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Chinese Card Game: The Ultimate Guide

The Chinese card game has many names; in its native country, it’s known as Dou Dizhu. While in English-speaking countries, it’s known as Fight The Landlord or simply as the Chinese card game. If you like strategic card games like Poker, you’ll be sure to enjoy this game.

Now while it might seem confusing at first, the Chinese card game is easier to play than you may first think. However, it’s challenging to master, so don’t be put off if you lose your first few games. Before we look at the rules, let’s briefly look at what the game is all about.

What is The Chinese Card Game?

This popular Chinese game does have a bit of a learning curve to it. It’s traditionally played with three people (although it can be played with four,) and the game has a rather unusual setup.

Because the game is played in teams, one player will be the landlord while the other two will be the farmers or peasants. But to add another element, when the game begins, each player can bid to become the landlord.

The game is played with each “team” playing cards trying to outscore each other. When your cards are dealt with, you should think carefully about whether becoming the landlord is the best option or not. We’ll talk more about this in the rules section below.

All cards are used in the Chinese card game, including the rarely seen Joker cards. The Joker cards are the most valuable in the game! The landlord will win if they can play all their cards first, whereas the farmer or peasants win if they manage to play all their cards first.

This is a straightforward idea of how the game is played, but we’ll need to take a more in-depth look to understand the rules thoroughly.

What You’ll Need To Play?

To play The Chinese card game, all you need is a pack of playing cards. These shouldn’t be overly difficult to find, but if you want some more flashy cards, you can find some great ones online. We particularly like these Bicycle Dragon Playing Cards.

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How to Play The Chinese Card Game?

How to Play The Chinese Card Game?

The Aim of The Game

The aim of The Chinese card game is simple. Whether you’re the landlord or the peasants/ farmers, you want to be the first to play all your cards. But to do this, you’ll need to strategize carefully at every step of the game. So let’s take a look at how you play and set up a game, shall we?

The Setup

There are numerous ways you can set up a game, but we’re going to outline the rules used by most Western players. First, one player should be chosen to deal, and they should then shuffle the deck carefully. You can even use an automatic card shuffler if you have one.

Cards should be dealt with each player one at a time. Every player will need 17 cards, which should leave you with three cards left in the deck, and these three cards should be left face down in the center.

Players should be adding/ sorting cards to their hands as they are dealt to save time. Once all the cards have been dealt, you can move onto the bidding stage of the game.

The Bidding Stage

This is where players will bid to become the landlord or a farmer/peasant. There can only be one landlord, and to decide who it will be, you’ll hold an auction. The player who dealt the cards will get the first bid.

Player’s can bid by saying either one, two, or three. With three being the highest bid, however, players can pass if they want. The auction ends when one player bids three or when one player bids while the remaining two pass.

If all players pass, then the hand must be reset, which means all cards are returned. The deck is then reshuffled, and cards will be dealt with again. The player who bids the highest becomes the landlord leaving the other two players as farmers/ peasants. Once chosen, the landlord collects the three leftover cards from the deck, giving them 20 cards in their hand.

Playing The Game

The landlord will always go first in the Chinese card game. During their turn, they can play a single card or combination. Play then moves in an anti-clockwise direction, and the next player must play a higher card/ combination.

However, they will need to play a higher combination with the same number of cards and the same type. However, special rocket and bomb combinations can be used if you cannot play the same number/ type of cards.

The game continues with this gameplay loop; however, the cards are discarded if two players pass consecutively. The player who put cards down last will then start a new round placing any card/s they want to start. We’ll talk more about how these works below.

The game ends when either the landlord or the farmers/ peasants play all their cards. Whoever plays all their cards first will win. Only one of the farmers/ peasants need to play their cards win, not both. So, these players should work together at every step of the game.

Card Combinations

There are thirteen different card combinations that you can play in the Chinese card game. We’ve listed these below so you can see exactly how they work; they are listed from the lowest to the highest value.

Remember, aside from the combination values, you also have to consider the card rankings. The ranking is a little unusual, so it might take a while to remember it. Cards are ranked as follows: red Joker, black Joker, 2, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.

  • Single: Simply playing one card.
  • Pair: Two cards of the same rank.
  • Triple: Three cards of the same rank.
  • Triple With One Card: Playing three cards of the same rank, with one extra card.
  • Triple With A Pair: Playing three cards of the same rank, with a matching pair.
  • Sequence: Five cards in a numerical sequence.
  • A sequence of Pairs. Three or more pairs in a numerical sequence.
  • A sequence of Triples. Two or more numerical sequences of three cards.
  • A sequence of Triples & Attached Card. Two or more sequences of three cards with a non-matching extra-card.
  • A sequence of Triples & A Pair. Two or more sequences of three cards with a non-matching pair of cards.
  • Bomb: Four cards of the same rank.
  • Rocket: A pair of Joker cards.
  • Quadplex: Four cards of the same rank and two non-matching single cards. Or four of the same card alongside two non-matching pairs.

Four Player Games

If you are playing the Chinese card game with four players, the rules change slightly. The aim of the game remains the same, and there is still only one landlord, but the setup is different. The game is played with two decks, and each player is dealt 25 cards at the start.

This should leave eight cards remaining, which the landlord will add to their hand once they’ve been chosen. Alongside this, there are special rules you must follow, which we have listed below.

  • No single card attachment can be played. This removes combinations 4 and 9.
  • The Quadplex is no longer a legal combination.
  • Bombs can be made with four or more cards of the same rank.
  • Bombs with more cards beat bombs with fewer, regardless of ranking.
  • A rocket will require all four Joker cards.
  • Joker pairs must match.

The Chinese Card Game – A Deeply Strategic Card Game

So, that’s everything you need to know about the Chinese card game! If you love games like Shanghai Rummy or Canasta, we recommend giving this fun strategic card game a try.

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