Rook wars: A new hope

Posted by

Hey there kids,

Have your parents taught you to play Rook yet? They really should. For a couple of reasons. The most important reason is that we really need the younger generation to get up to speed so someone can take on Grandpa. Uncle Richard, Grandma and I have been doing our best but we are basically failing and he is on another winning streak. And, if there is one thing I hate more than losing, it is watching Grandpa win. Again.

When I was a kid I used to play Memory with Grandpa (although back then he was just known as Dad). And he beat me all the time and it made me soooo mad. Eventually we moved on to other games where cheating was easier and I could win more often – but that is another story.

Rook is a game that our family has played for generations. According to Wikipedia, it is sometimes referred to as “Christian cards” or “missionary poker.” I wonder if their love of Rook is what originally prompted Grandpa and Grandma to become missionaries? Apparently Mennonites didn’t like the standard playing cards that had faces (you know, the queens, kings and jacks) and so the Rook cards were developed as an alternative. There are no faces on Rook cards, all numbers, and one rascal of a rook bird.

Another thing the Mennonites didn’t like about the standard playing cards is that they were associated with something known as “cartomancy.” Cartomancy uses playing cards to try to predict the future. All I have to say about this is that it would seem Rook cards can also be used to predict the future, a future where Grandpa wins all the games and poor Auntie Krista comes in second (or sometimes even third).


So it’s time to learn Rook my minions. Maybe a new generation can finally take down Grandpa. I suppose I might still lose but having Grandpa not win would kind of feel like winning.

There are a couple of important family variations on Rook so don’t let your parents teach you the rules that come on the back of the package. (And, by the way, your parents are all medium-good Rook players so you’ll want to learn what you can from them and then move past them if you want to take on Grandpa).

Important Family Rook Variations:

  1. We play “call your partner” Rook. This is important because it means that one person wins, not a team, and we all know that winning feels better solo. And even when I lose to Grandpa, I can still beat Grandma and Uncle Richard.
  2. We also play “Rook low.” Uncle Richard isn’t a fan of this one but it is the way we do it. Playing Rook low means it is usually irrelevant except for every now and then when it comes out of nowhere and bites someone in the backside – hard. This too is almost as much fun as winning, but not quite.
  3. Finally, we play to 1000, not 500. Why? Because 500 is just too easy.

So take the next few months to brush up on your Rook skills. I’m taking my the cards to Thailand and when you come to visit, the game will be on. In the meantime, Grandpa can practice handing over that glittery #1 Rook medal he won last night.


Auntie K.


One comment

  1. Auntie Krista failed to mention that skill in playing Rook isn’t everything. While skill and a bit of chutzpah are important, it can be a bit of a crab-shoot. Sometimes, no matter how well you play, its as though the Rook gods are against you–you get the crabbiest hands and you sometimes even lose when everything seems to be going your way. That happened to Auntie Krista and me last night when we bid too high against each other, ended up being partners, and then lost the round on one lousy card that Grandma had up her sleeve.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.