hist-games: OT: what's your favorite period game?

Jane & Mark Waks waks at ne.mediaone.net
Sat Dec 1 10:29:36 PST 2001

Mike Surbrook wrote:
> On Sat, 1 Dec 2001, Jane & Mark Waks wrote:
> > Tarot -- fun and easy to teach
> What, exactly, are the rules to Tarot?

There isn't actually a single neat answer to this. The Tarot deck was
originally invented for card games, and for most of its 500-year
existence was mainly used for them. (Its use for divination didn't start
until the 18th century, as I recall, and it didn't really become a
prevalent divinatory form until the beginning of the 20th century.)

Anyway, the authoritative source on the subject is The Game of Tarot, by
Michael Dummett, which lists many different tarot games, played with
various forms of the deck down the centuries; he lists dozens of
different games in this 900-page (very hard-to-find) tome. However,
while we're pretty confident that Tarot games were played in period, we
don't have any descriptions until the late 17th century, so we don't
know the exact form.

What gets played most often in the SCA is a variant I put together some
years ago, which I call "Early French Tarot". This is basically a hybrid
of the two earliest rule sets we have (both French), based on Dummett's
descriptions. It is intentionally simplified down to the basic elements,
to make it quick and easy to teach. I doubt that it's exactly how the
French actually played the game in period (period games tended to have a
lot of odd quirks), but I believe they would have considered it a
reasonable and recognizable variant.

Rules can be found online, at:


				-- Justin

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