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Suite Strategy

Further musings from the early 20th century newsletter articles of Sir Eugene Puse (Col. Rtd.)

It is all very well, dear reader, to know and appreciate the finer points of reversing The Lock or how to inter The Bentham Fish with The Leper, but can you transform that miserable three to two 'victory on points' into a glorious four-one knockout? Here are a few hints drawn from your Colonel's long smoke-filled evenings observation of the masters at the 'Twaddling table.

What's the Points?

How does one score a Suite, I hear you cry, gentle reader. The traditional Suite scoring protocol was included in a minor revision of the XIII folio in the 1790s - it is said to be the work of F. E. White, who hailed from Bath in the West Country, playing at the famous, if provincial, Curmudgeon's Club, before taking the high road to London, where his encyclopaedic knowledge of the intricacies of the folios earned him notoriety as a "King's Council" amongst rules lawyers.

According to White's Method, a player earns a 'Singleton Point' whenever he or she wins a game, a 'Puissant Point' for winning the game with the highest scoring total and the 'King's Champion Point' for the highest overall score. Optionally players could agree to a further point "for the Queen", scored whenever a player achieves a Triumphal victory (any score over 50).

The point "for the Queen" is said by some to hark back to the days when Queen Anne Boleyn played at Hampton Court - to assure themselves that they were not so ungallant as to beat the Queen at Coppertwaddle, her courtiers might arrange, after winning the first two games, to yield the last by more than 50, thereby granting her an extra three points (Singleton, Puissant and "for the Queen") and hence a draw.

F.E. White also suggested the removal of a point for a Misere, the least convincing of victories, but was outvoted by his many enemies on the Folio Committee of the Society. The Committee noted in its 14th Proceedings that "deduction of Suite Points is Anathema to the gentlemanly Tenor of the Game of Coppertwaddle".

The point "for the Queen" is not included in the XVth Folio, thus limiting Suite Points to five. [Sir Eugene Puse was writing at the time of an earlier Folio; the current XVIth Folio also awards 1 point to each player for a drawn game. Ed.]

F.E White also introduced the 'Gentleman's Point'. Though not part of any official Folio, this point is commonly awarded to a player who honourably and courteously withdraws from a Suite prior to the end of the second game, usually owing to a prior engagement or ill health. His opponent is automatically awarded 5 Suite Points, but the conceding player earns 1 Point for honour. Conceding in the third game is considered rude and ungentlemanly, and in the 18th century could lead to expulsion from a gentleman's Coppertwaddle club. Lord Alancope of Dagenham was removed from the Society's lists [expelled from the Society of Coppertwaddlers. Ed.] in 1764 for persistent infringement and for defacement of cards, viz shooting the Trumpet with his pistol when his opponent laid the Bentham Fish and Lute & Bellows for the third time in a single Suite!

Cuperas Tortum

I have watched many a titanic struggle at the Coppertwaddling table, and the true master considers the strategic as well as the tactical situation, as we did on the North West Frontier! The Botanist School believed there were five broad types of Coppertwaddle game, which will help our appreciation of the strategic convolutions that may arise, viz

The so-called 'Botanist School' was a famous 19th century club that played at Kew Gardens in Richmond. It produced several well-known players, including the English Champions, P. Taywater and the legendary Jonah Newy. In keeping with the rise of scientific methods, the players developed a theoretical classification of Coppertwaddle akin to the botanical classification of plant species.

The Runaway Train

This game leads to a quick and usually low scoring win. Typically one player is able to play out Threlms, while his opponent has very few Threlms and no Threlm despatchers. Fortunately such games are rare, as they do not indicate the skill of either player.

The Avalanche

In the Avalanche one player is able to play out strong Threlms early into both ranks (e.g. FT, BF + 2h, Sp) backed up by Threlm destroying cards, such as Woe, Tap or Cta [see Notation Article. Ed.], which prevents the opponent from playing powerful Threlms lest they be immediately captured. The first player can then play the game out at leisure, often using only half the Trumpet.

The Riposte

A game of this sort is typified by an even opening, with each player dominating one Rank. Then one (or sometimes both) player commits three or four cards to attack and counterattack, leading to a reversal of the domination of the Superior Rank [Noble Rank. Ed.] The player who dominates the Noble Rank, when cards in hand are few, will often win, but counter-ripostes can happen, because both players tend to use up their Favours very quickly. In a Riposte game the losing player may accumulate many largely useless low power Threlms in hand and in the Peasant Rank towards the end of the game.

