Game Report: Noddy, and Early Cribbage

Class: Cards


Number of Players: 2 (4 in variants)

Reconstructed mainly from primary source

Date redacted: August 1996

Redactor: Justin du Coeur

Sources: Francis Willughby's Volume of Plaies, c1665. 1st attest, Noddy: Almond for Parrat, 1589 (OED); Cribbage: Braithwait's English Gentleman, 1630 (OED)

Reconstruction -- Noddy

Noddy is an early precursor of modern Cribbage, and can be thought of as "small Cribbage without the Crib"; seventeenth c. Cribbage is closer to the modern version, but still small. We start out with Noddy (which is more documentably period), then move to Cribbage.


French-suited deck, 52 cards.


Dealer deals 3 cards to each player, then turns up the topmost card of the deck, which can be used by both players. The Knave Noddy is the Knave of the suit turned up; if it is the card turned up, the Dealer scores 2 immediately.


Both players score all the combinations they can make from their three cards plus the up card. (Note that this happens before play, rather than after as in modern Cribbage.) Scoring combinations are:

Note that you score these combinations without showing your cards, although I believe you declare what combinations you have. Willughby is silent on what happens if you make a mistake.

Eldest scores first; however, if Knave Noddy is turned up after the deal, Dealer scores that before any other scoring.


Play is similar to modern Cribbage. Eldest leads the first card, followed by one from the Dealer, etc. Any time the top cards of the pile form some kind of scoring combination, the player of the last card scores it.

All scoring combinations above count. Additionally, if a player makes exactly 31, they score 2 points. If they score below 31, and their opponent can not make any score of 31 or less, they score 1 point. When 31 is reached or surpassed like this, play ends -- there is no going back to zero as in modern Cribbage.


The game is played to 31 points; if 31 is not reached, further hands are played until it is. A win is counted as soon as 31 is reached by either player. Switch dealers for each subsequent hand.

Reconstruction -- Early Cribbage

Reconstruction details are the same as Noddy (see other side), and the following description is based on the description of Noddy. Cribbage was apparently a variant of Noddy, designed to make the game a little more interesting. However, it was still simpler than the modern game, which did not appear until the 19th century.

Note that Cribbage of any form is post-1600; there is no evidence for its existence prior to the 1620's. Use your own judgement about whether this counts as "period".

Only the differences between Noddy and Cribbage will be described below.


Before the first deal, the non-dealer immediately scores 3 points, because the Dealer gets the first crib, which is a significant advantage.

Instead of dealing 4 to each player, deal 5 instead. Each player selects 2 cards, which are put into a common "crib", which counts for the dealer. Note that this leaves you with three cards plus the card turned up, as in Noddy.


After scoring his own hand, the Dealer scores for the crib, counting in the turned-up card. Yes, that means that the crib is effectively five cards, which is a major advantage.


The game is played to 61, instead of 31 for Noddy or 121 for modern Cribbage.

If you get 61 before your opponent reaches 45, it is called a "lurch", and counts for a double stake.

Four-Player Noddy or Cribbage

This is played quite similarly to basic Noddy or Cribbage, with a few tweaks. Players are partnered, two and two; partners may not sit next to each other. Partners score as if they were a single player; Willughby does not specify the order of scoring, but I assume one goes around, starting with Eldest.

If you are playing four-player cribbage, deal only four cards to each player; each places one card in the crib.

While I have not personally tried this variant, I suspect it works better than four-player modern Cribbage would; it may help make up for some of the effects of the small hands. However, Willughby mentions that "single hand Cribbidge & Nodde" (presumably the two-player versions) are generally reckoned as a better game.