MILKEN  (another silly card game by John Cooper) 
This game for 3 to 5 (maybe 6) players has such simple rules that I would be surprised if something very much like it doesnít already exist. Actually, a very similar board game -- Milton Bradleyís Quandary; a beautiful design -- does exist, and it was in part what drove me to create Milken.

Update: Years after I made Milken, Someone informed me that not only did Reiner Knizia (praise be his name) invent Quandary, but that Quandary was actually an offshoot of a Knizia card game, called Flinke Plinke. I suggest that, if at all possible, you find one of those games and play it, they are both more strategically promising than Milken ever will be. Even so (for now at least) I'll include the rules here for archival purposes.

Practically everyone who has played this game so far has enjoyed it to some extent, though a few weren't interested in ever playing again. The Zen Pirates (a gaming group I belong to) played many games one night, and several Pirates decided that while it was kind of fun, they were unable to come up with any advantageous strategy, and that winning seemed to be largely a matter of luck. Another group of Zarcana players played some games and decided for the most part that they could play again. (Most were interested, and one, an avid Bridge player, was able to get 100 points in one game! He seemed to be using a consistantly winning strategy, or he was darned lucky.) I am wondering, though, whether there is a set of "most effective" strategies which, when learned and implemented by all players, makes the game effectively random and therefore less a game of competition (except possibly with kids). Any thoughts or questions by other players would be appreciated.

The feel
Milken is named after Michael Milken, famed junk bond flim-flam dude. I know little about the guy, it just seemed like a neat name for a game. The game, in a very loose abstract way, represents a market war. The object is to make your cards in your hand worth as many points as you can before the game blows up. When I play Milken I get an interesting feeling that while I am learning more and more about what other players are pursuing and what suits are going to be worth, I can do less and less about it as the game nears its end.

The deal
To play, deal out a deck of 52 shuffled poker cards to 3, 4, or 5 players (3 and 4 players seems to work well, although Iíve had some fun games with 5 as well). The deal is clockwise and all of the cards are dealt out. In the case of 3 and 5 players, the player(s) to the left get more cards than some of the other players. The hands are kept secret from other players and should probably be sorted according to suit.

Suit piles
Four spaces in the center of the table are kept clear for players to play cards to, one space for each suit. These four "suit piles" are created and increase during the game, though in some games a suit or two might be never played, leaving what is called an "empty suit pile". All four piles start out empty (since the players have all the cards).

The play
Starting with the player to the dealerís left and continuing clockwise, players take turns to "affect the market". On your turn, you must take a card from your hand and place it face up on top of its corresponding suit pile. If the card you are playing is of a suit that has not been played yet, you get to start a new suit pile by simply playing the card to the space left for its suit. You do not have to follow suit (i.e. play the same suit as the previous player), and any card can be played from your hand.

The end
The game ends when any one suit pile reaches six cards in number. All players then count scores for the cards that are left in their hands. Each card in your hand is worth the amount of pips showing on the top card of its suit pile (e.g. if I have three clubs, say an Ace, 7, and K of clubs, in my hand, and the top card in the suit pile for clubs is an 8, each club card in my hand would be worth 8 points, for a total of 24). All points for cards are added up and the player with the most points wins. If a suit pile is empty, cards of that suit get no points. An Ace on top of a suit pile makes all cards of that suit worth 1 point. All Jacks, Queens, and Kings are worth zero points, so if a suit pile has a face card on top, all cards of that suit are worth nothing. A typical good score for a three player game is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 points.

As an interesting variation, try passing 3 cards to the player to your left (or right, or across) before playing the game, a la the game Hearts. I call this variation "insider trading", and it has tested well. I am also trying to think of some way of using the Joker (maybe instead of playing a card from your hand to a suit pile, you could give the Joker to another player and that player would have to give you a card), but I havenít tried any Joker rules yet. The extra cards that are dealt to players in a 3 or 5 player game can instead be used as suit pile "starters"; played to the appropriate suit pile(s) before the game begins, or left out of the game entirely.

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modified 4/6/99 and again on 12/29/0 and once again on 12/26/1