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Pairs was published by Cheapass Games in 2014, and it is beginning to reappear at Crab Fragment Labs. You can find more games and info about the Pairs deck over at crabfragmentlabs.com/pairs.

The cards and the deal

Equipment: A deck of ZSA Cards.

The Pairs deck is 55 cards numbered 1 to 10. Each card appears a number of times equal to its rank. In other words, there is one card numbered 1, two cards numbered 2, and so on, up to ten cards numbered 10.

To play with ZSA Cards, you’ll use the running numbers (colored) in the top right of your cards. Split up your deck so you have one 1 card, two 2 cards, and so on all the way to ten 10 cards.

Pairs Card Face

The play

To begin the game, shuffle the deck and discard five cards into the middle of the table, face down. Then deal each player one card face up. The lowest card will go first.

On your turn, you must decide whether to take a card, or to fold. If you take a card, you are hoping not to get a pair (two cards of the same rank). If you don’t get a pair, you are safe. If you do get a pair, you lose the round, and you keep one of those cards for points (points are bad). So for example, if you get a pair of 8s, you keep one of those 8 cards aside.

Folding also gets you points, but you can take the lowest card on the table. This is often safer than hitting a hand full of big cards.


The game has only one loser, and that’s the first player to reach a target score. For example, with four players, the target score is 16 points. The loser has to pay some kind of penalty, like telling a joke or making a silly noise. And then you can shuffle up and play again.

Players: 2 3 4 5 6+
Score: 31 21 16 13 11

Formula: For 2 to 6 players, take 60 points, divide by the number of players, then add 1. For 7 or 8 players, keep the value at 11.


There are extra rules, like what to do when the deck runs out, or when there is a tie for lowest card, at crabfragmentlabs.com/pairs.