Ruffly Honoring Whist

After several games involving weird foreign decks, it’s only fair to come back to our roots with a game played using a regular deck of cards with the international French suits.  And while we’re returning to basics, I got to thinking about how often I played Spades in high school and college.  It was one of those easy trick-taking games to learn – the trump suit was right there in the game’s name.

Bid how many tricks of 13 you think you’ll take, and partners’ bids are added together.  First player leads with the 2 of clubs, follow suit if you can, trumps are optional if you can’t.  Score 10 points times the number of tricks you bid, plus one per extra trick (although don’t accumulate 10 of those extra points over time, or you lose 100), or -10 times your bid if you fail.  Bonuses for bidding zero tricks if you pull it off, doubled if you do so without seeing your hand.

Pretty straightforward, and way too many Nil bids honed my skill at manipulating my hand for best effect.  But where did it come from?  Spades first gained popularity in America during the 1930s, and became known a bit worldwide as servicemen took it around with them.  It didn’t become really get played much outside the US until recently, when the wide availability of play online has helped it explode in fame.

Consensus has that Spades was an offshoot of Whist, a trick-taking game in which you score one point for each trick you capture over six.  Whist, on the other hand, was based on yet another game, called Ruff and Honors.  The best description of this game is found in The Compleat Gamester, by Charles Cotton in 1674.  Mr. Cotton was a well-known compiler of games in his day, before Hoyle’s rules gained popularity about a century later.

Interestingly, the first publication containing what would later become Hoyle’s Book of Games wasn’t claimed to be a first edition.  Rather, it was a collection of various individual “treatises” on individual games that had been published several times each, so it was the 8th edition of Whist, for example.  Whist, in fact, was the game with which Hoyle built his reputation.  His career with games started when he would tutor members of high society on how to play Whist, and sold them copies of his notes.

But for now, let’s back up to Cotton, and the game of Ruff and Honors.  This was related to another game called Ruff and Trump, described by another author – Francis Willughby.  He wrote a manuscript describing it and many other games, but died before it could be published.  In an odd quirk of copyright, after the unfinished book was held for posterity by the library at the University of Nottingham, some scholars published a transcription in 2003, along with various interpretive notes.  Since it was technically the first publication, they hold an active copyright over a 17th century book, so I can’t go digging into the text without locating and buying a copy.

Remember when I said that finding details on historic games can be a bit tricky?

Ruff and Honors Rules

At Ruff and Honours, by some called Slamm, you have in the Pack all the Deuces, and the reason is, because four playing having dealt twelve a piece, there are four left for the Stock, the uppermost whereof is turn’d up, and that is Trumps, he that hath the Ace of that, Ruffs; that is, he takes in those four Cards, and lays out four others in their lieu; the four Honours are the Ace, King, Queen, and Knave; he that hath three Honours in his own hand, his part not having the fourth sets up Eight by Cards, that is two tricks; if he hath all four, then Sixteen, that is four tricks; it is all one if the two Partners make them three or four between them, as if one had them.

Ruff and Honors is played with a standard 52-card pack.  Shuffle and deal 12 cards to each player.  Next, turn over the top card of the 4 cards remaining in the deck.  This determines the trump, suit for the hand.  Whoever has the Ace of that suit “ruffs,” which was a mangled way of saying “ronfle,” which meant “point” in the French game of Piquet.  By this time in England, it had come to be synonymous with “trump.”  If the card turned up is an Ace, then the dealer “ruffs.”

The Ruff player gets a small advantage in that they get to pick up all of the last 4 cards, mix it into their hand, and then discard 4 facedown.

Play then begins with the player to the dealer’s left, who leads a card to the first trick.  Players must follow suit if possible.  If not, you may play any card.  The trick is won by the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led.  Ace is high in this game.

After 12 tricks, a partnership scores 1 point for each trick they won above six. (9 tricks would be 3 points, for example).  Each partnership also scores for holding “Honors,” which are the Ace through Jack of the trump suit.  Holding three honors scores 2 points, while holding all four is worth 4 points.  The game is played to 9 points.  When a team is at 8 points, scorable honors held in their hand are scored immediately after the deal, ending the game.

Whist Rules

In the 17th century, Whist was virtually the same game as Ruff and Honors.  Simply remove the twos from the deck, deal 12 to each player, and the bottom card, which belonged to the dealer, determined the trump suit.  The Honors are not scored, and the name of the game was apparently derived from “whisper,” as silence is to be observed during gameplay.

