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Understanding the Rules of Playing Skip-Bo Card Game

Skip-Bo is a fun family card game from Mattel, ideally suited for 2 to 6 players. In any card game, once the rules are understood properly, players start enjoying the game better. So grab a pack of Skip-Bo cards, and refer to this simplified version of rules and instructions provided by Plentifun.
Plentifun Staff
Did You Know?
Olivia Halsey won a Skip-Bo tournament in July 2014, and was awarded the title of Grand Champion. The tournament was attended by various dignitaries from Mattel, and was also broadcast by ESPN3 to select viewers in central Iowa.
This card game is all about stacks. It may sound a bit confusing in the beginning, but is actually very simple once you get the hang of it. So basically, there are 3 packs of cards each, which include 48 regular numbered playing cards (no Queens, Jacks, or Kings) from 1 to 12, and 18 wild Skip-Bo cards, making a total of 162. The game consists mainly of four types of stacks: Stock stack, Draw stack, Build stack, and Discard stack. The Stock stack is the stack of cards dealt to each player separately, whereas, the Draw stack is common to all players, and is placed at the center. The other two kinds of stacks form as the game progresses. The game can be played either individually or in teams.
Skip-Bo Card Game
Game Objective
The players in the game look forward to discarding all the cards in their stock stack as quickly as possible. The first player to do so wins the game.
Setting Up Skip-Bo
Choose a large space to play this game; a big, round table or the floor would also work. A larger space is needed because each player has to maintain a lot of card stacks, and would require ample space to spread them out.
  • To decide a dealer, each player should pick up a card from the deck. The player with the card having the highest value deals the cards, face-down.
  • Each player should be dealt 30 cards in case of a maximum of 4 players. If the number of players is greater than 4, then 20 cards should be dealt to each participant.
  • After distributing the said number of cards, the dealer places the remainder in the center, which would then be used further as a drawing stack.
  • Now, every player turns the top card of their respective stock stack, face-up.
Understanding Different Kinds of Stacks
  1. Stock Stack: Each player is dealt with a stock stack of 30/20 cards at the beginning of the game. This stack is positioned on the right of each player, face-down, with the top card of the stack always face-up.
  2. Draw Stack: Draw stacks are used in a lot of games, including Mattel's Uno. The stack is common to all the players, and is placed in the center. When a player is out of suitable cards, he borrows some from the Draw Stack.
  3. Build Stack: While in the game, a total of four of these stacks can be started, using either a '1' card or a 'Skip-Bo Wild' card. As the game proceeds, each of these stacks is built up in a numerical sequence,1 through 12 (very similar to Solitaire). As the stacks complete 12 cards, they are discarded, and a new stack is started in their respective places.
  4. Discard Stack: A Discard Stack is like a personal space belonging to each player. Players can build up to four of such piles positioned to the left of their Stock Stack. They can add any number of cards to the pile, but can only play the top card.
Playing the Game
The person to the left of the dealer starts.
  • Draw 5 cards from the Draw Stack.
  • If you have a 'Skip-Bo' card or a '1' card either on top of your Stock Stack or in your hand, use it to start a Build Stack in the center.
  • You can continue adding to the Build Stack as long as you wish. Once the 5 cards in your hand are over, draw 5 more cards from the Draw Stack.
  • If you can't or just don't wish to play more, end your turn by discarding a card from your hand onto one of your Discard Stacks.
  • On your second and succeeding turns, first draw enough cards to complete the total of 5 cards in your hand. You could then continue adding up to the building pile by playing either the top card from your stock pile, discard pile, or from your hand.
  • If you do not possess a card to complete the numerical sequence, you could also use a Skip-Bo Wild card if you possess one.
  • It's important to understand that the player who finishes his Stock Stack first wins, and hence, one should focus on playing most cards from that stack.
  • If the Draw Stack is exhausted, the cards from the completed Build Stacks are shuffled and reused to make up a new Draw Stack.
Playing in Teams
Even when it is a team game, partners get separate Stock Stacks. During your turn, your partner must keep quiet; but you can ask him/her to make a play. In case of any violation, the guilty player must take two cards face-down from the Draw Stack, and place it in their Stock Stack without looking at them. Winning in team play occurs when both partners' Stock Stacks are exhausted.
Short Game
In Skip-Bo, a quick game is also possible, only with a slight variation. The difference here is dealing 10 cards instead of 30. All other rules remain the same.
If you want to enjoy this fun game, you just need a pack of Skip-Bo cards and keen interest in playing card games. When playing the game in a series fashion, you could also keep a quick score. In each round, the player who finishes first gets 5 points per card for the cards left in the opponent's Stock Stack, plus 25 points for winning. The first player to score a total of 500 points wins the game. Now that you know how to play Skip-Bo, enjoy this exciting card game with family and friends.