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How to Play Piquet

Updated on October 31, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Four Kings would be handy to have in your hand as during the sets phase as long as your opponent didn't have four Aces you would get 14 points.
Four Kings would be handy to have in your hand as during the sets phase as long as your opponent didn't have four Aces you would get 14 points. | Source

Have you ever heard of Piquet?

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Piquet (Pronounced P-K)

Piquet, or Cent (or Saunt) as it was known as in England, is a two player trick taking game that is quite easy to learn despite its apparent complexity. It was a well-known game by the end of the 15th century and is heavily covered in various documents. Rabelais mentions the game in his novel Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Piquet is one of the rare medieval card games where the Ace is considered a high card. The two through six of each suit is removed leaving a deck of 32 cards in play. The game can be played with a deck of 36 as well by leaving the sixes in, Cotton (who wrote The Complete Gamester in 1674) seems partial this method over the 32 card deck. Both are acceptable, there is no advantage or disadvantage to either method (Coeur, 1995). The rank of the cards in ascending order is 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. The value of the cards is pretty standard, with court cards being worth ten, pip cards worth their stated value, and aces worth eleven.

Terminology

Talon: The cards remaining after the deal, placed between both players in the middle of the table.

Trick: A trick is one round of each player playing one card, player who played the card of the highest value wins the trick and takes the cards.

Youngest player: This has nothing to do with age, but rather is a medieval card playing term referring to the dealer.

Eldest Player: Again, nothing to do with player, just the player who is directly next to the dealer who would become dealer next, in Piquet there is only the youngest and eldest, but in other games the other players would be considered a range from youngest to eldest around the table.

Ruff: A players ruff is value of all the cards in any given suit in the players hand.

The Deal

The dealer deals twelve cards to each player four cards at a time. The remaining cards are called the Talon or the Stock and are placed between the players. Once the hand is dealt the hand is into a variety of steps, Blanks, Draw, Ruff, Sequence, Sets, Tricks, and Pique and Repeque. Scores are counted at each phase. If you forget to count, or miscount your scores during any of the scoring phases you cannot correct this, the count you declare is the count you have to go with. If a player catches you lying about your count in any phase that player scores all your points for that phase.

Blanks and Draws

Blanks and Draw are generally considered one step, it starts by the elder declaring if they have a blank, a blank is a hand with no court cards and no aces. If the elder declares a blank, but the younger does not have a blank the elder is awarded ten points and the players move on to the draw. The elder may discard up to eight cards, but must discard at least one and draws new cards to replace the cards they discarded from the Talon. The younger may now discard and draw up to eight, but at least one card from the Talon.

Counting Ruffs

Next is the counting of Ruffs. A ruff is the number of points in a given suit. The elder declares how many points they have in their largest ruff, if the younger has a ruff of equal or higher points they then declare their points. If the ruffs are equal no points are awarded, if not then the player with the higher ruff may take the points in their ruff as follows; 1 point is awarded for each ten points in the ruff, rounding is allowed so if your ruff was worth 55 you would score 6 points, however if it was 54 you would only score 5. The loser may demand to see the winning ruff, doing so is strategically wise as it may grant the loser an advantage in the trick taking phase of the hand.

Sequences

Once points are recorded for the Ruff the players move on to counting sequences. A sequence is three or more cards in sequence such as 10, J, Q. The eldest player declares his longest sequence and the high card in that sequence, if the youngest has a longer sequence or a sequence of the same length but with a higher high card they declare it. If both players have the same length sequence and the same high card no points are awarded, however if one of the players has a higher high card or a longer sequence that player is awarded points as follows; for sequences of three 3 points is awarded; for sequences of four 4 points are awarded; any sequence over 5 ten points plus the number of cards in the sequence is awarded. Once again the loser can demand to see the winning sequence.

Sets

Sets are counted next, sets are three or more of any card valued at ten or higher. The elder declares his highest set of highest cards, if the younger has a set of greater number or equal number but greater card value (if the elder has three Jacks, the younger can declare if he has a set of three Queens or higher, or four 10’s). The player with the highest set is awarded points. A set of three is worth thirteen points and a set of four is worth fourteen. The loser may demand to see the winning set.

Tricks

Tricks are played like any standard trick taking game without trump. First the elder leads, then the younger must follow suit if they can, if they can’t the elder takes that trick, if they can and beat the elders card the younger takes the trick. The winner of each trick leads the next trick. Points are awarded during trick play and at the end of the hand. Every trick in which at least one of the cards was ten or over earns the winner of that trick 1 point for each card over ten. Winner of the final trick scores an additional 1 point (on top of any points awarded for cards ten or over). After all tricks are played the player with the most tricks takes ten points (if both players take six tricks no points are awarded). If a player managed to win all the tricks he scores a Capet which is worth 40 points instead of 10.

Pique and Repique

If a player manages to get 30 points before the other player scores anything that player gets a bonus 30 points, this is called Pique. If the player manages to get a Pique before the trick taking phase this is called a Repique and is worth an additional 30 points for a total bonus score of 60.

Winning the Game

Piquet is generally played to 100 points. It is common to keep track of points on paper, although a crib board can be used for scoring as well. If you alter the points needed to win it throws the balance of the game off considerably, as in the standard game a Repique is pretty much a guaranteed win when the game only goes to 100 points and the player who scored a Repique has already scored 90 points (original 30 points + 60 bonus points).

The badge of the Avacal Games Guild, a group of SCA gaming enthusiasts with in the Principality of Avacal.
The badge of the Avacal Games Guild, a group of SCA gaming enthusiasts with in the Principality of Avacal. | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston

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