Card games are always in style—especially in the colder months when you’re looking to stay warm inside. And you can never go wrong with these six card games that all Michiganders seem to love.
MICHIGAN—Michiganders never pass on a Bower. In this state, card games are a big deal.
So to honor one of our most frequent cold weather pastimes, we’ve assembled this list of six of Michigan’s favorite card games—including some that were born right here in the Mitten. Don’t fold your hand just yet. Keep reading, and you might just find your ace in the hole.
Once called the “Queen of all card games,” Euchre is a cooperative card game infamous and beloved among Michiganders for generations. Players use selected cards from a traditional 52-card playing card deck, and compete for points each round with their teammate. The game seems to be known only by residents in America’s “Euchre Belt,” which includes Michigan and other Midwest states like Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
But where did it come from?
Scholars like David Parlett believe Euchre is derived from a French game called Juckerspiel. But in the late 1800s, history shows Euchre came to America with help from German immigrants. Among the earliest references to the game were from actor Joe Cowell’s memoir, where he writes about playing “uker” on a Mississippi river cruise in 1829. Mark Twain also described playing Euchre at Lake Tahoe in his 1872 memoir Roughing It.
One popular origin story details how the daughter of a wealthy German farmer had attempted to play a French casino card game Écarté in 1820s Philadelphia. But having forgotten large portions of the rules, she ended up inventing modern-day Euchre instead.
Another theory claims that, like the UP’s famous pasties, it came from Cornwall immigrants.
Regardless of its exact origins, the game is widely believed to have come from German-speaking immigrants—as Euchre is thought to be an Americanization of “Jucker” in Juckerspiel. Euchre’s most powerful cards, the Bowers, are also believed to be an Americanization of the German word “Bauer,” which translates to farmer or peasant.
Euchre’s popularity soared across the US after the turn of the 19th century—especially in frontier settings like gold mining camps and steamboats. Euchre tournaments also became popular fundraisers, like the 1898 tournament to benefit St. Johns Hospital in New York City.
In the 20th century, Euchre was dethroned to Bridge—which became more fashionable due to its potential for deeper strategies and more possible combinations of hands. And while Euchre never rose back to that level of national prominence, something stuck in Michigan.
There’s no exact historical reason why Euchre remained popular in Michigan, but historians cite its popularity as a simple cultural connection to family and friends. Plus, it’s just the perfect Pure Michigan way to warm up after a snowmobile trip or pass time at deer camp.
It’s not as popular as Euchre, but Michigan has another historic card game. It’s called Flinch.
Flinch uses a custom deck and is thought to be based on a form of competitive Solitaire called Spite and Malice, or Cat and Mouse. The goal of the stockpile game is to discard all of your cards by playing them sequentially. The first person to empty their hand is the winner.
In 1898, Kalamazoo bookkeeper and avid cardplayer Arthur Patterson was working at the Beecher and Kymer stationary store when he had a burst of inspiration for a new card game. At first, Patterson ran the company out of the stationary office—but it quickly became a hit.
Five years after Patterson came to Kalamazoo, Flinch had sold nearly one million games nationwide. In 1936, after selling nearly 8 million copies, Patterson sold the rights to the game to Parker Brothers—and it’s believed to be the inspiration for the game Skip Bo.
What in the Wild
It doesn’t get more Pure Michigan than this card game—because it was literally created by the state of Michigan. It’s called “What in the Wild,” and it’s a creation of the Michigan DNR.
The 120-card deck features five different educational games for a variety of ages, though it’s primarily aimed at teaching school-aged children about Michigan’s great outdoors. All games are intended to be collaborative. Players can use the cards to construct their own ecosystem, assemble habitats, or simply learn about habitat elements and test their memory.
The best part: Profits are used to distribute free copies of the game to Michigan classrooms.
Hide Your Nuts
This squirrel-based card game is the brainchild of two school-based therapists, Ashley Bowker and Ariel Metzger. Bowker is from Bay City, and Metzger is from Jackson—and after bonding over their shared love of games and puzzles, they decided to create their own.
Hide Your Nuts is a game meant for older children and adults, with plenty of adult humor and puns. Players portray squirrels and play cards each turn that will hide their nuts, protect their nuts in play, or act against other players. The first player to hide all their nuts wins the game.
What do you get when two recent college graduates from Michigan decide to work together to design a card game? For Mitchel Metzger and Shane Heller, you get a drinking game.
Beer Pressure takes a night with friends and makes it extra fun. Cards prompt players to perform cognitive tasks such as naming something in a category, or coming up with rhymes—which isn’t always so easy when you’re four or five beers deep.
Cards may also prompt players to vote which person in their friend group best resembles the card’s description, such as “most likely to get arrested.” The goal, of course, is to get someone in the group to drink—although the manufacturers maintain that alcohol consumption is not totally required to play the game. It just might not be quite as fun.
Best Treehouse Ever
Green Couch Games specializes in what’s known as “filler games,” which are essentially just small games that are easy to teach around your kitchen table. Michigan pastor and punk rock enthusiast Jason Kotarski said the idea is to keep things simple—but still plenty of fun.
In Best Treehouse Ever, players put together ridiculously lavish treehouses, with rooms such as entertainment rooms, food rooms, and education rooms. Then, players continue to play to determine how the rooms are scored. A strategy element comes in the form of “Game Changer” cards, which can either increase or decrease the value of certain rooms.
Pro tip: Try playing the game in an actual treehouse, available to rent in Michigan right now!
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