OBJECTIVE OF LIMBO: Be the player who reduces the count to zero



TYPE OF GAME: Hand shedding



Limbo is a two player card game created by David Parlett.  David is a prolific card game designer and provides an enormous list of games to play on his website, Parlett Games

In Limbo, players are trying to play cards from their hand in such a way that the overall count (starting at 101) reduces perfectly to zero.  Some cars have special powers, and sometimes players can divide rather than reduce.  The player who reduces the count to zero perfectly wins the game.


 Starting with the 52 card deck, shuffle and dole out 5 cards to each player.  The rest of the cards become the stock. 


Before the round begins, the non-dealer has the opportunity to double the score.  If they pass, the dealer has the opportunity to double the score for the round.  If the non-dealer doubles, the dealer has the opportunity to redouble for the round to be worth four times as many points. 


The dealer turns the top card of the stock over to begin the countdown.  A face card turned over has a value of zero, and the total stays at 101.  Any other card is used to deduct that value from 101.

From this point on, players take turns playing cards face up from their hand to the pile.  Number cards are used to either reduce the total through subtraction or division.  The card played divides the total evenly, the total must be divided.  Number cards are worth the value of the card.

Aces count as either 1 or 11.  Players are not allowed to divide by 1.

Face cards have special abilities.  Jacks match the previous card played to the pile whether it is a number card, Ace, or face card.  If the Jack is played on an Ace, the player can determine its value as 1 or 11.  If it is played on a face card, it also replicates that card’s special ability.

Queens reverse the digits of the count in its current state.  So, if the count is 32, and a Queen is played, the count becomes 23.  Remember, the count must always reduce, so a Queen cannot be played on a number that gets bigger when reversed.  For example, a Queen cannot be played on a 45 because it would become 54.  If a Queen is played on a number like 50, it would simply become 5.

Kings allow the player to divide the current total by any number between 1 and the current total.  It must divide evenly with no remainder.

Players continue taking turns as described above until one player brings the count to zero or one player is unable to go.  If a player runs out of cards, they may attempt to continue playing with the top card from the stock.  If that card is not playable, the other player takes as many turns as possible before getting blocked or winning.

Deal alternates each round.  Continue dealing from the pack.  There is no need to shuffle the expended cards back into the deck.


Whoever plays the last card is the winner.  They earn points equal to 10 times the number of cards played to the pile.  This includes the turn-over card.  The loser earns 10 times the final count value.  It is possible for that score to be zero.  Don’t forget to account for any doubling that occurred at the beginning of the round.


The first player to earn 200 points wins the game.

Mark Ball
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