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Conquian Players Louisiana 1938.jpg
"Game of coon-can in store near Reserve, Louisiana", 1938; photo by Russell Lee
Alternative namesCoon can, Colonel
Skills requiredStrategy
Playing time20 min.
Random chanceMedium
Related games
Canasta Desmoche

Conquian, Coon Can or Colonel (the two-handed version) is a rummy-style card game. David Parlett describes it as an ancestor to all modern rummy games, and a kind of proto-gin rummy.[1] Before the appearance of gin rummy, it was described as "an excellent game for two players, quite different from any other in its principles and requiring very close attention and a good memory to play it well".[2]


The game originated in Mexico in the mid-1800s. By 1852 it had established itself in New Mexico, because it is included, as conquian, in a list of examples of pastimes that were legally permitted as a "game of recreation".[3][4] It was first called Coon Can in 1887 and then in detail in R. F. Foster's Hoyle in 1897, where it is described as "a great favorite in Mexico and in all the American states bordering upon it, especially Texas".[1][2] Parlett notes that the 1920s American card-game writer Robert F. Foster "traces Conquian back to the early 1860s".[5]

The name is thought to either derive from con quién – Spanish "with whom", or from the Chinese game Kon Khin,[n 1] a variation of the earlier game Khanhoo. It is sometimes corrupted to Coon Can,[n 2] Councan, Conca and Cuncá, a South American variation of the game.[6] In 19th-century Mexican literature[n 3] the word is spelled cunquián or conquián,[7] but earlier legal publications in New Mexico, in both Spanish and English, record it as conquian and Wood and Goddard state that the game was named after the Spanish "¿con quién?" - "with whom?" referring to the melding of cards.[8] Others argue that it is tempting to relate Conquian to the 19th-century Philippine card game Kungkian, or Kungkiyang, which Ilocano and Cebuano dictionaries define as "A card game, the same as pañggiñggí [i.e. Panguingue], except that there are only two players."[9]


The aim is to be the first to get rid of the cards, including the last one drawn, by melding sets and runs. The total number of cards melded must be 11 at the end.


Hand of 10 Spanish-suited cards

Conquian is played by two or more players with Spanish playing cards or a 40-card pack of French playing cards either by removing the courts or by removing the 8s, 9s and 10s. The two-player game is sometimes called Colonel to distinguish it (see below).

Ranks and card-point values of cards
(lowest to highest)
Spanish-suited cards
(40-card pack)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10
French-suited cards
(no courts)
A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
French-suited cards
(no 8/9/10)
A 2 3 4 5 6 7 J Q K


Each player is dealt 10 cards in five packets of two and the remainder are placed face down as a stock. During play, cards may be melded by pairing at least three of a kind or by a straight flush sequence i.e. three to eight cards from the sequence 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 S C R. Thus, 1-2-3 and 6-7-S are valid, but C-R-1 is not.


After the deal, the dealer turns up the top card from the remainder of the deck to begin the discard pile. The non-dealer then has the option to take the first card, but must use it immediately (with at least two hand-cards) to make a meld. If the non-dealer does not want the card, the dealer has the option to pick it up and use it for his meld. If neither player wants the first card, the non-dealer takes the first card from the draw pile and may use it immediately to meld or discard it. They may not place the card in their hand. If either player makes a valid meld with it, that player must discard one card from his hand. The other player may then choose this card or draw another from the pile.

So whoever turns from the pile has first choice of the card turned, and must either meld it, extend one of his existing melds with it, or pass. If both players pass, the second turns it down and draws next.


In melding, a player may "borrow" cards from their other melds to help create new ones, provided that those thereby depleted are not reduced to less than valid three-card melds. After melding, the player's discard becomes available to the opponent, who may then either meld it or turn it down and make the next draw.


If a player declines a faced card that can legally be added to one of their existing melds, they must meld it if their opponent so demands. This is called 'forcing'. This way, it is sometimes possible to force a player into a situation from which they can never go out, therefore creating a point of much interest to the strategy of the play. If neither is out when the last available card has been declined, the game is drawn and the stake carried forward.


Winning a hand entails melding 11 cards, so on the last play, the winning player must use the drawn card in his meld. Play may be extended over several hands by playing to a specified point total.

Points still in the losing player's hand may be awarded to the winner. If using a Spanish pack or pip cards from a French pack, a possible scoring system totals the face value of all cards. If using a shortened French pack minus the 8s, 9s and 10s, one scoring system gives face value for 1–7, 10 for jacks, queens and kings, and 15 for aces.


