Scopa is an Italian game.

Its basic principles are fairly simple, but playing it well requires skill and a good memory.

Players and Cards

Scopa is played by 2 players.

An Italian 40 card pack is used, often the Neapolitan pattern with the Latin suits: swords (spade), clubs (bastoni), cups (coppe) and coins (danari). The cards in each suit are Re (Italian for King), Cavallo (Italian for Horse, but equivalent to Queen in the French suite), Fante (Soldier, Jack in the French suite), 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace.

The cards have point values for capturing, and a separate set of point values that are only used in scoring the Prime:

Card             Capture value       Value in Prime

Re (King)             10                    10
Cavallo (Queen)        9                    10
Fante (Jack)           8                    10
Seven                  7                    21
Six                    6                    18
Five                   5                    15
Four                   4                    14
Three                  3                    13
Two                    2                    12
Ace                    1                    16 

The Deals

The first dealer is choosen randomly. The dealer shuffles and the dealer's opponent cuts.

Dealer gives a packet of three cards face down to his opponent, then another packet of three to himself, and finally four cards face up to the centre of the table.

If three or all four of the table cards are kings, the cards are thrown in and there is a new deal by the same dealer.

The dealer's opponent plays first, and the turn pass to dealer and back again until all the three cards have been played. When this happens, other two packets of three cards are dealed like in first round, but no cards are added on the table.

The Play

A turn in the play consists of playing one card face up to the table, which may capture one or more table cards. In the event of a capture, both the played card and the captured card(s) are taken and stored face down in front of one of the player who made the capture. If there is no capture the played card remains face up on the table. In either case the turn then passes to the other player.

The capturing rules are as follows:

  1. if the rank (capture value) of the card played matches that of a table card, the table card is captured;
  2. if the card played matches more than one table card, then just one of the matching table cards is captured - the player of the capturing card chooses which;
  3. if the card played does not match any table card, but its capture value is equal to the sum of the capture values of two or more table cards, then that set of table cards is captured - if there are several possible sets which add up to the value of the played card, the player of the capturing card chooses which to take;
  4. if the capture value of the card played does not match any table card or sum of table cards, then there is no capture and the played card remains face up on the table.

Important points to note:

  • there is no obligation to play a card which makes a capture - it is legal (and sometimes better play) simply to add a card to the table;
  • however if the played card does make a capture, the captured cards must be taken, even if the player would prefer to leave them on the table;
  • if a card matches both a single card and a sum of cards on the table, the single card must be captured, not the group.

Example. The table contains 3, 5, 5, Fante. Playing a 5 captures one of the 5s from the table at the player's choice. Playing a Re (king) captures both 5s. Playing a Fante (jack) captures the one on the table - the player is not allowed to take the 5 and the 3 instead.

After all the cards from the players hands have been played, the last player who made a capture also takes any face up cards remaining on the table.

The Scoring

There are four points available to be won on each deal:

  1. The Cards. The point is won by whichever player takes the majority of the cards. If they split 20-20 the point is not awarded.
  2. The Coins. The point is won by whichever player takes more cards of the coins suit (or diamonds if you are using international cards). If they split 5-5 the point is not awarded.
  3. The Seven of Coins. The point is won by whichever player takes the 7 of coins (diamonds), known as the 'sette bello' (beautiful seven).
  4. The Prime (in Italian: la primiera). The point is won by the player with the best prime. In practice this is usually who has collected more sevens, but the actual rule is as follows. A prime consists of one card of each suit, and the cards have special point values for this purpose, as shown in the table. The value of the prime is got by adding up the values of its cards and whichever player can construct the more valuable prime wins the point. If both players' primes are worth the same, the prime point is not awarded. If a player has no cards at all of one suit then it will automatically lose to a player with a card in all four suits: even three jacks and a seven (51 points) is sufficient to beat three sevens with no card in the fourth suit. In the rare case where both players are missing an entire suit, the prime point is won by player with the higher point total using the best card from each of the three suits that they have.

    It is worth knowing that the ranking of the cards for the prime is 7 (highest), 6, ace, 5, 4, 3, 2, pictures (lowest) - so if you are tied on sevens, it is worth trying to capture sixes, then aces, and so on.

The Sweep

In addition to the points mentioned above, you also win a point for each sweep (Italian scopa). You score a sweep when you play a card which captures the all table cards, leaving the table empty. Traditionally, the capturing card is placed face up in the trick-pile of the capturing side, so that the number of sweeps made by each side can easily be seen when the scoring is done at the end of the play.

Taking the last cards from the table at the end of a hand never counts as a sweep, even if the last card played by the dealer does actually capture all the remaining table cards.

Winning the Game

The first player to have 11 or more points at the end of a hand wins. If both sides reach 11 in the same hand the side with more points wins. If both are equal, play further hands until one side has more points at the end of a hand.

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