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Guild of Thieves

Deck:Standard 52 card deck, plus one joker.
Prior to each hand, the royalties and joker must be taken out and the remaining cards sorted into ascending order by suit.
Players:2-16 players
Difficulty:Setup: Medium, Game play: Easy
Time:One game takes approximately 30 minutes
Overview:Players attempt to find the Jeweled Box (the joker) and guess the combination.

In Guild of Thieves the players take the role of initiate thieves who are taking their final exams. Their mission: to locate the Jeweled Box (the joker) by breaking into various houses, whilst at the same time trying to deduce the combination to the box. The game plays a little like Cluedo/Clue and is suitable for all ages, although it may require an adult to set up the deck prior to play.

After setting up the combination for the Jeweled Box (which is described below), players guess whether the top card on one of the sixteen piles in play (the Houses) is a Club, Heart, Spade or Diamond (or alternatively a King, Queen, Jack or Ace). Guessing correctly allows them to see the contents of the house, and to take a card.

Players learn about the combination by seeing the different cards in the houses - if they see a Spade, they know the combination is not a Spade. If they see a 7, they know the combination is not a 7. Eventually, they can work out exactly the suit and value of the combination, and once they have got their hands on the Joker they can guess the combination. Get it right, and they win; get it wrong, and one of the traps on the Jeweled Box kills them and the remaining players must then rob that player's house to steal the box!

The Combination

The combination to the Jeweled Box is a set of 12 cards that are removed from the deck prior to play. It consists of one complete suit (which is the suit for the combination) and all four cards of one value (which is the value of the combination). For example, if all 2 through 10 of Hearts and all the 5's are in the combination cards, the combination to the Jeweled Box is '5 of Hearts'.

To set up the combination, perform the following actions:

1. Separate Cards
Remove all the Royalties and Aces and set them to one side. Remove the Joker and set that to one side also.
2. Sort Suits
Arrange the 2-10 of each suit into four piles, one for each suit, arranged in order (it doesn't matter if the order is 2-10 or 10-2, provided all piles are sorted in the same way.
3. Mix Suits
Turn the suit piles face down. Each player in turn faces away from the table while the other players swap the positions of the piles. At the end, no player will know which pile represents which suit.
4. Remove One Complete Suit
Select one pile and place it to one side. These are the first nine cards in the combination, representing the suit of the Combination.

5. Put the Remaining Piles Together
Place each of the remaining piles on top of each other, to create a deck of 27 cards. No-one must look at this deck, as they will see which suit has been removed.
6. Cut
Each player cuts the deck once, placing the cut on the bottom of the deck. This keeps the cards in sequence, but changes where the deck starts. (For example, after the first cut, the 4 of Clubs may be the first card; the rest of the deck goes 5-10 of Clubs, then the 2-10 of another suit, 2-10 of the third suit and finally 2-3 of Clubs).
7. Remove 9th, 18th and 27th card.
Counting through the 27 card deck, remove the ninth, eighteenth and last card. These are added unseen to the combination. (These three cards will all have the same value - which becomes the value of the combination).
8. Mark Combination
Place a coin or other marker on the combination cards, so that everyone knows which cards are the combination.

As already mentioned, the twelve cards in the combination represent the suit and the value of the combination. It is vital that no-one sees any cards in the combination until they are guessing it.


After preparing the combination, the Houses to be burgled must be set up.

1. Add Joker to Remaining 24 Cards.
Take the 24 non-royalty cards and add the joker always remembering not to look at these cards.
2. Shuffle and Deal

Shuffle this 25 card deck and deal them out into seventeen piles as follows:

1 (The Guild House)

The eight piles of one card are the Slums; the eight piles of two cards are the Rich houses. The one card off to the side is the Guild House, which is treated differently.

3. Place a Royalty on Each House
Shuffle the sixteen royalties, and place one on each house (excluding the Guild House). These cards are the Locks on each house.
4. Each player takes one House
Each player chooses any one of the sixteen houses to be their own house and places it in front of them. Players leave the royalty on the table in front of them and takes the remaining cards (1 or 2, depending on whether a Slum or Rich house was chosen) into their hand.

At this point, the game is ready to begin. Each player already knows a little information about the combination from the cards in their hand. If they have the 4 of Spades and the 7 of Clubs, they know the combination is not a Spade or a Club, and they know it is not a 4 or a 7.


