fun game that people will keep coming back to play, a decent drinking game, something neat to do after a Magic: The Gathering tournament, or what have you...THE RULES DO NOT GO AWAY. As in, they never change in that they stop operating the way that they do, you just add to them.

On the other hand, if you are the type of person who likes games which drive people crazy, and generally feel that your job in the world is to punish people for not being your close friend, you may choose to change the rules at random as they amuse you, for the torture of others.

Everything else is negotiable. Bribery may be allowed, or even encouraged.

I have seen a game (which required us to create a new rule) where a single person was required to draw 96 cards at once. Play at your own risk.

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