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Happy Families

Happy Families is a traditional 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. The player whose turn it is asks another player for a specific card from the same family as a card that the player already has. 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. The game can be adapted for use with an ordinary set of playing cards (see Go Fish).


The game was devised by John Jaques II, who is also credited with inventing 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 (there was no official credit), are still being made.


The Happy Families children's storybooks, written by Allan Ahlberg, are titled in a similar way to the names of characters in this game.

Family members

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

Family names

Family names, which vary from edition to edition, include:

The eleven families indicated by italics are from Jaques's original edition.


CBBC also showed a children's TV series based on the Happy Families Card Game, including the characters from the game.

Special Editions

In the 1987s, the town of Dartmouth in Devon, UK, produced a special version of the game to commemorate the many real business owners in the town that had names appropriate to their jobs. These were:

Many of the businesses are still there as of 2012.

Tabletop games: Rules and Strategy