If you’re a Knights of the Old Republic fan, then you know exactly what Pazaak is and how to play it (and you also know how to quick save). But have you ever tried playing with a real deck in real life?
You don’t have to be a gamer to play Pazaak. Just like Sabacc, this Blackjack-like Star Wars game has real life rules, cards, and stakes that you can share with your family and friends. And there’s nothing that Star Wars fans love more than spreading the love of their favorite franchise around.
But maybe you’re not a gamer. Maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard this strange word “Pazaak.”
If so, you’re in the right place. By the end of this article, you will be an expert on the game. With practice, you’ll be able to give even seasoned KOTOR players a run for their money.
What Is Pazaak?
Before we begin teaching you how to play Pazaak, we need to explain what it is and where it originates in the Star Wars universe.
Pazaak first appeared in Star Wars lore in the 2003 Knights of the Old Republic video game, and then again in Knights of the Old Republic II in 2004. It’s a minigame that the character – and by extension, the player – plays in the different cantinas they visit during their adventures.
The gameplay is similar to blackjack in real life, in much the same way that Sabacc is similar to poker. However, in Pazaak there can only be two players at a time, while blackjack allows up to 7 players.
There are a couple different ways to play the game in real life. You can play by Republic Senate rules where you don’t bet or win anything, except bragging rights. The name of this version is an in-universe dig at the Republic Senate which, typical of real-life bureaucratic government bodies, never takes any risks and never gets anything accomplished.
In another non-gambling version of Pazaak called Nar Shaddaa rules, the loser of each match sheds articles of clothing. Presumably, the player wearing the most clothes at the end of the game was also the winner.
The Republic Senate and Nar Shaddaa rules were played merely to pass the time, have some fun, or improve the players’ strategic skills. They were also sometimes used for practical purposes. In the Knights of the Old Republic II, a force sensitive man named Atton Rand would think about playing Pazaak in his mind to prevent other force users from reading his private thoughts.
However, it is also perfectly acceptable to bet in Pazaak to make the game more exciting. You can gamble with replicas of Star Wars credits from our online shop, poker chips, real money, candy, or any other kind of tender you and your fellow players agree upon. We just recommend you keep it light and fun!
How Do You Play Pazaak?
The goal of Pazaak is simple: Be the first player in this two-player card game to reach a score of 20, or as close to 20 as you can get without going over. The way you gather points is by adding up the values of the cards you play onto the table from your hand next to the cards you draw from the main deck.
To start your journey to becoming a Pazaak master, first you need two decks of cards.
There are two decks of cards in Pazaak: the main deck and the side deck.
The main deck contains four sets of 10 cards. The side deck contains just 10 special cards.
Each player must have a side deck, and they get to choose which 10 cards will be in it. In Star Wars, the characters would collect, buy, and trade these cards throughout their travels. You can do this in real life with your friends, family members, and fellow Pazaak enthusiasts online.
It’s important to note, however, that each player only gets to use four of the cards, chosen at random, from their side deck during the game.
There are no other components to the game besides the decks. Pazaak is all about the cards.
The Main Deck
The cards in the main deck are green and number 1-10 in value. They belong to the cantina, or the house, or whoever is hosting the game.
The Side Deck
There are several special types of cards in the side deck that help a player win the game.
First, you have blue plus cards, which are worth anywhere from 1-6 points in value. These cards add points to your total hand. The red minus cards, on the other hand, subtract points from your hand. Their values range from negative 1-6.
Plus or minus cards are a separate category in Pazaak. They can either add or subtract points, depending on how you decide to use them. They also range from 1-6 in values.
Within this same category is the plus or minus 1 or 2 Card. The value of this card changes between 1 and 2, depending on the preference of the player.
Flip cards can be crucial to winning or losing a game of Pazaak. There are two types: 2&4 and 3&6. When played, they turn all the 2s and 4s on the table into -2s and -4s. Or, in the case of the 3&6 flip card, they turn all the 3s and 6s into negative values. Simultaneously, if there are any cards worth -2 and -4, or -3 and -6, those values become positive.
The double card is rare, but it helps you increase your score much quicker. It doubles the value of the last card that was flipped over from the main deck. For example, if the last card drawn and laid face up from the main deck was a 6, you could play a double card and turn the 6 into a 12.
The tiebreaker card can help you come out on top of a tied round. This is important because when a round becomes tied, it becomes null and void. Nobody wins. The tiebreaker card is worth a plus or minus 1, but if you play it during a tiebreaker, you will secure your victory.
After reading through the description of the side deck cards, you can understand why a Pazaak player would want to curate their own side deck carefully. The cards they choose could mean the difference between winning or losing.
Here’s how the game of Pazaak works:
Step 1: Choosing Four Random Cards From The Side Deck
The first step in Pazaak is to choose 10 side cards to form your side deck. These can be any cards from your collection.
Next, you must shuffle them together and draw only 4. This will be your hand for the duration of the game.
Step 2: Start The Round
To start the first round, you must first draw a card from the main deck and lay it face up on the table in front of you.
Next you must decide whether you want to lay one of your four cards next to it or end your turn. You cannot replace the cards in your hand until the game is over, and there are three rounds in each game. Furthermore, you are only allowed to lay down one card per turn. So be careful about which cards you play and when.
The goal of laying down one of your cards is to get the total value of the cards on the table as close to 20 as possible. For example, if you turn over a 5 from the main deck and you have a positive 10 in your hand, you may want to lay it down to increase your score to 15. On the other hand, you may want to save your hand, and wait and see what main deck card turns up on your next turn.
You can’t just lay your cards down however you want, either. Pazaak works on a grid of nine spaces in a 3 by 3 layout. You must lay down each card starting from left to right at the top of the grid.
Step 3: End Your Turn
Once you decide either to put one of your cards face up next to the main deck card you drew, or to do nothing, you can end your turn. At this point, it is the next player’s turn. They will go through the exact same process: turn a main deck card over, decide whether to play one of the cards from the four in their hand, perform the action, and end their turn.
Step 4: Winning The Round
The act of drawing a card from the main deck and laying down your own card can technically keep going until you fill all nine spaces on the table. In this case, if your score is 20 or under, then you win the game. But in most cases, you or the other player will probably stand before you can lay down that many cards.
When one of you stands, that means that you believe you have the closest value to 20 you can get without going over. If you reach 20 exactly, then you automatically stand.
At this point, the other player can continue to play until they a) stand, c) tie with you, or d) get a score higher than 20.
If you tie with one another, unless one of you has a tiebreaker card in your hand, no one wins, and you must restart the round.
When the other player stands, if their score is less than yours, then you win. If it’s more, but still under 20, then they are the victor.
If either one of the players gets a score higher than 20, this is called busting. This player loses the game, and the other person wins by default.
Step 5: Winning The Game
To complete a game of Pazaak, you must play until one of the players has won three full rounds. A round where you both tied for the same score does not count as a full round.
A game of Pazaak may go on for several rounds, or only three. The duration depends on the luck of the draw, as well as the skill of the players.
That’s why even without betting, Pazaak is fun to play. You never know what’s going to happen!
I’m Ready To Play Pazaak! Where Can I Get A Deck?
Now that you’re excited about Pazaak (who wouldn’t be?), it’s time for you to get your own deck.
Fortunately for you, we sell a 126-card deck in our shop. It’s designed to look and be played exactly like the game in Knights of the Old Republic. For example, the cards’ scratched metal appearance gives them an authentic, “I’ve been all across the galaxy” vibe. It also contains all the side deck cards you and your opponent will ever need, so you don’t have to collect your own (unless you want to).
You’ll truly impress your opponents with our Pazaak deck.