Scala Quaranta

Introduction

Scala Quaranta (Scala 40) is a popular Italian rummy game with some similarities to North European Kalookie.

Players, Cards and Objective

Scala Quaranta is played by 2 to 6 players using a double deck of standard (International) cards including four jokers (52 cards plus 2 jokers in each deck, for a total of 108 cards). Deal and play are clockwise.

As in all rummy games the objective is, by drawing and discarding, to collect sets of three or more equal cards and sequences of three or more cards in suit. Such combinations can be laid down as melds. The winner is the player who manages to 'close' the game by melding all his or her cards but one, and discarding the final card.

For the purpose of melding and scoring the cards have point values as follows:

  • 2 - 10: face value
  • J, Q, K: 10 points each
  • Ace: 11 points in a set of Aces or a high sequence (QKA) or in a player's hand, but only 1 point in a low sequence (A23).
  • Joker: 25 points in a player's hand, but when used as a wild card in a meld it takes the point value of the card it represents.

Melds

Sequences
A sequence consists of three or more consecutive cards of the same suit. For this purpose the order of cards in a suit is (A-)2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K(-A). An Ace can be either at the top of a sequence, next to the King or at the bottom of a sequence next to the Two, but not in the middle: K-A-2 is not valid. It is not possible to use two Aces of the same suit in a sequence, but a 14-card sequence meld consisting of an entire suit plus a Joker is allowed. It is possible to meld two or more sequences in the same suit and these may overlap or may even be identical.
Sets
A set consists of three or four cards of the same rank and different suits. For example diamond3-heart3-spade3 and clubK-diamondK-heartK-spadeK are valid sets but heart9-club9-club9 is not valid. It is possible to meld more than one set of the same rank.
Melds cannot intersect
The same card cannot belong to more than one meld (a set and a sequence) at the same time. For example club9-diamond9-heart9-heart8-heart7 is not a legal meld, but club9-diamond9-heart9; heart9-heart8-heart7 could be melded together as a set and a sequence.
Jokers
A set or sequence can include one Joker, used as a substitute for one of its cards. A single meld is not allowed to include more than one Joker.
When putting down a meld including a Joker or adding a Joker to a meld the player must specify exactly which card the Joker represents. In a sequence this is clear from the position of the Joker - for example in Joker-spade7-spade8 the Joker represents the spade6 and not the spade9. This sequence can be extended by adding the spade5 or the spade9 but not the spade6 or spade10.
A player who puts down a three-card set including a Joker must announce which of the two missing suits the Joker represents. Some players use the position of the Joker to indicate its suit as follows. If the two real cards are different colours, the Joker represents the other suit of the same colour as the card next to it. If the two real cards are the same colour then a Joker next to a spade represents a heart and vice versa, and a Joker next to a club represents a diamond and vice versa. So in heart10-spade10-Joker the Joker stands for the 10 of clubs, and in Joker-heart7-diamond7 the Joker stands for the 7 of Spades.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by lot and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

The dealer shuffles the pack and the player to dealer's right cuts. The dealer than deals out the cards one at a time, starting with the player to dealer's left and continuing clockwise until everyone has 13 cards. The remaining cards are stacked face down on the table to form a drawing stock, and the top card of this stack is turned face up and placed alongside it to start the discard pile.

Play

The player to dealer's left plays first, and the players take turns in clockwise order around the table. A turn consists of:

  1. drawing one card and adding it to one's hand;
  2. optionally laying down some meld or adding to meld that is already on the table;
  3. discarding one card face up on the discard pile, which ends the player's turn.

Drawing

A player may draw the top card from the stock pile. For a player who has not yet opened (laid down meld), this is the only option.

A player who has melded (opened) may instead take the top card of the discard pile, provided that this card is immediately melded, either as part of a new set or sequence or to extend an existing set or sequence. A player is never allowed to take the top card of the discard pile and keep it in hand or discard it.

Melding

Taking one or more sets and sequences from your hand and placing them face up on the table is known as melding. If you have not previously melded, then in order to meld for the first time (known as opening) you must put down new sets and/or sequences from your hand with a total value of at least 40 points. (The name of the game - Scala 40 - refers to this minimum.) You cannot add cards to melds that are already on the table until after you have opened.

Example: Joker-club9-club8, diamond5-heart5-spade5 is a valid opening meld provided that the Joker is used to stand for the 10 of clubs and not the 7: 10+9+8+5+5+5=42.

A player who has opened can, in the same or subsequent turns:

  • lay down further new melds;
  • add cards to existing melds on the table, extending a sequence at either end or extending a set of three by adding an equal card of the fourth suit;
  • replace a Joker on the table by the real card that it represents, and take the Joker either to use in another meld or to keep in hand for future use.

Melds on the table do not belong to any particular player. Players may add valid cards to any set or sequence on the table, irrespective of who originally melded it.

Discarding

At the end of every turn you must discard one card from your hand face up on the discard pile. If you have not yet opened, it is illegal to discard a Joker or any card which could be used to extend a meld on the table.

You may discard the card that you just picked up from the stock. You cannot discard the card you just picked up from the discard pile, since a card picked up from the discard pile must immediately be used in a meld.

Discarding your last card is known as closing, and this ends the play. You are not allowed to meld all the cards in your hand, leaving yourself with no discard. For example if the only cards you have left are two different sixes and you draw a six of a third suit, you are not allowed to put down a meld of three sixes, leaving yourself with no card to discard.

