A Nain Jaune board. The classic French game is named after the ♦7 depicted as a yellow dwarf in the centre.
|Alternative name||Yellow Dwarf|
|Release date||c. 1760|
|Skills required||combinations, chance|
|Card rank (highest first)||K Q J 10 – 1|
|Playing time||30 min|
|Poch, Pope Joan|
The game of Nain Jaune or Yellow Dwarf (French: Le jeu du nain jaune, pronounced [nɛ̃ ʒon]), also formerly called Lindor,[a] is an "attractive and unique traditional French card game" using a board comprising five compartments or boxes. It is a reasoned game of chance because it combines the hazards of card distribution with the strategy of building suits. Nain Jaune, which is considered a classic French game, is named after the seven of diamonds, which is depicted as a yellow dwarf (French: nain jaune) in the centre of the game board.
Nain Jaune first emerged in the mid-eighteenth century as one of the hocs group of games and is still a popular French family game today. Its rules are simple, the number of players is variable (3 to 8 players) and the game is suitable for old and young alike. It has been described as a "family game par excellence."
The game of Nain Jaune first appeared around 1760 in the French region of Lorraine under the name of jeu du Nain (Dwarf) or jeu du Nain-Bébé (Baby Dwarf). This name referred to Nicolas Ferry, nicknamed Baby, a dwarf, protected by Stanislas of Poland, Duke of Lorraine. It is related that Ferry became violent and cruel as he grew older and earned the nickname of "the yellow dwarf" after the villain in the fairy tale. The rules, first published in L'Avantcoureur in 1760, used the same general concept and layout as the modern game, but its rules varied in a number of points. The game spread throughout Europe and became popular until the French Revolution. At that time, in 1789, a French games compendium published rules for Nain Jaune – now also called Lindor – that were significantly different. These new, simpler rules have persisted until the present day.
Around 1850, the famous General Tom Thumb, attraction of the Barnum circus, revived interest in dwarves and at the same time interest in the game. The game fell into oblivion again after the days of the Second French Empire (1852–1870), but returned to fashion during the inter-war years. It has since become a classic French board game.
Nain Jaune or Yellow Dwarf requires the following:
- a standard 52-card French pack;
- a game board with five compartments (often removable) or "boxes" representing, at the four corners, the ten of diamonds, the jack of clubs, the queen of spades, and the king of hearts; and, in the centre, the seven of diamonds or Nain Jaune ("Yellow Dwarf");[b]
- chips (jetons and/or fiches) that can be of different colours, shapes and values (one, five and ten points for example) equally distributed among the players at the beginning of the game to the value of 50 to 120 points per player.
Nain Jaune or Yellow Dwarf - original rules
The earliest rules for a game called Nain Jaune were published in two issues of L'Avantcoureur in 1760.
Yellow Dwarf is a shedding game in which the aim is to be first to get rid of all your cards. The 1760 version was played by 3 or 5 players using a full French-suited pack and 5 additional cards – the ♥K, ♠Q, ♣J, ♦10 and ♦7 or nain, the 'Dwarf' – which were placed face up on the table as a staking tableau. These are the 5 honours (belles cartes).[c]
Card are built in suit sequence, unlike modern Nain Jaune in which suits are irrelevant. Within each suit, cards rank in their natural order, from lowest to highest: One[d] to King. Certain cards were stops, i.e. they 'stop' the sequence, and are known as hocs. The three permanent hocs are the Queen of Spades, the Jack of Clubs and the Ten of Diamonds. The 'Chief Hoc' (hoc principal) was the Dwarf, the Seven of Diamonds, and the four Kings were 'end-of-run' hocs (hocs de fin de suite).
Dealing and play
Dealing and play are anti-clockwise. If three play, dealer deals 15 cards, individually, to each. If five play, 9 cards are dealt to each player. The remaining 7 cards are placed face down to one side as a talon and are not used during the deal. Any card in the talon can act, in effect, as a 'stop' or 'incidental hoc' (hoc accidentel), preventing sequences from being completed.
Eldest hand plays a card to the table to start the first run, calling out its name, e.g. "One" and may follow it by laying off the next higher card of the same suit if they have it e.g. "...Two". They may keep on adding cards until they cannot continue the sequence e.g. "...Three, Four and without (sans) Five". They do not have to start with the lowest card. In turn, the other players continue to lay off as many cards as they can to the same suit sequence or say "pass" if unable. When a King is played to complete the run, the player calls "Hoc!" and may begin a new sequence with a card and suit of his choice. Equally if no player can continue a sequence because the wanted card is in the talon, the player of the last (highest) card in the existing sequence calls "Hoc!" and may start another sequence. The player of a permanent hoc does the same. If a player has the Chief Hoc, it is wild and they may therefore play it at any time; equally they do not have to play it even if it is the next in sequence.
Dealer antes 15 chips to the board as follows: 1 on the ♦10, 2 on the ♣J, 3 on the ♠Q, 4 on the ♥K and 5 on the ♦7.
During the game, if a player plays a hoc (i.e. a King or an honour) and announces it, they receive 1 chip from each of the other players. If a player plays an honour and announces it, they win the contents of the corresponding box as well. If a player forgets to announce his hoc, they forfeit the stake they would have won and it remains in situ.
The winner is the first player to go out having shed all his cards. The remaining players tot up their card points: courts being worth 10, Aces 1 and all other cards scoring their face value. The winner is paid by each player the number of chips corresponding to the card points of cards left in his hand. If a player still holds the ♦7 they pay double. If they still hold an honour, they are bête and have to double the stake in the corresponding box. If the winner managed to shed all his cards without any of the other players being able to play at least one – they have an Opera – and the losers pay double.
