What are Tarot Card Games?
Tarot Card Games are a family of Trick-taking Card Games which utilize a tarot deck. These games were conceived at the start of the 15th century in Italy, making them some of the oldest card games still played. While mostly extinct, they are still played in European countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, and other small East European countries.
These games may also be identified by the name tarock (France) or tarocco (Italy), depending on the region the game originated from.
Tarot games were some of the first to introduce the concept of trumps or trump suits to trick-taking. It is believed Karnöffel games may have incorporated them earlier into play, or that they were conceived of independently. Either way, this tradition has leaked over into modern trick-taking games.
Another defining characteristic of Tarot games is that they are point-trick games. This means you earn points for tricks taking. It also means cards have fixed values in play. Typically, there is a target score or range which players must reach in order to win the game. Point trick games also require you play trump cards when you are unable to follow suit AND if you have a trump in hand. Conveniently, tarot decks contain several trump cards.
The decks range in composition and size depending on the region it was created. French tarot decks have a full 78 card pack that can be used to play every tarot game but Minchiate, which requires 97 cards. However, this game is extinct and no longer played widely in Europe.
Eastern European Tarot decks are generally smaller than their western counterparts. For example, the Austrian-Hungarian Tarock has at most 63 cards, but more generally 54, 40, or 36 cards. The deck size suits the games played in that region.
The decks also observe culturally specific suits. The German Tarot deck, for example, uses Hearts, Acorns, Bells, and Leaves are their suits.
Part of what makes Tarot games unique in the Tarot Deck, which is very different from the standard 52 card deck played in most Western card games. The pack contains:
- Four Suits. These suits may be the French suits, which echo modern Western Card decks, with Hearts, Clubs, Spades, and Diamonds. The deck also may continue Italian suits which consist of cups and coins (round suits) and batons and swords (long suits).
- There are 21 cards which serve as permanent trumps.
- What separates tarot games from typical trick-taking games is this last unique addition to the tarot deck- the fool or the excuse. The fool is a suitless card that is a permanent trump.
The cards are typically valued as follows:
- Trumps 1, 21, and the Fool: 5 points each
- Kings: 5 points each
- Queens: 4 points each
- Cavaliers or Kinghts: 3 points each
- Knaves or Jacks: 2 points each
- All other cards: 1 point each
Links to Tarot Card Games