Most games played with hanafuda cards have similar rules and gameplay. The following apply to most hanafuda games. It does not apply to kabufuda games.

Length

Games of hanafuda usually last 12 rounds, 1 for each month of the year. At the end of the 12th round the player with the highest score is the winner. Half games of 6 rounds are also common.

Dealing

At the beginning of a game one card is placed face-down on the table for each player. Each player chooses one card and turns it over. The player with the earliest month becomes the dealer for the first round. In the case of a tie, the card with the higher point value wins. The player with the second earliest card should sit to the dealer's right. The player with the highest card should sit to the dealer's left. For the rest of the game, the winner of one round becomes the dealer for the next round.

In 3 player games, the player to the dealer's left shuffles, then the player to his right cuts. In 2 player games the dealer shuffles and his opponent cuts.

Direction of Play

Play goes in a counter-clockwise direction.

Limiting the Players

There are two ways of determining who gets to play when too many people want to play.

The first way is to include those players that have the 2 or 3 earliest cards when determining the dealer.

The second way, which is a more gambling-oriented and applies only to 3 player games, is to determine the dealer as normal and deal each player a hand. Then, starting from the dealer, each player looks at his hand and declares 'stay' or 'drop'. Those players who 'drop' have to pay a previously established penalty (usually 12 points). Once enough players have chosen to 'stay' or 'drop' the game begins, so not all players may get to make a decision. For example, in a 3 player game, if there are 5 players who want to play and the first 3 choose to stay, the remaining 2 have no choice but to drop. Likewise, if the first 2 drop, the remaining 3 have no choice but to stay. If the dealer drops, the first remaining player to his right becomes the new dealer. Once players drop their cards are placed on top of the deck.

The Field

The field is the name for cards dealt face-up onto the table.
The above image shows the starting position for a game of Koi-Koi. At the top and the bottom are the hands of the two players (with the below hand face-up to represent the viewer's hand), and to the right is the deck. The field is the 8 face-up cards between he hands of the 2 players.

Capturing Cards

In each turn, a player places one card from their hand face-up in the field. If the played card 'matches' a card in the field it is placed on top of that card. Two cards 'match' if they are from the same month. This is called 'capturing'. If there are two matching cards in the field, the player chooses which card to capture. If there are three matching cards in the field, the player captures all three. If there is no matching card in the field, the played card is added to the field. Cards captured are placed face-up to the side of the capturing player. They are usually organized in four rows by point value to aid in scoring and keeping track of captured hands. The player can play any card from his hand that he wishes to. He does not have to play a capturing card if he has one. Capturing is the main game mechanic used by hanafuda games not similar to Poka.

For example:
The above player has chosen to play the March (cherry blossom) card from his hand which matches the "Curtain" so he stacks the two. He then places the two cards to his side, the higher point Curtain card above the dregs card:
If the player had chosen to play the February (plum blossom) card which has no matching cards in the field, he would have placed it alongside the other field cards as shown below:
Once a player has played a card and either captured a card or added his card to the field, he turns over the top card of the deck and plays it. As above, if there is a matching card it is captured, if not, the card is added to the field.

If there are three cards from the same month in the field and one is captured the capturing player receives the other two as well (otherwise they could never be captured). If there are four cards from the same month in the field the hand is void and should be re-dealt.

Hands ()

The goal of most hanafuda games is to accumulate hands (combinations of cards). There are two kinds of hands: Dealt Hands () and Captured Hands (o). Dealt hands are hands formed completely from a player's opening cards. Captured hands are hands formed from cards that a player has captured. What hands are used and how many points they are worth vary from game to game. Unless stated otherwise, a player receives points for any and all completed hands they have. Some hands are 'exclusive' with each other. If a hand is marked as being exclusive with another one, the player must choose which hand they want to claim.

Scoring

In games in which players receive points for captured hands, those points are taken from the other players. So, in a 3 player game, if a captured hand is worth 20 points, the player receives 40 points, leaving the totals at 40, -20, -20 for the three players. Most games use a zero-sum scoring system to aid with gambling, so all the players scores should add up to zero.