The sections with ⭐ are required to play, the others are optional if one of the players already knows the rules.
- Overview ⭐
- Card Order ⭐
- Combinations ⭐
- Bombs ⭐
- The Heart Wildcard ⭐
- Matches and Scorekeeping
- Card Giving and Starting Player
- Elementary Mandarin for Guandan
Guandan (guàn dàn, 惯蛋, “smash eggs”) is a card game played by 4 players in teams of two (sat diagonally opposite each other). Each player is dealt 27 cards from two 54 card decks, and the objective is to have your team empty their hands as early as possible. Cards must be played according to specific combinations: first, a player plays a combination (say, a pair), then the next player in the counter-clockwise order may either play a higher pair, play a bomb (which interrupts the combination), or pass. Once everyone passes, the last player to have played starts a new combination.
Note that if the last player to have played emptied their hand, and that both opponents pass, their teammate starts the next combination.
Whenever a player plays one or more cards, and ends up with 7 or less cards, they must announce their number of remaining cards. If a player asks another their number of cards, they can answer “too many to say” if they have 8 or more, otherwise they must tell.
The card order of single cards determines the ordering of the combinations. The standard card order is the following:
2 < … < 10 < J < Q < K < A < 🎴< 🃏
where 🎴 symbolises the black Joker, and 🃏 the red joker. Cards of equal value from different suits are equal.
However, this order is slightly changed by the level at which the game is played. A level corresponds to a value between 2 and A, and the cards corresponding to the level are instead moved between A and 🎴.
For instance, a game played at 7 would have the following order:
2 < 3 < 4 < 5 < 6 < 8 < 9 < 10 < J < Q < K < A < 7 < 🎴< 🃏
Within a game, each turn is at a combination determined by the combination starter. Below is the list of possible combinations, and how to compare different combos from the same combination. The level is set at A for simplification.
All combinations ignore the suit. Full Houses with the same triple but with different pairs are equal. Note that 🎴🃏 is not a valid pair.
The following combinations require the values to be consecutive, and they ignore the level: for instance if the level is 7, the straight 56789 is valid. The A can be also used as a 1 under a 2. Jokers are never part of consecutive combinations.
A bomb can be played at any time instead of a combination, and interrupts the combination ladder. Instead, the next players may only play higher bombs or pass. Bombs have differents types. Bombs of the same type are ranked by card order (this is a row in the table), and bombs of different types are ranked from smallest to biggest in the following table:
A straight flush (row 3) is a straight if the same suit, for example ♣️3+♣️4+♣️5+♣️6+♣️7.
The Heart Wildcard
At a each level (say 7), the level’s two heart cards are special (in this example, ♥️7): they can be played as ordinary level cards (between A and 🎴), or replace any non-joker card. Still at level seven, here are a few examples of valid combinations and bombs:
♠️8+♣️8+♥️7+♦️J+♥️J is both a valid JJJ88 full house, and a (weaker) 888JJ full house.
♠️9+♥️7+♠️J+♠️Q+♠️K is a valid Straight Flush bomb (the ♥️7 acts as a ♠️10), it is also a valid 910JQK Straight (but that would be a waste, since the Straight Flush bomb is much better).
♣️6+♦️6+♦️6+♥️7 is a valid 6666 bomb.
Matches and Scorekeeping
A game ends when all players emptied their hands. In practice, this is when 3 players have finished, or if two players of the same team finish first. The team with the first finisher earns n points, where:
- n=1 if the teammate finished last,
- n=2 if they finished 3rd,
- n=3 if they finished 2nd.
The levels of both teams start at 2. When a game finishes, the finishing team raises their level by n. For instance, if a game at level 7 ends with the finisher’s teammate finishes 3rd, the new level of their team is now 7+2=9.
The next game is played at the level of this winning team’s new level. The losing team stays at their previous level.
When a team reaches level A (the level is capped at A), they must win with the finisher’s teammate being second of third to win the match. If they fail to do so twice at their level, they fall back to level 2. Note that if they fail the second time with one of their players finishing 1st and the other 4th, their level resets at 3.
Card Giving and Starting Player
The very first game has a specific method of determining who plays first. After shuffling, a player reveals the top card, which is assigned a number n between 2 and 13 (if the card is a joker, cut again). Starting from the revealer at 1, the first player to draw is n%4. The player before the drawer first cuts the deck, and the drawer takes their first card from the half without the revealed card. The player that draws the revealed card starts. It is customary for the player that draws this card to leave it visible on the table, for everyone to remember who starts.
When a game is over, let us call A, B, C, D the first to last players to finish. There are to scenarios for the next game:
If A and B are not on the same team, then D must give their highest card to A, after which A gives to D a card between 2 and 10 of their choosing. In this case, D will play the first combination. If D has both 🃏 cards, then there is no card exchange, and A plays first.
If A and B are on the same team, then both C and D must give their highest cards, the higher of the two goes to A, and the lower to B. The player who gave the highest card will play first. A and B then both return a card between 2 and 10 of their choosing. There are two special scenarios:
If C and D have the two 🃏 cards collectively, then there is no card exchange, and player A begins.
If C and D gave the same card value, then A and B can choose which player takes which card (useful for potential straight flushes). They return a card between 2 and 10 of their choosing, but reveal these cards simultaneously. C and D choose which player takes which card, and the player which takes the lowest card starts. If the returned cards are of the same value, then the player after A in the counter-clockwise order begins.
Upon determining a player’s highest card, the level’s heart card is ignored, thus cannot be given. The given and returned cards are shown to everyone. When drawing cards for a game, it is customary for the player(s) that needs to give cards to place their 🃏 card(s) on the table (if any), since they will either be given away or exempt the player(s) from giving cards.
When drawing cards, sort them by value (be wary of the level at which the game is at, it changes the card order!). If you draw a Heart Wildcard, place it separately. Once you’ve drawn your hand, assemble as many bombs as possible (although, objectively it is debatable whether having more bombs or stronger bombs is best), and place them separately in your hand. Bombs are important, since they can be played anytime (unless a bigger bomb is in play), and they can allow you to start a new combination.
Then, try to group your cards into the largest possible combinations. Try to have a plan in advance of how you want to play each card, in particular so you know which single cards you can play. Sometimes it can be necessary to break a combination, and these decisions can be difficult to make.
Keep in mind that you play in a team, sometimes it is worth finishing later to help your partner. In particular, if your partner currently has the highest combination, it can sometimes be wise to pass (even if you could play), so that they can potentially start a new combination, or cost the opponents a bomb if they choose to use one.
Be very careful of how you want to finish, it requires a fair bit of planning ahead. For instance, if your last two cards are 2s (for a level different to 2), you will never be able to play them (unless your partner finishes and both opponents pass).
Elementary Mandarin for Guandan
Note: some of words are likely 宣城 idioms.
|play at level …
|play (a card)
|who gives to whom?
|shéi gěi shéi?
|what level are we playing?
|how many cards?
|too many to tell
|bú gòu bào
Note: èr 二 is the number 2 for a card of value 2, to say “2 cards”, one must say liǎng zhāng 两张.