Playing Happy Families

Familles Champions, Famille Ballon

It’s lucky that my parents live in a large house and never throw anything away; otherwise I would never have rediscovered this pack of Happy Families cards.

Strictly speaking, this game is called Jeu des 7 Familles because it was bought during a family holiday in France in 1972. This pack is “Familles Champions”, featuring seven families engaged, with varying degrees of skill, in a range of athletic pursuits.

Familles Champions, Famille Duski

There’s nothing special about the quality of the cards themselves: they’re not varnished or laminated and the reverse is just a plain orange colour. What makes each of the families so memorable is the humorous style of the illustrations.

Familles Champions, Famille Duvelo

From the burly father in Famille Ballon, to the Victorian-looking grandmother in Famille Duvelo, each of the 42 cards suggests a real personality with his/her own back story. Here they are 40 years later, frozen in time – especially the snowbound mother of Famille Duski.

Familles Champions, Famille Raquette

I still have the box for these cards, but there is no logo, date or manufacturer’s name, let alone a clue as to who did these illustrations. We did have a second set of Happy Families cards during that holiday; I think they featured more traditional occupations, such as bakers and butchers.

These days, family games have migrated to the iPad, while everyone sits around complaining about the wi-fi speeds in the holiday apartment. Jeu des 7 Familles could be played anywhere and was guaranteed to improve your French vocabulary.

A few years after that French holiday, I got interested in tennis and even took lessons for a while. I like to think that I was inspired by the efforts of Famille Raquette.

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