Creights (a.k.a. Crates, or Craits) is a mash-up of two older card games, Crazy Eights and Uno. Ostensibly developed to give adults a more entertaining and challenging way to play popular children’s games, it’s enjoyed immense popularity throughout North America—especially here in Canada and northern US states—for nearly half a century.
Before we get into the exact origins of Creights, its history will make more sense if you know how to play the game. These links should help:
Traditional Creights Rules
Creights Rule Variations
History of Creights Card Game
Although I can’t seem to find any information pointing to a specific person or date, all documentation indicates that Creights was invented in Cambridge, Massachusetts sometime during the 1970’s; most likely the mid to late 1970’s, based on the evidence below.
It’s derived largely from the children’s classic card game, Crazy Eights, taking its name directly from that title by smashing the two words together. Thus the original name was “Creights”. Over time, the rules spread by word of mouth, inevitably taking on the more linguistically adaptable spelling of “Crates”, or the less common “Craits”.
Unquestionably, Creights also buries its ancestral roots in the game of Uno. That game uses a commercialized deck in which certain cards effect game play. The ‘Reverse‘, ‘Skip‘, and ‘Draw +2‘ are perfect examples. Creights draws from this concept by applying the same, and/or similar, rules to almost every card in the deck. Tens reverse the cycle of play. Fours skip the next player. Fives and Sevens cause one or more players to draw. By some variant rules, the Queen becomes a Draw +2.
There’s also a rule in which players must verbalize when they only have one card remaining. But don’t dare say “Uno!” in a formal setting. You’ll get some very nasty looks, and at least one dumbass card, if not one from every player. The proper term is “one card”, or “last card”.
Digging Deeper into Creights History
In order to dig deeper into this game’s history, we have to go further back to the creation of their ancestors.
Uno was invented in 1971 by a family man from Ohio named Merle Robbins. He had 5,000 decks made, vending them from his barber shop before selling the rights to a friend who launched International Games, Inc. for the sole purpose of marketing Uno. That company was absorbed by Mattel in 1992, and the rest is history.
Crazy Eights is an older game, and the inspiration behind Uno. That game dates back to the 1930s, when it was known simply as “Eights”. It was a favorite of the US military. In fact, it took on the name “Crazy Eights” in the 1940s as a parody of the military’s ‘Section 8‘; the designation for discharging soldiers who were deemed mentally unstable.
It’s the timing of these game releases that is most interesting. Crazy Eights (circa 1930) is clearly the foundation upon which Creights was built, but it was the marketing of Uno (circa 1971) that clearly spurred the development of this popular Canadian card game.
David Parlett, a famous games scholar and author of The Oxford Guide to Card Games and The Oxford History of Board Games (among others), called Cray Eights:
“…not so much a game as a basic pattern of play on which a wide variety of changes can be rung”.
And that’s exactly what happened. Crazy Eights became not just a singular game, but a group of card games, spawning dozens of variants over the last century. Uno is the most famous, due to its commercially marketed deck. The unyielding popularity throughout the 40+ year history Creights puts it in a close second.
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