• Angela Cumming

How to Play Cambio

The moment we've all been waiting for: Cambio! Cambio is the game that inspired the site name and one of the reasons I decided to start this blog in the first place. I learned how to play it in Utila, Honduras (check out the picture of the island below!) and it seemed like every backpacker had played it somewhere along their travels. We played every spare moment we had: on rainy days, after dives, and whenever else we could, and taught everyone we knew how to play as well! I hope you love this game as much as I do.

Number of Players

3 or more (maximum of about 6)


-one deck of normal playing cards, Jokers are optional

Objective of the Game

The aim of the game is to get the lowest possible score by exchanging your cards.


Choose if you want to players with Jokers or not. Deal 4 cards to each player, face down, in a 2x2 matrix (see picture below), one card per player at a time. The remainder of the cards are placed face down in the middle of the table as a draw pile with the top card flipped up.

Each player can take a peek at any two of the cards in their matrix, but they must keep them a secret and return them back to the face down position right away.


The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They can pick from the draw pile or the face-up discard pile.

When they pick a card, they have two options:

-Exchange the card with a card in their matrix and place the discarded card face-up for the next player. This should help lower your overall score.

-Don't exchange it and play it face-up on the draw pile. If the card is a Special Card then they follow the instructions (see Special Cards below) for that card.

Play continues in a circle until someone calls Cambio (see Winning below).

Special cards are only activated if they come from the draw pile. They do not apply if they are exchanged from someone's matrix.

Burning: If a card is played on the discard pile, you can flip one of your (or someone else's) matrix cards on top of it. This helps lower your score because it eliminates one card from your matrix! If the card was someone else's then you can give them a card from your matrix, without showing them it. If you flip a card and it doesn't match the face up card then you add a new card, face down, to your matrix. Only one player can burn per discard so be quick!

You CANNOT move the cards in your matrix around throughout the game. They must stay in the same place so others can keep track of your cards.

Special Cards:

7 & 8 / Mate: Look at a friend's card.

10 & 9 / Mine: Look at one of your own cards.

Jack / Blind Swap: Switch two cards on the table without looking at either card.

Queen / Half-Blind Swap: Switch two cards on the table, but you can look at one of them before you swap.

Black King / Swap: Switch two cards on the table and you can look at both of them before you swap.

For all special cards: You must return the cards to their face down position without showing anyone else the cards. For swaps, the cards swapped do not have to be from your own matrix or the ones you peeked at, and you can decide if you want to continue with the swap after seeing the card(s) for Queens and Kings.


6 of Hearts: -3

Jokers (If you're playing with them): -2

Red Kings: -1

Aces: 1

All other cards hold their face value (Jacks are 11 and Queens are 12).


When you think you have the lowest score in the group, call "Cambio" instead of taking your turn. Your cards are now locked and no one can switch them out. Everyone else has one turn

to try and get an even lower score. You are the winner if you have the lowest score!


-It helps to remember where certain cards are going so you have a rough idea of each person's score or you know where cards you want to take are hidden!

-Pay attention to the game so you can quickly burn one of your cards or someone else's!

-You can work together once someone calls Cambio (but no table talk!) to try and make one player's score lower than the others.

Have you ever played Cambio? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments!


© 2020 by Cambio & Co. Created by Angela Cumming. 

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