Tired of playing janken or too afraid to dive into the mayhem of pachinko? Want to learn a new game that can impress your staff? Then Koi-koi is the game for you! Koi-koi is a game that actually isn’t played too often nowadays, but is always fun to show off your knowledge of old Japanese games to Japanese people. Koi-koi is a card game played with hanafuda, or more directly translated “flower cards”. A normal deck of hanafuda contains 48 cards which are divided into 12 different suits, denoted by a month and a corresponding Japanese flower. For example, Cherry Blossoms denote March and Irises denote May.
Typically played between two people, a dealer is chosen by whatever method you decide (for example, janken). The dealer deals 8 cards face down in front of the opponent, 8 cards face-up in the middle, and then finally 8 cards face-down in front of him, placing the remaining card pile next to the face up cards. There are many ways to play Koi-koi, but here is a simple way to play koi-koi. On a player’s turn, he may match by suit any card he is holding with another face up card on the table. If a pair can be made, the player takes both cards and puts it into his point pile. If a match cannot be made, the player must discard a card face up and add it to the other face up cards. After matching or discarding a card, the player must draw the top card from the draw pile and if that card matches another card on the table, the player takes both cards and puts it into his point pile. If the drawn card cannot be paired up, it is added to the other face up cards, thus ending this player’s turn.
After a player’s turn ends, if a yaku (also known as a combination) has been made (see here for types of combinations), the player can either cash in and take the earned points from the combination(s) to add to his total score or choose to continue to play (by firmly saying “koi-koi!”) in hopes of gaining more points. Be warned though, if your opponent makes a combination during their turn, they also have the choice of cashing in on what they have accumulated or continuing the game with “koi-koi”. Unfortunately, if your opponent decides to stop the game and cash in his points, you don’t receive any points from the combinations you have created thus far. If neither player can create any combination, the game goes in favor of the dealer. If neither player can create a combination AND can stop the game at the end of his turn before running out of cards, no points are given to either player. The game is usually played for 12 hands (in correlation to the number of months), but varies. For a more in depth description of card names, possible point pile combinations and their names, as well as a chance to play a free flash version online, please check out this site. “Koi-koi” away!