The forced triumph

Par Master Dafydd ap Hwyntl, Extrait Traduit de L'Anglais Par Katrina Karenine, 2019

"The fantasy of a man would be summed up in Cribbidge; Gleeke needs a vigilant memory; Maw, an agile pregnant woman; Picket, a diverse invention; Primero, a kind of cheeky temerity"

This article is the first in a series on period card games. It will start with a general description of old card games, their development, their history and then present the rules of the game forced.

We know that playing cards appeared in the last quarter of the 14th century, that they were very successful in all areas of life and that they were used to play board games. However, we have practically no idea of ​​the type of card games or their rules. Until Charles Cotton published his complete Gamester in 1674, the rules of card games were rarely written and, when mentioned, they were almost never complete. The rules of the game were mainly transmitted orally. Some authors have listed the names of games (Rabelais, for example, appoints some 35 card games among the games listed in his Gargantua and, American authors from the 16th century evoke hundreds of names of card games). Many sermons from the 15th and 16th centuries drew attention to a card game or another, without giving details on the rules. The names of the card games were not standard - they vary from one region to another and over time, they were also subject to the vagaries of spelling. The games, however, were surprisingly rigid in their format. New games appear regularly, but once a game was established, it generally retained the same shape for centuries, often during its lifespan. The oldest game for which we have rules, Karnöffel, still survives in USA (under the name of Kaiserspiel) practically in its original form.

The card games for which I have found rules can be grouped in the following classes: games of chance, comparative games, levee games, combinations, auction games and other types of less common games. Games of chance are those where players win or lose depending on the random distribution of some special cards. The levee games are those in which players try to reach (and not to exceed) a certain value or sum. In the tip games, the players each play a single sequence card (all the cards together are called a trick), and the best card wins this tour and leads to the next. Combination games are those in which players earn points by declaring certain combinations of cards held in hand. Auction games are, like modern poker, games where players engage in a kind of psychological warfare, trying to bluff or deceive their opponents so that they act (and bet) imprudently. Almost all card games belong to one (or more) of these categories, just like some of the old card games.

Games of chance focus on a few special cards. They are rare these days and it is difficult to find examples. In a story of Sherlock Holmes, a group of men distributes cards, one at a time, visible face, to determine who must die and who must kill. The man to whom the ace of clover is attributed must kill the man to whom the ace of spades is attributed. This is a perfect example of a game of pure coincidence in cards. Games of chance seem to have been much more popular at the time than they are now. These games result from pure chance, they have no strategy. It seems likely that games of chance were among the first card games to appear in Europe, players transferring their dice games to this new medium. This is however only pure conjecture. Traces of card games and dice appeared in the 16th century, such as the game of Gluckshaus dice and the game of glic or pochspiel cards, and other examples exist.

Comparative games like games of chance seem to appear very early. Blackjack or Twenty-One (called Pontoon in Europe) is a modern example of comparison. Thirty-one games type appear in USA and USA from the middle of the 15th century and are almost certainly comparative games linked to blackjack. Many period games seem to have experienced a phase where players played comparative games with the cards they had.

Levy games are part of the most popular game class in the modern world of cards, and were also very popular at the time of the Old Regime. Among modern games are bridge, Hearts, Whist, Spades and many others. The levee games are divided between "simple" or "mixed" games. Simple games are those where only the trick brings in the final victory. Mixed games have a more complex system where some cards have more value than others. England seems to have almost exclusively favored simple levee games, while the rest of Europe has a much larger number of mixed levee games.

In some levee games, a special color is designated, which is more powerful than the others and capable of beat all the cards of other colors. This is called an asset. Several games with names similar to Triomphe (American) or Trionfo (American), signifying asset, appeared towards the end of the 15th century. The assets are repeatedly mentioned in sermons and other documents dating from the middle of the 15th century, but not before. There are some traces of certain games that seem to be the ancestors of the asset at the beginning of the 15th century - the game of Tarot (appearing before 1440) is simply a game of American cards with a special permanent asset. The 15th century inventories differentiate "classic" card games from tarot games by describing them as cards with assets. The first documented game for which we have rules, the Karnöffel (first reference in 1426), has a kind of partial asset combination which is unique among all the other games and could easily be an ancestor of the modern game of the levee game with an asset. A possible reconstruction of the event sequence is as follows: the levee games appear very early, before 1400, possibly with the first card games; Games with "power cards" capable of replacing the normal order of the cards appear at least from 1420 (Karnöffel is a documentable example); Shortly after the use of a combination of permanent assets at Tarot, is transferred to bridges with 4 normal combinations, making one of these normal combinations, a combination of assets.


The evolution of card games seems to go by simplifying. Many of the first games have several phases. More than a third of the games described here have at least two separate phases. Modern games with multiple phases are rarer and generally have very old origins. The Crib and the Picquet, two of the most popular modern multiple phases games, are only slightly modified forms of period games (the Cribble and the Cent). Some of the oldest games are indeed very complex: Minchiate, Tridunus, Partitaccia, Trappola and a hundred all date from the beginning of the 16th century.

The forced triumph

This game is one of the first card games with the tarot game whose original rules are known. The game uses the full tarot set of 78 cards. The number of participants is between 4 and 10 players. According to my experience, 4 to 6 players is an optimal figure, but beyond six players, the game tends to turn in the lottery and does not really allow you to use skills or strategies.

The forced triumph is a relatively simple game of levee. Each player poses a bet and receives five cards. If a player has died (asset XIII) in hand, he immediately declares it and takes all the bets, and another hand is distributed. Otherwise, each player in turn, to the right of the donor, declares if he has one or more of the following characters: the madman, the drummer (asset I) or the strength (asset IX or XI depending on the variants). The madman and the batter bring the owner a sum equal to their initial bet; The strength is worth double the bet. A player who has more than one of these cards receives the combined sum of the cards he has. If all the issues are taken, the hand is finished and another is distributed. Otherwise, the hands are played with the figures according to the usual rules. The player who obtains the greatest number of levies wins the remaining bets. If two players each win two laps, the one who won them first wins the auctions. If the five lifes go to different players, the player who took up first wins the pot.

Game order: in the opposite direction of the needles of a watch

Cards order:
Permanent assets: in the order indicated (XXI at the bottom)
Swords, sticks: (high) KQCJ 10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2 1 (weak)
Cups, coins: (top) KQCJ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Bas)

A tour: the winner of the last round leads any card. The following players must follow their example if they can (including playing an asset if an asset has been led). If they are zero, they have to play an asset if they have one. The largest asset played wins the tour; The highest card in the series wins if no asset is played.

The madman: the madman can be played instead of following the bet or being forced to pass. He never counts for a lifting.

Calculation of points: only the number of levies taken into account in this game.


Parlett, David, 7he Oxford Guide to Card Games, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 55.

Rabelais, Francois, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. J. M. Cohen, (New York: Penguin Books, 1955; 1987), 83-8

Stupid, Michael, The Game of Tarot, (London: Duckworth, 1980), chapter 4, especially 84, and chapter 7, especially 170-171.

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