K*ing of the Hill* is a more
sophisticated version of the children's game of *War*, with a
strategic aspect added. Players get to choose the cards to be played
and the reward for winning. A separate reserve of cards to break ties
adds to the strategy. Win as many cards as you can, but remember,
only the player who wins the last battle can be King of the Hill.

This is a good game for adults to play with kids. The gameplay is challenging enough to maintain an adult’s interest, but the rules are simple enough to be grasped by children. As an added bonus, it reinforces some addition skills.

**Number of Players:** 2 (but see the note at the end of
this article).

**Equipment:** A regular deck of 52 cards. The cards are
ranked from Ace (high) down to Deuce (low), regardless of suit.
You will also need three Jokers, although you can get by with just
two.

**Setup:** Choose a player to be dealer. The dealer puts the
Jokers aside and shuffles the remaining cards together. She deals
each player 11 cards face down. Each player also adds one of the
Jokers to their hand. The dealer then uses the remaining cards to
form a pyramid, using the following procedure. She takes the
remaining Joker and places it sideways, face up, at the far left
of the table. This will be the apex of the pyramid. She then
counts off 4 cards, exposes the top card, squares the stack up,
and places it below and to the left of the Joker so that it just
covers the lower left hand corner of the card. She must make sure
not to reveal any cards but the top card of the stack. She repeats
this action with a stack of four more cards and uses them to cover
the lower right hand corner of the Joker. She then counts off
three stacks of 3 cards each, placing them below the two 4 card
stacks, and covering their corners to continue the structure of
the pyramid. The top card of each stack is exposed. The dealer
continues with four stacks of 2 cards beneath the three stacks
just placed, and finally places five exposed 1 card stacks beneath
the four 2 card stacks. This will exhaust the deck. The end result
is a pyramid of fifteen stacks, with fourteen normal cards exposed
and the Joker at the top. (Note: if you don’t have a third Joker,
you can leave the top stack of the pyramid empty. The players must
simply remember that there is an imaginary stack there.)

**The Reserve:** Each player looks at the cards they were
dealt and has the option of placing cards face down into their
reserve. They can place as many or as few cards as they wish into
their reserve. They can even place the Joker from their hand in
there, to make their opponent think they have placed one more card
in their reserve than they actually have. Once all the players
have put cards in their reserve, the dealer makes the first play
of the game. Players alternate turns.

**The Play:** On a player's turn, he must choose one of the
stacks in the pyramid to fight for. He may only choose a stack
that has its bottom end at least partially exposed. Thus, on the
first turn of the game, the only stacks that can be chosen are one
of the five bottommost stacks. If one of the end stacks are
initially chosen (and subsequently removed), on the next turn the
2 card stack obliquely above it can be chosen; if instead one of
the interior 1 card stacks had been chosen, on the second turn the
two 2 card stacks on which that stack had been resting could now
be chosen. The one exception to this rule is the stack at the top
that consists only of the Joker--to fight for this card, the
Joker's bottom end must be **totally** exposed (in other words,
the two stacks immediately beneath the Joker must have already
been chosen).

Once the stack has been chosen that will be fought for that
turn, the players make their attacks by playing cards face down
from their hand. There are three types of plays a player can make:
he can play any single card from his hand; he can play a
**sequence**; or he can play the Joker in his hand to signify
that he does not wish to compete for this stack. (If the Joker is
in the player's reserve, he'll have to retrieve it, thus ending
__that__ subterfuge.) A sequence is two or more cards which
meet the following conditions:

- the cards are all of the same suit;
- the cards are of consecutive rank, with no gaps (e.g., 4-5-6 of Clubs);
- none of the cards is ranked higher than an Eight.

Each player places his attack cards face down, covering them
with his hand to hide the number of cards played. When both
players have played, they expose their cards. Whichever player has
played cards with the highest value (see the next section) wins
the stack. Both players discard the cards they used to make the
attack (exception: Jokers are always restored to the player’s
hand). The player who chose which stack to fight for ends his turn
and the other player begins her turn by announcing which stack
**she** wishes to fight for and the game continues.

**Value of the Cards:** To determine the outcome of the
attacks you need to evaluate the value of the attack cards. The
value of a card from Two to Ten is its rank--thus, the Five of
Hearts is worth 5. Picture cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are
all worth 10. However, they still maintain their normal ranking
order, so that a Jack will beat a Ten, and a King will beat any
single card except for an Ace. Aces are worth 15. To find the
value of a sequence, add up the rank of all the cards of the
sequence. Thus, the 3-4-5-6 of Diamonds is worth 18. The suit of
the card or cards played has no effect on the value of the
attack--they are only used to determine if cards can be played in
a sequence. Jokers have a value of zero.

Whichever player has played the highest value wins the stack being fought for. If there is a tie, it is broken by playing cards from the reserves. Each player should put the Joker from their hand into their reserve. They then put their hands down and pick their reserves up. Each player then makes a normal attack using only the cards in their reserve. The highest value wins the stack. If a tie still exists, the players continue playing from their reserves until the tie is broken.

If at any time both players play a Joker (either from their hands or from their reserves) during an attack, discard the stack being played for and go to the next player's turn.

**Winning a Stack:** The player who wins a stack takes all
the cards in the stack, both the exposed card and any face down
cards. He then has the option of putting each of the cards into
his hand or into his reserve. He may divide the won cards between
his hand and his reserve in any way he sees fit. He may not put
any other cards from his hand into his reserve. Nor may he move
any cards from his reserve into his hand. Cards won can be played
immediately on the following turn.

Remember, any cards played to try to win a stack are discarded, whether they came from the players' hands or their reserves. All these cards are permanently out of play. The one exception to this are the Jokers, which are always restored to the player's hand.

**Winning the Game:** The player who wins the Joker at the
top of the pyramid wins the game. He need not have been the player
who decided to play for the Joker.

**Variant:** Ignore the rule about face cards. All cards
with a value of 10 are equal in value and can result in a tie.
This rule dramatically increases the importance of the reserves.

(Note: I have rules for playing *King of the Hill* with
three or four players, although neither version has been
playtested. If you are interested in these rules, just contact me
at watsonsecond@yahoo.com
and I will be happy to email them to you.)

- Larry Levy