How to Play Kent: The Social Card Game with a Name After Our Own Hearts
How often do you come across a game that shares its name with your favourite place in the world?
You guessed it right – Kent has its very own card game namesake. And true to the spirit of Kent, the game is exciting, open to anyone, and requires several players to join in the fun.
What sets Kent apart from other card games?
The card game of Kent – or Kemps or Cash, as it is sometimes called – is well known for its high entertainment factor. Played by at least two competing teams with two players each, it can sometimes expand to include by as many as four or even six pairs of players. It is played with a standard 52-card deck and is renowned as a no-frills card game with a simple objective: its main premise rests on drawing, discarding, and matching cards to form a winning hand of four of the same rank.
If that sounds too simple, here is the hidden catch that makes it so exciting: it is not the player holding the matching four cards but rather their partner who must catch wind of this and declare it to the table in order to win.
This simple element makes Kent very different from intense and strategy-heavy playing card casino staples such as poker and blackjack, where forming a winning hand that will rank higher against your opponents’ (or the dealer’s) is assessed across several different potential hands – and in which savvy players are often required to implement tactics such as upping the ante or splitting. By contrast, Kent does away with such complicated rules, which has turned it into a popular pastime for people from all walks of life who are not necessarily keen on learning strategy in order to play.
The main source of fun in Kent is that you and your partner have to come up with secret signals before the game begins so that you can each communicate with each other that a victorious hand has been formed, without being understood by your opponents – who might sabotage your plans if they catch on.
Setup and gameplay
For this reason, players retreat to a secluded room before the game, so that they can agree on a signal – it could be as simple as tapping your cards or saying a particular word. Meanwhile, signals which may be carried out inadvertently, like rubbing your chin or coughing, should be avoided at all costs. Once at the table and ready to start, players are dealt four cards each, with a further four cards placed face down on the table. Once the game begins, the cards are turned and players grab those they most desire – one or more! – and discard an equal number in their place. There are no priority rules. Whoever touches the card first, gets to keep it, which can lead to some intense gameplay. When no one wants any more cards, the four cards on the table are discarded and replaced by four new cards from the deck.
Once a player has four of a kind, they must send the secret signal to their partner, who then shouts ‘Kent!’ to win the game. Yet, if the signal is ‘intercepted’ by the other team, who believe they have caught on to it, they may shout ‘Counter-Kent!’ or ‘Block!’ or any other similar agreed-upon word to cut their opponents and win the game instead. If the latter were mistaken in their attempt to block, they themselves lose. This is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Kent, and often means that savvy teams even plan false signals in order to mislead their opponents and make them lose points. If the deck runs out before anyone can form a winning hand, then the game ends in a draw.
Simple yet exciting thanks to its refreshing physicality, Kent is perfect for adding a bit of fun to an evening at home with friends or family. Will you be trying it out soon?