I just added a new public page to “my wiki”: It’s the rules to my favorite card game, “Mao”: I played this game with a few friends the other night and thought I’d pull these rules out and dust them off. I’ve had them typed up for a while in a Word document, and thought it would be great to upload them here so others can enjoy the game. Have fun!

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4 thoughts on “Mao

  1. This is actually a lot like how my girlfriend’s family plays Uno. The game starts out like a regular game of Uno (though some house rules may apply at the beginning) and with a full Uno deck (or two), but the winner of each hand gets to add, change, or remove a rule, and changes are made known to everybody before play resumes. Unlike Mao, though (at least from the impression I get from your write-up) most of the new rules have more to do with play mechanics and interrupting others’ turns, e.g. if a seven is laid, anybody who has a seven can pre-empt the next person’s turn and lay their seven. If they’re quick enough, that is. It makes for a much faster and more active game similar in feel to Spoons or ERF.

    While Mao seems like a slower game (or are rules with a quickness element often added?), I like the added challenge of having to discover the rules as you play. The Wikipedia article has this bit which your write-up skips (and, I suppose, contradicts): “It is forbidden to tell a new player any of Mao’s rules.” The first rule of Mao club…

    By the way, I like the way you’re using your wiki, both for personal stuff and also as an easy way to put up miscellaneous information like this that doesn’t fit well into a blog format.

  2. “It is forbidden to tell a new player any of Mao’s rules.”

    I was actually the first person in my family to learn Mao. I taught my mom and sister how to play before my dad had ever heard of the game. I had heard it might be fun to play with a new user who knew none of the rules, so we decided to try it on my dad. He was penalized for talking several times before he realized he should just shut up and pay attention. I think it annoyed the heck out of him, but the rest of us had a blast.

    I’ve been wanting to try that again since then but have never been in a situation where enough of the players already knew the rules. You almost need to have two seasoned players for each new player just to keep things from getting out of hand right at the start.

  3. Mao is a fantastic game.

    Your ruleset has a few curious oddities (that I’ve never seen elsewhere), but is a fairly standard variant for the most part.

    An ideal game of Mao has either all veterans, or a balance (not only 1 newbie, not 1 one veteran).

    A small rule change you may consier for future games – especially those involving new players – is to abolish ‘no talking’ as a base rule. This tends to make the game a lot more fun and less opressive in my experience. You have to be strict enough with new players that they get the penalties (otherwise they would never learn the rules!) but there is room for a little leeway to make the game fun for all.

    I’ll also note that, in the very off-chance anyone reading this intends to learn how to play this amazing game, that they learn it in person by playing if at all possible rather than read the rules from this (or any other) website.

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