Unusual and obscure card games

February 18, 2012

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.

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June 19, 2011

My father was born in Liverpool, England in 1937. His parents ran a post office there.

When he was in the local high school, ‘grammar school’, he was one year away from Paul McCartney, who he thought was a nice chap and always thinking about his music.

Dad got a Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Mathematics from Oxford, and came to Canada to work. He was hired by McMaster University here in Hamilton, and met my mother when he started attending the same church as she did. When McMaster got their first computing machine, my Dad was one of the first faculty transferred to a Computer Science department.

From my first memories of him, Dad was always very soft-spoken and calm. He walked a bit slowly, had a permanent hump or hunch in his upper back, and didn’t drive because he was blind in one eye and didn’t have any depth perception. He would get from our house on Stanley avenue to campus and back every day, though, and I think I got some of my attitude about public transit from him. For a while, when I started going out to special schools with gifted programs in Westdale, near the university campus, we would sometimes be on the same bus in the morning or afternoon.

In the fall of my senior year of high school, Dad fell when trying to climb back up the basement stairs, and ended up in hospital, and caught a bad infection while he was there. He ended up with a tracheotomy and got a little portable text-to-speech machine with a keyboard because he wasn’t able to talk any more, and he could never really get around entirely on his own after that. But he still had a great attitude about life, especially once he got back home.

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