My wife, Jessica, and I created our first card game, Tunnels, while on holiday in Quebec city. I had always been interested in using cards as topography and this game realises that interest. Two players lay out a grid of cards between them. The goal is to be the first to make a tunnel by removing cards from the tableau.


Use the entire deck of 52 cards.


Two can play Tunnels. Dealer is determined by drawing the lowest card. Aces are high.

The Tableau

Dealer shuffles and deals 42 cards face up arranged in 6 rows and 7 columns. This is the Tableau. Ten cards remain; each player receives one card in the subsequent five rounds of play. The first round starts with the dealer giving one card to each player.

The Goal

The aim is to be the first to dig a tunnel through the cards laid out on the table (the Tableau). The tunnel must run from the edge facing one player to the edge facing the other player. Players gain points for digging the tunnel as well as for the cards they take along the way.

Player Options – Matching

The players dig their tunnels by removing cards from the tableau. They do this by matching a card in the hand with an AVAILABLE EXPOSED card.

Matching cards have: 

  • an equal face value OR
  • a face value of less than one OR
  • a face value of greater than one

For example, a 3 can match to a 2, 3, or 4. Card values wrap around so that, for example, a King matches the following: Queen, King, Ace. An Ace would match King, Ace, Two and so on.

Available exposed cards are those cards closest to the player that are unblocked by any other card. At the beginning of the game, only six cards are available to each player. As cards are removed, more cards become available. Exposed cards are any card that can be reached by any tunnel starting from the player’s first row. These are the cards directly in front of the removed card or at one diagonal left or right of the removed card.

Player Options – Swapping

Instead of matching, players may choose to swap a card. This means taking a card in the hand and switching it with an available EXPOSED card.

Starting the Game

The dealer plays first, either matching or swapping a card. At the outset of the game, he only has an option to match or swap a card in the first row facing him. Players alternate turns until a tunnel is dug.

Player’s Hand

Players start with one card in the hand. As they match cards, they may keep up to three cards in the hand and must discard all others. They may choose which card to discard upon matching a new one. The discarded cards remain out of play until the end of the game. Any of the three cards in the hand can be used for matching or swapping in subsequent turns.

Building a Tunnel

Each player matches or swaps cards trying to be the first to tunnel through the playing field. A tunnel consists of empty card positions that join the player’s row to the opposite player’s row. A tunnel consists only of cards directly in front of or to the side of card positions. A tunnel cannot move diagonally through the playing field although it can zigzag its way through.

When a player creates a tunnel, she immediately scores three points. The cards remaining in the tableau are shifted to the dealer’s right to collapse the tunnel and create a solid playing field again.

The dealer deals one new card to each player. The player who created the tunnel plays first either matching or swapping as before. The geography of the tableau will have changed considerably from the original setup and subsequent tunnels may be easier to dig.

If neither player can match or swap cards then they place their cards in the discard pile and get one new card each from the dealer.

A hand consists of five rounds. Once all five rounds are completed – either by building tunnels or by discarding unplayable cards, then points are counted.


To avoid matching a card that would create an opportunity for the opponent, a player may choose to swap a card instead. To avoid a stalemate, a player may only swap three times in a row. If he has the opportunity to match at that point, then he must match and remove a card. If he has no option to match then he may continue to swap.


Creating a tunnel scores 3 points and the points are recorded immediately. After playing five rounds, players score points for their discard piles as follows:

  • Aces – 1 point
  • 10 of diamonds – 2 points 
  • 2 of spades – 1 point 
  • Seven or more spades – 1 point

If neither player reaches 21 points then the dealer changes and a new hand is played.

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~ Richard