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Sequence rules: How to play the popular board game

Learn the ins and outs of playing Sequence Classic. 
Sequence Board Game

Whether you’re the host of an ongoing game night or simply looking to jazz up your next gathering with loved ones, Sequence is an excellent board game to add to your repertoire.  

Vlad Susanu, a professional gaming journalist and founder of Game Clubz calls it a game of cunning strategy, a touch of luck, and the satisfaction of building rows of gleaming chips across the board. Expanding on Susanu’s sentiment, Lucas Wyland, a founder of game analytics platform Steambase, states that Sequence is an unpredictable and exciting game because it combines the elements of skill and luck. “It encourages players to think strategically and develop teamwork and is suitable for various age groups,” he says.

It’s also just plain fun. As Susanu points out, Sequence is a gateway to hours of friendly competition that transcends age and skill level. “Invented in the early 1980s, Sequence has become a household name in the board game world,” he says, noting that you really don’t need a ton of materials to play: All you need is the game board featuring squares corresponding to standard playing cards (though Jacks are not featured on the board), two decks of cards, and poker chips (or any markers) for each player.

Keep reading to learn more about the rules of this popular board game.

What is Sequence?

Invented by Douglas Reuter, the game debuted in 1981 and was originally titled Sequence Five. Now, Sequence is a popular board game played all over the world. Designed for 2–12 players and for ages 7 and older, no match is ever the same.

As you may have gathered, Sequence is an easy-to-play game suitable for many types of people. “Sequence is a tabletop party game requiring an abstract strategy,” comments Wyland. “It combines a card game and a board game, where players/teams try to create a sequence of five markers in a row on a board with cards.”

The main goal is to complete two sequences of five chips in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally before your opponents can do so, elaborates Susanu. “Think ahead as you play each turn, keeping in mind how to block your opponents’ attempts to finish their own sequences of five,” he adds.

Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or a group looking for a fun night in, Sequence offers a challenge that’s both accessible and engaging. And you don’t need to brace yourself for a Settlers of Catan length experience. Per Susanu, games typically last between 30–60 minutes.

What do you need to play Sequence?

Here's exactly what you need to play Sequence:

  • A Sequence game board
  • Two standard 52-card decks (104 cards in total, you can also include jokers)
  • 135 poker chips (50 green, 50 blue, and 35 red) 

Depending on how many players are joining the game, you may want to break into teams. “If there are more than three players, you divide them evenly into two or three teams,” says Wyland. 

How to play Sequence 

When you buy the Sequence board game, game instructions are included. If you’ve lost them or need a refresher, Susanu and Wyland explain the basic guidelines of playing Sequence below.

Unfold the board. Thoroughly shuffle together the two decks of cards to create the main draw pile, set up the game by dividing the players into teams and giving each player or team a colored chips set (divide the chips equally among the players on a team)and cards (for two players, each player gets seen cards; for three-to-four players, each player gets six cards; for six players, each player gets five cards; for eight-to-nine players, each player gets four cards; for 10 or 12 players, each player gets three cards).

If you’re playing in teams, alternate physical positions with opponents so each time will draw consistently.

Place the remaining cards face down in the center of the table to form the draw pile that players will draw from on their turns. This central draw pile should be easily accessible to all players.

The player to the left of the dealer goes first, and turns continue in a clockwise pattern. When it’s your turn, draw the top card off the draw pile and flip it face up for all players to see. Take a look at the revealed card and find the matching square on the game board. Once you’ve located it, take one of your colored chips and place it on that currently vacant square on the board. Discard the card, face-up, in the discard pile. 

The game continues clockwise. You draw a new card from the draw pile at the end of your turn. Continue in this fashion until your team completes a five-chip sequence.

The first player (or team) to complete two sequences of five chips in a row successfully, whether vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, wins the game of Sequence.  

A note about special cards

Like many of the best games, some fun rules for “special” cards apply. 

“If you draw a two-eyed Jack, you can use its wild card ability to place it on any vacant square to help complete your own sequences,” says Susanu. “One-eyed Jacks allow you to remove one of your opponent’s chips already on the board unless it completes their five-chip sequence.”

Tips for Sequence players

It’s not just luck involved in winning a game of Sequence. Your approach to the game matters, too. “Plan your moves strategically and utilize the cards wisely,” says Wyland, noting that every game presents the opportunity for a new challenge. 

To hone your strategy, Susanu recommends surveying the whole board, not just single moves. “Watch closely how placements may lead to later success, as others watch you,” he shares. That said, “relax and enjoy,” says Susanu. “Sequence brings more smiles than frowns.”