Antique 1896 Game of “In Castle Land”
The In Castle Land card game was copyrighted in 1896 by The Fireside Game Company of Cincinnati, USA. The game consists of 52 cards and features images of some of the most celebrated castles of Europe. As can be imagined, playing this game in a time without internet, or even television, the game was an absolute wonderful way for Americans to learn about, and appreciate the immense structures which were not seen in America.
The cards of In Castle Land each display the name of four castles and are marked with both a letter and a number. Play begins by each player being dealt five cards and placing the remaining cards face down in a center pile. Game play is much like the children’s game of ‘Go Fish’. Players strive to collect a complete set of four cards (called a ‘book’), by asking other players for those cards needed to do so. For example, if a player has the card A-1, Blarney Castle, in his hand, he may ask for Kilkenny Castle (A-3) from another player of his choice.
If the player asked, has the card, he must give the card to his opponent. If not, the asking player draws from the center pile and play continues to the left. The winner is the player with the most ‘books’ once all cards are used. The directions inside the box suggest younger players who cannot read, can still readily play by merely calling out the letter and number on the cards.
Besides each card illustrating an image of a castle (some in ruins), there is a brief description of the structure as well. Some examples of the amazing cards are shown below:
Torthorwald Castle, near Dumfries, Scotland- Its name is supposed to signify “The Woodland Tower of Thor.” Tradition says it was built by a shoemaker with an exhumed treasure.
(creates book with Richmond, Bodiam, and Tantallon Castle)
Warwick Castle- this castle is built on a rock overlooking the Avon. It is considered the finest of the feudal residences in England. Its cellars are hewn out of solid rock.
(creates book with Kenilworth, Windsor, and Hawarden castles)
Carew Castle, England- this old palace was founded about the 1100. The old gateway, walls, and towers overgrown with ivy, are all that now remain of this once beautiful residence.
(creates book with Hastings, Hurstmonceaux and Creystoke castles)
The Fireside game company published several card games of similar style as In Castle Land. Even though the games played much the same way, they offered different subject matters to be enjoyed. The goal of the company (with these games), was not so much in providing a new method of play, but in giving players interesting cards to gain knowledge from.
For example, The 1897 Mayflower card game displayed and described scenes of early Plymouth. Some of which are not presently seen. Another title, the 1899 New Testament game, included images of works by renowned painters, like Raphael, Rubens, da Vinci, or Reni. By sharing these depictions on the cards, the games offered players valuable glimpses into the world around them. They were fantastic then, and are cherished by collectors today.