1. The objective of Hearts is to get as few hearts as possible. Each heart gives one penalty point. There is also one special card, the Queen of spades, which gives 13 penalty points. When the game starts, you select 3 cards to pass to one of your opponents. Typically, you want to pass your three worst cards to get rid of them. Which opponent you pass to varies. You start by passing to the opponent on your left, then in the next game you pass to the opponent on your right, third game you pass across the table and in the fourth game there is no card passing.
2. Each turn starts with one player playing a single card, also called leading. The suit of that card determines the suit of the trick. The other players then play one card each. If they have a card in the same suit as the first card then they must play that. If they don't then they can play one of their other cards. Once four cards have been played, the player who played the highest ranking card in the original suit takes the trick, e.g. he takes the four cards on the table and he then starts the next turn. Any penalty cards in the trick (hearts or queen of spades) are added to the players penalty score. So you want to avoid taking any tricks that have hearts or the queen of spades. The player who has the two of clubs at the start of the game leads in the first hand, and he MUST lead with the two of clubs.
3. You cannot lead a trick with hearts, until hearts has been broken (played on another suit). So if it is your turn to lead and no heart has been played yet then you may not select a heart as the card to play first. In some variations of the game you can't play the queen of spades until hearts has been broken as well, but in this version you can always play the queen of spades and she doesn't break hearts.
4. In the very first round you may never play a heart or the queen of spades, not even if you don't have any card in the suit of the lead card. Once all cards have been played the penalty points are counted and the player with the fewest points wins that hand. When one or more players reach 100 points or more then the entire game is finished, and the player with the least points win. If points are over 100 and there are two or more equal with the least points then play continues until there's only one winner.
5. Shooting the Moon! Generally it's bad to get penalty cards, but there is one extra twist! If you get ALL the penalty cards (13 hearts + Queen of spades) then you get 0 points and the other 3 players get 26 points each! This is called Shooting the Moon. Trying this can be a really risky move though, since if another player gets just one of the hearts you'll end up with a lot of points.
The user is given thirteen random playing cards, and selects any three of them to pass. For the first hand, cards are passed to the left; for the second, to the right; for the third, across; and for the fourth, the passing stage is skipped entirely, and the players keep (or "eat") their cards. On the fifth hand, the cycle starts again, passing to the left. In any case, after passing three cards, the players receive three cards, and play begins.
The game progresses by tricks. Each player plays one card to a trick, which is won by the player of the highest card of the suit led. There is no trump (card game) suit.
The aim is to avoid gaining points, which are incurred by winning a trick including point cards, which are any Hearts and the Queen of Spades. Any Hearts taken incur 1 point each, and the Queen of Spades incurs 13 points.
For each hand, the player with the Two of Clubs leads first, and they must play that card. Subsequent leads are by the winner of the last trick. For tricks after the first, any card can be led, except that a Heart cannot be led until Hearts have been "broken". Hearts are broken with the first Heart played in the hand, which can be done in only two situations:
Players must follow the suit led if able to (with any card of their choice in that suit) - otherwise they may play any card, except that a point card cannot be played to the first trick in each hand. (Interestingly, the rules as stated leave one highly improbable situation unresolved: if, after the cards were dealt and passed, one player had all thirteen Hearts as their hand, or twelve Hearts and the Queen of Spades, they would be unable to play legally at all to begin with, since point cards cannot be played to the first trick.)
The concept of revoking - that is, failing to follow suit when able - does not exist in the computer version of Hearts: whereas in real-life card play there is a penalty for any revoke that is discovered to have taken place, in the computer version the computer simply does not permit you to revoke, and prompts you to follow suit.
Any players who took point cards incur the appropriate points for those, which are added to their previous score. But any player who succeeds in taking all point cards (worth 26 points) has successfully "shot the moon", and they incur no points, while the other players incur 26 points each.
After each hand, a scoreboard shows the current and previous scores of all four players, with the current leader's (or leaders') score written in blue. Each of the players has in front of them all of the point cards accumulated during the preceding trick, for easy identification of who got how many points (and a quick check to see if a player shot the moon). The game ends when one player reaches 100 or more points, and the winner is the player with the lowest score. A tie is possible if two or more players have the equal lowest score, and if the human player is one of them, the computer credits him or her as the winner. When the game ends, the score of the winning player(s) is shown in red. A new game then begins.