A Brief History of Card Games

Card game


Ma Diao

In the late 9th century China, card games were first referenced. A trick taking game called the “leaf game” is the first game to be described. Games are often played for gambling, and can be even be played with the currency used to gamble


Chinese playing cards

In China, a game involving suits and numbers were described in a court document when 2 ancient gamers were caught playing cards.

14th century

Mamluk cards

Evidence of the standard 4 suit deck of cards are found in Egypt and the Middle East, showing the spread of card games from China. The earliest European cards are called Mamluk cards for the Mamluk period in Egypt


Tarot cards

Tarot was invented in Italy. Originally they were used to play a game called tarocchini, and was not used for divination until the late 18th century. The Tarot deck consists of 14 cards in each of the 4 suits, plus a separate 21 card trump suit and the Fool card


Standard 4 suits

French versions of the standard 52 card deck became popular due to the ease of printing these basic symbols. They remain by far the most popular style today consisting of the Heart, Diamond, Clover, and Spade. The term club is borrowed from Italy and Spain where the symbol is an actual weapon

17th century

Hanafuda playing cards

In Japan, cards called Hanafuda increases in popularity. It is derived from an older Portuguese game. It consists of a deck of 12 suits with 4 cards each. The cards have no numerical value, and games usually involve making combinations and patterns


Old Maid

Old Maid becomes popular in the United States. This is a card shedding game derived from much older games played in Europe. Other variants also evolved, possibly independently, in Japan and the Middle East



Parker Brother published Rook, a trick taking game. This is one of the very first games to use a dedicated deck. Rook can be played with a normal deck with some modifications, but a custom deck was made due to religious objections



Sorry! is first made by W.H.Storey & Co in England. It is one of the first games to combine moving pieces on a board with a set of dedicated cards


Dutch Blitz

Dutch Blitz is published. It is a simultaneous hand shedding card game with a dedicated deck. Created by the Pennsylvania Dutch and not the Germans, it is popular among the Amish and Mennonite communities



Uno is made as a result of an argument with family about the rules of Crazy Eights, a game played with the standard deck. It has now sold over 150 million copies with hundred of versions ranging from Hello Kitty to the NHL


Cosmic Encounter 1977

Cosmic Encounter is first published. It is in essence a bluffing game involving cards with different values and special abilities. It is also one of the first games with different player powers. Richard Garfield borrows elements from Cosmic Encounter for his game


We the people

We the People ditched the dice combat of previous war games and used cards. It was also the first game to use abstract regions on a map instead of grids and hexes


Magic the Gathering

Magic the Gathering is released. Richard Garfield created the first and most successful collectible card game, allowing players to purchase more packs. It is also one of the first games to utilize Flavor text


Fluxx original

Fluxx is released, making it one of the first games where the objective and end game triggers change as different cards are played. There are also many variations of the base game, including Stoner Fluxx and Cthulhu Fluxx



Steve Jackson games publishes Munchkin. Steve Jackson, who is a veteran of RPG’s, decides to simplify the genre into a card game. Despite being generally disliked by game critics, it remains a hot item in game stores. New expansions are still coming out



Dominion is released. The grand dad of the extremely popular deck building mechanic. It has inspired countless modern board games and remains popular with its numerous expansions


Conan the Board game

Board games overtook film on Kickstarter as the category with the most money pledged. If you have an idea, get out there and get it done! There is no better time than now