The Ultimate Guide to Chinese New Year Games: Classics to the Modern

The Ultimate Guide to Chinese New Year Games: Classics to the Modern

Chinese New Year games have been a part of the Spring Festival celebrations for centuries. From classic customs to modern variations, these games are fun and a great way to immerse yourself in Chinese culture.

Whether you're celebrating the lunar new year with family, friends, or coworkers, including Chinese New Year games is sure to add some excitement to your festivities.

But where do you start? What are some traditional and modern Chinese games that are perfect for a Chinese New Year party?

Fear not; this is the ultimate guide to Chinese New Year games! We've scoured the internet and dug through ancient texts (just kidding) to bring you the most comprehensive list of Chinese New Year games you'll ever need.

So, whether you're a seasoned pro or a Chinese New Year newbie, this guide is for you. Let's dive in and explore the wonderful world of Chinese New Year games!

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Classic Chinese New Year games

1. Mahjong


Preparing mahjong game | CBC Life

Did you even celebrate Chinese New Year if you haven't played mahjong? This tile-based game originated in China during the Qing dynasty and is now played worldwide.

The game is played with a set of 144 tiles, which are divided into three suits (bamboo, dots, and Chinese characters) and four honor tiles (winds and dragons).

The game's objective is to collect sets of tiles, either in runs of three consecutive tiles in the same suit or in three or four of a kind. The objective is to create sets of tiles that match and score the most points.

Mahjong explained in 2.5 minutes

Mahjong is a great traditional Chinese New Year game to play during Chinese New Year because it's social, strategic, and a lot of fun. It may take a few rounds to get the hang of it, but once you do, Mahjong is addictive.

2. Chinese Poker ("shi san zhang")

Chinese poker card game

Open-face Chinese poker | BoardGameGeek

Chinese Poker, also known as "shí sān zhāng," is a simple but addictive game perfect for a Chinese New Year party. The game is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and can be played with two to four players.

To play, each player is dealt 13 cards, divided into three hands: two five-card hands and one three-card hand. The goal is to beat your opponents' hands by making the best possible combinations of cards.

3. Chinese Blackjack ("ban-luck")

Chinese Blackjack card game

Two ace card in Chinese Blackjack | TimeOut

Also known as 21, Chinese Blackjack is a variation of the classic game that's easy to learn and fun to play. You want to get as close to 21 points as possible without going over.

The dealer shuffles the deck to start the game and gives each player two cards. Players can then hit (take another card) or stand (keep their current hand).

Cards are worth their face value, with face cards worth 10 points and aces worth either 1 or 11 points (depending on what the player needs to get to 21 points).

If a player goes over 21 points, they're out of the round. If a player gets exactly 21 points, they win the round. If the dealer goes over 21 points, all remaining players win.

4. Fight the Landlord ("dou di zhu")

Fight the Landlord card game

Important card combination in dou diz zhu | Pagat

Fight the Landlord, or "dòu dì zhŭ," is a fast-paced and exciting game perfect for a Chinese New Year party. The game is played with three or four players.

To start the game, the dealer shuffles the deck and deals out 17 cards to each player, leaving three cards in the middle of the table.

The player to the left of the dealer starts by playing a card or combination of cards that they think is stronger than what the previous player played. The other players take turns playing cards until all players pass.

The game continues until one player has no cards left, at which point they are declared the winner. If the landlord wins, they get to keep their position for the next round. If a peasant wins, they become the new landlord, and the game starts over.

Tutorial: How to play Fight The Landlord

Fight the Landlord originated in China in the 1980s and quickly became a favorite pastime for people all over the country.

5. Big Two ("chou dai di")

Big Two card game

4 of a kind bomb in Big Two | BoardGameGeek

Big Two, also known as "chou dai di," is a popular card game played throughout mainland China and Taiwan. This traditional Chinese game is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and can be played with two to four players.

The game's objective is to get rid of all your cards by playing them in sets. Sets can be either pairs, triples, or runs of four or more cards in the same suit. The player who gets rid of all their cards first wins the round.

How to play Big Two game

The game is called "chou dai di" because the person who wins the previous round can choose which cards to discard for the next round.

6. Hoo Hey How

Hoo Hey How Chinese dice-game

Playing mat and dice in Hoo Hey How | WikiMedia

Hoo Hey How, aka "fish shrimp crab," is a popular Chinese dice game perfect for a Chinese New Year party. The game is played with three dice and can be played with any number of players.

