How to Play Phase 10

phase 10

Ashley Hatch / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

Phase 10 is a card game by the makers of UNO and is similar to the popular rummy card game, but instead of going for points, players must complete goals or "phases" to win the game. The first player to complete all 10 phases is the winner.

The 10 Phases of the Game

A phase has one or more goals that include collecting certain number of cards in a set, a run, or a color. Once a player achieves a phase within a hand, they can aim for the next phase in their next hand. Players can only achieve one phase per hand.

  • A set is two or more cards with the same number, even if the cards have the same color.
  • A run is a series of numbered cards that are in order such as 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7, 8, 9.
  • A color is two or more cards within the same color group, such as all yellow cards or all red cards. A specific number can be played multiple times so long as it is within the same color, so two yellow sevens count as two yellow cards.

The phases of the game must be completed in order. If a player does not achieve a phase in a hand, they must repeat that phase in the next hand. The 10 phases are:

  1. 2 sets of 3
  2. 1 set of 3 and 1 run of 4
  3. 1 set of 4 and 1 run of 4
  4. 1 run of 7
  5. 1 run of 8
  6. 1 run of 9
  7. 2 sets of 4
  8. 7 cards of the same color
  9. 1 set of 5 and 1 set of 2
  10. 1 set of 5 and 1 set of 3

How to Set Up a Game of Phase 10

The first task is to decide who will begin as the dealer. There are no official rules for determining the dealer, but common house rules include drawing cards with the high card player becoming the dealer or letting the youngest player at the table have the first 'turn,' which would mean the player to their right would be the dealer.

The dealer deals 10 cards face down to each player. After all players have 10 cards, the dealer lays one card face up. This card becomes the first in the 'discard' pile. The rest of the cards are laid face down next to the discard pile. These cards are the 'draw' pile.

How to Play Phase 10

  • Play starts with the player to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise until a player discards their last card.
  • A player may choose to either (1) pick up the top card on the discard pile or (2) draw a card from the draw pile.
  • A player who has collected all of the cards needed to complete the entire phase may lay down the phase on their turn. The entire phase must be played at once, so if the player is on the 1st phase, they must play 2 sets of 3 cards at once. Players cannot lay down a partial phase.
  • When a player lays down their phase, they may also "play" on the phase. They cannot play on a phase laid down by another player on the same turn they played their phase.
  • Playing on a phase means playing a card that is valid for that phase. In a set of cards, this means playing a card of the same number as the set. For runs of ordered numbers, this means playing a card whose value is either one below the lowest number in the run or one higher than the highest numbered card. A card can also be played on a colored set so long as it is of the same color.
  • After a player lays down their phase, they can play on phases completed by other players in subsequent turns.
  • A player must always end their turn by placing a card from their hand face up on top of the discard pile. If this is the last card in their hand, the round is over.

Special Cards

  • The Wild Card
    In standard Phase 10 rules, the wild card can be played as any card to help complete a phase. However, at least one 'natural' card, meaning a non-wild card, must be played in the phase. Multiple wild cards can be played on one phase so long as there is a natural card. Wild Cards can also be played on existing phases, and because they can be anything, it is generally easy to get rid of them this way. A wild card cannot be "replaced" with the card it represents. Once played, a wild card remains played.
  • The Skip Card
    When a Skip card is discarded, the next player skips their turn and play continues to the person to that player's left. A Skip card does not need to be played immediately and can be held for a more strategic time. If a Skip card is the first card dealt face up in the discard pile, the player who would have had the first turn is skipped and the next person plays their turn.

After the Round...

When a player discards their last card, the round ends. If no players have completed phase 10, the round is scored and the cards are then shuffled and dealt out to start a new round.

The winner of the round scores zero. Every other player receives a score based on the cards left in their hand. A card numbered 1-9 counts for 5 points, cards numbered 10-12 count for 10 points, the Skip card counts for 15 points and a Wild card counts for 25 points.

All players who completed a phase in the round move on to the next phase. Players who did not complete a phase must repeat that phase in the new round.

Winning Phase 10

A player wins when they complete phase 10 and a player runs out of cards by discarding the last card in their hand. A player does not win "immediately" upon completing phase 10 and may still play as normal until the end of the round.

If two or more players complete phase 10 on the same round, the player with the lowest score wins.

If two or more players complete phase 10 and have the same score, a tie-breaker round is played. The tie-breaker round uses the phase 10 goal of one set of 5 and one set of 3. The first player to lay this phase down immediately wins the tie-breaker.

Variations of Phase 10

Because you are guaranteed at least 10 rounds, and often many more, a game of Phase 10 can take a while to play. A few variations are suggested that can help out when crunched for time.

  • All players advance a phase each round and the winner is determined by the player with the lowest score rather than the player who completes phase 10.
  • Play Phase 5 or Phase 8 instead of Phase 10. Instead of playing all 10 phases, decide how many phases to play and end the game at that point.
  • Play only even-numbered or odd-numbered phases.
  • Pick-a-phase style. Instead of completing the phases in order, players can complete any phase on any round, but they can only complete a phase once. The first player to complete all 10 phases wins. This variation allows players to go for certain phases based on the cards in their hand.