My Significant Other and I learned a new card game, Dou Dizhu from a rather unusual source recently, i.e. a Taiwanese variety TV show. Both of us enjoyed it but could not play it enough, since it is a 3-player game. We started to teach my family and our friends in the hope that we can play more of it! My family are non-gamers. I had attempted to introduce boardgaming to them as a hobby. It was quite successful but between watching TV and boardgaming, I believe the former prevails for my parents.
We first taught Dou Dizhu to my family during the Chinese New Year (beginning of Feb 2013) after our reunion dinner. My brother liked it a lot. He even looked up its rules online and downloaded the game app into his iPhone. As for my dad, I was not able to gauge if he was interested in the game. My mum thought that the rules are a bit too complicated so she ended up watching us play.
Dou Dizhu is a 3-player game with 2 players, acting as peasants, pitting their wits against the third player, acting as the landlord. Players takes turn to bid to become the landlord. The advantage of being a landlord is you receive points from both peasants. The loss amount is also doubled as the landlord has to pay both peasants upon a loss.
I was playing together with my dad since this was a new game to him and I could remind him of the rules. I observed that he was an aggressive player by bidding the maximum points for the landlord regardless of the cards he had on hand. Being the landlord also gives the player 3 additional cards that were placed faced down before the bidding. These 3 cards will be revealed to all players before the landlord takes them into his/her hand. My dad was bidding in the hope of getting “good” cards. More often than not, he ended up losing. I was certainly unnerved by my dad’s style of play. I kept advising him on some of the plays and to be less aggressive in the bid for landlord if the cards were not good. We played quite a number of games before we headed home. On our way home, my Significant Other reminded me that I should let my dad learn the game himself rather than trying to influence his decision.
After the plays during the Chinese New Year, I started to ask my family whether they were interested in a few games of Dou Dizhu whenever we went to my parents’ place for dinner. In the initial attempt, my dad did not want to join in as he wanted to watch a TV show. We played with my brother instead. We had a fun time and I noticed that my dad kept glancing our way out of curiosity. I believed that he was interested in the game. As this is a 3-player game, he may be thinking of letting us play instead.
The following week, I persisted and asked my dad to join in the game. This time, my brother and mum were going out, and that left just us and my dad, i.e. just the right number for the game! He agreed to join in the game with us. Yeah! As the saying goes, “old habits die hard”, my dad still had the tendency to bid aggressively for the landlord. We did observe that he was starting to learn that it is not always advantageous to do so. Many a time, the two peasants can work well together to outwit the landlord and win the game. I was happy to see my dad getting into the game and enjoying it.
Dou Dizhu has since become a weekly affair for our family whenever we visit my parents. Last Sunday, an interesting play took place involving my Significant Other, dad and brother. As usual, my dad bid and was the landlord. Two of the three additional cards he received were the two of spades and two of clubs. He was naturally elated to be taking such “big” additional cards into his hand. With such a strong hand, my dad was successful in getting rid of a large proportion of his cards in a short time. He was looking pretty confident and a little smug. My Significant Other and my brother were shaking their head and moaning that things were not looking good.
Towards late game, my dad had control and started playing pairs. When it was back to my dad’s turn, he played a pair of twos, two of spades and two of hearts, to win the play and regain control. A pair of 2s is the biggest in the game, and only a bomb (four of a kind) or a rocket (the two jokers) can beat this.
Just after throwing his pair of twos, my Significant Other and my brother glanced at each other and asked the same question simultaneously. “Didn’t dad take in a pair of black (spades and clubs) twos just now?” Upon which both broke into laughter. They both knew that my dad had at least one more two in card. (Unknown to my Significant Other, my brother was holding onto the last two.)
I could not help but chuckle when I saw both of their reactions and my dad’s (sort of a dang! reaction ). My dad kept quiet but was probably regretting not playing the pair with the two of spades and clubs instead. My Significant Other and my brother did not have a bomb nor the rocket, and my dad still took control of that play.
On the next play, my dad played single cards. My brother played his two (to force out the jokers), which my dad reacted with a black and white joker (the second biggest card in the game). My Significant Other happened to have the colour joker (the biggest card in the game) in his hand and played it. My dad had no choice but to pass on his turn. My Significant Other finally had control.
At that point in time, my dad was left with only 2 cards. Given my Significant Other and brother’s earlier revelation, one of these two cards had to be black two. Since three of the twos have already been played, my Significant Other concluded aloud that my dad’s hand did not consist of a pair but two single cards. It was therefore safe to start the new play with pairs. He promptly did so, with a pair of eights. (We later found out that my Significant Other’s hand was quite crappy, with many small single cards. Had he played any of those singles, the game was most definitely lost.)
He deliberately threw a small pair in the hope that my brother was able to take over the control with a larger pair and then clear his hand. My dad looked somewhat resigned and passed on his turn. My brother played a pair of kings. My Significant Other passed and the control went to my brother. He still had 9 cards in his hand then.
He started a new play with 3+2 cards which my dad was unable to follow since he only had 2 cards in hand. My Significant Other happily passed, sensing victory. My brother then ended the game with a 3+1 card play. My Significant Other and brother were ecstatic to win that game. Both had rather weak hands and it was the result of their alertness and taking full advantage of a small mistake by my dad.
It must have been a bitter pill for my dad to swallow. We overheard him muttering under his breath that he should have thrown the pair of black twos instead. Hee…
Nonetheless, my dad declared that the game is fun and he enjoys it. Looks like we can look forward to more Dou Dizhu games with my family.