To play, players place bets on which of six symbols (fish, shrimp, crab, rooster, coin, and calabash) will appear on the dice when they're rolled. The dealer then rolls the dice, and players are paid out according to the odds of their chosen symbol appearing.

If you guess correctly, you win! Hoo Hey How is often played during Chinese New Year because it's believed to bring you good fortune and luck.

Quickly learn how to play Hoo Hey How

Compared to the other games, this Chinese New Year game is relatively easier to play during the Chinese New Year because it requires no special equipment or skills, and it's a great way to get everyone involved in the festivities.

7. Chinese Chess

Chinese Chess board game

Starting position on a Chinese chess board |

Chinese Chess, also known as "xiàng qí," is a popular board game played in China for over a thousand years. The game is played on a board similar to a Western chess board but with a few key differences.

The game is played with 32 pieces, which are divided into two armies: red and black. The objective of the game is to capture your opponent's king. Each piece has a Chinese character indicating its moves and abilities, and the game requires a lot of strategy and planning.

Chinese chess rules

Chinese Chess has been played in China for centuries, and it is a lovely Chinese board game that will keep you engaged and challenged for hours.

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Modern Chinese New Year games

1. In Between

In Between card game

The queen card is between 7 and ace card in the game In Between | Denexa Games

If you're a fan of card games, you'll love In Between. This game is easy to learn and a lot of fun to play. To start, you'll need a standard deck of 52 cards. You'll also need some tokens, like poker chips or coins.

The game's object is to correctly guess whether the card in the middle is higher or lower than the two cards on either side. Players take turns guessing; if they're right, they get a token. If they're wrong, they must give the player whose turn is next a token.

In Between originated in India but is now a popular game in many countries, including China. It's a great, fast-paced, exciting game for the Chinese New Year.

2. Money hunting

Money hunting with Chinese red envelopes

Chinese red envelopes | Hanbridge Mandarin

Money Hunting is a game that's sure to be a hit with kids, young adults, and other family members. Like a treasure hunt, you'll need a bunch of small red envelopes and some coins or small bills to put inside them.

Hide the envelopes around the room or house, then let the players loose to find them. The player who finds the most envelopes wins! You can also make it more challenging by hiding the envelopes in tricky spots.

The tradition of giving red envelopes filled with money is common during the Chinese New Year, so Money Hunting is a fun way to incorporate this tradition into your celebrations.

3. Chopsticks

Chopsticks pick up game

Little girl trying to pick up a pompom in the Chopsticks game | The Educators' Spin On It

Who knew that something as simple as chopsticks could be so much fun? You'll need several small items (like peanuts or candy) and two pairs of chopsticks to play this game.

The game's object is to see who can pick up the most items with their chopsticks in a set amount of time. You can make it more challenging using smaller items or blindfolding the players.

4. Chinese New Year Bingo

Chinese new year bingo board v1

Downloadable: Chinese new year Bingo Card

Bingo is a classic game enjoyed by younger generations and people of all ages. Chinese New Year Bingo puts a festive spin on the game with Chinese New Year-themed images instead of numbers.

To play, you'll need Bingo cards (which you can find online) and something to use as markers (like small candies or coins). Call out the Chinese new year symbols and the first player to get Bingo wins!

Each board varies in its spots with a different Chinese zodiac animal, Chinese new year word, or various Chinese new year objects and new year gifts.

This game is an especially great way to keep the kids entertained.

5. Chinese New Year Trivia

Do you know your Chinese New Year traditions? Test your knowledge with a game of Chinese New Year Trivia! You'll need some trivia questions and something to use as buzzers (like bells or horns).

Divide the players into teams, and take turns asking the trivia questions. The first team to buzz in with the correct answer gets the point. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins!

Wrapping up

In conclusion, the Chinese New Year is a time for celebration, reflection, and family. Playing traditional Chinese games is a great way to honor the Spring Festival and connect with Chinese tradition.

From hoo hey how to mahjong, there are countless ways to play Chinese and create lasting memories with loved ones. And with the addition of modern variations like In Between and Chinese New Year Bingo, there's something for everyone.

Whether you're looking to learn more about Chinese culture or simply looking for a fun way to spend time with family and friends, playing Chinese New Year games is a great option.

So, gather your loved ones and get ready to play some traditional games, and let the Chinese New Year and holiday festivities begin!

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