Main      Site Guide    

Pips: Original Playing Card and Dice Games

Finish Line

Players:  2 or more
Average Duration:
35-40 minutes - 2 players
55-65 minutes - 3 players
80-90 minutes - 4 players
*  1 deck of cards, including two jokers
*  2 dice of distinct colors, ideally one red die and one black die
*  3 markers per player
Object: To be the first player to get all three of his markers to the finish line.

The Game

The game resembles a board game more than a card game; cards are dealt to form a board, each card representing a square on the board. Markers move from square to square, along a path, and try to reach the finish line. Different cards allow markers to perform different actions. Since the board is dealt differently for every game, each game poses different obstacles and allows for different strategies.

The Deal

Shuffle the deck of cards (which includes two jokers).

Deal the three leftmost and three rightmost cards in the following diagram first. If a face card, ace, two, or joker comes up for any of them, reinsert the card into the middle of the deck and replace it.

Once these six cards have been dealt, the rest of the board is dealt. There are no restrictions on what any of the other cards can be.

Sample Board
Starting Square


The three leftmost and three rightmost cards are called wing cards. The upper-right wing card is also referred to as the finish line.

A safety refers to either a wing card, a joker, or the imaginary starting square.

Although it is not strictly necessary that your dice consist of one red die and one black die, they do need to be distinguishable from each other. Prior to the game, all players must understand which die corresponds to the red suits (hearts and diamonds) and which die corresponds to the black suits (spades and clubs). Hereafter in these rules, the dice will be referred to as the red die and the black die.

The Board

The cards on the board represent a zigzagging path, which starts at the imaginary starting square space and ends at the finish line (the upper-right wing card). In the above example, the seven of spades is the first card on the path. The path goes to the left, following the bottom row to the ace of spades, then up to the nine of spades, then right along the next row, from the king of diamonds to the three of diamonds, then up again to the six of hearts. The path continues in this fashion, back and forth, until it reaches the finish line card.

The object of the game is for players to navigate this path from start to finish with all three of their markers.

The Play

Players start with their markers in the starting square. Players take turns until someone has moved all three markers to the Finish Line card, and that player becomes the winner. If desired, the remaining players can continue to play, to see who comes in second, third, and so on.

Each player's turn consists of three stages, which involves moving markers and possibly performing special actions based on where they end up.

Stage 1: Moving

A player begins his turn by rolling both dice.

The total value of the dice is the stop value. What this means is that any marker that moves during the turn may not move beyond a card with that stop value. For example, if the dice show a five and a three, totalling eight, then no marker may move past a card with a rank of eight on that turn. A stop value of 11 corresponds to a jack, and a stop value of 12 corresponds to a queen.

The player chooses one of his markers to move the number of spaces specified by one of the dice. Then he chooses a marker (the same one, or a different one) to move the number of spaces specified by the second die. Remember that markers cannot pass cards with the stop value. For example, if, on a player's first turn with the board above, he rolls a six and a two, totalling eight, he can move one marker two squares to the ace of hearts, but while moving a second marker (or the same marker) six squares, he hits the eight of diamonds and must stop there.

The stop cards inhibit movement even if you want to use both dice on the same marker. For example, if you roll two fours, totalling eight, and you use one four to move a marker up to the eight of diamonds, you cannot then use the second four to move that marker further.

Note, however, that a marker that starts out on a stop card may proceed beyond it; stop cards only affect markers once they starting moving.

Markers must reach the finish line exactly. In the above example, if a marker is on the ten of spades, and the player rolls double sixes, he cannot move that marker to the finish line -- in fact, he cannot move that marker at all. On the other hand, if he rolls a three and a four, totalling seven, he can move the marker to the finish line, because even though neither die would get the marker there by exact count, the stop value of seven would halt a marker right on the finish line, since the finish line is the seven of hearts.

Once a marker has been moved to the finish line, it's out of play and cannot move again. Once one player has all three of his markers on the finish line card, the game is over, and he has won.

Stage 2: Activating Special Cards

After both dice have been used to move markers, the following steps must be followed for each marker that moved during the turn, starting with the most advanced marker. No action is taken for markers that did not move during the turn.

If the marker landed on an ace, king, queen, jack, or two, then the two dice are rolled. If the die corresponding to the color of the suit of the card is higher than the other die, then the card is activated, and the player performs the action listed below. If the die of the color of the suit is the same or lower than the other die, no action is taken for the card.

After the above steps have been completed for all markers moved by dice rolls in stage one, stage two is over. Remember, you only get to roll for a chance to activate special cards underneath markers that moved in stage one: you don't get to roll to activate a special card that your marker was already sitting on, nor do you get to roll to activate any special cards your markers might be sitting on as a result of activating other cards in stage two.

Stage 3: Attacking

After the player has completed stage one and two of his turn, the following steps are performed for each marker that moved by this point during the turn and which now occupy the same non-safety card with one or more opposing markers. Basically, each such marker gets a chance to boot the opposing markers off the card it shares.

To boot opposing markers off a shared card, both dice are rolled.

Note that if two of the same player's markers wind up on the same card with opposing markers, each gets a chance to boot the opposing markers off, so if the first attack results in doubles, a second attack is attempted. This frequently happens when a marker lands on a queen also occupied by opposing marker(s): if the queen activation works out, there are two markers that can try to boot the opposing markers off.

Also note that attacks frequently occur on jacks: if a jack is activated successfully and an opposing marker is yanked back to the jack, it is subsequently attacked and possibly sent back even further.

Finally, if an opponent's marker is attacked and moved backward onto a square occupied by another of that opponent's markers, it is not attacked again. Attacks only occur to opposing markers that occupy the same square immediately after stage 2 ends.

Back to Pips.