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Up and Down Donkey

Age 5 to 11
Challenge Level

A game for 2- 6 players.

This game used to be sold commercially so some families may have a box hiding in a cupboard!

Here we offer five versions of the game.
You can also invent your own games by creatively varying the rules.

Version 1: the basic game 

You need six sets of these 1- 10 number cards

The aim of the game: 

To build up six stacks in the middle of the table, face up, in order from 1 at the bottom to 10 on the top. The first player to get rid of all his cards is the winner. If the game has to stop at a pre-arranged time the player with the fewest cards left wins.

How to play: 

  1. Shuffle all the cards. Deal them face down to the players.
  2. Without looking at them, each player makes a stack, face down in front of them.
  3. The player on the left of the dealer turns over her top card. If it is a 1 she can start a stack in the centre and she can go on playing as long as she can put her cards onto the centre stacks (for example if her second card is a 1 or a 2). With the first card she is unable to build onto one of the centre stacks, she starts her own face-up stack in front of herself. This ends her turn.
  4. From now on play is a little different, each player can use both stacks in turn:
    1. Face-up stack: place as many from this stack as possible, in turn, on the centre stack(s) using the rules above or start a new central stack if the card is a 1. When this is impossible move onto the face-down stack. 
    2. Face-down stack:  When this is impossible she turns over the next card of her face-down stack and places it on a centre stack.  If she can't do that, it goes on top of her own face-up stack.
  5. Whenever a player puts a card on a centre stack she has another turn. The turn ends when the player has to place a card on her own face-up stack.
  6. If a player makes a mistake the other players call out WRONG and each hands her one of her own cards which the wrongdoer puts on her face-down stack.
  7. When a player has used up her face-down stack she turns over her face-up stack and carries on.

Version 2: using different representations of the numbers 1- 10

You can play Version 1 but using different sets of cards. 
Not all six sets need be the same: in fact two of each, numerals, words and dots would be good. 

Numbers 1-10 in words:  1-10WordNumberCards.pdf
Numbers 1-10 arranged in dot patterns - 1-10DotNumberCards.pdf  or 1-10DotNumberCards2.pdf

Version 3:  using 1-20
You could play Version 1 using the numbers 1 to 20 instead of just 1 to 10:  1-20NumberCards.pdf.  In this game, the six stacks in the middle of the table would each go in order from 1 at the bottom to 20 on the top.

Version 4: odds and evens 

Using any of the sets of cards above, you can play a similar game but this time you build up twelve stacks in the centre.  Six of the centre stacks must be the odd numbers in numerical order from 1 at the bottom to 9 at the top.  The other six stacks must be the even numbers from 2 at the bottom to 10 at the top.

Version 5: watch out, my discard stack is in play! 

In this version, as well as being able to place a card on one of the centre stacks, a player can also place a card on top of any other player's face-up stack. This can be done with the next higher or lower number e.g. a 7 or a 9 can be placed on an 8.

Over to you ...

What rules can you devise that would make a more thought-provoking game?
For example, using the 1-20 sets (1-20NumberCards.pdf), you could build the centre stacks in the same way but allow players to put cards on their opponents' stacks which were multiples or factors of the top card. In this version the numbers 11, 13, 17 and 19 are the safest to have face up on top but 6 is much more risky.  Why?