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Jie Long / Ce Deng
接龙 / 斜钉

Introduction

Chinese dominoes are traditionally used to play games of various types including trick-taking games, climbing games and fishing games. However the two games described on this page are connecting games, like the majority of Western domino games.

  • The first is 接龙 (Jie Long) which means connect dragon, likening the chain of connected tiles in the layout to a dragon.
  • The second is called 斜钉, which can be transliterated as Ce Deng in Cantonese or Xie Deng in Mandarin. It was spelled by Anthony Kam (who provided the information for the first version of this page) as Tsair Deng, which may be good indication of the Cantonese pronunciation in Hong Kong.

These Chinese connecting games differ from Western ones in that a player who is unable to play must discard one tile. The result is that everyone gets rid of tiles at the same rate - one per turn. When all the tiles have been played or discarded, the winner is the player whose discarded tiles have the lowest value. Related games exist in Korea (Golpae/Kkoribuchigi, which gave rise to the American invented game Dancing Dragons) and in Indonesia (Gaple).

The games on this page are (apart from one variant) single arm games. There is just one open end of the layout, and when domino tiles are used the layout grows from only one end of the initial tile. The tiles may be played side by side or even stacked to save space. The descriptions below refer to tiles, but sometimes, perhaps more often, the games are played with domino cards which have the domino pips printed at each end. In this case the cards are normally played in a pile and each person who plays a card calls out the new open end, which otherwise would not be obvious from looking at the pile since each card played covers the previous one.

Jie Long (接龙)

Players and Equipment

The game uses a set of 32 Chinese dominoes. There are two of each of the 11 'civil' tiles, which are all the doubles from 1 to 6 and the [3:1], [6:5], [6:4], [6:1] and [5:1] and one each of the other 10 'military' tiles (there are no blanks).

There can be 2, 3 or 4 players. The direction of play is counter-clockwise.

The Deal

  • If four people play, each is dealt 8 tiles.
  • If three people play, each is dealt 10 tiles and the remaining two are not used.
  • If two people play, each is dealt 16 tiles.

The Play

The object is to play tiles from your hand by matching one half of the played tile with the currently 'open' end of the layout. In this game, unlike most Western domino connecting games, the line can only be extended in one direction.

The first player for the first deal is chosen randomly. Subsequently the winner of each deal plays the first tile in the next deal.

The first player leads any tile and (if it is not a double) declares which end is 'open'. For example if the first player plays the [5:3] and declares that the '3' is the open end, then the next tile played must have a 3 at one end.

Players play in counterclockwise order around the table, until all the tiles have been played or discarded. Each player at their turn must do one of two things:

  1. play a tile face up in the layout next to the previously played tile, matching its open end, or
  2. discard any tile from hand face down. Discarded tiles are kept in front of the player who discarded them until the end of the play.

Each played tile must have an end that matches the currently open end of the layout. The other end of the new tile becomes the new open end. Obviously if a double is played, the value of the open end remains the same as it was before the play.

Scoring

After all the tiles have been played, each player exposes their discarded tiles and counts the total number of pips on them. Each pair of players then settles up in proportion to the difference between their pips. The stake per pip should be agreed in advance, and the player with more pips pays one stake per pip difference to the player with fewer.

The player with fewest points will be the first player in the next deal. If there is a tie for fewest, the first player will be whichever of the tied players played earlier in the deal just ended - i.e. the previous first player has priority, then the player to the right, and so on.

Variations

If a tile is played with an open end that none of the other players can match, they will all have to discard and the turn will come back to the same player to play another tile. Some play that in this situation the player is not allowed to play a double, which would force everyone else to discard again, but must play a tile that changes the open end. Presumably if a player in this position has no playable tile except a double, the play ends at that point and all players must discard all their remaining tiles.

To save space, the first eight played tiles may be placed side by side in a row, then the ninth tile on top of the eighth (covering it completely), and the tenth tile on top of the seventh and so forth, winding backwards in another layer of eight tiles. When the second layer is completed, the third layer starts with the seventeenth tile covering the sixteenth, and the eighteenth covering the fifteenth and so forth. This also adds a memory element to the game, as some of the previous played tiles can no longer be seen.

One source describes a two-player version of Jie Long in which both ends of the layout are open: a tile can be played at either end of the line. In this variant there is no restriction on playing a double.

The game is sometimes played using domino cards instead of tiles. These cards are occasionally sold in packs of 32, but more often there are 84 cards in a pack - 4 of each card - from which the necessary 32 cards must be extracted to play this game.

Ce Deng (斜钉)

This game is very similar to Jie Long, but with some extra rules.

Players, Equipment and Deal

A standard set of 32 Chinese dominoes (or domino cards) is used. Each of the numbers 1 to 6 on the tile ends has a special name:

    6 - Dragon (龍)
    5 - Plum (梅)
    4 - Blood (血) (the '4' pattern is always red on Chinese dice and dominoes)
    3 - Slant or diagonal (斜)
    2 - Two (二)
    1 - Nail (釘)

For reasons that are unclear, the game is named after the [3:1] tile, even though this tile does not have any special role in the game.

