They also call the game Pounce, Scrooge, Sock It, Racing Demon, Peanuts or Squeal. It is a fast-moving and highly competitive card game of patience. This is not a quiet game where players take turns; the play takes place all at once as players try to get rid of all of their pile before the other players do.
The underlying premise goes along with most patience games; the players are trying to get rid of their cards by stacking them in order on piles of foundational cards. These stacks look a lot like a solitaire game as they share them in the center of play.
What Is A Nert?
Nerts is a competitive version of solitaire where all play takes place at the same time. There is no need to wait for your turn to play a card, players move cards and play in real-time. While many games use a set number of decks of cards, this will change based on the number of players. For this game, each player needs a deck of 52 cards.
Instead of creating a space where each player builds their own stacks of suited cards ranked in order, they share these stacks between all players. Each player has a working area to order the cards, but the goal is to get the cards to the central stacks.
Because they play the real game in a shared, central space speed is very important. Players are not only trying to get rid of their own cards but also keep others from playing on the central stacks. Most solitaire type games are not known for their speed, so this is an interesting twist on the game,
How To Play
They can play this game with two or more players. Up to five players can play at once but any more than that it is recommended to play in teams.
Each player or team needs their own deck of cards. Each deck should be a different color on the back of the cards. This makes it easier to separate them back out after each play. The decks are not shuffled together; they need to be shuffled alone though.
After they shuffle each player's deck, dealing begins. Each player deals themselves 12 cards facedown in a pile. This is their "nerts pile" or "pounce pile" pending on what they are calling the game. On top of the pile, they deal the 13th card face up.
Next, to the pile, each player draws four cards face up but not overlapping. These become the "work piles." The player stacks the leftover cards facedown to create the "stockpile," set below the line of work piles. They take three cards off the top of the stockpile face up to make the waste pile.
Each player arranges their cards in a tableau set up that creates a triangle, square or circle that leaves a common area in the middle for shared play. This is where the players' cards and building foundations overlap.
Play starts as each player tries to work through their the pile by moving cards around their own tableau and onto the stacks in the common area. The stacks in the common area start with an Ace (which is low) and move in ranked order to the King which is high.
Each player starts their four work piles with one card face up. They use the work cards to create stacks which descend in order and are alternate color. For example, if there is a black seven face up on one of the work piles, a player can add a red six on top. The card on top then becomes available to move to the common area if one of the piles there works for that.
Players are free to move single cards or sets of cards between their own work piles. They may not work on the tableau of other players. The only shared cards are the ones in the common area. Once a card is played in the common area, none of the players can remove it.
Getting Rid Of The Nerts Pile
The point of the game is to get rid of all the cards in your pile first. This is done by playing the face-up card on a work pile, or onto one foundation in the common area of play. Players can use their waste cards and stockpile to work with the exposed the pile's top card. Each time the player can place one a card from the pile, they flip over a new card.
When a player is out of cards in the pile, they can yell "Nerts" to end play. They also have the option of continuing to play if they want to improve their score. They do not require them to yell out at the moment they run out of cards, and there is no penalty beyond maybe letting another player claim the overall win.
When the first player yells "nerts" the game-play ends. Players first get a point for each of their cards they got into play in the common area. This part of scoring is done by separating out the cards in the common area by the color of the back of the cards. This is why it is very important for each player to have a unique deck of cards and for the decks not to be mixed.
After adding up their points for the cards in the common area, players who did not call out subtract two points for each card left in their pile. This can mean that the person who called nerts out may not, in fact, be the winner of the round. The person with the highest score wins the round.
There are people who also added a piece to scoring tied to the person who calls out first. While not everyone plays this way if everyone agrees at the start of the game they can give the person claiming 25 points. This alternative rule makes delaying calling out an unwise move. Rounds continue until one player reaches the score, often 100 points, they set that as the bar for winning the game,
Tips, Strategies, & More
Be sure to agree on the rule of the game before play starts. This should include things like scoring for the person who calls out; first, the overall score needed to win the game and how conflict over the common area will be settled.
There may be a point in the game where more than one player tries to make a move onto a common foundation at the same time. It's a good general rule to take the card that lands in the lowest spot in the mix of cards put down at the same time as being the one that stays. Even if they appear to be playing at the same time, this card ended up there first.
While the game moves fast, and it's exciting to scream out "nerts" as soon as you run out of cards, there may be a great argument for keeping this quiet. Unless you are playing with the alternative scoring that gives the person who called out first a 25 point bonus, it may be possible to get a better score by trying to get more cards into the common area.
Variations of the game include using two Jokers in each player's deck, allowing players to use a hand of cards instead of the waste pile, and treating each round as a standalone game. Using Jokers can be a good way to help get a player unstuck from play, but it can also get complicated when the Joker is put into play in the common area.
To play a Joker is the common area, the rules require the person playing the Joker to announce what card value the Joker will become. This gives all players a fair chance to place the next card on top of the Joker. It assumes it the player who puts down the Joker is doing so to prepare the stack for the play of another card. Having to announce the value of the Joker can mean another player has the chance to cut off this play.
Beyond playing this version of the game with multiple decks of cards, there are also several commercial versions of the game. This includes Nertz, Dutch Blitz, Solitaire Frenzy and Ligretto.
This game is a fun way to combine solitaire with competition. Players are not only challenged to figure out their own solitaire game but also try to beat out other players in getting to use the stacks in the common area. The biggest choice in the game is often tied to what rules the group follows and how strategic they are about letting on they have already gone through their nerts pile.
While solitaire has players trying to beat the luck of the shuffle, this game also means keeping an eye on other players. It is all about who gets to the common cards first.