He grew up playing it in Jordan with his family, mainly on New Year’s Eve. At one point, he and his siblings were able to beat their parents.
The game can have many players, and it requires a standard deck of cards without Kings, Queens, and Jokers. Aces are worth 1 in this game.
After the players decide who the dealer is, the dealer gives each person 4 cards. After that, the dealer puts 4 cards face-up in the middle of where they’re sitting. The person who got a card first goes first, and it goes in order of who got their cards until the dealer goes and the cycle repeats.
During a turn, the player puts down a card on the middle area. If there is another card with the same number, they take it along with their card and put it in a pile near them. If there are multiple cards whose numbers add up to the number of the player’s card, they take those cards along with their card and put it in their pile. (If the middle has cards with numbers 2, 3, 4, and 6, and a player places down a 6, they can take their card back along with the 6, 4, and 2.)
If a player places down a Jack, they take everything in the middle and put it in their pile. If a player places down a number card that takes everything in the middle, they get a Basra; they have to stick the cards they took, along with their card, face-up and sideways in their pile. (An example of a triple Basra is if a player places down a 9 when the middle has numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9).
When the players run out of cards in their hand, the dealer passes out 4 more cards to each player in the same order as the first time. If there are not enough cards left in the deck, the group will decide what to do. When there are not enough cards left to deal, the player who last took from the middle gets the extra cards in the middle and dealing deck.
At the end of the game, each player counts the number of cards in their piles, and whoever has the most cards gets 3 points. Next, they count the number of Aces and Jacks, getting 1 point for each. If a player has the 2 of Clubs, they get 2 points. If a player has the 10 of Diamonds, they get 3 points. For any card that is part of a Basra (sideways in the pile and face-up), you add the card’s value to your points. Whoever has the most points at the end wins.
(I added the parenteticals to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)
I remember playing this game many times with my family–my brother loves Basra. It’s a fun strategy game, since you have to be wary of which cards to leave in the middle (you do not want another player to get a Basra). Because the length of the game is proportional to the size of the card deck, and inversely proportional to the number of players, individual games of Basra can be very brief. Although the game does not bring the family together for long periods of time like Sebah ou Nus (Seven and a Half), it can do so during a lull in the day.
For other variations, see https://www.pagat.com/fishing/basra.html