- Players and Cards
- Other pages and software
Along with Briscola and Tressette, Scopa is one of the best known and most widely played traditional Italian card games. Players take turns to play a card from their hand to capture cards of equal value from the table. Points are scored for taking the most cards in total, for taking the most cards in the suit of coins (or diamonds), for collecting the best primiera (consisting of one card from each suit, Sevens being the most valuable), for taking the settebello (the Seven of coins or diamonds), and for capturing all the cards on the table leaving it empty, which is known as a scopa (sweep).
Scopa is played in all parts of Italy, using a 40-card pack of the local pattern. There are numerous variants, some of which are described on this page after the explanation of the basic game. My thanks to Salvatore Rossi and others who have sent information about these. Closely related games are also played in nearby countries, such as Escoba in Spain, Chkouba in Algeria and Tunisia, and Scopa in Corsica.
Players who prefer a more intellectually demanding game of the same type may prefer Scopone (big Scopa), a game for four players using the same rules of play and scoring, but with all the cards dealt at the start of the game so that players begin with 9 or 10 cards in their hands. Scopone is described on a separate page.
Players and Cards
The basic game of Scopa described on this page is most often played by two people. It is possible, though less satisfactory, for three to play, using the same rules and each playing for themselves. The game can also be played by 4 or 6 people divided into two equal teams with each player sitting between two opponents, but with four players it is more interesting to play Scopone. If there are more than two player's the deal and play are counter-clockwise.
A 40-card pack is used. In parts of Italy where Latin-suited cards are used, the suits are coins (denari), cups (coppe), swords (spade) and batons or clubs (bastoni) and the cards in each suit are King (Re), Horse (Cavallo), Jack (Fante), 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace (Asso). In some north-eastern regions of Italy Scopa is played with a French-suited pack with suits of diamonds (quadri), hearts (cuori), clubs (fiore) and spades (picche) and the cards in each suit are King (Re), Queen (Regina or Donna), Jack (Fante), 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace (Asso).
For the purposes of capturing, the cards have values as follows:
|Horse or Queen||9|
|7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2||face value|
Players in North America can obtain Italian cards of various regional patterns from TaroBear's Lair. If no Italian cards are available, it is also possible to play with a standard international 52 card pack from which all the 10s, 9s and 8s have been removed.
The first dealer can be chosen by any convenient method - for example some players deal the cards around the table one at a time face up until the King of coins (diamonds) appears and the player who receives this card deals first.
The dealer shuffles and the dealer's opponent (the player to dealer's left if there are more than two players) cuts the cards. The dealer then deals the cards one at a time until each player has three cards. The next four cards are placed separately face up on the table - some players like to arrange them in a square or in a row, but the exact layout does not matter. The remaining cards are stacked face down.
If the four face up cards include three or four Kings, all the cards are gathered up, and are shuffled, cut and dealt again by the same dealer. This is because with more than two face up Kings in the layout, sweeps (scope) are not possible.
After all players have played their first three cards, the dealer deals another three cards to each player, but no further face up cards are dealt to the table. This is repeated until all the cards have been dealt and played, after which the hand is scored and the turn to deal passes to the other player (or to the next player to the right).
The non-dealer (the player to dealer's right if there are more than two players) plays first and the turn to play alternated (or passes to the right). A turn consists of playing exactly one card from hand face up to the table. The played card may or may not capture one or more cards from the table.
- If the played card is equal in value to one of the face up cards on the table, it captures that card. If there are several matching cards the player must choose just one of those cards to capture.
- If the played card does not match the value of any single face up card, but is equal to the sum of the values of a set of two or more cards, the player captures that set of cards. If there is more than one such set, the player chooses which set to capture.
- If there is no single card and no set of cards whose value matches the played card, then the played card remains face up on the table alongside any cards that are already there, and is available for capture in subsequent turns.
When a card or cards are captured, the player takes the captured card(s) along with the card that they played and stores them in a face down stack of cards that they have taken. In a partnership game each team stores its captured cards in a single stack.
If the played card captures all the face up cards from the layout, leaving it empty, this is a scopa (sweep). To record this, the played card is placed face up and sideways in the player's capture pile, with the cards it captured face down on top of it. This makes it easy to remember and count the scope when scoring. Since the table is now empty, the next player's card cannot capture anything and remains face up on the table to begin a new layout.
After everyone has played all three of their cards, if there are any cards remaining to be dealt, the dealer deals three new cards to each player, leaving any face up cards on the table in place, and play continues with the player to dealer's right.
When all the cards have been played and there are no more cards to deal, any card remaining in the face up layout are collected by the player or team that last made a capture. Then the hand is scored.
Capturing the last card(s) from the table at the very end of the last deal of a hand never counts as a scopa. Even if the dealer's final card does actually match the total value of the last card(s) remaining on the table, thus capturing them in the normal way, this is not a scopa.
