Marianna

Introduction

This Italian game is related to the popular game Briscola. The order and value of the cards is the same, but in Marianna there are extra scores for marriages, which are also used to set the trump suit.

This page is based mainy on information provided by Paolo Ronzoni.

Players and Cards

Marianna is a four-player game with fixed partnerships. Players sit opposite their partners. Deal and play are anticlockwise.

A 40-card pack is used, usually a French suited pack without 8's, 9's and 10's with suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. The rank of the cards in each suit from high to low and their values are as follows:

Ace   11 points
Three   10 points
King   4 points
Queen   3 points
Jack   2 points
Seven   0 points
Six   0 points
Five   0 points
Four   0 points
Two   0 points

Additional points are available for declaring a marianna, consisting of the king and queen of a suit held in hand. It is possible to play with Italian suited cards, in which case the horse (cavallo) replaces the queen and a marianna consists of the king and horse of a suit.

The Deal

Any player may deal first. The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts the cards. The dealer then deals five cards face down to each player and places the remainder in a face down stack on the table.

The Play

The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick. Initially there are no trumps. There is no obligation to follow suit: players may play any card to any trick, but a trick can only be won by a card of the suit that was led. Whoever plays the highest card of the suit that was led wins the trick. Beginning with the winner of the trick, each player in turn draws the top card from the stack of undealt cards so that everyone has five cards again. The winner of the trick now leads to the next trick.

At your turn to play to any trick if you hold the king and queen of a suit in your hand, you can declare "marianna" and show them. The first marianna declared scores 40 points for the team. The suit of the marianna becomes trumps from this trick until the end of the play or until another marianna is declared. If another marianna is declared, the trump suit is changed to the suit of the latest marianna. The second marianna scores 60 points, the third 80 points and the fourth 100 points.

After a marianna has been declared, there is still no obligation to follow suit. Players may play any card, but if there is a trump suit and any trumps were played, the trick is won by the highest trump in it. For this purpose, only the suit that is trumps at the end of the trick counts.

A player is not allowed to declare more than one marianna in the same trick, but it may happen that during a single trick two or more different players each declare a marianna. In this case, it is whichever of these players played latest to the trick whose marianna determines the trump suit for this and subsequent tricks.

After the last card has been drawn from the stock it is no longer possible to declare a marianna. The last five trick are played using the cards the players then have in their hands, under the same rules of play but without drawing new cards.

Two other combinations can be declared, if a player is lucky enough to hold one of them.

  • A player who has four queens and a king can declare a mariannino for 250 points. The suit of the king becomes trumps.
  • A player who holds four kings and a queen can decalre a mariannone for 500 points, winning the whole game.

It is not legal to play a marianna and a mariannino in the same trick, but if you declare a marianna, keep the cards and later acquire all the other queens as well you could then declare a marannino. Alternatively, if you have four queens and pick up a king, you can declare mariannino immediately and then, if you keep the king and queen of the same suit, also declare a marianna in the next trick.

Scoring

Each team keeps a cumulative score, starting from zero. At the end of the play, each team counts the points they have won in tricks (total of 120 in the pack) plus any marianne etc. that they have declared and add them to their score. If either team has 501 or more points, the game ends and the team with the higher score wins.

Variations

Some play that marianne are declared at the start of the trick, even by a player who is not the leader to the trick. Before the start of each trick, the player leading to the trick must pause for a few seconds to give anyone who wishes to the chance to declare a marianna. Once a card has been led, no more marianne can be declared until the start of the next trick. If more than one player declares a marianna at the start of the same trick, they are considered to be declared in the order in which cards will be played to the trick, the last of them determining trumps. This creates a kind of tension as a player who holds a marianna will pause to find out whether another player also wishes to announce one. There is also the tactic of "fare morire in mano una marianna", in which you try to discourage another player from delcaring their marianna by acting as though you have a marianna of your own which you will declare later, even though in fact you don't have one.

Some play with lower scores for declaring a marianna: 20 for the first, 40 for the second, 60 for the third, 80 for the fourth.

Some play that a marianna can only be declared by the player who leads to the trick. Therefore, in order to declare a marianna you either have to be the player to delaer's right in the first trick, or to win a trick in order to acquire the lead.

Some play that the trump suit is set by the first marianna. Later marianna declarations score points but do not change the trump suit.

Some allow marianne to be declared in the fifth from last trick, just after the last cards have been drawn from the talon, but not later than this.

500 (Cinquecento)

This is a variant of Marianna played in Sicily. The rules are the same as for Marianna, except for the following differences:

  • Italian suited (Sicialian) cards are used.
  • The first marianna (Re and Cavallo of the same suit) has a value of 40 points and it determines the trump suit.
  • After trumps have been set, other marianna declarations score only 20 points and they don’t change the trump suit.
  • The combinations of mariannino and mariannone don’t exist.
  • Declaring a marianna is called “cantare” (to sing). A player can declare a marianna whenever he wants, even in the middle of a trick. If it is the first one declared, it establishes the trump suit for the current trick and all later tricks.
  • The game ends when a team's score reaches 500 of more points.

Covering

This variant can be played in Marianna or in Cinquecento.

If there are no trumps yet and the leader to a trick has a queen (horse) or a king in his hand, before leading the trick, he can ask his  partner: “Mi copri a ..." ("can you cover me in...") and name the suit of the king or queen/horse - for example "Can you cover me in diamonds?"

If the player's partner has the other card needed to complete a marianna in that suit he may answer "yes". In this case the first player must lead the king or queen/horse and the partner must play the other card of the marianna to the trick. If they win the trick, then they score 20 points (instead of the usual 40 for a marianna in one hand) and the suit is established as trumps. If they don't win the trick, because an opponent plays the ace or three of the suit, they don't score and there are still no trumps.

Once trumps have been set, it is no longer possible to declare a marriage split between two partners.