Ninety nine is played with a standard 52-card deck, or possibly 2 decks if there are many players. The objective of the game is to do so that the total of the card pile reaches exactly 33, 66 or 99 without exceeding these limits.
At the beginning of the game, each player receives 9 tokens (or any other number decided beforehand). These tokens represent « lives » and the player who loses all of them is immediately eliminated from the game.
At the beginning of the round, each player is dealt 3 cards. The pile of cards played is initially empty and therefore worth 0. At your turn, you choose a card, which you put on the top of the pile, and then immediately draw a new card from the deck, so that you always have exactly 3 cards in your hand. The card you have just played is added to the total of the pile, its new value is announced and the next player can play.
- If the total of the discard pile reaches exactly 33 or 66 after playing your card, each player except you loses a token. If one or more players have no more tokens to put down, they are immediately out of the game without even waiting for the end of the round.
- If the discard pile reaches exactly 99, you have won the round. Each player except you loses two tokens. The player to the right of the previous dealer deals three cards to each player and the next round starts.
- If, when playing your card, you go over the 33 or 66 limit, you, and you only, lose a token. For example if the pile is at 29 and you play a 7, causing the total to become 36, you go past 33. If you don't have any tokens left, you are immediately out of the game without waiting for the end of the round.
- If you exceed the ultimate 99 limit, you lose the round and must pay two tokens. Then, the next round starts.
Your goal is thus to reach exactly 33, 66 or 99 while not exceeding them, and additionally force other players to exceed these limits for you.
The values of the cards are as follows:
- Cards from 3 to 8 are worth their face value;
- A nine is worth 0;
- Face cards always count as +10;
- A 10 can be worth +10 or -10, at the player's choice;
- An ace can be worth +1 or +11, at the player's choice;
- If the current total is even and greater than 49, a 2 divides it by two. In all other cases it doubles the total.
Some cards also have an additionnal effect:
- When a jack is played, the next player skips their turn. When playing with two players, a jack allows to play again.
- A 4 reverses the direction of play. If the game was previously played clockwise, it will be played counter-clockwise until the next 4 is played. With two players, a 4 has no effect.
- As a 10 can be worth -10 and as a 2 has the ability to halve the total, the limits of 33 and 66 can be reached and exceeded multiple times in the same round. Tokens are lost each time these limits are crossed, but only in the increasing direction. For example, if the total is at 56 and if you play a 2, causing it to return to 28, you don't lose any token for going below 33. Equally, if it is at 76 and if you play a 10, bringing it back to 66 exactly, nobody loses a token because you are coming from a greater value instead of a lesser one.
- As a 2 is able to double pile total, 66 and 99 may be gone past at once; for example if you play a 2 while the total is at 53. In that case, you lose the round and 3 tokens.
- Don't forget to draw a card after you play! If you forget, then your mistake isn't recoverable: you must continue with only two cards to the end of the round. If, however, you forget three times and have no cards to play when your turn comes, the round ends immediately and you lose 3 tokens.
- Space: draw a card
- C: read the current pile value
- S: announce scores (number of tokens held by each player)