Cotton then goes on to describe the myriad ways that people would cheat at Whist, from signals to let your partner know what cards you held, to sanding or cutting the deck so you could deal your partner the good cards.  The Compleat Gamester was as much a series of warnings against “gamesters” as it was a catalog of games.  Gamesters were apparently professional gamblers and cheats, sometimes called Rooks, and he was describing the rules of the games and the common tricks, so a casual player could enjoy a game in relative safety.

Modern Whist Rules

Sometime around 1864, a gentleman by the name of John Loraine Baldwin wrote up a slightly different set of rules for Whist that were adopted by several prominent clubs.  As a result, they have become the standard rules for Whist used today.

In modern Whist, the whole 52-card deck is used, and players are each dealt 13 cards.  The last card, belonging to the dealer, determines trump for the hand.  It remains face-up on the table as a reminder until it is the dealer’s turn to play to the first trick.  Players must follow the suit led, and the trick is won by the highest trump or the highest card of the led suit.  Scoring is 1 point per trick over 6 for the winning team.  The game is played to 5 points.

Whist had many variations of play, including Bridge Whist, which was a direct predecessor of Contract Bridge.  I had heard of the game in passing before, but never really looked into it before doing the research for this entry.  Judging by all the rabbit holes it gave me to delve down, Whist was a critical influence, not just in trick-taking card games, but in card-game history in general, thanks to Edmond Hoyle’s clients and their willingness to pay for a copy of the rules to a single card game.  Compared to the other trick-taking games I’ve been exploring this month, it’s pretty simplistic, but there’s no denying its influence over games that survived through today.

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Im Leben werden die Partien nie so umstritten gewonnen wie im Spiel; das Spiel gibt uns Genugtuungen, die uns das Leben versagt. (“In Life, the games are never so controversially won as in the game; the game gives us the satisfaction of our lives.”)

— Emanuel Lasker, Lehrbuch des Schachspiels, 1925

A Kerfuffle Over Karnöffel

It rhymes!

Karnöffel is the oldest-recorded card game in Europe, with references to it being played at an annual festival in Nördlingen, Bavaria in 1426.  An amusing bit of trivia about this game is that when the usual condemnations from those in power came, it was more political than moral.  That is, the objection wasn’t about gambling so much as it was about the way the card ranks changed during the game, with lower-ranked cards actually able to beat the King!

It is a plain-trick-taking game with an “elected” suit, that works like a partial trump suit.  It’s also a great excuse for me to use a German-suited deck.  In this deck, the four suits are Hearts, Acorns, Leaves, and Bells.  If you’re going to substitute a French-suited deck, Acorns=Clubs, Leaves=Spades, and Bells=Diamonds.  The court cards are the King, Ober, and Unter, all male, in place of King, Queen and Jack.  Remove the Aces from the deck, and the card ranking from high to low is King, Ober, Unter, 10 down to 2.

Interestingly, my replica 1588 German deck is from when they were still experimenting with suits, so my cards are Books, Jars, Printer’s Ink Pads, and Cups.  My brand new deck from Gemany only goes as low as 7, as the games they play have evolved over 33 cards – King down to 7 in each suit, plus a card meant to be a 2 (or maybe an Ace) in each suit, and the 6 of Bells, labeled the Well.  These are mainly used for Skat (he national game of Bavaria), Schafkopf, and Watten, as well as games in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania.  Obviously, we have much to explore.

Digging around in my collection a bit more, I found a replica 1540 German deck that actually uses the correct suits, and has the correct number of cards.  This was a satirical deck, marketed to the lower classes, as Karnöffel was considered a lower-class game.  You may notice that the replica decks have squared edges.  This is not due simply to someone using inkjet business cards as a template, but an historically accurate representation.  Rounded corners were an American innovation introduced in the late 19th century.

Culture, ladies and gentlemen!

 

The first thing to do in Karnöffel is to remove the Aces from the deck – they are not used.  Next is to partner up if playing with 4, 6, or 8 players.  Simply shuffle and deal each player one card.  The two (or 3, or 4) lowest ranked cards become partners, versus the highest.  Between cards of equal rank, the suits, from highest to lowest, are Leaves, Acorns, Hearts, and Bells.  After partners have been chosen, they sit in alternating order, team 1, team 2, team 1, etc.  with 6 or 8 players, one member of each team is declared Director.  The reason for this will come up shortly.

