Briscola



A deck of Italian cards consist of 40 cards, divided into four suits: Coins, Cups, Swords, and Clubs (or batons). The values on the cards range numerically from one through seven, plus three face cards in each suit: Knave [Fante in Italian], Knight [Cavallo in Italian], and King [Re in Italian]. A Knave is a lone human figure standing. The Knight is a human figure riding a horse. The King is a human figure wearing a crown. To determine the face value of any numeric card, simply count the number of suit icons on the card. The ace card of coins is usually a type of bird with circle in the middle.



Below is a table identifying card rank and point values. Unlisted cards have no point value, and are ranked in descending ordinal value, from seven to two. Note however the odd ranking of the three.


Rank and point value of cards

Cards, by Rank

Point Value

Ace (asso)

11

Three (3) (tre)

10

King (re)

4

Knight (or Horse) (cavallo)

3

Knave (or Jack) (fante)

2


In total, a deck has 120 points. To win a game, a player must accumulate more points than any other player.


Game play


After the deck is shuffled, each player is dealt three cards or if playing with two players 9 cards (bisca dos 9). The next card is placed face up on the playing surface, and the remaining deck is placed face down, sometimes covering half of the up-turned card. This card is the Briscola, and represents the trump suit for the game. The deal, and game play itself, proceeds counter-clockwise. The player to the right of the dealer leads the first hand (or trick) by playing one card face up on the playing surface. Each player subsequently plays a card in turn, until all players have played one card. The winner of that hand is determined as follows:


  • if any briscola (trump) has been played, the player who played the highest valued trump wins
  • if no briscole (trumps) have been played, the player who played the highest card of the lead suit wins


Unlike other trump card games, players are not required to follow suit, that is, to play the same suit as the lead player.
Once the winner of a trick is determined, that player collects the played cards, and places them face down in a pile. Each player maintains his/her own pile, though the four- and six-player versions may have one player collecting all tricks won by his partners. Then, each player draws a card from the remaining deck, starting with the player who won the trick, proceeding counter-clockwise. Note that the last card collected in the game should be the up-turned Briscola. The player who won the trick leads the next hand. Before the last hand, people in the same team can look at each other's cards. After all cards have been played, players calculate the total point value of cards in their own piles. For multi-player games, partners combine their points. There also exists a variation whereby the three, is ranked as a three (i.e. a four can beat it) but maintains its status as worth 10 points.