Minchiate

Introduction

Minchiate, also known as Germini, is an Italian card game based on Tarocchi (Tarot) and played with a special expanded pack of 97 cards. It was invented in Florence in the 16th century and spread to Rome and throughout much of the south of Italy. In the 17th century it reached Sicily and from there it was taken to Genoa. In Sicily it did not survive for long, but it remained a popular and highly regarded game in Rome and Florence throughout the 18th century and into the 19th. The playing-card manufacturer Solesio of Genoa continued to make cards for the game until around 1930, and it must have been around this date or soon after that it died out.

The name Minchiate is slightly problematic. Originally it was connected with the verb 'sminchiare', which meant 'to play a high trump' and was still used in this sense in Bologna until the 19th century. Playing and capturing high trumps is a key feature of the game. However, in some parts of Italy 'minchiate' had a different, vulgar meaning as it still does today. Fans of the popular Italian TV detective show Il Commissario Montalbano will often hear the Sicilian detectives use the word, roughly in the sense of the English 'bullshit'. Even the information leaflets supplied with some modern reproduction packs assume that Minchiate cannot have been a serious card game, since its name appears to mean something like 'messing around'. It was because of this misunderstanding that in players many regions preferred to use the name Germini, which is in fact an older name for the game than Minchiate. It dates from the 16th century and is evidently derived from Gemini, the twins, which is the subject of trump 35, the highest of the extra numbered trumps that were added to the standard 78-card Tarocchi pack. In Sicily and Genoa the game was known as Gallerini.

In the late 20th and early 21st century several companies have printed reproduction Minchiate packs, sold mostly to playing-card collectors. Some enthusiasts in Florence and a few in Britain have tried to revive the game.

Summary of the Game

The 97-card pack consists of 40 trumps, four suits of 14 cards and the Fool (Matto). In its classic form Minchiate is a trick-taking game for four players in fixed partnerships. (There were other versions for two or three players, and for four each playing for themselves - these will be described briefly in the variations section.) The aim is to win tricks containing valuable cards, but more important than capturing individual cards is for teams to collect in their tricks combinations of scoring cards knows as versicole.

Each player has a hand of 21 cards, so there are 21 tricks, and the remaining 13 cards are known as the Fola. The cards of the Fola are not used in the play but there is a process at the start of each hand by which one player from each team can extract useful cards from the Fola in exchange for unwanted cards, so that all the important cards are in the hands of the players. Also, the contents of the Fola are made known to all players. This enables players to keep count of the number of cards of each suit remaining in players' hands, which is an important element of skilful play.

There are two opportunities to score for versicole (scoring card combinations). During the first trick each individual player is allowed to declare and score for any versicole held within their hand, and at the end of the play each team scores for all the versicole collected in the tricks of the two players together. This process is similar to that of Bolognese Tarocchi.

There are also three opportunities to score for individual valuable cards. Before the play each team scores for counting cards turned up turing the deal or robbed from the Fola and at the end of the play each team scores for all the counting cards in their tricks. In addition, during the play, if a counting card is captured in a trick by an opponent, the capturing team immediately scores the value of the captured card.

Finally, a small amount is scored for each trick taken, plus a larger bonus for the team that wins the last trick.

Players and Cards

The classic game of Minchiate is for four players in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other. The deal and play are counter-clockwise and the turn to deal passes to the right after each hand. Four hands, each player dealing once, constitute a girata, after which it is usual to change partners. A complete game, known as a girone, consists of 12 deals, four with each of the three possible partnerships.

The pack consists of 97 cards. There are 40 trumps. The top five trumps, known as Arie, have no numbers on them. In descending order they are the Trumpets (le Trombe), the World (il Mondo), the Sun (il Sole), the Moon (la Luna) and the Star (la Stella).

trumpets
le trombe (40)
world
il mondo (39)
sun
il sole (38)
moon
la luna (37)
star
la stella (36)

The remaining 35 trumps are identified by Roman numerals from XXXV down to I, the lowest. Of these the subjects of trumps I to XV correspond to the lowest 16 of the usual Tarot trumps, except that two Emperors and one Empress replace the Pope, Popess, Emperor and Empress. Despite the lack of Papal subjects, the bottom five trumps from I to V are collectively known in the game as Papi (Popes) and individually as Papa Uno, Papa Due, Papa Tre, Papa Quattro and Papa Cinque (Pope 1, Pope 2, Pope 3, Pope 4, Pope 5). The added trumps XVI to XIX are four extra virtues (hope, prudence, faith and charity), XX to XXIII are the four classical elements (fire, water, earth, air) and XXIV to XXXV are the twelve signs of the Zodiac in order from Libra (XXIV) to Gemini (XXXV).

