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Poch-Germ-CG-art - 10/8/17


"Poch" by Meister Konrad Mailander, OP. A 15C German card game.


NOTE: See also the files: games-cards-msg, Cards-a-Dice-art, Tarot-Crd-Ruls-art, Playing-Cards-art, games-msg, court-bingo-msg, Dwyle-Flonkng-art.





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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org




by Meister Konrad Mailander, OP


Poch is a group of games recorded as Poch, Pochen, Pochspeil, Boeckels, Bocken, Bogel, Bockspiel, Glic, etc that originated in the 15th Century and are still played as Poch or Pochen. The earliest record of the game comes from Strasburg in 1441, making it one of the oldest identifiable card games known and was widely played throughout Germanys and Switzerland. Glic a nearly identical French game is first mentioned in 1454. There are Poch descendants found in England and Iceland as well.


Three or more players with a deck of 32, 36, 48, or 52 cards can play. The traditional German/Swiss deck of cards is a 48-card deck of four suits with numbers 2 through 9, a 10 or a Banner worth 10, Untermann/Undermann (Jack), Obermann/Overmann (Queen), and König (King). The traditional German suits are Herz (Hearts) often called Rot (Red), Schellen (Bells), Eichel (Acorns) and Laub (Leaves) or Grün (Green). The Swiss traditional Swiss suits are Rosen (Roses), Schellen (Bells), Eichel (Acorns) and Wappen (Shields). For a 36-card deck the 3-5 is removed from each suit of a 48-card deck, the 2-5 for a 52-card deck and for a 32-card deck the 6 is removed from each suit as well.


Poch and related games are played with a board with labeled compartments.



Poch   (German)


Poch   (English)


Glic   (French)






Roys (Roi)


Obermann or Ober




Roynes (Reine)


Untermann or Unter




Vallet (Valet)


Zehner of Zehn


















Poch or Bock










le Mains



Braut translates as bride or fiancée, which may seem odd with the all male court of the German decks. But when playing cards were introduced in Europe in the late 14th Century all the court cards were male. Decks produced in Germany were the first to add female court cards often replacing the King with a Queen and the other males with females in two of the suits. The German "Sau" is the two, which was the lowest card in the 48 card deck and often depicted a pig on the card. The French "le Mains" translates as the least, which would be the ace or deuce depending on the deck used. Glic means alike and denotes the winning hands in the vying portion. In areas where it was known as Bock, Boeckel, etc the Bock compartment may be illustrated with a goat since Bock is German for goat. A Glic board may have compartments for both Glic, denoting three of a kind, and Mornifles (slap in the face or buffeting), denoting four of a kind (Drittgleich and Viergleich in Swabian dialect). Sequence is usually the 7, 8, and 9 but I have seen a board depicting the 6, 7, and 8. (Parlett, 1990)


Poch is a three-part game; sweepstake, vying, and 31. (Post period the third part changed from 31 to Stops.)


PART ONE: Sweepstakes


First the players dress the board. Each player places an ante into all the compartments on the board except the Poch compartment. Five cards are then dealt to each player and one is turned up to indicate which suit is trump. Anyone possessing the corresponding trump cards win the contents of that compartment; Sau/Ace, König/King, Ober/Queen, Unter/Jack, Zehn/Ten, Braut/Mariage both the König/King and Ober/Queen, Sequens/Sequence the 7, 8, and 9. If a pool is not won it is carried over until the next deal.




This part plays out similar to modern Poker. Players vie for who has the best hand. The first to bet places their wager in the Poch compartment (saying 'Ich poche eins' or however many). Each player in turn may match it, raise it, or fold, and the opener may raise it when his turn comes again. This continues until all have matched without raising or dropped out. Whoever has the best hand wins the contents of the Poch compartment. Four of a kind beats three of a kind, three of a kind beats a pair, and a pair beats an unpaired hand. (Two pairs has no placing, you just use the highest pair.) The higher-ranking combination wins, for example a pair of sevens beats a pair of twos. In the case of the tie it is decided by the highest additional card in the hand, thus a pair of seven and a ten beats a pair of sevens and an eight.


PART THREE: Thirty-One


The third part involves playing cards in a sequence, building up to 31. Starting with the winner of the Pochen (or the player to the dealers left) each player in turn lays down a card so that the total of the cards laid so far does not exceed 31. Court cards are worth 10 and if aces are used they are worth 1. When no one can play (the total is too high) each player must pay the person who laid the final card of the sequence. The person who laid the last card of the previous sequence gets to play the first one of the next sequence. As soon as one player runs out of cards, all the players who have cards remaining must pay him for each card they still have in their hands.




One thing to remember is that games do not have one universal set of rules. Just like language dialects change from one place to another so to did how to play games. A popular game may have hundreds if not thousands of regional variations. It is always best to define the rules you are playing by whenever playing a game with new people even, no especially, if they already know how to play.


Here are some potential variations for Poch family of games and my commentary:


Play with the smallest deck possible for the number of players present. This will increase the chance that more of the compartments pay out each hand.


Allow the dealer to collect any compartments for the card turned up to indicate trump. It is not uncommon for the dealer to have such an edge in a game.


Allow the person who would have been the next to receive a card in order of deal to collect any compartment for the card turned up to indicate trump. I have seen this suggested but I prefer either it not being claimed or claimed by the dealer.


At the end of the game unclaimed compartments on the board get split amongst all the players as evenly as possible. Most reasonable solution for something not generally covered.


If you are running a "House" supported gaming event have the "House" collect any compartments not cleared by the players either each hand or at the end of the game.


Only betting on the compartments you choose to. Again something I have seen suggested that I am not in favor of. Part of the thrill of the game is to have those hard to get combinations pools keep building. Since they are high risk many would skip them.


Playing the third phase as a stops game. In this case you take turns laying cards in sequence from low to high; 7 followed by 8 etc. If you cannot follow the sequence it stops, everyone pays the last to play a card and they may start the next sequence. When someone runs out of cards all the others pay for each card they have left. Stops games did not appear to after SCA period, and replaced the 31 portion at that time. It is still fun to play this way but playing the third part as 31 is better recreation of the game for our period.


For games that use more than a 32-card deck allow the Sequence to be any run of trump in the number cards excluding the lowest, ace or sau. One of the boards shown in The Oxford Guide to Card Games shows a 6, 7, and 8 by the Sequence compartment making this a very plausible variation.


Play on variant boards. The early 16th century board shown in The Oxford Guide to Card Games has compartments for, König, Ober, Unter, Sau – picturing a pig but labeled M (for le Mains?), Sequens showing 6, 7, and 8, Gleich/Glic with three of a kind shown, Braut, and Poch. For playing the Gleich/Glic I would suggest paying the highest three of a kind that includes a trump card, if none then go with highest three of a kind.


Glic with Glic and Mornifles. I could not find how you would play this varient. The board from Cluny that was referenced is a design with nine compartments in a circle. I would suggest anteing into all nine then putting the vying pot in the center. If the vying is won by a three of a kind you get the vying pot along with the Glic; if it is won by a four of the kind you also get the Mornifies. This is pure speculation on my part.




Parlett, David (1990) The Oxford Guide to Card Games. Oxford University Press.


Still More Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Card Games by Earl Dafydd ap Gwystl



Rules of Card Games: Poch / Le Poque http://www.pagat.com/stops/poch.html



My thanks to The Honourable Lady Keely the Tinker who lead me to a source that explains how to play the 31 portion and Lady Gwenllian verch Rhydderch Annwyl who illuminated a board from a period example for us to use.



Copyright 2017 by Dale Niederhauser. <konrad at midrealm.org>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org