How to Play the Card Game Zetema

Zetema is a little known card game developed in the 1870's. It is believed the game was developed by Walter Pelham who worked at a British card manufacturing plant, with the rules and scoring later refined by card scholars and game designers such as David Parlett and Sid Sackson. Although it's popularity never took off, it is a fun game and well worth the time to learn and play. Zetema Deck

The standard game of Zetema is designed to be played by two, three or five players, with slightly modified variants (featuring partnerships) designed for 4 and 6 players (see variations section below). This game uses a special deck which can be constructed by using one full standard 52 card deck and adding to this deck one complete set of all cards of one suit from another pack to create a 65 card deck. Traditionally, one full set of cards of the suit of Spades is added from a second deck, but some players prefer to substitute another suit instead. Every participant in the game should be aware of what the duplicated suit is in the deck. This duplicated suit is called the Imperial Suit. The second deck from which the cards for this duplicated suit have been added should be the same size and of the same back design as the first deck. The ranking of the cards in each suit is as follows, from high to low; Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

Determination of seating positions and the first dealer can be done using a variety of methods, with drawing for high cards a standard method. To do this, each player should draw a card from the face-down shuffled deck. The players would then select seats at the table in order of the rank of cards drawn, from highest to lowest. If two or more players draw cards of the same denomination, they should draw a second card to determine the ordering amongst the players who drew tied cards. The player drawing the highest card of all also becomes the first dealer. After each hand, the deal rotates around the table in a clockwise direction.

Once the players have been seated and the first dealer selected, the dealer shuffles the deck and offers it to the player to his right to cut. After the cut, the dealer begins dealing the cards one by one and face-down in a clockwise rotation, starting with the player to his immediate right. He continues dealing the cards in this manner until each player has a six card hand. The dealer then places the remainder of the deck face-down in the center of the table as the stock pile.

Play then begins with the player to the dealer's left. A player draws one card from the top of the stock to begin his turn. After drawing, he is then permitted to declare any melds in his hand. To declare a meld, the player states the meld being scored and shows the cards wich comprise the meld. After showing the meld, he does not leave the cards on the table, however. The score for the meld is then added to the scoresheet for this player. After making a meld the player then discards any one card of his choice to a special layout which will be made on the table. He must discard one of the cards used in his meld. If the player was unable to, or chose not to make a meld on his turn, he may discard any card from his hand.

When discarding the player places the card in the center of the table in a special layout. Each ranking of card is placed in it's own discard pile, thus there will be 13 of these face-up discard piles, one pile for each denomination of card. There is also a face-down waste pile, which will be described later. Thus, when a player discards, if there is already a pile containing a card of the same rank he would place his discard on the top of that pile. If no one has yet begun a pile of that denomination, the player would begin a new pile with his discard. The piles should be slightly offset, such that each card in that discard pile can be at least partially seen at all times by every player.

The following shows the legal melds a player can declare, display, and score for during his turn:
Meld NameDescriptionScore
SequenceSix cards in direct sequence but not all in the same suit

Example of a Sequence in Zetema
FlushSix cards all of the same suit, not in sequence30
Sequence FlushSix cards in direct sequence, all of the same suit50
AssemblyFive cards of the exact same rank. The score earned is dependent on the rank of cards making up the assembly

Example of an Assembly in Zetema
Dependent on suit:
  • 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 - 100 Points
  • Ace, 5 - 110 Points
  • Jack - 120 Points
  • King, Queen - 130 Points
MarriageOne King and One Queen of the same suit. A player may not meld a Marriage and another type of meld on the same turn. However the player may (and should) meld multiple Marriages on the same turn. The points earned are dependent on the number of Marriages melded on the turn. A player may meld Marriages using any combination of cards from his hand and the discard piles of Kings and Queens, however at least one card from one Marriage melded must come from the player's hand. All cards used in the meld, both from the player's hand and the discard pile are then set aside in the face down waste pile, not to be used again. The player, on the same turn does not make a regular discard this turn. At the completion of his turn, he then draws enough cards from the discard pile to replenish his hand to six cards.

Three Marriage Melds in Zetema - 60 Points
The score earned is dependent on the number of Marriages melded on the same turn:
  • 1 Marriage - 10 points total
  • 2 Marriages - 30 points total
  • 3 Marriages - 60 points total
  • 4 Marriages (Quadruple) - 100 Points total
  • 5 Marriages - 150 points total
In addition, for each Marriage that is formed in the duplicated suit (called an Imperial Marriage), the player scores an additional 10 points. This does not apply to the score shown for Five Marriages, since this bonus is already calculated in the score shown.

Another way a player can earn points in this game is by forming Zetemas. A Zetema is formed when a player's discard makes five of a kind in that discard pile. When this occurs, the Zetema is added to the waste pile, not to be used further in the current hand. A player scores a number of points based on the rank of cards of the Zetema formed as follows:
Zetema Card RankScore
2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 105 points
Ace, 515
King, Queen50
Zetema hand in progress

If the stock becomes exhausted during the hand, gameplay continues, however players will no longer draw cards into the hand as appropriate and will instead continue play with the reduced cards in hand. Once all players have played their last card, all cards are gathered together, reshuffled and a new hand is dealt. The game continues until a player reaches 200 or more points, instantly winning the game.


Variations and Optional Rules

Partnership Zetema (Four Players): When four players play, the game is usually played in two partnerships of two players each. The game is played identically to the standard variation with the following differences from the standard game: In all other aspects the four player partnership version is played identically to the two and three player variant.

Five Player Zetema: Zetema can also be played quite well by five players. Similar to the two and three player variant, when played by Five, each player plays independently (no partnerships). The game is played identically to the standard variant described above with the following changes: Example of a Flush Sequence in five player Zetema In all other respects the five player variant is played the same as the standard version of Zetema as described at the top of the page.

Six Player Partnership Zetema: In addition to a four player variant, a six player variant of Zetema has been developed. This variant is designed to be played by three partnerships consisting of two players each. This variant is played identically to the standard 2 and three player variant, with the following differences: In all other respects this game is played identically to the standard, non-partnership variation described above.

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