So Many Vietnamese Games…

Part class, part tour, this is a great activity to learn Vietnamese games which are popular in Da Nang. As any visitors will tell you, Da Nang is a very relaxed place. People love to hang out, drink coffee and pass the time playing games. On, we’ll learn how to play four of the most popular games in Da Nang, including Chinese Chess, a Mancala-like stone counting game, a sometimes-very-rowdy card game and a kind of billiards. If you’ve ever wanted to learn some Vietnamese games, this activity is for you!


vietnamese games

Tiến Lên, which means advance! (like in battle), is a card game played in coffee shops all over Da Nang, and in Vietnam in general. The goal is to get rid of all your cards by playing them in pairs, 3-of-a-kinds or runs. Cards are ranked by number as well as by suit within each number. Each round, players must put down a combination that is more powerful than those cards previously played, or else they have to forfeit their turn. Like many competitive activities in Vietnam, money often changes hands in between games.


vietnamese games

Next up is Ô An Quan, a game very popular with children in the countryside. If you’ve ever played Mancala, you’ll recognize this game, though there are some important differences. You take your ‘seeds’ and distribute them to all the ‘plots’ around the board. The goal is to ‘eat’ the most seeds, thus clearing them from the board and putting them into your stash. Pretty simple to learn, but requires a bit of strategy and planning.

Chinese Chess

vietnamese games

Chinese Chess, or cờ tướng, is another very popular coffees shop game. Similar to Western Chess (called King Chess here), it’s a strategy game where the object is to capture the opponent’s king. Those familiar with King Chess may recognize some of the pieces and their movements: the ‘Car’ moves just like a Rook, and the ‘Horse’ moves, well, like a Horse. But some important differences make this game, in my opinion, much more interesting. There is no Queen (so no piece you absolutely can’t lose), the King cannot leave his ‘palace’, and a ‘Cannon’ moves like a Car but attacks by jumping over exactly one piece, either yours or your opponent’s. I really love this game!

3-ball Billiards

vietnamese games

3-ball billiards is the most popular billiards-type game in Vietnam. The table has no pockets and only three balls: red, yellow and white. The object is to strike your ball so that it bounces off the second ball and then makes contact with the third ball. (Unlike 15-ball billiards, you don’t really care what happens to the second ball). Sounds simple, but it’s not! If you’re successful, you get a point and get to keep going. Making shots often requires creative use of the cushions and putting a bit of ‘English’ on the ball. It’s like a puzzle you need to re-solve after every shot. Tricky and fun, plus you get to drink beer!

We’ll play each game in a different place, so in addition to learning some cool Vietnamese games, you get a feel for the city. We’ll also take a lunch break at one of my favorite local food spots.

The class is $30 per person, with a maximum of 4 people in the class. The cost includes all the drinks, like coffee and pool hall beers, as well as lunch. Starts at 10 am and should finish around 2 pm or so.

vietnamese games tour

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