The tarot is a pack of playing cards, used from at least the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play card games such as the Italian Tarocchini Games or German Tarock Games.
As the centuries went by, many local deck variants emerged and branched off into different groups of tarot decks.
Over time, some tarot decks started being used for cartomancy, as in Tarot card reading, more and more. And today, tarot decks with artistic designs are created catering to this specific purpose.
But let’s get back to actual games that were and ae still being played with tarot cards. Tarock and Tarocchini games are primarily trick-taking games.
In these games, players use a card deck, typically consisting of 78 cards divided into four suits: Swords, Batons (or Wands), Cups, and Coins (or Pentacles). Tarock decks used in Eastern Europe and German-speaking areas usually have French suits.
- Each suit contains numbered cards from 1 to 10 and four court cards: Knight, Queen, King, and a higher-ranking card often called “Cavalier” or “Fante” (Page), depending on the variant.
- In addition to the suits, there is a separate set of 22 trump cards, also known as the Major Arcana.
The player number varies between 2 to 8 players per variant, but 3 and 4 players are very common. To begin, players are dealt a certain number of cards depending on the specific game rules. The games are played in rounds, where each player plays a single card in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion, following suit if possible. The highest-ranking card of the led suit or the highest trump card wins the trick, and the player who wins the trick leads the next one.
The trump cards carry a special significance due to their powerful abilities to win tricks even when they are played against a different suit Their order and hierarchy can vary between different Tarock and Tarocchini card game variants.
Winning tricks is only part of the strategy. Many Tarock and Tarocchini games involve additional objectives beyond simply collecting tricks. Some games have specific contracts or goals that players must fulfill, which could include capturing certain cards or combinations of cards.
The symbolism of the tarot cards also comes into play during the games. Certain trump cards may have special roles or effects, adding an element of strategy and complexity to the gameplay. Understanding the meanings and qualities associated with different tarot cards can give players an advantage when deciding which cards to play.
If you enjoy trick-taking, you could check out our games at the Whist Palace and Pinochle Palace! You can also experience German trick-taking classics Doppelkopf and Sheepshead (games available in English and German; websites currently available in German only).