Poker. Gin Rummy. Crazy 8s. So many of the games of my childhood can all be traced back to a single deck of cards. No matter how you use them, almost all of us have a favorite card game. Today is a day we honor the humble deck of cards for all it has given us throughout the years!
History of Playing Cards
Playing cards, similar to dominos, seem to have begun production in China, dating back even farther to the Tang Dynasty in the 9th Century AD. These cards were originally printed on blocks of wood, and as printing became widespread in China cards transferred to paper. The first recorded game of cards was from a Song Dynasty record from 1294 AD, although the game is not described.
Cards seem to have followed the Silk Road and were documented in the Arabic world and Egypt in the 11th Century. A near complete intact set dating from the reign of the Mamluks in the 15th Century was found in Istanbul by archeologists. This set contained 52 cards, four suits, with ten numbered cards and three “Royal” cards, the King, Viceroy, and Deputy. Due to Islamic rules about depicting faces and people in art, these were not “Face” cards as we know them today, but seem to be the origin of face cards.
While it is unclear exactly when playing cards came to Europe, it seems to have been shortly after their arrival in Egypt, as the Italian city of Florence passed a ban on playing cards in 1377, as did the English in 1413. It stands to reason cards had been present for some time prior to the bans, but exact dates are unknown. This really didn’t stop their popularity, because German and French prints and hand painted cards were widespread and became popular throughout this time, with the original suits being shields, roses, bells and acorns, and German cards having the first use of a Queen as a face card. Popularity seems to have overcome the ban, because in 1628, the King of England chartered the Mistery of Makers of Playing Cards of the City of London, a company which persits to the modern day under the name Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards. By 1864, the first American produced cards were documented as well, adopting the French, or modern suits for the cards.
- Variant Rory 📚
More Than A Game: Playing with Cards
Cut Some Fruit!
Card Tricks with Kids
If you are looking for some card tricks to teach the younger people in your life, see these tricks from Gigi & Boo! Find some fun together on a rainy day or keep warm inside during the snow while learning some straight forward card tricks!
Favorite Variant Card Games
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
A longtime family favorite of Variant Liz is Phase 10! Designed for 2 to 6 players, ages 7 and up, this card game uses about one part skill and about 7 parts luck! Work quickly to match your cards through the phases and be the first to complete phase 10. Phase 10 proves perfect for traveling and camping!
Taco vs Burrito
Keeping with the Taco theme, we recommend Taco vs Burrito, a strategic game designed by a 7 year old. From the same company, you can also check out Bold Made! This mother and child team are making wonderful games to share with the family. Check out our previous review for more information on Taco vs Burrito!
Quite possibly Variant J‘s new all time favorite game is Machi Koro. You may have read my review of the game from earlier this year, but Machi Koro allows players to use cards to build cities. Plan our your city and use the coins earned to add more. First player to unlock the four major structures wins the game!
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