Pazaak is a two-player card game played in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games. Although the game uses a random deck of cards, each player brings their own collection of cards to the table as well. The main strategy of Pazaak is to get as close to 20 points as possible without going over that amount, giving the game a basic resemblance to Blackjack.
Rules of Pazaak
A Pazaak match consists of a series of rounds. The deck is reshuffled between rounds, but each player keeps the same hand throughout the match, which consists of four cards chosen at random from their choice of ten cards from their personal collection. Any cards played from the hand are never replaced during the match.
In a round, players take turns choosing between several possible moves. (It is disadvantageous to be the first player, so players will alternate who starts the round in a fair Pazaak match. However, the first Knights of the Old Republic game forced the human player to go always first.) At the start of a player's turn, they receive a new card from the deck. All deck cards are worth positive points, and range in value from 1 to 10. The player may then play one card from their hand, or not, as they wish. Typical hand cards range in absolute value from 1 to 6, and may be worth positive or negative points - particularly valuable standard hand cards may be flipped to become either positive or negative at the time of play. Other, rarer hand cards exist that make special modifications outside the rules of the game; some are listed further below.
Regardless of whether an additional card is played from the hand, the player then chooses between "standing" with the cards they have and not taking any further turns, or electing to simply end their turn, meaning they will receive another card from the deck at the beginning of their next turn. Once one player stands, the other player continues to take their turns in succession until they either stand or lose. Once both players stand, the player with the higher point total from their cards wins. If the totals are equal, there is a tie and neither player adds a round to their match score. (If played during the round, the Tiebreaker hand card still gives victory to its owner in case of a tie, see below.) A player automatically loses the round - meaning their opponent wins the round - if they end their turn with a total over 20. Note that it is perfectly fine to go over 20 at the start of the turn because of the deck card, as long as the total is brought back down to 20 or less via a hand card. Also note that it is not compulsory to avoid losing this way; if a player could save themselves but do not feel it is worth their hand card, it is legal to sacrifice the round by simply standing with their losing total.
There is one other way to win a round of Pazaak. If a player reaches a total of 9 played cards (counting both deck and hand cards), without going over a total of 20 points, that player immediately wins the round. This condition holds no matter what; even if one player has stood with 20 points, they can still be defeated if the other player achieves a 9-card run.
The first player to win three rounds wins the match. Since it is possible to have a tied round in which no one wins, there is no hard limit on the number of rounds that are played in a match.
Bets are typically winner-take-all affairs made for a complete Pazaak match before it begins. Stakes are typically not changed once play has started, although a match's result certainly may inspire one party or the other to press for another match. There are no limits on what can be bet on a Pazaak match. A healthy sum of credits is a popular victor's prize, but Pazaak can also be played for fun or barter.
The most common Pazaak hand cards simply contribute or take away points. These standard cards are worth 1-6 points with , -, or /- values. Other cards exist, however. Generally rare in the Knights of the Old Republic universe, these cards tend to bend the game rules even further:
- Tiebreaker ( 1T/-1T) - Acts as a /-1 card, but also awards its owner the round if there is a tie. (Appears in KOTOR 2)
- Double (D) - Acts like a duplicate of whichever card you played last - in other words, doubles the points of the deck card you received that turn. (Appears in KOTOR 2)
- Subtract Two and Four Cards (2&4) - Turns negative all deck cards you possess with point values 2 and 4. Affects both cards already played and cards played in future. (Appears in KOTOR 2)
- Subtract Three and Six Cards (3&6) - Turns negative all deck cards you possess with point values 3 and 6. Affects both cards already played and cards played in future. (Appears in KOTOR 2)