Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 Hide
7 Posts

Cribbage» Forums » General

Subject: Six-card Cribbage: The New Kid on the Block! (A Historical Note) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Craig Duncan
United States
Ithaca
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
The original Cribbage game was the 5 card version of the game, which has now largely been displaced by the 6 card version.

The 5 card version has been mentioned in a few BGG threads recently:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/872599/5-card-vs-6-card-crib...
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/11666868#11666868
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/12189995#12189995

It got me wondering just WHEN the 6-card Cribbage by and large displaced 5-card Cribbage. Google searches on this subject turned up nothing of much help, nor did a search through some academic databases. So I wrote to John McLeod of Pagat.com, who kindly replied to me, and who brought David Parlett into the conversation.

I've posted below our email exchange in case anyone is curious about this history.

The short answer is that what we think of as Cribbage now (especially in North America) -- namely, the six card version -- has only predominated since the mid-19th century.

EMAILS:

----------------------------------------------

Dear Mr. McLeod,

I've recently become devoted (addicted) to Cribbage. I'm interested in scholarly studies of its history (if there be such studies).

Parlett's Oxford History of Cards has scant details on the game. Google searching turns up casual write-ups of Cribbage history, without scholarly apparatus.

Might you know of where to turn to find about more about Cribbage history, which you could recommend to me? I'm particularly interested about when the six card version began to eclipse the five card version in popularity.

Thanks,

Craig Duncan

----------------------------------------------

Dear Craig Duncan,

Thanks for your message. Unfortunately I don't know of anything better than the few pages in David Parlett's Oxford History of Card games. You have probably already also found the pages on the related games Noddy and Costly Colours on David's web site.

My impression is that six-card Cribbage gained a hold more quickly in North America than in Britain. I just checked in some books: in an 1830 American 'Hoyle' 5-card Cribbage is described first with 6-card Cribbage as a variant. In Bohn (1850, London and Boston), the 5-card game is definitely still presented the main game: the 6-card game is described but dismissed as 'vastly inferior', 'amusing ... without taxing the mind much'. An 1868 American Hoyle, while again describing the 6-card game as 'vastly inferior' also admits that it is 'the game most popular in this country'. Another American Hoyle of 1868 reverses the order, describing the 6-card game first and then the 5-card one. Foster (1897) says that the modern verdict is in favour of the 6-card game and also briefly mentions 7-card cribbage as a variant.

Given that card game books lag a little behind practice, I would guess that 6-card cribbage had probably overtaken the 5-card game in popularity in North America by around 1840-1850, prompting disparaging remarks from devotees of the older game who disapproved of the new usurper.

Nowadays, in Britain 6-card cribbage seems to be more common in the cities and in the south, while in rural areas, especially in the north and west, the 5-card game is still favoured. In North America, so far as I can tell, the 5-card game has pretty much disappeared and only the 6-card game is played. In Australia and New Zealand too, I think only the 6-card version survives, though I am less sure of that.

I am copying this reply to David Parlett in case he knows of any other worthwhile studies of cribbage history.

Best regards,
John McLeod


---------------------------------------------------

Dear John

I haven't found anything to question your summary of the relationship between 5- and 6-card, though I wonder whether 5-card lives on, even as a two-player game, because so many clubs play the team game, with four players and five cards each. Presumably this may cause the tendency of 5-card to persist.

Best wishes,

David


--------------------------------------------------------

MY REPLY:

Dear John and David,

Many thanks for the prompt feedback on my question. It was very helpful, and I very much appreciate the time you took in answering me.

It's interesting to me to hear of 6-card Cribbage dismissed as not "taxing the mind much" in older books. I know from his writings that David still prefers the 5-card version, but personally I can't help but think that the 6-card version offers a bit more scope for skill.

With 6 cards to choose two discards from, for instance, there are 15 possible discard combinations, versus 10 possible discard combinations in the 5 card game (if I have done my combinatoric maths right). Also, since after discarding you have four cards in hand to play in the 6-card version (versus three cards in the 5-card version), there is somewhat more scope for skill in pegging. Moreover, the ability to start new counts in 6-card Cribbage after the first total of 31 is reached allows for the setting of traps in the second count (e.g. setting traps for a 5 or a Jack held by the opponent) -- another type of skill in pegging. And finally (though I am less sure about this, since hands in 5-card Cribbage tend to score less than in 6-card Cribbage) playing to 121 points likely means that a typical 6-card game involves more hands on average than a 5-card game to 61 points, thereby evening out the luck of the deal more each game.

However, I admittedly have little experience with 5-card Cribbage, so perhaps I'm overlooking some factors. And in any case, one thing that greatly appeals to me about Cribbage is its antiquity, and 5-card Cribbage is the real deal on that score, with 6-card Cribbage being the new kid on the block! (Being the antiquarian I am, I found David's Noddy and Costly Colours pages very interesting indeed!) Moreover, as David rightly notes, the team game (which I enjoy with my family) is still a five card deal.

Again, thanks.

Craig
15 
 Thumb up
2.30
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Craig Duncan
United States
Ithaca
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
UPDATE:

I just now got a reply from David Parlett. My claim that he prefers 5-card Cribbage was based on his write-up of Cribbage in his book Card Games for Two from the 1970s (a very nice book, by the way). It turns out that since then he has changed his mind and now prefers 6-card Cribbage.

Here is David's reply to me:

Dear Craig

No, I don't prefer the 5-card version! I wrote that bit years ago before I began playing the game regularly.

Best wishes

David
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steven Packard
United States
Palmdale
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
That was really interesting. Thanks for sharing your conversation with us.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ace Washington
United States
Salem-ish
Oregon
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

Why would a non-cribbage player choose to write a book about it?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Zed
Canada
Drummondville
Quebec
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Really nice exchange!! A big thanks for sharing that with us!!!! It brings interesting historical details on the game of Cribbage!!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Craig Duncan
United States
Ithaca
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for all the GG tips! Glad people have found this as interesting as I do.

Seahawk wrote:

Why would a non-cribbage player choose to write a book about it?


It wasn't a book just about Cribbage. It was a book describing lots of card games for two players: Cribbage, Piquet, Schnapsen/66, Klabberjass, Gin, and so on. Cribbage was just one entry among many others.

It's a good book. It's been superseded by his (Parlett's) much more recent and encyclopedic The Penguin Book of Card Games. But I still value the volume on the two-handers for the extra detail it has on those games.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Adey
United Kingdom
Wolverhampton
West Midlands
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
My late grandfather taught this superb game to me when I was a child and he played the five card version, and learned it as a young man just after WW1. He came from Halesowen here in England. Until I bought a book of card games I thought that the only version for two players was five cards. I now realise that there is more to it!

I have many happy memories of playing and losing comprehensively to grandad. He was an artist. He also played chess and draughts (or checkers as many call it).

I still have the crib board that my great grandfather made, from brass, in his small brass works in Willenhall.

Cribbage is still played in public houses up and down England.

Regards

Andrew Adey
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.