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Aggravation Rummy

Jennifer introduced this game to me and I figured I’d share it with the rest of you.  Most people have at least heard of the card game “Rummy”, however there is a variant called “Aggravation Rummy” that makes the original card game that much more challenging.  Let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need to play and how the game is played.

Aggravation Rummy Review

Aggravation Rummy: 2+ Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 1-3 Hours

*Editor’s Note: For those of you who have played Aggravation Rummy before, please be advised that the below is our household variant of the game.  We’ve tweaked it to best serve us, so the rules I am about to go over may not completely match the ones you are used to.


You’ll need four decks of playing cards, jokers and all.

You’ll also need a way to keep score.  For your convenience, I’ve created a scoresheet that you can print off and use.  You can find a link to it at the end of this article.  Otherwise, you can use a piece of paper and pencil.  If you are using a paper and pencil, you’ll want to write the numbers “1” thru “7” under each person’s name, then assign a separate space beneath so that you can tally points round per round…more on that later.

Game Summary

The game is played over several rounds.  In each round, players will be trying to get rid of all of the cards in their hands by laying down (or melding) different combinations in front of them.  The first player to get rid of all of their cards scores “-25” as a bonus for that round while the rest add up the cards they have left in their hands (specifics covered later).  Players will be trying to have the lowest score when the game ends, which is when one player manages to complete all seven phase requirements.

Phase requirements vary.  Whoever is on phase two might be tasked with laying down three sets of three of a kind, while whoever is on phase five might be tasked with laying down an eight card straight.  If a player manages to lay down the appropriate cards (all at once), they are able to move to the next phase after the current round is over.  A player does not have to get rid of all of the cards in their hand in order to move on to the next phase, though they’re going to try to so that they do not score a positive point value when the round ends.

Overall, the game can take about an hour or two, sometimes much longer, to play.  The more people you have playing, the longer it will take, unless someone is extremely lucky.

The Seven Phases

The below are the seven phases that players will be individually trying to complete every round.  They cannot move onto the next phase (at the start of the next round) until they play their current phase requirement.

Phase One:  1 set of 3 and 2 pairs

Phase Two:  3 sets of 3

Phase Three:  1 set of 3 and and two runs of 4, any suits

Phase Four:  8 card straight, any suits

Phase Five:  2 sets of 4

Phase Six:  6 card straight and 1 set of 4, any suits

Phase Seven:  9 card straight, same suit

Aggravation Rummy Phases

In this example, someone just played their requirements for phase three.

You can add more phases if you’d like to make the game longer, or take away phases to make the game shorter.  Players are limited only by their imagination.

Round Start & Player Turns

The dealer deals thirteen cards to each player and places the rest of the cards in the middle of the table.  One card is flipped over to start the discard pile.  Play begins with the player on the dealer’s left, going clockwise.  The role of the dealer will move clockwise at the beginning of every round.

A player’s turn can be summarized as follows:

1) Pick up a card from either the face down draw pile or from the card showing in the discard pile:

Players will be doing this so that they can hopefully draw the cards that they need to complete their current phase requirement.  Drawing from the discard pile is a sure thing, but let’s other people know what suits and cards you are going after.

2) Play cards, if possible:

On a player’s very first meld, they MUST play their phase requirement, all at once.  They cannot add to another person’s run with a card here or there until they’ve melded the cards required for their phase.  Once a player manages to meld their cards to match the phase requirement, they can, on their following turns, add to whatever runs or sets that may be on the table.  For example, a player can add to a straight with a card or two, or add a “three” to an existing group of “threes.” They can also play a group of three or more cards in front of them, so as long as they are all the same card (three of a kind).

Jokers are wild cards that can be used to substitute for any card of any suit.  Jokers cannot make up more than fifty percent of a meld.  If you had to play three sets of three for your phase requirement, one of those three sets cannot be two jokers and one number / face card.

3) Discard a card:

Players discard one card into the discard pile at the end of their turn, preferably the one that they don’t foresee needing.  Though, an observant player may not wish to discard a card of a particular suit or number if they see the player to their left taking them on their turn.

If the group thinks that players are going out too quickly, you can adjust the rules so that a player cannot discard if they have already melded on their turn.


When a player goes out (runs out of cards in their hand), the round is over.  The player who goes out receives “-25” points, while everyone else adds up their points based on the cards in their hands as follows:

Jokers = 25 points

Aces = 15 points

J, Q, K, & 10’s = 10 points

2 thru 9 = 5 points

Write down the point values scored under each person’s name and cross out the appropriate phase number (1-7) ONLY if that player managed to complete their phase requirement.  The points and the phase numbers have no link to each other.  The points keep a running tally of one’s success or failure while the phase numbers simply help players keep track of who is on what phase.

The game ends after someone completes the last phase requirement and that round ends via someone going out.  If the player who completed the last phase requirement goes out, they receive a bonus of “-200” as opposed to “-25” during the final round’s scoring.  All of the player’s round scores are then tallied…the person with the lowest score wins.

Q & A

Q: In the game my friends and I played, we used X for phase X’s meld requirement…why is yours different?

A: If you look online, almost everyone has their own house rules and versions of this game.  The above rule set was tweaked to best serve our needs…feel free to come up with your own house rules.

Q: I melded my phase requirement.  On any following turn in the same round, can I meld my requirement for the next phase and complete two phases in one round?

A: No, a player does not move on to the next phase UNTIL the next round, assuming they meet the current phase requirements.

Q: My friend is about to go out and I haven’t even played my first meld yet to satisfy my phase requirement.  Are you sure I can’t play part of my cards, even if it means I can’t move on to the next phase in the next round?

A: That’s up to you and your house rules, but in our house, the answer is no.  Too bad, so sad.

Q: ZOMG!!! You clearly have never played Rummy before, you hack.  The game takes exactly forty-seven point nine minutes to complete with three players.  AND…AND…phase three’s requirements are clearly easier than phase two’s!!!  You just got PWNED!!!  I’m going to report you to the admin and hit you with level one frostboltzzz!!!

A: Get a girlfriend.

The Review

We’ve played our variant a few times now and I have to say that it can be an enjoyable experience, if you have the right group playing.  Highly competitive players tend to suck the fun right out of this game, though players that just want to have a little social interactive fun will enjoy themselves.

The learning curve can be a little much at first, especially if you’ve never played the original game of Rummy before.  I played Rummikub as a kid but never learned Rummy as an adult, and it took roughly a half hour of coaching and instruction to understand how it was played.  The difficult part for me was understanding how the phases worked and how they related to each individual player.  I also didn’t fully grasp at first that a player could advance to the next phase in the next round even if they didn’t go out.  They’d score a positive point value for not going out, but could still advance, assuming that they met their phase requirement.  After a full playthru that lasted roughly twelve rounds, I was confident towards the end about how to play and even went as far as paying attention to what others were picking up off the discard pile.

I personally like how the game can be molded to fit the people playing.  Players can adjust phases and rules as they see fit, or add more or less to the game to make it longer or quicker, respectively.  Since the game only requires a few decks of cards, it’s a cheap investment for all of the options that this game will give you.  Our six player, seven phase game took about four hours, and we lost two of the players along the way.  That’s fine though…next time, we’ll know to play a five phase game or some variant thereof when there are a lot of people playing.

All in all, it’s a great game for families to sit down and play together.

Scoresheets and Phases Guide

I promised that I’d upload the scoresheets and phases guide that I have created in Excel (and saved to PDF) and link them for your use.  You can find and save/print them by clicking on the below links:

Aggravation Rummy Scoresheet

Aggravation Rummy Phases Guide


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