Card games in Afghanistan

Gyula Zsigri reports that the standard 52 card pack is used in Afghanistan for the following games:

  • Teka - a plain-trick game with bidding for four players in fixed partnerships.
  • Fis Kut - a plain-trick game for four players in fixed partnerships, in which the non-dealer's team chooses trumps.
  • Betrinu - a three card vying game related to Brag.
  • Chor Voli - a partition game for 4 players in which four 3-card combinations are formed from a 13-card hand. There is also a variant Ramchi for three players, making five 3-card combinations from a 17-card hand.

Gyula Zsigri has provided a Eastern Farsi Card-Playing Glossary, showing how these card game names are written and pronounced.

A card game called Panjpar is featured in the novel "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. Although it is not described in full detail, there is enough incidental information to be fairly sure that it is similar to the Russian game Prostoy Durak. The longest passage about the game occurs on pp50-51 of the Bloomsbury edition. The description of a game played By Amir (the narrator) and Hassan the night before the kite tournament contains the following details:

  • "I killed Hassan's ten of diamonds, played him two jacks and a six."
  • "Hassan killed the six and picked up the jacks."
  • "I drew the last card, played him a pair of queens and a ten. Hassan picked up the queens."
  • "I killed his king and played him my final card, the ace of spades. He had to pick it up. I'd won, but as I shuffled for a new game ..."

From these extracts it is evident that the aim is to get rid of all your cards, that it's possible to play either a single card or a card plus a pair, that the opponent must either beat ("kill") the played cards or pick them up, and that after playing you "draw" (presumably replenishing your hand from the undealt part of the deck until it is exhausted). All this is consistent with the game being Prostoy Durak. There are further details on page 267:

  • "I dealt him his five cards."
  • "He played me a card and picked one up from the pile."

The last statement confirms that you replenish your hand by drawing from the pile after playing. The first indicates that players begin with five-card hands as in Prostoy Durak.

It is not certain that Panjpar is identical to Prostoy Durak. In The Kite Runner there is no mention of trumps - the "last card" drawn by Amir in the third quotation should normally be the trump indicator card. Also the possibility of playing five cards - two pairs and a single card - is not mentioned. On the other hand, since this is a novel, not a game manual, there is no reason why these details should be mentioned.

If this is a version of Prostoy Durak, there must have been some more play, not described, after Hassan picked up the queens, since it would then be Amir's turn again. Amir has two cards now: we might assume that Amir played one of them, which Hassan killed, and that Hassan then played a card which Amir had to pick up. After this Hassan plays a king and we are back in the text.

I would be very grateful for any further information about the Afghan game Panjpar, and for confirmation of (or disagreement with) the above analysis.