In this section, we will soon have games, puzzles and brain teasers for you to download. If you have anything that you would like to share with other members, send it to us and we will be happy to include it here. (But be mindful of copyright issues though!).
If you ask most people outside France what they think Tarot is, they’ll probably say that it’s a pack of cards for fortune telling; but if you ask someone in France, the likely answer will be: “The best card game in the world, bien sûr!” (Nothing to do with the fact that it’s a French game of course; we all know the French are not biased!).
In fact the Tarot was born in 15th century Italy, but probably came from Persia via Arabia and Malta. In those days only the very wealthy could afford a pack of cards as they were hand painted on expensive paper; but then two things happened at the same time: Gutenberg invented the printing press that made a pack very cheap and the church had the good idea to ban the game as a form of heresy. Obviously this was enough for the game to become very popular, virtually overnight. From there it traveled north to France and Germany. The French changed the original 4 suits of Cups, Swords, Wands and Coins to an easier system of Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs (Pique, Coeur, Carreau et Trèfle).
The pack of cards itself was simplified again in later years when the 4 Knights and 21 Tarots were removed, and the pack became what we know today as the usual pack of cards of 52 plus a Joker (The original “Excuse”). Then, in the 18th century, occultists such as Paul Christian and Eliphas Levy revived the old pack of cards from the Arabs and devised a fortune telling system based on it, and came up with terms such as Major and Minor Arcana. The design then became more and more elaborate as new generations of enthusiasts got interested in it. In 1930 someone called Paul Marteau gave it the name of “Tarot de Marseille” which is now the most widely used pack in divination.
So the phenomenon is a very recent one! Back to the game: In France the Tarot never went out of fashion and is now hugely popular, with tournaments and championships, and of course an official Fédération Française du Tarot. The pack still has 78 cards: 52 normal cards, 4 knights, 21 Atouts and 1 Excuse. The cards are a little larger than the usual pack and are quite beautiful.
The game itself can be played by 3, 4, 5 or even 6 people. The most serious game is a game of 4 and the most fun that of 5. Like Bridge, Tarot is a fairly complicated game if you want to play seriously but (in my opinion), unlike bridge, it’s really a fun game as well (typical of the Mediterranean).
I learnt Tarot when I was 12 years old in boarding school. We used to play for hours on a Saturday night and we got in trouble a few times for playing until dawn! And when I was a conscript in the army, we used to play for cigarettes … which kept me smoking for a long time!
So there you are: A very interesting game, truly French and – as I am sure you can tell – I am very fond of it, so if you’re interested in learning it and having good fun in the process, let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll organise a “Soirée Tarot”.
Pétanque was invented by Jules Lenoir in La Ciotat, a village near Marseilles. Lenoir loved to play boules, the French version of bowls, where you take a run-up and throw the ball down a long pitch. However, rheumatism was making it difficult for Lenoir to run, so he got his friends’ agreement that he could sit on a chair and throw from there. In fact, rather than leave him at a disadvantage, Lenoir’s friends decided that they would all abandon their run-up, and instead throw with their feet together from within the same small circle on the ground within which Lenoir placed his chair.
Pétanque got its name from the Provençal words ped tanco (pieds tanqués in formal French), meaning feet stuck to the ground. These days, some 17 million French people are said to play pétanque, and there are also formal associations in Anglophone countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand. Metal boules are used. These are required to meet official specifications and are mostly manufactured in the town of St-Bonnet-le-Château (a little to the west of the gorges on the upper reaches of the Loire). The current rules of the game were last approved by the International Congress of the Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal held in Grenoble on 3rd October, 2002
There’s an annual Tri-Alliance BYO picnic and pétanque tournament staged somewhere centrally in Tasmania each February. Experienced players are always happy to provide help and encouragement. Informality is the keynote, so please come along if you can, whether as a player or a spectator.
Each Alliance (Hobart, Launceston and North-West) takes it in turns to organise the event, with the precise date and location usually being announced around the end of the year.