Pursuit of Happiness

Thomas Jefferson probably didn't have cards in mind when he coined that famous phrase over 200 years ago, but at least it can be said that we only steal from the best. The object of this game is to meld cards that represent happiness. But you'll find you need more than good feelings to win this contest. You can also meld attack cards to go after the other players' goodies, and defense cards to protect your own. And a little wealth never hurt either. The player with the most total happiness at the end of the game is the winner, which is how it should be.

Number of Players: Pursuit of Happiness can be played with two to five players. It plays best with three or four.
Preparation: You will need to construct a deck before you begin play. Take three decks of cards and discard all the picture cards. Add four Jokers to give you a playing deck of 124 cards. Select one player to be the scorekeeper. This player should take a piece of paper and draw a column for each player.
The Deal: Choose one player to be the dealer. He deals 12 cards to each player. He then squares up the remaining cards to form the stock in the middle of the table. The player to the left of the dealer goes first, with the play then continuing clockwise.
Play of the Hand: Each player begins her turn by scoring for all the Hearts she has melded before her. Next, she picks three cards from the stock. She then plays as many activation cards as she wishes within the limits of the rules and follows through on the action each card initiates. (Activation cards and these actions are described later in the rules.) After this, she can meld cards from her hand and can also add to any melds she has already made. Finally, she discards one card onto the discard pile, ending her turn. The player to her left then takes his turn.
Melds: A meld is any set of three to five cards of the same suit which form a pattern. Cards form a pattern if the difference between each adjacent card in the meld is the same. For example, the 3-5-7-9 of Diamonds is a legal meld, because the difference between each adjacent card is 2. This difference is called the meld's pattern number. Count Aces as 1. Jokers can count as any card in the deck, but their value must be declared by the player melding them.

Sequences can go around the corner. Thus, all of the following melds are legal: 6-9-2 of Spades, 5-4-3 of Hearts, and 6-Ace-6 of Clubs. The first meld forms a pattern because each card is three more than the card before it. (To prove that 2 is three more than 9, count Nine-Ten-Ace-Two. Sometimes the easiest way to check a meld which goes around the corner is to add the pattern number to the last card, and then, if the total exceeds ten, use the last digit. Thus, 9 + 3 = 12, which is equivalent to its last digit, 2.) In the second meld, you can consider the pattern number to be 9 or, if you prefer to use negative numbers, -1. (You can also think of it as a meld with a pattern number of +1 laid out backwards. Whatever makes it easier for you.) Finally, the third meld shows that it is possible to repeat a card in a meld, but only if the pattern number is 5. Naturally, all these melds can be extended on either end using the same pattern number, but to no more than five cards.

In order to make a meld, simply take the cards from your hand and lay them together in front of you. You can have more than one meld in a suit. Make sure that you keep all your melds in the same suit separate. You can also add to any melds you made previously, but only by extending them from one or both ends. (Thus, if you had melded Ace-3-5 of Spades earlier, you could add the Nine of Spades to the front of the meld to make the following four card meld: 9-Ace-3-5. You could not mix the cards to make the [otherwise legal] meld of Ace-5-9-3. The importance of this will become apparent later.) Finally, you can only add cards to a meld if it doesn't violate the five card limit per meld rule.
Melds of different suits represent different aspects of life. Heart melds represent happiness, which is the objective of the game. Diamond melds represent wealth and are used to acquire extra cards. Spade melds allow you to "attack" other players and steal their cards. And Club melds are defensive cards which protect you against other player's attacks.

Each player at the beginning of his turn, before picking his cards from the stock, scores for all the hearts he has melded. He scores one Happiness point for every card he has in all his heart melds. Thus a player with a five card Heart meld and a three card Heart meld scores 8 points at the beginning of his turn. The scorekeeper keeps a running total of each player's Happiness points. Players begin the game with no Happiness points.

Heart melds are the only melds which accomplish anything by their mere presence. In order to use a meld in any other suit, it must first be activated.

Activating a Meld: A player activates one of her melds by playing a card from her hand which is identical to one of the cards in the meld. This card is called an activation card. Count the position of the identical card in the meld. This number is called the power of the activation card.
For example, say you had previously melded the following cards: 10-6-2-8 of Diamonds. If you play another 2 of Diamonds as an activation card from your hand, it would have a power of three. A 10 of Diamonds activation card would have the power of one, and so on.
Note that the same card can have a different power depending upon which meld it is activating. For example, say in addition to the meld given above, the same player has the 2-3-4 of Diamonds melded. If the 2 of Diamonds was used to activate this meld, it would only have a power of one. Therefore, when a player plays an activation card, he must clearly state which meld he is activating.
Each meld can only be activated once during a player's turn. The exception to this rule is Club melds, which aren't activated during a player's turn. The rules for activating Club melds are given in the section "Attack Procedure".