Players are not allowed to close during their first turn to play. Everyone must have one complete turn before anyone is allowed to close.

Depleted Stock

If a player draws the last card of the stock pile, all the cards in the discard pile are shuffled and stacked face down to make a new stock pile. The discard of the player who took the last card from the stock begins a new discard pile.

Scoring

When the play ends, all players count and score the total value of the cards remaining in their hands (Jokers 25, Aces 11, pictures 10, other cards face value).

The player who closed the game has no cards and therefore scores zero. Each of the other players adds the value of their remaining cards to their cumulative total.

Any player whose score equals or exceeds 101 retires from the game, and the others continue to play. The last surviving player when all others have been eliminated is the winner.

Variations

Scala Quaranta has many variants, some of which are listed below.

Single Game
Some play that each deal is a separate event. The player who closes simply wins. In this case there is no need for the other players to count the value of their remaining cards.
Higher Target Score
Some play that the score at which a player is eliminated from the game is 151 or 201 rather than 101. This target score should be agreed before beginning the game.
Re-entering the Game
Many people play that a player who reaches or exceeds the target score is not eliminated if there is more than one player still in the game. Instead, the scores of all players who have reached or passed the target are reset equal to the highest score of any player who is below the target.
No elimination
Instead of eliminating players from the game when they reach a certain score, some play until the player with the highest score reaches or passes a certain total. At that point the game stops and the player with the lowest score is the winner. Apparently the game may be played to 1000, 1500 or even 2000, though this would be a rather long game.
Card Values
Some count the Jack as 11, Queen 12, King 13 and Ace 14 when in a set or at the top of a sequence. In this case a set of three Aces is sufficient to open. In addition, for a Joker remaining in a player's hand, some charge only the same as an Ace, in this variant 14 instead of 25.
Earlier use of the Discard Pile
Some allow a player who has not yet opened to draw the top card of the discard pile, provided that this card is immediately used as part of the player's opening meld.
Open and Close in the same Turn
Sometimes a player who still holds 13 cards (having not yet opened) manages after drawing to meld 13 cards and discards the last card, thus opening and closing in the same turn. Some play that in this case all the other players score twice the values of the cards remaining in their hands.
Close on the first turn
Some allow a player to close at his or her first turn to play. In this case, players who have not had a chance to play score all their cards as penalty points, even if their hand already contains the cards needed for an initial meld of 40 or more points.
Penalty for not having opened
It may happen that a player closes when some other players have not yet opened. Some play that such players score a fixed penalty of 100 points instead of counting the value of the 13 cards in their hands.
Discarding Playable Cards
There are apparently several versions of the rule against discarding a card which could be added to a set or sequence on the table. Discarding a playable card may or may not be allowed in three situations: for a player who has not yet opened, for a player who has opened but not closed, and as the last discard when closing. Banning playable discards creates a problem that in rare cases a player may have no legal discard. This can be largely but not completely avoided by allowing playable discards for a player who is closing.
First player may take the turned up card
Some play that the first player - the player to dealer's left - may start the game by taking the card turned up by the dealer instead of the top card of the stock, even if the player is unable to meld this card. This is the only case in which a card from the face up pile can be drawn and kept in the player's hand.
No discard required when closing
Some allow a player to close by melding all his or her cards after drawing, so that the player has no card to discard at the end of this last turn.
Four of a kind is discarded
Some play that when a a player has a meld of four equal cards of different suits (without Jokers), this is placed on the discard pile, so that the cards will be recycled into the new stock in the event that the stock runs out and is reconstituted from the discard pile. This is done during a player's turn, so that it is covered by the player's discard. Since the four of a kind cannot be extended and none of its cards can be taken from the discard pile, this rule has no effect on the game unless the stock pile runs out.
Splitting sequences
Rules for Scala Quaranta in 20th century card game books specify that no sequence can be longer than five cards. Anyone who creates a longer sequence, either from hand or by adding cards to an existing sequence on the table, must break the sequence into shorter sequences of 3-5 cards each. However, at the time of writing (2014) the official rules of the Federazione Italiana Scala 40 and other rules published on the web do not mention this restriction on the length of a sequence, or the possibility of splitting a sequence. So presumably most people now allow longer sequences and do not allow sequences to be split. This makes a difference where for example there is a sequence spade5-spade6-spade7-spade8-spade9 on the table and you have spade4 and spade6 in your hand. Under the old rule you could add the 4 to the sequence, split it and then add the 6 creating spade4-spade5-spade6, spade6-spade7-spade8-spade9. Under the new rule you can add the 4 but not insert the 6 because the sequence cannot be split.
Jokers in sets and sequences
Some allow a set or sequence to contain more than one Joker.

Other Scala 40 web pages

The Federazione Italiana Scala 40 publishes 'official' rules of this game.

The Wikipedia page Scala 40 has rules of the game and a collection of variations.

Software and Online Games

You can play Scala Quaranta online at Ludopoli.

Antonio Ferraioli has written a Scala Quaranta app for iPhone or iPad.

Alberosa publishes Windows software for Scala Quaranta (provided in English under the name "40 Flush").

At RummyRoyal you can play Scala 40 for money. In the English language version of their site this game is offered under the name 'Kalooki 40'.