Little Bighorn Rummy


Game Design: John Longstreet                                                                                                                                                                 Graphic Design: Matthew Hulgan

Players: 2 to 4                                                                Ages 8 and up                                                                              Time: 60-75 minutes

On June 25th 1876 Lt. Col. George A. Custer drove his U.S. 7th Cavalry into the valley of the Little Bighorn River, seeking that last big victory to cement his place in history.  There he met a vast gathering of Native American nations not willing to back down from the normal tactics of the U.S. Army.  Custer planted his name in history, but for the wrong reason: he and 255 of his men were slaughtered at the Little Bighorn.  This game brings back both the famous and infamous cast list of this incident to create an unusual style of rummy.

Game Object and Basic Description
This is a rummy set collection game where players collect both Native American and U.S. Cavalry melds to secure points while attempting to empty their hand.  Because of the hectic nature of the Little Bighorn Battle, there are no “sides;” all players collect and perform the actions cards on both factions of the battle.

Scoring and support cards alter play: possibility of helping Lt. Col. Custer escape, using Sitting Bull Sundance vision, having Native Chiefs raiding opponents for scoring point, and granting other special actions.  Scoring occurs at the end of each hand. The first player to achieve 150 points wins the game. If more than one player reaches 150 at the end of the same hand, the highest scoring player wins.

     Little Bighorn Rummy consists of a 102 custom card deck and a Five Point Bonus End-of-Hand Scoring Card, and the rules. 

How To Set Up and Begin Play  Play
  The game is played in a series of hands, and scored at the end of each hand.

Start each hand by shuffling all cards of both decks together. (Hint: It’s easier to shuffle if you split the decks into smaller sections, shuffle each section, and then shuffle the sections together.)

Deal out:
12 cards per player – 2-player game   
11 cards per player – 3-player game          
10 cards per player – 4-player game

The remaining cards are placed face down on the table as the Draw Deck. If a player receives the Lt. Col. Custer Card in their hand they must play it face up immediately to their table! That player will then draws another card from the Draw Deck to there hand. The top card from the Draw Deck is turned face over to begin the Discard Pile. If Lt. Col George Custer is drawn to begin the Discard Pile, place him back in the Draw Deck, reshuffle the deck, and turn over another card. The youngest player will start a game.  Play moves in clockwise order. In two-player games, the opposite player should start the next hand. In multiplayer games, rotate the privilege of playing next hand clockwise around the table.

The Player Turn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Each player’s turn consists of three phases, taken in the following order:

I. DRAW PHASE – Mandatory every turn

II. ACTION PHASE – Optional every turn

III. DISCARD PHASE – Mandatory every turn

I. The Draw Phase   Phase
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Each player MUST must start his turn by drawing one card from either the top of Draw Deck or the Discard Pile.  The Discard Pile will remain covered by the top card unless a player plays one of the support cards allowing them to select two cards from the discard pile during the ACTION PHASE. 

II. The Action Phase
                                                                                                                    During the action phase a player places cards from their hand to their table (the playing area in front of them) to attempt to score points or to take special actions. A player may perform any number of actions in a turn, but each player may only play one Support Card in a single turn. Actions are:

Playing Melds
A meld is three or more set cards of the same category (US Cavalry Companies, Staff, Scouts, Braves, or Villages). Any complete meld (3 cards or more) may be played to the table to score at the end of the hand.  You may also play single cards to add to melds already placed on the table [laying off], whether they were placed by you or by another player.  For example, you may play a Co. C Trooper to your table or if your opponent has a meld of 3 Co. C or more cards on their table. 

Braves/Village set, Staff, and Scout cards, besides playing in melds, have special abilities that are explained in the components section.  They allow for special scoring.                                                                                                                                      

During the Action Phase you may play as many melds and cards from your hand that you may legally play.

Playing Single Cards
                                                                                                           You may also play single cards to add to melds already placed on the table [this is called ‘laying off’], whether they were placed by you or by another player.  For example, you may play a Co. C Trooper to your table or if your opponent has a meld of 3 Co. C or more cards on their table.  Single cards, listed in the card list above, are not meld cards. They are played individually to the table.  You may play as many from your hand as you are able each turn.

