Number of Players: 2-6
Year of Publication: 1874
Creator(s): Hans-Joachim Behrendt, Beatrice Braun-Fock, Dick Bruna and Wilhelm Busch (artists)
Who’s got the lucky black cat?
Schwarzer Peter is the German version of Old Maid. As I was unable to find accurate dates for Schwarzer Peter, I have here included the details for Old Maid instead.
What’s In The Box:
One deck of cards!
Playing The Game:
Objective: To have the most pairs at the end of the game, and not be holding the black cat card.
To begin the game the deck is thoroughly shuffled and the entire deck is dealt out to the players. Players then find all pairs that they have in their hand and place them on the table like this:
Once every player has finished laying down their pairs they take it in turns to take one card at random from one other player. When playing with two this means you will always (unless you draw the Black Peter card) manage to make a pair.
Winning The Game!
Once all the pairs have been made the player left with the Black Peter card is the loser, and the player with the most pairs is the winner. In the event that the player with the most pairs is also holding the Black Peter card, the player with the next highest number of pairs is announced the winner.
There’s little to be said for strategy in this game. It’s generally chance as to whether or not you will be dealt the Black Peter at the beginning or will draw it from another player. When playing with two players you both know from the beginning which of you has the Black Peter, but this doesn’t actually make much difference, in that the second player can still accidentally draw it on their turn. You just have to hope to get lucky.
History and Interesting Things:
- Although there are many different published decks of cards with nice illustrations on them for playing this game it can also easily be played with a regular deck of cards.
- The name Schwarzer Peter is thought to be reminiscent of a comrade of Schinderhannes, the robber Johann Peter Petri, who was also known as Black Peter. It’s thought that the game originated in his prison years, from 1811 onward, however, the true origin is probably older.
- Old Maid is a Victorian card game, for 2+ players, believed to have been derived from a drinking game, in which the loser buys the next round/pays for the drinks.
- It is known by many different names; Schwarzer Peter in Germany, Svarte Petter in Sweden, Svarteper in Norway, Sorteper in Denmark, Fekete Péter in Hungary, Musta Pekka in Finland, Asino in Italy, Le Pouilleux in France and Babnuki in Japan.
- There is an English variation of the game, known as Scabby Queen which is played with a standard 52-card deck in which the loser has an additional punishment, on top of losing the game. When played with a standard deck of cards the odd card is usually a queen and the punishment inflicted in this game is this:
When the loser (the player with the single remaining queen) is found, the deck of cards, including the remaining queen but not the jokers, is shuffled and the loser cuts the deck. The card on the bottom of the pile they picked up then decides their “punishment”. If a red card (heart or diamond) is chosen, then the player is rapped on the back of the hand with the deck. If a black card (spades or clubs) is chosen, then he has the entire deck scraped across his knuckles (known as snipes. A skilled player can draw blood with the opening ‘snipe’). The number of times this is performed is decided by the value of the card. Cards 2-10 carry face value, jacks and kings have a value of 10, aces are 11 and queens are 21. Be aware that this can rip the skin of your hands, and can be extremely painful, hence the name Scabby Queen. It is also better to use old or cheap cards, as the cards can also be damaged (cheap and older cards also tend to be softer and more bendable, so the “punishment” is less severe). However, today the game is often played without this punishment, especially where the pain inflicted is not considered appropriate by the players (such as when parents are playing with their children), though the game is still called scabby queen. As with all playground games, the rules are often lost in translation and regional variations are common (school-specific rule-sets are not unusual). Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Please note that this variation of the game is rarely played now.
It’s a good game for families, it teaches kids to identify matching pairs, as well as providing a learning opportunity if you’re using an animal deck. You can get the children to identify different types of animal in their masculine and feminine forms (if they have them) and also what the babies are called. On top of that the game is very straightforward, so it’s hard to get confused when playing it. I rated this 5 because there’s nothing I would change about it.