Old-Timey card games

A few years ago, when my wife and I bought her grandmother’s house, we discovered a cache of old games. Lots of old favorites - old copies of Scrabble, Monopoly, etc. But we also found a few neat old card game sets:

Rook - a trick-taking game a lot like the domino game 42. Our card set is from the mid-1930s, and is complete with rule book. Pretty fun.

Touring. We haven’t played this, but it’s very much like Mille Bornes, which we enjoy a lot.

Finding these has led to my wife buying this neat-o bowling game. I’ve been playing solitaire against myself - it’s quite fun.

Anyone else like this kind of thing?


We used to play Muggins when we went camping - a very old set.

Not sure where the discussion is going, but it is screaming for


I have yet to play this one, but I know Rook well, and was thinking Mille Bornes before it popped up.

And, I’m going to go ahead and drop an anachronism in here:

Phase 10

Pit is a fun game that takes only a few minutes to learn. Each player is dealt cards that contain a commodity on them (ie wheat, barley, rye, oats). The object of the game is to corner the market in a commodity. You do this by taking from 1-4 cards of the same commodity from your hand and trading them with someone else holding up the same number. It gets pretty loud as you’re yelling out (for example) Two! Two! Two! until someone trades two cards with you. This goes on until you have a hand full of the same card. You can also add a bull and a bear card that either gives you points or takes away points if its in your posession after the market had been cornered by someone.

Phase 10… Boring, overly long game. I find skip-bo to be a much more fun game that anyone can play.

Rook was created as an alternative to actual playing cards and marketed towards groups that would not play regular playing cards for religious reasons.

I grew up in northeastern Kentucky and in my particular area it was almost the only card game played. I think it was more tradition by that time, though, since I never really heard anyone speak out against playing regular cards.

I know I was always curious what they were talking about when card games (or what sounded like card games) were referenced in older books and stories. I can remember Rook being mentioned enough that I came to assume it was quite popular during a certain era. Pinochle, I believe I actually knew how to play at one time, but can’t recall now. Ditto Gin Rummy. In “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”, the party retires to a game of Whist (“with lovely high stakes”). Anyone know that one? What about Canasta, another gambling game often mentioned in “rich-people” settings?

I’ve played Canasta; it takes a special deck. Also Cribbage, which requires you keeping score on a board styled after a horse-racing track. The set my parents had was actually called Crib Derby.

I was wondering about Whist when I opened the thread; anyone played that? I think even Bridge is getting to be a dying game.

Now that you mention it, I was taught Rook while attending a private Christian affiliated Junior College. – But overall the campus was NOT that religious. Interesting point to ponder though.

Tell me the person who invented Cribbage ( Chaucer was it? ) did not have Attention Deficit Disorder. I mean, I know I have it, and I could barely keep up with the rules the day I was taught. I thought the guy was making stuff up. Mad wild game though.
Waaaay outside the box here for this one, anyone play Spoons? My church youth group would play that, 8-10 players in a game even. Reach for a spoon – Incomiiiiiiiing!

Same as the Domino game I mentioned, 42. My wife’s family are real swamp Okies, and very religious, and learned it because they couldn’t play cards. It’s just like Spades, but with Dominoes.


It seems like every family has “their game.” My grandmother’s was Spite & Malice. My brother’s wife’s was King’s Corner. At college, everyone played Spades or Hearts. And my wife and her family (and therefore me too) play Hand & Foot.

Hand & Foot is a canasta-type game, played with standard decks. Rules you find online tend to say you should use one more deck than the number of people playing, but we usually play with six decks for four people.

I’ve never played Whist, but it sounds simple: pretty much like Spades or Bridge, but no bidding. Last card is turned over to show the trump suit for that hand, then it’s a game of making tricks.

Another one I’ve never played but would like to is Pinochle. Can someone summarize the rules?

It is impossible to summarize the rules. :wink:

Euchre is very popular in Pittsburgh - my whole family plays. We prefer this to poker sometimes. Games for kids include Michigan Rummy - this is one of the first games I learned to play.

Whist is a pretty old game. Its popularity was eclipsed by Bridge. Like Faro was eclipsed by Poker and Baccarat was eclipsed by Blackjack.

I played Whist in college. It’s like bridge, but IIRC, there wasn’t bidding.

We also used to play cribbage. Both games were rarely played even back then, but it was an alternative to bridge (which we played avidly).

Also, the many poker games that seem to be replaced by Texas Hold 'em: Five card stud, five card draw, seven card stud, lowball, etc.

Canasta needs a 108-card deck, made up of two ordinary 52 card-decks plus 4 jokers (which you get included in most ordinary decks of cards). I’ve played it on and off for about 50 years. You can play with 2 or 3 players, but it’s more fun as a 4-player partnership game.

I play Bid Whist and you MUST bid in order to choose the trump -high or low - or no trump. No trump is the most fun. I bid a no, low and kicked butt (yeah, it was just that one time, but I rocked for that moment)!

I played **Pinochle **as a kid and in college. There’s a special deck needed and we played with poker chips to keep the “meld” and bids straight.

Sir John Sucking, a different English poet, is said to have invented it. He probably didn’t, though, as Cribbage is very similar to two older games called Costly Colours and Thirty-and-One and somebody else probably put the two together. I think that accounts for Cribbage’s seemingly made up on the fly nature; it references two very different games that aren’t played any more.

My folks played Pinochle a lot, and still do occasionally. I’ll probably play with my dad and aunt when I see them in a couple of weeks. My late grandmother played Five Hundred, and I sat in on a game fifteen years back. What a trip. I know our family also tried a few other old-time games, like Cinch and Bull.

In the Christian denomination in which I grew up, Rook was almost an article of the faith. In general, the denomination frowned upon traditional playing cards, and Rook became the game of choice.

