The historical importance of Ombre in the field of playing cards is the fact that it was the first card game in which a trump suit was established by bidding rather than by the random process of turning the first card of the stock. This game developed from Triunfo, though it was from L'Hombre that the idea of bidding was adopted into other card games such as Skat, and Tarot, which owes Hombre a good portion of its betting system as well. The game continued to be in vogue almost in every corner of Europe from the late 17th through the 18th centuries.
As with most games, Ombre acquired many variations of increasing complexity over the years, until its popularity was eclipsed by the second quarter of the 18th century by a new four player French variant called Quadrille, later displaced by the English Whist. Other lines of descent and hybridization produced games like Preference, Mediator and Twenty-five. Under the name Tresillo, it survived in parts of Spain during the nineteenth century, as Voltarete in Portugal and Brazil, as Rocambor in countries such as Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia in the twentieth century, and it is still played as LHombre in Denmark, mostly in Jutland and on the island of Funen, where it is organized by the L'Hombre Union.
Daines Barrington, English antiquary and naturalist, says that Ombre was probably introduced in England by Catherine of Braganza, the Queen of Charles II, as Edmund Waller, the court poet, had a poem entitled "On a Card Torn at Ombre by the Queen". She was such a keen player, as were so many members of English high society by the end of 1674, that the Lower House of Parliament proposed to pass an Act against the playing of Ombre, or at least to limit the stakes at 5 pounds, a proposition received as "ridiculous" at that time. But a political pamphlet called: The Royal Game of Ombre, published in London in 1660, supports the inference that the game was known in England before the Restoration. It is not likely that it would be selected as a mask for political allusions, unless that the game had been in general use, or at least pretty generally familiar to the people across the country.
Ombre takes its name from the Spanish phrase originally used by the player who declared trumps: Yo soy el hombre, i.e., "I am the man". It appears to be merely an alteration of the game Primero and it is to be presumed that it was invented prior to the publication of the Dictionary of Sebastin de Covarrubias in 1611, although it makes no mention of it.
Cotton's Compleat Gamester says that there were several sorts of this game, but that which the chief was called "Renegado", at which three only could play, and to whom were dealt nine cards apiece so that by discarding the eights, nines and tens, there would remain thirteen cards in the stock". In Seymour's Complete Gamester, in 1722, where there is a frontispiece to the book in which a party of rank are represented playing at it, it is described as a game so much in fashion that at its peak by the turn of the eighteenth century, it inspired a unique form of furniture - a three-sided card table. According to Jean-Baptiste Bullet, writer and professor of divinity at the University of Besanon, the Spaniards, occasionally, also called this game "Manilla", from the name of the second matador, a word in Spanish signifying a slayer.