Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Kurofuda - Nintendo

"Kurofuda" ( 札) - Nintendo, 48c. + "onifuda" + Blank

   We now come to the second type of mekuri karuta, the "Kurofuda", or "black cards" . Looking at the cards, it is easy to see why they got the nickname. The features of the deck are almost completely obscured by large areas of black or red paint; so much so that the only reliable method of identifying the the cards is by the shape of the blobs of paint.( Unlike the akahachi, where the features of the deck are for the most part, just blobs of paint, this deck has printed outlines, which are painted over with blobs of paint)
  Sylvia Mann states that this deck is the closest deck to the portugese originals. In some ways, this is correct. When one looks closely at the cards. you can see outlines of faces, &c. which have been covered by the black paint ( if you look carefully, you can see them in the images below)  . These faces do indeed reseble actual human figures ( unlike the abstract forms of the akahachi)
Another curious feature of the deck is the lack of silver overprints.

Compare: akahachi-
Key to position of cards:
top row- 7, 8,  9,  (Knave),  ( Cavalier), (King)
Bottom row---Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Swords or isu
As you can see, the colour in these images is applied more or less iin total disregard to the outlines of the figures. Note the shape of the swords. In the "Akahachi", the swords are just red lines, But here, they are more realisticaly dipicted.Also note the bird on the 2 of swords. You can also see the legs & lower half of the king's body.

Hau or batons
As with the akahachi, the main difference between the swords & batons is the colouring. Note the cavalier. The legs of his mount are visible, untouched by paint.

Ôru, or coins
The pips in this suit still remarkably look like it's european counterpart ( The star-like design in particular). If you look closely, the three court figures hold a starlike coin.
Koppu or cups
The cups in this suit are rounder and more bulbous than that of the Akahachi. You can see the lower part of the knave's body.

Compare: Akahachi

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Akahachi- Nintendo

"Akahachi" ( 八) , 48c. + Blank & "oni-fuda"

This deck, and the following few decks that I shall present, are the so-called 'mekuri' patterns. found in Japan, the patterns are local adaptations of the portugese playing cards introduced by traders, &c. However, In time, the designs grew to be more abstract, a process perhaps much aided by the fact that they were banned ( to disguise the cards) ,along with isolation form foregin traders.

In 1973, Sylvia Mann, in her book "the dragons of portugal" , stated that there were ten different kinds of mekuri patterns being produced in Japan. However, 39 years later, I could only find two., and all in one shop in Tokyo ( Okuno karuta )

The cards introduced by the traders were Latin-suited, that is, having suits of cups, coins, batons and swords, much like ( but not identical to)  ones used in Italy and spain to this day. As you can see, the Japanese more or less kept the shape of the suits, but the court cards have been greatly abstracted, only vaguely resembling human forms .On some ( presumedly important) cards, you can see silver overprints, perhaps to make them more visible in dimly lit rooms.
 Compare: Kurofuda -

Key to position of cards:

top row- 7, 8,  9,  (Knave),  ( Cavalier), (King)
Bottom row---Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The suit of Batons, or "hau"
A you can see, the court cards only vaguely resemble human forms, being mostly comprised of  mass of red and black lines. Nevertheless, on some of the court cards, behind all that paint, a face can still be made out.
Also note the heavy silver overprints on the 1-6 of batons ( bottom row), and the court cards ( Top row, 3rd to 6th cards from left). The 6 of batons ( bottom row, 6th from left) , has the word 壽 ( lonevity) on it.

The suit of swords or "Isu"
The suit of isu or swords is distinguished from the suit of hau only by it's colour, the former being red, and the latter Black. Note the chinese numbers on the values of 4 to 9, and the Buddha on the 2 . The 8 ( top row, 2nd from right).

Cups, or Koppu
The pips of this suit do indeed resemble cups, or rather flat lidded vessels. The Cavalier ( top row, 4th from left), preserves the vague form of a man astride a horse - note the four legs which support the abstract figure.

Coins, or ôru
Again, the form of the suit somwhat resembles the conis of the priginal cards.
The Ace ( bottom row, 1st from left), takes the vague form of a serpent or dragon, an animal which was found on the aces of the portugese cards ( see
Also shown is the oni-fuda, a card which bears the visage of a goblin.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Chicks rule- A tarot game

The four "chicks" or queens.
 This rather curiously named game is the only instance, as far as I can tell, of a tarot game invented within living memory. The inventor of this game is a blogger called Narj, and the post describing this game dates to April 13 2009.( A rough summary of the game follows

 Basicaly, the game is bridge played with a tarot deck. It is most suitable for 4 or 6 players. The cards are dealt out evenly amongst the players, and what remains is left as a "kitty". ( This means that in a 4- player game , each person has 19 cards, with 2 in the kitty.) Then, the bidding for the trump suit proceeds. The bidding is done as in bridge,  with the highest bidder being allowed acess to the cards in the kitty.
 As in this game, the highest ranking suit varies, and hence the suit normally called "trump" in tarot ( AKA major arcana ) may not be the actual trump suit in play. Hence, the  aforesaid suit are known as "bettys", with the fool, or "nymph"( as it is known here) as the highest.
 In play, the queen outranks the king ( hence the name), but the cavaliers & jacks remainding as usual. The  game play is much as in bridge. Should the winning team make a contract, it scores that number of points. Should it not, the opposing team  scores that number of points, much as in bridge.

