Card Games Research: Playing Card History

Card Games Badge, Step 1 and 2

We enjoy a good game night at our house.  Especially card games. They are versatile, and you can play many different games with the same deck. They are portable and easy to take on a trip. Many a night is spent playing cards with friends and family around our table. Playing cards also have an interesting history that takes us across the globe and back many centuries.

I have been wanting to learn how to play Cribbage for quite a while because I had read somewhere that it was a great couples game. I soon realized that reading directions and watch YouTube was not sufficient to teach me the game. In addition to wanting to learn Cribbage, I had an urge to host a neighborhood Euchre tournament. Sounds like a Card Games Badge was just what I needed! 

You can see the Card Games Badge Guide, or “recipe” for the badge here. Each Badge Guide contains three steps to be completed in order to earn the badge. These steps can be done on your own, but we encourage you to grab a few friends and learn together! 

Step 1:  Research

Step 1 is always focused on research. Look up the topic online, watch videos to learn a skill, or visit your local library.  You can read about the resources and fun facts we found below. For this badge we looked into both the history of playing cards and did research about specific card games.

Playing Card Research

I began my research into card games by doing a podcast search.  Two podcasts caught my eye. The Euchre-ist, (four ladies, cocktails, cards and conversations) and Cocktails and Cribbage (chatting with artists and theatre professionals over cocktails and cribbage).  

Neither of these podcasts focus on the card games but used the games as a gathering point for interesting conversation. Fascinating! I began to realize this is exactly why I like playing card games. No better way to socialize and get to know people in my opinion. We often invite the new friends and boyfriends of our teenage daughters over to play cards. You can really tell a lot about someone by the way they learn and play a game. My daughters have even come to call it “the boyfriend test”.  

So without much luck on the podcast front I moved on to the internet.  Here I found a lot of information about the history of playing cards! According to Playingcarddecks.com:

  • Our modern 52 card deck of cards has gone through many centuries of evolution. 
  • Historical evidence points to card playing in the 1300-1400’s in Europe.
  • Card playing was likely imported to Europe by gypsies, crusaders, or traders from the East. 
  • It is thought that card playing originated somewhere in Asia, but due to the fragile state of paper cards this is not known for sure. 

The history of cards takes us all over Europe.

Germany

A German manuscript mentions card playing in 1377.  Germany also upped the printing card game *wink wink* with wood-cutting and engraving techniques.  This allowed Germany to produce playing cards and become prominent in the card playing trade. On a recent trip to Germany we sought out a German deck after learning that German cards have Boys in place of Jacks and Dames in place of the Queen cards.  

Germany playing cards

France

The French made their mark by creating the four suits we use today, hearts, spades, diamonds, and club (but called them coers, piques, carreaux and trefles).  The French were also responsible for dividing the suits into black and red and producing card decks quickly with stencils. French decks then spread quickly all over Europe. 

England

The English left their stamp on card decks by coining the suit names we use today (hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs).  Early Americans imported their cards from England.

United States

It wasn’t until 1832 that cards were made in the US. Lewis Cohen was the first to publish playing cards in the US. It is also believed that the US is responsible for the addition of Jokers to the card deck. Today the US is important in producing playing cards. The United States Playing Card Company is an industry leader producing the brands Bicycle, Bee, and Tally Ho.   

I love a great deck of cards! They come in so many varieties.  We have a zombie deck, an 80’s deck, a glow in the dark deck, a waterproof deck, a stargazer deck, and even a German deck just to name a few. A lot of them have fun facts on each card so you can learn something while you play!

card decks

I definitely have a favorite deck (an old faded blue Bicycle deck – see below) that is way past its prime and should be retired. But for some reason I keep it. I am extremely sentimental and think about the many fun nights I have had with these cards.

bicycle cards

Cards are a great gift that can be personalized to someone’s unique personality. Cards are also a gift that keeps on giving once you teach and play a game with someone. Check out these unique decks we found online. Maybe some of these fun decks make remind you of someone in your life?

Card Game Research

I wanted to dive into a brief history of both Cribbage and Euchre before moving on to step 2. 

When researching Cribbage I learned from Wikipedia that Cribbage was created by Sir John Suckling who was an English Poet and soldier in the early 17th century.  Cribbage is popular in English speaking countries, particularly among submarine soldiers in WWII who consider it their official pastime.  

cribbage

Art of  Manliness reports that Cribbage was brought from England by settlers and became very popular in New England. 

According to  Parlettgames.uk Euchre originated as an Alsatian game “Juckerspiel” and was brought to America by German immigrants. Alsace is a region in North Eastern France.  Debitcardcasino stated that the word Bower comes from the German word for farmer (Bauer).  Also can be translated to mean jack. Euchre is the Jack game.  

Step 2:  Learn from others

Cribbage:  Over the past few months I watched many Youtube videos about how to play Cribbage. I did not feel that any of them were great at explaining the game. What I needed was an expert (or someone who had played for a long time). So Elizabeth and I decided to have ourselves a Cribbage learning party.  

We invited our friends Ben and Meagan over for some cocktails, some snacks, and a Cribbage lesson.  Ben learned to play from his grandfather. This seems to be a strong trend in the Cribbage playing world-lots of grandfathers playing Cribbage and teaching their grandchildren.  Which makes sense upon reading the history. 

Cribbage was very popular during the 1940’s. Unfortunately I had not learned Cribbage from my grandfather and my mom had a difficult time remembering all of the rules. We had a great time learning the game from Ben. He patiently explained the game and helped with the scoring. We learned some new terminology “The crib,” “his heels” and “nobs.”

My husband and I made a point to play the following week to help us commit the game to memory.  There is a steep learning curve and a lot of rules. I do think watching some Youtube videos to remind you of all the rules would be helpful post lesson.  

Euchre:  I have been playing Euchre since my teens so I did not need a lesson from someone else. What I needed to know was how to host a Euchre tournament.  I reached out to several neighbors who had attended Euchre tournaments in the past. They were able to share how the tournament was structured as far as games, timing and score keeping.  I also found Eurchrefun.com helpful for planning the event.

We found rotation charts and score boards here. The website also gave this brief but helpful discussion on how to plan for a Euchre Tournament.

Find out in our next post how the Cribbage lesson stuck and how the Euchre tournament turned out!

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