The Compleat Gamester
Charles Cotton, 1674
Transcription of “Games within the Tables,” pages 99 to 116

The Compleat Gamester The Compleat Gamester


I.  The Famous Game, called, Verquere.

This Game, as our most famous Gamesters will tell you, came originally from Holland, and is said to be the only noted Game, upon the Tables, that they practice and is good, it being usual and common amongst them, to learn it in their Infancy, or Childhood, by that early Beginning to become greater Proficients at their Maturity, and be the better able, when they are divertively engaged, and their Business will allow Leisure, to excel and over-reach one another. The Manner of the Game, as they play it there, or as we here in England, who have also learned to be Proficients at it, is after this Manner.

All the Table Men are placed on the Ace-Point, where you set the two Men at Back-Gammon; and as at the Game bring ’em round into your own Tables, but with different Circumstances, as by further Instructions will appear; for in the first Place, you are not allowed to make a Point in either of your Tables, next your Adversary, the further Ace-Point excepted, for there you may do it as your Ingenuity and Discretion does best direct you; but you may take as many Points in your own Tables as you think good, to advantage your own Game, and by so doing, to hinder your Adversary from approaching you, or by the Luckiness or Fortune of his Throw to get the better of it.

In the next Place then, you are to observe, that this Game is commonly play’d double and single; the double is called John, which is a particular Benefit that your Adversary gets upon you, if his Luck in throwing be extraordinary; but in such a case you can never be John’d, except you have more Men than you can enter upon six Points, that is to say, seven men, which is one more, as is easily observed, than your Points will bear; and in such a Case you must yield the Double, and consequently your Game is in Danger to be lost.

Note, that tho’ you always point as your Cast affords you Convenience, and to the best Advantage of your Game; yet you cannot enter two Men upon any Point, and in that Particular this famous Game of Verquere is singular from other, that, either abroad or here, are known upon the Tables.

You play Doublets, and at last bear away all your Men as at Back-Gammon, and the Art is in managing your Throws to make your Game proper; for this, whilst your Adversary, by ill throwing, or indifferent Management, lags behind, is very convenient for you to be skilled at. Note also, that when you have more Men to enter, than you have opened Points to receive them, you are to let your Adversary throw, which I have seen for a considerable Space of Time, until by playing his Men forward (contriving as much as possible he can to gain the Preheminence, and put back your Game) he makes Room for you by a Vacancy; else perhaps the Nature of this Diversion is such, that the Game may hold out a Month, or Time out of Mind, there being no Possibility of going on, till you have the Privilege by his opening the Passage for you on the Tables, to enter your remaining Men.

Note too, that if you hit any of your Adversary’s Men, by a fortunate Cast of your Dice, and that he has the favourable Fortune, presently after, to hit you again; in such a Case, which indeed is not very common at this Game, if there be not Room for you to enter in his Tables, nor for him to perfect the Advantage of his Throw, to enter in yours; it is the Nature of this Game, that you must lose it double, and you being the first to throw. This, and the rest of the Accidents of Verquere, are like most of the rest on the Tables, presently to be explained and understood, by taking an Occasion to see it play’d.

II.  Grand Trick-Track.

The Noble and Courtly Game at Tables, called Grand-Trick-Track, is, as I am Informed by the Skilful at these Diversions, and such as have searched into its Original, a French Invention; and most commonly used by Persons of the first Quality, it being in Repute, second to the hereafter mentioned difficult and Royal Game at Chess.

To lead the Reader then into the Knowledge of this Matter, he must first be informed, that the Table-Men are to be placed on the Side of the Tables, exactly as they are at the Game hereafter-mentioned, called Tick-Tack. Next then it is to be observed, that besides the Table-Men, with which you play, there are three other Pieces to be used, called Markers, whether Half Crowns, or Half-pence, or any other Coin; the use of which three Pieces, or Markers, is as follows:

They are to mark the Throws of your Dice, on the Points of your Tables, that are Advantagious to you: For Example, If in your first Tables you make single Toots, in three Casts, or Throws, you mark with one Marker four.

There are twelve Holes on the Sides of your Tables, with Pegs in them, for the use of this Game: Note then, that twelve Marks gained on the Points of your Tables, make an Hole, and twelve Holes make up the Game, if you agree to it, else less or more; if you fill up your Points, for every single Throw on the Dice, you make four, and for Doublets six, and may hold your Game as long as you think convenient, that is, play on without breaking up your own, and your Adversary’s, if you believe you shall get no Advantage by beginning again.

If you hold with your double Men in your Tables, before you can make a Point, and your Adversary cannot fill his Tables, you are obliged with your Man to pass over-into his Tables, tho’ it be commonly a Disadvantage; but if he throws so well as to fill up, then it alters the Matter, and you cannot pass. Note, that when you have marked twelve with your Marker, which, as I said before, makes up one Hole, you may go off, break up your Tables, and begin again, provided you have the Dice, or else you cannot.

If in playing this Game, you touch a Man rashly, as intending to play it, and think to change it for another; the Severity in this Case, is as severe as at Tick-Tack, and you are obliged to play it as you before intended.

