Sakura is a popular hanafuda game in Hawaii for 2-7 players (though said to be best for 2-4). It is also known as Higo-Bana, Hawaiian Koi-Koi, or even just Hanafuda. It uses unique point values for the cards, with Ribbons and Animals switching their usual points with the other. It also features unique Hiki rules and uses the Lightning as a wild card.
While most hanafuda games allow a maximum of three active players (with the remainder needing to drop out for the round), Sakura is unusual in being seemingly designed for large numbers of players. There are even options for team play!
First, determine how many are to play and who will make up each team. For 2, 3, 5, or 7 players, each participant plays on their own. A 4-player game may be either played individually, or in teams teams consisting of 2 players each. A 6-player game can likewise be played individually, in 3 teams of 2, or 2 teams of 3. If playing in teams of 2, teammates should sit opposite one another; for teams of 3, players from each team should be seated alternately around the table.
It is also a good idea to establish house rules and come to an agreement over scoring and how long the game shall last at this point in time.
Next, determine who will be the first dealer. Any method may be used, but a traditional mode would be to have each player draw one card from the deck, and whoever draws the earliest month in the standard order of suits deals first. (In the case of a tie, the tied players may draw again until the matter is resolved.)
Once the cards have been shuffled and cut, the dealer passes out cards face down to each player and face up to the field according to the following chart.
|Number of Players||Cards to each Player||Cards to the Field|
Any remaining cards form the draw pile for the round and are to be placed in a single face down stack beside the field cards.
If four cards of the same suit have been dealt to the table, the dealer automatically captures them.
As in most Hanafuda games, the dealer takes the first turn, followed by each player around the table in counter-clockwise order.
When playing with teams, each team shares a common score pile. Note that teammates are not allowed to reveal the contents of their hands to each other.
The winner of the round becomes dealer for the next round.
On their turn, a player chooses a single card from their hand and plays it to the field.
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 to make detecting yaku easier.
However, since Chaff are worth 0 points and play no role in any yaku, it is common in Sakura to discard all Chaff cards to a common junk pile.
If a player sees all 4 cards of a given suit among the cards in their hand and those on the field (in any combination), this is known as a hiki. On their turn, the player may, instead of playing a card from their hand, declare the hiki and immediately capture all 4 cards. They then play a card from the draw pile as normal.
A player is not required to reveal a hiki unless another player attempts to capture a card that belongs to that hiki using the Lightning card (which will force the player of the Lightning to target a different card).
Note that the concept of hiki in the game of Sakura does not have an exact equivalent in other hanafuda games, and overlaps with those games’ concepts of dealer’s privilege, lucky hands, capturing stacked cards on the field with one from the hand, and bombing the field.
The Lightning card is known as Gaji in this game, and acts as a wild card. When played from the hand, it may pair with and thus capture any card on the field. However, if the Gaji is already on the field, it can only be captured by another Willow card.
Once captured, keep the Gaji with the card it was paired with. At the end of the round, if any other cards of the paired card’s suit are present on the field, they are automatically captured by the player who used the Gaji.
However, the Gaji cannot be used to capture a card that would complete another player’s hiki. In this circumstance, the owner of the hiki must announce it when the Gaji’s user tries to capture one of the hiki cards. The player of the Gaji must then target a different card, or simply leave the Gaji on the field.
In some variants of the game, if the Gaji is dealt to the field at the beginning of the round, then it is simply discarded.
The round ends once all players run out of cards and the draw pile has been exhausted; the existence of the hiki rule means that these events may not be simultaneous.
Due to the usage of a wild card, most rounds will end with two unpaired cards - one Willow, and one that matches the suit of whatever card was captured by the Gaji (Lightning).
In this case, the last Willow will be added to the scoring area of the player who captured the other two non-wild Willows, and the remaining card is added to the scoring area of the player who used the Lightning to capture its mate.
Then, the round is scored. Each player’s (or team’s) base score is the total value of their captured cards. They then subtract 50 points for each yaku (scoring combination) held by each of their opponents.
Thus, each player’s (or team’s) score at the end of the round will be:
Total Score = Total Value of Captured Cards - (50 x Total Number of Yaku Held by All Opponents).
The player with the highest score at the end of the round becomes dealer for the next round. In the event of a tie, the player who was earliest in the turn order becomes the dealer.
What happens here when playing in teams? Does the winning team decide among themselves who will be the dealer next round?
The game ends after the agreed-upon number of rounds has been played. At this point, the player (or team) with the highest total score is the winner.
Note that in this game, the Rain Man is treated as an Animal rather than a Bright. Note as well the reversal from the usual values for Animals and Ribbons, and that the Yellow Paulownia has the value of a Ribbon.
|0||All Chaff except Yellow Paulownia|
Thus, a complete deck contains 240 points.
There are 8 yaku in Sakura, each consisting of 3 cards. Each is worth 50 points, but unlike in most other fishing games, the points are subtracted from each opponent’s score rather than being added to one’s own.
The yaku in this game also seem to lack specific names; instead, each is typically assigned one of the first 8 syllables of the Iroha poem. In the Paradise Factors rule leaflet, they are instead simply numbered from 1 to 8, following the same order.
|Name of Yaku||Composition||Description|
|I - い||A.k.a ‘Drinking’
|Ro - ろ||The highest scoring card
of each month
used in the ‘Ha’ yaku.
|Ha - は||Three Red
|Ni - に||Three Blue
|Ho - ほ||The highest scoring card
of each month
used in the ‘Ni’ yaku.
|He - へ||Three Red Ribbons
excluding Willow ribbon.
A.k.a. ‘Grass Ribbons’
|To - と||The highest scoring card
of each month
used in the ‘He’ yaku.
|Chi - ち||A.k.a ‘Boar-Deer-Geese’
There are two main variations in overall scoring: the one which counts points cumulatively across rounds, used by Hanafuda Hawaii Style, and the one which instead counts round victories, used by Paradise Factors.
The cumulative points system is the one described in the main part of this page. The round-counting system works as follows:
Whenever a player wins a round, they receive a single token. If they win by at least 50 points, they instead receive two tokens, and if by at least 100 points, three tokens. Once the agreed-upon number of rounds has been played, the player with the greatent number of tokens is the winner.
There are four cards that contribute to 2 yaku each; thus, these should be considered more valuable than others and priority should be given to their capture. These are the Curtain, Boar, Sake Cup, and Deer. Among these, the Curtain is worth 20 points on its own as well, making it the most valuable card in the game.
That said, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; rather than indiscriminately aiming to capture the four most versatile cards, one should try to capture cards that synergize with those in their hand or those that they have already captured whenever possible.
Being that Chaff cards are not worth any points, one should refrain from matching two Chaff together, and instead attempt to hold onto any Chaff in the hand until one of its matching point cards appear on the board. But, it is usually better to discard a Chaff or match it with another Chaff than to discard a more valuable card and risk allowing another player to claim it.
Note that the Willow and Paulownia suit cards do not participate in any yaku.