The Art of Mongolian Card Playing

Mongolian playing cards.
Mongolian playing cards.

Mongolians have two main cards game that they admire: Huzur (Хөзөр) and Moshik (Мощиг).

Huzur (Хөзөр)

The ultimate goal is to beat the card that was played before you and play all the cards from your hand. After playing a card, you must draw back up to the number of cards you started the game with. You can play with hands of 5 or 7.

You remove the 4s, 5s, and 6s from the deck before playing. You also want to keep the two Jokers in for play. Everyone gets their hand and you flip the top card from the deck. Whatever the suit of that card is becomes the trump suit. If your red joker (big joker) is flipped, the trump suit is hearts. If the black joker (small joker) is flipped, the trump suit is spades.

Some play that if you have the 7 of that suit, you can trade the 7 for whatever card is marking the trump suit. On that note, here is the order of cards, from worst to best.

7, 8, 9, 10, jack, queen, king, 3, 2, ace, (trump suit 7-ace), black joker, red joker

You must play the suit that preceded you. So, if someone plays the 8 of clubs, you must play a club. If you don’t have a club, you can play a trump, but if you can’t beat the card, you have to pick up the pile.

You can also play pairs. If you have two 7s, you can play them in the same turn if you’re leading. You place them down, but play one additional card with the pair (all leads must be an odd number). You can’t play more cards than the person with the lowest number in their hand. Example: You can’t play three cards if someone in the game only has two cards in their hand.

It’s lots of fun, and quite addicting!

Moshik (Мощиг)

The goal is to knock your score from 15 to zero as quickly as possible. The play style is similar to Spades or Hearts. Instead of collecting sets or books, you collect gers. If you have one point, you must play the last hand. Each ger subtracts one point from your score. If you don’t collect any gers, however, you add five points to your score. First to clear out their score wins!

In Mongolia, there is a certain skill involved in playing cards. Their games are similar to our own, but the way you actually play the cards is something noteworthy. Most people will set the card down flat on the table, perhaps making the card snap by pulling on a corner or side before releasing it. Others may send the card spinning like a ninja star with a quick flick of the wrist. The preferred way of discarding the card in your hand in Mongolia is much more vigorous: You throw the card down with most– if not all– of your might onto the unsuspecting table. There are many iterations of this single move: Winding up behind the head and throwing it with a grand arc, starting at the shoulder and flinging it with great speed, or the classic straight from the hand while letting out a short battle-cry.

I played my host mother and host sister a few times (still undefeated, I might add!), and they both threw the cards down with great force. At first, I was startled. Were they angry? Were they so competitive that they wanted me to see how good their card was by playing it with such a grand gesture? The more I played cards with Mongolians, however, the more I noticed that this is just how they play their games. Throwing down the cards excitedly just reflects the enthusiasm they have for the game.

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