- Players and Cards
- Deal and Game Structure
- Scoring and Betting
- Card Ranking Commands
- Information Sources
Trionfetti is a four-player game played in the rural area between Venice and Padua using an Italian suited 52-card deck. It was described by Alberto Fiorin in a paper given to the IPCS Convention in 1997 and is the subject of a booklet published in 2020 by Gianluca Angi. During the 1970's and 1980's several large tournaments were held, and in 2009 the Club del 15 in Fossò founded the Scuola di Trionfetti at whose weekly meetings new players are introduced to the game.
Trionfetti is a relative of Truc and Put, and as in those games the basic aim is to win at least two out of three tricks. The special features of Trionfetti are that four consecutive deals are played from the same deck, so that in the later deals players have an increasing amount of information about the cards still in play, and that the ranking order of the cards is not fixed but is chosen freely by the players and can change each time the deck is shuffled and a new dealer takes over.
Players and Cards
The four players form two teams of two, partners sitting opposite each other.
This game is played with a 52-card pack of the Trevigiane pattern, also sometimes known as the Trevisane or Venete (Venetian) pattern. Cards of this pattern most often come as a 40-card pack, lacking 8's, 9's and 10's but 52-card packs are also available. The four suits are swords (spade or strette), batons (bastoni), cups (coppe) and coins (denari) and the default ranking of the cards in each suit in ascending order is 1 (lowest), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack (fante), Horse (cavallo), King (re) (highest).
The deal and play are anticlockwise.
Deal and Game Structure
A match (incontro) consists of a series of games (known as partite or raggi or pali). The first team to win three games wins the match.
A game consists of a series of deals in which the teams score points (punti). The first team whose total reaches 20 points wins the current game and the point totals are reset to zero to begin the next game.
At the beginning of a match, the first dealer is chosen by each player drawing a card from the shuffled deck. Whoever draws the highest card (in the default ranking order) deals first. In case of a tie for highest the tied players draw again to decide which of them should deal first.
The dealer shuffles the deck and the player to dealer's left cuts. The cutter looks at the cut card (which will become the bottom card of the deck when the cut is completed) and must show it on request to all the other players - normally everyone will want to see it. The cutter then announces the ranking order of the cards which will remain in force until the turn to deal passes to the next player - see below for details.
For each hand (mano), the dealer deals a packet of three cards to each of the four players an anticlockwise order, beginning with the player to dealer's right and ending with the dealer. The remaining cards are stacked face down. The players look at their cards without showing them to the other players and play tricks (prese) - see below. The team that wins two tricks normally scores one point (but see vagaresto below). The 12 used cards are discarded face down and the same dealer then deals another packet of three cards each from the deck for the next hand, and in this way up to four hands can be played from the deck. After four hands there are 4 cards left over, which are not played.
The series of hands dealt by a dealer is known as a smazzata. The smazzata ends when either four hands have been played or when the current game ends because one of the teams has reached a score of 20 points. The score for the smazzata is recorded and the whole pack of cards is passed to the new dealer, who is the player to the right of the old dealer. The new dealer shuffles, and the player to the new dealer's left (who was the previous dealer) cuts, shows the cut card and announces the ranking of the cards for the new smazzata.
The player to dealer's right leads any card to the first trick, placing it face up in front of them. The other three players in anticlockwise order do the same. There is no restriction of what card a player may play to any trick. The rules emphasise that (as in almost all card games) a card once played or exposed to the other players remains played and cannot be taken back.
The player of the highest card, according to the current ranking, wins the trick. If there is a tie for highest card, the first played of the highest equal cards wins the trick. The winner of the first trick collects the four played cards, stores then face down in front of them, and leads a card to the second trick, which is played similarly.
- If these first two tricks are won by members of the same team, that team wins the point for the hand. The players each have one card left. They show this third card to their partner, but not to their opponents.
- If the first two tricks of a hand are won by opposite teams, the winner of the second trick leads to the third, players in turn play their last card to this trick, and the team that wins it now has two tricks and wins the point for the hand.
In either case the 12 cards used for the hand are discarded in the middle of the table into a face down heap called the monte (mountain), and if neither team yet has the 20 points needed for game and there are enough cards remaining in the undealt deck, the same dealer deals the next hand.
