Grab your luggage, boarding pass, and a deck of cards to join in a journey to South America’s exotic Ecuador; home to the Amazon Rainforest, Galapagos Islands and miles of beaches stretched out along its coastline. This game night flight will take us to Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Tababela and then on to the capital city of Quito for some exciting card playing fun!
CUARENTA, meaning 40, is an Ecuadorian card game favorite for 2 or 4 players. Just like its name, the object is to be the first player or team to score 40 points to win!
Here’s how to get started. Pull and set aside the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s from a standard deck of cards, creating a 40-card deck. The sequence of cards from low to high is A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, J, Q, K. Grab a pencil and paper for scorekeeping. When playing with 4 players, there are 2 teams. Teammates sit across from each other.
To determine a dealer, choose someone to shuffle the cards and deal one card at a time face up, clockwise to each player. The first player to receive a diamond is the dealer for the round.
The dealer reshuffles the deck and deals a packet of 5 cards at a time to each player. The remainder of the deck is set aside until these 5 cards are played. Then another packet of 5 cards is dealt and played and so on, until the deck is exhausted.
If a player gets dealt
- • 4 of a kind – the round is won by that player (or team) IMMEDIATELY.
- • 3 of a kind – that player (or team) scores 4 points. A player doesn’t reveal the rank of the 3 of a kind to opponents. Unfortunately, if a player already has 30 points or more, they can’t collect these additional 4 points!
Get started by having the player to the left of the dealer lay a card from hand face up on the table. Play moves clockwise with each player laying a card from hand (not stacked) to the table and capturing cards to accumulate points. Captured cards are stacked in a pile face down next to the player for scoring later. When a player lays a card on an empty table, since there are no cards to be captured, their turn ends.
Here are the 3 ways to capture cards:
Match – play a card that matches the rank of one already on the table. Collect both cards. For example, lay a jack to pick up another jack already on the table.
Addition – play a number card to capture a set of cards adding up to the rank of the played card. For example, lay a 7 to capture a 2 and 5 already on the table OR lay a 7 to pick up an ace, two and four. All cards used in the addition move (for example the 7, 5 and 2) are stacked in a player’s captured cards pile. Jacks, Queens and Kings have no value and can’t be picked up by addition.
Sequence – A player must first collect cards from the table using a match or addition capture, THEN use a sequence move to pick up even more cards! The sequence of cards is A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, J, Q, K. Make an uninterrupted, increasing sequence using your played card to collect more cards from the table.
- • Here’s a match example. Use a 4 from hand to match to a 4 on the table. Then use a sequence move to pick up a 5, then 6, then 7 and so on if the cards on the table are available to form a continuous sequence. BUT, if you play a 4 and there’s a 6 on the table but no 5, no sequence can be formed.
- • Here’s an addition example. Lay a 7 from hand to pick up a 5 and 2 from the table using the addition capture. Since the played card from hand was a 7, the next cards in the sequence are a jack, then queen and finally king. If there is a jack on the table, pick it up. If there’s a queen after picking up the jack, grab it too. You get the idea!
Want to score even MORE points?
- • Score 2 additional points by matching and capturing a card just laid by the previous player. For example, the previous player laid a 6 and the next player picks it up by matching it with a 6 from hand.
- • Score 2 additional points by taking ALL the cards from the table on a turn. BUT, if a player has accumulated 38 points or more, they can’t score these additional 2 points.
- • Score 4 additional points by matching and capturing a card just laid by the previous player AND taking ALL the cards from the table on a single turn. This can happen when an opponent lays one card on an empty table and the next player matches it, clearing the table.
- • Score 10 additional points by matching and capturing a card that was part of the 3 of a kind declared by an opponent at the start of the round. The player capturing the card must remember its rank and announce it at the end of the hand BEFORE the next deal begins to collect their points! Here’s the fine print. If a player has 30 points or more, they can’t score this 10-point bonus!
When all 5 cards in players hands have been played, the dealer gives each another pack of 5 cards to play. This continues until the deck is exhausted.
When the deck is gone, the round ends and players count their cards.
- • Get 20 cards – score 6 points
- • Get more than 20 cards, score 6 points PLUS 1 point for every card over 20 rounded to the next even number. For example, get 21 or 22 cards, score 8 points, 23 or 24 cards score 10 points and so on.
- • If both players (or teams) get 20 cards, only the non-dealing player (or team) scores 6 points.
- • If both players (or teams) gets LESS THAN 20 cards, the player (or team) with the most cards gets 2 points.
- • If both players (or teams) gets LESS THAN 20 cards, and each player (or team) has an equal number of cards, the non-dealing player (or team) scores 2 points.
The next round begins with the player to the left of the dealer becoming the new dealer.
The first player (or team) to score 40 points wins! That’s CUARENTA!!!
Make sure your game night travel plans include a stop in Ecuador for the South American classic CUARENTA!