The player to the left of the person who set up the combination starts. Players may always look at the cards in their own House (which are in their hand). The turn sequence is as follows:

1. Pick a House to Rob
Players may attempt to rob any of the Houses in the town, or any of the players' Houses.
2. Guess Lock
Once the target is chosen, the player then guesses the suit or value of the Lock card for that House. They may either guess Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds or Spades, or they may guess King, Queen, Jack or Ace.
3. Check Lock
Having declared their guess out loud, the player then looks at the lock (if it is a neutral House) or asks the player if they have guessed correctly (if it is another player's House).
4. If Correct: Look & Steal
If the guess is correct, the card is turned face up for all to see. The player can then look at all the cards in the House (all the cards in the player's hand, if it is a player's House). They know then that the combination is not the same suit or value as any of the cards in that House. After looking at the cards, the player may choose one card to steal and add to their hand.

If the card they take is the last card in the House, they may also steal the Lock (the royalty card that was on top) as well. The House is then out of play for the rest of the game (as it has no cards left to represent it).

5. If Wrong: Fail
If they guess wrong, nothing happens. Other players should note what was guessed, as they then have an easier job guessing what the locking card is. If it gets back to the original player's turn and no-one has guessed the lock, they can guess what the card is - and they saw it on their last turn so it shouldn't prove difficult.
6. Pay Dues
If the player has at least two cards (not including their Lock card, which is on the table in front of them), they may pay dues to the Guild House. To do this, they take any two cards, place them on the bottom of the Guild House and draw one card from the Guild House to add to their hand.

7. Change Own Lock
If the player has a royalty in their hand, they may at the end of their turn choose to swap their current Lock card (the royalty on the table in front of them) for any of the royalties in their hand.

Play then proceeds to the next player.

Locking Houses

When a neutral House has been successfully robbed, the royalty card is left face up - so any other player can rob the house with impunity (since they can see the value and suit of the Lock).

However, when a player has a royalty in their hand, they may "lock the door behind them" by taking the old Lock card for that House into their hand and placing a different royalty face down on top of the card that is left behind.

Guessing the Combination

As soon as a player has the Joker, they may guess the combination to the Jeweled Box. Of course, if they do not know the combination, they may wait until a future turn, but they may only guess the combination on their turn.

After declaring their guess for the combination out loud, the player may check the combination to see if they are right.

If they guess correctly, they win the game, graduate from the Guild of Thieves, and earn the right to be smug briefly.

If they guess incorrectly, they are killed by a trap, and are out of the game. They place their entire hand, including the Joker, under their Lock card and return the house to the central play area.

If the game ends and no-one has the Joker, then the game is a draw (this can happen if the Joker is placed into the Guild House and no-one has enough cards to get it out again).


The game is essentially simple, but there a few key strategic points.

Firstly, in a game with a lot of players it is not always a good idea to choose a Rich House, as these will generally be the places the other players will want to rob first. However, this only applies in a game with more than eight players.

Secondly, it is not always your best choice to rob the Rich Houses. True, you get to see two cards, but if you don't have a spare royalty in your hand you can't lock the door, so you give two free cards to the next player. If you rob a Poor House successfully, you get to take two cards and you leave nothing for the opposition.

Lastly, deciding when to guess the combination is of critical importance. If you've got it down to two choices for what it might be, that's still only a 50-50 chance of guessing correctly. Generally, you will not want to guess the moment you get the Jeweled Box, but if you keep it in your hand, it is only a matter of time before somebody else steals it. If no-one is using the Guild House much, you can hide the Jeweled Box in the Guild House and then recover it later - but if anyone guesses what you are doing it will be a made scramble to pay dues and get the joker.

Optional Rules

1. Double Deck
To play with more cards, all you need to do is change how the combination is determined. Arrange each suit pile 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (or vice versa) and proceed as normal to set up the combination. This time you must remove cards number 9, 18, 27, 36, 45 and 54. You will have enough cards now for sixteen rich houses and sixteen poor houses, which makes for a longer more involving game.
2. I Know Where You Live
In this optional variant, the Joker is not added to the value cards before the Houses are laid out. Instead, the Joker is the first card in the Guild House. Since everyone knows this, anyone may get the Jeweled Box at any time by paying their dues - but once they do, everyone will know who has the Jeweled Box, and that player becomes a target. The result is a more cutthroat, competitive game.
3. Pen & Paper
Younger players may have difficult remembering which cards they have seen. Optionally, players can be allowed to write on a piece of paper which cards they have seen, thus making it easier to keep track of what cards they have seen.


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