Next, players agree on the “target score,” the total that ends the game when someone reaches it.  This is usually a multiple of 10, plus 1.  A target score of 101 is a common choice.

If there is a bet on the outcome of the game, then when one team reaches the agreed-upon score, the losers pay up on the bet, doubled if they didn’t even get to the half the target score, or tripled if it was a complete shut-out and they scored zero.  Maybe don’t bet the house.  Note that this monetary bet is for the winner of the entire game, not individual hands or tricks. I make this distinction only because in Karnöffel, teams will be betting points, as we shall see in a moment.

Now, the object of each hand is to win 3 of the 5 tricks for your team.  The winning team will score 4 between 4 and 22 points.  The amount of points is determined during the deal.

The Deal

On other sites where I read up on the rules, they go into long detail about dealing one card, then something about a Foreman and Proposer agreeing to the value of the round or increasing it, and at first, it didn’t make much sense (especially when trying to figure out how it applied to 6 or 8 players).

Then I had an epiphany.  What was being described was like the multiple rounds of betting in a game like Texas Hold’Em Poker.  Thinking of it in those terms, I was able to follow what was going on, so I can hopefully phrase it in a way that makes sense.

Point-Betting Rounds

First round of betting. 4 of bells and acorns were both dealt in the first pass, bells first, so bells are the elected suit.

Deal each player one card face-up.  The lowest-ranked card determines the elected suit.  This suit is similar to a trump suit in other games, but it doesn’t work exactly the same way, but I will detail that below.

Since they were developed around the same time, there’s no telling whether Karnöffel or Tarot influenced the other, or which one was played first – records of these things are relatively hazy, as we can only see when someone literate found something to say about them.  Hurray for word of mouth.

Next, deal a second card face-up to only the first two players in the deal order, and pause.  The first player (eldest hand) is called the Foreman.

At this point, the hand is worth a base 4 points.  After looking at their cards and consulting their partner(s), if any, the Foreman may ootionally suggest raising the stakes for the hand by 3 points.  If they do propose this raise, the second hand, after consulting with their team, may:

  1. Accept the raise, setting the stakes to 7 points.
  2. Surrender (fold) on behalf of their team, giving the other team the base 4 points before a new deal, or
  3. Raise the stakes by another 3 points.  If this choice is made, the Foreman can either accept the (10-point) stakes, or surrender (7 points).

Note that in 6 or 8 player games, this decision is made by the Director for the team, who may look at all their team’s cards.  Seems a little strange to me, but that’s how it was structured, perhaps to allow an experienced player to help their team win.

A single face-up card is now dealt to each of the remaining players, if any, and we move on to a second round of betting, with the first two players receiving one face-down card.  After the same back-and-forth chance to raise as above, everyone else gets a face-down card.  Then there is a third, and final, round of betting, this time with a pair of face-down cards.

With up to 6 points able to be added during each round of betting, this puts the maximum stakes for the hand at 22 points.  If during the betting, the score reaches a point where one team can reach the target score and win the game, they must announce this, and no further raises are allowed.  The exception to this rule is if they were already within 4 points at the beginning of the deal.

The Play

Once the stakes for the hand are set, each player should have 5 cards.  Forehand leads any card except the 7 of the elected suit, and the other players each play a card to the trick in turn.  There is no requirement to follow suit, ever.  Play any card you like to the trick.

The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, or the highest-ranked “trump” card of the elected suit.  This is where it gets a little tricky, and why the nobility was annoyed by the symbolism of the card ranks.  Below is the ranking of the elected suit for each hand:

  • Karnöffel (Unter/Jack): highest-ranked card in the hand – beats everything
  • Pope (6): beats any plain-suited card
  • Kaiser (2): beats any plain-suited card
  • 3: beats any plain-suited card lower than King
  • 4: beats any plain-suited card lower then Ober (Queen)
  • 5: beats any plain-suited card lower than Unter (Jack)
  • King: no special trumping power
  • Ober (Queen): no special trumping power
  • 10: no special trumping power
  • 9: no special trumping power
  • 8: no special trumping power
  • Devil (7): cannot win a trick unless led, in which it is only beaten by Karnöffel

King of hearts was led. Nobody bothered to follow suit, and the trick was won by Karnöffel- the Unter of bells, which was the current trump suit.

