Happy Families

Happy Families is a traditional British card game usually with a specially made set of picture cards, featuring illustrations of fictional families of four, most often based on occupation types. The object of the game is to collect complete families, and the game is similar to Go Fish.

Happy Families
Happy Families cards.jpg
Two cards from an 1880s edition of Jaques's Happy Families
Alternative namesQuartett, Ablegspiel
Players3–4 (2–8)
Age range3+[1]
DeckProprietary or standard cards
Easy to play

In Germany and Austria, the game is known as Quartett or Ablegspiel (in Upper Austria and Styria) and is not restricted to sets of four people, but covers other topics such as farm animals or tractors. The game can also be adapted for use with an ordinary set of playing cards.


A 'family' from a set of old German Quartett cards. Each card lists the three others that it groups with.

The player whose turn it is asks another player for a specific card. If the asked player has the card, he gives it to the requester and the requester can then ask any player for another card. If the asked player does not have the card, it becomes his turn and he asks another player for a specific card. Play continues in this way until no families are separated among different players. The player with the most cards wins.

One of the rules states that a player cannot ask for a certain card to deceive any player if he does not have a card in the set he is asking for.[2]


The game was devised by John Jaques Jr. who is also credited with popularizing tiddlywinks, ludo and snakes and ladders, and first published before the Great Exhibition of 1851. Cards following Jaques's original designs, with grotesque illustrations possibly by Sir John Tenniel[3] (there was no official credit), are still being made.

Family membersEdit

The names of the family members are structured as follows, where X stands for a surname and Y for an occupation.

  • Mr X the Y
  • Mrs X the Y's Wife
  • Master X the Y's Son
  • Miss X the Y's Daughter

The eleven families in Jaques' original edition were:[4]

  • Block, the Barber
  • Bones, the Butcher
  • Bun, the Baker
  • Bung, the Brewer
  • Chip, the Carpenter
  • Dip, the Dyer
  • Dose, the Doctor
  • Grits, the Grocer
  • Pots, the Painter
  • Soot, the Sweep
  • Tape, the Tailor

In popular cultureEdit

The Happy Families children's storybooks, written by Allan Ahlberg, are titled in a similar way to the names of characters in this game. In 1989 and 1990, Children's BBC aired a children's TV series based on the series of books.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kartenspiele für Kinder – Beschäftigung für Schmuddelwetter at www.vaterfreuden.de. Retrieved 23 April 2019
  2. ^ http://www.pagat.com/quartet/gofish.html#families
  3. ^ "Jaques' Happy Families" Archived 12 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Wintle, Simon. "Jaques' Happy Families". The World of Playing Cards. Retrieved 22 May 2019.