Playing Cards and 12 Players: 5 Games for Big Groups

Got a group of friends or family coming over and you don’t know what to play? I’ve found 5 card games that play up to 12 people. Most games only require one deck of cards. Pull up a chair and let’s play!


This card game is a favorite in our household by both kids and adults. It’s easily teachable, and works well for most ages. I will caution however, that some players get very competitive and the game can get rowdy. Use an old table and know when to jump out of the way! 

To play Spoons, you need one deck of cards and enough spoons for each player, less one, similar to musical chairs, which are placed in the center of the table in reach of all players. 

Players pick and discard cards quickly around the table until one player has collected a four of a kind, and takes a spoon from the center. Once one spoon has been taken, all other players can grab a spoon. The player left without a spoon gets a letter. If a player spells S-P-O-O-N, they’re out. The last player standing wins!

Game instructions and printable rules: Playing Cards: How to Play Spoons


Two decks of playing cards are needed for this fast paced card game. Points are given for being the first and second player to get rid of all their cards. If you’re first, you win the rank of President and earn two points. The second player to play all their cards is the vice-president for that round and wins one point. The last player who has cards left in hand wins the illustrious role of pond scum, has to give their highest card to the president in the next round and is responsible for clearing the cards from the table. 

All cards are handed out – it’s ok if some players have one more card than others. On their turn, players try to match or beat the previous card played. If matched, the next player is skipped. A pair beat a single card. Three of a kind beats doubles. Players can play out of turn to complete a four of a kind, thus clearing the board. Two’s also clear the board. Be cautious of the two’s – you can’t go out if you only have a two left in hand. 

To win, be the first player to eleven points. If you’re playing less than 8 players, only one deck is needed. 

Game instructions and printable rules: Playing Cards: How to Play President


Nertz is hands-down, our favorite group game. It’s considered a group solitaire game. Each player will need their own, unique back set of cards. At the time of this writing, the Dollar Tree sells used casino cards which have different casino names and colors on the backs, making for easy sorting during game play. 

Players are given a deck of cards. 12 cards are placed face down in front of each player, with a 13th card placed face up on top. Be the first to get rid of all 13 cards first to win. 

 Everyone should gather around a table that all players can access easily. The center of the table is where the communal cards will be played. 

On go, players simultaneously play as fast as they can, not taking turns. Like in solitaire, you move through the cards in your hand 3 at a time. Aces are placed in the center, and all players can play on these cards by following suit and rank. One of each number is played until the pile reaches the king. This pile is complete and is turned over for the remaining game. 

The first person to exhaust their pile of 13 calls Nertz, and the game stops. All other players count up their pile. The number left is times two and counted against them.  All other cards not in the center are set aside. The center cards are sorted and counted. You receive one point for each card played, and deduct the number from your remaining pile. Play continues until one player has reached the pre-designated score (often 100) and wins the game. 

Game instructions and printable rules: Playing Cards: How to Play Nertz


This game is less of a seated playing cards game, and more of a role playing game using a deck of cards. It’s great for large groups, but can be played with as few as 4 players. Only one deck of cards is needed to play. 

Using one Ace, King and enough number cards to equal the amount of players, each player picks up a card and looks at it without revealing to anyone else. The player who draws the Ace becomes the Candyman, and the player who picks the King becomes the Cop. All other players who have number cards are the users. 

The Candyman (Ace) uses a stealthy physical tell (eye wink, touching your face, shaking your head, etc, designated before the game begins) to try to sell candy to the other players without being caught by the cop (King). 

If the cop catches the candyman, the round ends. The game is played in five rounds. The player with the highest score wins. 

Game instructions and printable rules: Playing Cards: How to Play Candyman

Ranter Go Round

It can be challenging to find a game that multiple ages can play. This simple Cornish game might just meet this goal. Any reasonable number of players can play, five to 20 being the best. 

One deck of cards and 3 counters (pennies, beans, etc) per player is needed to play. These counters are considered your “lives”. In each round, the player with the lowest card loses a life. 

Kings is the high card. Each player, in turn, decides whether to keep or try to pass their card to the next player in hopes of having a higher card. When all players have had a chance to pass their card, the dealer cuts the deck. If a King is shown, the dealer loses one life. Otherwise all players show their cards and the player with the lowest card loses a life. If there are multiple players with the same low card, each loses a life.

When a player loses all their lives, they drop out of the game. The last player with lives left wins the game. Each round is played quickly, and generally even those who have dropped out don’t mind waiting for the next game to begin. 

Game instructions and printable rules: Playing Cards: How to Play Ranter Go Round


Hopefully you’ve discovered a new game to play. Call your friends and family, grab some cards and enjoy the laughter and fun that accompanies game night.

Do you have a game for 12 not listed? Drop it in the comments below!

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