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Games played with Chess Cards

Chess cards have ranks corresponding to the pieces in Xiangqi (Chinese Chess): general, advisor, elephant, chariot, cannon, horse, soldier. Instead of suits the cards come in either two or four colours. The cards are smaller and much narrower than western cards - the packs I have range in size from 52mm x 22mm to 84mm x 18mm. There are several types of Chess cards and presumably several games played with them. So far I have information about only a small number of these.

Four Colour Chess Cards

The four colours are usually white, yellow, red and green. In one type of these, each colour has four of each of the seven pieces, so a pack consists of 112 cards. The cards are long with rounded ends. Some of these packs also contain some special cards - usually around five of them - showing full-length pictures of people. These cards are used in China for a rummy-like game known by the same name as the cards it is played with - si se pai (four colour cards).

Another type of four colour cards are much shorter and slightly broader with square corners. I have two such packs with only 56 cards - two of each rank in each colour.

Cards for si se pai

Two Colour Chess Cards

The two colours are usually red and black. The design of the cards varies considerably as does the number of cards in a pack. For example, there is a 112 card pack with eight of each rank in each colour, and a 56 card pack with just four of each card.

There are packs in which there are more soldiers than cards of other ranks. One type of these has in each colour ten soldiers but only four of each other chess rank, plus two cards of an extra rank called "gold", making a 72 card pack.

There is a 32 card pack used in Vietnam for the game Tam Cúc (three chrysanthemums). Unusually, this pack has cards in the same numbers as the pieces used for the board game Xiangqi - each colour one general, two each of advisors, elephants, chariots, cannons and horses, and five soldiers. Tam Cuc is a trick-taking game, and is described in an article by Jude Wudarczyk: "Tam Cúc, the game of three chrysanthemums" in The Playing-Card Vol XXVI No 1 (1997) pp 2-8.

Gold cards

Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy