Crabs in a Bucket is a fast-paced shedding type card game for 2-6 players that blends luck, strategy, and a cast of colorful crab characters. The goal of the game is to be the first player to play or discard their entire hand.
At the beginning of the game, players are dealt 7 cards each from the deck. The deck consists of 52 suited cards (resembling a standard deck) and 22 "Joker Crabs," which are unsuited. In the process of playing and discarding their hands, players utilize two separate discard piles, one for suited cards (referred to simply as "The Discard Pile") and another for Joker Crabs (referred to as the Joker Pile).
Suited cards may be played on the discard pile on top of other cards that match their suit or number. Once a suited card is played, a player may also discard all cards of higher value of the same suit from their hand.
Jacks, Queens, and Kings have special effects referred to as "punishments." As long as a Jack, Queen, or King is on the top of the discard pile, no Joker Crabs may be played. Additionally, if a player cannot play on them, they must draw cards at the end of their turn.
Joker Crabs, all based on real crab species, have unique effects. 21 of these cards may strategically benefit the player, by, for instance, forcing an opponent to draw from their hand or allowing them to play unique combos. One of the Joker Crabs--the Lobster--functions as a sort of barrier to victory, since it cannot be played. Players must find creative ways of discarding it without playing it.
In addition, some general rules keep gameplay streamlined. For instance, players may not exceed 10 cards in their hand at the beginning of their turn. If, for some reason, a player begins their turn with over 10 cards, they may discard down to 10 cards before initiating their turn.