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Game on!: a Recap of Regency Game Night

Among the many splendors of JASP 2023, the Regency Game Night hosted by Ruth and Frans Verbunt is among the most memorable. As an aide de memoire for those who attended, and as a way to feel like you were there for those who couldn't, here are some additional resources Ruth shared with us.

The Game Night featured a Whist table (learn more about Whist in Meredith's blog from December), a Speculation table, a quiet fortune-telling table, and a boisterous Blind Man's Bluff circle.

Speculation is a round card game popular in Austen's lifetime, and features in her novel Mansfield Park. When we recall that Mary Crawford is good at the game and Fanny Price self-defeating at it, we can start to guess how it works. The Austen Centre has advice on how to win,

Very entertaining indeed. A very odd game. I do not know what it is all about. I am never to see my cards; and Mr. Crawford does all the rest.

-- Lady Bertram, Mansfield Park

With three unknown cards a piece, players at Speculation try to get others to buy their cards (revealed or not), which others might want to buy in an effort to get the trump card. Since players are only dealt three cards, predicting what cards are hiding in fellow players' hands is tricky; if a five of any given suit is turned up as a trump card by the dealer, you can speculate that higher heart cards are still in circulation, and bids on neighbors' cards seem reasonable, but if the trump starts at the ten of a suit, chances of beating it grow slimmer, making buying the other card both less likely but also more valuable. You can find a more detailed description of the rules here. No description, however, can convey the excitement of taking risks, or the joy of using the clever little tool to rake in your winnings!

Georgian Fortune Telling with playing cards was another fun pastime, and provided opportunities for teasing and flirtation. Ruth Verbunt demonstrated a simple three card spread for her readings (all negative cards removed!). If you wanted to get your own deck of pirate cards like Ruth used, you can purchase them here. Ruth also described cards that came pre-printed with little verses at the bottom to help you build a reading. You can find images of those cards here. And if you wanted a deep dive into fortune telling, the 1793 edition of Every Lady's Own Fortune-Teller, or an Infallible Guide to the Hidden Decrees of Fate is available as a digital edition.

Finally, Blind Man's Bluff was a giggly good time for all who played. While many of us may think we know how the game works, until you have actually been blindfolded and spun about, you don't really know what it entails. Success goes to those who are good at noticing (and remembering) details of their companions' attire and hairstyles - even what kind of earrings they may be wearing, so that once you "catch" someone, you're able to deduce their identity from the details you've noticed. While the play at JASP was only PG-rated by accident, rumor has it that French player of the game sometimes deliberately breached decorum. Shocking!

We hope you had the perfect blend of education and merriment at JASP 2023 - please remember to take a few moments to fill out this year's survey to help us improve next year, when we host round one of Jane Austen and the Brontës.


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