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Le Beaste: 17th Century Card Game

Updated on October 27, 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

Le Beste, The Beast, or simply Beast

According to Francis Willughby Beast or Le Beste was invented in France and migrated to England to become a very popular game in gambling houses. Its exact true origins have been lost so it is impossible to determine how old the game is. A clue to it being a later period game is that the Ace is a high card, since all early card games had the Ace as simply worth one point it can be assumed that Beast was invented later on when it became a little more common to use the Ace as more than just a value of one. The game is played with four players, although both a five and six player variant is recorded in Willughby’s book of games. It is a trick taking gambling game with fairly complex rules, but can be quite a fast paced game.

Setting Up

To play Beast you use a standard 52 card deck and remove the 2 through 6, although Willughby does maintain that leaving the cards in the deck does not seriously alter the game, so playing with a full deck is feasible.

Each player must stake two coins into the pot except the dealer who stakes three. The dealer extra coin the dealer stakes placed in front of them to signify they are the dealer, at the end of the hand the dealer’s extra stake gets added to the pot and the new dealer must stake an extra coin in front of them to signify they are the new dealer.

The dealer deals three cards to each player (three at a time instead of what modern card players are used to, being one at a time), and then two more to each player for a total of five cards each.

The dealer then places the deck in the middle of the table and turns up the top card, this card’s suit becomes trump. As in other trump based games the trump beats all other cards.

Game Play

Once all the cards are dealt and the trump has been determined each player examines their cards to see if they believe they can win at least two tricks. The player to the right of the dealer gets first option if they feel they can win two tricks they say “I play”, if they feel they cannot they say “I pass”. The first player to say “I play” becomes the player. If one player has said I play it goes around a second time and the players will now say “I counter” if they believe they can beat the player. If everyone passes the next player to be dealer stakes an additional coin to the pot (none others add to the pot) and collects all the cards to deal the next hand, otherwise the hand continues. Any player that has passed does not continue playing the hand, as a general rule it is good advice to counter if any player declares they will play, the risk is none and there is always the chance you will beat the player.

The player starts the hand and plays a card, the other players must follow suit, if they are caught not following suit they are said to have Renounced, and if you are caught renouncing you must put the same number of coins that is currently in the pot into the pot yourself. If a player does not have the suit but they do have trump they must play the trump or they are also renouncing.

If a player has the Ace, King and Queen of trump (or basically the top three trump cards still in play if one of these three cards is the turned up trump card), that player many win by demonstration, that is throw down the three cards and the hand is done. If you have the top three trump you don’t need to demonstrate, it is just a way you can speed up play, if you want to drag out the torture on your fellow players, feel free, it can add to the fun.

Winning two tricks is not a guarantee of winning the hand, any other player could win three tricks and “Beast” the player, you can also Beast the player by winning the first two tricks, if you are a player who has countered and you win the first two tricks you have won by Beast and win the pot. The player must win three tricks to guarantee his win, or win two and no other player gets the rest of the tricks, if he manages that he wins the hand and the pot .


The game can be played with five or six players instead of four. With five players six cards are dealt to each player three cards at a time, and the sixes are left in the deck. With six player Beast the sixes and sevens are left in the deck and seven cards are dealt to each player first four then three. Theoretically you can do any number of players as long as you still have cards to add to the deck, always deal one more card to each player then there are total players.

The badge of the Avacal Games Guild
The badge of the Avacal Games Guild | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston


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