One of the major gripes that people had with this game ( judging by the comments ) is that the amount of cards in a hand was rather larde and unweildy. Hence, as A suggestion, I propose that the game may be played with a tarock deck, viz; one that has all number cards ( that is, ones in the non trump suit) lower than 7 removed from the deck, leaving a deck of 54 cards.

Binokel/Gaigel ( Württemberg pattern)

"Binokel/Gaigel" (Württemberg pattern), Nürnberger spielkarten verlag- 48c. ( 2 x 24)

We again have another oddity. This edition of the Württemberg pattern by Nürnberger spielkarten differs substantially from other editions. For starters, the figures look very different from other editions, but on closer examination, this edition at least follows the spirit of the design.

 Note the following differences from the more standard pattern: ( see

1- The obers do not have the word "ober" written out on them in full ( as per the standard pattern)
2- The ober of leaves does not wear a turban, or carry a whip [ but he and the others ride really cute horses :) ]
3- The central row of hearts in the tens are coloured yellow and green, like the " type S" barvarian pattern
4- A champange bottle with it's cork flying out of it's neck is depicted on the ace of acorns

Friday, 2 November 2012

Chinese Domino cards- "十五湖"

Chinese domino cards- "十五湖" , "Double fish"- 84c.

 We now come to a Most rare and curious deck- The chinese domino cards, or 十五湖 as they are known in that language. I am informed that the cards are cheifly used by the cantonese, But even then, the use of this cards ( at least in singapore, where I got them) is practically extinct. The keeper of the shop informed me that I was the first person under 50 who had inquired about this deck, and after a long and exhaustive search, finally found them
 But, to proceed. The deck consists of 21 individual cards, each repeated 4 times, making for a total of 84 cards.The 21 cards are based on the 21 possible throws of a pair of dice.
Note the following features-
1- the ones and fours are coloured red.
2- The cards are divided into 2 halves by a small picture. In some cases, this is a pair of fishes (the brand name), but in some cases, we see the name "天生"- presuedly the company's name. Other pictures include swimmers, dogs, and flowers. These other vinigettes reflect the nicknames of the combinations. For example, the 5-5 is known as "the plum-blossom"- on that card, we see a little flower. Likewise, the 1-2, is called "the chicken"( 么雞三), and so has a that animal on it. However, not all the card's nicknmes are featured, and in other cases, pictures have been inserted that bear no relavance to the card's name.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Tarot 1JJ - Müller

Tarot 1JJ- Müller- 78c.
 As this post will both mark my blg's first anneversary, and 100th post, I decided to do something special..............
 The following deck I am about to present holds a rather special place in my heart and collection- The tarot 1JJ by Müller.This deck was the first deck in my collection, and the circumstances surronding it's purchase are worthy of some explanation:
  It was in late 2009, Whilst I was shopping in London . Entering a toy shop, ( since defunct) I noticed a deck which was markedly different form the others. It was taller than other decks for one, and printed on it's label was the legend
under which was the illustration form "the sun". Armed with the knowlede that such decks were once used for games ( Gratis the QI annual), I seixed upon the chance and purchased it.

 When I peeled back the cellophane wrapper, I was in for a bit of a shock. I knew that other countries ( like Italy & germany) used different suits than hearts, diamonds, spades & clubs. However, nothing could prepare me for the sheer amazement as I viewed the cards one by one...

I first noticed the delightful illustrations on the trumps- The grace of the figures, the gaiety of the colours, and the exotic french titles to the cards
( Incidentally, I later learnt that JJ in the deck's name, 1 JJ , stood for "Junon"and "Jupiter"- taking the place of the usual Popess and Pope. The change was in part due to political correctness)

More trumps-

The top 5 trumps and the fool

Next were the court figures. They were rendered as elegantly as the trumps, brandishing their suit symbols with grace- never had I seen more beautiful cards!

