Tabletop Game / Hearts

A trick-taking card game, with a major quirk. As with most such games, the winner of the last trick puts down a card, and everyone else must put down a card of the same suit (unless he has none, in which case he puts down any card he wants) and the player with the highest card of the original suit wins. However, the number of tricks won is irrelevant, what matters is the cards you win. Every heart you win counts for one point, and the queen of spades (AKA "The Black Lady", "Black Maria", or "Calamity Jane")note  counts for 13 points. The first player to go over 100 points loses, and the player with the fewest points at this point wins. An extra quirk happens if one player manages to capture all the hearts AND the queen of spades, called "Shooting the Moon" — each other player gets 26 points if this happens.

Originally popular only amongst persons of a military persuasion and a few fanatical civilians, the game quickly became first more and then less popular. In recent times it has experienced something of a revival, largely because Microsoft now installs an electronic version as standard on all of its operating systems. Hearts has a reputation for being very cutthroat, as you might expect for a game whose aim is basically trying to shovel off a bag of flaming crap on your opponents.

A variant of the game, Dirty Hearts, uses two decks (and is often used for games involving more than four players); in the case of a tie, the first card played of a given rank takes the trick. In addition, the jacks of diamonds are each worth 11 points. This makes for a total of 72 points per hand—and makes Shooting the Moon (see below) nigh-impossible.

A second two-deck variant, Cancellation Hearts, has a different "tie" rule; two identical cards played in the same hand "cancel" each other and cannot take the trick (but their points still count for the person who takes the trick). The highest un-cancelled card in the led suit takes the trick. If all the eligible cards in a trick are cancelled, the cards go to the winner of the next trick; if all the eligible cards in the final trick are cancelled, the cards go to the last person who won a trick. If an entire hand is not won, no points are scored and the cards are shuffled and dealt again.

This card game contains examples of:

  • Badass Crew: The hearts suit.
  • Batman Gambit: Much of the game depends on being able to judge when to put out which cards to ensure that everyone else wins the tricks which would give points. Trouble is, everyone else is thinking the same thing...
    • Even more so when trying to Shoot the Moon, where you basically have to trick all the other players into handing you over all their point cards.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Expect at least one per game, after one player is dealt a particularly good or bad hand.
  • Dark Action Girl/Femme Fatale: The Lady.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: Sometimes, you need to take a trick you could otherwise avoid to prevent someone from shooting the moon or to get rid of a high card early on before it becomes a major liability. Sure, you might be taking at least a few points, but it's better than being stuck with the lead late in the hand or being forced to eat the queen of spades.
  • Fixing the Game: A good player will try to count the number of spades or hearts and perhaps their values. Better players will keep track of both and the best will keep track of them all.
  • Failure Gambit: With the right (or wrong) hand, a player will often set out to take all the point cards. The queen is worth thirteen and the remaining point cards also total up to thirteen, but grab them all and it's everyone else who has to suffer the consequences. Of course, everyone knows about this, meaning you can also seem like you're trying to shoot the moon when you're really just getting rid of your high cards when nobody is sure if they should be using theirs.
  • God Save Us From the Queen of Spades
  • Golden Snitch: Shooting the Moon counts.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Inverted and played straight. Collecting all of the points cards, or Shooting the Moon, is the most devastating attack strategy possible, but collecting none of them (as long as no one else shoots the moon) is a better and safer strategy for most hands.
  • House Rules: There are many variants. For example, the jack of diamonds (or sometimes the ten) is worth minus 10 points; anyone managing to Shoot the Moon and get the jack of diamonds gets his choice of whether to take a minus 36 to his score, a minus 10 to his score and plus 26 to everyone else, or a plus 36 to everyone else. Another is Shooting the Sun, in which you take every trick, which is worth twice as much but otherwise identical to Shooting the Moon. Even the queen of spades as a penalty card wasn't part of the original rules (it used to be that the only penalty cards were the hearts).
    • The Microsoft version popularised several House Rules, to the extent that many players think these are the original or "official" rules. These include passing cards to a different player each round (instead of always to the right), the holder of the two of clubs leading to the first trick, no scoring cards played on the first trick (unless scoring cards are all a player has), and of course Shooting the Moon.
    • One such house rule acts as an Obvious Rule Patch: if you shoot the moon, you can choose to subtract 26 points from your own score instead of adding 26 points to everyone else's score. This is to prevent a case where shooting the moon puts someone over 100 points, but the lowest score does not belong to the one who shot the moon.
  • Luck-Based Mission: With some hands, you just can't win. Too many high cards yet not quite enough, or perhaps ending up with the queen in your hand but not enough spades to keep you from having to play it. Other times you can't lose because there's no way for anyone to make you take a trick you don't want to. Very rarely, there are also hands where someone can shoot the moon without needing to bother with any sort of tricks.
  • Not Quite Dead: Your opponent can be on 99 points and you can still lose if he Shoots the Moon successfully a couple of times.
  • Oh, Crap!: Watch a player's reaction when they realise that you're close to Shooting the Moon and they no longer have any cards high enough to stop you...
    • ...Or when the Lady hits the table, and a player knows there's no way to avoid taking it.
  • One Woman Party: The queen of spades counts for exactly as many points as all the other cards put together.
  • Springtime for Hitler: An unsuccessful attempt to shoot the moon (or to stop someone else from shooting the moon) fits this trope very well.
  • Taking the Bullet: Sometimes, you may have to take a heart or even the queen to prevent another player from taking it and losing the game. Just because you didn't hit 100 yourself doesn't mean you won.
  • That One Player: If you're trying to shoot the moon, it's the guy who takes away that moment. If you're seeing somebody else try to shoot the moon, it's that player.
    • That guy who goes last... and plays the queen of spades on you once he knows you'll get her.
  • Whammy: While the hearts certainly sting when you have to collect them, the queen of spades is definitely this trope.