There are four suits (Tamahagne, Gyokuro, Renge & Asahi) of 14 cards each corresponding in value to regular cards ie. The highest card in each suit being the Mon and the lowest being the "1". Royalty are ranked Emperor (highest), Geisha and then Bushi.
There are four special cards: Stork, Cats, Catfish and Panda which brings the total number of cards to 60.
The players play in two teams of two players. Each player sits diagonally opposite their partner and they work together in acquiring points.
The owner of the pack, or the winner of the previous round shuffles and cuts the deck.
You then deal the cards until they are exhausted and each player has 15 cards in their hand.
Now each player gives one of your cards to each of the other three players. In effect, then, you will pass on 3 cards of your choice and receive 3 unknown ones in return.
The game is started by the player who has the Stork card. This person may lay down any one of the following combinations:
Just the stalk
A single 1
A pair of 1s - 1,1
A run of pairs of adjoining values starting with 1 - 1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5 etc.
A triple of 1s (three 1s of the same value) - 1,1,1
A full house with a 1 (triple and pair) - eg - 1,1,9,9,9 or 1,1,1,5,5
A run starting with 1 (also known as a straight or run) of at least five cards - 1,2,3,4,5 etc.
The next player (to the left of the previous player) now has the following options:
Passing or Playing a similar combination but of a higher value
So, a single card can only be beaten by the playing of a single card (and this must be of a higher value); a run of 2 pairs by a run of 2 higher pairs, a row of 6 cards only by a higher row of 6 cards (3,4,5,6,7,8 is beaten by, at a minimum a row of 4,5,6,7,8,9), a full house by a higher full house (in a full house, only the value of the triple is taken into consideration). The only exception to this rule is the "ambush" - see later.
Play then proceeds to the next player on the left. If all four players pass consecutively, the player who laid the last (highest) card combination, takes the round and starts play again - if they have no more cards in their hand, he retires from the game and play proceeds to their neighbour on the left (if he also has no cards, then play goes to the next person on the left etc.). It is allowed for players to pass and then come back in again as long as some other player played in between.
The Special Cards
The "Stork" Card
Whoever has this card starts the game. The player can play the stork by itself or with a "1" related hand. So a hand including a "1" eg. 1,2,3,4,5 or 1,1,2,2.
The "Cat" has no value and therefore cannot beat any hand thrown down. It can only be played in starting a round when you have the lead. It immediately gives the "lead" to your partner. If your partner has already retired from the game, then the lead passes to the player on their left. The Cat is worth - 25 points.
The Catfish is a very powerful card but has a value of -25 points in the final point scoring.
It is an imitation card and can be used to complete most hand combinations.However, in its role as a joker it can not be used as any of the other animal cards, in an Ambush or a Kingdom.
It can also be played as a single card. It then has a value of a half point above the last card played (eg if the Catfish is played after an "8", then the value of the Catfish is 8.5 and can only be beaten by a single card of value "9" or higher.) The Catfish will not beat a Mon or the Panda. If the Catfish is played first it has a value of 0.5
The Panda is the highest single card and counts as 25 points.
It can only be played as a single card and it beats everything up to a Mon.
If the Panda wins the round, the player playing it must give the Panda away (including its own 25 points) to a player of the opposing team (he chooses which one). Despite this, the player who won the round also wins the next lead.
A collection of Samurai, Geisha , Emperor and Clan Mon from the same clan.
A Kingdom is rare but will beat any other hand, (including ambushes) however it is only valid when all 4 players are still in the game – once a player goes out the power is dissolved and cannot be used together.
Playing a kingdom whilst all 4 players are still playing automatically wins you the round and 100 with it. However a player can gamble and win points during the round to collect extra points and then play the Kingdom. A Kingdom played is 100 points in addition to the points already accumulated.
When 2 or more Kingdoms are played, it is the first Kingdom laid that is the winner.
An Ambush is:
Four cards of the same value (also known as a "four of a kind").
An ambush beats all other cards, be it a single card or a card combination. A higher ambush beats a lower one so four 8's beats four 7's.
An Ambush can be brought into play at any time - even when it is not your turn.
The game is played until three of the four players have played all of their cards. The final play of the third player to go out automatically wins and they collects this final round (unless of course, they played the Panda).
The one player remaining, who still has cards in their hand, gives:
any remaining cards in their hand to the opposing team.
all the rounds he has won to the winner of the round (the player who was the first to play all their cards).
Now count up the card points:
The "Mons" and "10's" are worth 10 points each
The "5's" are worth 5 points each
The Panda and Stalk are worth 25 points
The Catfish and Cat costs you 25 points
Exception: However, if both players of one team have a double victory (one being the winner of the round and the other coming second), then that team scores 200 points and the other team 0. In this case, card points are not counted. In fact, once this occurs there is no reason for the remaining players to even finish playing the hand.
Before playing their first card, each player has the left to declare a "Panda" If he then wins the round (finishes first), their team receives an extra 100 points - otherwise the team loses 100 points.
The 100 Panda points are given / taken away regardless of the ordinary or double victory points scored - they do not influence them in any way.
You can call a Panda any time before playing your first card. You can therefore choose to pass for several full rounds and still call a Panda later.
You can also call a Panda before passing on cards at the beginning of the round - this serves to tell your partner to pass on to you their best card.
You can neither make any arrangements with your partner nor does it help you if your partner wins.
It is entirely legal for more than one player (even on the same team) to call either type of Panda. Obviously, however, only one of them can be right.
Winning the Game
When one team reaches 1000 points they are the winners. If both teams reach 1000 points in the same round, then the winning team is the one with the most points.
Try to get rid of your bad cards (low single cards and pairs) as quickly as possible and be economical with your "M's", "Pandas" and "Smbushes".
Whoever, after a good power play, remains sitting on a single "4" has not yet grasped the garlic. That is, don't leave yourself with low cards and no way to ever get the lead.
If your partner is playing a Panda round, help him unreservedly. When you are the Stork player, do not demand any card that could deprive him of a "Ambush" nor of a round. Naming the card you passed to the player who plays after you is one way to make sure not to hurt your partner.
If an opponent declares a ‘Panda round’ then play against him, so that he finds it hard to get rid of their cards.