Remember that activation cards are played after a player draws her cards, but before she melds cards. Therefore, once a player melds a card during her turn (either as part of a new meld or to add to an existing meld), she can no longer play any activation cards. The effect of this rule is that players can only activate melds that were played in previous turns. It is perfectly legal to activate a meld and then add a card or cards to it, but the activation card only takes effect on the meld as it existed prior to the additional cards being played. For example, a player has previously melded the 5-2-9-6 of Spades. He activates the meld with the 6 of Spades. Later in his turn, he adds the 8 of Spades to the front of the meld, so that the meld is now the 8-5-2-9-6 of Spades. The power of the 6 of Spades was four, and is not changed to five, because at the time the meld was activated, the 6 was the fourth card in the meld.
Jokers can be played as activation cards. The player playing the Joker may give it the value of any card in the deck. The player announces what value the Joker has and then continues with the activation procedure in the usual fashion.

Effects of Activating Melds: When a player activates a Heart meld, she scores extra Happiness points. The number of points scored is equal to the length of the meld multiplied by the power of the activation card. Thus, if a player with a meld of 3-5-7-9 of Hearts plays the 7 of Hearts as an activation card, she immediately scores 12 Happiness points (four card meld times the power of three). All Happiness points scored in a player's turn for activating her Heart melds are in addition to the points she receives for her melds at the beginning of her turn.

When a player activates a Diamond meld, he is entitled to extra cards. The number of cards he adds to his hand is equal to the power of the activation card. He may take the cards from the top of the stock, from the top of the discard pile, or from a combination of both. At any time during the activation phase, a player is permitted to inspect the exposed cards on the top of the discard pile up to the total number of Diamonds he has melded . After activating a Diamond meld, the player takes all the cards he wishes from the discard pile and then takes the remainder, if any, from the stock. Any cards he takes can be played immediately as activation cards (as long as he doesn't violate the rule about only activating a meld once a turn) or, once he has finished activating cards, as melds. The player must take all the cards he is entitled to. (See the section "Discards" for more information about exactly what cards can be taken when activating a Diamond meld.)

