Bribery – Free Strategy Card Game

A strategic Euro-style game that you can play for free – all you need is a standard deck of 52 cards!

Players: 2-4

Time:  20 minutes for basic game.  30 minutes for advanced game.

Type: Light Euro-style, card-driven strategy.  Advanced game introduces cutthroat strategy.

A Euro-style light strategy game in which you are bribing officials from different countries, in order to gain political power.  

The player who plays their bribes in the most cunning, strategic way will come out the winner.  


Different houses or countries using bribes to control the Medieval / Machiavellian world.

Bribery – a fundamental component of any form of government. In this game, you can control world powers by bribing them!


A standard deck of 52 cards, plus 2 Jokers. (3 or 4 Jokers necessary for 3 or 4 player game, respectively.)

The number of Jokers should equal the number of players.  (However, for a teams game, only 2 Jokers should be used.)  Randomly choose which Jokers to use.

Set Up:

Separate the deck into two piles:

* Collect 2-10 into one pile, called the Bribes.

* Collect face cards (J-A) and Jokers into the other pile, called the Officials.  

Shuffle each pile separately.

From the Officials pile, deal this many Officials onto the play area:

# Players    # Officials to deal

2                6

3                8

4                10

Whenever Officials are dealt or played in the play area, they are placed according to the Play Area Chart below:

Then, deal each player cards from the Bribe and Official piles, according to this pattern.  New cards should be dealt on top of old cards, to form each player’s deck, and the order is unchanged:

1. Deal each player 3 cards from the Bribes deck.

2. Deal each player 1 card from the Officials deck.

3. Repeat until all the cards have been dealt.

Each player should now have a full deck of cards.  Do not shuffle.

Each round, the players deal themselves 3 cards from their deck, into their hand.

Order of Play:

For the first round, randomly determine who will go first.

That player plays one of the cards from their hand onto the board.  There are two types of cards:

  • Officials
  • Bribes

We’ll explain how to play Official and Bribes in the next section.

After a player plays a card, they do not redraw.

Play continues clockwise.

After all players have played all of the cards from their hand, each player deals themselves 3 new cards, and whoever played last will play first the following round.


To play an Official card, simply place it in the appropriate slot in the Play Area Chart.

Each suit of Officials represents a country.  Each Joker represents it’s own small Country.


To play a Bribe card, play it in front of one of the Officials, on your side, pointed toward you, like in the picture below:

How bribes are played…
LEFT: 2-player game
RIGHT: 3-player game

However, a Bribe cannot be the same suit as the Official being bribed, or any Bribe already on the Official.  

So Officials can have a max. of 3 Bribes, except Jokers who are suit-less so it can have a max. of 4 Bribes:

(A card must always be played each turn, and if you are forced to play a Bribe but there is nowhere to legally play it, you must discard it into a discard pile.)

Bribes help you control Officials.  Officials help you control Countries.  Countries give you points, which helps you win the game.


At the end of the game, add up all the control to determine the winner.

Bribes help you control of a Official, giving you Votes.

Officials (Votes) help you control of a Country (suit), giving you Points.

Countries (Points) help you the win the game.

  • Counting Up Bribes:

To find out who controls an Official, add up all the Bribes on that Official.  Whoever has a greater total controls that Official.

LEFT (2-player game): the player who played the 5 and 3 the larger total and thus control.
RIGHT (3-player game): the player who played the 9 has the larger total and thus control.

If you have one or more Bribes on an Official and your opponent has none, you dominate that Official, and it is worth double votes:

To keep track of votes, move each Official to the player who controls it, though turn it sideways if they dominate it.

Whoever has more total Votes toward a suit controls that suit.

If an Official does not have any Bribes, or has an equal total Bribe between players, no one controls it so it does not contribute Votes:

To help you keep track of who controls each Official, give the Official card to that player.  If a player dominates an Official, then it sideways to help remember to score it double.

  • Counting Up Votes 

An Ace gives you 5 Votes towards controlling that Country (suit).

A King – 4 Votes 

A Queen – 3 Votes 

A Jack – 2 Votes

For Jokers, whoever has a greater Bribe total wins the Country outright.

Remember, if an Official is dominated, it scores double.

Remember, if there are no Bribes on an Official or there is a tie, it is not worth any Votes.

Whoever has the most Votes controls the Country (suit).

If players tie for Votes, no one controls the Country (suit).

If a player has at least one Vote in a Country and no other player has any votes, the controlling player dominates the Country, and it is worth double:

P2 (sitting on the South) controls one or more Officials of Spades (the Jack, King, and Ace), and
P1 (sitting on the North) does not control any, so
P2 dominates the Spades.

Add up each Country (suit), and give the player with the most Votes the Ace.  If that Country is dominated, turn the Ace sideways to help remember.

  • Counting up Countries (Suits):

Controlling a suit (country) gives you X points towards winning the game:

  Spades – 5 Points

  Hearts – 4 Points 

  Diamonds – 3 Points

  Clubs – 2 Points

  each Joker – 1 Point

Remember, if a Country is dominated, it is worth double Points.  

This applies to Jokers as well – if one player has Bribes on it and no other player does, it is dominated and worth double.

Remember, if a Country is tied in Votes, it is not worth any Points.

Example: At the end of the game, here is how you would calculate the score:

For P1 sitting on the North and P2 sitting on the South…

Spades: P1 has the Jack dominated (2 x 2 votes), P2 has the the Queen dominated (2 x 3votes), the King is a tie, the Ace is a tie.  