- If a played card captures anything, the player must make the capture. They cannot simply leave the played card in the layout without capturing (even though they might wish to do this to avoid the danger of a scopa by the following player).
- Each player has a free choice of which of their cards to play. They are allowed to play a card that does not capture anything, even if they could have captured by playing a different card.
- If the played card matches both a single card and the sum of a set of cards, the single card must be captured, not the set.
Example. The face up cards on the table are A, 3, 4, 5, 7.
- If the next player plays a 3, it captures the 3 from the table.
- If the next player plays a Horse (9), it captures the 4 and the 5 from the table.
- If the next player plays a 6 it captures the Ace and the 5 from the table.
- If the next player plays a 5 it just captures the 5 from the table - the player is not allowed to take the Ace and the 4.
- If the next player plays a Jack (8) they have a choice of sets to take: they can capture either 5+3 or 4+3+A or 7+A.
At the end of the play, the players or teams score for the cards they have in their capture piles and for sweeps as follows.
- For each scopa (sweep), indicated by a card stored face up in the capture pile: 1 point.
- The player or team with the most cards in their capture pile scores 1 point for cards. In case of a tie for most cards no one scores this point.
- Coins / Diamonds
- The player or team with the most cards of the coins (or diamonds) suit scores 1 point. If there is a tie for most coins / diamonds no one scores this point.
- The player or team with the 7 of coins / diamonds in their pile scores 1 point.
- The player or team with the best prime (primiera) scores 1 point. A prime consists of four cards, one of each suit - a player or team that does not have at least one card in each suit cannot score for prime. The best prime is found by adding the values of the four cards using the following scale of values:
Seven 21 Six 18 Ace 16 Five 15 Four 14 Three 13 Two 12 King, Horse/Queen, Jack 10
In case of a tie for best prime - for example two opponents have 7-7-6-6, or one has 7-7-6-4 while the the other has A-A-7-7 - no one scores the point.
Note. The ranking and values of the cards in a prime are derived from the old gambling game Primiera in which one of the objects is to make a hand of this type.
The first player or team to achieve a cumulative score of 11 or more points over as many deals as it takes wins the game. If more than one player or team achieves this in the same hand, the highest score wins. In case of a tie for most points another hand is played to break the tie.
End of the game
Players may agree in advance a different target score, for example 16 or 21 points to win the game. When playing some of the variants below where extra points are available the target may be increased to 31 or 41.
Some allow a player or team to end the play in the middle of a hand by claiming to have enough points to reach the game target of 11 or whatever was agreed. This is known as 'chiamarsi fuori'. In a two player game a player needs 21 cards to claim the point for cards and 6 coins/diamonds to claim the point for that suit. The prime can be claimed if the claimer can demonstrate that they will win the prime even if the opponent takes all the cards that are not yet captured. If the claimer turns out not to have enough points to win, they automatically lose the game.
Deciding the Primiera
In some regions different scales of values are used. For example some count 2-7 as face value, Aces as 5½ and picture cards as ½. In most cases this produces the same result as the normal values.
Asso Pigliatutto (Ace takes all)
In this popular children's game, in addition to the normal rules of capture, playing an Ace takes all the table cards and scores a point for a sweep, provided that there is no Ace on the table.
If there is an Ace in the table layout, then playing an Ace takes only the Ace and leaves the other cards in place. If there is an Ace alone on the table, a played Ace takes it and scores a sweep.
If the table is empty (or "clean"), an Ace played remains on the table (it can’t take itself).
'Asso pigliatutto' has also come to be used as a colloquial expression for a person who is particularly skilled, perhaps the best, in their field.
This game is similar to Asso Pigliatutto, except that taking all the cards with an Ace does not count as a sweep.
Some play that if an Ace is played to the empty table it 'takes itself'. The played Ace is captured by the player and the table remains empty.
Some play that if one or more Aces appear in the face-up cards in the original deal, the cards are thrown in and redealt.
Often Scopa d'Assi is played with additional points for a Napola - see above.
Scopa d'Assi is often played by four players in partnerships who are dealt 9 or 10 cards each rather than just three, as in Scopone.
Scopa di Quindici
There are several versions of Scopa going by this name, all of which allow a player to capture a set of cards from the table which, together with the played card, add up to 15. For example if the table cards are A, 3, 4, 7 and you play a 4, it captures either the 4 and the 7 or the A, 3 and 7 at your choice.
- First version
- In this version, unlike normal Scopa, a card cannot capture a card or set of cards whose value is equal to the played card. It is only possible to capture cards that together with the played card total 15. This version is very similar to the Spanish game Escoba.
- Second version
- A played card can capture either a card or set of cards of equal value, or a set which together with the played cards adds up to 15. This version is sometimes played with the restriction that when there is a choice of cards to capture, the played card must capture as few cards as possible.
