hist-games: Tarok

webmaster at historicgames.com webmaster at historicgames.com
Sun Mar 29 08:54:00 PDT 2009

It's been a couple years since I was last researching it, but my  
memory was that I haven't seen any references to any surviving written  
rules for tarot games prior to the 17th century. If I recall, Michael  
Dummet claimed the game below is one of the earliest surviving sets of  
rules for a Tarot game. It came from "La maison academique des jeux,"  
1659. We've played this quite a bit, and it's pretty easy to pick up  
for anyone who has play a trick taking card game. It nice because  
unlike some other tarot games all of the suits are ranked normally.

MacGregor Historic Games

The original description expressly says that the number of cards dealt  
can vary -being any number agreed upon by the players. It also does  
not specify a number of players, so it is possible the entire deck was  
dealt out, as a result the number of cards dealt would vary with the  
number of players. We recommend 4 to 6 players, with twelve cards are  
dealt to each player, and the rest of the deck set aside. Select the  
first dealer by a random method such as cutting the deck.

Each player antes an agreed amount, and the cards are dealt  
counter-clockwise around the table. The ?Eldest hand? (The person on  
the dealer?s right, who was dealt to first) starts by laying any card  
they choose. The other players must each play a card of the same suit,  
if they have one. If you cannot follow suit, you must play a trump if  
you have one. If you are not holding any cards of the suit led, and no  
trumps, you may play any other card, but will lose the trick. If a  
trump is led, you must follow suit by playing a trump if you have one.  
The trick is won by the player who played the highest trump, or if no  
trumps were played the highest card of the suit led wins. Ranking of  
cards: higher suit cards beat lower; Kings are high, aces are low.  
Trumps beat suit cards, and higher-numbered trumps beat lower trumps.

The Fool is known as ?the Excuse? in many Tarot games, and is a sort  
of wild card. You can play the Fool at any time, regardless of suit  
led, but it has no ranking, and cannot win a trick -even if it is the  
only trump to be played. However, at the end of the trick, the person  
who played the Fool gets to keep it, and count it towards his score  
for that hand. He replaces the fool with any other card that he has  
won in a trick and gives the replacement card to the player who  
actually won the trick. If he has not won any tricks, he can hold on  
to the Fool and as soon as he wins a trick he must pay the substitute  
card to the player who would have won the Fool. If he wins no tricks  
at all during the hand he must he surrender the Fool to the player who  
would have won it. If the Fool is led, the next player can play  
whatever card he wishes, and subsequent players use the second card to  
be the lead suit for that trick. The winner of a trick gets to play  
the next card to lead off the next trick

Scoring: After all the tricks have been played, the players total  
their points. They score one point for every trick they take, plus  
points for holding the following trumps, or face cards that they have  
won in the tricks:

Point Cards
The Fool (Trump 0): 5 points
The World (trump XXI): 4 points
The Magician (trump I): 4 points
Kings: 4 points each
Queens: 3 points each
Knights: 2 points each
Pages: 1 point each

No other individual cards are worth points. After all the tricks are  
played, each player totals up his score and the player with the  
highest score wins the wagers placed at the beginning of the hand.

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