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

John McLeod john at pagat.demon.co.uk
Thu May 14 00:31:57 PDT 1998

Mckay, Michael <michael.mckay at tandem.com> wrote:
>>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).  

A standard German pack at that time would have consisted of 48 cards:
king, over, under, banner, 9 - 2 in each of the four suits (acorns,
leaves, hearts, bells). This is exactly what is shown on the 48
mnumbered squares of the board. I am not convinced that the other 8
squares actually correspond to playing-cards. In any case the maker of
the board clearly considered the 48 cards of the standard deck to be
different from the other eight, in that these 8 squares are unnumbered.

I agree with all the information below, but I doubt whether these 56
card packs would have still been around in the 17th century.
>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)

John McLeod                      For information on card games visit       
john at pagat.demon.co.uk           http://www.pagat.com/

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