Literature (card game)

Literature (card game)

Literature is a card game for six players. It uses a modified version of the Western 52-playing card deck; the 2's are removed, leaving 48 cards. The game is sometimes called Canadian Fish, Russian Fish, or even simply Fish, after the similar Go Fish (which, confusingly, is also sometimes called Fish).Infobox_Game
image_caption=The game of "Literature".
ages=10 +
setup_time= 2 min
playing_time= 10-25 minutes
skills= Card Counting

Rules of the Game

The players are divided into two teams of 3 players each. Generally, the players are seated alternating teams. Each player is dealt 8 cards, which they keep to themselves. Conceptually, the 48 cards are divided into 8 sets. Each of the 4 suits has two 6-card sets, a 'low' set containing cards numbered 3 through 8, and a 'high' set containing cards 9 through Ace. Players are not to communicate anything about the card(s) or the number of cards they hold to team members, verbal or otherwise. Generally, players do not fan out their cards so that they don't reveal the number of cards they have.

The object is to get more points than the other team. One point is given every time a team successfully declares (wins) a set. A player declares a set by identifying the set, and then identifying which of his/her team members (including the player) hold which cards in that set. A player can only declare a set on his/her turn, and must attribute every card in the set to a team member. For example, a player (with teammates named Mary and Joseph) might declare a set by announcing:

:"Low spades, I have the 4 and 8, Mary has the 3, and Joseph has the 5, 6, and 7."

If the attributions are correct, then his/her team receives 1 point. If the attributions are false, and all the cards in the set were held by team members, then nothing happens. However, if the attributions are false, and one or more of the cards in the set were held by a player from the opposing team, then the team of the declaring player loses 1 point. The player declaring is not required to have a card from the set he/she is declaring.

The game begins with one player, usually the dealer, asking for a card from an opposing team member, specifically naming rank and number/symbol. Players must have at least one card in the same set of the card they are asking for. Players are disallowed from asking for cards they already possess. If the opposing player has the card, they must give it to the asking player, who is then allowed to ask again for a specific card from any opposing team member. If the opposing player does not have the card, it is then that player's turn to ask. Players can declare sets at any time during their turn. The game proceeds in this manner until all the sets have been declared.


Several variations exist:
* One is to eliminate the 7s instead of the 2s, and use A-6 as low and 8-K as high.
* The game can also be played with 8 people, 4 on each team. Each person will then receive 6 cards each.
* A variant common in India is split differently with 2-7 as low and 9-A as high (8s are removed from the deck), with the high set scoring same or twice as many points as the low set.
* One variant uses sets of four cards with matching numbers rather than lows and highs of suits.
* A variant played by some advanced players is to allow people to ask for cards they already possess, in order to confuse opponents. This variant is not very common among most players, because it can make the game very complicated and confusing.
* One variant requires players to declare a set as soon as they possess all the cards for that set.
* While it is a common practice for players to make an announcement when they have no cards left, one variant requires players to make this announcement and then leave the game.
* The player next to the dealer begins the game.


Since players can only ask for cards they do not possess, using the questions asked to others in the game, a player can deduce the card or set of cards a player has. From an information theory perspective, the optimal strategy for a player is to emit as much information as possible to his team-mates while simultaneously emitting as little information as possible to his opponents. Thus optimal strategy consists not only of asking for some cards that one needs, but not prematurely divulging the existence of all sets they have. Though there is a lot of strategy involved in the game, a very good memory is also needed on the part of the players. A perfect history of the game so far is more valuable than perfect logic based on incomplete information.

Another common strategy adopted is the "stalemate-breaker". If the members of team come to the conclusion that all the cards in a set are within themselves and they can correctly attribute them, they don't drop the set immediately. This set is kept as a stalemate-breaker. If at a later point in the game a player in the team is at the verge of finishing a set (i.e., he knows which opponent has which card) but is unable to do so because he does not get a turn, the stalemate-breaker is used. One of his team-members can declare the stalemate-breaker set when he gets the turn and pass the turn to him.


* [ Literature rules]
* [ Canadian Fish rules]

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