Most Popular Medieval Card Games from Centuries Past

A standard item in most households of the Middle Ages was playing cards of some sort from the 15th century onwards. Card games had been prevalent for centuries and were a popular form of entertainment, especially during long winter nights when they were widely enjoyed with board games like Nine Men’s morris.

Some card games were more complex codified games with uniform decks, while others were simple and based on pure chance. They all had the potential to improve social skills and provide a sense of accomplishment for all participants. The introduction of the playing card was one of the most significant social advances in history. It made it possible for people to play games on equal terms rather than purely on natural talent, some of the new slot sites of 2022 require you to have a lot of luck than skill whilst medieval card games have that perfect balance. 

Medieval games from the middle ages involving playing cards

Here are some examples of popular historic card games played in medieval times:

Knave and Fool

One such game was ‘knave and fool’ in which a pack of cards is divided by suit and rank. The dealer places one card face down in the centre of the table, then turns over another card. Whoever has the highest ranked card wins both cards and puts them to his left. This continues until a king or knave is turned up. In the latter case, whoever has the highest card will win both cards, while in the former case, it is a draw.

Rules of the Game

The player to the dealer’s left then takes over as dealer, and places two cards face down with one turned up. The winner takes the two cards and places them to his left. The winner continues as the dealer by placing three cards face down with one turned up.

Finally, four cards are placed face down, with one turned up from which the player picks a card from those remaining on the table. The object is to have as many of the same rank as possible. The winner is the player with the most cards of that rank.

Tric-Trac or Picket

During the Middle Ages, a popular game in Britain was ‘tric-trac’ or ‘picket’, which derived from a French word ‘tricque’ meaning a trick. This game is played with a 52-card pack, and the card player aims to win as many ‘tricks’ as possible. It was said that whoever had more than half the total number of tricks at the end of the play would be declared the winner.

Rules of the Game

To start the game, players are placed in two teams with partners sitting opposite each other. The dealer shuffles the pack and then deals them out one at a time face down to the players clockwise from him, who then turns their cards over. Players can pick up any tricks that they think they might win – whether they have a card of the same rank or not.

Players can choose to ‘knock’, which means they do not wish to play any further and leave their cards face-up on the table. The player then takes back their cards into their hand. Alternatively, players who think their chances are looking good for winning a trick may call out “tric-trac!” At this point, both teams lay down their cards face up so all can see what is going on. This signals the start of each round, with each team having one chance only to win as many tricks as possible before knocking if they choose. In other words, after calling tric-trac, there is no second chance to participate in that particular set of tricks if you miss out the first time around.

The winner gets one point for every trick won plus those points from knocked players whose scores have been added together by partner or opponents depending upon whether your team wins or loses the game. The first team to reach ten points wins and becomes champion until defeated by another side later on in proceedings. For partners sitting opposite each other, they needed to count accurately during play since counting mistakes could lead an opposing side towards victory even though it had lost more individual hands than its opponent.

Each suit has a different point value, with the highest being for the ace of spades and then 2s, 3s, 4s etc., down to 9s. If more than one player from each side wins a trick, they work out how many tricks have been won by the team as a whole. For example, if three players from one team win a trick and two players on their opponent’s team also take part in that same trick, it would be counted as five points towards their result – not seven.

The modern board game played today called ‘picket’ is based on this card game popular among medieval people. In addition, some schools used picket as an educational tool due to its ability to improve memory skills through having to remember what cards had been played previously. It could even be argued that those children taking part in such lessons were getting an early introduction into today’s quiz shows.


Karnöffel is a more complex game that has been played in Germany since the Middle Ages and is still popular today. It involves a pack of 32 cards and four players: three active ones and one dummy player, who does not play but simply collects points for cards won by his teammates. The aim of the game is to score as many points as possible within seven deals; each deal consists of eight tricks played out in rounds between two teams (like tric-trac).

Rules of the Game

The dealer shuffles the deck while another team member cuts it with a knife or stick. After this, the dealer gives five cards to each player, with four going to dummy. The dealer then turns up one card from his hand face down on top of the pack whilst turning up a second card next door to him. He then passes both exposed cards around counterclockwise so all can see them before looking at their own hands again.

Players must now decide whether they wish to take any further part in playing or passing on what they have been dealt with either keeping their current hand or discarding unwanted cards for new ones from the stockpile. This is done according to suit and rank order starting with diamonds through clubs ending with spades. Suits change direction after every round until all suits have been used twice in total during play. Play continues until someone takes all eight tricks available when they win points equal half those taken by other active players plus an extra 40 points if taking the complete set, including the last trick where applicable.