Calvin’s Commentaries: King’s Cribbage

So last week’s review mentioned my favored cribbage variant was King’s Cribbage so I thought it was only natural to review it this time around.

I have sought out cribbage variants over time, and have 10-12 stacked in the game room. Most are all right for a game or two, once in a while.

One that had escaped me until recently was King’s Cribbage, a game I knew only two things about, it was based on cribbage, and borrowed heavily from Scrabble.

On a lark, I posted on a social media site that I was interested in acquiring the game. As it happened an old acquaintance from my home town had a copy un-opened and was kind enough to gift it my way. Thanks, Cindy, you shared an absolute gem of a game.

King’s Cribbage is most certainly a pure variant, interestingly one that is played without a deck of cards involved. It was created by Gary Cowley and released in 1997.

Crowley borrowed heavily from Scrabble in terms of the core mechanic in King’s Cribbage. The game uses tiles that instead of having letters on them, they are the cards from a deck. There are 104 tiles, so two decks, one light-colored, the other dark.

You reach in the bag, draw five tiles per player, and start the game laying out the tiles with each having to factor into a count in cribbage, pairs, three-of-kind, 15s, straights, etc.

The maximum length of any line (think hand) on the board is five, with both horizontal and vertical lines playable.

You peg for the points you layout – so you need a regular crib board to peg on.

There are some interesting aspects along the way. For example, a 6/9 can be played either way, which expands the plays you can make.

There are bonuses for being the first player, for laying off all five tiles, or creating a line of five all of the same colored (light or dark) tiles.

When we first opened the game to play I read the rules and thought there would be issues being able to play tiles, and the game would bog down on that account. Many plays later that has not been the case. I can only recall a couple of times either the better half or myself, has even considered missing a turn laying tiles in favor of returning some to the bag to draw a different ‘hand’.

I also expected, again initially, that the odds of playing out so many tiles would be limited, but again tiles seem to play right to the end. We may end up with one, two, three tiles in hand when no moves are left – you peg backward for those tiles – but expect 100 tiles to be in play most games.

With two decks and the bonuses, you score tons in this game. You will be well into the third circuit around the cribbage board at the end, so around 350 points. Don’t worry it plays quicker than that point total might suggest.

We have only played two-player, and that is likely the optimum way to go to King’s Cribbage, although team play is an option, and it can be played three-handed too.

This is a game every cribbage player needs to own, and I suspect Scrabble players will appreciate it too.

About Author