Game Report: Ruff and Trump

Class: Cards

Type: Trick-taking

Number of Players: 4 (2 or 3 in variations)

Reconstructed mainly from primary source

Date redacted: October 1, 1996

Redactor: Justin du Coeur

Sources: Francis Willughby's Volume of Plaies, c1665. Some comparisons made to Ruff and Honours in Cotton's Complete Gamester.


Ruff and Trump seems to be one of a family of relatively straightforward trick-taking games, with fewer extra elements than Picket or Gleek. It is primarily a partnered game, which may interest those who are fond of Bridge or Whist. It appears to be a close relative of Ruff and Honours, described in Cotton; at first, I thought them to be the same game, but have concluded that they are more likely variations on a theme. (Ruff and Trump does not appear to do anything with the honors; Ruff and Honors, curiously, does not appear to have an actual Ruff.)

Note that this is a reconstruction in process, and deserves more research (based on more sources).


A full 52-card French-suited deck.


The game can be played either "double-hand", with partners working closely together, or "single-hand", with every player working alone. Willughby implies that the double-hand variant is both more interesting and more common. If played double-hand, the partners should be sitting opposite each other (since, obviously, partners sitting next to each other would have too much opportunity to see each others' cards).

Dealer deals 12 cards to each player, 4 at a time. This will leave 4 cards left over; these are stacked face-down in the middle of the table -- Willughby calls this pile the "head". (It corresponds to the "Stock" in Cotton.) Flip the top card of the head, to determine trump.


Next, reckon the Ruff. As in most games, the "Ruff" refers to the strongest suit you have in your hand. Willughby isn't entirely explicit, but it appears likely that each pip card is worth the number of pips it shows, court cards are worth ten, and Aces are worth eleven. (The only part Willughby says explicitly is that Aces are worth eleven.) Add up the value in each suit to get the strength of that suit.

If you choose to use the trump suit for your ruff, you may count the card turned up to determine trump along with the cards in your hand. (Obviously, if you aren't using the trump suit, you can't add in that card.)

Everyone announces their ruff, and the player with the highest ruff wins. Willughby does not address whether one is allowed to bluff low on the ruff; I would tend to assume that you can. The winner does not show his ruff yet, but scores 12 points for winning it.


Next, the player who holds the Ace of Trump gets to "rub" the head. They take in the 4 cards of the head, then discard four cards from the resulting 16-card hand. (Willughby is explicit about the order here -- rub, then discard.) If the card turned up for trump was an Ace, the dealer gets to rub the head.

After the rub is dealt with, the winner of the ruff must show the relevant cards. This does not happen until after the rub, because it could affect the cards chosen for discarding. Willughby does not address the question of what happens when someone miscounts their ruff; I would presume that they must pay a forfeit, and the true winner counts the 12 points instead.


Play as in a standard trick-taking game. Eldest leads the first trick; you must follow suit if possible; trumping is optional. Aces are high.


After all the tricks are played, count the cards that you hold. If playing double-hand, score one point for each card over two dozen that the two partners jointly hold; if playing single-hand, score one point for each card over one dozen that you hold. So, for example, if you are playing double-hand, and you and your partner have 28 cards, you score 4 points (since 28 - 24 = 4).

A set consists of 52 points (Willughby gives some probably spurious reasons for this point value). Continue to play until one side or player reaches this value. Willughby does not address what happens if you pass 52 points in the middle of a hand (if, for instance, the 12 points for winning the Ruff pushes one over the top). I would assume that the game ends as soon as someone achieves the point-value. Willughby explicitly states that extra points above 52 do not count towards subsequent games; presumably, this was a point of occasional debate.


As mentioned above, the game can be played either double-hand (with partners) or single-hand (singly). Also, it may be played with fewer people. Willughby states that, in a 3 player game, a set consists of 40 points, and in a 2 player game, it is 36. Since there will be more than four cards left over in the head, you should rub the top four cards of the head, instead of the entire thing.

He also presents alternatives to this: play 3 players with 16 cards each, or 2 players with 24 cards each. In these versions, there is a four-card head as normal, and play is to 52 points.


The game, in brief: