Go Stop

With thanks to Yishin Sho for clarifying some of the details.

Introduction

Flower cards were invented in Japan, possibly in order to circumvent laws against playing with conventional 4-suited card decks. Nowadays, however, it is in Korea that games with flower cards are most popular. The best known Korean flower card game is Go Stop, which like most Japanese flower card games is a fishing game.

Players capture cards from a central layout by playing a card of the same month (flower). The aim is to collect scoring combinations among the cards captured. When a player's captures have a sufficient value, the player can stop the game and claim payment, or can continue the game (go) in the hope of winning more, but risking that an opponent will win meanwhile. It is this decision to stop or go that gives the game its name.

The flower cards used for this game are known in Korean as hwatu. Since the game is rather popular, they can often be obtained in supermarkets the sell Korean food or other goods. Korean Flower Cards can also be ordered from amazon.com. If Korean cards are not available, Japanese flower cards can be used as a substitute.

Players and cards

There can be 2 or 3 active players. It is possible for up to six or even seven people to take part in a game, but if there are more than three, only three will play at any one time, while the rest wait for the next deal and may be compensated - see the section on more than three players for further details.

A pack of flower cards - known in Korea as hwatu - is used, consisting of 48 cards, to which one or more jokers may be added. There are 4 cards corresponding to each of the 12 months of the year, in most cases represented by a flower appropriate to the month. Some of these cards also show a ribbon, animal or other object, indicating a higher value.

The cards are divided into four unequal groups: 5 bright (kwang), 9 animals (yul), 10 ribbons (tti) and 24 junk (pi), as shown in the following illustration:

Bright kwang /Animals yul / Ribbons tti / Junk pi
January pine
February plum
March cherry
April wisteria
May iris
June peony
July bush clover
August pampas grass
September chrysanthemum
October maple
November paulownia

December willow/rain

 

With a little practice, the cards are easy to identify. In most Korean packs (unlike Japanese ones), the five bright (kwang) cards have the Chinese character for "guang" (bright) printed in white on a red disc, which distinguishes them from the animals (yul). The least obvious card to identify is the junk of the December (rain or willow) suit. Most packs include two different versions of this card, but only one is used in the game.


In addition, most packs contain a collection of jokers with special properties. The game can be played without them, or using just a few of them.

It seems that the number and nature of the jokers varies from deck to deck: below are examples from four decks, each containing five jokers.

joker joker joker joker joker
joker joker joker joker joker
joker joker joker joker joker

For simplicity of explanation I will assume that the game is played for chips. If you want to play for money you should decide the value of a chip before the game starts. The score can be kept on paper if preferred by recording how many chips each player has won or lost.

Deal and layout

The first dealer is chosen by lot. Thereafter, the winner of each hand deals (and plays first) in the next hand.

The dealer shuffles the cards and the dealer's opponent (the player to dealer's left if there are three players) has the right to cut.

2 players: the dealer deals 10 cards to each player and 8 face up to the centre of the table as follows: 5 cards to dealer's opponent, 5 to dealer, 4 to the table, 5 to dealer's opponent, 5 to dealer, 4 to the table.

3 players: deal 7 cards to each player and 6 face up to the centre of the table as follows: 4 cards to each player, 3 to the table, 3 to each player, 3 to the table. The 3-player game is dealt and played counter-clockwise: the first cards are dealt to the player to dealer's right.

The remaining cards are placed face down in a stack in the centre of the table to form a drawing stock.

As in most card games, the players pick up their cards and look at them, holding them so that the owner can see their faces but their opponents cannot.

The cards that were dealt to the table are laid out face up in the centre area so that all are visible, normally on either side of the drawing stock. I call this the centre layout. During the game cards will be added to and captured from this layout.

Each player stores captured cards in front of him or her, but kept face up so that they are visible to all players. It is convenient to group captured cards into brights, animals, ribbons and junk, so that the state of the game is clear. I will refer to the area where a player keeps captured cards as the player's capture area. Captured cards normally remain in the player's capture area until the end of the play, but there are a few special events that require a player to surrender a captured card, moving it to another player's capture area.

gostop layout

Play

Before the play begins, players check for triples or quads (three or four cards of the same month) in their hands or on the table.

  • Any player who has three cards of the same month may declare them and show them to the other player(s). This is known as heundeum. It is a disadvantage to hold three cards of the same month, but if you choose to show them you get an extra bonus if you manage to win.
  • If you have four cards of the same month in your hand, you show them and win the game immediately, collecting 5 chips from each opponent. (In a three-player game, if two players have quads, each collects five chips from the third player; if everyone has a quad, the payments cancel and there is no score.)
  • If there are three cards of the same month on the table, they are combined into a stack, which is captured as a single unit.
  • If there are four cards of the same month on the table, the deal is void. The cards are reshuffled and dealt again by the same dealer.

The dealer plays first. A normal turn consists of

  1. playing one card from your hand to the table layout, and then
  2. turning the top card of the stock face up and adding it to the table layout.

This may result in the capture of some cards, as detailed below. The turn to play then passes to the right.

The aim of the game is to capture cards by playing cards that match cards in the centre layout. Cards match when they belong to the same month (flower).

  • If the card you play from your hand does not match any card in the centre layout, you add it to the centre layout as a separate card, and then turn over the top card of the stock.
    • If this card from the stock matches a card in the centre layout, you capture these two cards - the card from the stock and the matching card from the layout - and move them face up to your capture area.
    • If the card from the stock matches two cards in the centre layout, you choose which of these cards to capture along with the stock card.
    • If the card from the stock matches a stack of three cards in the centre layout, then it captures the stack, and you move all four cards to your capture area.
    • If the card turned from the stock matches nothing in the layout, it is also added to the centre layout as a separate card.
  • If the card you play from your hand matches (is the same month as) a card in the centre layout, you place it on top of the matching card. If there are two cards of this month in the layout, you can choose on which one you will place your played card. You then turn up the top card of the stock. There are several possibilities:
    • If the stock card does not match any card in the centre layout, you add it to the centre layout as a separate card, and you capture the matching pair that you created with the play from your hand, moving them to your capture area, where they are stored face up.
    • If the stock card matches a card in the centre layout but not the card you played from your hand, then you place the stock card on a card that it matches, capture both the matching pairs you have created, and move these four cards to your capture area.
    • If the stock card matches the pair you created with the card from your hand, and the fourth card of this month is not in the centre layout, you are unlucky. You do not capture anything this turn, but you must add this stock card to the pair you made, creating a stack of three cards. This incident is known as a ppuk. The three-card stack remains in the table layout and can only be captured by the fourth card of this same month.
    • If the card you played from your hand matched two cards in the layout, and the card you turn from the stock is also of this same month, you capture all four cards of this month. This is known as ttadak.
    • If the card you turn from the stock matches a stack of three matching cards in the layout, then you capture all four of these cards as well as the pair you made with the card you played from your hand.
  • If the card you play from your hand matches a stack of three matching cards in the table layout, then it captures this stack and all four cards are moved to your capture area. You then turn a card from the stock, which makes another capture if it matches anything on the table.

After you have played from your hand and from the stock, and taken any cards that you captured, you may have the opportunity to stop the game, if your score is sufficient. Otherwise the turn passes to the next player to your right.

The play continues like this until someone stops the game (see below) or until the cards run out. The deal is such that when the last player plays their last card from hand, there will be just one card remaining in the stock, and of course the final cards will automatically match, leaving the centre layout empty.

Special events during the play

Certain special events allow the current player to capture one junk card from each opponent:

  1. There are only two cards in the centre layout, belonging to different months, and the player captures both of them, leaving the centre layout empty (sseul).
  2. The centre layout includes two cards of the same month, and the player captures both of them using the other two cards of that month (one from hand and one from stock) (ttadak).
  3. The player plays a card from hand that does not match anything in the centre layout, and then draws a matching card from the stock, capturing the card just played (chok).
  4. The player captures a stack of three cards by playing the fourth card of this month from hand or stock.

If any of these four things happens, each opponent surrenders one junk card of their choice from their capture area, and the cards are moved face up to the player's capture area. A player who does not have any junk cards in their capture area does not have to surrender a card. Some junk cards are more valuable than others (being worth 2 or 3 cards in scoring): a player who has no ordinary junk cards must surrender a valuable junk card if he or she has one.

However, if the play runs right to the end, the first three special events above don't count in the last player's last turn, since the cards are guaranteed to match. Nevertheless, a capturing a three-card stack at the end of the play still counts.

