Games Of Vietnam

The follow is a collection of games that I saw or played while in Vietnam.

Tứ sắc

This game is inspired by xiangqi and mahjong. The face value of the cards are the xiangqi symbols and the number of cards are four per value. Each of the four is of a different colour. The idea is to collect a hand of 21 points. A hand is organised like mahjong (or rummy). The usual pickup, decide, discard process happens with players looking to get particular melds: three of a kind, four of a kind, flush of three, flush of four, or three specific cards in the same colour.

The cards are long thin strips of cards and the deck I bought is no bigger than a matchbox. Not any easy thing to shuffle and deal out. I also brought a variation of this game that is played in the north. I've not worked out how to play it yet though. Tứ sắc is mainly played in the south.

Horse Racing Chess

Horse Racing Chess is not really like chess even though it is branded as such. A chess board is used, although it's altered to include a track. Each player has to get their four horses from the stable to the finish line. To get out of the stable you have to roll a six. So a fair amount of luck is involved in this game. After this you can move a horse whatever you roll. So it's a little bit like backgammon. A key difference being: if the distance between your horse and a horse behind you equals the number on the dice, you can forgo movement to kick them back to their stable. To get your horse across the finish line, you need to roll a six.

So not at all like chess, a bit like backgammon and it seems as ruthless and chance-based as monopoly.

Ta La (aka Phom)

Using a standard deck of cards with no jokers each player is dealt 9 cards with one extra for the dealer.

The game continues until every player has discarded 4 cards.

The idea is to create melds of three-of-a-kinds or a run of three in the same suit. If these are formed from drawing cards, then you can keep the concealed. If you pick a card off another persons discard then you must keep that card revealed but you can conceal the other two cards underneath it.

You can only pick a card of another persons deck if you can form a valid meld.

Each person has their own discard pile. You can pick from the deck or from the last discard (or any top of the discard pile?). If you pick up another player’s deck, the top of your discard goes to them. This is so everyone has the same number of cards in their discard.

After every one discarded four cards hands are revealed and money changes hands. I don’t know how the gambling part works, we just played whoever had the highest melds won.

Tán - 2 players

Using a standard deck of cards with no jokers each player is dealt 10 cards.

One card is visible, face up at the bottom of the draw deck. This is card indicates trump suit.

The first player (usually the winner of the first) ‘attacks’ the other player by selecting a card from their hand and putting it face up on the table. This card is usually as low as possible, although it pays to discard cards of the same rank.

The other player, the ‘defender’ has to put down a higher card in the same suit. Or, any card in the trump suit.

Once the defender puts the card down, the attacker can put down any card, of any suit, that matches the rank of the cards on the table. If the attacker cannot put down a card. The face up cards are discarded and both players draw back to ten.

If the defender cannot put down a card, they have to pick up the cards on the table and put them in their hand. Both players draw up to ten cards.

The idea is to be the player to discard all their cards after the deck has been exhausted.

when: Wednesday, March 12, 2014