The mixed-up ranking takes a little getting used to, but once you have a feel for it, it comes pretty naturally.  The most common thing to forget is that this is not a trump suit.  If Spades are elected and someone leads Hearts, for example, the 10 of Spades would still lose the trick.  Only 6 of the elected suit cards have any trumping power.

During play, nobody may look at anyone else’s cards, but since players of each team have seen each other’s cards during the deal/betting phase, they are free to give advice, so long as it is spoken aloud (no baseball hand-signals, y’all).

Concluding Thoughts

At first glance, this game looked intimidating to describe, until I understood the thing about betting points during the deal.  I don’t really care for two-player trick-taking games, as to me, they feel monotonous, but as a partnership game, I can see the appeal of Karnöffel.  There’s a little less strategy of card manipulation that naturally evolves during a game where you are required to follow suit, since you don’t necessarily have to give up your good cards.  It also uses up so little of the deck each deal that it is difficult to guess at what other players may be holding.  Allowing for open advice helps newer players to learn the game, which is a bonus to me.

I can’t see it hitting the table often among the people I play games with, but as a fan of gaming history, it’s a cool game to see.

Evolution of Card Suits

One of the fun things about exploring international card games is discovering different decks.  But how and why did the suits end up the way they are today?  Why does my replica 16th century German deck nothave the same suits the modern one does?  And what does hunting have to do with it?

Conveniently, smarter and more well-read people than I have done that research, so here’s a link!

History of Playing Cards

French Tarot

There are several games played with tarot cards throughout Europe, and in a later article, I’ll write about the very first one.  It’s surprisingly complex, however, and I figured I’d start with something a little simpler.  Having just learned about the bidding and gameplay of L’Ombre, it will also seem familiar.

French Tarot is playable by 3-5 players, in which one player, after winning the bid, plays to capture a required number of card points, while the other players cooperatively try to foil the attempt.  In each hand, all points are either won or lost by the taker, the player who wins the bid.  This is similar to the role of Hombre in L’Ombre or Tresillo.  But before we get to the scoring, let’s go over the cards.

The Deck

Obviously, French Tarot is typically played with the 78-card French-suited tarot deck, although almost any tarot deck can be used.  This is good, because a French-suited deck is difficult to find in the US.  As a reminder, Swords=Spades, Batons=Clubs, Coins=Diamonds, and Cups=Hearts.  Each suit consists of 14 cards – Ace (lowest) through 10, Valet, Knight, Queen, and King.  The trump suit is what we know today as the Major Arcana – it contains 21 numbered cards.  Finally, there is the Fool/Excuse card, which is essentially the lowest-ranked card in the game – it cannot win a trick at all, except for the extremely rare case that it is led to the last one after a team has won all other tricks.

An important subset of cards is called the bouts – this consists of the Fool, the 1 of Trumps (Magician), and the 21 of Trumps (World).  Capturing these specific cards determines the minimum number of points required to win if you are the taker.

I will cover scoring in detail later, but for now, know that the Bouts and Kings are worth 4.5 points, Queens are 3.5, Knights are 2.5, Valets are 1.5, and everything else is worth half a point.  The point values seem strange, but they came about due to how points in many tarot games used to be counted – basically they started from 4 and went down to 1 for the valet, and the rest were “empty cards,” worth 0.  You would score 1 point for each trick, then add up the points of cards in that trick.  Since this changed with the number of players, the French opted to count in pairs, consistently, and allow half-points for games where a player took an odd number of cards.

Honestly, it’s still kinda weird to me, but I just go with it.  Heck, it’s apparently weird to the modern French, too, because their current deck comes with a point reference card, and all the values are rounded up except the 0.5-point cards – you still count those in pairs to get one point.

The Deal

Officially, the deal and play are both counter-clockwise, but in a casual game, this is not important, so you may deal and play in the direction your group is most comfortable with.  Deal cards to the players in groups depending on the number of players:

  • 3 Players: 24 cards each, dealt in groups of 4
  • 4 Players: 18 cards each, dealt in groups of 3
  • 5 Players: 15 cards each, dealt in groups of 3

During the deal, 6 cards are dealt singly to a separate pile called the chien (the dog).  These can be dealt at any time except for the first 3 or last 3 cards of the deal.  With 5 players, the chien is only 3 cards.

If, after the deal, a player has only the 1 of trumps and neither the excuse nor any other trump, they can declare a cancelled hand, and the cards are redealt.

