Bakappana [馬鹿っ花 - ばかっぱな, lit. “foolish flowers”] is a name applied to simplified hanafuda fishing games. As with the name “Hana-Awase,” it may refer to a number of different games, depending on the source and time period in question.
The source of Bakappana’s simplicity is its complete lack of yaku, or scoring combinations. Only raw card points are counted when determining scores, which makes it exceptionally straightforward. Contrast with Hana-Awase, which is an extremely similar game, but with yaku involved.
It appears as though, over time, Bakappana developed yaku of its own as house rules. Or, perhaps the term “Bakappana” expanded in scope to include some of the simpler Hana-Awase variants. Whatever the case, both ‘Bakappana’ and ‘Hana-Awase’ have been used as generic names to describe a wide range of hanafuda fishing games.
The version described here is the typical yaku-less flavour - a simple fishing game for 2-4 players which involves collecting cards to score points.
Game setup involves choosing a dealer [親 - おや, oya], shuffling the deck, and distributing the initial cards. Like many hanafuda games, a decision must also be made as to how many rounds to play - 12 rounds is traditional, though 6 and 3 are options for shorter games. Any other house rules should also be established at this point in order to keep gameplay smooth and fair.
No method is stipulated for choosing the dealer. A hanafuda-specific method involves each player drawing a card from the deck, and the player with the earliest month becomes the dealer. In the event of a tie, the highest-ranked card within the month is considered the earliest. If there is still a tie, then the players re-draw.
In the three-player version of the game, 7 cards are dealt to each player, and 6 cards face-up to the table.
In the two-player version, 8 cards are dealt to each player, and a further 8 cards face-up to the table.
With four players, 5 cards are dealt to each player, and 8 cards to the field.
The remainder of the deck is placed face-down to form the draw pile.
There is no required order for dealing the cards, though certain traditional conventions exist. With two players, the dealer typically deals 4 cards to the opponent, 4 to the table, 4 to themselves, then repeats. Sometimes this is done in packets of two instead of four.
With three players, the usual process is for the dealer to give 4 cards to each player in an anti-clockwise order, 3 to the table, 3 to each player, then 3 to the table again.
If 4 cards of the same month are dealt to the table, then a misdeal is declared (since these 4 cards are impossible to capture). In this case, the cards are thrown in, shuffled again, and re-dealt.
In each round, the dealer is the first to play, and turn to play passes anti-clockwise around the table. The core gameplay and turn structure of Bakappana is utterly typical of hanafuda fishing games, and makes an ideal first introduction.
On their turn, a player chooses a single card from their hand and plays it to the table.
If a card is played that matches something on the table, then the player must capture, as described above. However, there is no obligation to play a card that matches something, even if the player has one in their hand; they may, if they wish, elect to play a card that matches nothing on the table.
As is typical of hanafuda games, each player’s score pile should be kept face-up and laid out on the table, so that its contents are fully visible to all players. Ideally, the cards should also be arranged by type (Brights, Animals, Ribbons, and Chaff) to make assessing the game state easier.
After a card has been played from their hand, the player takes the top card of the draw pile, turns it face-up, and immediately plays it to the table in the same fashion.
After both cards have been played- one from the player’s hand, and one from the draw pile- the turn ends, and the next player takes their turn.
The round ends when all players run out of cards in their hand and when the draw pile is exhausted. In a three- or four-player game, these events should occur together. In a two-player game, there will be 8 cards remaining in the draw pile, and the players continue to take turns playing a card from it until the draw pile is exhausted.
Traditionally, the game uses a zero-sum scoring system common to many other such hanafuda games - all the better to facilitate gambling. First, each player adds up the total points of all their captured cards. The values of the cards are completely standard, as follows:
|Card Type||Value||Number in Deck|
The total point value of the entire deck is 264.
With three players, each player could conceivably earn exactly 88 points (one third of 264), the actual score each player earns is their total number of card points, minus the par value of 88.
With four players, each one could potentially earn exactly 66 points. So again, the actual points earned is the total of the player’s card points, minus the par value of 66.
Likewise, with two players, each could earn exactly 132 points, and so here the par value is 132.
Hence, the total amount of points gained or lost by each player at the end of the round will be given by the following:
Player's Score = Player's Total Card Points - Par Value,
where the par value is equal to 264 divided by the number of players - 66 for four players, 88 for three, and 132 for two.
When using this zero-sum scoring method in a two-player game, it is important to empty the draw pile as described above. The scores will not remain zero-sum unless all cards are played and captured!
Alternatively, groups less inclined to gambling (and mental arithmetic) may prefer the following, much simpler additive scoring system:
Player's Score = Player's Total Card Points.
This system works strightforwardly for any number of players. In particular, there is no requirement for every card to be played, and two-player games with this scoring system may sometimes specify that the round ends when both players empty their hands, leaving the 8 cards in the draw pile untouched.
The player with the highest score at the end of the round becomes the dealer for the next round. (What should happen in the event of a tie here is frequently unspecified, and best agreed upon as a house rule.) After the desired number of rounds have been played, the player with the highest total score at the end of all the rounds is the winner of the game.
Traditionally, this game featured zero-sum scoring each round, meaning that any points gained by one player would be lost by another, resulting in the sum of all players’ scores equalling zero. This is especially useful when played as a gambling game, as it makes it clear who is up or down what amount of money.
That said, there are also versions of this game wherein each player’s score is independent of all the others, meaning only addition need be performed, and nobody’s score enters negative numbers, which may make calculation easier for some.
However, there are some versions of this game that are used for gambling, despite not using zero-sum scoring.
This Bakappana variant in particular does not use zero-sum scoring. Each player counts their points after each round, and the player with the most points is paid 1 share, which is an agreed-upon amount of money, each by the other two players.
This Bakappana variant has a different method of settlement. Each player counts their points after each round, and for every 10 points in the score, each player is paid 1 share by each of the other two players. (To simplify the settlement, it is advisable to take the score of the lowest scoring player and subtract it from the scores of the other two players.)
The name refers to the amount of money per share: If it’s 30 sen, it’s called Sanjū-Sen-Me [三十錢目]; If it’s 50 sen, it’s called Gojū-Sen-Me [五十錢目]; If it’s 1 yen, it’s called Ichi-En-Me [一圓目].
Many older books refer to two broad varieties of Bakappana, differing only by the point value of the Chaff cards. Both varieties use the standard points for Brights, Animals, and Ribbons: 20, 10, and 5, respectively. The 88 no bakappana variant treats Chaff as worth 1 point apiece, whereas the 80 no bakappana variant treats Chaff as worth no points.
The result is that scoring is considerably easier to calculate in 80 no bakappana, with comparison scores of 120, 80, or 60 points for each player in the 2-, 3-, or 4-player versions, as opposed to 132, 88, or 66 points in 88 no bakappana.
See also Hachi-Juu-Hana.
For two players, the option exists to deal 10 cards to each player at the beginning of the round. This way, the draw pile will be fully exhausted once the players run out of cards, eliminating the need to empty it manually.
Originally, Bakappana featured no yaku, and only card values played any role in scoring. This is the version of the game recorded in the 1921 Department of Justice report on gambling, and the version playable in the 2019 MocoGame iOS application.
However, later on, this name was applied to games featuring yaku, making the term “Bakappana” synonymous with “Hana-Awase.” This is the game described in the 1948 Gambling Criminal Arrest Summary.
See Hana-Awase for a game extremely similar to Bakappana, but involving yaku.