Happy Families

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Happy Families
Two cards from an 1880s edition of Jaques's Happy Families
Alternative namesQuartett, Ablegspiel
Players3–4 (2–8)
Age range3+[1]
Easy to play

Happy Families is a traditional British card game usually with a specially made set of picture cards, featuring illustrations of fictional families of four, most often based on occupation types. The object of the game is to collect complete families, and the game is similar to Go Fish and Quartets.[2]

In Germany and Austria, the game is known as Quartett or Ablegspiel (in Upper Austria and Styria) and is not restricted to sets of four people, but covers other topics such as farm animals or tractors. The game can also be adapted for use with an ordinary set of playing cards.


A 'family' from a set of old German Quartett cards. Each card lists the three others that it groups with.

The player whose turn it is asks another player for a specific card: the asking player must hold a card of the same family.[3] If the asked player has the card, they must give it to the requester, and the requester then takes another turn. If the asked player does not have the card, they say "not at home" and it becomes the asked player's turn.

When a player completes a family they place it face-down in front of them. Play continues in this way until no families are separated among different players. The player with the most completed families wins.


The game was devised by John Jaques Jr. who is also credited with popularizing tiddlywinks, ludo and snakes and ladders, and first published before the Great Exhibition of 1851. Cards following Jaques's original designs, with grotesque illustrations possibly by Sir John Tenniel[4] (there was no official credit), are still being made.

Family members[edit]

The names of the family members are structured as follows, where X stands for a surname and Y for an occupation.

  • Mr X the Y
  • Mrs X the Y's Wife
  • Master X the Y's Son
  • Miss X the Y's Daughter

The eleven families in Jaques' original edition were:[5]

  • Block, the Barber
  • Bones, the Butcher
  • Bun, the Baker
  • Bung, the Brewer
  • Chip, the Carpenter
  • Dip, the Dyer
  • Dose, the Doctor
  • Grits, the Grocer
  • Pots, the Painter
  • Soot, the Sweep
  • Tape, the Tailor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kartenspiele für Kinder – Beschäftigung für Schmuddelwetter at www.vaterfreuden.de. Retrieved 23 April 2019
  2. ^ "Happy Families" in 50 Card Games: 50 Popular Card Games for Hours of Fun. Igloo Books. 2018. p. 36. ISBN 9781784409852.
  3. ^ "Go Fish - Card Game Rules". www.pagat.com. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Jaques' Happy Families" Archived 12 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Wintle, Simon. "Jaques' Happy Families". The World of Playing Cards. Retrieved 22 May 2019.