During our DIY trek in Nepal, we spent a night in a grungy little town called Chisapani, as Kenny described here. The mountain lodge where we spent the night had little to recommend itself, aside from its being less dirty than the other options, and its lively community of trekkers, guides, and porters assembled in the restaurant downstairs. We spent a few hours hanging out with this diverse crowd, during which a Polish gentleman taught us a fun card game that he had learned from his Nepali trekking guide. A Brit who joined the card game later told us that it was similar to a game he had learned in India from some Israelis, and the version he had learned was called Yaniv (in fact, the game play is similar to Yaniv, but there are some key differences: e.g. we start with only 5 cards, and a player needs 5 points or less in his hand to declare himself the winner).
The Brit taught us some important rules that the original Nepali game did not include:
- If a player “declares” but one of the other players has an equal point total in his hand, then the declarer loses the round (and gets a 30 point penalty).
- If, after discarding, a player draws a card with the same value as the one he just discarded, he can “slap” it down on top of the discard pile. He must be fast enough to slap his card on the pile before the next player discards.
We never learned the Nepali name of the game, but it will forever be known to us as The Nepalese Card Game™.
After that night in Chisapani, we forgot about the game for a little while, until we arrived in India and decided to teach it to Sean one night. Sean was instantly hooked, and the game quickly started filling many of our free hours. When Archana returned home from Germany, she was also quickly indoctrinated, and eventually became the most obsessed of all of us. Over time, many of Sean and Archana’s friends joined our card-playing parties as well.
We added a few rules of our own over time, most notably a rule involving jokers. Jokers are wild, but they come with a price: if a player has a joker in his hand when someone else “declares,” then the joker carries a penalty of 40 points. Since we usually play to 100, this is a significant risk. We’ve had a few particularly brutal rounds in which both jokers appeared in a single player’s hand. The addition of the jokers has made the game much more dynamic and fun.
Over many hours of playing the game, we also developed some theories on strategy, and Sean plans to publish the authoritative strategy guide some day. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many hours we have all sunk into this game, including most of last weekend in Kerala, where we even taught our boat captain how to play. I expect many more hours of cards on our upcoming Goa trip.