(Frivolous blog content, posted as part of a daily posting streak I have openly committed to; standard disclaimers apply)
It is quite interesting that Wikipedia’s article on Ninety-nine (addition card game), plus many of the following search results (ignoring the identically-named trick-taking game that is guaranteed to show up), have the same basic idea but wildly differing assignment of special cards from the one I’m familiar with, which everybody I can recall having played with agrees on. (Admittedly I’ve only ever played this among Taiwanese friends.) The only special-card assignment method that came close was a certain person’s “stuff from my old blog” dumping post I bumped into very accidentally. (His 5 is our 4; our 5 skips to an arbitrary player. The post also clarifies that negative totals bounce back to zero, and includes a clause whereby players must state the running total after playing and lose if they’re wrong. Interesting.)
Anyway, yes, I am documenting the rules to a card game on this blog. I think this deserves to exist online.
These rules are not completely rigorous because I don’t know them completely rigorously. You can use common sense to reach a consensus in corner cases.
Use a normal deck of playing cards, or two or more identical decks if you want. Deal five cards to each player and set the rest aside to form a draw pile. Cards are played into a discard pile in the center. Players sit in an approximate circle and take turns along the circle, playing one card and then, usually, drawing one replacement card from the draw pile, so in normal 99, hands stay at five cards. When the draw pile runs out, shuffle the discard pile to become the new draw pile. There is a “running total” in the game, an integer that starts at 0. Normal cards add their value to the running total when played. The total cannot become greater than 99, hence the name. If you have no cards that could keep it less than or equal to 99, you lose. In that case, the turn passes to the next player and the game continues until only one player remains, or until players get bored and decide to play something else.
Okay, I guess it was really naïve of me to suppose that I could get any considerable amount of blogging done before the IOI ended. Onward…
We left off at the end of the practice session. As if somebody were taking revenge against us for not having to suffer through any airplane trips, we were served a cold airplane meal for lunch.
Seriously, the box had a sticker that noted its manufacturer as something something Air Kitchen and another translucent sticker that badly covered an inscription saying the same thing in much bigger letters. It contained a cold apple salad, a cold chicken bun, a cold flat plastic cylinder of orange juice, and a package of plastic utensils that was exactly like the utensils that came with every airplane meal ever. I was disappointed, but at least the salad tasted okay, and I ate an extra one because two of my teammates volunteered theirs.
To pass the time, we played an extra-evil ninety-nine variant. Apparently this is a very Taiwanese game because lots of student guides were teaching their teams the game, although our special cards differ from the ones Wikipedia lists in a lot of ways and our evil variant created more opportunity for sabotage and counter-sabotage and bluffing. 7s are used to draw your replacement card from somebody else’s hand, and that person cannot draw again and will have one less card; aces are used to swap your entire hand with somebody else, who also cannot draw a card; small-value cards can be combined to form special values (e.g. play a 2 and 5 for the effect of a 7) but after playing a combination you can only draw one replacement card; and later, to speed up the game, we added a rule where all 9s had to be unconditionally discarded without replacement but would still get shuffled back into the draw pile. Players lose if it’s their turn and they have no playable cards, including no cards at all.
While we were playing and repeatedly reveling in everybody ganging up to beat the winner from the last round, an instrumental version of “You Are My Sunshine” played on repeat in the background for literally the entire time. It wasn’t a very good version either. If you didn’t listen carefully for the fade-out and few seconds of silence at the end of each loop, you’d think that the loop was only one verse long. After the miserable excuse for lunch, we entered the place the opening ceremony, and an orchestra played a few songs that I can finally hope gave the contestants a feeling of Taiwanese culture. I recognized 「望春風」.