Hearts is a trick-taking card game played with four players and 52 cards. All players receive 13 cards at the beginning of each round. At the beginning of some rounds, there is a passing period. Each player gets a chance to pass three cards to one of their opponents. The passing rounds are on a cycle, where in the first round, cards are passed to the left, then to the right, then across. Every fourth round there is no passing and players must play with the hand they already have.
After passing has occurred, the player with the Two of Clubs plays their card first. Then, players take turns putting down one card from their hand in a round robin fashion. These four cards, one from each player, constitute a “trick”. The first card put down for a trick establishes the leading suit, and following players must play a matching card from the same suit if they have one. Once all four cards are played, the player who put down the highest ranked card from the leading suit takes the trick, and begins the next one. The round continues until all of the cards have been played, at which point the score is counted.
All thirteen Hearts are considered special cards in this game. They are each worth one point when tallying the final score. You cannot lead a trick with a Heart unless someone has already played a Heart earlier in the round. The act of playing a Heart for the first time is called “breaking hearts”. You are not allowed to break hearts on the first turn unless all you have are Hearts. The Queen of Spades is also a special card as it is worth 13 points. Just like any Heart, you cannot play the Queen of Spades on the first turn.
The object of the game is to achieve the lowest score possible. At the end of each round, you receive one point for each Heart that you have taken, and 13 points for the Queen of Spades. Rounds continue until at least one player reaches a score of 100 points. At this point, the game is over and the player with the lowest score wins.
If in a given round you take all thirteen Hearts, and the Queen of Spades, you Shoot the Moon. This means that instead of receiving 26 points, the maximum, you get zero points for that round, while all your opponents receive 26 points!
An exception to this is if adding the points would cause the game to end without the shooting player as the winner. In this case, that player would then subtract 26 points from their score instead of adding it to their opponents.