Each type of card has special rules for its play:

The Custer card must be played whenever drawn.  If it is in a players’ hand at the beginning of the hand, it is laid on the table and that player draws to replace him.  If drawn from the draw deck, it is played immediately to the table and the player is allowed to redraw to obtain a new card.  (Note: This is an exception to the rule that taking Actions is always optional. The Custer card must be played.)

Chief cards may be played as a single card to the table. 

Coup Stick cards may be played on any Chief card except Sitting Bull, one Coup Stick per Chief.  Again, a Coup Stick card may NOT be played on Chief Sitting Bull.

The Sundance card may be played ONLY on the Chief Sitting Bull card (this is in place of the Coup Stick card playable to other Chief cards).

A Village card may be played as a single to complete a 3Brave/Village set (see the Special Combination Melds section below).

Staff cards may be played as singles on the Custer card in an attempt to escape him (see the Scoring section for details on Custer’s Escape).

Playing Support Cards   EACH PLAYER MAY PLAY ONLY ONE SUPPORT CARD PER TURN. Players perform whatever actions the support card allows during the turn it is played.  Players may play a support card in conjunction with playing melds and playing single cards in the same turn.

III. The Discard Phase  Phase
After a player has played all the cards they want or can during a turn, the player MUST end their turn by playing one card face up to the Discard Pile.  Once a player discards, it is the next player’s turn.  A player may discard any card except the Custer card. Once a player discards, it is the next player’s turn.  Play continues around the table in a clockwise direction until the hand ends. 

Ending A Hand  Hand
                                                                                                                              Play continues around the table in a clockwise direction until the hand ends.                                                                                                                              A hand may end in one of two ways:                                                                                                                           

1A. When the last card of the draw deck is drawn: When a player draws the last card of the Draw Deck. , exhausting the deck That player plays finishes his or her actions, normally, and then discards.  and the hand is ended. and scoring occurs.

B2. A player goes out by discarding their last card.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A player may only go out by discarding their last card to the discard pile; a player CANNOT go out by playing this card to their table for scoring.

And remember, the highest scorer of the hand might not be the one who went out!              Most hands end with “B”.

After the hand ends, each player adds up the score value of all the cards, they have played to their table. The point value is listed on the top left corner of each card. they have played to their table.  The Bonus Point Card is given to the person who went out: five (5) points.  Cards left in players’ hands do not count against them in scoring!                                                                                                                                                 

Special scoring situations, which are applied in addition to the normal points value listed on the top left of each card:

A village and three braves count as five points. 
A Brave/Village set raided by a SABER card is always a lone village that may never be added to again. At scoring time it will count as one point.  Scouts are counted differently, depending how they are used: 2 pts each in a scout meld, or 1 pt. each if added to a company as a wild card.
Custer is -20 unless he escaped during the hand; the Staff cards used provides Custer’s escape score points normally.  Staff Cards used in attempting Custer’s escape, successful or not, are added to your score.                            

                                                                                                                                                         In a standard two-person game the first player to score 150 points wins the game. If either player reaches 150 at the end of the same hand, the highest scoring player wins.  Players may agree beforehand to change victory limit for shorter or longer matches.

3 players – 125 Points
                                                                                                                                                                                    4 players – 100 Points

4 Player Team Variant
Four players may choose to play a team game. Players opposite one another at the table are on the same team.  They play on one another’s cards as if they were their own cards, and combine their scores at the end. However, team players are unable to play [lay off] on opponents’ cards!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Set Cards  - these are color coded and melded into categories to score points. A meld is three or more of each category below.                                                                 

US Cavalry – 6 Companies – 7 cards per company:  1 Company Commander, 1 Guidon [flag], and 5 troopers
Staff – 7 cards – 1 USA Banner, 6 Buglers
Scouts – 6 cards                                                                              Braves – 18 cards                                                                              Village – 6 cards

