I inherited from my father a love of interesting and eccentric games – and several of the books he owned on the subject. My favorite was a thick paperback by renowned card games scholar David Parlett, which must have had hundreds of games and thousands of variants all organized into families. I can’t find that particular book at the moment, (though I remember flipping through it within the past several months,) or remember the title – though I remember that it has an Ace of Spades design on the cover.
I have been able to retrieve three other David Parlett titles from my bedroom bookshelf, at least – to refresh my memory when a Storywonk podcast quoted the name of the two-player tricks and combinations game ‘Bezique’ as a top-scoring Scrabble word. These books are organized by the number of players required – there’s one book of ‘Card Games for Two’, and ‘…for Three’ and ‘…for Four’, so that you can flip through them when you want to settle down for a night of parlour games, depending on the number of players available.
I don’t think I’ve ever played Bezique – most of my fondest memories are of the games in the ‘Card Games for Three’ book, used on occasions when it was just my parents and I interested in playing. There’s Bismarck – which is really four different card games in one, because the rules change from deal to deal – first no trumps, then random trumps, then the dealer calls trumps, and finally no trumps again, but all players trying to lose tricks. One player deals for all four variants in a row, and then the deal passes around the table, so the full match ends after twelve hands – which makes for a full evening of cards.
I’ve mentioned Tyzicha in passing, and it’s possibly one of my favorite games from ‘…For Three.’ You play with a short deck, ace through nine, and three of the cards are dealt into a blind pile in the middle of the table, while the rest are dealt out to the players.
Each player then bids a contract of points that he thinks he or she can make, (with the player left of dealer stuck for a contract of 100 points if nobody bids higher.) The highest bidder gets to take the blind, sort through his hand, pass any two cards to his opponents, and lead to the first trick.