Since I initially heard the rules second-hand, and over time have had several slightly different rule-sets proposed, I thought I might write them down for the benefit of newer players. Feel free to suggest your own variations in the comments.
Note: in all versions of Bastard either one or two packs of cards can be used. It is recommended that two packs are used for any game with 4+ players. If two packs are used players must decide which 3 of Spades will start the game (so it is an advantage to play with dissimilar packs).
Right Bastard (or Classic Bastard):
- Bastard consists of rounds, games and sets. You play rounds in a game of bastard, and you have sets of games.
- All cards (sans Jokers, unless you are playing with the Funny Bastard rules, see below) are dealt to the players. The player with the 3 of Spades starts the first round of the game. They must play the 3 of Spades as their first action. If they have the 3 of Spades and another 3, or multiple 3s, of any suit they can play that as well. If multiples of the same card value are played subsequent players must also play multiples during that round (so you have rounds of singles, doubles, triple, etc, determined by the first cards played).
- Cards are played clockwise.
- You must put down a higher card than the last card played in the round. If the last card played was a 3 you must put down a 4 or higher. If the last card played was a Jack, you must put down a Queen or higher, and so on.
- The highest card played wins the round. 2 is always the highest card and 3 is the lowest. Players are not obliged to play their highest card, and pull out of a round at any time by saying "pass". Once you have passed in a round you cannot play any cards until the next round begins. Theoretically you can win a round simply by playing a 3 if all other players subsequently pass.
- The player who wins the round then gets to start the next round.
- The first player to play all their cards is dubbed 'The President'. The last player left with cards to play has lost the game and is therefore 'The Bastard'. Players continue playing on the last cards played by the players who have gone out (i.e. it is not necessary to start a new round when a player goes out - unless all players pass, or the last played card is a 2). The game is only finished when only one player remains with cards, at which point The Bastard can be announced.
- When playing with 4 or more players you can also have the positions of 'Vice-President' and 'Vice-Bastard'. It is generally recommended that 2 packs are used when these positions are in play.
- Once the cards are dealt, the Bastard and the President engage in Patronage - the Bastard must give the President their highest card, and the President must give the Bastard their lowest card. If the President has multiple 3s (i.e. more 3s than are required to give patronage) including the 3 of Spades then they are not obliged to give up the 3 of Spades.
- Where Vice-President/Vice-Bastard positions are in play the Bastard must give up their two highest cards and the President their two lowest; The VP and VB must do the same with just one card each.
- Once Patronage is over and all players are ready the first round of the set can begin, as per the rules above.
- Players may decide how many games will constitute a set, or just continue playing games until exhausted.
- Swearing inventively at opposing players either to distract them or after they beat you in a round/game is encouraged.
Rule variations to Bastard:
- Run - where 3 (or more) cards are put down in sequence (i.e. 7, 8, 9 or double Jack, double Queen, double King), then any player can call 'run'. Subsequent cards played in that round must be sequential.
- Keep the Bastard Happy - after the first round the Bastard always starts the game by playing the first hand (i.e. the 3 of spades is no longer significant). In general this makes it easier for the Bastard to change position.
- Kick a Man When He's Down - the President can give the Bastard any card they like during patronage- they are not compelled to give their lowest card (but they are still restricted in the number of cards they give).
- Veto (proposed by Paul Litterick) - Playing an 8 (or multiple 8s) ends the round. The 8 must be played as part of the normal sequence (i.e. you can't play it after a 9).
- Funny Bastard - A single Joker is added to the pack which acts as a wildcard. Because the value of the card is not assigned until it has been played, the Joker is not part of the Bastard's patronage to the President. As a wildcard the Joker can be played as a 2, but cannot beat a 2.
- Total Bastard - Games are scored to determine an overall winner for the Set. Each game played as President counts as 2-points, Vice-President 1 point, Vice-Bastard -1-points, Bastard -2 points.