This post will detail how to play both the 1994 and 2021 versions of 5 Alive. The rules between the two versions are exactly the same. The look of the cards have changed though. Most of the pictures below show both the 1994 and 2021 versions of cards.
Objective of 5 Alive
The objective of 5 Alive is to be the last player with at least one Alive card remaining face up on the table.
Setup for 5 Alive
- Give each player a set of five Alive cards of the same color.
- Return any Alive cards not given to a player to the box.
- Shuffle the rest of the cards. Deal ten cards face down to each player. Players can look at their own cards, but shouldn’t show them to the other players.
- Place the rest of the cards facedown in the center of the table to form a draw pile.
- The player that has been alive the longest, starts the game. Play will proceed clockwise to start the game.
Playing 5 Alive
On your turn you will play one of the cards from your hand to the discard pile. Depending on what card you play, you will take a corresponding action.
If you play a number card, you will add the number printed on the card to the running total. To start the round the total will start at zero.
Every number card that is played will add to the total. When playing number cards you don’t want the total to go past 21.
If you play a Wild card (every card that isn’t a number card), you will take the action corresponding to the card that you played. See the 5 Alive Cards section below to see what each Wild card does.
If the only cards in your hand are number cards that will put the running total over 21, do not play a card on your turn. You will turn over one of your Alive cards to the other side. The running total then resets to zero.
If the card you played was the last card in your hand, all of the other players must flip over one of their Alive cards. The player who played the last card from their hand becomes the dealer. They will reshuffle all of the cards (not including the Alive cards). A new round then begins.
After playing a card, play passes to the next player in turn order.
5 Alive Cards
Here is a breakdown of all of the cards in 5 Alive. If the card doesn’t specifically mention changing the current running total, the card does not affect the running total. The pictures below show the cards from both the 1994 and 2021 versions of the game. The card on the left is the 1994 version of the card. The card on the right is the 2021 version.
Number cards add to the current running total when they are played. You will add the number from the card to the current running total in order to get the new total. You cannot play a number card if it would put the total above 21.
All of the players, other than the player who played the card, have to take one card from the draw pile.
All of the players, other than the player who played the card, have to take two cards from the draw pile.
Pass Me By
The card adds zero to the running total. After playing the card, play passes to the next player in turn order.
The direction of play will reverse. If play was moving clockwise/left, it will now move counter-clockwise/right. If play was moving counter-clockwise/right, it will now move clockwise/left. When there are only two players, the card acts the same as a Pass Me By card.
The next player in turn order loses their turn. If there are only two players in the game, the player who played the card gets to immediately play another card.
Set the running total to 21. You can play the =21 card when the total is already 21.
Set the running total to 10.
Set the running total to 0.
Re-Deal/Hand In & Re-Deal
The player who played the card gathers all of the cards from all of the players’ hands. They will shuffle the cards they gathered including the cards they held in their own hand. The cards are then dealt out to the players starting with the player to the left of the player who played the card. Reset the running total to 0. Play will then continue normally. If this was the last card in the player’s hand, the round ends and the rest of the players have to turn over one of their Alive cards.
When you play this card, all of the other players must immediately play a 0 card (this does not include =0 cards or any other Wild cards). Any player that is unable to play a 0 card, has to turn over one of their Alive cards. Then reset the running total to 0.
When a player turns over their fifth Alive card, they are immediately eliminated from the game.
Winning 5 Alive
The last player remaining with at least one Alive card face up wins the game.
5 Alive Sudden Death Variant
Instead of using the normal end game criteria, you can choose to use this variant. This variant leads to a shorter game.
When the first player flips over their fifth Alive card, the game ends. The remaining players count how many of their Alive cards they haven’t flipped over. The player with the most Alive cards that haven’t been flipped over, wins the game.
If there is a tie, the tied players add up the value of the number cards left in their hand. The tied player with the lowest total wins the game.
5 Alive Team Game Variant
Normally the game is played individually. You can play with this variant if you want to play in teams.
The players divide into two teams. Team members should sit where the two teams will alternate turns.
Each team only uses one set of five Alive cards. Each player gets their own set of ten cards for their hand though.
All Wild cards are treated the same as the normal game. If a Bomb card is played, a team could lose multiple Alive cards if more than one player doesn’t have a 0 card.
When a player plays the last card from their hand, the other team loses one of their lives.
When one team flips over their last Alive card, the other team wins the game.
For my thoughts on the game check out my 5 Alive Card Game Review.
Year: 1990 | Publisher: Hasbro Gaming, International Games Inc. | Designer: Eàmon Bloomfield | Artist: NA
Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-6 | Length of Game: 20-20 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: Moderate-High
Components: 108 cards, instructions