hist-games: chess-board w/ playing-cards

Mckay, Michael michael.mckay at tandem.com
Wed May 13 18:37:33 PDT 1998

>There are 14 'cards' per suit.  Each 'card' has been randomly assigned a
>1thru 12 number, *except* the Aces (set in each corner of the board) and
>Queens (set at the corners just inside the Aces).   So maybe the Aces are
>the starting point for each player, and the Queens (of Love & Beauty) are
>there simply to preside over the 'battle' (which would conveniently account
>for the need for a 14th card per deck).
>>1. A complete pack of playing cards with German suit-signs is illustrated
>>on the board.
>Does a pack of German cards contain 56 cards?
>Each suit of 14 'cards' contains Ace thru 9, a King, a Queen, a 'Flag',
>*and* 2 'Guards (Hearts & Acorns), *or* 2 'Jokers' (Bells), *or* 2 "others"
>(looks like a woman & a monk in Ivy).  

Through out the 15th century, there was quite a bit of experimentation with
different numbers of cards in a deck.  The famous 1377 "John of Rheinfelden"
quote mentions a 52 card deck (with 10 number cards and 3 court cards).
However the same document also mentions that 56 card decks (with queens
added) are a "good" thing.  Both Parlett and Dummett are pretty sure this 56
card reference was added in c.142x when the original documented was copied.
The Ambrasser Hunting deck (c.1450) is of Germanic origin and has 56 cards
(king, queen, over, and under).  There is also research that the Tarot was
invented around 1420-1440 when 56 cards decks were popular in Italy.

Towards the end of the 15th century, the standard decks that are still used
today were developed (for instance the French/British/USA deck was developed
c.1490).  The German suits showed up individually as early as 1460,
collectively a decade or so later.  They also settled on 3 court cards
(king, over, under), and dropped the "1" card (aka. ACE) around this time.
The 10 is represented as a "banner" (the flag mentioned above).  You can
tell the over and under, because they will have the suit sign above or below
them.  There are no Jokers in period decks (they were developed for Euchre
c.1850 in the USA), but the under of bells usually looks like a "joker".  

In summary, it sounds like a standard German deck, with additional cards for
the queen and ace.  I don't remember any existing historical decks like
that, but it is quite possible given the earlier history.

Michael McKay  (known in the SCA as Seaan McAy)

PS: I'm amazed at the amount of trivia I have memorized.  When I get home
(where my references are), I'll look around and see if I can dig up an
example of a 56 German suited deck.

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