Marafon - Beccaccino

This page is based on contributions from Sergio Mastromarino and Stefano Bagnara.

Introduction

The card game Marafon-Beccaccino is charateristic of the Italian province Romagna. It is a 4-player partnership game based on Tressette, but with the addition of a trump suit. This is a relatively recent development - we do not know of any reference to Beccaccino in print before 1971, when the word appeared in Libero Ercolani's Vocabolario romagnolo-italiano e italiano-romagnolo (Edizioni del Girasole, Ravenna). The game was known earlier by the name "tri sett cun el taj" ("Tressette with cutting", where "cutting" means using a trump to beat a non-trump). Nowadays it is known as Beccaccino near Faenza, as Marrafone near Forlì, and other variants of the name such as Maraffone, Maraffa or Marafon are also found. The composite name was coined in Alteo Dolcini's book Il Pricipe di Romagna, Marafon-Beccaccino (Imola, 1975) which attempts to lay down official rules for the game.

Two other games related to the Marafon-Beccaccino are also played in Romagna. Trionfo is a 5-player variation, which inspired the book Il Bedégo by Nevio Manaresi (Imola, 1991). It is described below. Mattazza or Matta, is a Tressette-like game in which the aim is to avoid taking tricks. It is thus similar to Traversone or Rovescino and is described on the page for those games.

Players and Cards

Marafon-Beccacino is a partnership point-trick game for four players. Partners sit facing each other. Like most Italian card games, this game is played anti-clockwise.

A 40-card Latin suited pack of the Romagnole pattern is used. The suits are coins, cups, swords and clubs and the cards of each suit rank from high to low: 3, 2, Ace, King, Horse, Jack, 7, 6, 5, 4. The aim is to take valuable cards in tricks, the values being as follows:

Each ace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . one whole point
Each 3, 2, King, Horse, Jack . .one third of a point
The last trick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . one whole point

These card ranks and values are the same as in Tressette.

  • The lowest four cards in a suit - 7, 6, 5, 4 - are known as scartine. They are worth nothing.
  • The picture cards King (Re), Horse (Cavallo) and Jack (Fante) are called figure.
  • The highest three cards - the 3, 2 and Ace - are called cricche (each of them is a cricca).

The Deal and Making Trumps

The dealer shuffles and the player to dealer's left cuts. 10 cards are dealt to each player, anticlockwise, in batches of five at a time.

After the deal, one of the players chooses and announces the trump suit for the hand. This player is called the "battezzante" because he names (baptises) the trump suit. A complete hand of 10 tricks is called a "battezzata".

For the very first deal of a session, the battezzante is the player who was dealt the 4 of coins. In the second and subsequent deals, the battezzante is the player to dealer's right. The battezzante in each hand deals the following hand, so after the second deal, the turn to deal passes to the right.

The choice of trumps must be made without any discussion or signalling between partners. For this reason, in the second and subsequent deals, the partner of the "battezzante", the player to dealer's left, is not allowed to look at his own cards before the trump announcement has been made.

The Play

The battezzante leads to the first trick. Any card may be led, and the other players must play in turn a card of the suit led ("andare liscio") if they have one. A player with no card of the suit led may eitherplay a trump ("tagliare") or discard a card of another non-trump suit. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick unless a trump has been played, in which case, the highest trump wins. The winner of each trick leads to the next trick.

A player who holds the highest three trumps - 3, 2 and Ace - can declare them during the first trick for a score of 3 extra points for the player's team. This combination is known as "marafona", "cricca", "maraffa" or sometimes "napoletana".

When leading to a trick, you may make one of the following announcements:

  • "Busso" means that you want your partner to play his highest card in the suit you led, and if this wins the trick, to lead the suit back. "Busso" can also be announced by knocking on the table (or on the led card).
  • "Volo" means that you have no further cards of the suit led. "Volo" can be also announced by throwing the led card so that it flies through the air and lands gently on the table.
  • "Striscio" means that you have, in addition to the card you are leading, one or more low cards (king or lower) of the suit led. "Striscio" can also be announced by sliding the card you are leading onto the table.

Players are not allowed to make more than one announcement in the same trick. Misleading the other players by making false announcements is not illegal, though it is usually unwise.

The Scoring

Once all 10 tricks have been played each side scores the total value of all cards it has won in tricks. As mentioned above, the side that wins the last trick gets 1 additional point. The total points available (including the one for last trick) amount to eleven and two thirds, but fractions are disregarded. So the total points scored on each deal (apart from points for "marafona" are actually 11 (two thirds of a point being thrown away). For example if one side scores 7 and one third points, their score is actually 7, while the other side scores 4.

The partnership which first reaches 41 points wins the game. This will normally take several deals. Usually 2 games (the brutte) are played; in case of a tie, a third game, la bella, is then played to decide the result of the match.

A player can stop the play at any point and claim that his side has reached 41 points with the tricks already won up to that point plus the points for any marafona declared. Players are not allowed to look at previous tricks, so they need to keep a mental running total of their score. If the claim is correct the claiming side wins (irrespective of the other side's total); if it is incorrect, the claiming side loses. The possibility of claiming affects the strategy of the game when the scores are close to 41.

A side that does not make any points in a battezzata is said to be cappotto, but there is no special score for this. The winners simply score 11 points (or 14 if they declared a marafona).

Variations

Some play to 31 points instead of 41. Many play two games to 31 and the third deciding game - "la bella" - to 41 if needed.

Some play that a side that claims need at least 31 and 1/3 points to win; 31 points are not enough, and the 3 points for "cricca" or "marafon" do not count when claiming.

