The object of the game is to be the first player to place all their tiles on the table.
The game includes 106 tiles: 104 colored number tiles, plus 2 jokers. Each tile displays a number ranging from 1 to 13, in four colors: black, blue, yellow and red. All tiles appear twice, except for the jokers.
To begin playing, all tiles appear face-down on the table. Each player receives 14 random tiles, which are placed on the player's rack, while the remaining tiles form the tile pool.
The game now begins, starting with the "Initial Meld" move (explained below).
Tiles must be placed on the table in sets of either "Groups" or "Runs":
Groups include at least 3 tiles of the same number – each one in a different color.
Runs include at least 3 tiles with consecutive numbers in the same color.
Please note: The number 1 can only be used as the lowest number in a run, and cannot follow the number 13.
A joker may be used to replace any specific tile.
In order to begin placing tiles on the table, each player must first achieve the Initial Meld: sets (Groups or Runs) with a total sum value of at least 30 points. The points are calculated by adding up the numbers on all the tiles used in the Initial Meld. If a joker is used, it receives the value of the tile that it is substituting. Manipulations are not allowed during the initial meld!
Players who have achieved the Initial Meld may – in subsequent turns – use tiles from their rack to create new sets, build upon existing sets on the table, or completely rearrange (manipulate) existing sets on the table – providing all sets created are valid at the end of the turn and no unused tiles remain.
If a player cannot or does not wish to place tiles on the table during a certain turn, the player is required to take a random tile from the tile pool. Each turn ends when the player has finished placing new tiles on the table (press the v button to approve) and/or manipulating existing sets – or alternatively if the player takes a tile from the pool.
A time limit per turn may be set, if players so desire – for example, a time limit of 15, 30 or 60 seconds per turn. If a player does not complete their move within the time limit, the player must return all tiles to their previous position and take a penalty of three tiles from the pool. (The default is no time limit).
If the game has not yet been won but all tiles in the pool have been used, each player has just one more turn. The game will then end and each player adds up the value of their remaining tiles on their rack. The player with the lowest score wins.
Manipulation is the most exciting part of the game, as players try to place as many tiles as possible on the table by rearranging or adding to existing sets.
And again: Manipulations are not allowed during the initial meld!
Following are examples of manipulations.
Important: At the end of each turn, all sets on the table must be intact, with no unused single tiles remaining. The computer will signal if any of the sets or tiles have been placed incorrectly.
1. Adding tiles to an existing set
2. Removing a fourth tile from a set and using it for a new set
3. Adding a fourth tile to a set and then removing a different tile from the set to create a new set
4. Splitting a run and adding a tile, to create two new sets
5. A combined split
6. Multiple splits
Using a Joker
• All rules apply to both jokers, regardless of color (red or black).
• Either joker can be used to complete any set.
• Two jokers CAN be used in a single set.
• A joker on the table may be replaced with a suitable tile from the table or from the player's rack, and the player may then use the joker in another set.
• However, a player can only retrieve a joker from an existing set on the table after completing the initial meld.
• In the case of a group of three identical numbers, the joker can represent either of the missing colors (as there are four colors in the game).
• Once a player retrieves a joker, it must be used it in the same turn.
• Sets containing jokers may be split and manipulated like regular sets.
• Although each tile appears twice in the game (with the same number and color), a joker can be used to represent the same tile a 3rd time.
• If a joker remains on a player's rack at the end of the game, its penalty value is 30 points.
At the end of each game, scoring will be calculated as follows:
The winner receives the score equivalent to the sum total of all tiles remaining on the other players' racks.
Each losing player receives minus the sum value of all tiles remaining on their own rack.
The beginning of each Rummikub game may seem slow, but as the table builds up with sets, more and more manipulations are possible.
In the early stages of the game it may be a good idea to keep some tiles on your rack, so that the other players "open up" the table and provide more manipulation opportunities for you.
If you have a set of 4 tiles, it is sometimes useful to only place 3 of the tiles on the table, keeping the 4th tile to be used during your next turn – instead of having to draw a tile from the pool.
Keeping a joker on the rack for a number of turns may also be a good strategy – but you will risk receiving 30 penalty points if another player finishes the game before you.