After dealing the fourth and last deal of a smazzata, the dealer looks privately at the last four undealt cards - that is the bottom card of the deck, already known to all the players, and the three others that have not been dealt. After the first two players (the dealer's right-hand opponent and the dealer's partner) have played to the first trick of this last deal, the dealer places these four cards face up on the table for all to see. These cards belong to no one and are not played, but the information on which four cards are out of play will often be useful to the players.
Note that when using the default ranking of the cards, suits are ignored, and each trick is won by the highest ranked card irrespective of suit. There is no concept of 'following suit' in this game.
Scoring and Betting
At the end of each smazzata the score in points is recorded. Usually a smazzata consists of four deals so four points are scored. The score sheet has a column for each team divided by a vertical line (see illustration, copied from a video introduction to the game by Luciano Muraro). Three horizontal lines are drawn across the two columns at the top, and won games are represented by blobs on these lines drawn on the side of the winning team. Below these lines the point scores are written, using one row for each smazzata. As soon as the total point score of one team (including points scored in the current smazzata) reaches 20, that team wins the game (raggio), a blob is marked to record this, the point scores are erased and a new game begins, the deal passing to the next player. When a team wins their third game, they have won the match.
The illustration shows two score sheets. On the left hand sheet, the left hand team has just won a game which happened to end at the end of a smazzata - the blob for this has been drawn but the points not yet erased. The right hand sheet shows a match won by the left hand team by 3 games to 2.
Any player, at their turn to play a card, may attempt to raise the stake for the current deal by saying 'vagaresto' or 'vaga'. This is a challenge to the opponents. If the opponents accept, the score for the team that wins the deal by taking two tricks will be not 1 point but the number of points that would be needed by the leading team to win the game. For example if the current scores are 9-13 the proposal is to increase the score for this deal to 7 points. If the opponents do not wish to play for this increased stake, they must concede the deal and the team that proposed the 'vagaresto' scores 1 point without further play.
If 'vagaresto' or 'vaga' is called in the last of the four deals of a smazzata, the dealer immediately exposes the four undealt cards for all to see, if they have not already been exposed.
Like a card played, a call of 'vagaresto' or 'vaga' cannot be taken back, even if the word is somehow spoken unintentionally. Either opponent may respond on behalf of their team. Before responding, the opponents may discuss their tactics and chances of winning. They may show each other the cards in their hands without showing them to the opponents, but when doing this each must keep hold of their own cards. They are not allowed to exchange cards between their hands: if they decide to play on, each must play with the cards they were originally dealt.
If the opponents concede, the team that called 'vagaresto' or 'vaga' scores one point. The players show their unplayed cards to their partners, but not to their opponents, the 12 cards used for the hand are discarded and if neither team yet has the 20 points needed for game and there are enough cards remaining in the undealt deck, the same dealer deals the next hand.
If the opponents accept, the players of both teams may now see their partners' cards: they exchange hands and discuss their strategy. After all cards have been returned to their original owners, the play resumes with the player who said 'vagaresto' or 'vaga' playing a card, and the team that takes two tricks wins the increased stake. If the winners are the team that had more points when the challenge was issued, they will thereby win the game. If the winners had fewer points than the opponents, the points scored will not be enough to win and the game will continue. For example if the score was 6-12, and a player says "vagaresto" which is accepted, the new stake (montepremi or vacca) is 8 points. If the team that had 6 points succeed in winning two tricks, the new score will be 14-12 and the game continues; if the team that had 12 points win two tricks they will thereby win the game. In either case the smazzata ends and the turn to deal passes to the next player.
When a player says 'vagaresto' or 'vaga', the opponents may accept or concede by means of a gesture.
- If one of the opponents passes their cards to their partner (rather than just showing them while keeping hold of them), that is equivalent to a concession.
- If one of the opponents moves the undealt portion of the deck onto the pile of discarded cards in the middle of the table, this is equivalent to accepting the challenge, because after the play of this hand, irrespective of the result, the smazzata will end and the turn to deal will pass to the next player.
It is generally agreed that communication between partners is not allowed during the deal and the first trick of each hand. During this peiod players are not allowed to talk about their cards or tactics and must not give signals.
