How to Play


The Deck

There are 48 cards divided into 12 suits representing months of the year. Each suit has four cards. While every suit has a different configuration of cards, there are four kinds of cards you need to know:

Flower, Wish, Spirit, and Light

Setup (2 Players)

Set aside extra Bamboo or Lotus suits.

Shuffle the deck and deal eight cards to your opponent, eight cards (face-up) to the field, and eight cards to yourself. It’s common to deal four cards at a time. The remaining deck is placed adjacent to the field as a draw pile.

First, check the field. If a complete suit is in the field, shuffle the cards and start over.

Next, check your hand. If a complete suit is in your hand, you instantly win this round, scoring 5 points!

Choose a player to begin.

The Goal

Match and capture valuable cards to form specific sets called Yaku.

Your Turn

When your turn starts, try to match a card from your hand with a card from the same suit in the field. If you find a match, place both cards face-up in front of you.

If you are unable to find a match, you must place a card from your hand into the field.

Next, draw a card from the deck, placing it into the field. If you find a match, place both cards face-up in front of you.

If your card matches two cards in the field, you may only choose one to capture. However, if your card matches three cards in the field, you may capture the entire suit.

Now it’s the next player’s turn.

Continue until a player forms a Yaku.

Strategy Tips

Some Yaku are worth more points than others, but are much more difficult to form. Consider which Yaku you're able to form. Initially, you might prioritize capturing any valuable card. But as the round progresses, it might be more strategic to match a specific card to form a Yaku and win.

In addition, you can score points for multiple Yaku that utilize the same cards.

Example: A player captures the Sake, Curtain, Crane and Phoenix cards. They score 2 points for Sake + Curtain, and also 5 points for Any 3 Lights.

Yaku, Koi-Koi,
and Ending

When you form a Yaku, you can choose to continue (say “Koi-Koi!”) or end the round. Choosing to continue is a gamble. Continuing the round is worth 1 bonus point! But only the player who ends the round may score points that round.

Example 1: Player A forms a Yaku and continues. Player A forms another Yaku and ends the round. Player A scores Yaku points plus 1 bonus point. Player B scores 0 points.

Example 2: Player A forms a Yaku and continues. Player B forms a Yaku and ends. Player B scores Yaku points. Player A scores 0 points.

If a player has an empty hand and is unable to form a Yaku, they score 0 points. If their opponent also has an empty hand and is unable to form a Yaku, the round ends and both players score 0 points.

Light Yaku
Any 3 Lights5
each additional Light+2
Special Yaku
Sake + Curtain2
Sake + Moon2
Spirit Yaku (choose one)
Boar, Deer,
Any 5 Spirits1
each additional Spirit+1
Wish Yaku (choose one)
3 Poetry and
3 Blue Wishes
3 Poetry Wishes5
3 Blue Wishes5
Any 5 Wishes1
each additional Wish+1
Flower Yaku
Any 10 Flowers1
each additional Flower+1


Typically, games are played in a series of rounds. A “Season” is three rounds. A “Half-Year” is six rounds. And a “Year” is twelve rounds. The player with the most points at the end of the series wins!

If the players have identical scores, rejoice in the shared victory!

For a more casual approach to Koi-Koi, the player who earns a Yaku first wins!