OBJECTIVE OF FORTY THIEVES: The objective of Forty Thieves is to have the most points at the end of the game.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 to 4 Players

MATERIALS: A modified deck of 52 cards, a set of colored chips for each player, a gridded game board, a way to keep score, and a flat surface.

TYPE OF GAME: Connecting Board Game



Forty Thieves is a connecting card game for 2 to 4 players. The goal of the game is to have scored more points than your opponents by the end of the game.

Players score points by making connecting lines of 4 chips during rounds. Players should determine how many rounds of play the game will consist of before starting. A suggestion of 10 rounds of play was made by the game creator Charles Magri.


The deck will be modified to a 40-card deck. All cards higher ranking than 10 will be removed leaving cards Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,7 8, 9, and 10. Aces count for the numeric value of 1 and 10s are a special card type called thieves.

After the deck is modified a random player will be assigned dealer. Dealer passes to the left for each new deal.

The dealer will shuffle the deck and deal each player a 5-card hand. The remaining deck will form the stockpile and should be placed centrally between both players. Centered above the stockpile, players will place the gameboard. Each player will also receive a set of differently colored chips or tokens.

The game board is a 6 by 6 grid, resulting in a total of 81 numbered spaces. Below is a picture of an example of how the game board should look.

After the hands have been dealt, stockpile placed, and game board set up, the gameplay may begin.

Thieves (10s)

The 10s have a different purpose in gameplay than the other cards. They are referred to as thieves. The thieves are used to steal spots already covered by another player’s chip.

To use a 10, a player will discard it to one of the discard piles of their choosing. They may then look through the discard pile and pick a card from amongst them, except for the 10. The chosen card is replayed to the top of the discard and the product of the two top cards of the discards is found. This spot must be one already claimed by another player. The spot can then be claimed by you, removing the other player’s chip and replacing it with your own.

10s cannot be used to claim spots in any other manner, and cannot be played if there is no viable spot to be stolen.


There are two ways to win a round in Forty Thieves. You can either complete 1 or more lines of 4 connected chips, and this can be done horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The other way to win is to place chips in a way that either your opponent(s) is forced, or willingly chooses, to concede.

The game can be played with 3 to 4 players. The creator of the game Charles Magri suggests it is best with 2 players. Below I will describe how to play a 2-, 3-, and 4-person game separately.

2-Player Game

The dealer will start one discard pile on their side of the stock by choosing one card from their hand (apart from a 10) to place face up. This starts the game. The dealer will draw back up to 5 cards in hand and pass their turn.

The other player will start another discard pile on their side of the stockpile by choosing one card from their hand (apart from a 10) to discard face up. The numeric value of these two cards will be multiplied together and the product of the two numbers will be the first space covered by the second player. They will then draw back up to hand size and pass their turn.

For example, Player 1 starts the first discard by placing a 5. Player 2 starts the second discard by placing a 2. Player 2 multiples 5 by 2, getting 10 as the product. Now Player 2 may take one of their colored chips and covers the 10’s space on the board.

Moving forward, on a player’s turn they may discard any card, including 10s, to either of the two discard piles. When a new card is discarded, a new product can be found and claimed. Spots can only be claimed once, except for when using a 10, and cards cannot be discarded if the product they would produce is already claimed by a chip. Once a player has discarded, claimed their spot, and drawn back up to 5 cards, they will pass their turn. Players alternate play until the round resolves.  If the stockpile is ever exhausted, then the game continues without drawing until an end is reached.

The round will end one of two ways. Either a player successfully completes at least 1 line of 4, or a player concedes.


A player can win by completing 1 or more connected lines of 4 chips. This line must be unbroken but can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. A player may also end the round by completing multiple lines of 4 in a single turn. Once a line of 4 is reached, however, the round ends, and scoring begins.


A player may choose, or be forced, to concede during a round. A player may choose to concede so that a player will only score 1 point vs several, and a player may be forced to concede if they have no card that can be discarded to claim any remaining spots. Either way, if the round ends in a player conceding, that player receives one strike (discussed below in scoring).

3-Player Game

In a 3 -player game the only major differences are as follows. The play proceeds clockwise from the dealer, and a single-player conceding doesn’t end the round. Play proceeds until all but one player concedes, or a line of 4 is reached.

When a player concedes, either chosen or forced, they will place their hand face down in front of them. All their chips remain on the board and may still be removed only by a 10.

If the stock is exhausted the conceded player’s hand is shuffled and used as the stock, and after that is exhausted, the game follows as above.

4-Player Game

For a 4-player game, there will be two teams of 2 players each. Opposing teams sit opposite of each other, and teammates used the same color of chip. The gameplay otherwise proceeds as described above. If one teammate must or chooses to concede, the other teammate may continue to play. The play continues until both teammates of a team concede or a line of 4 is reached.

When a player concedes, either chosen or forced, they will place their hand face down in front of them. All their chips remain on the board and may still be removed only by a 10.

If the stock is exhausted the conceded players’ hands are shuffled and used as the stock, and after that is exhausted, the game follows as above.


After a round has ended scoring can begin.

If a player was successful in forming a line of 4 or more chips, they score 1 point per each instance of a line of 4. For example, 1 point for a single line of 4. 2 points for a line of 5, or 3 points for a line of 6. Also, one vertical line of 4 and one diagonal line of 4 would score 2 points, etc.

If the round ended in concession, then the remaining player who did not concede will score 1 point. 

There is an optional rule for 2-player games for conceding. If playing with this variant, then a player who scores a point by concession will get a queen. If a player receives 3 queens, they immediately win the game. This is called the “Three Strikes-You’re Out” rule.

Another variation allows for the kings and jacks to be used for scoring instead of paper. One jack is worth 1 point, and one king is worth 3 points.


The game ends once the number of intended rounds is finished, and scoring has occurred. The player with the most points wins the game. if there is a tie, additional rounds can be played to determine a final winner.

In the case of the variant rule “Three Strikes-You’re Out” if a player ever receives their 3rd queen, they win the game immediately, even if the final round has not been played.

Amber Crook
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