After the first trick is complete, conversation is allowed without limits. Players can freely exchange information, true or false, about the cards in their hands and how they should be played. Players are also allowed to indicate what cards they hold by means of conventional signals. The usual system is as follows:
- top card (padrona) - wink
- second highest card - slight twitch of the mouth
- third highest card - closed lips forward, like a kiss
- no useful cards (alba) - glance upward
Obviously these signals should be given quickly and discretely, so that the opponents do not notice them - and there is also the possibility to give false signals to deceive the opponents.
Card Ranking Commands
The ranking of the cards for each smazzata is freely chosen by the player who cuts the cards. It is announced immediately after they have seen the card which will be on the bottom of the pack. This announcement is known as a comanda (command).
When announcing the card ranking, the cards or series of cards are always listed in ascending order, beginning with the lowest ranking and ending with the highest ranking. Any cards that are not mentioned are the lowest of all. To avoid confusion, all card lists and examples on this page are therefore given in order from lowest to highest, ending with the top card.
There is a specific vocabulary and syntax for specifying the ranking order. Some of the most important terms are as follows.
- Figure (pictures) are the jacks (F), horses (C) and kings (R).
- Ponto (point) are the numeral cards from ace to ten.
- Scartine (scraps) are the 8s, 9s, and 10s - the point cards that are not present in the Standard 40-card Italian deck.
- Più (more) refers to sets of cards ranking in the default order: 1 (lowest) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 F C R (highest).
- Manco (less) refers to sets of cards ranking in the reverse of the default order R C F 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 (highest).
Other terms are introduced below, and there is effectively no limit to the nicknames that may be used for various ranking orders, with the important proviso that the order must be announced in a way that is clearly understood by all the players.
The range of possible commands is best explained by some examples, with an explanation and a list of the cards in the defined order from lowest to highest.
- Manco ponto (least points)
- This is perhaps the simplest. The order is R F D 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1, the pictures ranking lowest and inheriting the order (least) of the cards adjacent to them, and the aces highest
- Più ponto (most points)
- F C R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 - in this order the highest cards are the 10's (most points), the pictures ranking lowest since they were not mentioned.
- Più ponto e più figure (most points and most pictures)
- This is the formal way to announce the default order 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 F C R. The pictures must be mentioned after the points if they are to rank higher. This can also be announced as Tutto al tredici (all to the 13), the '13' being the king in this case.
- Manco e cavalli (least and horses)
- By mentioning them last, the horses are defined as the top ranking cards: T F 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 C.
- Più figure, assi e due (most pictures, aces and twos)
- 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 F C R 1 2. In this case the aces beat the pictures because they are listed later, and the twos at the end of the lost are highest of all.
- Manco e manco scartine (least and least scraps)
- R C F 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 10 9 8 (kings lowest and eights highest)
- Manco 7 e 8 (least, 7 and 8)
- R C F 10 9 6 5 4 3 2 1 7 8 (another order with kings lowest and eights highest)
Some further terms:
- Just as al 13 (to the 13) means all ranks up to the king (13) in default order, al x refers the ranks up to and including x - for example al'otto (to 8) is short for 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and al 5 is short for 1 2 3 4 5. Meno al x (least to x) means the ranks in reverse order as far as x, for example meno al'otto (least to 8) is R C F 10 9 8.
- Napoli is a term bowrrowed from Tresette and other games used here as an abbreviation for "ace, two, three", so equivalent to al tre (to the 3).
- Pari (even) are the even numbered cards 2 4 6 8 10 C - the C (horse) in this case counting as 12 (even)
- Dispari (odd) are the odd numeral cards 1 3 5 7 9 F R - with the F and R counting respectively as 11 and 13 (odd)
- Primiera defines an order derived from the games Primiera, Scopa and Scopone with sevens highest and the scartine ranking lowest: 8 9 10 F C R 2 3 4 5 1 6 7.
- Strette col palo (swords with a pole) refers to the odd numeral cards in swords 1 3 5 7 9 - those that have a straight sword in the centre of the card.
- Più e Napoli (most and Napoli)
- 'Più' is understood as 'Più ponto' (most points) so the order from lowest to highest is F C R 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3. To have the pictures ranking between the ace and the ten the announcement would need to be 'Più figure e Napoli'.
- Manco Primiera (least Primiera)
- This simply reverses the Primiera ranking: 7 6 1 5 4 3 2 R C F 10 9 8.
- Primiera e fanti (Primiera and jacks)
- The primiera order with the jacks promoted to be the top cards 8 9 10 C R 2 3 4 5 1 6 7 F.