Note, that as to those Men that are obliged to pass over into the Adversary’s Tables, if he hits them, he marks thus:

For every single Throw, four, for Doublets six; and if at any Time, by your good Fortune in throwing, you can mark over and above twelve, you must then mark a Hole, or else two, if you go double, and the Overplus remaining is called, to the Good, provided you don’t break your Game: You cannot go off, nor break your Tables, by your Adversary’s Throws. And note, that if you chance to make more or less than is right, it is in his Power to take the Advantage, put you back, or oblige you to mark full. This is the Beginning of the Game, and what is most considerable in your first Tables.

Now, as to your Adversary’s second Tables, for every man you hit of his with a single Die, you mark but two, and for Doublets, four; tho’ in his first Tables, four for each single Die, and six for Doublets.

If you chance to hit a Blot or two in your Adversary’s Tables, and cannot pass, by Reason of his Men standing in your Way, and hindring you; it is allowable for him to take the Advantage of marking by your own Throws in both Tables, as before mentioned.

The Ace-Point of both Corners in the second Tables, which we take, and very much advantage our Game with at Tick-Tack, by making a double Game, cannot be divided here, nor fill the Corners as at that Game; tho’ in Lieu of that Convenience, if the Dice favour, for each single Cast you mark four, and for Doublets six. Then as to that Part of the Game, called Gens des Retour, or the Back-Game, which is the latter Part. Next, bearing off your Men, as is used at Back-Gammon you play your Men as fast as you can into his Tables, endeavouring to fill up the Points, as at the Fore-Game, which being done, you bear off your Men; only there is one Distinction between this and Back-Gammon (noted before) that as Doublets, thrown at the last Cast, gives considerable Advantage to the Gamester there; it is here of no Value, nor gives any Addition to the Throw.

Note, that if at any Time you break up your Tables, and disorder your Men, except by gaining twelve Points you can mark a Hole; it is in your Adversary’s Power to oblige you to hold your Game on still, and to play all the Table-Men you have so touched and disordered to his own Advantage.

Note also, that we distinguish the single from the double, in this Manner; If your Adversary, by his ill Fortune in throwing, has no Points on his Tables marked, altho’ your Throw is single, yet still you may mark a double Point; but if otherwise he has such good Luck by the Dice, to have any Point to mark, then he comes double, which you are to take off again, if you can hit him.

These are all the Passages that are considerable in this Courtly and much used Game of Grand-Tricktrack, which, tho’, easily to be comprehended, by those who divert themselves with playing often at Tables, and especially such who have any Insight into the under-mentioned Game of Tick-Tack, of which this Game is observed to make a Compleatment, by adding more Parts and Embelishments; yet the most ready Way for a young Gamester, who is desirous to learn it, is to see two that are skilful play at it, and then taking notice of these Instructions, he will presently be led into the Secret.

III.  Of Irish.

Irish is an ingenious Game, and requires a great deal of Skill to play it well, especially the After-Game. It is not to be learned otherwise than by Observation and Practice; however I shall lightly touch hereon.

The Men which are thirty in Number are equally divided between you and your Adversary, and are thus placed, two on the Ace Point, and five on the Sice of your left Hand Table, and three on the Cinque, and five on the Ace Point of your right Hand Table, answered on the like Points by your Adversary’s Men, with the same Number; or thus, two of your Men on the Ace Point, five on the double Sice, or Sice-Cinque Point, three on the Cinque Point in your own Tables, and five on the Sice Point at Home, and all these pointed alike by your Adversary.

In your play have a Care of being too forward, and be not rash in hitting every Blot, but with Discretion and Consideration, move slowly but securely; by which means, though your Adversary have filled his Tables, but with all Blots, and you by hitting him enter, you may win the Game; nay, sometimes, though he hath borne his Men all to a very few.

’Tis the Part of a prudent Commander, as he leads out his Men to bring them home as safe as he may; so must you have a Care of your Men as you are bringing them home that they are not pick’d up by the Way.

Have a special Care that your Adversary double not the Trey, Ace-point with his Men, and so make what convenient Haste you can to fill up your own Tables, and beware of blotting; that done, bear as fast as you can.

For an After-Game I know not what Instructions to give you, you must herein trust to your own Judgment, and the Chance of the Dice, and if they run low for some Time, it will be so much the better.

IV.  Of Backgammon.

Your Men are placed as at Irish, and Back-Gammon differs but very little from it, but in Doublets which at this Game is plaid fourfold, which makes a quicker Dispatch of the Game than Irish.

Be sure to make good your Trey, Ace-Points, hit boldly, and come away as fast as you can, to which End, if your Dice run high, you will make the quicker Dispatch.

When you come to bearing, have a care of making when you need not, and Doublets now will stand you most in Stead.

If both bear together, he that is first off without Doublets, wins one.

If both bear, and one goes off with Doublets, he wins two.

If your Table be clear before your Adversary’s Men be come in, that is a Back-Gammon, which is three; but if you thus go off with Doublets, it is four.

False Dice are much used at Irish and Back-Gammon, for the Benefit of entering, wherefore have a special care that you have not Cinque-Deuces, and Quater-Treys put upon you, you may quickly perceive it by the running of the Dice.

