Tarot cards were invented for card games a little less than 600 years ago, games that are still being played today throughout continental Europe. The Tarot of Loka is new to this tradition and is something a little bit special.

If, however, you are a little concerned about playing games with tarot, then I would suggest reading the section titled: “Will the Real Tarot Please Stand Up...” This will provide a little more detail about the cards’ history, though if you wish more detail, then you will need to check the books listed in the bibliography. Of course, this section will also be worth your reading if you are having trouble recruiting players – if you are armed with a little knowledge, you can set the concerns to rest and get down to playing some games.

Until this beautiful pack of card arrived, I have been aware of only two other attempts to promote packs of tarot cards for playing games in the UK, both in the 1970s. Sadly, they appear to have been a little afraid of attracting occult associations and so used the central European name of the cards: Tarock. In the case of Piatnik’s effort, this might have been fair enough as they were selling a reduced pack of 54 cards along with the rules for the Austrian family of games where they are indeed known as Tarock. Waddingtons however, appear to have bottled it – they were selling the French 78 card pack along with the rules for the French game. The French of course, gave us the name tarot in the first place, so to call it Tarock seemed a little daft.

Personally, I like to call a spade a shovel, no pun intended, and so to see River Horse produce The Tarot of Loka as being just what it is while in the context of playing card games, was a breath of fresh air.

But what pleased me was not just a new pack, inspired by traditional themes and promoted for games, but the philosophy of the designer behind it, Alessio Cavatore. His approach to this, as can be seen with his variations on Chess games, appears to be one of tradition with creativity. As much as I would like to see the English speaking world discover the games of tarot, I would also love to see it develop its own traditions of play and this philosophy is key to that.

This little effort is an offshoot of a larger project to publish a freely available book, recounting the games of European tradition with standardised conventions and Anglicized terms to make them a little more accessible to new players. I plan also to include our own efforts at devising variations on the traditional games, introducing new rules and ideas for players to try out. When I saw the Tarot of Loka just a few short weeks ago as I write this, I knew that we had to write a book just for that.

What I aim to present here is a brief introduction to tarot and its history, along with a selection of games adapted from European traditions, re-written to refer specifically to the cards of Loka. In my larger project I have retained a couple of odd traditions that have not been used by Mr Cavatore and so, in the interests of being consistent with his rules, I have not employed them here but feel I should note them to save any confusion should you seek out that book as well. The first is that in many Italian games the 20th trump, called The Angel, outranks the 21st trump, called The World – I liked that, retained it, and then standardised it across all of the games. The second is that in most tarot games, two suits (traditionally the round suits of cups and coins, or the red suits of hearts and diamonds) use irrational ranking and so from high to low rank: King, Queen, Cavalier, Valet (Jack), Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Finally, most, though not all, tarot games are played counter-clockwise – I have rendered my accounts here to be clockwise.

If you wish to learn how the games are played in their native countries, then I must direct you to the sources listed in the bibliography. According to Bunbury is certainly not According to Hoyle and I make no more pretence to authority than I do to authenticity. Instead, According to Bunbury is no more that a starting place, some common ground from which to start. I hope only that you enjoy these games – either as given here, or as whatever you make of them.

Your Help: Well, I could certainly use a little help when it comes to error checking. Sadly, I am very bad at it myself. When I try, it seems that my poor brain reads only what it expects to see and not what is actually there. If you happen across any errors in these posts, please do post about them in the comments.

The Goal: Once I have a reasonable selection of games ready, then I think it would be nice to compile them into a book. I mean to produce this in a few formats: mobi (for Kindle users), ePub (for other eReaders – I prefer a Kobo myself), PDF for computers and tablets, a simple document file (to make things easier for anyone wishing to reproduce any of the material), and a print on demand book (which will be set at a not-for-profit price, which is to say that you will pay for the printing service only and not me – this is not a commercial project).

Permissions: I am perfectly happy for anyone to make use of my text, either for personal or even commercial use. I do not require credit myself but I do require credit for my sources, all of which are listed in the bibliography.

