NEVER OVER card game.
Version of Friday 4 May 2012.
Dave Barber's other pages.

NEVER OVER is a numerical playing card game, for at least two people, that employs a special pack consisting of green and red cards.

• The offensive aspect of the game is that you try to accumulate green cards, each earning the number of points indicated thereon.
• The defensive aspect is that you try to burden your opponents with red cards, which establish a ceiling on what green cards they can accumulate. Specifically, the number on your green card, at the time you play it, can NEVER be OVER the number on your governing red card — whence the name of the game.

Below are the green cards of a typical NEVER OVER pack; the plus sign stands for ordinary arithmetical addition. The small index allows cards to be held closely together in the hand; the large index permits easy reading of a card from a distance. The diagonal line printed in a contrasting color is optional, but it seems to aid readability.

Next are the red cards; the sign for less-than-or-equal-to similarly carries its conventional arithmetical meaning. Note that the zero must be red, not green.

The number on a card, be it green or red, is termed its pointage.

Although the colors on the cards are helpful, the symbols will still be distinct to a person who has difficulty discriminating hues.

Players lacking the special pack can improvise an adequate collection of cards from several standard packs, perhaps using diamonds for the red cards and all other suits for the green.

Here is a suggestion for how many cards might be in a pack:

CardQuantity CardQuantity
+ 47 ≤ 45
+ 39 ≤ 34
+ 211 ≤ 23
+ 113 ≤ 12
≤ 01
Total40 Total15

This total of 55 cards should be feasible for manufacturers of ordinary playing cards to produce, because the typical 52-card pack is customarily supplemented with two jokers and two advertising cards, making a total of 56 pieces. If a NEVER OVER pack of some other constitution is preferred, the highest green card should bear the same pointage as the highest red card.

Changing the pack affects the nature of competition. To increase the offensive aspect of the game:

• Increase the proportion of green cards versus red. This gives players fewer opportunities to block their opponents' progress.
• Increase the proportion of higher-pointage red cards versus lower-pointage. This gives players a better chance of replacing a red card of lower pointage with one of higher.

To increase the defensive aspect, do the opposite.

In terms of physical properties, the cards can be of any size or shape desired, but a reasonable choice is a rectangle 62 × 88 millimeters (ISO size B8), which is practically the same as American poker size (2.5 × 3.5 inches). Rounding the corners reduces the chances of irregular fraying which could make some cards identifiable from the back. Of course, a computer version could be devised instead.

The next figure gives an overhead view of a table where six people are engaged in NEVER OVER. Each participant has (or will have) a green pile and a red pile; a pile currently empty is drawn with a dotted line. Not shown are the cards players hold in their hands. At the center of the table are a stack of face-down cards (the stock) and a partially overlapping stack of face-up cards (the discards). Some variations of the game might leave the discards squared up, so that only the top card is visible, while other variations might entail no discards at all, or perhaps no stock.

Players take turns clockwise around the table. In your turn, you can:

• Move a green card from your hand to your green pile,
• if the pointage on the card you are moving is less than or equal to the pointage on the topmost card in your red pile, or
• if your red pile is empty.
• Move a red card from your hand to the top of your red pile,
• if the pointage on the card you are moving is more than or equal to the pointage of the topmost card of your red pile.
• Move a red card from your hand to the top of an opponent's red pile,
• if the pointage on the card you are moving is less than or equal to the pointage of the topmost card of the opponent's red pile, or
• if the opponent's red pile is empty.

When you move a red card to a red pile, any card previously in that pile no longer has any effect.

You never:

• place any card on an opponent's green pile
• place any red card on a green pile
• place any green card on a red pile
• move any card from one pile to another (except to correct a violation of the rules).

For a full example, here are the moves that the six players at the table above could make if they hold the necessary cards in their hands. The letter r indicates moves that are redundant:

 Abe Bea Cal Deb Eli Flo Piles This playercan add Other playerscan add + 3 none + 2 ≤ 3 + 4 ≤ 1 + 2 ≤ 2 none ≤ 4 + 3 ≤ 0 + 1+ 2+ 3+ 4 ≤ 4 r + 1+ 2+ 3 ≤ 3 r≤ 4 + 1 ≤ 1 r≤ 2≤ 3≤ 4 + 1+ 2 ≤ 2 r≤ 3≤ 4 + 1+ 2+ 3+ 4 ≤ 4 r ≤ 0 r≤ 1≤ 2≤ 3≤ 4 ≤ 0≤ 1≤ 2≤ 3≤ 4 r ≤ 0≤ 1≤ 2≤ 3 r ≤ 0≤ 1 r ≤ 0≤ 1≤ 2 r ≤ 0≤ 1≤ 2≤ 3≤ 4 r ≤ 0 r

If you place a red card on top of an equal red card — within your own red pile or an opponent's — it does not change which green cards can be subsequently played by the red pile's owner. Such a redundant play might occasionally be useful to dispose of an unwanted card. The same applies to putting a ≤ 4 on an empty red pile.

Note that Cal's + 4 must have been played prior to his ≤ 1; similarly for Flo. The principle is that once you legally play a green card, your opponent cannot impeach it by subsequently placing a red card of lower pointage on your red pile.

At the beginning of the game, all the green and red piles are empty, each red pile implicitly containing a ≤ 4 (or whatever the highest pointage in the pack is).

