If you have any interest in Korean entertainment or culture, you’ve probably seen these cards somewhere (“You Who Came From the Stars” or “Reply 1997” anyone?) Small, rectangular cards, with red edges and pretty designs at the centre. They’re distinctive, as is the way they’re often seen being played. The cards themselves are called Hwatu, and the game they’re most associated with in Korea is Go-Stop, or Godori.
Hwatu, also known as flower cards, come in matching families of four. Each is designed around a month of the year and a specific flower. There’s the wisteria for April, iris for May, peony for June and so forth. Not only this, but the cards are also grouped together by type. There are pi cards, animal cards, and ribbon cards, whilst those remaining are called the junk cards. These don’t have any extra details on their designs, thus they’re easy to tell apart. All of these cards have a different worth in points, which will tally up at the end of the game to eventually decide the winner. Different groups using these common features can also be made, leading to even more point combinations.
After the initial layout of the cards, play consists of each player taking a turn to place a card face up on the table. If it matches with a card that was laid out at the beginning of the game, then they can take that set. There are countless different rules and variations within this, such as special matches that allow you to take opponents cards, and certain pairs that are worth more points than others. Depending upon the number of people playing, there will be a target score to reach. When someone hits this number of points, they can choose to stop the game. This is where the name Go-stop comes from. There are other variations in which there is no calling of go or stop, and in these versions play continues until all the cards in the pile are used. These are much simpler and can be a great way to learn the flow of the game before adopting all the trickier rules. It’s a very popular game for Korean families to play over Lunar New Year, ranging from 2 to 4 players, with the rules adjusted accordingly.
A lot like Monopoly, many households have their own rules for playing, and gambling usually gets involved! The basic idea of the game is simple, despite the more complex conditions that traditional rule sets use. The game originated in Japan, under the name Hanafuda, which literally translated means “battle of the flowers.” The popularity of the game is a likely remnant of the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945. Despite the tenuous relationship the two countries regarding their turbulent past, cultural traditions such as this show that links still remain.
Countless resources can be found online to learn the in’s and out’s of Go-Stop. Here is a classic from Simon and Martina, previously EatYourKimchi, with a basic explanation and example of how to play.