Game Report: Gleek

Class: Cards

Type: Trick-taking

Number of Players: 3

Reconstructed mainly from primary source

Date redacted: August 1996

Redactor: Justin du Coeur, with some reference to Earl Dafydd's Introduction to Period Card Games and Parlett's History of Card Games.

Sources: Cotgrave, Wit's Interpreter, London, 1662. Plagiarized with some changes in Cotton, The Compleat Gamester, 1674. Also described in Francis Willughby's Volume of Plaies, c1665. This is the Cotgrave version, with help from Willughby. 1st attest: Elyot's Knowledge, 1533 (OED).



French-suited, 44 cards (discard deuces and treys). Aces count high.


Decide on a stake. Period examples range from farthing up to crown. Note that a lot of stakes trade hands. I will assume a penny stake herein.

Lift for the deal; lowest card deals.

Dealer shuffles; another player cuts. Deal 12 cards to each player, 4 at a time. Place remaining 8 cards face-down on the table, stacked.

Flip the top card to determine trump. If this is Tiddie (the four of trump), the dealer gets tuppence from each other player immediately. According to Willughby, Tiddie may be turned up during the Mournival phase, or wait until it shows in a trick, and each opponent immediately pays tuppence then, and it does not score specially at the end; this seems to match some unclear language in Cotgrave. (The rationale is that it is consolation for having the worst trump.) Both Cotgrave and Cotton mention that scoring Tiddie is optional, but usual; decide in advance.

Bid for Stock

Go around, bidding for the stock (the remaining seven face-down cards). Bidding begins at 13 pence (12 in Cotton and Willughby). According to Willughby, Eldest must open bidding; Cotgrave is unclear, but this seems plausible. Go around, raising 1 penny at a time, until no one raises. The winner pays out the amount bid, dividing it between the other two players. If there is an odd penny, Cotton says to give it to the eldest hand, or put it in the pot; Willughby says to give it to the last previous raiser; Cotgrave is silent on the subject. I think giving it to Eldest is best.

Winner of the Stock must discard 7 cards, then take in the stock. (Parlett and Dafydd say to take in the stock first, then discard 7, and Cotgrave and Cotton are unclear, but Willughby is quite clear that you discard first.)

Vie for Ruff

"Ruff" refers to a suit -- the winner of the Ruff has the "most of a suit in his hand". Dafydd interprets this as simply most cards of a suit. This seems at odds with this reference:

And sometimes out of policy, or rather a vapour, they will vie, when they have not above 30. in their hands, and the next may have forty, the other fifty; and they being afraid to see it, many times he wins out of a vapor...

(Cotton has a similar reference.) It seems impossible to make "30", much less "fifty", out of simple card counts. Fortunately, Willughby clearly states that "In reckoning for the ruffe, the coates are tens, the Ace is eleven". I presume that pip cards are worth their face value, as in Picket.

One important final detail: four Aces counts as the highest Ruff, and beats anything else. Yes, it's inconsistent, but Cotgrave is quite clear about it. (It's also the highest Mournival, so quite nice.)

Everyone tosses tuppence into the pot as an ante. (Cotgrave sounds like you must keep track of money in your head, but it is easier to use the pot as described here.)

Go around. The first to bid may vie or pass; the others may see (and optionally revie), or pass. To vie or revie, put tuppence into the pot; this declares that you think you can win the Ruff. (Similar to a raise in poker.) To pass, say, "I'll have nothing to do with it" (or something like that); at this point, you are out of the Ruff. (Similar to a fold in Poker.) To see, simply match the vies that have been made since it last came to you; you must see before you can revie.

It is not clear whether an initial pass (before the first vie) takes you out of the bidding (as it clearly does after the vie), or serves like a Poker "check", letting you see the first vie. I suspect the latter, since otherwise passing to the third player would always allow him to win, but this isn't obvious from the text.

The Ruff ends when you return to the last player who vied; at this point, anyone still in the Ruff shows the relevant cards, and the winner takes the pot. The whole process is very like Poker, but with only one kind of hand.

Cotton and Willughby both state that, if everyone passes the Ruff, the stakes of the Ruff are doubled in the next hand. Cotgrave says nothing about this, but I interpret it in terms of the pot. If no one vies for the ruff, then the antes are still in the pot; if you hold that pot over to the next hand, then it is effectively doubled.

Mournival and Gleek

Next, declare your Mournivals (four of a kind), and Gleeks (three of a kind). A Mournival of Aces is worth 8 pence from each opponent, of Kings 6, of Queens 4, and Knaves 2; other cards are irrelevant. A Gleek of Aces is worth 4 pence, Kings 3, Queens 2, and Knaves 1.

It is not clear whether you have to show these cards or not; from the text, I suspect not, since it warns about people who cheat or are careless in these declarations. However, I find it a good practice, and consistent with at least some period games (like Picket).


Now play out 12 tricks as normal. (Dafydd asserts that you must follow suit if possible, or play any card if you have none of the current suit. While I find no concrete evidence for this, it seems a reasonable assumption.) Note that some cards are worth extra in scoring, described below.


Score 15 for the Ace of Trump (called Tib), 9 for the Knave of Trump (Tom), and 3 for the King and Queen of Trump. (Cotton also lists 5 for the Five of Trump (Towser) and 6 for the Six of Trump (Tumbler); however, since these are conspicuously absent from Cotgrave and Willougby, I suspect they were new in the 1670's.) I am pretty sure that you do not score Tiddie in this round, since you collected him it earlier. (And it would screw up the math.)

Dafydd says to score 3 points for each trick won. While I don't find this obvious from Cotgrave, Willougby indicates strongly that it is the case, mathematically. He points out that the Honors (Tib, Tom, and King and Queen of Trump) total thirty points, and the 36 cards in player hands make 66 points in hands total at the end. Since there are three players with 22 points each, this means that the scoring below should come out even -- one player's winnings should match what is owed to them by others. (This presumes that no one is so dumb as to discard an Honor before taking in the Stock, so the full 66 points are in play.) I find this a compelling argument to believe that Dafydd is correct -- score 3 points for each trick won, or 1 point for each card in your hand, on top of scoring Honors separately.

For purposes of scoring, the dealer adds in the card that was turned up at the beginning, if it is an Honor. (But not if it is a lesser card.)

Subtract 22 from that total to get your final score. You should gain or lose that many pence from your opponents. Thus, if you end with a final score of 2, then you should get tuppence. If you end with a score of -8, you should lose eight pence. It's tricky figuring out how to make this work in terms of who pays who, but easy if you just have the loser(s) put their losses into a pot, and the winner(s) take from that pot. Since there should be exactly 66 points in player's hands, and we have subtracted 66 from those hands, we should have a zero sum, and it should all work out.

(Note that this interpretation of the scoring is somewhat open to dispute. It could also be read as: "If you have 2 points, then collect tuppence from each player. Then, if the next person has -8, he pays 8 to each player in addition to that." And so on. This reading results in numbers proportional to the above scheme, but with much larger sums being tossed about -- wins and losses come out exactly thrice as high. Based on Willughby's wording, though, I believe that the zero-sum interpretation given above is correct.)