This page is based mainly on information from Jiang Fung Wong and Alexey Lobashev.
Giog is a Malaysian version of a game played with Chinese chess pieces but using them as though they were playing-cards. Similar games are played in several regions of China and in other Southeast Asian countries with Chinese communities. The rules of the game vary slightly from place to place and it has several different names.
Other versions of this game are known as Sānbèi qí (三倍其: triple game), Dǎ qí luò (打棋摞: playing chess stacks), Chēlún qí zhàn (車輪棋戰: wheel chess battle) or Jū mǎ pāo (車馬包): chariot-horse-cannon, which is one of the noble three-piece combinations) or Sang Krip. A related but somewhat different game Zhì hǔ (擲虎 : throw dragon), also known as Sān guó (三國 : three kingdoms) is played in Taiwan.
In Vietnam, a closely related game Tam cúc (three chrysanthemums) is played with a special pack of 32 playing-cards printed with the names of the Chinese chess pieces.
On this page I first describe Giog as it was explained to me by Jiang Fung Wong. The name 'Giog' is a Fujian Chinese romanisation of 爵, which means 'noble' and refers to the three-piece combination that is characteristic of the game - see play below. The pronunciation is nearer to "tsiok" or "tsiog".
Players and Equipment
Giog is essentially a four-player game but it is also possible for three or two people to play it.
It is played with the 32 pieces of a Chinese Chess (Xiangqi) set. These are discs with the name of the piece written as a Chinese character on the front. The backs of the pieces are all blank, enabling them to be used like a deck of playing-cards.
There are two colours, red and black, and each colour has 16 pieces. The characters for the red and black versions of the same piece are often different:
|1 general (red) / marshal (black):|
|2 guards or scholars:|
|2 ministers (red) / elephants (black):|
|5 soldiers (red) / pawns (black):|
The pieces are listed above in order of strength in the game, the general and marshal being strongest and the soldiers and pawns weakest. Between two equivalent pieces of different colours, in this game the red piece is always stronger than the corresponding black piece, so the ranking from high to low is: 帥, 將, 仕, 士, 相, 象, 俥, 車, 傌, 馬, 炮, 砲, 兵, 卒.
Note. In many sets the red guards, chariots, horses and canons use the same characters as the black pieces, and they are distinguished only by colour. Also in some sets the 'black' pieces are actually green. English language descriptions of Xiangqi use several different names for the pieces - there is further information about alternative names on the Xiangqi Wikipedia page.
Distribution of pieces.
The pieces are thoroughly mixed face down, and then each player stacks pieces in pairs and arranges the stacks in a row. With 4 players there will be a row of four stacks in front of each player, forming a square, like this.
If there are three players, two players build five stacks and one player (it does not matter which) builds six stacks, making a triangle. Two players each build a row of eight stacks.
Next, to determine the player order, each player selects a different stack from one of the other players' rows, takes the bottom piece from that stack, and places it face up on top of the stack. Whoever reveals the highest ranked piece will be the first player, and the revealer of the second highest piece is second and so on. If two or more players reveal identical pieces, they each choose another stack (not from their own row and not already chosen) and reveal its bottom piece, placing it on top of the stack to break the tie between them.
Example. North reveals a red elephant 相, West a black horse 馬, South a black soldier 卒, East another black horse 馬. East and West must each reveal another piece to break the tie between them: East reveals a black chariot 車 and West a red guard 仕. The layout might now look like this:
North is the first player, having originally revealed the strongest piece, West is second, having won the tiebreak between East and West, East is third and South who originally revealed the lowest piece is fourth.
The first player now chooses a stack from either end of one of the rows and takes it. The second player takes the adjacent stack in the same row, the third player the next stack, then the fourth player, then the first again, and so on continuing around the layout in the same direction. If there are four players they continue until all the stacks are taken and each player has 8 pieces. If there are three players the last stack is not taken and each player has 10 pieces. With two players the last four stacks are not taken and therefore each player has 12 pieces.
In the example shown in the diagram above, North, as the first player, can choose to begin by taking stack 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16. If North begins with stack 5, West, the second player, must take stack 6, E 7, S 8, N 9, W 10 and so on around the layout. North will have a red guard and a black soldier among his 8 pieces, West will have a black chariot and a black horse and so on. If North chooses to begin with stack 12, then West must take stack 11, E 10, S 9, N 8 and so on. In this case North will acquire a red elephant and as yet 7 unknown pieces, West will have a black horse from stack 7, and so on.
All players look at their tiles, but do not show them to the other players. It may be convenient to keep the tiles on a rack, similar to those sometimes used for Mah Jong and other tile games.
The pieces are played out in tricks. The first player, as determined during the distribution of pieces, leads to the first trick and the winner of each trick leads to the next trick. The pieces can be played singly or in combinations of two or more tiles.
The leader to a trick decides whether to lead a single piece or a combination, and places the piece or pieces face down on the table. Then each of the other players (in any order) places face down in front of them the same number of pieces that the leader played. When all are ready, all players turn over the pieces they have played and the winner of the trick is determined.
