Here comes the mid-autumn festival, here it comes, it’s almost there… and now it’s gone.
The only thing that reminds us about yesterday’s celebration is our kitty-lantern and stomach pain after eating all the mooncakes we bought and got from our friend and husband’s co-workers. My stomach was so full I looked like another big mooncake. 4 taiwanese green/red bean, 3 cantonese-style with lotus paste and some weird but tasty jelly-looking thing.
Since it’s over we come back to our daily life and small daily entertainment. I just love playing any kind of games. Video games, card games, board games – I’m always in. But did you know it can help you to learn some basic stuff?
Today I want to introduce you to some fun Chinese card games we play with our family or friends, some of them beside giving you the joy of playing (ok, let’s be real – winning) can teach you some useful signs.
Animal chess 鬥獸棋
My first experience with ‘animal fight game’ was an app on the phone, recently we bought ‘original one’. It was so cheap and low quality that actually they show hamster being equal with a rat. Still gives us a lot of fun.
Basic rules of animal chess
- Each player has eight pieces, different animals, with different degrees of power. Rat = 1, cat = 2, dog = 3, wolf = 4, leopard = 5, tiger = 6, lion = 7, elephant = 8. Sometimes rank of dog/wolf and leopard/tiger might be mixed but we use rule ‘from biggest to smallest’.
- To win the game, one player must successfully move any animal into the Den of the opponent which is behind 3 traps.
- An animal is captured by an opposing animal moving onto its square. But the attacking animal must be of equal or higher power than the one being captured, unless it’s a rat – it’s the only animal that can ‘kill’ and elephant beside other elephant. Rat is the only animal that can swim in the water, blocking other animals from jumping thru the water, but it cannot attack an elephan from the river. The only animals that can jump thru the river, but as I said before they cannot jump if they are blocked by the rat.
- All pieces have the same basic move, although some have special powers. The basic move is just one space either forward, backward, left or right.
- You need to remember that any animal in the trap loses it’s power and can be killed by any other animal.
What animal chess can teach you? Simply names of the animals 🙂
My number one game recently. Of course since it’s only two of us who can play we play ‘broken table mahjong‘. Soon I might get a proper mahjong set and ask our landlord’s family to play with us. Two Cantonese families playing probably most common game shown in HK movies. Once you get used to the rules and freaking scoring it’s really fun to play. For a beginner I would recommend printing out the rule so you know you’re husband doesn’t make up the rules. Yes hubby, shame on you!
Basic mahjong rules
- The hand must contain 14 tiles and be composed of four sets and a pair with the exception of special limit hands. ‘Usual’ set is 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 cards.
- Figures used are dots, bams, cracks, winds and dragons (or ‘middle, fortune and white board’ as the cheater-husband says
- From figures above you can make a various combination. List of the combinations and scoring is really long that’s why I will just give you links to few sites instead of writing every single combination and points it gives here.
- http://mahjong.wikidot.com/rules:chinese-classical-scoring – probably the most clear and easy to remember
- http://www.sloperama.com/mjfaq/mjfaq10.html – another simple-style FAQ about mahjong
What mahjong can teach you? How numbers from 1 to 9 look like, same with world’s directions. After few rounds you will be so into winning that you will remember any combination with any wind or any other special set. I got so into winning I keep throwing away if my husband wins. Let’s say… shit gets serious, haha.
Monopoly deal – Hong Kong edition
Of course it’s not a typical Chinese game but last year in Hong Kong we went to those tiny toy-shops in some shopping malls (avoid ToysRUs – they charge 70 HKD for UNO, when small shops sell it for 10-20 HKD. Plus you’re supporting local bisness!) with a pack of travel-scrabble and UNO. It’s probably one of the most fun games I’ve played. And because it’s both in English and Chinese we can play with a whole family.
Basic rules of Monopoly deal:
- You start with 5 cards in your hand, taking 2 cards everytime is your move. You can have maximum 3 moves (giving away the card, putting card down, using special card etc.) and maximum 7 cards in your hand by the end of the turn.
- Your goal is to put 3 stacks down – sometimes if it’s just the two of us we play until 5 or 6 stacks. You can put a house or house + hotel, you can collect utilities, bus stations. You have also some wild cards giving you a choice of where you want to add it.