Your Contributions: If you have developed a game or alternative rule that you would like to share with the community, then there is a page on this blog for you to post it. I make no claim on anything posted there by others and will not reproduce it anywhere else without the author’s consent.

About the Author

I am sure that most readers will have guessed from my name that I am nobody – a man of no importance if you like. And I do like, so much so that I prefer to remove myself from this work and use the name simply to give it an identity. Should this little project ever be of any importance to anyone, then I would only remind them that it is thanks to those whose work I have been able to draw upon - I list them all in the Bibliography and award them full credit for any good that comes of this.

Introducing The Tarot of Loka

The Tarot of Loka (henceforth referred to as the Loka) is a new tarot pack designed by Alessio Cavatore and illustrated by Ralph Horsley based upon the figures of the chess variant of Loka (also designed by Mr Cavatore). It is a tarot of 80 cards, two more than a regular pack, with a fantasy theme. It is comprised of five suits (a name for the broad groupings of cards).

The Regular Suits: Four of these suits are what we call the regular suits which are themed according to the classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Each of these suits has fourteen cards, much like those of our regular packs of cards. Ten of these are what we call the pips, numbered 2-10 and picturing as many suit symbols as indicated by each card’s number. There is a ‘1’ of each suit but it has its own name: the Ace. Then there are four court cards, which each picture a different figure; there is a King, a Queen, a Cavalier, and a Jack. The cards in these suits rank from high to low:

King, Queen, Cavalier, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace.

The Trumps: The fifth suit, the one that really makes tarot unique, is a suit of fixed trumps – cards that beat all those of the regular suits, whatever their rank. Most tarot packs have 21 of these but the Loka has 23 – though they shall not all always be used.

From the lowest ranking to the highest then, the trumps are:

Good & Evil: These two unnumbered trumps are unique to the Loka and their use will vary according to the game. As a general rule however, if played individually, they are treated as the lowest trumps in the pack. However, if both are played to the same trick, then one of two things can happen. If they are played by players of opposing teams, then they cancel each other out and win nothing. However, if played by members of the same team, then they beat everything.

1. The Magician

2. The High Priestess

3. The Empress

4. The Emperor

5. The Hierophant

6. The Lovers

7. The Chariot

8. Justice

9. The Hermit

10. The Wheel of Fortune

11. Strength

12. The Hanged Man

13. Death

14. Temperance

15. The Fiend

16. The Tower

17. The Star

18. The Moon

19. The Sun

20. The Judgement

21. The World

The Fool & Tomfool: Although numbered 0 in the Loka, The Fool was not created as part of the trump sequence. Instead, his traditional role is as something of a wild card, played at a player’s turn instead of a card that the rules might otherwise require. However, many games now treat this card as the highest trump of all, beating everything. When we are using The Fool as a wild card, we shall always just call him The Fool. However, when we are using him as a trump, then we shall call him Tomfool.

The Honours: Three cards are particularly important, they are The World, The Magician, and The Fool. They are three of the highest scoring cards in the pack and together they are called The Honours.

The Birds: Four of the trumps are often called The Birds, and are used to win special bonus tricks. They are The Magician (The Sparrow), The High Priestess (The Owl), The Empress (The Cockatoo), and The Emperor (The Vulture – also, sometimes, The Marabou).

The Quartet: These are four trumps that in some traditions are treated as being of equal rank. They are The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emporer, and The Hierophant.

Card Points: Tarot games are largely consistent with their card point values, however, the Loka does introduce a new convention for which the Aces are among the highest scoring cards. This actually has a parallel in the trumps where The Magician, the least powerful trump – and most easily lost – is one of the highest scoring. Here we can extend that to the lowest and most easily lost cards in the whole game. This can work well for games that use the whole tarot pack with all the pips but some games use a much reduced pack of just 54 cards by reducing the number of pips – in these games is it better to score the Ace as just 1 point. Where possible, I shall try to use the Ace as a 5 point card – though in some cases, such as the French game, I shall retain traditional scores as this is so widely played it is best to keep you roughly on the same page as other players you may meet.