The game is best for four players, who are dealt eight tiles each.

Doubles are called stubborn (倔) because they are difficult to play.

  • If any player receives a hand consisting entirely of doubles (8 of the 12 doubles in the set), they may declare them. In this case the hand is not played and each of other players must pay the holder of 8 double twice the number of pips in their hands.
  • A player who is dealt 7 doubles may declare them before the first player begins the game and demand that the tiles be thrown in and redealt.

Play

The first player in the first deal is determined randomly. Thereafter the winner of each deal plays first in the next. The direction of play alternates from deal to deal, clockwise and counter-clockwise.

The first player may begin by playing any tile, and must specify which is the open end that the next player must match. Thereafter each player in turn must either

  • play a tile that matches the open end of the layout, and call out the the value of the new open end, or
  • if unable to play a matching tile, discard one tile face down, call 'drink' (饮), and pass the turn to the next player.

When domino tiles are used they are played with the matching ends touching as in Western domino games. When domino cards are used they are simply played in a pile, and it is important to call the value of the new open end to make it clear which is the next number to be matched.

If three players 'drink' in succession the turn comes back to the player who played the most recent tile, who then plays another tile to continue the game. If no player is able to match the open end the game is blocked and the play ends.

Scoring

At the end of the play each player counts the total pips on their discarded (drink) tiles plus their unplayed tiles if the game was blocked. The player with fewest pips is the winner and will be the first player in the next deal. In case of a tie, the first player for the next hand will be whichever of the tied players had the earliest turn in the current hand.

Each pair of players settles up according to the difference in their pip counts, the player with more pips paying the player with fewer. The stake per pip should be agreed before the game. Therefore the player with fewest pips will get money from three players, the player with second fewest will lose to one player and win from two players and so on. If two players have the same number of pips there is no payment between them.

The following particularly good or bad results increase the payments for the players involved.

  • Pass (通). A player manages to play all eight tiles without discarding any.
  • Head seven (头七). After the first tile, the first player never managed to play any more tiles.
  • Tail eight (尾八). A player never played any tiles at all, but discarded at every turn.

In these cases doubles apply as follows.

  • If one of the players in a pair is a 'head seven' or 'tail eight' player and the other is not, the payment is twice the difference between them.
  • Between two 'tail eight' players or between a 'head seven' and a 'tail eight' player the payment is not doubled: the player with more pips just pays the difference.
  • A 'pass' player collects double from all non-pass players.
  • A 'head seven' or 'tail eight' player has to pay four times their pip total to a 'pass' player, because both doubles apply.

Variations

It is said that Ce Deng can be played by fewer than four people, but then there are many dead tiles and the game is more based on luck. This suggests that probably 8 tiles each are dealt regardless of number of players.

Some play that a player only needs at least 6 doubles to demand a redeal.

Some play that 'head 6' (in which the first player only managed to play 2 tiles) or 'tail 7' (in which a player only managed to play one tile) results in a double payment in the same way as 'head seven'/'tail eight' in the usual game. This greatly increases the chance of a double payment, which for some players makes the game more exciting.

Comments & Strategy

The following notes were provided by Anthony Kam.

Obviously, it is important what tiles you discard, not just how many, since you score the number of discarded pips, not number of discarded dominoes. Because of this, most players usually lead a [6-6] or a [6-5] or whatever is the highest pip total tile in their hand. The main strategy is to play defensively, keeping a variety of 'halves' in your remaining hand so as to maximize the chance of playing a tile when it gets to your turn. Usually you cannot predict what the open half will be by the time 3 others have played and the turn comes round to you.

In the Chinese domino set, some tile patterns (like any double, or [3-1], etc., i.e. the 'civils' in Tien Gow) occur twice, while others (the 'militaries' in Tien Gow such as 4-2) occur only once. In particular, there are only seven tiles with '2' as a half (two [2-2], and one each of [2-6], [2-5], [2-4], [2-3] and [2-1]). This short 'suit' is therefore a good suit to attack if you have plenty of it! For example if you lead a [5-2] and declare the '2' open, and then some other player plays [2-n] tile, and that's two of the seven possible 2-tiles already. It might be easy to eliminate all the '2's from everyone else and then leave a '2' as the open half, so that everyone else has to discard. Then, play your [2-2] to have another round with '2' as the open half, so everyone has to discard again! In my short experience this is the only suit which can be attacked and 'monopolized' by one player alone. Other suits are not as short (although the '3's come close -- only [3-3] and [3-1] are civils and therefore repeated, resulting in eight tiles overall). These relatively short suits can sometimes be 'duo-polized' (instead of monopolized) if two players who own most of the suit catch on to what each other is trying to do. The payment method rewards this kind of cooperation.

Sources

An e-mail from Anthony Kam, passed on by Joe Celko.

Some web pages discovered and translated by Dmytro Polovinkin:

Home Page > Tile Games > Domino Games > Connecting > Single Arm > Jie Long / Ce Deng
This page is maintained by John McLeod (john@pagat.com).   © John McLeod 2020 . Last updated: 5th December 2020

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