Other special events:

  • If you make a ppuk (create a stack of three cards) in your first turn of the game, each opponent pays you 3 chips and play continues.
  • If you make a total of three ppuk during one hand, the play ends and each opponent pays you 5 chips. To make a three-card stack is also sometimes called ssada (meaning "to poop"), so when several of these three-card stacks turn up during a game, people sometimes refer to them as sulssa, which means "diarrhoea".

The bomb

If at the start of your turn you have three cards of the same month in your hand and the fourth card of that month is on the table, you may play your three cards all at once, capturing these and the fourth card. This is known as bombing the field. You complete your by turn up the top card of the stock as usual.

Playing a bomb leaves you with two cards fewer in your hand than you would normally have (you have played three cards instead of one). To compensate for this, in any two subsequent turns (not necessarily your next turns but at any later turns in the same deal) you may if you wish play no card from your hand and simply turn up and play the top card of the stock. After exercising this option twice you will once again have the normal number of cards.

After you have bombed the field, not playing from hand may be a good option if you are unable to capture anything from the table, and suspect that all the cards in your hand are cards that your opponents are waiting to capture when they appear.

Playing jokers

Jokers are bonus cards that add an extra element of luck to the game. Whenever you play a joker - either from your hand or by turning one up from the stock - you place it directly into your capture area face up, and immediately turn up a card from the stock which you must play as a substitute for the joker. Therefore on a turn when you play a joker, you actually turn up two cards from the top of the stock - one as a normal part of your turn and another as a result of playing the joker.

If there are any jokers dealt face up on the table at the start of the game, the dealer moves them to the captured cards in front of him or her and replaces them in the layout by turning face up an equal number of cards from the stock.

Often the game is played with two jokers: one of these jokers counts as two junk and the other counts as three junk, so that there are 50 cards in the pack in total.

Ending the play and payments

Before beginning the game, the players should agree a target score at which the play can be stopped. When there are 3 players the target is normally set at 3 points. With only two players it is usual to set a higher target - normally 5 or 7 points.

Certain combinations of captured cards have a point score, as listed below. The first time that the total score of your captured cards at the end of your turn reaches the agreed target, you have the opportunity to stop the game. You must either say "Stop", in which case the play ends and you claim payment as detailed below, or you say "Go" and the game continues.

After you have said "Go", you do not get another opportunity to stop the game until the score at the end of your turn is higher than it was the last time you said "Go". When this happens, you must again announce either "Stop" or "Go".

The scores for combinations of captured cards are as follows. Note that in several cases cards of the December (rain) suit are less valuable than similar cards of other suits.

Bright cards (kwang)
A set of 5 bright cards scores 15 points
A set of 4 bright cards scores 4 points
A set of 3 bright cards not including rain scores 3 points
3 bright cards including rain score 2 points
Animal cards (yul)
A set of 5 animal cards scores 1 point
Each additional animal card beyond 5 scores 1 extra point
The godori combination of 3 bird cards scores 5 points - these are the February, April and August animal cards - the December (rain) animal card is not part of this set.


Godori
Ribbon cards (tti)
A set of any 5 ribbon cards scores 1 point
Each additional ribbon card beyond 5 scores 1 extra point
A set of 3 red ribbons with poems scores 3 points
A set of 3 blue ribbons scores 3 points
A set of 3 red ribbons without poems (April. May, July) scores 3 points - the December (rain) ribbon card is not part of this set.




3-point ribbon sets
Junk cards (pi)
A set of 10 junk cards counts 1 point
Each additional junk card beyond 10 scores 1 extra point
There are some cards with special properties.
The December (rain) junk card and the coloured November (paulownia) junk card each count as two junk cards.

Count as two junk cards each
The September animal card (chrysanthemum and sake cup) can be used either as an animal card or as two junk cards for the purpose of scoring. The player does not decide how to use it at the moment of capture, but can change its category as often as required, counting it as either animal or double junk (but not both at the same time), whichever will make the better score.

Animal or two junk

Example:

The following set of animal cards scores 7 points - 1 for five animals, 1 for the 6th animal and 5 for godori.

The player who stops the game is paid chips equal to their score by each other player. Note that when you stop the game, it does not matter if another player has more score than you. For example in a two-player game with a target of 5, if you achieve a score of 5 at the end of your turn while your opponent has 7 (having previously said "Go"), you can stop the game and you are paid 5 chips - the opponent's score is wasted.