Activating a Spade meld allows a player to attack one of her opponent's melds. The power of the activation card is the number of cards the attacking player is threatening to take from that meld.
Club melds can only be activated in response to another player's attack of one of your melds. Club activation cards are the only cards a player can play when it is not his turn. The power of the activation card is the strength of your defense and is subtracted from the power of the attacking activation card. Attacking and defending are both explained in more detail in the following section.
Attack Procedure: An attack begins when a player activates one of his Spade melds. He plays the activation card, announces its power, and states which player and which meld he is attacking. The attacked player now has a chance to defend her meld by playing Club activation cards. Sum up the power of the Club activation cards played, if any. Subtract this total from the power of the attack card. If the result is zero or less, the attack has no effect. If the result is a positive number, the attacker can take that many cards from the attacked meld and add them to his hand. Finally, if the meld now has fewer than three cards, the defender must discard it.
This summarizes the attack procedure. The rest of this section will look at some specific aspects of the procedure in more detail.
A player can only attack one meld at a time. This is true even if the attack is greater than the number of cards in the meld; you are not permitted to "spill over" the attack to a second meld. For example, Arnie plays a Spade activation card of power 5 against Ben. Ben has two 3 card melds, neither of which is Clubs. Since Ben cannot defend himself, the attack goes off with its full power of 5. However, Arnie can't attack both of Ben's melds at once and claim 5 of the cards. He must choose one of the melds and take all 3 cards. The other 2 points of attack power are "wasted".
However, if a player has more than one Spade meld, there's no reason why he can't attack the same meld more than once in a turn. This is true whether or not the first attack allowed the attacker to capture some cards. Note, however, that this represents more than one separate attack--the power of two Spade activation cards may never be combined into a single attack.
The defender of an attack is under no obligation to play any Club activation cards. She may allow the attack to take place even if she could have defended against it.
To defend against a single attack, a player may play up to one activation card for every Club meld she has. She can activate the same Club meld more than once during the same opponent's turn, but only if that opponent attacks more than once. A player can never activate a Club meld more than once during the same attack. This is the only limitation on how often a Club meld can be activated; if a player had sufficient activation cards, she could use the same Club meld to defend against every attack made against her in a game.
If a Club meld is attacked, it can defend itself in exactly the same fashion as if it were defending another meld.
When an attacker takes cards from an attacked meld, he should take them one at a time. Only cards which are at the ends of the meld that remains may be captured. Thus, if an attack is made against the Ace-2-3-4-5 of Hearts and the net result is a capture of three cards, the attacker may take the Ace-2-3, the Ace-2-5, the Ace-4-5, or the 3-4-5 from this meld. Regardless of what cards are taken, the defender would have to discard the remaining two, since she no longer has a legal meld.
Cards which are captured are taken into the attacker's hand. They function exactly as any other card in the attacker's hand and can be used that turn as activation cards or in melds, if he wishes.
Remember, an attacker must clearly state which of his melds he is attacking with and which meld he is attacking before the defender has to commit to defending against the attack.
Discards: Every player must end his turn by discarding a card from his hand. Players are not allowed to play all the cards in their hand as activation cards or melds--they must leave at least one card to serve as a discard. This is true even for the player taking the last turn of the game.
The cards which are discarded during a player's turn are placed in the discard pile in the order in which they are played. This includes activation cards (including Club activation cards played by a defender), the remnants of melds which must be discarded because they had fewer than three cards, and the discard ending a player's turn. If there are two cards in a meld which must be discarded, the player losing the meld decides the order in which they are placed in the discard pile.
Here's an example. Alice in her turn plays the 3 of Diamonds as an activation card and draws some cards from the stock. She plays one of these, the 10 of Hearts, as another activation card and scores some Happiness points. She then attacks Beverly with the 4 of Spades activation card (which has the power of five). The meld of Beverly which is being attacked is the 6-7-8 of Hearts. Beverly defends by playing the 2 and 7 of Clubs, each with the power of three (with each card activating one of Beverly's two Club melds). Since Alice's attack power of five minus Beverly's total defense power of 3+3 is equal to or less than zero, the attack has no effect. Alice then activates her second Spade meld with the 9 of Spades, which has the power of two, and attacks the same meld. Beverly has no further Club activation cards, and therefore cannot defend. Alice wins two cards and takes the 7 and 8 of Hearts. She immediately plays the 8 of Hearts to activate a second Heart meld of hers, scoring more Happiness points. Finally, Alice ends her turn by discarding the Ace of Diamonds. The cards were played to the discard pile in this order: 3 of Diamonds, 10 of Hearts, 4 of Spades, 2 of Clubs, 7 of Clubs (this is the order in which Beverly chose to play her two defending cards), 9 of Spades, 6 of Hearts (which was discarded immediately after the loss of the other two Hearts, since it no longer represented a legal meld), 8 of Hearts, and Ace of Diamonds.
When a player activates one of his Diamond melds, he can either take cards from the top of the stock, take cards which were on top of the discard pile at the time he began his turn, or a combination of both. He cannot take cards which have been discarded during his turn, either by himself or by an opponent. (This stops a player from playing a valuable activation card and then activating a Diamond meld to reclaim it, only to do the same thing again on a future turn.) To ensure that this rule is followed, use the following procedure: all cards discarded during a player's turn are placed in a temporary pile next to the discard pile. Make sure the cards are placed in the temporary pile in the order that they were played, as outlined above. When a player activates a Diamond meld, he can take cards from the discard pile, but not from the temporary pile of cards formed from that turn's discards. The temporary pile is placed on top of the discard pile (retaining the order of the cards) at the end of the player's turn. This always happens with a discard, so each player should always end their turn by placing their discard on the temporary pile and then placing the entire temporary pile on top of the discard pile. This procedure does nothing to change the order of the cards in the discard pile; it merely ensures that cards discarded during your turn cannot be reclaimed by activating one of your Diamond melds.
Ending the Game: After going through the deck a certain number of times, the game ends. In a two player game, you only go through the deck once. Three players can go through the deck once as well, or they can form a second stock if a slightly longer game is desired. Four players should go twice through the deck. Five players should use three decks.
During the game, if the last card is drawn from the stock and there are more decks left to be played, the discard pile is shuffled to form a new stock.
A new stock is not formed from the discard pile until the old stock is exhausted and a player needs to pick a card from the stock. Thus, if a player takes the last three cards from the stock with his draw and then activates a Diamond meld, he could take some cards from the top of the discard pile, then form a new stock from the remainder of the discard pile and draw the rest of his cards from there. However, if the stock has only one or two cards left in it, the discard pile would be shuffled to form a new stock to give the player the rest of his draw, which would deprive him from claiming any cards from the discard pile via a Diamond activation. Note also that when a new stock is formed in the middle of a player's turn, the temporary pile is added to the discard pile before the cards are shuffled.
When a player takes the last card of the last stock, this is the final turn of the game. If the card is taken as part of a draw of only one or two cards, the player gets no additional cards. (This is the only instance in which a player can draw fewer than three cards at the beginning of his turn.) The last card can also be taken through an activated Diamond meld. In any event, the player taking the last card from the stock completes his turn as usual and the game ends. Whoever has the most Happiness points wins the game.

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