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Tonk - The Game
Based on Glen Cook's series
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The Baltimore Science Fiction Society would like to present a card game for two or more players designed by John P. Speno ("speno at swarthmore dot edu"), inspired by the works of Balticon 31's Writer Guest of Honor, Glen Cook. Played by mercs in the Black Company series, it now has real rules. Enjoy.


Using a standard 52 card poker deck, the dealer deals each player five cards. The remaining cards become the draw pile. The top card from the draw pile is placed face up next to the draw pile to become the discard pile.

Value of the cards:

Each face card [jack, queen, or king] is worth 10, aces are worth 1, and all other cards have a value equal to their number, e.g. a Three of Spades is worth 3.

Determine the amount of the payoff:

This can be whatever the players wish, i.e. a chip, a quarter, 10 jellybeans, nothing, etc.


Immediately after the deal, all players check for TONK. A player has TONK if the total of the cards in their hands is 15 or less, or greater than 48, i.e. 49 or 50. If any person has TONK now, they must yell "Tonk!" and drop their cards to show the other players. Each of the players that doesn't have TONK must pay the player(s) with TONK twice the agreed upon payoff. If no players have TONK, then normal play proceeds with the player to the left of the dealer. (A player can only get TONK immediately after cards have been dealt. Later in the game, the value of their hands may be less than 15 or greater than 48, but it isn't a TONK.)

Once play has begun, a player has two paths to choose from, and can choose one or the other, but not both during their current turn. The first path is called "Going Down," and it is an attempt to win the game, the second path is normal play.

Path Number One:

To go down, the player drops his/her cards announcing the total value of the hand. If that player has the LOWEST point value, he/she wins, and all other players must pay him/her the payoff amount. If, however, he/she doesn't have the lowest point value, then he/she must pay each player who has a point value that is equal or lower than his/her own, DOUBLE the payoff. Everyone else must pay the person, or persons in case of ties, with the lowest total the normal payoff amount.

Path Number Two:

In the second path, the player must take either the top card from the draw pile or the top card from the discard pile into his/her hand. Afterwards, if he/she has three of a kind, four of a kind, or a spread of three or more cards of the same suit in numerical order [order is Ace Two Three...Ten Jack Queen King] (like a straight flush) he/she may put those cards out of his/her hand in front of him/her. Cards put out in this manner no longer count towards the total value of the player's hand. Also, a player may add to any spreads already on the table at either end of the spread, even those in front of other players.

A player may not add to threes (or fours) of a kind already on the table, only spreads. If a player manages to get rid of all his/her cards during his/her turn, he/she has won the game and all other players pay him/her the payoff. If any cards remain in his/her hand, the player must discard a card onto the discard pile. If discarding leaves the player with no cards, he/she wins. If he/she still has cards, play proceeds to the next player.

Some Examples of Play:

[Key: K = King, Q = Queen, J = Jack, A = Ace, 2-10 = number card, c = clubs, d = diamonds, h = hearts, s = spades.]

Example One

After dealing we have
Croaker: 10s 8d 8h 5s 4c= 35
Goblin: Kc 10c 3c 2s Ah = 26
Elmo: Qh 8c 6d 2d 2c= 28
discard: 5c

After Elmo deals, everyone checks for TONK, but nobody has it. Croaker doesn't want the five of clubs (5c) on the discard pile so he draws from the draw pile getting the six of spades (6s), and discards his ten (10c). Goblin draws the Ace of clubs (Ac), and discards his King. Elmo draws the seven of spades (7s), then discards a Queen (Qh).
Now we have
Croaker: 8d 8h 6s 5s 4c= 31
Goblin: 10c 3c 2s Ah Ac = 17
Elmo: 8c 7s 6d 2d 2c= 25
discard: Qh

Croaker draws the 8s, giving him three of a kind. He puts down the three 8's, and dicards his 6s. Goblin grumbles at Croaker's luck, and draws a 3s. He then discards his 10c. Elmo draws the 7h, discards the 8c.
We now have:
Croaker: 5s 4c = 9, On the table: 8h 8d 8s.
Goblin: 3s 3c 2s Ah Ac = 10
Elmo: 7s 7h 6d 2d 2c = 25
discard: 8c

On his next turn, Croaker announces he is going down with 9. He wins since his total is lower than both Goblin's and Elmo's. They both pay Croaker his money.

Example Two

Here we have the following hands after a few rounds have gone by:
Croaker: Qc 10s 9s 6h 5h= 40
Goblin: Jc 10c 4s 4c As = 29
Elmo: 8s 7h 5d 2d Ad = 23
discard: Qd

Croaker draws a Js, giving him a spread of Js 10s 9s which he puts down. He discards his Qc. Goblin takes Croakers Qc from the discard pile and puts down his spread of Qc Jc 10c and discards his 4s. Elmo draws a 10h, drops his 8s onto the end of Croaker's run, then discards the 10h he just drew.
Now we have:
Croaker: 6h 5h = 11, On the table: Js 10s 9s.
Goblin: 4c As = 5, On the table: Qc Jc 10c.
Elmo: 7h 5d 2d Ad = 15
discard: Qd

Croaker doesn't think he can beat Goblin since he saw him discard a 4, so he draws and gets the 9h which does him no good so he discards. On this turn, Goblin goes down and wins. Elmo curses his luck.


These rules are furnished by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. in the hopes that you will play and enjoy the game. This game is, as far as we know it, a game that exists in the Public Domain. Feel free to use these rules and distribute them far and wide. Play the game at any gathering, conventions, meetings, family events, too.

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