It is possible for the play to end without a winner. This can happen for example if no player manages to reach the target score, or if a player says "Go" and then fails to increase his or her score (and no one else achieves the target score) before the cards run out. This is called nagari, and there is no payment for this deal. The cards are shuffled and the same player deals again, and the payments in the new deal are doubled.

There are several circumstances in which the number of chips paid to the winner is increased.

  • If the winner showed three cards of the same month before the start of play, then each opponent must pay double. If the winner showed two such sets, two doubles are applied, quadrupling the payment.
  • If the winner has a scoring set of bright cards, then any opponent with no captured bright cards must pay double.
  • If the winner has a set of at least seven animal cards, then each opponent must pay double.
  • If the winner has a set of at least ten junk cards, then any opponent with fewer than five junk cards must pay double. (For this purpose, the special junk cards count as two or three junk, as for scoring).
  • If the previous deal ended with no winner (nagari) the payment is doubled.
  • If the winner previously said "Go" once, each opponent pays one extra chip.
  • If the winner previously said "Go" twice, each opponent pays two extra chips.
  • If the winner previously said "Go" three times, each opponent pays double.
  • If the winner previously said "Go" more than three times, the payment is doubled again for each "Go" beyond three.

When calculating payments, if the winner said "Go" once or twice, the chips for this are added before the doubles are applied. If the winner said "Go" three or more times, the two chips for the first two "Goes" are added before doubling the payment. Doubles are cumulative - for example suppose you win with 7 animals (without Godori) and 11 junk, having said "go" three times. Your score is 5 points. You add two chips for the first two "goes", making 7. An opponent who has only 4 junk will pay you 56 chips - there is one double for your 7 yul, another for fewer than 5 junk and another for the third "go".

In a three-player game, there are certain circumastances in which one player has to pay the winner on behalf of both losers, while the other loser pays nothing.

  1. If another player wins after you have said "go", you have to pay the third player's losses as well as your own.
  2. If you play a card from your hand which does not capture anything but remains on the table, and another player wins on his or her next turn by capturing this card, you have to pay the third player's losses as well as your own.
  3. If you leave on the table a card that you could have captured, and another player wins on his or her next turn by capturing this card, you have to pay the third player's losses as well as your own.
  4. In order to avoid case 2 above, if you think you have no safe play, you may expose your hand at the start of your turn and offer a nagari. The other players must decide in turn whether to accept it. If the player to your right accepts, the player to your left may accept or refuse; if the player to your right refuses, the player to your left automatically accepts. If both accept, the hand counts as a nagari: play ends, there is no payment and the cards are dealt again. If one of the players refuses, you take your turn as usual and play continues. If the player who refused wins the game, the payments are normal: each loser pays only for himself. If the player who refused loses, he must pay for both losers while the other loser pays nothing.

A player is allowed to expose his or her cards and offer a nagari on any turn, even if the same player has previously said "go". If a player who has said "go" then offers a nagari and the nagari is refused, and the player who said "go" and offered nagari manages to win, the player who refused the nagari pays for both the other players as usual. But if either of the other two players wins, each of the losers pays for himself: having offered nagari, the player who said "go" no longer has to pay for both of them.

More than three players

Go Stop is sometimes played by four, five or six players, but only three of them take part in the play at any one time, while the others drop out and wait for the next deal. This way of playing is called Gwangpalli (Bright-selling).

The deal is the same as for the 3-player game: 4 cards to each player, 3 to the table, 3 to each player and 3 to the table. The dealer and two other players will take part in the game. The cards dealt to the table to form the layout remain face down and unknown until it has been determined which three people will play. The player to dealer's right chooses first whether to play or drop out, then the next player and so on in anticlockwise rotation. As soon as two players other than the dealer have decided to play, the remainder must drop out. If all but three players have already dropped out, the remaining players must play. Example with 5 players, in anticlockwise order A (the dealer), B, C, D, E. The dealer A must play. Suppose that B drops out, C plays and D drops out. Now E must play, so that there will be three players. One the other hand, if D had decided to play, E would have been forced to drop out. If B and C drop out, both D and E are forced to play.

Players who are forced to drop out are paid compensation if they hold any of the following cards:

  • bright cards (kwang)
  • double junk cards (November rain or coloured December)
  • September chrysanthemum with cup
  • jokers

The player shows all such cards and is immediately paid two chips for each such card by each player other than the dealer who stayed in. Exception: In the 4-player game only, a player who is forced to drop out with the rain bright and no other brights is not paid any compensation for the rain bright.

