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Origins of the Game of Tarot


I was hoping someone could answer a question for me: did trick-taking games exist prior to tarot decks? In other words, where certain cards of the regular playing card deck were assigned to be trump cards.

What I really want to know is, did games where cards acted as trumps predate the tarot? Or did the tarot actually introduce this innovation of game-playing?

Thanks!

-- Lee
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Thats a tough question! I have read a bit of history of tarot (I will go looking to see what I can find) which state that card games were played well before TAROT decks. I have a feeling that Tarot was just another trick-taking game rather than a new innovation. It also was NOT the only special pack: the Minchete pack (I think I have misspelled it) was from around that time. It is similar to other 'educational" packs that played games like Authors, where you had to identify the picture. They had animals or philosphers on them.
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Hi Lee, I think I can take a stab at your questions -

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
I was hoping someone could answer a question for me: did trick-taking games exist prior to tarot decks? In other words, where certain cards of the regular playing card deck were assigned to be trump cards.
Yes, they did!

First though, it is not necessary to have a *trump* suit to play trick-taking games; all you would need is a hierarchy of suits, so that you would know which of two cards of the same value from different suits played would win.

I.e. if the suit hierarchy was Coins-Cups-Swords-Batons, from low to high, then a 6 of Swords would beat a 6 of Cups. But Batons is not a *trump* suit, because a 6 of swords would still beat a 5 of Batons according to this scheme. There could be other complications, but you see my point. You can play a game of trick-taking without needing a trump suit per se.

But to your main question - yes games with a trump suit did exist before we have record of trionfi cards.

The earliest such game appears to be a German game called Karn÷ffel; in this game, certain cards of a particular suit are given "trump" status - in general (and there are some complications), they always beat any other card played, no matter whether they are of a technically of a higher number or position - and these trump cards also have their own hierarchy. This game is noted in 1423 for the first time (or was that 1426? I forget for the moment).

But another example is the game designed by the Visconti secretary Marziano da Tortona. In his game, there is a suit of 16 Roman gods, which are all higher than the four suited cards below them (the suits were different kinds of birds). Which means, even the lowest god-card, Cupid, while it couldn't beat any other god, always beat the Kings and other cards of all the suits. In this way, these cards functioned exactly as "trumps", even though they don't seem to have been called that. This game was made before 1425.

Both of these games are recorded earlier than trionfi cards, of which the earliest reference is 1442.

Quote:
What I really want to know is, did games where cards acted as trumps predate the tarot? Or did the tarot actually introduce this innovation of game-playing?
So yes, such games definitely predate the tarot.

I'll find some links and other information for you shortly.

Ross
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Here is a John McLeod's page at pagat.com with Karn÷ffel references (it *was* 1426!)
http://www.pagat.com/karnoeff/

And the trionfi.com pages on Karn÷ffel -
http://trionfi.com/0/e1/ (go to "Note to Karn÷ffel/Keyserspiel" in the margin)
http://trionfi.com/0/c/04/index.php (see "The name Karn÷ffel" in margin)

Here's a page with a description of Marziano's deck and the history around it -
http://trionfi.com/0/b/04/index.php
(go to the bottom of the left margin to get my translation of the text)

and
http://trionfi.com/0/b/

Ross
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Thanks, Ross and Ace! Thank you particularly, Ross, for your in-depth answer and links, which I'll be perusing in depth. You've helped me enormously!

-- Lee
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