“Above the Salt!” – a prototype card game of Social Mobility

DRAFT – made public to shame me into finishing…

This is a prototype game concept using a standard pack of 52 cards plus 2 jokers, for 5 to 13 players, which can be played during a formal meal.


The title is inspired by the tradition of denoting the importance of guests at medieval/tudor dinner tables by the location of the salt cellar. If you were “above the salt” you were important to the host, nobility in favour with the King, etc, while those below the salt were those that had to be invited, poor relations, and so on.

Set up
Saltfoot – one of the jokers is placed on the table to denote the difference between nobility and peasant. For now, place it in the middle.

Cards are shuffled, then turned over until a series of Ace to King (of any suit) are retrieved, which represent the starting origin and current status of the players; known as the status pack. Cards that are not taken out are placed at the bottom of the pack. These are then filtered, depending on the number of players: There is always a King and Queen (representing the Court) and an Ace, Two and Three (representing the People). For more than 5 players, the remaining cards are chosen from outside in (Jack, Four, Ten, Five, etc) and unused cards are removed from play. These cards then become the Status Pack by shuffling and adding the Saltfoot (one of the jokers), which is then shuffled and dealt one to each player, who then shows it to all straight away. If this card is the Saltfoot the player taked another card and keeps the Saltfoot to place in front of them when they sit at table. This will determine, which players start as nobility and which start as peasants; if you are below the salt, then you are a peasant. The extreme cases are when face cards, (King, Queen or Jack) get the Saltfoot, in which case all number cards are peasants, or when the Ace or Two get it, in which case all players start off as nobles. Players then sit in the order of rank:

King at head of table, then in decending number order alternating right, left, e.g

Jack Nine Seven Five Three Ace
King  Court       TABLE  Noble     TABLE  Noble      TABLE SALTFOOT TABLE  Peasant TABLE Peasant  TABLE
Queen Ten Eight Six Four Two
Jack Six Three Ace
King Court        TABLE SALTFOOT TABLE Peasant    TABLE Peasant TABLE
Queen Nine Four Two
Jack Ace
Queen Two


“In French decks, the suits represent the four classes: Spades represent nobility, hearts stand for the clergy, diamonds represent merchants, and clubs are peasants.” —http://poker.about.com/od/pollsquizzesandfun/f/4suitsorigins.htm

“That leaves now the eight and nine to account for and define before we bring this card game to a halt. “Eight” is visitors we fete for the courses which they “ate” when they sat down with us all above the salt!” —http://www.brighthelmstone.net/ken_brown/deck_cards.php

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