Eighteen is a card-shedding game that gets its name from the fact that each player is dealt a hand of 18 cards. Cards are played by making melds, like pairs and straights, that beat the other players’ melds. The winner is the first player to empty their hand.
The game is ideally for three players, but two to six can play with simple changes. A three-player game takes about 5 minutes to play and the game doesn’t require playing multiple hands to be fun (score is not kept between hands). It is one of my family’s favorite card games.
The rules can be found in these files:
The first two rules pages will get you started with the basic rules for three players and the list of melds. Pages 3 and 4 are play examples are optional rules. Pages 5 and 6 are comments about the game and strategy.
The cheat sheet has shorthand rules on one side and a list of melds on the other side, shown here:
One of the things about 18 that makes it such a good game is that it is rare to have really terrible hands. This is because of how the card distribution works: If you have mostly low cards, you probably have a bomb or four-of-a-kind, or at least some strong basic combinations. If you have cards across a large range, you might have a long straight and at least some high cards. This fact that really terrible hands are rare makes for a more skillful game. It is, of course, possible to have a whole bunch of high cards, but it is reasonably rare.
This game works best with 3 players, but up to 6 and down to 2 is manageable. With more players than 3 or 4, strategy becomes less important because it is really hard to work on any particular strategy because there are so many other players that can stop you. If playing with more than 3 players, use multiple decks, but only use (approximately) 18 cards per player. As the number of cards per player increases, hands become much more powerful because they will have more powerful combinations. Thus, more cards per player makes the game less varied. I’m not sure that 18 cards is ideal, so you could try 19 or 20 if you have, say, 4 people and 2 decks. Playing with 2 players works ok, but it doesn’t have the same dynamics that appear with 3 players.
In the rules, I mention that two of the combinations, flushes and straight flushes, are optional. We have been playing around with using those combinations recently, but we haven't come to a consensus about whether they improve the game. I would recommend not using them until you have the hang of the rest of the game because they make it quite a bit more complex. In addition, it is possible that they don't work out properly and shouldn't be used.