Honours 5 points
Kings 5 points
Queens 4 points
Cavaliers 3 points
Jacks 2 points
Aces 5 points with 78 cards or 1 point with fewer
Good & Evil 5 points combined if both in tricks or 0 points
All others 1 point

What is a Tarot Game?

The obvious answer to this is a game played using tarot cards but that would be trivial and tarot is just more interesting than that. Unlike our regular pack of cards, which has been adapted to play a vast range of types of game, tarot has historically been a fairly tight family of games of a particular kind. To be sure, people have used tarot cards to play simple gambling games and such but these are the exceptions and are little known and more seldom played. The reason for this is, I suspect, that the tarot pack was created specifically for playing trick taking games with trumps and as such, while it is not well suited to generality, it is the best tool for the intended job. So throughout Europe, tarot games have much in common. They are all what we call trick taking games and with the sole exception of Royal Tarokk in Hungary, they are point trick games with largely the same point values everywhere.

Will The Real Tarot Please Stand Up...

Before we go any further, I think it would be helpful to look a little more closely at the history of tarot and its origins. While you may be happy to play games with tarot, in my experience, you are going to find very many people who are much less so and the following discussion might help you persuade them that it really is OK.

Tarot cards have had a troubled history over the last two-hundred year4s, they have gone from being one of the most popular card games in Europe to being recognized throughout the English speaking world as essentially occult objects. Popular myth is recounted in countless texts on the bookshelves, in newspapers, magazines, film, television, and across the internet. The truth is, as has always been the case, having a hard time.

I don’t intend this to be a history book, there are far more knowledgeable people who have already written exhaustively about the history of tarot. However, I do feel the need to say something about the cards and their confused identity. There are a variety of muddled and conflicting perceptions, interests, and uses that need untangling.

So, where to tarot cards come from?

Let’s begin at the beginning in Europe...

Playing cards are first seen in Europe in the mid 14th Century. They are thought to have descended from the Far East, ultimate from Chinese money games. Coming to us from the Malmuks, our earliest cards are distinctly Islamic in appearance and feature, as our modern packs, 52 cards made up from four suits, each with ten pip cards and through court cards. The suit symbols were cups, coins, scimitars (a type of curved sword), and polo sticks. Islam (by most interpretations) does not allow the depiction of living things in art, so the court cards were represented by abstract designs and calligraphy.

As Europe adopted these designs, they underwent a couple of changes. As polo was not played at that time, the polo sticks lost their paddles to become batons, while the court cards showed the figures of a King, a Cavalier, and a Footman (who become our Jack). The result is what we call the Latin Pattern and is still in use today for playing cards in Italy and Spain. Various countries experimented with different suit designs and today you can find in Switzerland suits of shields, roses, leaves, and hawk bells, while in Germany there are suits of hearts, leaves, acorns, and hawk bells. It was France that gave us our suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.

The Queen appears to have been independently invented on more than one occasion and may even have existed in non-Islamic predecessors to our cards. In Italy there was an early pack that featued 6 court cards, being a male and a female in each of the three ranks. Most of these extra cards were dropped but retaining the Queen in a 56 card pack that for a time seems to have been a regional standard. It was to this pack that in the early to mid 15th century, a fifth suit of picture cards was added. These picture cards would appear to have taken as their theme a Christian triumph procession which may be the source of their name: trionfi, meaning triumphs and from which we get our word trump. While tarot is not the only time that trumps were invented, it is certainly these cards that popularized the device in games.

The original name of trionfi was soon changed to tarocchi, probably to avoid confusion with another card game called trionfi that was enjoying some popularity at that time. Perhaps the most plausible etymology for the new name is the word tarochus, meaning ‘to play the fool’, the Fool card having an important and unique role in the games. As the cards spread through Europe, this name was often truncated to tarock and was further truncated by the French to tarot.