              Vote total is 4-to-6, so P2 controls Spades (5 pts toward the game).

Hearts: P1 controls the Ace, King, and Queen, and nobody controls the Jack.

So P1 dominates Hearts (2 x 4 pts = 8 pts towards the game).

Diamonds: P1 has the Ace (5 to 3, for 5 votes), P1 dominates the King (for 2 x 4 = 8 votes), P2 controls the Queen (4 – 3 for 3 votes), P2 dominates the Jack (2 x 2 = 4 votes).  

                 Vote total is 5 + 8 to 3 + 4, which equals 13-to-7.  So P1 controls Diamonds, for 3 pts toward

the game.

Clubs: P1 dominates the Jack and the Queen (2×2 + 2×3 votes), P2 dominates the King (2 x 4 = 8 votes) and

controls the Ace (5 votes).

          Vote total is 4 + 6 to 8 + 5 = 10-to-13.  So P2 controls Clubs, for 2 pts toward game.

Point total:

Spades:           5 pts for P2

Hearts: 4 x 2 = 8 pts for P1

Diamonds:      3 pts for P1

Clubs:             2 pts for P2

TOTAL:           11 to 7, so P1 wins!

Whoever has more Points wins the game!!!
If a player has one or more Points and the other player has no points, it counts as a dominating win, worth *two* regular wins.


When playing more than 2 players, each player aligns their bribe so that it is pointing toward where they are sitting.

As in 2 player, if there is a tie for an Official or a Country, neither player gets it.

2 and 3 player games both work really well!

For 4 player game, it should be 2 teams of 2 players – players A and C on Team 1, players B and D on Team 2.  Teammates sit next to each other.  Turn order is player A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D, etc.  Teammates have individual hands but combine their Bribes, Votes, and Points.  They may or may not be allowed to share or discuss their hands, depending on how you choose to play. 

A    C

B    D

Joker Abilities:

Mark your jokers #1, #2, #3, and #4 with a Sharpie marker.

Not only does controlling a Joker give you 1 point toward winning the game (2 if dominated), each Joker comes with a unique ability.

  • Joker #1: All your Bribes are worth +1.  (Double if dominated.)
  • Joker #2: Each Official you control is worth +1 vote.  (Double if dominated.)
  • Joker #3: One Country you control is worth +1 pts.  (Double if dominated.)
  • Joker #4: While you control, your Bribes are not constrained by suit placement restrictions.  (e.g. You could play 10 of Spades on the Ace of Spades.)


By suit, Spades and Hearts are the most important.  By Official rank, Ace and King are the most important.  However, between an Ace of Clubs (most important official of least important suit) and a Jack of Spades (least important official of most important suit), which would you choose?  This is where strategy comes into play.

Although large Bribes are the most powerful, small Bribes can be placed strategically to block Bribes from your opponent, or be combined to overcome larger Bribes.  

Another factor to consider: Should you attempt to dominate a more powerful Official, or spread your bribes out over many Officials and hope to win some that your opponent is neglecting?  And if your opponent completely neglects an Offical, it will be dominated, and worth double. The same goes for Countries (suits).

Remember too, whoever plays last each round plays first the next round, so if you’re holding a powerful official and you play last this round, you might want to play that card last so you’ll get the first chance to play on it next round.


Advanced Game:

The Advanced Game is a set of optional, advanced rules that introduces Advanced Abilities to each Official.  These make the game very cutthroat and ruthless, but also a lot of fun!  What could be more fun than assassinating the other Officials?

Suit / House (Tarot Symbol)  = Advanced Ability (Class) 

  Clubs (Daggers)                 = Assassinate (Assassin)

  Diamonds (Coins)              = Swindle (Merchant)

  Hearts (Sword & Shield)    = Protect (Soldier)

  Spades (Cup & Cross)       = Bless (Clergy)

On your turn, before playing a Bribe or Official, you may play an Advanced Ability.

In order to play their Advanced Ability:

  • You must choose one of the Officials you currently control.
  • You must ‘spend’ one of your Bribes on that Official (by placing it in the discard pile).

The Advanced Ability for the Official can target any other Official on the board with the same rank, i.e. Jacks can only target other Jacks, Queens target Queens, Kings target Kings, and Aces target Aces.

The Advanced Ability depends on the Suit (Country / House):

  • Clubs – Assassinate (Assassins):

Use this ability to assassinate the target Official.  Assassinated Officials are turned face-down, are worth zero votes, can no longer trigger Advanced Abilities, and all their bribes are discarded.

  • Diamonds – Swindle (Merchants):

Use this ability to move any bribe from the target Official to any other Official on the board (where it could be legally played).

  • Hearts – Protect (Soldiers):

Use this ability to cancel any other ability that was just played, as an interrupt.  (Like a Counterspell.)

  • Spades – Bless (Clergy):

Use this ability to move the ‘spent’ bribe onto a target official.

Advanced Game Strategy:

For Advanced Abilities, the least-powerful suits have the most-powerful abilities.  The most aggressive ability is Assassination (Clubs), followed by the Merchant Thief ability (Diamonds), though these can both be countered by Soldiers (Hearts).  The Spades, though worth the most points, is the House whose Officials tend to get Assassinated first.  Use the abilities strategically to win. 


If you enjoyed this game, or have any questions or ideas, hit me up.

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