  • The jacks, queens and kings may be removed instead of 8s, 9s and 10s.
  • No cards are removed.
  • Each player may be dealt nine cards and attempt to meld 10.
  • Three players can play this game with eight cards being dealt and attempt to meld nine.
  • Four players can play with seven cards dealt and attempt to meld eight.
  • Players may "borrow" from opponents melds, providing they leave at least three cards on that meld.
  • Black cards with a value of 2 may be used to replace any other card in the deck
  • Trading can happen after the players have reviewed their initial hands, but before the first draw. Each player takes one card from their hand and passes it clockwise to the next person at the table. Players agree among themselves how many trades are allowed in the game.


According to Hoyle (1923, 2005), Colonel is Coon-Can for two players. A single, 40-card, Spanish-suited pack was traditionally used, but a French pack may be used either without the courts or without the 8, 9 and 10.[10] Hoyle's assumes a full, 52-card French pack. Players cut for the first deal and lowest cuts (Aces low) before both are dealt 10 cards each, individually and face down. The rest are placed face down to form a stock and the top card (known as the 'optional card') is turned and placed beside it to start the wastepile. The aim is to be first to shed all one's cards by melding sets (3 or 4 of a kind) and runs (sequences) in the same suit. A run or set must contain at least three cards and Aces may be high or low, but round-the-corner sequences are not allowed. Players may 'lay off' one or more cards against their or their opponent's existing melds. Non-dealer (or 'pone') starts by drawing either the turnup or the top card of the stock. He may now meld or 'declare' as many sets or runs as he can (but does not have to), before placing a discard on the wastepile. Play continues in this way until one goes out and scores as many points as the opponent has in his hand; courts counting ten and the rest counting their face value in pips. A player may 'challenge' at any stage. If a challenge is accepted, the deal ends and the player with the lowest counting hand wins, scoring the number of pips in his opponent's hand. The deal also ends if the stock runs out, whereby the player with the lowest hand wins and scores his opponent's pips less those in his own hand.[11] Colonel may be the precursor of Gin Rummy.[12]

Foster's recommended variant of Colonel, which he calls Cooncan for two players, has some differences: first, a player must get 11 cards down, not meld 10 and discard one at the end. Second, he can only lay off a discard to his opponent's melds. Third, cards drawn from stock must be shown and either melded or discarded again. Fourth, cards may be borrowed from one meld and used to another provided both have been melded by the same player. The winner is the first to meld 11 cards on his side of the table. If neither can do this, it is a tableau or draw and the next deal decides.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ No Chinese card game by the name of "Kon Khin" has ever been found, and these words do not even match any of the many card games that have prevailed in Ming-Qing China.
  2. ^ First described in The Standard Hoyle in 1887 and today known in the United States as Double Rum for being played with two packs
  3. ^ E.g. Luis Gonzaga Inclán's Astucia, 1865; Juan Antonio Mateos's Sacerdote y caudillo, 1869.


  1. ^ a b Dictionary of Card Games, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 74. ISBN 0-19-869173-4.
  2. ^ a b Foster (1897), p. 486.
  3. ^ Leyes Del Territorio de Nuevo Méjico, ("Laws of the Territory of New Mexico") (1852), Stephen Watts Kearny, pp. 285 and 287.
  4. ^ Estatutos Corregidos Del Territorio de Nuevo Mejico ("Revised Statutes: Territory of New Mexico") (1855). pp. 318/319.
  5. ^ Sloper, Tom (21 April 2009). The Red Dragon & The West Wind. ISBN 9780061906121.
  6. ^ "Significado de Cunca". Dicionário Online de Português. 7Graus. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  7. ^ e.g. Villagran, Vicente (1874). Compendio histórico formado p. 160, or Ramos i Duarte, Féliz (1895). Diccionario de Mejicanismos, p. 136.
  8. ^ Wood, Clement and Gloria Goddard (1940). The Complete Book of Games, Garden City, p. 211.
  9. ^ "Kungkiyang". Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  10. ^ a b Coon Can by R.F. Foster at Retrieved 29 Nov 2019.
  11. ^ Routledge (1923), pp. 100–101.
  12. ^ Parlett (2008).

External links[edit]

  • Foster, R. F. (1897). "Conquian" in Foster's Complete Hoyle. Frederick A. Stokes, New York, pp. 486–489.
  • Foster, R. F. (1913). Cooncan (Conquián): A Game of Cards also Called "Rum". Full-text reproduction of the 1913 publication by Robert Frederick Foster in electronic form now in the public domain. See also the 2007 Edition, ISBN 0-548-31771-2.
  • Parlett, David (2008). The Penguin Book of Card Games, Penguin, London. ISBN 978-0-141-03787-5
  • Routledge George. (1923). "Colonel (Coon-Can for Two Players)" in Hoyles Card Games rev. by Lawrence H. Dawson (1950), Part 1 publ. 1979. Reprinted 1980, 1982, 2001, 2005, Routledge, Abingdon. pp. 100-101