Game Night: Five Crowns

Five Crowns, available on

Family game nights can include games of all varieties. We’ve covered a team game, an individual game, and now we’re going to tackle a card game. Five Crowns is another popular standby at our family game nights. It is a card game that combines gin techniques in five suits and two decks. I’ve told you before that our family game nights can get a little rowdy, and that’s true with card games as well, but if yours is a more subdued game night, Five Crowns should fit right in.

Card games are wonderful for teaching strategic thinking. Card etiquette like how to shuffle, deal, hold your cards, and general rules of procedure are good lessons in self-control, not to mention manners. In our household, practicing good card etiquette is a civic duty right up there with voting in every election and approaching jury duty with enthusiasm – all lessons that were taught early and often. In all seriousness, however, card games can teach a mature comportment while having fun at the same time. Five Crowns, with its scoring and play, teaches all kinds of valuable card game skills to apply to other, perhaps more classic games.

Five suits and two decks can seem overwhelming. It is certainly a lot to hold once you get to later rounds, which is why I recommend card holders for smaller hands.

We have these beautiful wooden holders in our house, which are nice enough to sit out in the living room when not in use. They’re a little expensive at $16 but have stood up to years of wear and tear. These plastic holders are cheaper ($6) and will do the job as well. Both options ship Amazon Prime, free in two days for members. I can’t recommend these enough. They make one of the hardest aspects of card play, holding lots of cards in tiny hands, more accessible for children. They also allow kids to organize their cards better, something which makes applying strategy to game play much easier. Both of these holders get 5 pinwheels:

Five Crowns is played in eleven hands, progressing from three cards to thirteen cards. In each hand, the goal is to create a 3+ card run of the same suit or match 3+ cards in number but not suit, with no cards left unmatched. Jokers and the hand number are wild (3 cards, 3s are wild, 11 cards, Jacks are wild) which eases matching if you get a good hand but are heavily penalized if you cannot fit them in. The hand is over when someone “goes out,” and matches all of their cards. Each player gets one more turn to improve their score before the hand is over. Low scores win, high scores lose. We have a running joke in our house about the very highest scores we’ve ever witnessed, mostly achieved by my dear great aunt. “You’re in Aunt Dot territory!” is a common (good-natured) taunt in our games.

Five Crowns is a game most often won by adults or older children, but young children can learn the game and have fun playing as well. As in previous Game Night posts, let’s look briefly at some child-friendly approaches to the game:

  1. First and foremost, card holders! See above. I also remember hiding my cards behind furniture before we had card holders so I could spread my cards. This worked, but really slowed the game every time I ran behind the couch to check my hand!
  2. The window of time between a player going out and the end of a hand is a good opportunity for family discussion with your youngest players. Often there are a few clever rearrangements of cards to lower one’s score but seeing this takes practice. Have young children put their remaining hand on the table and let the family (or a sympathetic adult) talk through the different options for their final play.
  3. Let children keep score. The score sheet is a long list of points acquired, summing after each hand. This is great math skills practice. It is also a self-esteem boost to have a special job like Official Score Keeper. This may help young children who aren’t skilled enough to win maintain their enthusiasm for the game.

Five Crowns is available on Amazon for $10 and ships Amazon Prime. Five Crowns can be an all-ages game for the whole family, is gender-fair in packaging and contents, and reasonably priced and accessible. Fair Play gives it 5 pinwheels:

This post is the third in our Game Night series. See our previous reviews of Taboo and Scattergories, or request a review of a game.

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