The Bids

Looks like a hand worth bidding – almost 20 points not counting half-point cards, the top card in two suits, and the highest trump (a bout).

Much like Tresillo, the bidding in French Tarot is a declaration that you can win the hand against everyone else, although in this case, you are going for card points, rather than a number of tricks.  Starting with the first hand dealt, players have one chance to either bid or pass.  The possible bids from lowest to highest, and how a winner with that bid proceeds is detailed below:

  • Petite (Small) or Prise (Take): The taker reveals the chien for the table to see, then takes them into their hand.  Next, they discard 6 (or 3, with 5 players) cards face down to rebuild the chien.  The chien cards count toward their points to win.  These discards may not include Trumps, Kings, or the Excuse.  If this rule cannot be obeyed to to an extremely lucky deal, the discarded Trump, King, or Excuse must be shown to the other players as it goes into the chien.
  • Garde (Guard): Functionally identical to Petite, although it doubles the stakes of the game (detailed under scoring)
  • Garde sans le chien (Guard without the dog): Nobody looks at the chien, but the card points count towards the taker’s score to win.
  • Garde contre le chien (Guard against the dog): Nobody looks at the chien, and the card points do not help the taker.

In teaching this game, the most common confusion with the bidding is having to unlearn the modern way of outbidding a quantity, whether it is number of tricks or points.  The first person to bid is basically saying, “I have a good enough hand to win the game.”  Someone who outbids them is essentially saying, “Oh yeah?  Well I think I can win the game better than you!”  Their bid is to accomplish the same thing, but with more difficult restrictions, like tying one hand behind your back in a fight.

Think of it like that, without the connotations of “bidding,” and it makes a lot more sense.

The Partner (only with 5 players)

One unique thing about the five-player version of the game is that the taker has a partner, rather than working alone against all the other players.  This is likely due to the greater number of cards working against the taker.

After the discard, but before beginning play, the taker names a King of a suit.  The player holding that king is now the taker’s partner, and their tricks will count together for determining the taker’s success.  If nobody has the named king, the taker names the Queen of a suit, and so on.

What intrigued me, though, is that the partner is secret for much of the game.  Their identity is not revealed to anyone until they actually play the named king in a trick.  This allows them to surreptitiously “lose” higher-point cards to the taker for a while.  This is especially cool to me, considering the “recent” game mechanic of having a hidden traitor in otherwise cooperative games, which are also thought to be a modern invention.

The Play

The player to the dealer’s right (or left, if you dealt clockwise) begins by leading a card to the first trick.  In the order dealt, players must then play a card of the same suit if they can.  If not, they must play a trump card if they have one, and if the trick has already been trumped, they must play a higher trump. If the player does not have a higher trump, they must still play a trump, or any card if they have no trumps left either.

After all players have played a card, the trick is won by the player with the highest trump, or the highest card of the suit led, if no trumps were played.  The winner claims the cards and leads to the next trick.

The Fool/Excuse card may be played to any trick to excuse the player from having to follow suit, even if they have another card they could play.  The Fool cannot win a trick, and when the trick is claimed, the player who played the Fool keeps it, giving the winning player any half-point card from their won tricks instead.  You can lead the Fool to a trick, in which case the second player determines the suit led with any card they chose to play.

There are special rules if the Fool is played in the last trick, however.  In the last trick, the Fool is claimed by the winner of the trick.  And in extraordinarily rare games, if the taker’s team or the opponent team has won every trick so far and leads the fool to the final trick, this is the only way the Fool can win a trick.

Bonuses

I’m covering bonus points before the main score, because they do not count toward the card points needed to win the hand.  They may be won or lost by the taker in addition to what they may gain or lose for the hand.

Poignée (Handle)

This is a bonus for declaring a certain number of trumps held before playing a card to the first trick.  It varies according to the number of players, which I will show as (3-#/4-#/5-#) next to the different bonus amounts.

  • Single Poignée: 20 points (3-13/4-10/5-8)
  • Double Poignée: 30 points (3-15/4-13/5-10)
  • Triple Poignée: 40 points (3-18/4-15/5-13)

Petit au Bout (Small at the End)

This is a 10-point bonus for playing the 1 of Trumps in the last trick.  If winning all the tricks and taking the last one with the Fool, petit au bout is scored by playing the 1 of Trumps in the next-to-last trick.  The points are won by the team that takes the last trick.  That is, if the taker doesn’t win this trick, they deduct 10 points during scoring.  This bonus is also multiplied based on the bid – see below.

