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Tarot cards are like ordinary playing cards and like them they can be used for playing games as well as divining the future. Tarot card games and their rules originally appeared in a manuscript, Martiano da Tortona before 1425 in Italy. The first tarot card game of Tarocco is mentioned in this manuscript. Though several versions of this game were played thereafter, one version Tarocco Bolognese: Ottocento is still played in Italy. Many countries in Europe such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungry, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland have devised their own versions of the game.
A typical tarot playing card deck is based on Tarot Nouveau, the standard French suited design which has face and number layouts similar to the common 52-card deck.
The trumps on the “Tarot Nouveau” deck display scenes of the traditional French activities “in increasing levels of wealth”. This deck is different from the “character and ideological cards” of the standard Italian suited tarot decks such as the Tarocco Piedmontese, Tarocco Bolognese, Rider-Waiteor the Tarot de Marseille decks which are popular in cartomancy.
The cards in the Frech tarot deck usually consist of four suits: suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. The other version is Italian which consists of cups, coins, batons and swards. German decks have suits of Hearts, Bell, Acorns and Leaves.
Besides these, there are 21 special cards which serve as trumps. There is yet another special card called Fool also known as Excuse. It is so called because it is an unnumbered card that excuses the player from following suit or playing a trump in some situations.
It should be interesting to note that the concept of trump in all the playing card games came from Tarot.
There are 78 cards in a deck. There are 14 cards each in four suits depending upon the region, whether it is Anglo-French, German or Italian. “Pip” cards are numbered one through ten. In addition to this, there are four court cards-- a Jack, a Knight (or Cavalier), a Queen, and a King.
The 21 cards, called Major Arcana in divination cards, function as a permanent suit of trumps in tarot card games. This card deck can be used to play any game in the family. Some Austrian/Hungarian Tarock and Italian Tarocco decks have smaller number of cards for games of that particular region.
Typical rules of the game
Tarot card games are usually played anti-clockwise. The player sitting to the right side of the dealer plays to the first trick. Other players are generally expected to follow suit. If that is not possible, you need to play a trump card. This rule applies to all tarot games including Bavarian Tarock even though it does not use a pack with a separate suit of tarocks.
In case of French tarot game, this trump “must beat any trump already played to the trick if possible. The winner of each trick leads the next.”
The cards are generally counted in groups of two or three depending upon the game. After you have played the hand, a score is calculated on the basis of the point values of the cards in the tricks each player has managed to capture.
Tarot card games are point-trick games, which implies that the cards have point values. The result is calculated on the basis of the total point value of the cards taken and not by the number of tricks taken.
Common values of the cards are as follows:
- Oudlers/Trull (Trumps 1, 21 and the Fool) : 5 points
- Kings : 5 points
- Queens : 4 points
- Cavaliers : 3 points
- Jacks : 2 points
- all other cards : fraction of a point
It must be noted that the pictures and symbols printed on the divinatory tarot cards play no role in tarot card games.
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