If a player who is forced to drop out and claims compensation has a heundeum (three cards of the same month), he shows it and is paid twice as much: that is four chips for each bright, double junk, September cup and joker by each of the two non-dealer players who chose to play.

There is no compensation for players who drop out voluntarily.

After all compensation has been paid, the players who drop out give their hands face down to the dealer. These cards are shuffled with any undealt cards to make the face down stock from which cards are drawn during the game. The six layout cards are then turned face up and the play proceeds as usual between the three players.

If the game ends in a nagari (no one wins), the cards are redealt only to the three players who took part in the nagari game.

Seven players: Gwangpalli can also be used with seven players, provided that there is at least one joker in the pack, so that there are enough cards to deal 7 to each player. No cards are dealt to the table initially - the six table cards are dealt from the cards of the players who have dropped out. In this version some play that if you are not the dealer and you are dealt the animal iris card (May: iris and bridge) you must drop out, but can sell brights in the usual way.

Variant: some play that the compensation payments to those who were forced to drop out are paid at the end of the play by the losers of the game: the winner does not have to pay. If payments are at the end of play, in case of nagari the comensation payments are delayed until the new deal has been played, but the losers must then pay double compensation.

Variant: some play that after a nagari cards are once again dealt to all players at the table. In this case, if you play with compensation paid at the end of the play, there will be no compensation for players forced to drop out of a game that ends in nagari.

Variant: some play with a higher compensation of 3 chips per special card (instead of 2) for a player who is forced to drop out.

Variations

Jokers and Special Cards

Most packs include a selection of jokers with various different properties. It is probably best to include not more than one or two of these. Examples of jokers are:

  • One junk - treated just like a captured junk card
  • Two junk - treated just like a captured junk card
  • Three junk - treated just like a captured junk card
  • Boss junk - the player is given a junk card by each opponent
  • Double - the owner collects double chips if he or she wins
  • Bright protection - the owner who has captured no bright cards does not have to pay double to a winner with a bright set

There are probably many others.

Some play that if the replacement card you draw for a joker makes a ppuk - that is, you played a card from your hand matching one on the table, then drew a joker from the stock, and then drew a third matching card as a replacement for the joker - you do not benefit from the joker. Instead it remains with the ppuk and is taken and used by whoever wins the stack by playing the fourth matching card.

Some play that the chrysanthemum and sake cup card counts as one animal or one junk, rather than two junk.

Some play that it is the iris and bridge card, instead of the chrysanthemum and cup, that counts as an animal or two junk.

Bomb

Some play that when you play a bomb (three cards of the same month to capture the fourth) you turn three cards in succession from the stock to complete your turn. Later in the game when you run out of cards in your hand you simply miss your turn while the others continue playing. This seems to be less interesting than the rule that you turn only one stock card after a bomb, but have the option not to play a card from hand in two subsequent turns.

Scoring and Payments

As mentioned above, the target needed to stop the game can vary. A higher target is harder to achieve, but if you do reach it you are more likely to say "go", since it is also harder for your opponent to get reach the target. If the target is set higher than 3 in a 3-player game, there will be quite a few games with no winner.

There are many slight variations in scoring. For example:

  • Some score only 3 points rather than 4 for a set of 4 bright including rain (December).
  • Some score only 3 points rather than 5 for Godori.
  • Some apply an extra payment of only 2 chips (rather than a double) when a player without brights pays a winner with a set of brights.
  • In the two-player game, some require a player to have 7 junk rather than 5 to protect against a double payment to a player with a junk set.
  • Some award one chip to a player who said "Go" once before winning, double payment to a player who said "go" twice, triple payment to a player who said "go" three times, and so on.

On your first turn of the game, if you take all four cards of a month in one turn (either by two captures - ttadak or by capturing a three-card stack), or if the stock card you turn captures the card you played (chok), some award a payment of 3 chips from each opponent for this, and play continues.

Other Go Stop web sites

Another set of rules for Go Stop can be found within Tom Sloper's Hanafuda pages.

On BoardGameGeek, Justus Pang has provided a Go Stop Cheat Sheet - a one-page summary of Go Stop cards, combinations and scoring, which can be a convenient reference when learning the game.