"In a Pickle" contains 320 cards, each displaying a noun. To start the game, each player is dealt five cards, and four cards are placed face up in the shape of a "plus" sign in the center of the table. On his turn, a player may take a card from his hand and place it under or on top of one of the four piles in the center of the table. If the player places his card on top of the pile, the object represented by the noun on his card must be larger than the card it is placed over (for example, "oven" may be placed on top of "pie."). If he places his card beneath the pile, the object on his card must fit inside the object it is placed under (for example, "person" may be placed beneath "car"). A card may not be placed between two cards, as it must be placed either on top of the entire pile or underneath the entire pile. After placing a card on top of or underneath a pile, the player then draws a card from the stack of unused cards to replenish his hand. The rule book encourages players to be creative when placing cards; one possible creative play is to place "universe" beneath "dictionary", as the word "universe" can be found in a dictionary. If a player cannot or chooses not to play a card, he may exchange up to three cards from his hand for the same number of cards from the pile of unused cards before ending his turn.
Once the fourth card is placed in any of the four stacks, a "pickle round" begins. Starting with the player to the left of the player who placed the fourth card and going clockwise, each player gets one chance to play a card on top of the stack in question. Cards may not be played beneath this stack, and cards may not be played on or under any stack other than the stack with four cards. The player who has played the last card on the stack once the pickle round ends "wins" the stack and places it next to himself. Once a player wins a certain number of stacks, he wins the game. The number of stacks required to win the game is as follows:
|Number of Players||Number of Stacks to Win|
|2 players||5 stacks|
|3 or 4 players||4 stacks|
|5 or 6 players||3 stacks|
After the pickle round ends, a card is drawn from the stack of unused cards to start a new stack, ensuring that there are always four playable stacks. The player to the left of the player who started the pickle round takes the next turn to resume normal play.
Alternate game playEdit
Under normal rules, each card played is only required to relate to the card that it touches. However, when playing with alternate rules, which are recommended when playing with only two players, each card must relate to all the cards in the stack. As an example, normal rules would allow the sequence Lawyer-Pickle-Jar, because a lawyer could be in a pickle (in a manner of speaking) and a pickle can fit in a jar, but the alternate rules would not allow this because a lawyer cannot fit in a jar.