- Tutto al tredici e denari al tredici (all to the 13 and coins to the 13)
- This makes coins into a kind of a trump suit. The cards in the other three suits in the default order are beaten by the coins in the same order 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 F C R. However this is not quite like a normal trick-taking game with trumps because in a trick where no coins are played the highest card wins irrespective of the suit and of what was led.
- Manco ponto, re, figure di bastoni (least points, kings, pictures in batons)
- C F 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 R with no distinction between suits, with the exception of the F C R of batons, which are the top 3 cards.
- Primiera e mancoprimiera a spade (Primiera and Reverse primiera in swords)
- Coins, cups and coins rank in the primiera order 8 9 10 F C R 2 3 4 5 1 6 7 with no distinction between suits, and are beaten by swords raking in reverse Primiera order 7 6 1 5 4 3 2 R C F 10 9 8, the 8 of swords being the top card.
- Manco siete e otto e coppe al'otto (least, 7 and 8 and cups to the 8)
- In this case the cards other that the 1-8 of cups rank in the order R C F 10 9 6 5 4 3 2 1 7 8 with no distinction between suits but these are beaten by the 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 of cups.
- Più dispari e meno pari (most odd and least even)
- 1 3 5 7 9 F R C 10 8 6 4 2
- Più fino al cinque e meno fino al sei (most to the 5 and least to the 6)
- 1 2 3 4 5 R C F 10 9 8 7 6
- Manco 5 e 4 più figure de coppe a asso (least, 5 and 4, most pictures in cups and ace [of cups])
- R C F 10 9 8 7 6 3 2 1 5 4 except for the F C R 1 of cups which are the top cards in that order
Remember that all players are entitled to understand what the ranking is intended to be, so presumably in case of any doubt, players can demand and receive clarification of the meaning of the command. This is particularly important considering that some commands acquire nicknames which probably go in and out of fashion and may only be understood in certain localities. For example:
- Componogara - equivalent to più ponto, denari al tredici, coppe all'otto, spade al dieci (most points, coins to the 13, cups to the 8, spades to the 10)
- F C R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 excluding the cards mentioned later, beaten by coins in the order 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 F C R, beaten by cups in the order 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, beaten by swords in the order 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.
- Bomba - equivalent to più ponto, 1, 2, 4, 3, più figure di spade (most points, 1, 2, 4, 3, most pictures in swords)
- F C R 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 4 3 excluding spade pictures which are the top cards in the order F C R.
Also some cards have nicknames, For example the Donne veneziane (Venetian women) are the 4 and 6 of swords in that order, because of the women depicted in the centre of these cards, and the Meneghello is the two of swords.
Although the written rules suggest that a command can specify any ranking order, it is clear that there have to be a couple of restrictions.
- Cards of different default ranks cannot be made equal to each other.
- It must be possible arrange all the cards (or sets of equal cards) in a single list so that cards later in the list always beat cards earlier in the list.
Restriction 1 is needed to prevent the cutter making all the cards equal to each other, which would guarantee victory for the cutter's team since the first played of equal cards wins, or from specifying a large quantity of equal top cards with would greatly weight the chances against the dealer's team.
Restriction 2 disallows non-linear schemes such as specifying the default ranking except that if a king and an ace are both present in a trick the ace wins. It also disallows rules that depend on what suit was led, such as the common trick-taking rule that the highest card of the suit that was led wins the trick, which is alien to this game.
Presumably when deciding on a command the cutter's aim is to make it difficult for the dealer's team to remember which cards are highest and to analyse the play by choosing a ranking that is familiar to the cutter's team and unfamiliar to the dealer's team. The cutter's team might choose novel complex commands if they consider that they are better able to cope with these than their opponents.
There is a theoretical advantage in choosing a command in which there are four equal top cards to increase the chance that the first player will have an unbeatable card, but evidently this advantage is not considered important, since the sources include many examples with only a single top card.
Gianluca Angi. Storia e regole del gioco dei Tronfetti. (Club dei 15, Fossò, VE, 2020)
Alberto Fiorin. Giochi di carte in via di estinzione nel Triveneto. (From the conference proceedings of the International Playing Society Convention, 1997, Trieste, edited by Alberto Milano and Luca Rodda, pp 74-76.)