- Action cards are rent, double the rent, forced swap, stealing your single card, birthday, ‘go’ where you take 2 more cards, ‘just say no’ – to any action your opponent is making and magic ‘deal breaker’ where someone can steal your whole stack. And your mother in law always has both of the deal breakers. I sometimes think she’s producing them under the table.
Why you should get it? It will teach you names of Hong Kong’s districts, streets, you will know how signs for hotel looks like. It will also help you a little bit in geography of HK – by the names and colors you will be able to match places to some areas. It really helped me a lot! Beside… who doesn’t want to be a millionaire and own Victoria Peak? 🙂
Chinese poker and ‘the turtle’
Chinese poker is actually the first game my husband’s family taught me. You can have so many different rules. Cantonese rule, taiwanese rule, my family’s rule. You can play with or without joker, 2, 3 or 4 people. It’s up to you. I will introduce you to my family’s rule but also share links to cantonese and taiwanese version also known as ‘Big 2 鋤大D’.
Basic rules of ‘our’ chinese poker:
- Play with jokers, colorful joker can beat any single card.
- As in every joker you can have pairs, three same cards, fullhouse. Four same cards + any single card creat a bomb that can defeat everything, no matter how many cards you put. Other kind of bomb is any cards (at least 5 of them, but can be more) in a row having the same colors, for exmple: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 of hearts. That kind of bomb is bigger than 4 of a kind bomb.
- Beside moves above you have single cards not connected to each other, pairs in a row, cards in a row but with different colors.
- Your tast is to put down and get rid of every card in your hand. You can either beat an opponent’s card or let him put down his cards until you can put something. You can also always hide with your bomb till the end. It’s all up to you.
Rules of Big 2:
- There are four types of legal play: single cards, pairs, triples and five card groups. For single card 3 is the smallest one, 2 is the biggest – that’s why the name is ‘big 2’, it can beat any single card, but you need to be aware of it’s color. Since I don’t know proper names of most of them I will use my own, hope you can understand! ‘Kicked square’ is the smallest one, ‘3 black balls on the stick’ is second, hearts are 2nd big one and black-kicked-ass-heart is the biggest one. I should really study their real names.
- A pair of equal ranked cards – twos are highest and threes are lowest. Any higher ranked pair beats one with lower ranks. Between equal ranked pairs, the one containing the highest suit is better. Three equal ranked cards – three twos are highest, then aces, kings, etc. down to three threes, which is the lowest triple.
- A straight consists of five cards of consecutive rank with mixed suits. A straight with higher ranks beats a lower one, irrespective of the suits of the cards. When the ranks are the same, the suit of the top card determines which is higher.
- A flush consists of any five cards of the same suit. A flush in a higher suit beats a flush in a lower suit, irrespective of the ranks of the cards. Between two flushes in the same suit, the one with the higher top card is better.
- Full house consists of three cards of one rank and two of another rank; between two full houses, the one whose triple is of higher rank is better
- Four of a kind are made up of all four cards of one rank, plus any fifth card. The fifth card must be included – four equal cards by themselves are not a playable combination. Between two fours of a kind, the rank of the four cards determines which is higher.
- Straight Flush consists of five consecutive cards of the same suit, twos ranking below threes and aces ranking high or low, as in straights. The rank of the highest card determines which of two straight flushes is higher; between two equal ranked straight flushes, the one in the higher suit is better
For the turtle I couldn’t find any tutorial or site that could describe the rules in very simple way so I need to do it all by myself, hope you won’t have many problems with understanding it. The best way to play turtle is at least 3 people so you don’t know your opponents cards.
Basic rules of ‘the turtle’:
- Take out the jokers and put them away. Then pick one of the random cards – that will be our turtle. Put it upside down, so while shuffling you won’t lose it. Whoever gets the turtle starts the game, unless he has no ’10’ to start, he needs to ask for a card from another player.
- ’10’ always start the game. To the 10 you add, 9 or J etc. Your goal is to slow down your opponent, give him ‘the turtle’ when he asks you to borrow him the card (or give him a useless card) and get rid of your own cards. If you end up having a turtle, you’re the loser.
- I might not make it clear enough but I hope picture I made will make it look more normal.
Those games cannot really teach you much, but there’s a chance while you take long-distance train in China to have some fun with locals. Plus laughing in your partner’s/friend’s/parent’s face when they have a turtle is priceless.
What’s your favourite Chinese game? Maybe you know more, I would be happy to hear about them! Or maybe you have some questions about games above? Share your gaming-experience 🙂