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Ruffe & Trump

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

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Ruffe and Trump is a simple partnered trick taking game. Two teams of two are required to play this game. Team members sit alternating as in Euchre and most team trick taking games. The game uses a standard 52 card deck, all the cards are used. Often Ruffe and Trump was played as a betting game for a shilling per set (52 points).

This is one of the rare medieval card games where the Ace is valued at 11 points instead of just 1. The Ace is the most powerful card of any suit, and the Ace of the trump suit beats all.

Dealing the Cards

Youngest player deals first, and as usual eldest player plays first. Each player is dealt 12 cards apiece, but instead of alternating around the table each player is dealt four cards at a time before moving to the next player. After the cards are dealt there will be four cards the top card of the left overs (which is called “the head”) is turned upright. The upturned card on the head determines the trump suit. All cards of this suit automatically beat any other card of any other suit.

The Ruff

The ruff is basically your strongest suit. Announcing the ruff is a stage of the game right after dealing in which you announce the number of cards in your ruff, the player with the most cards in their ruff gets 12 points for their team, however they have to show their ruff to confirm that they do indeed have as many cards as they claim. While the 12 points is an advantage in the game having to show your cards could be a decided disadvantage. Since there seems to be no method for verifying that you aren’t underbidding your ruff it is plausible to assume you could do this to avoid having to show your cards. If the trump suit is your ruff you can count the turned up head card as part of your ruff.

Rubbing the Head

Once the ruff is won the player with the ace of trump may rub the head, or take the head as their own cards, if the ace of trump is turned up, or in the head, the dealer gets to rub the head.

Game Play

Game is played as a normal trick taking game, the value of each card is pretty standard, number cards from two to ten are their face value, face cards are worth ten, and the ace is worth eleven.

The eldest leads for the first trick, winner of the trick leads thereafter. Players must follow suit, play continues until for twelve rounds or all the players, except the player who rubbed the head who should at this point have four cards remaining which get included in that players points. Points are then accounted for. Count the number of cards each team won, any over 24 cards get counted. So if one team has 40 cards in their won pile they would get 16 points.

The game finishes when one team or the other reaches 52 points.

Single Hand Ruffe and Trump

Single hand Ruffe and Trump is a variant in which each player plays for themselves and not as on a team. The game play and scoring is the same, with the exception of points being accounted start at 12 cards instead of 24, so any player having over 12 cards scores the number of cards over 12.

Three player Ruffe and Trump

Three player ruffe and trump is exactly what it sounds like. Basically the same game as single hand ruffe and trump, but with three players instead of four. The only difference really is that it instead of taking the entire head when you rub the head you only take the top four cards.


Trump is a ruffe and trump variant that is played exactly the same, but with no ruff.

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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