- Third version
- Like the second version, but in addition an Ace takes all the cards on the table (as in Asso Pigliatutto) and this scores a point for a scopa. In this version there is no restriction on which cards to take when there is a choice, for example with 3, 5, 7, King on the table a played King can take either the 5 or the King or the 3+7. This version is normally played to a target of 31 points.
Some award an extra point to the player or team that wins the King of coins/diamonds.
Some award additional points for a sequence of at least three consecutive coins/diamonds beginning with the Ace. One point is scored for each card in the sequence, so the smallest Napola A-2-3 scores 3 points. Some play that the maximum Napola is A-2-3-4-5-6 for 6 points. Others allow longer sequences, up to 9 points for a sequence of 9 up to the Queen/Horse, and in this case a sequence of 10 (the whole suit) is a Napoleone (or Napolone) which wins the game outright. When playing with these extra points the target to win the game is usually set at 21, 31 or 41 rather than 11.
Scopa con le Scalette
This game (Scopa with sequences) is played as normal Scopa or as Scopa d'Assi but with extra points for sequences in coins/diamonds. A Scaletta bassa (low sequence) is equivalent to a Napola (A-2-3 of coins/diamonds) and it scores 3 points. A Scaletta bassa can be extended upwards, scoring an extra point for each additional card, as far as the Horse/Queen (for 9 points). Players can also score for a Scaletta alta (high sequence) of King-Horse/Queen-Jack of coins/diamonds, which is worth 5 points. It can be extended downwards scoring an extra point for each additional card as far as the 2 (for 11 points). A player who takes all the coins/diamonds has a Scala (somplete sequence) and wins the whole game.
This is Scopa for two players in which extra points can be scored by declaring certain three-card combinations. The possible declarations are:
- Bazzica: any three cards which add up to 9 or less, counting 2 to 7 as face value, Ace as 1 and pictures as 10. Scores 3 points.
- Bazzicotto: three cards of the same rank. Scores 10 points.
In order to score, a bazzica or a bazzicotto must be declared immediately after a three-card deal, before the next card is played, and the cards must be shown. If both players declare a bazzica or bazzicotto only the better one scores. For this purpose:
- Any bazzicotto beats any bazzica
- If both players have a bazzica, the one with the lower total card value is better. The best is 2+A+A (value 4). If they are equal in value (for example A+2+6 against 2+3+4) then neither player scores.
- If both players have a bazzicotto the one with the lower cards is better (A+A+A is best, K+K+K is worst).
A game is 21 or 31 points.
The page web.tiscali.it/male24/scopa.html describes a variant Sbarazzina, which is popular in Emilia.
- As in Scopa d'Assi an Ace takes all the cards on the table but this does not count as a sweep.
- The player or team that takes the Re Bello (King of coins/diamonds) scores an extra point.
- A bazzica scores 2 points if the three cards are all of different ranks, or 3 points if they include a pair. Three of a kind of any rank scores 7 points.
- The game is played to 41 points.
Ulf Martin reports that in the mid 1990s in Riccione (Emilia-Romagna), he was tought a two-player variant of Sbarazzina called "Piva" played with Piacentine pattern cards, in which the 2 of clubs scores minus 5 points for the player who takes it. A player's total score can thus be negative. The game may be played to either 21 or 31 points as agreed in advance.
In Corsica, Scopa is often played with 36 cards, each suit consisting of Ace, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Jack, Queen, King. The removal of the Twos is said to add spice to the game, since without them it is less easy to form sets of cards that add up to 7. A set of rules is published with EREDI brand cards.
There can be two players or four players in fixed partnerships. The initial deal is 3 cards to each player and 4 cards to the table. With two players the second, third and fourth deals of the hand are 3 cards each, and the last two deals 4 cards each. With four players the second deal is 3 cards each and the third deal just 2 cards each.
The play and scoring are the same as in basic Scopa except that capturing is not compulsory. It is legal to play a card and leave it on the table without capturing even if its value matches a card or set of cards already on the table.
Games are usually played to 21 points, but the target may be set at 16 or 11 instead if all agree.
Chkobba is the Tunisian version of Scopa, brought there by migrants from Italy. This variant has also become popular in France, which has strong connections with Tunisia.
A French suited pack of 40 cards is used, with no 10s, 9s or 8s. The roles of the Jack and Queen are reversed, so that the capture value of the cards are King=10, Jack=9, Queen=8, 7 to 2 face value, Ace=1. (This reversal of the Queen and Jack is found in several Mediterranean games that were adapted from games played with Latin suited cards, in which the second highest picture card is always a man riding a horse, and the lowest picture is in some cases a female servant.)