The pieces played by the leader must form a valid combination. The possible combination types and the ranking within each type from high to low are as follows.
- Liab (粒) - one piece: 帥>將>仕>士>相>象>俥>車>傌>馬>炮>砲>兵>卒
- Dui (对) - two identical pieces: 仕仕>士士>相相>象象>俥俥>車車>傌傌>馬馬>炮炮>砲砲>兵兵>卒卒
- Giog (爵) - noble (three-piece combo): 帥仕相>將士象>炮仕相>砲士象>俥傌炮>車馬砲
- Sam Mui (三枚) - three identical pieces: 兵兵兵>卒卒卒
- Si Mui (四枚) - four identical pieces: 兵兵兵兵>卒卒卒卒
- Wu Mui (五枚) - five identical pieces：兵兵兵兵兵>卒卒卒卒卒
So the valid combinations are one piece, any set of two or more identical pieces, or the specific three-card Giog combinations consisting of general-guard-elephant, canon-guard-elephant or chariot-horse-canon of a single colour. Other combinations of three different pieces of the same colour are not valid.
The trick is won by whoever plays the highest valid combination of the same type as the combination played by the leader. This player takes all the pieces played to the trick, adds them to their store of captured pieces, and begins the next trick by playing a new piece or valid combination face down. This continues until all players have played all their pieces.
A general ( 帥 or 將) cannot be played in the first trick or in the last trick, either singly or as part of a combination. A player who violates this rule is considered to have captured no pieces at all, regardless of how many tricks they may have won. This rule is known as 'beheading the cock' (砍鸡头).
In each trick the leader should let the other players know what type of combination is being led. In most cases this is clear from the number of pieces laid face down, but in the case of a three-piece lead the leader must announce whether the lead is a Giog or a Sam Mui. A Giog can only be beaten by a higher Giog, and a San Mui can only be beaten by a higher San Mui (so this is only possible when three black pawns are beaten by three red soldiers).
For players other than the leader there is no restriction on what tiles they play to a trick, except that they must play the same number of tiles as the leader, and that the pieces played cannot include a general if it is the first or last trick.
If there is a tie for the highest combination played to a trick then the player leading to the trick has priority. In case of a tie between players none of whom is the leader, the tied player with the highest priority in the order determined during the distribution of tiles wins the trick. Continuing the example from above where the priority order is North, West, East, South, suppose that at some point in the game South has won a trick and leads a red cannon 炮 to the next trick. If the pieces played by the other players are West: black guard 士, North: black guard 士, East: red horse 傌 then North wins the tie against West and takes the trick, since North has first priority and West only second. However if South led a red chariot 俥 and the other plays were West: black soldier 卒, North: red chariot 俥, East: red horse 傌 then South wins the trick, since the leader to the trick always has priority.
Because of the number of pieces available in the set, ties are only possible with single pieces, pairs of soldiers/pawns and Giogs.
In the game as described by Jiang Fung Wong there is no scoring system. When all the pieces have been played, each player counts the number of pieces they have taken and the player with most pieces is simply declared the winner. In case of a tie for most pieces, the game is a draw and the players with most pieces share the win.
Alexey Lobashev describes two other Malaysian versions of this game - Jū mǎ pāo and Sang krip - which are perhaps more typical than the game Giog described above. They differ from Giog as follows.
Jū mǎ pāo (車馬包)
In this game for 3 or 4 players, named after the combination chariot-horse-cannon, the 32 pieces are mixed face down and then arranged into a circle in stacks of two. One of the players - usually the winner of the previous game, turns the two pieces of one stack face up, as in the illustration below.
The player who exposed the two pieces calculates their total value according to the the following scale:
- Black pawn (卒) = 8
- Cannon (炮/砲) = 7
- Horse (傌/馬) = 6
- Chariot (俥/車) = 5
- Minister/Elephant (相/象) = 4
- Guard (仕/士) = 3
- General/Marshal (帥/將) = 2
- Red soldier (兵) = 1
Beginning with him/herself as '1', the player counts the players clockwise around the table, and the player corresponding to the total value will be the starting player. For example in the illustration the total value of Horse + Elephant is 10, so in a 4-player game the starting player will be the player to the left of the one who turned up the pieces.
The starting player takes the two face up pieces, and the next player to the left takes one of the stacks next to the stack that was exposed. The next player in clockwise order takes the stack next to that one, and so on. The players take turns in clockwise order, continuing around the circle of stacks in the direction chosen by the second player, until each player has 4 stacks (8 pieces) in a 4-player game or 5 stacks (10 pieces) in a 3-player game. In a 3-player game the last stack of two pieces is set aside unseen and not used in the play.
The first player leads a valid combination (which must not include a marshal or general) face down to the first trick, announcing what kind of combination it is. The names of the combinations are:
- 粒 (lak - grain): one single piece
- 对 (doi - pair): two identical pieces, or the general and the marshal (帥將), which although not identical can be played together as the highest pair.