Chelem (Slam)

If one side wins all the tricks, they score for chelem.  The amount depends on whether it was announced in advance.

  • Chelem Annoncé: The team (usually the taker, since I can’t imagine bidding without being able to take at least one trick) announces chelem before the first play, and leads to the first trick.  If successful, the bonus is 400 points.  Failure is -200 points.
  • Chelem non annoncé: The team wins all the tricks without announcing it.  The bonus is 200 points.

Scoring

After the last trick, the taker (together with their partner, in 5-player games) adds up their total card points, including those in the chien, unless they bid Garde Contre le Chien.  I found it easiest to pair bouts and face cards with half-point cards to just round up.  In games with an odd number of cards, the half point is rounded up if the taker wins, and down if they lose.  Once again, remember that the bouts are the Fool, the 1 of Trumps, and the 21 of Trumps.  Card values are:

  • Bouts and Kings: 4.5 points
  • Queens: 3.5 points
  • Knights: 2.5 points
  • Valets: 1.5 points
  • All other cards: 0.5 points

So close. I took 39 card points with 2 bouts, which puts me short by 2 points. Assuming a Petite bid, that is 27 points I owe each of the other players, as I didn’t gain any bonuses, either.

As mentioned earlier, the bouts are extremely important to win in tricks, as they are not only worth 4.5 points each, but they determine the total number of card points the taker needs in order to win their bid.  The required amounts are:

  • 3 Bouts: 36 card points
  • 2 Bouts: 41 card points
  • 1 Bout: 51 card points
  • 0 Bouts: 56 card points

The scored points are calculated as follows, from the perspective of the taker:

(Base score x bid multiplier) + Poignée + Chelem

The Base Score has several components, added together:

  • 25 for the game
  • Plus the difference between card points needed by the taker, and those they actually won.  For example:
    • If 31 card points were taken with 2 bouts, the difference is 10 points (so a base score of 35)
    • If 51 card points were taken with 3 bouts, the difference if 15 points (base score 40)
  • Plus or minus the Petit au Bout bonus

Take that total, and multiply it based on what the taker bid, even if they didn’t succeed:

  • Petite (x1)
  • Garde (x2)
  • Garde sans le chien (x4)
  • Garde contre le chien (x6)

Scorekeeping is based on a payment system.  It’s pretty straightforward, but a little non-intuitive at first.

For example, if the taker wins with a calculated score of 80 points in a 4-player game, the recorded score on the pad is 240.  This is because each other player “pays” the 80 points.  So if in this case, the taker was player A, they would have 240 points, and each other player would have -80 points.  Conversely, if the taker lost, but the score was calculated at 80, then player A would have a recorded score of -240, and the others would each have been “paid” 80 points.

A detailed example of the scoring over several hands can be found on Pagat.com’s rules page for French Tarot.

Closing Thoughts

This was the first Tarot game I learned to play, as well as the first time I researched rules for a game from history.  My wife and I were going with a third to a renaissance festival that was themed around the Three Musketeers.  I thought it would be neat to learn a game from that time period, and was amazed to discover rules for a historically accurate card game played with a tarot deck, of all things.  Even better, it only needed 3 players!

So there we were, in costume, playing with original artwork tarot cards in their tavern, and nobody understood what we were doing.  It was a delicious little secret to be playing something from the right time period.

Much later, I had the good fortune to play this with a full complement of 5 players, three of which hadn’t played any trick-taking games before, not even Spades or Hearts.  Since I only had an Italian deck numbered in Roman numerals, it took them a bit to get the hang of it, but by the second hand, they understood enough to have confidence to raise the bid, and teach yet another new player how to follow suit and trump.

Granted, we kept it simple and just added up the card points to determine whether the bid was won or lost, as they weren’t planning to play long enough to keep score, but the fact remained that once you start playing, the game is pretty easy to understand.  More astounding, though, was that at a board game club meet-up, I drew 4 people away from modern games with shiny bits and complex play to join me in a humble little card game from 400 years ago.

And that makes all the research worthwhile.

Playable Apps

French Tarot on iOS -Allows for a modern miseré house rule, in which a player can declare that they have no Trump or Court cards, scoring 30 points (-10 to all other players)

French Tarot on Android