The kings & fool (again)



Nor did the pip cards themselves lack illustrations......
And With such a beautiful deck, How is it not possible to resist trying to find more like so?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Mahjong - III - "游の屋"

Mahjong- 144c. "游の屋"

 We have a rather curious case here. Aldough the cards to all appearences the cards look chinese, the name of the maker contains  "の"- a japanese word, meaning "of". However, it is known that in taiwan, this character is sometimes used to replace 的, having an identical meaning, to give the brand a more exotic feel. Hence, if I did not err in the transcription, the maker's name is "house of games"
Another curious feature is the colour scheme. This deck replaces blue with black, and the 2s, 3s and 5s of coins are only printed in either red or green, onitting black/blue entirely


萬- wan or 10000s

The winds ( top, with "南"inverted) & dragons ( bottom) Again, black replaces blue

Some flowers. Note the different, more stylized carving

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mahjong II - KR brand

Mahjong deck - "KR brand" - 152c??? ( Incomplete)
The following is yet another mahjong deck. It is more typical of it's breed, being more of an oblong in shape ( 8.5 x 4.5 cm). This deck also better reflects the style of carving on conventional mahjong tiles
 Note the following features;
1- the deck posses No indices in English, whilst the first deck has alphabets and numbers in it's upper left corner. This deck posses no such feature
2- note tthe style of script. The script here is more fluid than the previous deck.

Bamboos. Note the one of bamboos ( 1st row, 1st from left)
It is represented as a bird, as a single bamboo may be altered by cheats

萬,or tends of thousands

The winds and dragons
All the flowers

Monday, 3 September 2012

Mahjong part I - anon

"[Mahjong]" - 148c., ( anon)

 The game of mahjong, or mahjongg, as some of my readers may know, is usually played with tiles , somewhat like dominoes. However, mahjong is sometimes issued in playing card form ( such cards are sometimes known as "Kards", to avoid confusion with another piece of equipment used in the american game).
  Such decks, produced, albeit infrequently. Nevertheless, if one looks hard enough, such a deck may be discovered. Such decks come in several sizes, form long, thin oblongs, to ones the size of poker cards, as shown here.
 Note the followng features;
1- The deck is comprised of 3 main "suits",  coins , bamboos,  and "萬" , or tens of thousands. The cards in each suit rank form 1-9. Additionally, there is an assortment of extra cards, descriptios of which will be given below.
2- In each of the corners of the cards, we see a depiction of the subject of the card in miniature. These are the indexes of the cards.
 In addition to the above, the deck is usnsual, as it is firstly printed in plastic ( most such decks use paper) , and secondly, it's back bears an ad for Tiger beer.

the suit of coins

the suit of bamboos

the suit of  萬, or tens of thousands

Top row; ( L-R),east, south, west north. These cards are typically called the "winds"
bottom row ( R-L ) "中 ,白板 , 發"  lit. "red center, white board, green prosperity"
the aforementioned cards are often known as the "dragons" in English

Bonus cards: Top row- the "Flowers"- in this deck, there are 2 sets of 4 flowers each. half of each of the sets are shown.
Bottom row- "Animals"- Bonuses perculiar to S'porean / Malay mahjong

Friday, 17 August 2012

"Bresciane" ( Dal Negro)

"Bresciane" ( Dal Negro), 52c.

Another Bresciane, this time by Dal negro. Compare
Note the ace of coins. ( 1st Pic,  1st row, 1st from right)  In this deck It is a blank circle. This is a relic form the days where cards were taxed. A space was left on the ace of coins so as to allow the tax-stamp to be placed on it .

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Miniature cards ( English)

Miniature cards - anon ( english maker) , 53c. +joker
 Another miniature deck, probably from the 1940s-50s.It is ( apparently ) made in England. I wonder why this would be considered worth mentioning, as the deck is printed in a rather crude fashion; with some cards not aligned properly.
   However, it is a pretty little thing - observe the curious illustration on the back , depicting a pair of dogs on leashes, being walked as snow falls. The same design is reproduced on the wrapper
   Another curious feature is the black band that seperates the two halves of the courts. I thing that this was intended to be filled in with a customer's name (but given the poor quality of the printing , the name may not have been legible)
 Lastly, the deck contains a pair of two-of-diamonds. I have no knowlege how that card got there

joker, back,  and wrapper

the other side of the wrapper.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Miniature deck - Anon

Miniature deck- Anon , 52c.
 The miniature ( 4.5 x 2.8 cm) deck is somewhat of a mstery. The Desigin of the court cards indicates that the maker was imitating the English pattern, but there are many diffrernces. (see

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

"Jeu de Tarot"

Jeu de tarot- 78c

Another version of the french tarot, somtims called the " Bourgeois Tarot"  or "tarot nouveau "
It was very probably intended for the lower end of the market, ( it is printed on a lower quality of card), The fact that I found it in a paris supermarket is evdience enough for the popularity of the game in france.
and for a deck by Grimaud.      
Note the fact that the maker's name is printed on the ace of spades. Normally, the name would be on the ace of clubs. Go figure