Agram

This page is based on games described to Alexey Lobashev by Sogradi Djabate from the village Kaikataw in Niger, by Aly Maiga from Bamaco, Mali and by Takam Ludovic Thierry from Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Introduction

Agram is one of the most popular card games in Niger. Another version of Agram is played in the northern part of Mali in the cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. It has also spread to Cameroon where it is known as Fapfap. These games are related to Spar or Sipa, which is played in Ghana and some other West African countries, and is probably descended from a European game introduced at the time of the slave trade.

Agram in Niger

Players and Cards

Agram is a game for 2 or more players, using 35 cards from a standard international 52-card pack. The Kings, Queens, Jacks and Twos of all suits and the Ace of spades are removed from the deck. The cards of each suit rank, from high to low: A, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3. Because the Ace of Spades called 'Chief ' is removed from the deck, the highest card in the spade suit is the 10.

The game is played counter-clockwise.

Deal

The first to deal is any player chosen by agreement; thereafter the winner of previous game deals next.

The dealer shuffles. The player on his right cuts the cards. The dealer deals six cards to each player in batches of 3.

Play

The next player after the dealer (the player to dealer's right) leads any card, playing it face up in the middle of the playing area.

The other players, in turn, must play a card of the same suit if they can; those who have no card of the suit led play any card they choose. When all have played one card, the first trick is complete. Whoever played the highest card of the suit that the first player led is the winner of the trick.

The winner of the trick leads any card from his hand to begin the next trick, playing it face up on top of the pile, and once again the other players must each play a card: this must be the same suit as the card that was led, if possible, otherwise any card.

This continues until six tricks have been played. Whoever wins the sixth and last trick wins the game.

Sink-Sink in Niger

This game is identical to Agram, described above, except that each player is dealt five cards instead of six: a batch of three cards followed by a batch of two. The same 35-card pack is used and the winner of the fifth and last trick wins the game.

Fapfap in Cameroon

This game has recently come to Cameroon from Niger. Like Sink-Sink, it is similar to Agram except that each player is dealt five cards rather than six. In Cameroon, players normally play their cards in a face up pile in front of themselves rather than to a common pile in the centre of the table.

The winner of the fifth and last trick wins as follows:

  • a quadruple stake for winning the last two tricks with 3’s;
  • a double stake for winning only the last trick with a 3;
  • a single stake for winning the last trick with any other card: 4 or higher.

Agram in Mali

Agram in Mali is a game for 2 or more players, using 31 cards from a standard international 52-card pack (6, 5, 4, 3, 2 of all suits and the Ace of spades are removed from the deck).

The cards of each suit have very unusual ranking, namely, from high to low: A, K, 10, Q, 9, 8, J, 7. Because the Ace of Spades is removed from the deck, the highest card in the suit of spades is King.

The deal and play are the same as in Niger, except that in Mali just five cards are dealt to each player: a batch of two cards each and then a batch of three cards each. The winner of the fifth and last trick wins the game and deals next.