Historic Card Games described by David Parlett

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PENNEECH


The one that changes trump from trick to trick

Players 2   Cards 52   Type Tricks

This jolly little two-hander is known only from a description by Charles Cotton and some obviously derivative comments by Randle Holme (1688). A point-trick game with a point system reminiscent of its contemporary All Fours (the ancestor of Pitch, Cinch and Don), it is the only game I know that keeps changing the trump suit from trick to trick. I suspect both it and All Fours to be of Dutch origin and to have entered England in the train of Charles II upon his return from the Low Countries in 1660. The etymology of Penneech, which primarily denotes the diamond7, is unknown. Anachronistically, it puts one in mind of James Joyce's verse anthology Pomes Penyeach. (It can hardly be related to French péniche meaning "barge".) The late Andrew Pennycook and I played it extensively several years ago and our reconstruction follows.

Preliminaries
Two players use a 52-card pack [1] ranking AKQJ1098765432 in each suit except diamonds, where highest card is the Seven. Aces and court cards are honours and carry the following card-point values when turned for trump or won in tricks:
Ace 5, King 4, Queen 3, Jack 2.
Penneech
An additional honour is the diamond7, called Penneech. It is the highest card of the diamond suit and counts 14 when turned for trump, or 7 in a trick when diamonds are trump. When diamonds are not trump it has no pegging value, but still outranks all other diamonds.
Deal
Each player deals in turn, the first dealer being whoever cuts the lower card (Ace lowest) [2]. Deal seven cards each, in ones, and stack the rest face down. If either of you gets a hand containing no card higher than a Ten you may show it and demand a redeal [3]. If not, dealer turns the top card of the stock for trump, and, if it is an honour, pegs its point-value [4].
Object
Your aim is to win card-points by capturing honours in tricks and by pegging the value of an honour when turned for trump. Since the scoring is continuous and the target score is 61, the game is conveniently scored on a Cribbage board.
Play
Non-dealer leads to the first of seven tricks. When playing second to a trick you may freely follow suit or play a trump, as you prefer, but you may play from another suit only if unable to follow to the one led [5].
The winner of each trick pegs the scoring value of any counter or counters it may contain, turns down both the trick and the trump turn-up, and turns the next from stock. The suit of this card is the trump for the next trick. Play continues in this way, with a new trump turned for each successive trick.
The winner of the seventh and last trick turns up the next card of stock and, if it is an honour, pegs its card-point value [6]. If Penneech itself is turned, it always pegs 14 instead of seven.
Finally, whoever wins a majority of the seven tricks pegs an additional point for each card taken in excess of seven. (That's one for each extra card, not each extra trick.)
Ending
The game ends as soon as one player pegs out by reaching 61. (This usually happens during the fourth deal.)
Notes
1. Cotton does not specify 52 cards, but he never fails to mention the constitution of the pack whenever it differs. It works well enough with 52, but might be worth trying with 32 (Seven low). Return 1
2. Until the 20th century, it was traditional for the player cutting the lowest card to deal first, and for cards to rank for this purpose in their "natural" order from low to high A2345678910JQK, regardless of any difference in trick-taking power. Return 2
3. A strict interpretation of Cotton's wording might suggest that only the dealer may claim a fresh deal, but this is unlikely, and inconsistent with comparable games such as Picket/Piquet. Return 3
4. It's unclear whether or not either player scores when the initial trump turn-up is an honour. I have assumed that it counts for the dealer. Return 4
5. Cotton doesn't specify rules of trick-play, and it might be natural to assume that they are those of Whist (follow suit if possible, otherwise play any card). Having tested other possible rules with several different players, however, we find those given here to produce the most satisfactory game. These rules are those of All Fours, which seems to have entered England at about the same time as Penneech, and would already have been known from the earlier game of Maw. I have also tried the rules of Mariage (play any card you like, regardless), but they put the game completely out of control. Return 5
6. Cotton's reference to "him who won the last trick" might be taken to mean that the turn-up only scores in the case of the seventh trick, but the game is much better if, as I assume to be the case, by last he means previous. Return 6

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