6 exciting international card games for the whole family to learn


Photo: Photo bank by IMPACT PHOTOGRAPHY / Shutterstock

Looking for your next favorite card game to play with your family and friends? Look no further than this exciting list of six, international card games. While it can be intimidating to learn a new game, learning and laughing with loved ones is worth taking the time to build up your card game repertoire. Once you get started, you might be surprised to notice some similarities between the new games and the ones you already know.

Card games and their fundamental concepts have spread with human travel across cultures and across oceans. Most games fall into several standard categories: trump games, fishing games, trap games, and loss games.

A brief history of card games

It is believed that card games originated from China around the year 1000 AD. Often printed in blocks, early Chinese cards may have been used in addition to other playing pieces such as dice. Other early playing cards were found in Mamluk Egypt (the period of about 1250-1517). The combinations found on Mamluk cards (cups, coins, swords and polo sticks) influenced the development of Latin cards, the first medieval European playing cards. Card games and card games became popular during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Germanic variations with new costumes such as tassels. A mixture of Latin and Germanic combinations developed into the famous French combination game now seen around the world.

The Card Players by Theodoor Rombouts

“The Card Players” by Theodoor Rombouts, oil on canvas, early 17th century, Residenzgalerie Salzburg. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Types of card games

Most Americans think of decks of cards are 52 out of four cards suit—Hearts, squares, spades and clubs. However, this style of card game is just one of many that are used internationally. The cards commonly used in America are a French bridge. Other combinations exist and are called standard models. For example, modern Italian card games have four colors: cups, coins, swords and clubs (or clubs). Italian decks are often stripped bridges, which means that the number of cards is less than 52. Italian decks have 40 cards because the 8, 9 and 10 have been removed or are not included. Other decks of cards may be game specific and have no suit, such as the Mexican deck. Lottery cards. Make sure you are using the correct cards for each game.

Standard French Suit Card Deck

A deck of 52 French colored cards, as seen most often in the United States. (Photo: Photo bank by IAN DIKHTIAR / Shutterstock)

Popular card games from around the world

Lottery, a Mexican game of chance

Lottery Tables

Lottery trays for the classic Mexican card game. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

The Mexican game Lottery requires a special deck of 54 cards. Each card has an image, name and number. A tabla (table) of 16 images is chosen by each player. Similar to bingo, the cards are drawn at random and players mark the called cards on their boards with dried beans or tokens. When a player has achieved the desired objective (whether it is a row, column or diagonal), he shouts “¡Buena! To announce their victory. While the 54-card set contains a set of traditional names and images, you can find themed sets such as a pandemic themed set (by Rafael Gonzales Jr.) with Zoom maps and toilet paper.

Loteria Cards

Classic lottery cards. (Photo: Photo bank by LORENZA OCHOA / Shutterstock)

Racing demon, an English speed game

This high speed card game goes by several names. First known as Racing demon when the game first appeared at the turn of the 20th century in England, the Americans who imported the game called it Nertz or Pounce. To play, each player needs a standard 52-card deck with a unique suit or design. Ideal for two to eight players, the goal is for one player to get rid of their deck of cards first. Players do this by collectively building in sequence much like a group solitaire game. Take a few decks of cards and see the detail instructions for this fun game. You can even buy special offers sets cards intended for Racing Demon, and (although it doesn’t have to be) it can be elegant.

PiÅŸti, a Turkish fishing game

PiÅŸti (pronounced “pishti”) is a Turkish fishing game. Also played in Cyprus, the game is known as Basra and variations exist across Lebanon and the Middle East. The objective of fishing games is to collect cards according to a series of rules. PiÅŸti is played with a standard deck of 52 cards. Four players discard, trying to match their card number to the card below. This way a player can capture the discarded cards. A jack allows a player to automatically capture the cards at any turn. The captured cards are worth specific point values. To learn more about scoring and rules, you can find online manual.

Whist, a game of tricks for Jane Austen

Women’s Whist Club Convention, April 1906, at the Southern Hotel, St. Louis. Drawing by Marguerite Martyn, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1906. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

At Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the ridiculous Mr. Collins sits down for a game of whist at a party in Longbourne. Mr. Collins knew little about the game, but probably because he lacked these excellent instructions. Whist developed in England in the mid-18th century. Popular at social gatherings, this is a turn-taking game where the goal is to win as many turns as possible. (A tower is the card game played in one turn, after all players have tossed a card.) Two teams of two compete against each other. Once a card is led, the other players must call the same suit unless they have no such card. In this case, the player can asset-a predetermined costume that beats others. You can use this historic card game to teach kids or new players how to use trumps, a skill also relevant to the popular Spades and Euchre games.

Briscola, a game of Italian tricks

Italian Napoletane Card

19th century drawings of an Italian card game. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Briscola is a great game to try out a 40-card Italian game. You can play the game with a standard deck, but you must create a stripped deck by removing 8, 9, and 10. Like Whist, Briscola is a game of traps. However, in this Italian game, the cards are ranked by value in an order that may surprise: ace, three, king, queen and jack are worth points ranked from high to low. Both two and four player instructions are helpful in learning the ins and outs of this popular Italian pastime.

Medieval Knave of Coins Deck

The rogue of the coins of the first known Italian playing cards, produced between 1390 and 1410. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Big two, a Chinese shedding type game

Big two (Where Deuces) is a shedding type card game that probably developed in China in the 1980s. Using a standard 52-card deck, the goal is to get rid of all of its cards. Cards can be played in certain combinations, including familiar poker combinations such as straights, flushes, and full-houses. The rules are a bit more complex than Whist or Lotería, but for poker fans this game is perfect for game nights.

    Ming dynasty playing card

A Printed Ming Dynasty Playing Card, c. 1400. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

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