"Piquet," properly pronounced "What the hell is that"
April 24, 2016 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Historic Card Games described by David Parlett. "These pages (Timeless classics and treasures now forgotten) present (a) histories of classic games such as Poker and Euchre and (b) details of historic games, such as Gleek and Quadrille, that are now only museum pieces. This project was started at the suggestion of John McLeod, who tells me that visitors to his award-winning Pagat website for the rules of card games often inquire after the play of some old game that they have come across in period novels or film or readings in cultural history."

Don't miss the pages on Karnoffel, a crazy medieval game, and Speculation, which appears in Mansfield Park. The site also links to and describes a family tree of card games.
posted by Rustic Etruscan (22 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm I don't see 'Slippery Jack' or Go Johnny Go Go Go Go mentioned ...
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:29 AM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

So, there it is, whist... the game mentioned in the audobook my wife and I listened to on vacation so many years ago.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

There were still Whist Drives for fundraising where I grew up in the 1970s.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:39 AM on April 24, 2016

I have a 1963 paperback of Hoyle's Rules Of Games, 250 pages of rules for all kinds of games that nobody plays anymore. It's a treasure trove that only needs to be combined with a deck of cards for a lot of entertainment value. One of those "if I am shipwrecked on a desert island" sorts of objects.
posted by hippybear at 10:48 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I got into German Whist for a while entirely on the basis of 19C novels and this website. Playing a little really does give you a better feel for what you otherwise might've thought was narrative exaggeration. After a few hands you realize how quickly a young man of more means than sense could get into trouble with it, because it feels like a game of skill but has these huge last-minute swings mostly due to luck of the draw sometimes.
posted by RogerB at 10:54 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I always wonder about the game "lottery tickets" that is mentioned in Jane Austen. What are the fishes won and lost? Etc.
posted by elizilla at 11:21 AM on April 24, 2016

Wonder no more! The fish-shaped tokens shown in that post were also used in Ombre.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:36 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I'm not mistaken, there's a scene in Swing Time that involves Fred Astaire, Victor Moore and a drunken gambler, wherein Fred literally loses his clothes trying to hustle a game of piquet. Which he doesn't know how to play.

That is all I know about piquet.
posted by the sobsister at 11:54 AM on April 24, 2016

This site suits my purposes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whist was an organically active game among the weed-besotted youth of my midwestern 1980s cohort, something that I found fascinating. I thought of it as similar to the persistence in a vernacular of an archaic form of address, a social time capsule.
posted by mwhybark at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2016

I occasionally run into long-forgotten card games in my long march through nineteenth-century Russian literature; I asked about one called "tinteret" in this LH thread and was told about both Parlett and Pagat. I wound up writing Parlett (who, alas, didn't know anything about it).

Also, the wonderful Helen DeWitt has an unexpected recommendation here:
I've come across critics who say morosely that, while people often SAY a book was laugh-out-loud funny, very few people literally laugh out loud reading a book, and they themselves never do. Possibly because they have never read Parlett's History of Card Games? I sat at a café reading Parlett's account of the history of whist and kept shouting with laughter - the people at the next table kept looking around and laughing sympathetically. OUP has apparently allowed the book to go out of print (what were you THINKING, OUP, what were you THINKING?) but no doubt secondhand copies are floating around online.
posted by languagehat at 1:46 PM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

A couple, friends of mine, are card game crazy and one Sunday afternoon in The Black Lion pub after a few pints and a few rounds of various card games we all already knew, she popped off to the bathroom. Upon her return he and I had handfuls of cards and were methodically putting down and picking up and saying things like "three rum kings" "a suite of strawberry hearts" "a bevvy of minnows" - we knew she'd agonise over trying to work out what we were playing without asking and eventually I threw down the remaining cards and shouted "hirsute lady!"

Alas there is no such card game as Hirsute Lady.
posted by Molesome at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

This site suits my purposes.

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2016

I'm partial to TEGWAR, Double Fanucci and the Marx Brothers' version of Bridge, myself.

Seriously, though, I buy a Hoyle's Rules of Games paperback every couple of years whether I need to or not. It's fascinating reading, and while somehow I doubt I'll ever be at a party and have someone yell out "Hey, we need a fourth for Egyptian Ratscrew," by cracky I'll be prepared if it happens.
posted by delfin at 3:45 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, obscure card games have a proud place in computer game history, as every third person with a copy of Visual Basic in the mid-90s tried to pound out a shareware version of something from the depths of Hoyle. Nowadays I suppose those pop up as obscure iOS/Android apps.
posted by delfin at 3:49 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

We used to play whist extensively when I was a child--my father tended to teach us dumbed-down versions of games (whiskey poker, anyone?) and bridge was judged too complex so whist it was. It's all right. Ombre, its three-player version, is the game played in The Rape of the Lock.

David Parlett is exactly the sort of authority that every field should have. Games designers and players are very lucky to have him.
posted by Hogshead at 4:20 PM on April 24, 2016

I unsuccessfully attempted to persuade several LARPing friends that since they play Whist in Dracula, we should learn.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:07 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Piquet! I actually looked up the rules after I read about it as a two-player game in Barbara Hambly's vampire novel, Traveling with the Dead. (The vampire wins a lot because he has had more time to practice.) My spouse and I played it a lot at work until they moved our desks.
posted by Scattercat at 5:32 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

have someone yell out "Hey, we need a fourth for Egyptian Ratscrew," by cracky I'll be prepared if it happens.

Go to a lot of parties with middle-aged people originally from Detroit, you'll be golden.
posted by praemunire at 5:49 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I unsuccessfully attempted to persuade several LARPing friends that since they play Whist in Dracula, we should learn.

PG, you reside in the very setting of my cited youth. Whist players surround you on every side.
posted by mwhybark at 6:15 PM on April 24, 2016

The Oxford History of Boardgames has been a disappointment - the section on Go was marvelous, and what I expected of the book, the rest of it was a half-assed overview that freely mixed the historic with the novel to legitimize the author's weird categorical system and his own boardgame design from the '70s. The dust jacket art is legit awesome, tho.

Which is to say, I love the hell out of this post. I own more poker books than poker tournaments I've played in. I have backgammon books, plural. I have a book on how to tell fortunes with a 52-card American deck. I have a link to a dead website that described the history of playing card manufacturers, and a guide to the symbols and symbology on the card backs, and which cards were preferred by cheaters and why. (Uncoated cards without a lot of detail on the backs, for card marking. Squeezer Trips! Whoah, back away from a game with a man who brings his own deck of Bulldog Squeezers!)

I am terrible at playing and winning games, but I am incredibly eager when it comes to ludic studies. Irony!
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:32 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dragon Poker, from Asprin's Myth novels....
posted by Chrysostom at 8:36 AM on April 25, 2016

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