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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy is a solo game for the decktet by Mike Richey, in the genre of the commercial game Friday by Friedemann Friese. The following is my own interpretation of the rules.


Use the classic decktet, including all extended deck cards. (If you want to use the Capitol decktet, the actual rank and suits of the important named cards are included below.) You will also need six suit chips of each color (36 total).

  1. Separate the decktet into five piles: Aces, Personalities, Events, Locations, and the Excuse (representing the Tinker). Most decktets are marked in some way to distinguish between Personalities, Events, and Locations, or you can consult a list of the types, e.g., in this PDF under the heading Summary of Cards by Interpretive Type. Some cards have more than one type; the Market (the 6 of leaves and knots) should go into the Events pile, and the Origin (the 2 of waves and leaves) and the End (the Crown of waves) should go into the Locations pile.

  2. Move the following cards from the Personalities pile to the Excuse pile: the Soldier (the 5 of wyrms and knots), the Sailor (the 4 of waves and leaves), and the Diplomat (the 8 of moons and suns, representing the Spy). The Excuse pile is your deck.

  3. Shuffle all piles.

  4. Place the piles face-down in three rows, thus: put your deck (the Excuse pile) and the suit chips near you. (Your discard pile will also go into this row.) Put the Ace pile in a second row further away from you. Make a third row of the Personalities and Events. Set the Locations aside until Round 2. You will also need space for a trash pile.

Round 1

In round 1, your goal is to “recruit” cards from the third row into your deck, by purchasing them with cards from your deck and, probably, suit chips.

On each turn, you will reveal the top card of both the Personalities and the Events piles. Choose one of these two cards to attempt to purchase (the “challenger”), and put the other one into the trash. (If the Personalities and Events piles are empty, go on to Round 2.)

The Fight

Next, draw a “free” card from the top of your deck and put it in the second row next to the Aces pile. (This step is mandatory.)

Your free card may already be enough to purchase the challenger (see Payment Instructions below), in which case continue on to the clean-up phase (see below).

If your free card does not yet purchase the challenger, then you may continue the fight by placing a suit chip of your choice (it need not match anything) into the second row along with the next card off your deck. (Even if the suit chip matches the challenger and is enough to purchase it, you must still draw the associated card from your deck and place it in the second row.)

You may repeat the suit-chip-draw process as many times as you wish (as long as you still have suit chips). You may give up on the fight at any time, in which case you proceed to the clean-up phase.

Whenever you exhaust your deck and need to shuffle, take the top card from the Aces pile and add it to your deck. (You can still shuffle after the Aces have been exhausted.)

Clean-up Phase

If you purchased the challenger, place the challenger into your discard pile. If you gave up on the fight, put the challenger in the trash.

Put any suit chips you used in the trash. Put all deck cards you used into your discard pile.

Payment Instructions

You pay for a third-row card according to its rank with deck cards of matching suit and, optionally, suit chips of matching suit. Cards cost their rank and pay out their rank. A suit chip is worth 1. For payment purposes, the Excuse is of rank 0, Aces are of rank 1, Pawns are of rank 10, Courts are of rank 11, and Crowns are of rank 12.

For cards with multiple suits, only a single suit need match the third-row card to count as payment. You do not need to pay at least one of each suit as you would in some other decktet games: you can pay for an entire multisuited card with only one of its suits, or with any mixture of its suits. You may, and frequently will, overpay for a card.

There is no increased paying power when multiple suits on a deck card match the third-row card, and it does not matter which of the matching suits you count.

In the example in the rules, the player overpays (10) for the Merchant (the 9 of leaves and knots), using the Savage (the 3 of leaves and wyrms), one suit chip of knots, the Author (the 2 of moons and knots), one suit chip of leaves, and the Painter (the 3 of suns and knots), for a total of 4 leaves and 6 knots (the Savage’s 3 leaves plus one leaf suit chip, plus one knot suit chip, the Authors 2 knots, and the Painter’s 3 knots).

Round 2

In round 2, your goal is to “defeat” all the Location cards, by purchasing them the same way you purchased Personalities and Events in round 1.

Move the Locations pile to the third row.

Flip over the first card, and proceed with the purchase process. You cannot give up on the fight; you must purchase this card.

Clean-up: Locations are trashed after purchase; they do not go into your discard pile or deck. Suit chips are trashed and deck cards are discarded as usual. Be careful not to accidentally discard the location card out of habit.

Flip over the next location card and repeat the purchase process. You may not skip any locations; you must purchase them all.

Game End

The game cannot end during Round 1, only during Round 2. If at any point you cannot defeat a location (because you have run out of suit chips to purchase it), you lose the game. If you defeat all locations, you win the game.