So the kids are fed up with studying Chinese and keep begging you for a break. You want them to have fun, but you also hope they actually learn something. What better way to solve this problem than to teach them how to play a Chinese card or board game? We spotlight a series of local games, starting with the classic Dou Dizhu (斗地主). Dou Dizhu, or literally “Struggle Against the Landlord,” is one of the most popular card games in China.
Ages: Approximately 10 and up
Type of game: Card
Number of players: Dou Dizhu is usually played by three people with one pack of cards.
Players first shuffle the cards, placing one card face up in the middle of the stack. This will determine who has the choice of becoming the “landlord.” Players then take turns drawing cards from the top of the deck, counter-clockwise, until each person has 17 cards. The player who picked up the face-up card has the choice of becoming the landlord; if he or she chooses to pass, the choice will fall on the next player in counter-clockwise order. If none of the players decide to become the landlord, the cards are re-shuffled.
When the landlord is decided, he or she picks up three extra cards from the deck and takes the first turn. They have the option of playing one single card or any legal combination of cards. The other players, in counter-clockwise order, must either pass or play a higher combination of the same number and type of cards. There are only two exceptions to this rule: A “nuke” can beat any combination, and a “bomb” can beat any combination except a higher nuke or bomb. The play continues for as many turns as necessary, until two players in a row pass. The played cards are then turned face down and put aside, and the person who played the last card begins again, leading any card or legal combination.
For a detailed chart of card hands, see Dou Dizhu’s Wikipedia page.
Game over: Whoever gets rid of his or her cards first wins. Since the two non-landlords play as a team, they both win if either player runs out of cards.
Photo by BekiPe via Flickr