Given the modern perception of tarot cards, it may seem hard to accept this. You are very likely to have read about the church suppressing tarot cards, and that they had to be used in secret because of their heretical images. However, this is not the case. Tarot games spread across the continent, being played openly, without opposition from the church all through the counter-reformation. The only real exception to this is in Spain, where it is important to note that the opposition was not from a perception that the images were somehow unchristian, but precisely because they were Christian. The authorities there felt that it was inappropriate to use such images in a card game, something they felt trivialized or disrespected the sacred. We have good reason then, to go back and question our initial thoughts. It might help to take a closer look at two cards that have been widely misunderstood.

The Female Pope, often renamed The High Priestess by modern occultists, is an excellent example. This must surely be heretical. But no, we are looking at the cards through modern eyes, with a vision coloured by popular myth. If we are to understand what the images represent, then we must look at them in the context of their origin – Renaissance Italy. If we look at the religious art of the time and place, we find that The Female Pope was an established figure in Christian art, being used to symbolize such things as The New Covenant, The Virtue of Faith, and the body of the church itself. There was no heresy, which explains why there was no opposition.

Another card that is often cited as having esoteric meaning is The Hanged Man, perhaps because it is difficult to see just what overt and obvious meaning it could every have had. What are we to make 9of a man suspended by one foot, often holding money bags? Some have suggested it be Judas, though he would have hung himself by the neck, others have suggested it to be the virtue of prudence, indeed the list of offerings is long and varied. However, if we again look at the card in context we find a different story and no mystery at all. The title of Hanged Man was given to the card by French card makers but we know from written sources that in Italy it was called The Traitor – and little wonder, as this was how Italians used to execute traitors, suspended by one foot and left to die rather slowly and publicly. As for the money bags, we can find an explanation from aother practice of the the time, that of Shame Pictures. It was the practice to shame those who betrayed a trust by em0plying an artist to draw that person’s likeness hung as a traitor, which would then be publicly displayed. And the money bags? Well, the most common subjects for these pictures were bad debtors and so common were they that at one time Milan had to ban them as they were damaging the city’s reputation for trade!

The beginning of the 18th century saw a big change in tarot in many countries. At this time, German card makers began to produce French suited tarot cards that also gave up the traditional trumps in favour of a number of themes, such as animals or local scenes. This offered two advantages. The first was economic. Regular French suited playing cards had existed since the 15th century and had quickly become the dominant pattern in Europe. While the Latin suits required costly wood blocks and hand colouring, which was labour intensive, the French suits required only a simple stencil to reproduce the pips, making production much cheaper. Additionally, by dropping the traditional trumps, likely even then to be a little obscure outside of their native Italy, card makers could do more to show off their skills, as well as create cards with themes that might appeal more to their regional customers. This new pattern of tarot has now become the dominant form for game play.

Tarot’s occult associations do not arise until the end of the 18th century when a Parisian occultist, Antoine Court de Gebelin, published an article in his encyclopaedia declaring that the cards were of Ancient Egyptian origin, brought to us by the Gypsies and codifying the lost knowledge of their priests. He did not present any evidence his claims but he made them at a time when Egyptomania was popular and so his story captured public imagination and caught on. He also published the first aacount of how the cards were to be used for divination. During the following 100 years. Various French occultists took up the ideas of an occult origin and divinatory use and built upon them, developing still more elaborate myths. Until the end of the 19th century, these ideas were lim8ited to just France but then a small number of British occultists began to import the cards and translate the French occultist writings about them. In the English speaking world, the cards seemed new and exotic, and the occultist accounts of the cards were the only ones known. During the next century, the myth of tarot gradually established itself in the public psyche, and toward the end of the 20th century, a whole industry built around tarot reading began to establish itself and to spread back across Europe.