There are two players, or four players in two teams of two, partners sitting opposite each other. The direction of play is anticlockwise. The dealer shuffles, and the dealer's (right-hand) opponent cuts, draws one card form the pack, looks at it and may either keep it as the first card of their hand or place it face up on the table as the first card of the layout. The dealer then completes the initial deal so that each player has three cards and there are four face up on the table. So if the first player took the drawn card as a hand card, the dealer will give two more cards to the first player, three to each other player and deal four face up to the table. If the drawn card was placed in the table layout, the dealer will give three cards to each player and three more to the table. If there are three or four equal valued cards in the initial table layout the cards are gathered up, shuffled and dealt again.
A turn consists of playing one card from hand to the table. If the played card matches a single card on the table or the total of a set of table cards, the played card and one matching card or set of cards is captured and stored face down by the capturing player or team. Capturing is compulsory. If a card is played that matches both a single card and the sum of a set of cards, a single card must be captured, not a set. If the played card does not match any card or set it remains face up on the table where it can be captured by a later player. When all players have played their cards, three more cards are dealt to each player but no more to the table.
Capturing all the cards from the layout leaving it empty is called a chkobba. The played card is turned face up in the player or team's capture pile as a reminder to score a point for this.
After six deals (two players) or three deals (four players), when all the cards have been played, any face up cards remaining on the table are collected by the last player or team that made a capture. This does not count as a chkobba, and as in Italian Scopa the dealer can never score a chkobba with the very last card played, even if it matches the total of the cards on the table.
Each player or team then counts their captured cards and scores as follows:
- Kārṭa - one point for the majority of the cards. If the players or teams have 20 cards each the point is not awarded.
- Dīnārī - one point for the majority of the diamonds. If the players or teams have 5 diamonds each the point is not awarded.
- Barmīla - in this simplified form of the Italian primiera the player or team with the majority of Sevens scores a point. If they have two Sevens each, the player or team with the majority of Sixes scores a point. If they also have two Sixes each the point is not awarded.
- Sabʿa l-ḥayya - the player or team with the Seven of diamonds scores a point.
- One point is scored for each chkobba.
The turn to deal passes to the right and further deals are played until a player or team has 21 points or more. The player or team with more points then wins. In the case of a tie another deal is played. Players may agree a different target score, such as 11 or 31, for a shorter or longer game.
The French Wikipedia page on Chkobba gives the Arabic terms for the cards and scores.
Hurrikan is a German variant of two-player Scopa which appeared in the 1930's and has since been included in numerous German card game books. Clearing the table is known as a Hurrikan and scores a point as usual. The most significant differences from Italian Scopa are:
- In each sub-deal, six cards rather than three are dealt to each player, so that there are three sub-deals rather than six before the play ends and the hand is scored. The initial sub-deal is a packet of three cards to each player, then four to the table, then another packet of three each. In subsequent sub-deals six cards each are dealt in packets of three.
- The bonus suit is hearts rather than diamonds. There is a point for the seven of hearts, and a point for taking the majority of hearts (6 or more).
- When deciding who has won the primiera (known in German as die Premiere), if points have to be counted the Queen and Jack are worth 9 and 8 respectively rather than 10 each.
- The target score for the game is 16 points. If the loser has fewer than 8 points the winner wins a double game. If both reach 16 on the same deal the player with the higher score wins and in the event of a tie another deal is played.
The books also mention a four-player partnership version which is played like Scopone (with either 9-card or 10-card hands) with the same changes in scoring (hearts is the bonus suit and the target is 16).
There are a couple of other rules of the Italian game that the German books don't mention - it's not clear whether this is an oversight by the authors or whether these rules were never used in the German game.
- There is no mention of throwing in the cards when there are three or more Kings in the initial layout, which makes a Hurrikan (Scopa) impossible in that hand.
- Although most mention that the last player who makes a capture collects all remaining cards from the layout and this does not count as a Hurrikan, none of them explicitly deals with the case where the dealer's final card captures everything from the table. Possibly this was scored as a Hurrikan in Germany, unlike Italian Scopa where dealer's last card can never score for a Scopa.
German descriptions vary in their explanation of the Premiere. Presumably the point values 9 and 8 for the Queen and Jack were originally introduced in Germany to make them correspond to the capture values of these cards. Some descriptions give simplified and in some cases garbled versions of the scoring. For example later editions of the Altenburg Spielregelbüchlein say that the point for the Premiere goes to the player with more Sevens, or to the player with more Sixes (without regard to suits) if Sevens are tied, or to no one if Sevens and Sixes are both tied.
Other pages and software
The Italian Wikipedia page on Scopa includes a number of variants.
The Scopa program at the Solitari con le Carte site can now be played in any web browser.
You can download a freeware Scopa program from Thanos Card Games.
Sylvain Labbe's Free Card Games includes Net.Scopa and Net.Chkobba, online programs for play against live opponents. They can be used both on desktop computers and on mobile devices of several types.