OBJECTIVE OF RUMMIKUB: Get rid of all the tiles on your rack by organizing them into runs and groups OR have as few points in your hand as possible.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-4 players
MATERIALS: 106 tiles with numbers and colors, including two jokers, tile racks
TYPE OF GAME: Tile Rummy
Rummikub is a fun and strategic board game that pits two to four players against each other. Players attempt to get rid of tiles by matching them up into groups of the same number or consecutive numbers. This game has been around for almost 100 years and remains an extremely popular board game played by families around the world. In this article, we will be diving into the rules of Rummikub so that you can learn how to play this simple and entertaining board game.
THE HISTORY OF RUMMIKUB
Rummikub is a group of rummy games played with tiles as opposed to cards. The game was introduced to the Western world by its inventor, Ephraim Hertzano. Tile Rummy was introduced in response to religious and legal sanctions on card games due to their association with gambling. It is believed to have been conceived in the 1930s or 1940s in Romania and has since gained international success, becoming the third best-selling game in the world. Sabra Rummikub is the only variation of Rummikub included in recent versions of the game and is the version described below. Next, we will go over the rules and how to play Rummikub.
HOW TO PLAY RUMMIKUB
Rummikub includes 106 tiles, including two jokers. The tiles are either black, red, orange, or blue and contain the numbers 1-13.
The tiles are shuffled face-down. To start, each player draws one tile to determine who gets to start the game; the player with the highest value tile goes first.
Play passes clockwise. Each player collects 13 more tiles for a total of 14. Players place their tiles on the rack so that they are hidden from other players. The tiles that are not selected remain face down on the table and form a pool.
The goal of Rummikub is to form groups or runs of different tile combinations in order to get rid of all your tiles or as many tiles as possible (in order to have the lowest value hand) possible. When you form a group or run in Rummikub, you can place the tiles face up on the table.
Potential combinations consist of:
Groups are formed with 3 or 4 tiles of the same number but different colors.
Runs are formed with 3 or more numbers in a sequence of the same color.
Tiles can only be counted in one combination and cannot be used in multiple groups or runs.
PLAYING THE GAME
A player’s turn consists of either drawing a tile or adding 1 or more tiles from the rack by putting them on the table face-up.
The first combination a player puts on the table must have a total value of 30 or more points. After a player lays down their first combination, they may play any tile or tiles that can be added to the game.
When playing tiles, players can either create a new combination, add on to an existing combination, or rearrange the tiles to form a new combination.
ADDING TO EXISTING COMBINATIONS
You are not restricted to playing on only your own tiles. Any player can add tiles to an existing combination on the table.
For example, if a player has played the combination 7,8,9 and you have the tiles 6 and 10, you can add these to the combination to make 6,7,8,9,10.
In the same way, if there is an existing combination of 8,8,8 (all different colors) and you have another 8-tile in a different color you can add it to the existing combination.
REARRANGING EXISTING COMBINATIONS
You can also rearrange existing combinations by adding your own tiles and creating new combinations. If you rearrange the tiles, you must use all the tiles from the existing combination. You can separate the tiles into a couple of different combinations. Just remember that all combinations must contain at least 3 tiles.
Here is an example of rearranging Rummikub tiles:
Your Hand: You have a 5,6,8 in blue and a 7 in red.
Existing Combo: On the board, there is an existing combination of three 7s in black, blue, and yellow.
New Combos: On your turn, you can take the blue 7, combine it with your blue, 5,6, and 8 to create a 4-tile run, and add your red seven to the remaining two 7s in the existing combination.
An interesting rule for Rummikub is the time limit. Due to the complexity and numerous amount of possible rearrangements, there is a time limit imposed on turns: 2 minutes. If the time limit is reached before a player is able to finish rearranging their tiles into valid combinations the tiles must be returned to the configuration when the turn began. Players must also return tiles removed from the rack and draw 3 tiles as a penalty.
If you are unable to meld tiles to your own or any opponents combinations you must draw a tile from the pool. Your turn is over and play passes the next player. On your turn, you must draw tiles until you are able to play. You may not play a tile directly after drawing it.
JOKERS (WILD CARDS)
There are two joker tiles in Rummikub that essentially function as wild cards. If you draw a joker, it can be used to fill in a blank space of a combination. For example, if you have 5,6, and 8, you can use a joker tile to fill in for the 7.
Any player can add to existing combinations with Jokers, but you can not move or rearrange the tiles from a joker combination. Players may, however, replace Jokers with the tile it is supposed to represent if they have it in hand. When replacing the joker tile with the missing tile, the Joker does not return to the player’s hand for later use but must be used immediately and re-melded to create another combination. In groups of equal tiles, the Joker may be represented by any color tile. For example, in a group of #3 red, #3 black, and a joker, the joker may be substituted with either #3 orange or #3 blue.
The first player to play all their tiles wins the game and ends the game with a score of 0. All other players sum the total of their remaining tiles on their rack – jokers count for 30 points. The players are then ranked by the amount of points they have, with the lower number of points being the best.
If the pool of tiles runs dry before any players run out of tiles, play continues until no player is able to play anymore tiles. In this case, the player with the lowest tile total is the winner. The difference between the winner’s total score and a loser’s is subtracted from the loser’s score. The difference is added to the winner’s score for each loser.
Here are a few variations in how to play Rummikub. These versions of Rummikub have slightly different rules.
- Play can move clockwise or counter-clockwise.
- In a meld with a joker present some play that tiles of both colors must be added to the group before the Joker is retrieved.
- While there is no rule saying a combination can not have two jokers, it is a poor and uncommon use of them. If you choose to use two jokers in a single combination, they must be explicitly declared which tiles they represent.
- Jokers may value 25 points when they are left on the rack during scoring
WHERE TO BUY RUMMIKUB
Rummikub is one of the most fun and simple board games out there. This game will get you thinking strategically and is a quick and easy game to pull out at a board game night amongst friends and family.