Went to my friends for shabbat. I played with him and with his 10 year old son.
When his son asked me to play a game, I chose a game on their shelf which I didn't know, Five Crowns. Listening to a 10 year old boy explain the rules - in English, when he generally speaks Hebrew - was a surreal experience. Words, rules, images floated around without ever quite settling into coherence structures or sentences. I grasped the idea that the game was some kind of rummy game with a series of hands, but I missed a very important rule about jokers until we were on round three.
The deck contains five suits with cards from 3 to k in each suit, two of each card, and a number of jokers. You play 11 rounds, dealing each player 3 cards, then 4, and so on up to 13. You draw and discard on your turn, with the option of taking the top card of the discard pile. First to meld his entire hand - three or more of a kinds, three or more straight flushes - puts it down. The other players have one more round; on their turn, they then meld what they can and score points on the value of what is left. Face cards are 10 points each, jokers a lot (but none of us were ever caught with any). Low score at the end wins.
And, oh yeah: whichever hand you're on, all the cards of that value are also jokers. So on round 3 (5 cards dealt to each player), all 5's are jokers.
Whoa nelly, that's a whole lot of jokers running around. Turns out that in several of our hands, a player went out on the first turn; in the other hands, it didn't usually take more than 3 or 4 turns. Too many jokers. And your hand sure looks confusing with its array of colors and displaced numbers scattered around. It actually became hard to see exactly what you had; usually you were left with a single card that you couldn't meld.
However, this was not the case in the first few rounds; until you had five cards, your meld had to be a single kind or run, which made for longer and higher scoring rounds.
It was fun, like most rummy games (not word rummy games, which are universally dull). I'm not sure it really needs a dedicated deck to play it. We all scored very closely, and I won 86 to 89 to 92.
David and I then played two games of Dominion+. He doesn't get to play too much Dominion, and he thinks he's not too good at it, which is odd since it seems to be just his sort of game. In any case, I won both games, the first by four points and the second by quite a bit more (with colonies).