Since occultism first laid claim to tarot, there has been a growing tendency to redesign the cards to better fit occult beliefs. Thanks to this there is a broad division between types of tarot cards. Those of the occult and those used to play games. To be honest, those cards designed by occultists and for fortune telling are ill suited to game play and so any concerns you may have about them need to affect our interests here. Although there have been works of serious history about both the cards and the games published in English since 1980, they have tended to be of limited availability and of high cost. However, in recent years, thanks in large part to the internet, the history and the games are at last getting through to the English speaking public. People are at last discovering the games they have been missing. After all, something that has been played for nearly 600 years and spread through a continent must have something good going for it.

Well, we know from history that tarot cards were created for playing card games. There really is no substantial doubt about that. While we cannot be certain as to what, if anything, the trump designs represented, we do know that the accounts given by the occultists don’t stand up to examination. The questions then, are: Do we declare that occultists should have nothing to do with tarot? Are they simply wrong to think the cards represent anything spiritual? Should the cards only be seen as instruments of play? Now, I have a special interest here – I think that the occult tarot has thrived at the expense of the gamers’ tarot – but need it be so? Can the occult tarot and the gamers’ tarot co-exist?

I think that we gamers have to make some concessions to the modern occultists. History may not give them a claim to the cards but perhaps use and modern design may give them a different kind of claim. Words and symbols have meaning because of the way that we use them and the way that we use them often changes over time. Consider the word ‘nice’. These days we use the world in a complimentary fashion – but it was not always so. When Jane Austin’s characters refer to someone as ‘nice’ they don’t intend a compliment, then intend an insult, they used the world to indicate that someone was plain, simple, and perhaps a dullard. Because, historically, the world had a different meaning. Does not tell us that we are using it incorrectly today. Nor, when we re3ad Jane Austin today, do we read her use of the word to be a compliment – because we read the words in the context within which they were written. There is no metaphysical connection between the word ‘nice’ and some abstract thing ‘simpleton’ that determines its proper meaning, there is only the way that we use the word. Now, occultists use tarot cards to symbolize elements of their spiritual and magical beliefs, so in the context of occultism, they have those meanings.

To further strengthen this position, we can take into account that occultists usually use ‘rectified’ packs. We can question that they are really rectifying anything, that is a matter of history and can be debated with reference to evidence, but we cannot deny that these are new designs created with the intent that they contain occult symbolism. While I find many of the modern designs to be rather dreadful, it would be churlish to for anyone to deny that a great many of them are beautiful and deserve to be called art. I can say that as an atheist and sceptic because as such, I can still see the beauty in more familiar religious art, whether it be by Mozart or Leonardo da Vinci. In fact, I have a growing collection of tarot packs chosen for their art.

This is perhaps more of a concession that many card players and sceptics would like to make and yet, there is still more to say on the matter. We must step back a moment and make sure that I have not been tilting at windmills all along. There are giants out there but we need to make clear who they are. I would level attacks against those occultists who have tried to present an account of history that is simply false, people for whom the occult really has been about revealing hidden knowledge in its traditional sense – these are some of the giants and they do still exist. They do not represents all occultists, over the last quarter of a century some have begun to look upon religions, spiritual beliefs, and tarot cards, with almost post-modernist eyes. These people are perhaps more relativist in their outlook and choose a tarot pack, not according to who well it reflects a system of occult belief they accept as true, but according to its appeal to them personally and how it reflects their view and experience of the world. The people of this new school sometimes know and accept that tarot was a game. Sadly, I do not feel that they are all that representative of tarot users as a group – at least not in recent experience – but we need to be aware that they exist and guard against tarring them with the same brush as we would tar others.

However, there is still another giant to tilt against and that is public perception. The old occultist myths have become a part of the public consciousness, and have so much appeal within it that breaking the myth is far harder than it should be. You can explain the truth about their history and take out a pack of cards designed without any occult reference, only to find that people will still say that they are uncomfortable with playing a game with them – I have had this response even with the French suited cards! It is this general public perception that is my principle target.

