Flexdeck Card Games

How to Play the Bali Card Game Using the Flexdeck

Martin Willett

Single player solitaire: 1 Flexdeck

2, 3 or 4 players: 2 Flexdecks

History and Overview

An excellent word card game was introduced in 1954 called “Bali.” Between 1954 and 1980 several different printings from several game companies were sold, but unfortunately this splendid game has been out of print since then. It’s surprising that such a worthwhile game has been out of print for 3 decades; your best bet for obtaining an original Bali game is from a garage sale or finding it used online.

However, you can enjoy this great game using a Flexdeck! Bali may be played as a solitaire game, or with 2, 3 or 4 players. A very satisfying Bali adaptation may be played solitaire with 1 Flexdeck, and 2 combined Flexdecks are used for 2, 3 or 4 players. Or with additional Flexdecks the exact original Bali game can be mapped into the Flexdeck universe.

The Bali game was printed as two identical decks with contrasting back colors, simplifying the combination and separation of the decks for solitaire vs. multiplayer use. Consonants and the wild card (the “Bali” card) have point values. The point values and the letter distribution, as compared with the Flexdeck letter distribution, is shown.


Letter distribution between the Bali deck and Flexdeck is similar enough that a satisfying game will result using 1 Flexdeck (including 1 wild card) for solitaire and 2 Flexdecks (with 2 wild cards)  for 2, 3 or 4 player games. 

However, mapping the precise Bali letter distribution is possible if enough Flexdecks are available. The solitaire version would require adding one each of  E, G, I, P, and R from a second deck, and removing one each of H, S, T and X. Creating a precise double deck for 2, 3 or 4 players would require 4 decks, due to the relative Flexdeck scarcity of G, P and R.

Again, precise mapping is not really necessary for a satisfying adaptation; you could also use the extra non-joker Flexdeck card as an E if you wish.

Looking up and adding the consonant point values could become a bit tedious during scorekeeping, but if you want the exact Bali experience, you likely would learn all the point values quickly.

The other adaptation from the original: with the Flexdeck, the letter indices are printed in the lower left-hand corner of the card, so instead of building down the word column as in Bali, for clarity you would build upward in the word column using Flexdeck cards.


These are the rules as printed in the 1972 edition:

BALI: The Best Word Game Under the Sun 

Bali is a competitive card word game completely different from any other word game. It is a word-building game and words of great length can be built. The longer they are the higher they score! 

Each Bali deck has 54 cards. 

Each deck has the following number of letters: 

(letter distribution in chart above)

*A Bali card is a wild card. It may be used for any letter but each Bali card must remain the letter it is declared throughout that game. 

HOW TO PLAY BALI The two-, three-, and four-handed Bali games are based on the solitaire game; read the solitaire rules to learn how the game is played. 


(played with one deck) 

The object of the game is to build words of three or more letters and if possible, to use every single card, playing through the deck once. If, at the end of a game, all cards have been used in completed words, the game is Balied and your score is tripled. (Many players have objected to this rule; some ignore it, others allow a doubled score bonus.) On games that end with some words incompleted, the score is based on completed words. All dictionary words are allowed except proper nouns, contractions, abbreviations, slang, and apostrophized, hyphenated, or foreign words. Variations such as plurals, participles, and comparative endings are allowed. 

TO PLAY: Shuffle the deck and deal the top 7 cards, face up, in a horizontal row on the table. This is the panel and it must never have more than 7 columns. Build words by moving the panel cards to make words or parts of words, say, as follows:

An opening is made each time a panel card is moved, also when a word is removed. (Completed words can be removed whenever desired, but must not be referred to afterwards to see what letters are gone.) Fill each opening with the top card from the deck. A deck card may not be exposed until there is an opening to fill. Once started a column may not be broken, though it can be moved as a unit. 


A game may end before all the deck cards have been turned. This occurs when an opening cannot be made on the panel because no usable combination of the columns or letters is possible and there are no complete words to remove.


Numbers on the consonants show their value. (Point values can be found in the chart above.) 

To score a word add the card numbers and multiply by the number of cards. Thus, ROB is worth 9 points—R and B add up to 3 and there are three cards in the word. PROBE would be worth 20 points, THROB, 25 MICROBES, 56 PROBLEMATICAL, 130. 

Add all word scores to get your final score. Unused cards are not deducted from the score. Bali solitaire carries the endless challenge of trying to beat one’s own best score. 


(played with two decks combined) 

Read Solitaire Rules First. All three games follow the solitaire pattern. Two decks are combined and shuffled and separate panels are dealt to each player. Players take turns and play only on their own panels, but they may use other players’ single cards, parts of words, or even whole words! Words are built, removed, and scored as in Solitaire, highest scorer winning. Panels are 7 cards in two-handed games, 5 cards in 3-handed, and 4 cards in four-handed. 


1. Player who cuts card nearest A deals the starting panels and goes first. Play passes to the left. Deal opponents’ panels first, from left on around. 

2. A player may build on only one of his columns at his turn, but may play any number of cards to that column. 3. You can only capture letters or columns to build down on a letter or word combination in your own panel.

4. When the same letter is available on different panels, a player may choose whichever he pleases. The strategy, of course, is to keep opponents from getting the letters they need (and to capture, if possible, the high value letters that turn up in other panels).

5. A player may use single letters or parts of words from any or all panels, as long as he plays to just one column in his panel. After a turn dealer fills all openings, from the deck, beginning with the panel at the left. 

6. Removing a word counts as a turn in itself and is not forced, unless no other play is possible. (Score words as they are removed.) If a player cannot play, he must forfeit one of his uncompleted columns by shuffling it into the deck. The choice of which column must be forfeited is made by the player whose turn follows. 

7. A player who builds a combination of letters which apparently doesn’t exist in a word may be challenged. If the challenged player has no real word in mind, he loses his turn, and the cards are returned to their original position. If the challenger is wrong, he loses his turn. 

8. When the last deck card is turned up, play continues as before except that no play may be made that does not result in a completed word. Players who cannot complete a word and have no reason to remove one simply let the others take their final turns.

9. A player who Balies his panel (ends the game with all cards used in completed words ) triples his final score. He gets credit for the Bali, even though an opponent makes the play that clears his panel. If more than one player Balies, each or every Balled player triples his score.* (Note: Balies can occur only after the whole deck has been dealt.) 


Four-handed Bali may be played as a partnership between players who sit opposite. Partners take turns as a team and play as a team, deciding together what they wish to do. They may build on only one column at any turn, but it can be in either panel. A team may plan to hold words on one of their panels to insure a Bali. When one of a team’s panels is Balled, the partnership score is tripled. When both are Balled (a double Bali ) the partner-ship score is tripled twice.* 

*See Solitaire Bali, first paragraph. 


  1. Those who might enjoy the gameplay but not the scoring aspect can simply play through and attempt to use all their cards in valid words. 
  2. Instead of using the Bali point values, players could agree on simple bonuses based on length of word (1 additional point for 3- and 4-letter words, 3 for 5- or 6- letter words, 5 for 7 or more, etc.).

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