Kings of France, or Charlemagne

by Charles Elliot

Charles Elliot is a graduate student in Educational Technology at San Diego State University. He is CEO of MindStar, Inc., the nonprofit for mental health education. He is studying for a career as a writer/producer of multimedia materials for CD-ROM and Web-Based Education.

Instructional Objective The learners will be able to match the Kings of France to the appropriate royal house for each king. For example, Charles VII belonged to the house of Valois. In the affective domain, the students will have fun in learning what is considered to be an uninteresting subject.

Learners/Context The learners are students in an advanced studies course in eleventh-grade history in San Diego schools. Each learner has studied or is currently studying the history of France, which focuses on the policies of the various kings. The students have a familiarity with the most famous of the kings. By being in the advanced studies program, the students have made a commitment to be zealous in learning as much as possible about history.

The game is designed to be played during or after class to expand and reinforce the content that has been learned about the kings of France, and also to provide knowledge about other kings whom the students have not as yet studied. The game is for fun and enrichment. The game is fun because it is in the format of a card game, which usually connotes fun. It is fun because it involves putting ideas together. It is engaging because it provides a reward, winning, in exchange for concentration and playing by the rules. Winning is possible without knowing all of the facts.

Rationale A game is an appropriate format for this content because the material is presented visually with pictures of the kings (and in a later version, maps of their reigns). The game format is also appropriate because the matching objective can be directly performed and observed with cards. The particular rules of the game reinforce the order inherent in the subject itself. The card game is portable. It is quick and easy to play in almost any situation. The rules are familiar, so they do not inhibit the learners from trying to play the game.


  1. Number of players. Two to five people may play at the same time.
  2. Object. The object of the game is to accumulate the most points by having the most cards discarded as runs as described below.
  3. Playing the game. The dealer deals seven cards to each player. Each player sorts his or her cards in order by royal house, possibly using the king number or date printed on each card. The dealer places the remaining cards face down and the top card is turned over to begin the discard stack. The first player clockwise from the dealer picks up the top card on the discard stack, determines which card to keep, and discards the extra card. Play continues, moving clockwise. Whenever a player has a run of three cards within one royal house, the player puts down the cards and says what they are. A wild card counts as any king card.

    Play continues until the discard stack is out. The dealer then shuffles this stack and places it down for play to continue. Points are scored with 100 points for each king or wild card correctly placed down in a run, and 250 points for Charlemagne.

    If more than one game is played, points are added for each game. The game is then over when a player reaches a predetermined score. If a time limit is set instead, the winner is the player with the highest score at the end of the period.

Card Design Each card depicts a king of France on the front side with the king's name, picture if available, the years of his reign, his royal house, a very brief historical note, and the king number for sorting by players. On the back of each card is the map of France and the fleur-de-lis, the armorial emblem of the kings of France. The cards are the same size as playing cards.

Deck Design The deck has a total of 52 cards: 5 suits of royal houses with a varying number cards in each suit, totaling 48 cards; 4 wild cards. The names of each suit and the number of cards in each is as follows:

  1. pre-Carolingian (2) and Carolingian (11), combined as (13)
  2. Capets (14)
  3. Valois (13)
  4. Bourbon -pre-revolution (5)
  5. Bourbon restored (2) and Orleans (1), combined as (3)

Sample Cards

Front: King Charles IX

Back: map of France with fleur-de-lis

Design Process I wanted to do a game for a topic that was new to me, or at least different from the mental health and substance abuse topics that I have been and am working on for other courses. I wanted to do a fun topic. A few months ago I became very interested in the kings of France when I did some genealogy research. I learned that I can really relate to some of these kings. So, when I read in the Ellington readings that he encouraged a game like the Kings and Queens of England, I knew that I had my topic. However, in re-reading this article, I disagreed that 42 monarchs would not be too hard for children. Then, the French kings turned out to total 48. I felt that this would even be too hard for high school history students, and would be much more information than they would be ordinarily learning. I decided to keep the element of sorting by royal house, but to add the king numbers to each card, to make it easier to play.

I felt that a "happy family" format would be too difficult, picking up to more than 40 cards, and I stayed with the rummy format, with additional runs being added by players.

On the card design, I had wanted to include the map of each king's reign, including the capitals that he conquered. At times France was equivalent to all of Europe. I decided to eliminate this element because it is too complex for the learner and would take very many more hours of research and drawing by the designer.

I had the rules require a run to be three consecutive cards within one royal house, but I changed this so that there could be any three cards. This change was to make the playing a lot easier.


The American heritage dictionary of the English language, 3rd ed. (1992). no city: Houghton Mifflin. In Microsoft Bookshelf '95.

Ellington, H., et al. (1982). A handbook of game design. London: Kogan Page.

The world almanac and book of facts 1995. (1994). no city: Funk & Wagnalls. In Microsoft Bookshelf '95.

Leipnik, Erik. Cromwell. In Cardboard Cognition.

Last updated by Charles Elliot on November 18, 1996.

Return to the Card Game Table of Contents.

Educational Technology 670, Fall 1996.