If there is blame to be laid anywhere for this public perception, it does not just lie with the modern tarot reader. Rather – and now I am venturing more deeply into personal opinion – I tend to blame the popular media. Be they TV producers, publishers, magazines, or newspapers, they can be seen, everyday, to put the story they think will sell above any responsibility to educate or to simply be honest. Of course, we are talking about businesses and this phenomena is just the product of market forces as those businesses act to profit their shareholders – but I do not believe that this excuses anyone from moral responsibility.

What my argument does not concede is that people learn anything about the world from studying the cards. Nor do I concede that by reading the cards, people can divine anything about the future. I do not think that they can do either, and I do think that a belief that they can is not a healthy or productive one, whatever its short term benefits. What we can say is that tarot cards fall in broadly two groups with some overlap. There are those designed purely for game play, those designed by and for occultists and readers, and those designed for game play but which continue to be appropriated by occultists and readers.

Further, I do not think that pursuing promotion of the games of tarot is not a neutral activity. However many tarot readers are friendly to history and game play, I suspect that the industry as a whole would not be very welcoming, having been predicated on fantasy.

By promoting game play and with that, the real history of the cards, we cannot avoid demystifying them, stripping them of much of the magic that makes them attractive and marketable as occult objects. Having your tarot cards read may seem no more mystical than your tea leaves, regular playing cards, or a just a pack of dominoes. A child brought up playing games with a Tarot de Marseille and learning about their origin and what the figures represent, might not be so entranced by the tales told by many readers interested in drumming up business. I suspect then, that the best weapon sceptics might have to combat the occult tarot, is tarot and so whatever neutrality I might have hoped for when I began writing about the games, is simply not possible. But if this is the price of promoting the games, I’m willing to pay it.

Your first game of Tarot

The best way to learn is by doing and there really is no substitute for that. However, if the idea of just leaping in seems a little daunting, or if you are unfamiliar with card games, then it might help to talk you through a quick game of Scarto. I’ve highlighted key words in bold which you can also look up in the glossary of terms in the back of the book.

So, we have three players: Rita, Sue, and Bob too.

They decide by consent, that as Bob is the oldest of them, he will be the first Dealer. It doesn’t really matter how this is decided though – some players each draw a card and whoever gets the highest takes the role first.

So, sat at the table, Bob has Rita to his left and Sue to his right. The player on Dealer’s left is often called Eldest, while the player on Dealer’s right is called Youngest.

Bob’s first task is to shuffle the cards. People have different ways of doing this and while it can be a practised art, you don’t need to be elegant about it, you only need to give the cards’ order a good mix-up.

It is then usual to cut the cards, Dealer may do this or hand the cards to Youngest (Sue) to do it. Cutting the cards in this context simply means placing the cards on the table in a single pile, then dividing the pile into two or three stacks which you put back together in a different order. (It can also mean lifting the top half of the pack to reveal a single card – we won’t be using it in this context though)

When you start playing, it is usual to shuffle on the first deal, however, has the game continues, Dealer may choose only to cut the cards and not shuffle unless one of the other players requires it – this can lead to some interesting play.

The order of play is given to be clockwise for all these games (ie to the left). So Bob now begins to deal out the cards in packets of five cards, that is five cards to Rita, five to Sue, then 5 to himself, and so on until the pack is all dealt. There will be three cards left over which Bob will add to the cards he dealt to himself. The cards that have been dealt to each player make up what we call their hand – thus we talk about a hand of cards and have sayings about playing a bad hand well. We also talk about playing a hand, which might also be termed playing a round of cards. In this context, this means playing the cards dealt until they have all been used.

The players now all examine their hands (the cards, that is) – but Bob has three more than the others. He must now discard three cards that will count toward his tricks (see a bit further on). He cannot discard willy nilly though, he may not discard either Honours (which are The Fool, The Magician, and The World) or Kings. However, if he has no trumps, then he may discard The Fool.

