I am a big fan of learning about games from other cultures. I’m always on the lookout for something new and exciting to introduce to my game nights, especially when I can show off games they’ve never heard of.
This brought me to find out about French card games. As France is somewhere I like to spend my vacations from time to time, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to find out what the most popular card games in France were. Today I am going to share this knowledge further afield.
So during this guide, I will be briefing you about some of the most popular French card games and providing you with some insight into where they first originated from.
A Bit of History About French Card Games
French locals first found their love of card games around 1370, after they began importing decks of cards from Egypt. These were standard decks of cards with the classic four suits, and over time, France developed their own rules and strategies with suits that were similar to those used in Germany.
By 1480, France had a unique way of playing card games, and their suits were also unique to them. These are called trefles, cœurs, piques, and carreaux.
Another interesting fact that I learned about French card games is that they were the ones who introduced a female face to their decks, known as the Queen. Before that, decks of cards were known to have four male faces printed upon them.
What You’ll Need to Play French Card Games?
To play French card games, you can either look for a French deck of cards. Still, to keep things simple for this guide, I am going to suggest using a regular deck of 52 cards and removing the 8s, 9s, and 10s from the pack, leaving you with 40 cards. If you don’t already have a deck of cards, you can now pick up some cool ones on Amazon, such as these Decks of rose gold playing cards. They’re eye-catching and also waterproof, so they are perfect for outdoor use and camping trips.
Some of the games I will discuss will also require a Spanish deck of cards, which you can pick up for a low price. These Heraclio Fournier Spanish playing cards are ideal and low-cost.
So, now that you’re clued up on the history of French card games and you’ve got everything you need to play, let’s find out about the best card games from France that you can play on your next game night.
This card game dates back to the 15th century, making it a significant part of French card gaming history. The game is played with a standard deck of cards and with four players paired into two teams, and it’s a trick-taking card game.
The main idea of the game is to try and win more tricks than the other team. However, what makes this game unique, is that despite being in pairs, you don’t work together to form tricks. You do this as a sole player, combining your scores with your partner at the end to determine the winning team.
It’s also unusual in that the suits are meaningless and in the way that the 3s, 2s, and Aces are the highest cards in the game.
There are nine tricks played throughout the game, and whichever team has the player with the most tricks wins a point. You will want to keep a pen and paper handy for this so that you can keep a note of the scores as more games are played.
2. Black Stories
Black stories is an unusual and fun game that can be played with as many people as you like. You will need to buy the Black Stories Deck of Cards to play. This is the English version to save you from having to brush up on your French language.
The game consists of cards with a picture and a brief description, most of which are a little dark, and on the reverse of the cards is a story. After a player has read the story, everyone else must take turns asking questions about the story to try and find out what happened. By the end of the game, the person who has managed to decipher the entire story from start to finish is the winner. This is an excellent game if you love things like a clue, as it has an added ounce of mystery to it, which keeps players guessing and putting together the missing pieces to win.
Manille is played using a unique deck of cards called a piquet deck, which can be pretty hard to get hold of. Still, I recently found some on eBay for a reasonable price. These French decks consist of 32 cards.
This is another trick-taking card game, and it was derived from the Spanish card game Catalan.
This is a four-player card game, and like the game I discussed previously, players are divided into pairs, forming two teams.
The game aims to follow suit. For example, if the player before you has played down five of the spades, you would then need also to play a card of the spades. If you cannot follow suit, you must discard a card and lose the hand, meaning you’re out of the round.
The game is played over eight tricks in total, and at the end of the game, scores are rounded up and points checked. The team with the most points at the end of the rounds wins the overall game.
Piquet is a two-player card game that is played with 32 cards and consists of six deals called parties. If you don’t have the Piquet special deck, don’t worry, just remove the 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s from a standard deck, and you’re good to go.
This is an ancient French card game that can be dated back over 400 years. Today it’s still a highly thought-of game, loved by the locals and played all over the country.
Each player starts the game with twelve cards; the first player is whoever did not deal with the cards. Players must exchange cards with the talon. The idea of this is to try and improve your hand to win the game.
During each turn, each person will play a card that matches the rank or suit of the previously played card.
The game is scored depending on the number of sequences, sets, or tricks you have won throughout the game, each of which is worth several different points.
If you’re playing with a larger group of friends, then Commerce will be a good one to learn because it’s best suited to anywhere between 3 and 10 players. You also don’t need any special deck of cards to play. Just a standard deck will suffice.
During the game, players can opt to swap their cards to try and form the best three-card hand possible. At some point, players can request a showdown, in which you then compare your hands and see who has the better hand. Of course, the best wins the round.
Here comes another trick-taking card game, which it seems the French are pretty in tune with, doesn’t it?
This one is for four players and involves a regular set of cards, so no special decks need to be purchased. However, you might want to get yourself some gaming chips.
The game was established sometime during the 1700s. Over the years, many variations have stemmed from it to allow for more players and more of a challenge.
The difference between this game to other trick-taking card games is that there are no teams involved, meaning you’re going solo.
To begin the game, players bet five chips each into the center of the playing area, and after that, everyone should take turns playing or passing. However, if you choose to pass a turn or can’t make a bet for whatever reason, you can’t participate in the rest of the round.
You will play twelve rounds in total, and the person with the most chips at the end of all the rounds wins.
Here we go again, you’ve guessed it, another trick-taking game, and not just any, but a trick-taking game that is hundreds of years old.
This French card game might not be quite as popular as it once was. However, it’s still one of my personal favorites and one that is still played by many card players across France and England.
To play écarté, you’ll need to discard some cards from your deck again, leaving you with 32 cards, same as before, all cards numbered 2-6.
This is a two-player card game in which all players start with five cards in their hands. After this, one card is revealed to all the players. This will be the trump card that everyone must try to match. Out of all five tricks played, you will aim to win more than your opponents.
This is a great game to play with friends if you have children joining in due to the simplicity of the rules.
8. French Tarot
I think I have probably saved the best for last here regarding French card games, as French Tarot is perhaps the most popular card game played in France.
In most cases, the game is commonly played with four players. However, playing with three or five is possible if you wish. I just prefer the even number and find that four works best.
Once again, and I’m sure this won’t come as a shock to you by now, this is a trick-taking game, and to play it, you will need a French Tarot Deck which has 78 cards.
This is quite a complex game, so playing with more advanced card players is recommended. I would advise thoroughly reading the entire instructions before you begin to save any confusion mid-game, and allow yourself enough time to read through them thoroughly because they’re incredibly lengthy. However, once you’ve established what you’re doing, this is an excellent game with plenty of twists, bids, challenges, and bonuses.
So, those are the 8 most popular French games that I think are the most fun to play with friends and family, whether you’re looking for something simple to teach the kids or get through quickly or whether you want to challenge your friends to something new and complex. Hopefully, my guide has provided you with a bit of everything. If this guide has got you hooked on trick-taking games and eager to learn more, then you might want to take a look at this guide on how to play The Fox in the Forest.