Special Combination melds

* 3 Braves/Village Meld - one Village card may be used as a special card and placed on a meld of three braves to protect the Braves, and creating a new four-card locked meld.  Played this way, the Village scores two points.  A Brave/Village meld is locked and no more of either card may be added or played off. In addition,  If these two categories are only melded except in this special combination on any players’ table, then a new three-card meld of Braves or Villages must be laid down to reintroduce them back to scoring.   Otherwise, any players can layoff on Braves and Villages melds not in this special set. aA Chief and a Coup Stick cannot steal cards from the Braves/Village meld.,  However a Braves/Village meld is NOT protected from the play of the Saber card (see below). A Brave/Village set raided by a SABER card is always a lone village that may never be added to again. At scoring time it will count as one point.                                         

*Scouts –One Scout may be added as a wild card to a full three-card or more company meld. ThereforeBut, two company members and one scout DOES NOT make a legal meld. A player may layoff a scout card to a Company if they have or add one of that melded lettered/color Company on their own table. That action is only allowed if that company has been established on any other players’ table, minus a scout. Only ONE Scout card per lettered/color Company is allowed on any scoring table.

*Staff – They help Custer Escape, and may be played one at a time or as a meld on Custer to allow this action. A combination of four points using the USA Banner and/or Buglers permits Custer’s escape if played before the player with Sitting Bull plays the “Sundance” card (see below).  If other players have melded Staff cards, it is possible to steal one or more of their Staff with Chief / Coup Stick card combinations (see below).

Single Cards

Lt. Col. George A. Custer Card – A player must play to the table as soon as drawn.  This card counts as negative twenty points [-20] unless Custer escapes! Custer may escape if supported by his Staff cards, as explained above.

Native American Chiefs Cards – There are seven Native American Chiefs.  Each is played to the table as a single card.  All (except Sitting Bull) can be supported through the play of a Coup Stick.  Sitting Bull is the only chief that can accept the Sundance card.

Sundance Card – This card can be played ONLY on Sitting Bull! When the Sundance card is played by the owner of Sitting Bull, the escape of Custer, if not already accomplished, will  is no longer be possible.  Thus, once the Sundance card is played Custer’s attainable escape is negated.

Chief’s Coup Stick Cards – Can only be played on an open Chief (one without a Coup Stick) on a player’s OWN table.   A Coup Stick can be played during the same Action Phase as the Chief is played or at a later Action Phase.  Once played on the Chief, the Coup Stick allows the player to action of stealing three points worth of cards (3) from ANY player’s table, moving them to his own.  This action is a one-time action and is taken immediately.  If the opponent does not have a total of three points the stealing player is limited to only the points on the table if any.  There are two groups of cards that cannot be stolen using a Chief/Coup Stick combination: A meld of Braves with a Village is immune to theft; another Chief with a Coup Stick is immune to theft.  Only one coup stick is playable per Chief.


Native American Special Card  - The player of this card draws two extra cards into their hand immediately.  This special extra card draw happens only once. The Card stays on the player’s table for the remainder of the hand.  The cards drawn from the deck may be played this action phase!                    * Custer’s Luck Gives Out                   * Inferior Weapons: Soldiers’ Guns Jam                * Reno’s Charge Repulsed

Cavalry Special Card – The player of this card immediately looks through the Discard Pile, picks any two cards, and places the cards in their hand.  The chosen cards may NOT be played to the table in this same Action Phase, but one may be used as a discard to end your turn. This Special Card stays on the player’s table for the remainder of the hand.                                                                                                                                                               *Bring Pack Mules                                  * Garry Owens                          * Custer’s Last Stand

Native American Special Card – Hóka Héy -- Good Day to Die: Playing this card allows the player to discard two card in order to “go out” and end the hand.  The player of this card immediately “goes out” and ends the hand by discarding either one OR TWO cards to the Discard Pile. This card can only be played to the table unless by the player eligible to does immediately discard one or two cards to end the hand.

Cavalry Special Card – SABERS: The player of this card immediately REMOVES up to three Braves (not Chiefs) from EACH opponents’ scoring table and puts them in the Discard Pile.  A meld of three Braves and a Village is not protected from this card.  The Sabers Card stays on the player’s table for the remainder of the hand. The VILLAGE will remain on the opponents table, unable to collect or join any other cards for the remainder of the hand; empty. But does score one point at Scoring.

NOTE: Support cards do not have to be played and can be discarded during the Discard Phase.