In discarding, players will usually want to protect vulnerable counters (cards with a value more than 1 but which stand a good chance of being won by other players) or to make themselves void in one suit (which means that they want to be left with no cards in a suit), so that they can quickly trump other players. In this case, Bob only has the 3 and the 8 in the suit of Air, so he discards both of those, he also has the Queen of Water but not the King, so he thinks it wise to discard that as well.

With the discard complete, they are ready to begin playing. Rita, as Eldest (remember, she is sitting on Bob’s left) will now have to chose a card from her hand and place it face up in the middle of their playing area. This is called leading to the trick, a trick consisting of a card from each of them played in this way. She looks through her hand and having the King of Coins, she figures she might be safe to play it right away on the grounds that she has a few Air cards, so the odds are that each of the other players will have four or five.

Sue must now play a card – if she can, she must follow suit, which means to play a card of the suit that was led (in this case Air), or if she has no cards of that suit, then she must play a trump, and if she has neither any cards of the suit led nor trumps, then she may play any card, though it shall not win.

Sue actually has eight Air cards in her hand, so she deduces that either Rita or Bob must have very few if any of them left – and if Bob hadn’t many to begin with, then he would probably have discarded them. Of course, Rita has played the King and she cannot beat that, so she follows suit by playing her lowest Air card, which in this case is the 2.

Now Bob can reap the reward of having left himself with no Air cards – the rules would normally require that he follow suit but as he cannot, he can – and must, if he has one – play a trump. Not wanting to waste a high trump on a trick that is as good as his, he plays his lowest trump, which is The Magician (the I of trumps). This is a good thing for him as the lowest trump is both one of the highest scoring cards as well as one of the easiest to lose, so by playing it now he has saved those points and won a trick against a King, also worth 5 points!

If Bob had not discarded his Air cards at the start, he would have had to play one of those, no doubt his lowest, against the King. In that case it would have been Rita, having played the highest card of the suit led, who would have won the trick but whenever a trump is played to a trick, then the highest trump played wins it.

Having won the trick, Bob takes all the cards played to it and places them face down with the cards that he originally discarded. This is now his trick pile and he will add to it any further cards that he wins. Winning the trick also means that Bob leads to the next one. He looks through is hand and plays the King of Water.

It is Rita to play next and she finds that she has a problem – the only two Water cards she has are the Queen and the Cavalier, both of which are valuable and either of which will lose to the King. However, she has a life line as she also has The Fool in her hand. The Fool acts as a kind of wild card that can be played at any time instead of a card that the rules would otherwise require. In this case they would require that Rita play and lose a high ranking card, so she plays The Fool instead. Sue plays a low card from her hand and Bob takes up the cards having achieved nothing except saving his King. However, he does not take The Fool – that card is rarely lost. Instead, Rita takes it back and places if face up beside her.

Play continues like this, with each player putting the cards of tricks that they win face down in front of them in trick piles until all they have played all their cards, that is, played their hand. Before they can work out their scores though, Rita owes Bob a card – this is because she kept The Fool and so his trick pile is now one card short. She looks through her tricks and gives to him an empty card from them – that is a card worth only 1 point – which allows her to now add The Fool to her own trick pile. However, had she not managed to win any tricks during the game, then she would have had to surrender The Fool to Bob after all. (taking no tricks while having played and lost The Fool in this way is something that we call having played a Fool’s Errand)

Each player now works out the card points they have won. Traditionally, counting the card points in tarot can be a little odd but we are using simplified counting here. The values of the cards won are counted individually, adding to the total 1 point for each trick (though the Dealer’s three discards do not count as a trick). Players then win or loses in game points the card points they have over or below 57.

Because the player who is Dealer is often at an advantage – in case by taking the last three cards and being allowed to discard three cards safely into their trick pile for the outset, it is usual for a game to consist of three hands – with each player getting a turn at playing as Dealer. Like the order of play, deal moves to the left, so from Bob, the role of dealer now falls to Rita, before moving to Sue. The scores for the three hands can then be summed for the score of the game.

Hopefully you are now ready to read but I would suggest trying out the game of Scarto.