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Playing Conquin, Louisiana, 1938; photo by Russell Lee.
Origin Mexico
Alternative names Coon can
Type Matching
Players 2-6
Skills required Strategy
Cards 40
Deck Spanish
Play Clockwise
Playing time 20 min.
Random chance Medium
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Conquian is a card game whose origins are in dispute. Some believe the game originated in Spain hundreds of years ago, and was then brought to Mexico. Others strongly believe the game actually originated in Mexico in the mid-1800s. It was first described as Coon Can in 1887 and then in detail in R. F. Foster's Hoyle in 1897. According to David Parlett, it is an ancestor to all modern rummy games, a kind of proto-Gin Rummy. He also notes that the 1920s American card-game writer Robert F. Foster “traces Conquian back to the early 1860s.”

The name is thought to either derive from "con quién" - Spanish "with whom", or from the Chinese game Kon Khin, a variation of the earlier game Khanhoo. It is sometimes corrupted to Coon Can, Councan, Conca and Cuncá, a South American variation of the game. In 19th-century Mexican literature the word is spelled cunquián, showing thus it has nothing to do with the phrase "¿Con quién?". It is much more tempting to relate Conquian to the 19th-century Philippine card game Kungkian, or Kungkiyang, which Ilocano and Cebuano dictionaries define as "A card game, the same as pañggiñggí [i.e. Panguingue], except that there are only two players."


The deal

Conquian is played by two or more players with a 40-card pack of cards ranking A 2 3 4 5 6 7 J Q K, being the rest stacked face-down on the table. The aim is to be the first to get rid of the cards, including the last one drawn. The total amount of cards shown must add up to nine.

Each player is dealt nine cards and wins the game by melding a total of ten cards. They may be melded by pairing (at least three or four of a kind) or by a straight flush sequence (three to ten cards from the sequence A 2 3 4 5 6 7 J Q K A: thus, A 2 3 and 6 7 J are valid sequences).

The play

After the deal, the dealer turns up the top card from the remainder of the deck to begin the discard pile. The non-dealer then has the option to take the first card, but must use it immediately (with at least two hand-cards) to make a meld. If the non-dealer doesn't want the card, the dealer has the option to pick it up and use it for his meld. If neither player wants the first card, the non-dealer takes the first card from the draw pile and may use it immediately to meld or discard it. They may not place the card in their hand. If either player makes a valid meld with it, they must discard one card from his hand. The other player may then choose this card or draw another from the pile.

So whoever turns from the pile has first choice of the card turned, and must either meld it, extend one of his existing melds with it, or pass. If both players pass, the second turns it down and draws next.


In melding, a player may "borrow" cards from their other melds to help create new ones, provided that those thereby depleted are not reduced to less than valid three-card melds. After melding, the player's discard becomes available to the opponent, who may then either meld it or turn it down and make the next draw.


If a player declines a faced card which can legally be added to one of their existing melds, they must meld it if their opponent so demands. This way, it is sometimes possible to force a player into a situation from which they can never go out, therefore creating a point of much interest to the strategy of the play. If neither is out when the last available card has been declined, the game is drawn and the stake carried forward.


Winning a hand entails melding ten cards, so on the last play, the winning player must use the drawn card in his meld. Play may be extended over several hands by playing to a specified point total. Points still in the losing player's hand are awarded to the winner. Face value for cards 2-7, 10 points for Jacks, Queens, or Kings, and 15 points for Aces.


The game is played with two full decks (104 cards). Can be played by 2 to 6 players. Players receive 10 cards each at the start of the game, except the dealer receives 11 cards by dealing to himself first and dealing clockwise, one card at a time to all players. The game commences when the dealer discards a card face-up. The next player can then pick either the top card of the deck, or the top card of the discard pile. Play continues in a clockwise direction. If, during the game, all deck cards are picked, the discard pile is mixed and placed as the deck. The object of the game is to meld all cards first.
Cards can be melded in a set of four, or a single card meld. The set of four cards can be made up of four of the same value card, e.g. four Kings, or four cards in a straight flush, e.g. 6, 7, 8, 9 of Diamonds. Aces are low at all times. Single card melds are allowed by adding to a previous meld, e.g. placing another King on an existing meld of Kings, or continuing a straight flush by one card. Melding a set of four cards onto an existing meld is allowed. A player must meld their own set of four cards during the game before being allowed to meld a single card. Only one meld can be made in a players turn. If a player melds, they must then discard a card to the discard pile.
As melds can be made as a set of four, or as a single card, a player must declare when he reaches four, or one, remaining cards. If a player has one remaining card in his hand, they can only pick from the deck, not from the discard pile. The game is usually played for low stakes, e.g. "Euro the game, and two cent a spot" e.g. A losing player holding 8, 8, 8, A, at the end of the game would pay the winner €1.50 (€1 for the game, plus ((8+8+8+1)*2 cent). J, Q, K count as 10 spots each. One exception to the melding pattern is if a player "Goes for Cooch". "Cooch" is achieved by filling a 10-card straight flush, and melding the 10 cards in one turn. If a player wins with a "Cooch", then losing players pay double to the winner.

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