Cribbage Board And Cards

How To Play Cribbage Without A Board (And Still Have Fun!)

Many wonder if cribbage can be played without having a cribbage board. After all, there’s not always one available!

Although it may be harder without a board present, there are a lot of people that haven’t bothered buying a cribbage board – or are perfectly fine not using one when it’s not available. Even as someone who plays cribbage regularly, I don’t always opt for the board if I’m away from home.

So, in this article I’ll be showing you several ways to play cribbage without a board, so you can choose the idea you like best!

Can Cribbage Be Played Without A Board?

Cribbage Board And Cards

Absolutely – in fact, playing without a board is common if you only have a set of cards available.

Some people feel that you are not actually playing cribbage if you do not use a board and that you are just playing cards. They believe that the board is an integral part of the game.

However, when it comes down to it, a cribbage board is just a way to visualize the score. It ultimately has no real impact on the actual game itself!

How To Play Cribbage Without A Board

There are a few different ways you can play the game with pen and paper.

Beginners may find it harder to play this way, due to the fact that it takes a little more concentration and effort to keep track of points. However, the game itself is exactly the same – the first person to reach 121 points or more wins!

So, let’s look over some various ways you can still keep score, even without a board to help you visualize it.

Example 1

On the top of the page, you can write 121 just as a reminder of the score you are playing to.

On a piece of paper, draw 2 columns and put your name and your opponent’s name in a column.

You can treat each pegging round and hand count as a long math equation. Say you pegged 2 points, you would write that down. The next time you peg or count your hand, you would write that number below. During the pegging round, write each score down below the previous one.

When that round is complete, add them together. The next time you would score, you would write it below the previous total and add those two numbers together.

For example:

  • 2 pegging points in the first part of the pegging round, then 1 pegging point before the pegging round ends. This results in 3 pegging points together.
  • 5 points in scoring round, when you count your hand.
  • 8 is the new total.

Then, you’d continue simply adding up points each round until 121 is reached. This must be done for both players. When playing this way with pen and paper, I like to underline after each round this enables you to see the “peg” count each time. And know when a round has ended.

Adding for pegging points could take up a lot of space, so be sure to give yourself ample room in your columns.

Example 2

You can “make” a board. This method involves more prep time before you start the game. You can draw a makeshift board, be creative and have fun!. If you are playing with younger people, they may have more fun with the game if it is turned into a fun art project as well.

Take a piece of paper and put the 121 dots on it in any desired pattern. To make it easier to “peg”, put dividing lines between every 5 dots. You can also highlight the area where the skunk (90 mark line) and double skunk (60 mark) lines are.

When it is your turn to peg, you can mark out the dot for your score count with a highlighter or simply “X” it out on the paper with a pen or pencil. Having different colored pens or highlighters may make it easier to see who is playing in which column.

If you would like to use the “board” you made multiple times, you can use something small to cover the dots while scoring. Perhaps by making your board larger, you can use a coin or button to place over the dot, maybe even a game piece from another game.

You can also make a board by using a cardboard box or just a piece of cardboard. You can create your two rows of dots like you would for the suggestion above and then use push pins or paper clips as your pegs, and push it into the corresponding cardboard dot.

Example 3

You can also take a piece of lined paper and use the tally system to keep score. Make two columns, one for you and one for your opponent.

When using the tally system, it is best to not exceed 10 tally marks per line. This makes it easier to keep count and to see where the other player is in the game. It also makes it easier to see where the “Skunk” and “Double Skunk” lines would be.

One downfall to playing this way is that you can’t keep track of how many points you gained per each round of play.

However, you wouldn’t normally be able to see this on a normal cribbage board anyway, so it may not be a problem!


Now that you have learned how to play cribbage without a board, you need to decide which choice is right for you.

Thankfully, there are several different ways you can play with just a pen and paper!

If you are feeling creative, have fun and make a project out of it. Children love it! The more engaged they are in the creation of the board, the more excited they will be to play. This is great exercise for their brains! The math and recognition skills are great for building cognitive skills. They will think they are just having fun and you will be happy knowing that they are actually learning!

Finally, regardless of who you’re playing with, remember to have fun!

– James And Amara

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