hist-games: Trictrac & Ticktack

Jane and Mark Waks waks at attbi.com
Sat Mar 29 09:09:54 PST 2003

Okay, this has been bugging me lately, and I want to throw it open for

The reconstructive sources, at least from Murray on up, tend to
associate the French game Trictrac with the English Ticktack. This seems
to be mainly based on Cotton's description, which (in its usually
muddled way) could be interpreted to be describing something much like

Problem is, Willoughby (which will hopefully get published Real Soon
Now) goes into vastly more detail than Cotton, and I don't find
Willoughby's description to be easily rectifiable against what I know of
Trictrac. In particular, they differ in one critical respect: I am
fairly certain that the Ticktack described in Willoughby is played only
to a single score, and the game ends *immediately* after that.

I can't say that the question is unambiguous: Willoughby doesn't state
it in quite as many words. But his wording is strongly suggestive: he
talks about winning "the game" in a couple of places (rather than "a
game" or "a stake"), and says specifically that you should throw a
single game if your opponent is otherwise likely to win a double -- a
strategy that makes much more sense if the game ends immediately

Furthermore, he says nothing whatsoever about the end conditions of the
game other than this, and that's not the kind of oversight that
Willoughby generally makes -- his book is much more detailed and
scientific than most. And most strikingly, he ascribes a double game for
bearing all your mean off -- and then says that the odds against this
are a thousand to one against, since the game is usually won or lost
some other way first.

Putting all this together, it's hard to interpret the game as longer
than running to the first hit. I'd like to be more certain of myself
here, though. So the question is: are there any other references to
Ticktack, especially ones that would suggest otherwise? In particular,
I'm looking for descriptions of Ticktack, or sources (in either French
or English) closely associating the two games. I don't know Trictrac
(or, indeed, most of the French sources) particularly well, so there
might well be informative French sources on the subject that I haven't

Lacking that, I'm inclined to believe that French Trictrac and English
Ticktack, while closely related, are actually fundamentally different
games, with the French version being a relatively long game where you
keep score, and the English version being a pure gambling game played
only to the first hit.

(Indeed, in the absence of hard data I have to suspect that the English
variant may actually be the ancestor game. The longer game feels very
much like an attempt to take the gambling game and turn it into
something that's enjoyable without rapidly passing money back and

I've played Ticktack as implied by the above many times, and it's a fun,
fast game, taking just a couple of minutes per round. It is utterly
pointless without gambling, however. Full reconstruction can be found


				-- Justin

"Proximo sed nolo fumigare."
		-- Michael the Mapmaker

More information about the hist-games mailing list