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How to Play the Medieval Card Game of Laugh and Lie Down

Updated on October 22, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Playing Cards
Playing Cards | Source

Laugh and Lie down is a simple card game reminiscent of the popular children’s card game of Go-Fish, but much more complex. References to the game can be found dating back as far as the 16th century. This game is clearly primarily a betting game as it is stated in the rules that the each player stakes two and the dealer stakes three.

The Primary Source

Laugh and Lie Down was a fairly popular game in the 16th century, so finding sources isn't all that difficult, but the source I used for the rules is Francis Willughby's Book of Games

Dealing the Cards

Five players are dealt eight each cards the remaining cards are placed face up so every card is visible but in no pattern. Once dealt anyone with a four of a kind must play them immediately to their pile of played cards. If the table cards contain a four of a kind these go to the dealer. If the dealer misses a four of a kind and play begins the four of a kind is fair game for anyone who spots it and this does not count as their turn.

Playing the Game

At each turn the player must lay down a pair from either their hand or from their hand and a card laying face up on the table (not from the cards played by others). If during their turn a player cannot lay down a pair then that player must lay his cards down with the cards on the table and all the other players then laugh at him (thus the name laugh and lie down).

The pairs you play go in one pile as your won cards. Four of a kinds and three of a kinds found afterwards are to be played as pairs only.

Game play continues until only one player has cards left. This player automatically wins 5 counters (whatever you are using as betting chips), all untaken table cards get added to the dealers won cards.

Final Scoring

All players count the number of won cards they have, any player who did not manage to win eight cards must pay 1 counter into the pot for every two cards short of eight example: If you have five cards won you would owe 2 counters into the pot. Any player with over eight cards takes 1 counter for every two cards over eight that they won.

The Avacal Games Guild is a group of people in the SCA Kingdom of Avacal who are interested in Medieval games

Badge of the Avacal Games Guild
Badge of the Avacal Games Guild | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston

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