Ruff and Honours

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Ruff and Honours
Card Players Adam de Coster.JPG
Origin England
Family Trick-taking
Players 4
Skill(s) required Tactics and Strategy
Cards 52
Deck English
Play Clockwise
Playing time 25 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Trump, Whist

Ruff and Honours was an English trick-taking game that was popular in the 16th and 17th centuries;[1] it was superseded in the 18th century by Whist.[1]


Ruff and Honours is covered in Cotton's The Compleat Gamester 1674 where it is described as being commonly known in all parts of England.[2] At the time Randle Cotgrave thought the name was just a synonym for Trump. The game was also known as Slamm, a less popular form was called Whist, and it was closely related to Ruffe and Trump [2] described by Francis Willughby.[3]

Francis Willughby speculated that Trump was an earlier simple trick-taking game without the ruff and honours. The Complete Hoyle Revised points out that references in literature and correspondence to games of Trump, (shortened form of Triumph), have been traced back to the 15th Century in England. Over 500 years there have been many names and variations in rules but all the games were trick-taking games for four players playing in pairs, using the standard English pack with the trump suit selected by an up-turned card.[1]

Cavendish and others state that Ruff and Honours was a descendant of the French game Triomphe (M.Eng. Triumph, Trump).[4] Triomphe, known as French Trump in England, was a five-card game using a shortened deck, an up-turned trump card and played either in partnership or singlehandedly with 2-7 players.[5] Triomphe is mentioned in Bernadine of Sienna's sermon "Ye Tryumphe" (1522). Ruff originally meant strongest suit,[6] and games using this term go back to the mid 15th Century, judging by a reference to the game of Roufle (M.Fr. Roffle, earlier Romfle (1414), from It. Ronfa).[7]


The game has been reconstructed from Cotton's Ruff and Honours and Willughby's similar Ruffe and Trump [2]

  • Using a standard 52-card deck, 12 cards are dealt to each player, four at a time.
  • The remaining four cards become the Stock of which the top card is exposed to determine the trump suit.
  • The holder of the Ace of trump "ruffs", i.e. takes in the Stock and discards any four cards; the dealer ruffs if the exposed top card is the Ace.
  • Play begins with the person to the dealers left. The player leads a card and all other players follow suit if possible. A player who cannot follow suit may play any card. The trick is won by the highest ranked card, i.e. by the highest trump card and if no trump card is played, by the highest card in suit lead.[8]
  • Twelve tricks are played as normal, scoring one point for each trick the partners have in excess of six.
  • Honours in the partnership's hands are usually scored at the end. Two points for three honours; four points for all four honours (AKQJ of trumps).
  • Except on eight points, honours are declared immediately to end the game. One can declare three or more honours in your hand, or with two honours call "Can-ye?" and if your partner has an honour score them.
  • Deals continue until one side wins by reaching nine points.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Morehead, Albert H. (1991). The Complete Hoyle Revised. Double Day. pp. 93–95. 
  2. ^ a b c "Game Report: English Ruff and Honours". Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Francis Willughby's Book of Games by Francis Willughby, David Cram, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Dorothy Johnston
  4. ^ Historical Notes on our National Card Game by Cavendish - London Society, 1866, V. IX. pg. 65
  5. ^ "Euchre". 
  6. ^ "Ruff and Trump". 
  7. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  8. ^ Elizabethan Card Games


  • In Antony and Cleopatra (Act IV, Scene XIV), Antony uses a Trump metaphor: "[she has] Pack'd cards with Caesar, and false-play'd my glory; Unto an enemy's triumph."
  • A woman killed with kindness: and The fair maid of the west by Thomas Heywood, Katharine Lee Bates 1917 ISBN 1-4446-4519-6

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