2 or 4 players (doubles, naturally)
Materials: deck of playing cards, score sheet.
Set up: deal each player 5 cards. Randomly determine who is serving first.
- In a game, you score love (0), 15, 30, 40, game. But games have to be won by two points. If you get to 40-40 it is deuce (tie). One point from there is Ad (advantage). If the player with ad wins, it's game. If the other player wins it's back to deuce.
- It takes 6 games to win a set, but you have to win by two games.
- If you get to 6-6, there's a tiebreaker. The server serves once, then players take turns serving twice. First to 7 points wins the tiebreaker and the set, but, everyone say it, you have to win by two points.
(Game design aside: having to win by two points is one of the best remove first player advantage mechanics ever. The tennis tiebreaker was also a great innovation.)
A match can be one set, best of three or best of five. I recommend playing one set to start.
Playing a point: players draw up to 5 cards. The server can play a card or flip over the top card. Each card played has to be higher than the card before. Players can play two cards together as a sum. If a player can't play or chooses to pass, the other player wins the point. The same player or team serves for an entire game, then the other player or team serves the next game. Continue alternating serve throughout the match. When the deck runs out of cards, shuffle the played cards to continue.
Ace: 1 on a serve (flipped from the deck) 11 any other time.
Face cards: count as 10, but can only be played as part of a sum. However, King beats Queen beats Jack beats 10, so Queen+2 beats 10+2.
Variation: card pairs are multiplied rather than added.
Doubles: in a doubles match, either player on a team can play a card, or play a sum, or a sum can be made with one card from each player.
Notes: The weird scoring is the downside, but kids learning tennis scoring is not a bad thing. And it's a classic for a reason. I'm really excited by the strategy here. When to give up on a point, how to get rid of low cards, which pairs to form and play.