Round Three: The Spanish Patterns, and Shenzhen For Real

For as much as I said that I was having a difficult time finding round cards, I sure got a significant amount of them in quick succession. Between the Waddingtons and those other ones with air conditioners on them, what else could I have gone for? The answer was one other thing from the card-owning bucket list: own a deck of a non-French pattern.

I’ve mentioned “the French pattern” a number of times without really explaining it, so it’s about time I did. The most common decks of playing cards are all based on the ranks and suits popularized in France. The scheme of 2 through 10, the face cards and aces, with four suits, was actually based on the German pattern – though by comparison, German cards have far fewer ranks than French ones, as the German ranks go from 7 to 10, followed by the royals and Aces. The French pattern introduced ranks 2 through 6, and those were technically introduced sometime in the 14th century, but only became popular in the late 18th. Many other patterns exist for regional preferences (hanafuda) or special purposes (tarot), but the deck I’m covering today is of the Spanish pattern, specifically the Catalan (if I’ve understood the Wikipedia sources correctly).

A deck of Fournier round cards of what I’m reasonably sure is the Catalan Spanish pattern. Each suit has 12 ranks; the “royals” (knave, knight, and king) are numbered 10, 11, and 12.

The Spanish pattern doesn’t differ quite as much from the French as the German cards do, but even still, the suits of a Spanish deck actually veer closer to the minor arcana of a tarot deck than they do the French cards that are so popular worldwide. The suits are not even differentiated by color like a French deck; in a Catalan deck, these are Coins, Swords, Cups, and Clubs. I was always confused about the fact that the suit I know as “clubs” in a French deck doesn’t actually look anything like a club; the French actually call them trèfles, which actually translates to “clovers.” But in the Catalan cards, the clubs actually look like…well, clubs, as in the great gnarled-wood implements of smashing that pop culture associates with cave men.

The most famous manufacturer of Spanish cards is Naipes Heraclio Fournier S.A., a small lithography company founded in the 1860s by Heraclio Fournier, the younger of two brothers who got their start running a factory together. The younger Fournier set out to become a playing card manufacturer right from the outset, but didn’t get around to designing a new set of cards for another decade or so afterward. Eventually, the Fournier company became the single largest manufacturer of playing cards in Spain, selling roughly 16 million decks a year. Fournier are the company if you’re interested in Spanish-pattern decks; there are quite a number of variations on the Spanish deck, just as there are with the French. And one such variant is a round one!

Only upon actually receiving my deck of Fournier Rounds (and the startling realization that Fournier are now owned by the United States Playing Card Company) did I realize that I don’t have any specific games that I can play with them. I did make an attempt at a modified Canfield, where piles are built by suit instead of by alternating color, but I feel like I play Canfield with every deck I’ve tested, and it’s starting to get a bit monotonous. (But really, is it my fault that it’s so quick to deal?) So one day, on a trip to my grandmother’s house, I brought the Fourniers with me and devised a set of rules to play Shenzhen solitaire with them.

The tableau of Shenzhen: eight piles of five cards each. The deck has to be specially prepared in advance, though, since not all the ranks are used.

Catalan Shenzhen

The object of this game is to build all three foundations by suit (from ranks 1 through 9), shut down all three free cells by exposing all four of each royal, and collecting the symbol card into its specific foundation.

Deck Preparation and Dealing

Before a round of Shenzhen can be dealt, you will need to prepare your deck. This will be easier if you unshuffle it first, whether by winning a round of (almost) any other solitaire or by sorting the cards manually.

  1. Select one of the four suits, and remove ranks 1 through 9 from it. There should only be three “complete” suits, and four each of 10, 11, and 12 cards. The 10s, 11s, and 12s (or royals, if you’re using a French deck) will take the place of Shenzhen’s “dragon” cards.
  2. If you’re playing with French cards and not Spanish, remove all the 10s.
  3. Include ONE of the Jokers; on this deck, I used one of the cards with a picture of the Fournier factory on it.
  4. The total number of cards in the resulting deck should be exactly 40 – 1 through 9 of three suits (27), four knaves/10s (31), four knights/11s (35), four kings/12s (39), and a joker (40).

Deal 8 tableau piles of 5 cards each, as indicated in the above photograph.

Playing Shenzhen

In Shenzhen solitaire, as with the computer game, tableau piles must be built down by alternating suit. Since there are no colors, the rule is that you can build down with any suit that does not match the suit of the card being built on. If you are building on a 9 of Swords, you may play an 8 of Cups or an 8 of Coins, but NOT an 8 of Swords. Sequential piles may be moved simultaneously, without needing the free cells. Any card may be played to an empty tableau pile. You are allowed 3 free cells, to which any single card may be stored.

Royal cards cannot be built upon, or used in sequences. They may only be moved to free cells or empty tableau piles. If all four of the same rank of royal are exposed and movable, you may congregate the four cards into any empty free cell, locking that cell. (Flip the pile upside-down to signify this.)

Foundation piles must be built up by suit, from rank 1 to rank 9. Royal cards do not play to foundations. The “symbol” card (flower, joker, or Fournier factory card, depending on your deck) has its own foundation that it may be played to immediately. The symbol card cannot be played in any other way; once it is revealed, it immediately goes to its foundation.

Victory is achieved when all of the ranked cards are in their foundations, the symbol card is in its foundation, and the three cells have been locked down with their respective royals.

In Conclusion

Spanish cards actually do have a number of popular games to play with them. The problem, from my perspective, is that there are almost zero widely acknowledged games for just one player, as far as my research has shown. Of course, it’s entirely possible I just don’t know what I’m looking for, in which case I’d love to hear from someone that does.


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