In our family, we have a Rook game or tournament going nearly every time we get together.

The version of Rook played by most in our denomination was fairly unique, and was not in the official Rook rules. I have played most of the Rook variations, and in my opinion, the version we played was the best. Here are the rules for a typical 4-handed game.

A Rook deck has four suits of cards named after colors (Black, Green, Red, and Yellow). The cards are number 1-14. There is one joker in the deck, the Rook (or “Bird”) card.

The only cards that have value are the 5s, 10s, 14s, 1s, and the Bird. The fives are worth 5 points, the tens and fourteens are worth 10 points each, and the ones are worth 15 points. The Bird is a special card worth 20 points, but a face value of 10.5. Thus, a Bird can take a 10, but can be taken by an 11, 12, 13, 14, or 1. Note that the 1 is the highest card in a suit.

The total number of points available on any given hand is 180 or 200. The 180 comes from adding up the values of the point cards ( (5 x 4) + (10 * 4) + (10 * 4) + (15 * 4) + 20). If the game is of the 200-point variety, an extra 20 points is awarded to one of the teams based on one of two ways: either the partnership who takes the last trick of the hand, or the partnership who takes the most tricks. (I have played Rook across the United States and with missionaries from around the world, and I was never able to determine whether the preference for Last Trick or Most Tricks was based on region.)

In our family, we always play the 200-point variation, with the last 20 points awarded to whoever takes the last trick of the hand.

To play, remove the 2s, 3s, and 4s from the deck, since they just clutter up the hand. (In fact, these are the cards you give the toddlers who are sitting on your knee. It lets them be part of the game, they get to gnaw on some useless cards, and they think they are playing with the grown-ups. Plus, it gets the next generation card-handling experience.)

After you have removed the low-end twelve cards from the deck, you are left with 45 cards, which are then shuffled and dealt. The play is between two partnerships of two players each. The cards are dealt face down one-at-a-time to the players, with 5 random cards going into the “kitty”.

After the deal, the players bid for the right to name the trump color. Whoever wins the bid gets the 5 cards from the kitty, and is able to discard the worst 5 cards from his or her hand.

During the bidding process, a player may make a bid or must pass. Once a player has passed, he or she may not bid any more for that hand.

In the cut-throat form of Rook played in our family, the bidding opened at 100 points, with 150 points being the average cut-off. Typically, anybody bidding 160 or higher is probably going to lose the hand.

I call the form of Rook we play “cut-throat” because we would generally short-circuit the bidding if one of the partners passes early. In many forms of Rook, if one of the players passes, the bidding would continue to go up by 5 points, which allows the remaining partnership to exchange information about the relative strength of their hands. In our cut-throat variety, the bidding would go like this:

North: Open (100)
East: Pass
South: 105
West: 145

With this exchange, West decides that he isn’t going to let North and South exchange any information and so short-circuits any information flow. By the time the bid gets back to North, she has to determine if her hand is stronger than South’s without any way of knowing. Typically, a raise of 5 points means that person’s hand is at least biddable … if South had raised by 10 or more points, that would be a signal to North to drop out as quickly as possible.

Once the bid has been won and the winning bidder has collected the kitty and discarded the worst 5 cards in the hand (bringing her hand back down to 10 cards), she gets to name the trump color.

That player then starts the hand by playing a card. The other players must follow suit if they are able. If a player is unable to follow suit, any other card can be played. Highest card takes the hand, with a trump card taking the other non-trump cards. The Bird is always considered trump; thus the Bird is the 10.5 of trump.

Generally speaking, a player starts by playing the highest trump card and working down until everyone else is out of trump. With the discarding of the 2s, 3s, and 4s, there are a total of 12 trump cards in every hand, so the card-counting is fairly simple.

The winner of each trick gets to lead the first card for the next trick.

Once all ten tricks have been played, the points are counted (5s, 10s, 14s, 1s, and the Bird), plus the extra 20 if playing the Last Trick or Most Tricks varieties.

The partnership who did not name trump gets any points they may have won.

If the partnership who named trump met or exceeded their bid, they get that many points. However, if they did not meet their bid, then they lose that many points. (Thus, if North-South bid 160 and only got 150, they would take a loss of 160, while East-West would get 50 points [in a 200-point game].)

Games are typically played to 500 points, or until there is a 500-point spread between the two teams.

Sometimes a partnership can get into a “partner call trump” scenario (generally never good) or even a “no trump” situation. If a person calls “no trump”, then the Bird is the only trump card and everything else is based on high card of each suit. In nearly 40 years of playing, I have only seen two people win a “no trump” hand.

Yeah, we had a game night with friends, they play hand and foot. The entire hand hand, and foot hand just did me in – in terms of confusion… – This coming from a guy who plays Magic The Gathering.

I learned cribbage at a very young age (6 ot 7 yrs old), I remember playing with my grandmother and she died when I was 8. It is one of only a few memories I have of her. I spent many hours of my youth playing cribbage. IME, most of the people that know how to play cribbage are from New England, upper midwest and Canada. I have lived in the South for the last 30 years and the only people I know who know how to play it are transplants.

But I can understand why newbies think the rules are made up on the fly. Fifteen-2, fifteen-4, and the right jack for 5.

I recognize that bowling game in the OP. I saw it when I was kid, but I don’t remember playing it. Maybe a friend had it.

It’s not so much the scoring (but it does play a part) , it is more the fact that it is 3 games in one, you have to play the hand when you lay cards down, then you score the hand in full right before you look at the crib, and then on top of that, you are moving pegs.

And then, you have the entire strategy of what to crib, and what not to crib, and cursing that you got such a good hand, when it is not your crib.