hist-games: Tarok

Jane & Mark Waks waks at comcast.net
Fri Mar 27 04:31:18 PDT 2009

Teceangl wrote:
> I've been asked to teach Tarok/Tarocci as a period game. I'm having a
> little trouble finding documentation for it. It's on Modar's games
> site but without docs, and everything else I find about it smacks of a
> post-period, even modern game still being played in Eastern Europe.
> Can anyone shed light on the history of this card game?

Are you looking for Tarok specifically, or the whole family, or just 
this particular description? Either way, the book you ideally want is 
Michael Dummett's hard-to-find "The Game of Tarot". (Also useful are 
Dummett and McLeod's "A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack", or 
at a pinch Dummett's smaller and less comprehensive "Twelve Tarot Games".)

If you're looking for the family in general, it's certainly period, 
although we don't have as much depth of detail as we might want; the 
version most often seen around the SCA is my somewhat bastardized 
simplification of Dummett's descriptions in his first book. I don't 
claim that that's 100% period, although I think it's a workable 
compromise. (It's blending a couple of period versions, and leaving off 
a detail or two that I find annoy modern players -- crude, but functional.)

Modar's version is definitely not from that; it does strike me as rather 
odd, but I don't know the Tarok side of the family well, so he may be 
adapting from there somehow. I'm assuming that you are looking at this page:


His use of the terminology "Major Arcana" in his description tweaks me 
badly, but that's largely because it's a very post-period concept. He 
omits the Excuse entirely, which is odd for early versions, and has a 
general draw pile which is unusual for trick-taking games. The "Major 
Arcana" don't appear to trump, which is bizarre -- the permanent trump 
suit is one of the things that makes Tarot interesting. The scoring is 
just plain weird -- I don't see anything even remotely close to that in 
a quick skim of Dummett and McLeod. He presumably has his sources, but 
they certainly aren't the usual ones; I don't see any reason to believe 
it has much to do with period.

Anyway, as usual it's worth checking out the Period Games Rules page:


There are some bad links that have built up and need to be adjusted, but 
the section labeled "Tarot" has a bunch of pointers, including a pointer 
to my imperfect but at least somewhat grounded version:


Hope this helps...

				-- Justin

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