Kemps-5, or Five Person Kemps


Kemps (or Twa, Kent, Squares, and many other names) is an excellent team-based card game that I used to play with my friends back in high school. The full rule set can be found here, but the gist is that you try to form a 4 of a kind, then get your partner to say "Kemps" by using some predetermined signal before an opposing team calls "Unkemps" on you.

Now, the obvious problem is that you need an even number of players to play Kemps... until now!

One night, well after we had all finished college, my old friends from high school and I reunited for a game of Kemps. Then a fifth man showed up. You would think our fun was over at that point - but we were college graduates now. My friend Rich had an ingenious idea: what if we each had 2 partners?

Putting our finely-tuned college educations to work, we spent the next couple of minutes ironing out a series of rules to make this work. The fruits of our efforts turned out to be the most intense, brilliant, and strategic card game anyone ever invented or possibly could invent.

That's right: Kemps-5 is the best card game in the known AND unknown Universe.


Kemps-5 is based on Kemps, so most of the standard Kemps rules apply. The following discussion assumes that you have a basic knowledge of standard Kemps (you can find a discussion of the rules here).

Your goal is still to form a 4 of a kind, then get your partner to say "Kemps" without the opposing team calling "Unkemps" on you. The difference in Kemps-5 is that you have 2 partners, so either one can call Kemps. If your partner correctly calls Kemps when you have 4 of a kind, both you and that partner will receive a point - your other partner will receive nothing. (This game really only makes sense when you play multiple games and keep score - see the "Scoring" section).

Here's a diagram of the Kemps-5 player arrangement, from a given player's perspective. Note that this arrangement is slightly asymmetric: each of your partners has a second partner (both of whom are your enemies). Either of your partners (and only they) can call Kemps on you, and either of your enemies (and only they) can call Unkemps on you.

Signaling is done similar to standard Kemps, but squared. Each player will need 2 signals, one for each partner. Though, strictly speaking, complicated signals aren't required to make the game fun. When we came up with the game, we didn't bother developing signals, so everyone's signal was basically to say "say it!" and hope their partner was on his toes.


Scoring is done on an individual basis, unlike standard Kemps, where each team usually shares a common score. Each player starts off with a score of 0. Each point is usually a letter in the word "KEMPS", though this is not necessary. Scores can go negative. The first player to reach "KEMPS" (5 points) wins. Since you need the help of your partner to get points, there needs to be incentive for your partner to allow you to reach "KEMPS" (otherwise he could simply not call Kemps, preventing you from winning) - see "Profit Sharing".

Profit Sharing

Since each player needs his partner to call Kemps for him in order to get points, there must be some incentive for a partner to allow you to win (note that since scores are individual, you may reach "KEMPS" while your partners each have a lower score). Enter profit sharing.

Each time you call Kemps on one of your partners, you gain a "profit sharing" point with that partner, and that partner gains a "profit sharing" point with you. When a player reaches "KEMPS", the game ends, and the winnings* are divided amongst him and his partners in the following fashion:

The player who reached "KEMPS" receives 50% of the winnings.

The remaining winnings are divided amongst his partners according to their profit sharing score with the winner. So, for example, if partner Alice has a profit sharing score of 8, while partner Bob has a profit sharing score of 2, the remaining winnings will be split with an 8:2 ratio. Alice receives 8/10 of 50%, or 40%, and Bob receives 2/10 of 50%, or 10%.

It is possible for 2 people to reach "KEMPS" simultaneously: if you and your partner have "KEMP" and you call Kemps on your partner, or vice versa. If this happens, each player receives 50% of the winnings - neither of their other partners participates in profit sharing.

* winnings can be actual money ante'd before the game started, or imaginary pride points determining overall ranking.


Every strategy available in standard Kemps applies to Kemps-5: fake signaling, card counting, card feeding, etc. With the addition of profit sharing, new strategies come into play in Kemps-5.


"It delves into the deepest of human emotions." - Dan Weakley

"I can't even keep track of bets in poker. I would get my ass thoroughly handed to me in this game." - Ken Kehl


The following yokels are the ones responsible for the original set of rules.