Lindor, Nain Jaune or Yellow Dwarf – modern rules
The following rules were first published in 1789 under the name of "Lindor or Nain Jaune" and are still used today. They are also summarised on the website of the Academy of Forgotten Games (Academie des jeux oubliées).
The later game uses a bespoke board with five removable compartments or "boxes" decorated with imagery and the pictures of the 5 honour cards. In the centre is an image of a dwarf holding in his hand the seven of diamonds and, in each of the four corners, is depicted one of the other honours: the king of hearts, the queen of spades, the jack of clubs and the ten of diamonds.
Key differences from the original game include:
- Any number of players from three to eight may play
- Suits are irrelevant and so there is no requirement to follow suit
- All players ante stakes to the board, and hence a game can comprise any number of deals
- There are no permanent hocs nor a Chief Hoc
- There are no payments during the game except for the honours
- The payment system at the end of a deal is different
The game is less intricate and challenging and appears to have been designed to be speeded up with restrictions on the number of deals and players removed and the stakes greatly raised to increase its gambling potential.
At the beginning of the game, each player is given the same number of chips (jetons) e.g. five 10-point chips, ten 5-point chips and twenty 1-point chips each. Then the board is 'dressed' in that each player places chips in the boxes on the board as follows: one chip on the ♦10, two chips on the ♣J, three on the ♠Q, four on the ♥K and five on the ♦7 or 'Yellow Dwarf'. If there are any chips left from the previous round, they are kept and added to the new stakes.
The first dealer is chosen by lot. The dealer shuffles the cards, offers them to the left to be cut and then deals to the right, in threes, a number of cards dependent on the number of players as shown in the table below.
|Number of players||Cards per player||Cards in the talon|
The game is played clockwise, so the player to the left of the dealer starts. They put down any card of his choice, calling out its value e.g. "Five!" and continues with the next cards in sequence if they can e.g. "Six, Seven, Eight...", regardless of suit. When they stop they announce "no ... " or "without ... " (sans...). For example, if they stop at nine they announces "... no Ten!" (sans dix). The player to his left continues the sequence if they can and if they wish, and so on. If none of the players can complete the sequence, the player who has stopped starts a new sequence with a card of his choice.
When a player plays a king, they start a new sequence with a card of his choice.[e] When a player places one of the cards represented on the board, for example the Queen of Spades, they announce "the Queen who sweeps" (Dame qui prend) and sweeps up the chips in the box corresponding to the card. If they forget to announce, the bet is lost for them and stays in place for the next game. If a player still holds one of the honour cards at the end of the game, they pay a bête to the board that matches what is in the box for that card.
The winner of the round is the player who is first to get rid of all his cards. They win from the other players either as many chips as they have points left in their hand (each court card is worth 10, the rest count at face value). In counting points, pip cards are worth their face value, courts are worth 10 points each and Aces score 1 point each. If a player gets rid of all his cards at once the first time they are on lead, it is an "Opera" (or Grand Opera) and, in addition to the payment of the other players, they sweep the board.
When the deal has been settled, the board is re-dressed for the next deal and the player to the right of the last dealer now becomes the new dealer.
The game is over when a player is "ruined" and can no longer place 15 chips at the beginning of the round. You can also choose a number of game turns or a game time; the winner is then the one with the most chips.
- Lindor is, inter alia, a character in Scrupule ou l'Amour mécontent de lui-même, one of the moral stories by Jean-François Marmontel.
- In the original 1760 game, no game board is mentioned; instead the five honours from a second pack were placed on the table as a staking layout
- Parlett calls them 'boodles', presumably after the American term for 'stops' in games like Michigan.
- In French packs the lowest card is marked with a "1" (not an "A") and was called the un ('one').
- Lacombe says that the player who plays the highest card of a sequence wins the trick, but, since Nain Jaune is not a trick-winning game, it is not clear what the point of that would be. In summarising Lacombe, The Academy of Forgotten Games makes no mention of tricks.
- Jeu du Nain Jaune at boardgamegeek.com. Retrieved 23 Jun 2019
- Comment jouer au Nain jaune. Traduit de l'anglais (2017)
- L'AVANTCOUREUR, lundi 27 octobre 1760 (n° 41) at academiedesjeux.jeuxsoc.fr. Retrieved 30 Jun 2019
- "Histoire véridique du jeu du « Nain jaune »" ("The True Story of the Game of "Nain Jaune") by Theimer, François (2006) in l'Escale à Jeux. Retrieved 30 Jun 2019.
- Règle du Nain Jaune at www.regles-de-jeux.com. Retrieved 30 Jun 2019
- "L'origine du Nain Jaune" by François Theimer in Le Journal de la Vieille France at archive.wikiwix.com. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- Le Naine jaune on the website of the Academy of Forgotten Games (Académie des jeux Oubliés). Retrieved 23 Jun 2019.
- d'Alembert 1789, pp. 144–146. sfn error: no target: CITEREFd'Alembert1789 (help)
- Lacombe 1792, pp. 144–146. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLacombe1792 (help)
- _ 1760, pp. 652/653, 666/667. sfn error: no target: CITEREF_1760 (help)
- Parlett 1990, p. 119. sfn error: no target: CITEREFParlett1990 (help)
- Jeux de hocs on the Academy of Forgotten Games website. Retrieved 3 Jul 2019.
- Hoc on the website of the Academy of Forgotten Games. Retrieved 29 Jun 2019.
- _ (1760) L'Avantcoureur, 27 October 1760, Issue 41 and 3 November 1760, Issue 42.
- d'Alembert, Abbé Bossut, de la Lande, Marquis de Condorcet, Charles, etc. (1789). Encyclopedie Methodique ou Par Ordre de Matieres: Mathematiques. Paris: Panckoucke.
- Lacombe, Jacques (1792). Dictionnaire des Jeux. Panckoucke, Paris.