- 三爵 (san ngiok - three noble). In this game the noble combination cannon-guard-elephant does not exist. So there are only four such combinations: red or black general/marshal-guard-elephant and red or black chariot-horse-cannon, ranking 帥仕相>將士象>俥傌炮>車馬砲.
- 三肥 (san boi - 3 fat): three identical soldiers/pawns
- 四肥 (si boi - 4 fat): four identical soldiers/pawns
- 五肥 (ngu boi - 5 fat): five identical soldiers/pawns.
Apart from the fact that there are only four noble combinations, and that general+marshal form the highest pair, the ranking is the same as in Giog above. As in Giog, it is illegal to play a marshal or general in the first or last trick.
Each of the other players then places face down the same number of tiles as the player who led to the trick. So long as they play the correct number of tiles and do not include a marshal or general if it is the first or last trick, there is no other restriction on what tiles they play. When all are ready, all players turn face up the pieces they have played, and the highest combination of the same type as the one that was led wins the trick. The winner takes all the pieces led to the trick and leads any valid combination to the next trick.
In case of a tie, all the pieces are temporarily set aside and will be given to whichever player wins the next trick. After a tied trick the same player leads again. Presumably if the last trick is tied the pieces played to it (and any other pieces set aside from the previous trick(s)) belong to nobody.
Whoever takes the most pieces wins the game. There is no scoring.
This game for 2, 3 or 4 players is played counter-clockwise. The names of the individual pieces are given in Malay as
- Sdach (帥/將) for general/marshal
- Anser (仕/士) for guard
- Tug so (相/象) for minister/elephant
- Domrai so (俥/車) for chariot
- Ses (傌/馬) for horse
- Pau (炮/砲) for cannon
- Krochos (兵/卒) for soldier/pawn
The pieces are mixed and placed face down in a circle in stacks of two, as in Jū mǎ pāo, but no pieces are exposed. Instead the players play a version of rock-paper-scissors to decide who will start. The starting player takes any face-down stack, the next player to the right takes one of the stacks next to it, and the players continue in turn taking the next stack, consuming the circle in the direction chosen by the second player, until everyone has 4 stacks (8 pieces). There will be 4 unused stacks in the 3-player game and 8 unused stacks in the 2-player game.
The first player leads a piece or valid combination face down and announces what kind of combination it is. The other players play the same number of tiles face down. When all are ready, the leader's tiles are exposed, and then the other players in turn, beginning to the right of the leader, either expose their tile(s) if they beat the tile(s) that are currently winning the trick, or throw in their tile(s) face down if they are not sufficient to beat the best piece combination so far played to the trick.
The winner of the trick takes all the played tiles and leads to the next trick. Pieces that are left face down because they do not beat the winning piece or combination are taken and stored face down by the winner of the trick and cannot be looked at before the end of the play.
The valid combinations and their ranking is similar to the other versions of the game.
- As in Jū mǎ pāo the general and marshal can be played together as the highest pair.
- As in Jū mǎ pāo, there are only four 'three noble' combinations: 帥仕相>將士象>俥傌炮>車馬砲.
- There is an additional type of five-tile combination, consisting of the general or marshal together with two identical pairs of the same colour. For example 將車車馬馬. A black combination of this type can be beaten by a red one provided that the pairs are at least as high. So the black combination just given can be beaten by 帥相相傌傌 but not by 帥相相兵兵.
As usual it is illegal to play a general or marshal in the first or last trick.
Because of the method of play in this game, ties are effectively won by the earlier player in anticlockwise order from the leader to the trick. In fact the second piece or combination in the tie is not shown, since it does not beat the previous winning play.
In this game the players score according to the number of pieces taken in tricks. Players who have more than 8 pieces in the tricks they have won score plus one point (or win one stake) for each piece in excess of 8, and players with fewer than 8 pieces score minus one point (or pay one stake) for each piece they are short of 8. Because there are 8 pieces in the game for each player, the positive and negative scores or the gains and losses should always balance.
In both these games the players simply take the appropriate number of pieces from the shuffled set of face-down pieces. For a three- or five-player game one soldier of each colour is removed from the set so that the pieces can be distributed equally. It is not stated how the first player is chosen or how ties in tricks are resolved.
These variants do not allow the canon-guard-elephant combination. In the Northeastern version there is only one type of three-piece combination, in which three soldiers rank below the special combinations so that the ranking for this type is: 帥仕相>將士象>俥傌炮>車馬砲>兵兵兵>卒卒卒.
The brief Wikipedia page for the Taiwanese game Zhì hǔ indicates that the rules there are somewhat different. The pieces are divided into three suits: commanders (generals, guards, elephants), mobile units (chariots, horses, canons) and soldiers. It seems that a piece or combination can only be beaten by a higher piece or combination of the same suit. When playing one of the special three-card combinations it is possible to add a single piece or a pair of identical pieces to make a four- or five-tile combination. The objective in this game is not to win the greatest number of pieces but to win the last trick.