The Person that is cunning at play has great Advantage of a Novice or innocent Man, which is commonly by toping or knaping, which by its often Practice may be suspected by his Adversary; then he has Recourse to Dice, which runs particular Chances for his purpose, which the other being ignorant of, is almost an equal Advantage with the former. For Example, he provides Dice that runs six, five, four, ’tis his Business to secure those Points, so that if he happens to surprize any of your Men coming home, as it is two to one but he does, he does without a Kind of Miracle win the Set.

‘Tis possible sometimes they may make use of three, two, which are the low Chances; but that they seldom do for this Reason, the high or forward Points being supplied, you must enter, if at all, upon the low Points which keeps you backwards and gives him Advantage. The Advantage of this Game is to be forward, if possible, upon safe Terms, and to point his Men at that Rate that it shall not be possible for you to pass, though you have entered your Men, till he gives you Liberty, having two to one the Advantage of the Game.

V.  Of Tick-Tack.

All your Men must stand on the Ace-Point, and from thence play forward, but have a Care of being too forward, or so at leastwise that Doublets reach you not.

Secure your Sice and Cinque-point whatever you do, and break them not unless it be when you have the Advantage of going in, which is the greatest Advantage you can have next to a Hit; for your Adversary’s eleventh Point standing open, you have, it may be, the Opportunity of going in with two of your Men, and then you win a double Game. A Hit is but one, and that is, when you throw such a Cast that some one of your Men will reach your Adversary’s unbound, but sometimes, though it hits it, will not pass by Reason of a Stop in the Way, and then it is nothing. Sometimes it is good, going over into your Adversary’s Tables, but it is best for an After-Game.

Playing close at home is the securest Way, playing at length is both rash and unsafe, and be careful of binding your Men when you lie in Danger of the Enemy. Moreover, if you feel you are in Danger of losing a double Game, give your Adversary one; if you can it is better doing so than losing two.

Here note, if you fill up all the Points of your second Table with your own Men you win two, and that you may prevent your Adversary from doing so (if you are in Danger thereof) if you can, make a vacant Point in his Tables, and it is impossible for him to do it.

This is the plain Game of Tick-Tack, which is called so from Touch and Take, for if you touch a Man you must play him though to your loss; and if you hit your Adversary and neglect the Advantage, you are taken with a Why-not, which is the Loss of one: Likewise if you are in, and your Cast is such that you may also go into your Adversary’s eleventh Point, by two other Men, and you see it not, either by Carelesness or eager Prosecution of a Hit, which is apparent before your Eyes, you lose two irrecoverably. Besides, it is a very great Oversight, as your Men may stand, not to take a Point when you may do it.

Now some play this Game with Toots, Boveries and Flyers; Toots is, when you fill up your Table at home, and then there is required small Throws; for if you get over with a Sice, you have no Benefit of Toots.

Boveries is when you have a Man in the eleventh Point of your own Tables, and another in the same Point of your Adversary’s, directly answering.

Flyers, is when you bring a Man round the Tables before your Adversary hath got over his first Table, to the effecting of which there is required very high throwing of your Side, and very low throwing of his.

Much more might be said as to the Craft of the Play, which cannot be so well discovered as from Observation in your own or others playing.

There are several fooish Pastimes to be plaid in the Tables, which are ridiculous to treat of, whereof I shall only mention these Three, viz.

VI.  Doublets.

At Doublets the fifteen Men are thus placed; upon Sice, Cinque and Quater there are three Men a-piece, upon Trey, Deuce, Ace, but two a-piece.

He that throws most hath the Benefit of throwing first, and what he throws he lays down, and so doth the other; what the one throws and hath not, the other lays down for him to his own Advantage; and thus they do till all the Men are down, and then they bear, but not till they are down; he that is down first bears first, and will doubtlesly win the Game if the other throws not Doublets to overtake him; now he that throws Doublets apace is certain to win, for as many as the Doublets are, so many he lays down, or bears; for Example, if two Fours, he lays down, or bears Eight, and so for the other Doublets; and therefore he that can either nap, top, or hath high Runners about him, hath a great Advantage herein.

VII.  Sice-Ace.

Five may play at Sice-Ace with six Men a-piece, they one load another with Aces, Sixes bears only, and Doublets drinks and throws again, so often some I have seen, that for the Lucre of a little Money, have resolved rather to lose themselves than a Penny. It is commonly agreed the last two, or the last out shall lose, and the rest go free.

VIII.  Ketch-Dolt.

At Ketch-Dolt the first throws and lays down from the Heap of Men without the Tables, what is thrown at it may be Sice-Deuce, if the other throw either Sice or Deuce, and draw them not from his Adversary’s Tables to the same Point in his own, but takes them from the Heap, and lays the Ace down, he is dolted and loseth the Game, or if he but touch a Man of the Heap and then recall himself, the Loss is the same. Some by frequent Practice will never be dolted, and then they strive who shall fill up their Tables first; which done, he that bears them off first hath won the Game.

And so much for Play within the Tables.

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