Skip to Content

5 Alive Card Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play

5 Alive Card Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play

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.

Playing A Card
The first player has played a five to the discard pile. They will announce that the running total is now five.

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.

Playing A Card
The second player has played a four to the discard pile. The running total is now nine.

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.

Can't Play Card
The current total is 21. As this player only has number cards in their hand, they have no cards that they could play that would keep the total at 21 or lower. Instead of playing a card, this player will flip over one of their Alive cards.

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.

Flipping Over An Alive Card
This player was forced to flip over one of their Alive cards. They have four Alive cards remaining. The top row of cards are from the 2021 version of 5 Alive, and the bottom row is from the 1994 version of the game.

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 in 5 Alive

Number Cards

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.

Draw 1 Card 5 Alive

Draw 1

All of the players, other than the player who played the card, have to take one card from the draw pile.

Draw 2 Card 5 Alive

Draw 2

All of the players, other than the player who played the card, have to take two cards from the draw pile.

Pass Me By Card 5 Alive

Pass Me By

The card adds zero to the running total. After playing the card, play passes to the next player in turn order.

Reverse Card 5 Alive

Reverse

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.

Skip Card 5 Alive

Skip

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.

=21 Card 5 Alive

=21

Set the running total to 21. You can play the =21 card when the total is already 21.

=10 Card 5 Alive

=10

Set the running total to 10.

=0 Card in 5 Alive

=0

Set the running total to 0.

Re-Deal Card 5 Alive

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.

Bomb Card 5 Alive

Bomb

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.

Bomb Card Example
One of the players has played the Bomb card. Each player will have to play a 0 card. The player that played the 0 will avoid the punishment. The rest of the players will lose one of their Alive cards.

Elimination

When a player turns over their fifth Alive card, they are immediately eliminated from the game.

Getting Eliminated in 5 Alive
This player has lost all five of their Alive cards. They have been 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.

Components for 5 Alive

Year: 1990 | Publisher: Hasbro Gaming, International Games Inc. | Designer: Eàmon Bloomfield | Artist: NA

Genres: Card

Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-6 | Length of Game: 20-20 minutes

Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: Moderate-High

Components: 108 cards, instructions

Where to Purchase: Amazon, eBay Any purchases made through these links (including other products) help keep Geeky Hobbies running. Thank you for your support.


5 Alive Card Game Review - Geeky Hobbies

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

[…] the complete rules/instructions for how to play the game, check out our How to Play 5 Alive […]

Boom-O Card Game Review | Geeky Hobbies

Saturday 7th of March 2015

[…] plays pretty similarly to UNO. It just so happens that Boom-O is a re-implementation of the game 5 Alive which was created by the same company that created UNO. 5 Alive and Boom-O are so similar that […]

Mar

Thursday 8th of January 2015

Hi,

I am wondering if you know where I can purchase 5Alive. It hasn't been made since the 90's and I am having difficulty finding the game. Amazon has it for $25 and ebay has one for $10 on a bid with international shipping (I think). Any tips you have on where I can purchase the game would be appreciated. Thanks.

mortee50

Thursday 8th of January 2015

Thank you for the comment.

I purchased my copy of the game from a thrift store so that is not particularly helpful. As far as I know Amazon and Ebay are generally the best places to buy older games that are no longer printed. Another option would be to check out the marketplace on BoardGameGeek.com where various users of the site put up games from their own collections for sale. At this moment though there aren't any 5 Alives for sale but in the future someone may put one up for sale.

Otherwise there are probably some other smaller websites that may have the game for sale but you need to be careful and make sure they are legit and reputable businesses before purchasing from them.

css.php