As with all card games, there are multiple versions of the game May I? out there. In fact, a Google search brought up this link where each commenter seemed to have his or her own version of the game. Like those commenters, I also have my own version - and that's the version that I'm going to share (and review) today.
In my gaming group where we play May I, we have four people (two couples). For a four person game, we always combine three standard decks of playing cards. The game is then played as follows:
- Deal everyone 11 cards.
- Turn the top card of the draw stack face up as the start of the discard pile.
- On each player's turn, they have two choices - they can draw the top card of the discard pile and add it to their hand OR they can draw the top card off the draw stack (a mystery card). Then, the player must discard a card to the discard pile.
- Play continues in this way around the table until someone goes out for the round (more on that in a moment).
- While the first four steps sound nice and orderly, the game "May I?" gets its name from players shouting "May I?" whenever a card that want is placed in the discard pile. The way that works is that the first player who says "May I?" gets the card that was just discarded by another player (you cannot "May I" your own discard). The player whose turn it is to draw then has a dilemma. They can either say, "no" to the May I? request and take the discarded card for themselves (thus denying the other player) OR they can say yes and hand the player the discarded card AND the top card off of the draw stack as a "punishment." Players may not "May I?" their own discard nor may they say "May I?" when it is their turn to draw a card.
- The round ends when one player is able to fit EVERY card in his or her hand into that round's requirements (see list below) AND discard a card. The drawback to saying May I? and getting the card is that you also get a punishment card - thus making it more difficult for you to use all your cards in your hand and go out.
- After a player goes out, the round ends and everyone adds up their score for the hand. The person going out gets 0 points (and low scores are good in this game) while everyone else has to count their hand according to one of two options.
- Option 1: The player is "safe." If the player is safe (that is, the player's hand meets the minimum requirements for the round), then that player only has to count up his or her "extra" cards that do not fit within the round's requirements.
- Option 2: The player is not "safe." In this case, the player has to add up every single card in his or her hand (this is a terrible occurrence and should be avoided if at all possible)!
In this game, cards 2 - 7 are worth 5 points each, 8 - K are worth 10 points each, and aces are worth 15 points.
The game is played out over nine hands with the requirements for each hand getting progressively more difficult. The order is as follows:
- Round 1: a 3 of a kind and a 4 card run
- Round 2: two 4 card runs
- Round 3: three 3 of a kinds
- Round 4: two 3 of a kinds and one 4 card run
- Round 5: one 3 of a kind and two 4 card runs
- Round 6: three 4 card runs
- Round 7: four 3 of a kinds
- Round 8: two 3 of a kinds and 2 runs
- Round 9: four 4 card runs
Since you are always dealt 11 cards up front (and your draw a card then discard a card), you will never have less than 11 cards. Therefore, in the early rounds - you'll need to have more than the bare minimum in order to actually go out. For example, in round 1 you might collect 6 kings (to use as your 3 of a kind) and have a 5 card run: 4-5-6-7-8.
In later rounds, you are actually forced to "May I?" at least once in order to get the bare number of cards (each "May I?" adds two cards to your hand total). In Round 6, for example, you need a minimum of 12 cards in order to go out which will require at least one "May I?". The way we play the game is that there is no limit to the number of times you may say "May I", though you obviously make your own path to going out more difficult with every extra card you take into your hand.
Once you've played a game or two of "May I?" the rules should make sense. It's not a hard game to learn (or teach someone) but it is a hard game to master. To play the game well, you need to pay attention to what your opponents are collecting (or, not collecting in some cases) as well as what cards have been discarded. There's not a much worse feeling than needing the 7 of hearts to go out only to realize that all three of them had been discarded early on in the round (meaning you'll never get the chance to get one in a three deck game)!
The Bottom Line:
- Easy to learn, easy to teach
- Uses elements of card counting and even bluffing but neither is required
- No special supplies needed
- You need at least three people to play
- If one person doesn't pay attention to what the next person is collecting, it can be extremely frustrating to watch that person continually "help" the next person
- People can be real jerks and say no to your "May I?" request and keep the card for themselves instead
- Plenty of luck in the game which can be annoying
Overall score (out of 100):
May I? is a simple game with just enough strategy and card counting to keep my interest throughout multiple plays. The biggest drawback to the game is when you play with someone who doesn't pay as much attention as the other players at the table. Thus, you want to play this game with "like minded" players, whether they be super strategic card counters or players who simply play for fun is irrelevant - the key is that everyone needs to play with a similar style. This is NOT a game that I ever want to play through again though in the same sitting.
*played with a group where everyone keeps track of all cards in play/drawn/discarded this game can be a lot of fun (and highly strategic) but it's unlikely that most play groups will be that way. The game is incredibly frustrating when one person doesn't bother to keep track of someone else's collecting habits and, therefore, that beneficiary goes out continually (and much too quickly for other players to get safe).