There are some variations in the declaration of a cricca or marafona.

  • Some limit the declaration of marafona to the battezzante only. Others allow any of the four players to declare it if they are lucky enough to hold the top three trumps.
  • Some play that in order to declare marafona, the battezzante must begin by leading the ace of trumps.

Some allow two further announcements when leading to a trick:

  • "Fuori tutto", when the card led is a trump and none of the top three (3, 2, A) has yet been played, means that the player has none of these top three trumps - they are "all out".
  • "Taglia", when leading a non-trump, invites partner to play a trump to win the trick.

Some play that if the battezzante is dealt 10 cards that are worth in total less than one point and one figura (i.e. less than one and one third points) he is allowed to "mandare a monte": the deal is abandoned and the cards are redealt by the same dealer.

Some expressions derived from Tressette are used to describe certain strong card combinations. These are not allowed as "declarations" during the game - they are terms that are sometimes used in discussion after a game:

  • "Venticinque" (twenty-five) means the 3 and 2 of a suit.
  • "Ventotto" (twenty-eight) means the 2 and Ace of a suit.
  • "Ventinove" (Twenty-nine) means the 3 and Ace of a suit.

These numbers are based on the card values in the old game Primiera, in which the 3 counts thirteen, the 2 counts twelve and the Ace counts sixteen. Each of these two-card combinations, when accompanied by one more card of the same suit is described as "terzo", with 2 more cards "quarto", etc. For example the "ventinove quinto" (28 fifth) is the 3, Ace and three more cards of the same suit. This is similar to the English terminology used in for example Bridge, where one might say "I had the King to three" or "King third" or "King three times" meaning the King and two others of a suit.

Trionfo

Trionfo, also known as Trionfino is for 5 players with variable partnerships. In each deal the players bid for the right to choose the trump suit. The lowest bid also allows the bidder to call a partner so that there are two teams, 2 players against 3; the higher bids require the bidder to play alone against a team of 4.

The deal

Eight cards are dealt to each player, in batches of four. In the first deal of a session, the player who receives the 5 of swords speaks first in the bidding. This player also deals the second hand. From the second hand onwards, the player to dealer's right speaks first in the bidding and the turn to deal passes to the right.

The bidding, making trumps and calling

There are four possible bids. In ascending order they are "chiamo" (I call), "di più" (more), "maso" (most) and "maso dei masi" (most of all). A player who does not wish to bid can pass (passo). The players speak in anticlockwise order, starting with the player to the dealer's right (in the very first deal the holder of the 5 of swords starts). The final and highest bidder is the declarer and will choose the trump suit. If all players pass, the hand "va a monte" - i.e. it is abandoned and there is a new deal by the next dealer.

If the only bid was a call, the declarer (the chiamante or signore) both decides on the trump suit (briscola) and names a card of a different suit (usually a 3) whose holder will be his partner (amico) for that hand. For example he might say "I call the 3 of cups; coins are trump", and whoever holds the 3 of cups becomes his partner. The partner must not do or say anything to reveal who he is until the called card is played. It is legal to call a card that is in your own hand (chiamata in mano): in that case you have no partner and all the other four players form a team against you, though they will not realise this at first. The chiamante and his partner (the signore and his amico) are called the ricchi or signori (the rich, the nobles) while the players of the other team are i poveri or il popolo (the poor, the crowd).

If the final bid is "di più", the bidder names the trump suit and plays alone, the other four players forming a team (il popolo). As in an ordinary call, the bidder's objective is to take more card points than the opponents.

If the final bid is "maso", the declarer names the trump suit and in order to succeed, must take 6 card points in tricks before the opponents take a card point.

If the final bid is "maso dei masi" the declarer names the trump suit and must win every trick to succeed.

The play

Irrespective of who bid and how high, it is the player who began the bidding (the player to dealer's right or in the first deal the holder of the 5 of swords) who leads to the first trick. No declaration of marafona or cricca is allowed, so there are always just 11 points in the game. As in Marafon-Beccaccino, players must follow suit if they can; if not they may play any card. The highest trump, or if none are played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

Scoring

In this game, the players settle up after each deal in game points (or in money). These game points are entirely separate from the card points, which are used only to determine which side has won.

At the end of the play, the cards taken by each team are counted. If the bid was a call or "di più", the side with more card points (i.e. at least 6 card points) wins. If the bidder called a partner and the signori win, the signore receives 2 game points, the amico receives 1 game point, and each player of the popolo pays 1 game point. If the popolo wins, the signore pays 2 game points, the amico pays 1 game point and each player of the popolo receives 1 game point.

In case of chiamata in mano (where the bidder calls his own card), or a bid of "di più" the payments are doubled: the declarer wins or loses 8 game points and each member of the crowd wins or loses 2.

If the bid was "di maso" the declarer receives 16 game points if he succeeds in taking 6 card points before the opponents take as much as 1 whole card point, and pays 16 game points otherwise. Each member of the popolo wins or loses 4 game points.

For a bid of "maso dei masi", the declarer wins 32 game points if he takes every trick, each member of the popolo paying 8. If he loses a trick, the declarer pays 8 game points to each member of the popolo, 32 points in all.

Other Web Pages

The Trionfo page at Splash.it has brief rules in Italian for the partnership game Marafon-Beccaccino. The name Trionfo has been used for many different games with trumps, from the XV century onwards. The XVI-century Trionfo game referred to at the top of the page was not this game but a plain-trick game with 5 cards dealt to each player.