With some fundamentals established, here is how to play a whole game. Select some player as dealer. The player at dealer's left is called sinistra, at dealer's right is destra. Dealer shuffles the pack, and destra cuts. The dealer then distributes cards clockwise, one at a time, face down, beginning with sinistra, until each player has 8 cards. (When only two play, the destra and sinistra are the same.) Undealt cards are placed face down in the middle of the table to form the stock.

The discards, as they accumulate, are kept spread so that players can see all the cards, and see in what sequence they were added.

Players take turns, going clockwise around the table; player at dealer's left going first. In your turn, you:

1. Choose one:
• Move a card from your hand to a green or red pile of yourself or an opponent, if it meets the requirements explained above.
• Move a card from your hand to the top of the discard pile, even if it could have been moved to somebody's green or red pile.
• Retire, which means that you immediately discontinue all further play in that hand — but all scores you have earned still count.
2. Replenish your hand, by choosing either the top card of the stock or the bottom card (the oldest) of the discards.
• If the stock is empty, you take the bottom discard.
• If the discard pile is empty, you take a card from stock.
• If both are empty, you do not take anything.

The retirement option exists because sometimes late in the game it becomes obvious that, with the few cards remaining, no further meaningful play is possible. Players retire individually because they may disagree as to when that point is reached. You may also choose to retire even when substantive action remains, if you believe that your continued participation will benefit your opponents more than yourself. You inevitably retire when you run out of cards in your hand. When you retire, you place any remaining cards of your hand face down on the table.

The game ends when all players have retired. Note that if all but one player are retired, that active player may play alone, continuing to try to accumulate green cards. Once all players are retired, each adds the pointages on his green cards, and that is his score. Red cards do not figure into the count. Ties are possible.

In a series of games, the turn to deal passes from one player to the next clockwise. It is best if the number of games in a session is a multiple of the number of players.

Players might agree to adopt some of these options:

• Deal more or less than 8 cards. In the extreme case, deal all the cards as far as they will go evenly, and leave the few leftovers untouched.
• You keep the cards in your green pile spread so that all players can see how many points you have earned at any time.
• You may pass on your turn, doing nothing, yet remain in the game. However, if all unretired players pass in succession, the game ends forthwith.
• When drawing from the discards, you take the top (newest) rather than the bottom (oldest).
• You are not permitted to discard a card that could legally be added to somebody's green or red pile.
• There is no discard pile. If discarding, you place the card face down at the bottom of the stock.
• There is no discarding. If you cannot move a card to somebody's green or red pile, you can either retire, or pass in hopes that conditions will improve.
• The cards in your red pile count against you, their total pointage being subtracted from your total green pointage. This significantly changes the tactics:
• Placing redundant cards on your opponent's red pile becomes a productive move, while moving redundant cards to your own red pile is a bad idea.
• Remember that each card you add to your red pile comes at a price. Thus for instance, it may not be a good idea to move a ≤ 4 to your red pile if it is already topped by a ≤ 3 and you do not have a + 4 to play.
Because in the suggested pack the total green pointage is 90 while the red is only 40, most players will still earn a positive score.
• When retiring:
• You place your remaining cards face up, not face down, thereby informing the still-active players of cards that they will not be able to obtain. This might be combined with a rule that you may not retire if your hand contains a card that can legally be moved to somebody's green or red pile.
• You may move any remaining green cards from your hand to your green pile (and score for them), observing the constraint of the top card in your red pile.
• In rigorous play, each game begins thus:
• Any player may shuffle. If more than one player so desires, sinistra has first opportunity, and the opportunity proceeds clockwise around the table, with the dealer having the opportunity to shuffle last. The dealer must shuffle if nobody else chooses to.
• Any player other than the dealer may cut. If more than one player so desires, sinistra has first opportunity, and the opportunity proceeds clockwise around the table, with the destra having the opportunity to cut last. The destra must cut if nobody else is willing.

These are some options for partnership play:

• Partners share a green pile and a red pile.
• Partners share a red pile, but have separate green piles. You may not move cards to your partner's green pile.
• Partners have separate green and red piles:
• You may move red cards to either your red pile or your partner's.
• You may move green cards to your own green pile, but not your partner's.

If partnerships are fixed throughout a session, then the score for a partnership is simply the total pointage of the cards in its green pile(s). If instead partnerships can change from one game to the next, each player of a partnership scores its total green pointage within each hand.

As an example of rotating partnerships, five players may agree to a five-game session of NEVER OVER, each player dealing once. Within each game, sinistra and destra are partners against the other three. Because the deal rotates, each player has one partner in two games, and two partners in three games, and everything balances out. They could go on to play five additional hands where sinistra, dealer and destra are partners against the other two.

Irregularities:

• For any mistake on the deal (nobody shuffled, nobody cut, wrong player dealt, pack was defective, a player received the wrong number of cards, et cetera) any player may declare a misdeal before he begins his first turn. All the cards will be reshuffled, recut and redealt by the same dealer and cutter. If nobody complains in time, the deal stands.
• After you begin your first turn:
• If it is discovered that you have too many cards in your hand, you are immediately disqualified. Any red cards played by you or your opponents stand. You score zero for any green cards you might have had. Your opponents continue the game without you.
• If it is discovered that you have too few cards in your hand, you may continue play with no penalty except that you must finish the game with a short hand, which is a disadvantage.
• If in your turn you neglect to draw a card from the stock or discards, there is no penalty except that you must finish the game with a short hand.
• If you place a green card on a red pile, or vice versa, the error must be corrected, but there is no penalty.
• If nobody objects when you place an inappropriate green card on a green pile, or an inappropriate red card on a red pile, the play stands. If somebody does object, the error must be corrected, but there is no penalty.