“So. Hearts. For anyone who needs a refresher, here’s a quick rundown of the rules.”
I shuffled the deck of cards, flipping and arcing them together with precision. I’ve been shuffling cards since I was eleven.
“First, the points. The Queen of Spades is worth thirteen points. Each heart is worth one point. And points are bad, so you want to try not to win any hearts or the Queen of Spades.”
“What about the Jack of Diamonds?” asked Wendy.
“Oh, right. The Jack of Diamonds is worth minus ten points,” I added.
“And what about shooting the moon?” asked Wendy.
“Yes! Shooting the moon is where you try to win all the points, and by doing so you get none and everyone else gets fifty,” I supplied.
“So… just get the hearts and the Queen when you shoot the moon?” confirmed Wendy.
“No, you have to win all the cards with any value. You have to get the Queen, all the hearts, and the Jack of Diamonds,” I stated.
“No, I don’t think you need to win the Jack. Just the cards worth points,” Wendy disagreed, arching an eyebrow.
“No, you need the Jack, too. That’s why shooting the moon is so difficult! You have to get all three: The Queen, all hearts, and the Jack.”
We continued discussing the values of including the Jack of Diamonds, a potentially controversial rule choice.
The four of us sat outside on a rickety wooden wraparound porch. Our elbows rested on a damp utility table as the rain poured all around us. Inches away, the steady pounding of hard rain provided atmosphere. Adding to the mood were a couple of frogs and the occasional giggle floating out of the screen door nearby.
While we were playing, I remembered why I love card and board games so much, especially a game like Hearts. There were four players. On Friday night during this particular game of Hearts, the players were an interesting mix. One I knew very well and I consider one of my closest friends. One was an acquaintance and the organizer of the camping weekend that had just begun of 200+ Girl Scouts and leaders. And the other was a woman I’d never met before.
There is a little get-to-know-you exchange going on with the toss of every card into a trick. All eyes flick to that person in an attempt to read her face.
How will she react? Is this a competitive group? Going in for the kill by playing the Queen of Spades on the second trick? Or waiting to play point cards until the last possible moment?
If you don’t know the card game of Hearts, I highly recommend it. It’s my favorite card game of all time. It never gets old for me, no matter how many millions of points I rack up.
There is strategy. I’m looking out for myself. I’m trying to avoid earning points. But I also have the opportunity to stick it to someone if I want by playing the Queen of Spades when I could have thrown a neutral card instead. Or, I can choose to hold my attacks. Or sometimes I can choose whom to attack. My friend or the person I don’t really know? Sometimes you team up with the others in an attempt to thwart an attempt at shooting the moon.
As the humidity curled the hair escaping from our bandanas, all sorts of laughter and good-natured trash talk passed around the table.
“So that’s how it’s going to be.”
“Wow. Just wow.”
“Thanks for nothing.”
“Are you kidding me with this right now?”
“Here’s your trick with a bunch of points.”
It was a competitive but friendly group. We experienced a few well-placed attacks and failed attempts at shooting the moon. But even though I came out with the most points as the big loser, Hearts is still my favorite card game of all time. Losing the game doesn’t matter to me. I enjoyed the opportunity to make new friends sitting outside in the dark humidity, laughing and bantering before the muddy weekend ahead.