My Words in Other Voices
Absurd Doubts

Introducing: Big Two

Do you know a version of the card game Big Two? Please leave a comment if you do.

Playingcards To take some of the pressure off the relentless pace of the Serials on Thursdays, I'm adding Card Games as a flipside option for the Thursday slot. This will provide opportunities not only to learn and study different card games, but also to explore the design elements of games that run on the most ubiquitous games hardware on the planet: a deck of cards. Any game designer who has never designed a card game is a fraud! There, I said it...

The first game I want to look at is hugely popular in East and South East Asia, and particularly in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. The game is usually referred to as Big Two in English, or Choh Dai Di (or just Dai Di) in Cantonese, but as with all card games, names vary depending upon who you speak to. At heart, Big Two is a climbing or shedding game like Crazy Eights or the charmingly vulgar-titled game of Asshole, which is popular among students on many different continents.

Players are dealt thirteen cards, with the objective of getting rid of all the cards in a series of rounds. Each round is played either in singles (lone cards), pairs, triplets or in five-card poker hands, with a strict sequence specifying which cards (or combinations of cards) are higher than each other. Unusually for card games, the lowest card is a 3 (specifically, the 3 of Diamonds) and the highest card is a 2 (specifically, the 2 of Spades) - hence the name, Big Two (Dai Di).

I will be writing my own version of the rules in a future week, but anyone who can't wait can check the version of the rules I used to learn the game, which can be found here. My thanks to Matt Mower for bringing this game to my attention in the first place.

I would like to set the arbitrary goal of teaching at least a dozen people to play this delightfully evil card game, which although intended to be played by four players scales down to an excellent two player version. To begin with I must ask: does anybody already know this game?

Please leave a comment if you are already a Big Two/Choh Dai Di player. Thank you!

Comments

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What great timing, I posted about my card game this morning as well. I haven't heard of Big Two before, but you'd better believe I'll be looking into it now.

I'm eager to see how you tweak it to make it your own!

Oh yes, I'd forgotten that one. Did we play that in Manchester one time?

i got taught how to play it by a cantonese friend at school, but i cant remember how to play now! however, i DO remember that the 2 of spades was the best card, and that we wasted about a year's worth of lunchtimes playing it!

Cho Dai Di has a recent incarnation in the form of Tichu that is very popular with the Euro-game crowd. I played a simplified version with my friends called Ding Pai that was easy enough to teach a group of strangers in 5 minutes and could support 6 or 8 players. One of the great virtues of games like this is the great number of variants they support.

I learned Shithead in the halcyon days of undergrad, which i suspect is the same thing as Asshole.
Anything with a less pithy name just isn't the same, IMHO.

I was taught this game in Malaysia by a Chinese dude. Alongside the 'Thing' game I often play in Dundee (originally by 'Kevan' but improved upon by us) this is my joint favourite card game.

When we played it though, we just dealt all the cards. With 2 players, it became quite a strategic game, given that there's essentially no hidden information.

Any game designer who has never designed a card game is a fraud!
Wow! I better think of a game to play with a deck of cards, then.

On a note related to this, are there any other 'projects' you would suggest to improve my design skills or better my chances of getting a job?

Hey Chris,
I used to play this at school with friends.

Any game designer who has never designed a card game is a fraud!
Thanks for validating me!
(although I've forgotten most of the rules to bob, I remember it involved passing all your cards to the left whenever a 5 was played - and at some point all four 5s were played, so you had to develop a strategy based on the fact your hand was GOING to go away...

Assholes certainly sounds familiar, although we tended to call it Scumbags & Warlords; naming the different classes of players seemed to be half the fun (the in-between players being proles). With a hierarchy of players (cemented by card-swapping between the highest and lowest in the order), it becomes necessary to estimate how strong your hand actually is and play accordingly - which is a game element I've rarely encountered. One erratic player can still screw up your best plans... Yeah, this game was a great time-sucker at uni.

I always played it during lunch during high school. The two player version that I'm familiar with involves you having to draw a card if you can't beat the opponent's hand, but I recall that not ACTUALLY working that well.

Thanks for the comments, everyone! Sounds like four of you have played it before.

Just to clarify: although Asshole/Shithead/Scumbags & Warlords are similar shedding games, they're not really that like Big Two. The similarity is like the connection between (say) Bridge and Whist.

Corvus: I'm not going to make it my own, just practice my rules-writing skills. ;)

Matt: you haven't played Big Two, you just sent me a link to the rules. ;)

Bezman: "On a note related to this, are there any other 'projects' you would suggest to improve my design skills or better my chances of getting a job?"

I'd definitely experiment with card games, as you can learn a lot about players by exploring how to make games they will enjoy. As for "bettering your chances of getting a job" - sadly, no matter how you hone your skills won't significantly improve your chances of getting a job.

The only things that will weigh in your favour are experience, luck and your interview technique. ;)

RodeoClown: "Thanks for validating me!" Always a pleasure. ;)

Okay, must dash!

The only things that will weigh in your favour are experience, luck and your interview technique.
Heh. Still, I understand that hobbyist work can count towards experience?

you can learn a lot about players by exploring how to make games they will enjoy.
Does this not also apply for any other type of game? Whether it's on a computer, played with dice, language, noises, special cards (as seen in CCGs) or a standard 52-card deck, surely developing the rules is an exploration of what will be enjoyed?

Apologies for the deviation. Not sure if this is unwelcome or not.

Bezman: no need to apologise for the deviation - all sidelines are fair game as far as I'm concerned.

You're right that the design of any game will teach you something, but the thing with a deck of cards is that the restraints are so great it is more of a challenge to design in this space than in a more open context (CCG games are practically unconstrained, for instance, and thus easier to design for).

Best wishes!

Perhaps this may be of some interest?
https://www.pagat.com/invented/zhubu_shengji.html

Thanks for the link, Sean! I'll try and remember to check your card game out when I get a spare moment.

Thanks again!

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