The Stalemate

A Stalemate game arises, when players persist in drawing cards of roughly equal power, particularly Favours, so that they cancel out. The Divisors [Capstan, Compass, Sextant and Wheel. Ed.] will often split 2:2 in a Stalemate, and one player is likely to dominate the Nobles, and the other the Peasants. Stalemates can also arise when both players have laid 3 or 4 Peasants, but neither is able to dominate the Noble Rank. The Marriage [The Old Hag and The Curmudgeon. Ed.] may be in play, giving one player the Lock. Both players are likely to have full hands, so attacks can be countered easily.

The Virtuoso

A Virtuoso game is the most elegant and some would say the most satisfying of games. Here the cards are unbalanced, first to one player's advantage, then the other's. The Trumpet gives both players opportunities to use Favours, Declarations and Threlm abilities in offensive and defensive combinations, which can lead to intricate tactical situations. Players will typically have three or four cards in hand and between four and six Threlms in play for most of the game. It differs from a Stalemate in that the game is very volatile, and recoveries from poor situations are common. The most skillful and experienced player will usually win a Virtuoso game.

The Coppertwaddle master will quickly recognise the likely type of game that he is experiencing and will attempt to anticipate the flow of cards from the Trumpet. For instance, while the novice may seek to play Winds always on an opponent, the master may use them in his own Peasant Rank in quantity in order to achieve a Runaway Train win.


Allowing that the masters of our illustrious game prefer the elegant simplicity of a 5-0 victory (!), we should acknowledge that three points is sufficient for our purpose, viz to win. Taking our total to three Suite Points can be achieved by two Singletons plus either a Puissant or a King's Champion. A Singleton is easiest, as even a Misere will reward us with a point. Next comes the King's Champion, because any two wins is likely to yield a further point, two average wins totaling 72, greater than any possible single victory. [It was generally accepted in the Colonel's day, that an 'average' win was 36. The Society's records now show that this has increased in the modern era to just under 38, as modern techniques from other card games are applied to Coppertwaddle. Ed.] Hardest is the Puissant Point, and many players rely on the luck of the draw for this one.

There is of course another route to victory, known since the 18th century as 'riding the Devil's Carriage', because of the infamous 1760 cheating scandal, whose details are well rehearsed elsewhere. When riding the Devil's Carriage, a player loses two games to low scores, often playing Winds and conceding low value Threlms, only to win the third game with a score higher than the opponent's combined total, yielding a Singleton, Puissant and King's Champion from one game.

The heart of Suite Strategy is risk. In the first game it may be worth risking a draw or a defeat by a small score (say, under 35), in order to improve your chances of achieving a large victory of over 45. If you win the first game in this manner, virtually any second victory will yield at least a 3:2 win overall (two Singletons and a King's Champion) and is very likely to yield a 4:1 through the Puissant Point. But losing the first game to a low score is likely to give your opponent only a Singleton, allowing plenty of scope for strategic recovery in games two and three.

Your approach to the second game depends on the result of the first. Should you have won comfortably, you can relax, though it is very impolite to gloat or scoff at your opponent's misfortune. You should aim either for any victory (be sensitive to the Runaway Train, if it can be achieved without undue risk) or at the least a defeat only by a score less than your own, which will keep the pressure on your opponent for the final round. Do not be complacent, as a Riposte could put you in the doldrums, if you lose by a higher score. Few circumstances are more demoralising than winning game one with 48 points only to find your opponent has won game two with 49!

If you have lost the first game, you should aim to win the second with as high a score as possible to set you up for the third game. The end game in game two is particularly important, because you should avoid defeat, while simultaneously trying to win with a higher score than your opponent achieved in game one. Remember that a draw may be quite acceptable, if your opponent has only a small score in game one (say, less than 36). If your opponent already has a large score, it may not be worth risking a drawn second game, in order to achieve a higher score.

Of course it is always difficult to beat BF, MA, Lb, Sp!

I hope these ramblings, dear reader, will aid your own Suite Strategy!

From the pen of Sir Eugene Puse (Col. Rtd.)



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