In what follows, for convenience and greater readability we will refer to all the trumps using Arabic numerals from 1 to 40 even though the five Arie 40 (Trumpets), 39 (World), 38 (Sun), 37 (Moon) and 36 (Star) are in reality unnumbered and the lower trumps have Roman numbers.

The four suits consist of two round suits - cups (coppe) and coins (denari) - and two long suits - swords (spade) and batons (bastoni). 'Round' and 'long refer to the shape of the suit symbol. Each suit consists of 14 cards. The highest card of each suit is the King (Re) followed in order by the Queen (Regina), Horse (Cavallo) and Jack (Fante) or Maid (Fantina). The Kings are crowned and bearded, the Queens are crowned and clearly female. The 'Horses' are fantastic creatures, half human and half beast. The lowest picture card is a Jack (male) in the long suits but a Maid (female) in the round suits.

king of cupsking of coinsking of swordsking of batons

queen of cupsqueen of coinsqueen of swordsqueen of batons

horse of cupshorse of coinshorse of swordshorse of batons

maid of cupsmaid of coinsjack of swordsjack of batons

Below the pictures in each suit come the ten numeral cards, distinguished by the number of suit symbols on the cards. Some care is needed in counting them - in the long suits the straight swords or batons are arranged in a trellis pattern. In the round suits cups and coins, the numerals rank from high to low 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 while in the long suits swords and batons they rank from high to low 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

fool

The 97th card is Il Matto - The Fool - a man in a feathered hat holding aloft a stick with two balls - conceivably a rattle, accompanied by two children. The Matto has no trick-taking power but the holder can play it to any one trick instead of following suit or trumping.

Card Values and Versicole

Minchiate is unusual among Tarot games in that most of the cards with point values are trumps. In the four suits only the Kings have a value: the other picture cardsin the suits are empty of points like the pip cards. The individual card values are as follows:

Trumps 40, 39, 38, 37, 36 10 points each
Trumps 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30 5 points each
Trump 29 0 points*
Trump 28 5 points
Trumps 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21 0 points each
Trump 20 5 points
Trumps 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14 0 points each
Trump 13 5 points
Trumps 12, 11 0 points each
Trump 10 5 points
Trumps 9, 8, 7, 6 0 points each
Trumps 5, 4, 3, 2 3 points each
Trump 1 5 points
Matto (Fool) 5 points
Kings 5 points each
All other suit cards 0 points each

The total value of all the counting cards in the pack is 142 points.

The scoring combinations (versicole) are of two types, known as regular and irregular.

A regular versicola is a sequence of 3 or more consecutive trumps in the range 28 to 40 or in the range 1 to 5.

There are four types of irregular versicola:

  1. the 1, 40 and Matto, called versicola del Matto.
  2. the 1, 13 and 28, called versicola del Tredici (versicola of the 13)
  3. the 10, 20 and 30, or the 20, 30 and 40, or the 10, 20, 30 and 40, any of which is called a versicola delle diecine (versicola of the tens) ;
  4. any three or all four Kings (versicola dei Regi).

The value of a versicola is equal to the value of the cards in it, with the exception of the 29, which is worth nothing as a card in itself but becomes worth 5 points when included in a regular versicola such as 28-29-30 or 29-30-31.

The versicole and the values of the counting cards are summarised in the following diagram, where a versicola consists of three or more adjacent cards along a marked line, lines drawn in different styles being considered separate.

versicole

The Matto can be added to any and all versicole (except the versicola del Matto, which already contains it). It does not act as a wild card or substitute, but simply increases by 5 points the values of all versicole owned by the player or team that has it.

A card can be used simultaneously in several versicole - for example the 30 could be used both in 28-29-30-31 and in 20-30-40 and the papa uno (1) can be used simultaneously in the versicola del Matto, the versicola del tredici and the regular versicola 1-2-3.

Contiguous regular versicole merge to form a single versicola. A team that has 38-37-36, 34-33-32, Matto will score 55 points by adding the Matto to each versicola. If this team additionally acquires the 35 their eight cards are still worth only 55 points because the trumps 32 to 38 now merge into a single versicola to which the Matto can only be added once.

In addition to the above each trick is effectively worth 2 points (in fact the difference between the team's trick scores is computed by giving the team with more cards in its tricks one point for each card they have in excess of 42, which comes to the same result), and 10 extra points are awarded to the team that wins the last trick.

Terminology

Trumps are called tarocchi.  Counting cards are called carte di conto, and trumps which are counting cards tarocchi nobili.  Trumps which are not counting cards are called tarocchi ignobili, and empty suit cards are called cartiglie or cartaccie. As already mentioned, the top five trumps are called Arie and the lowest five trumps, from 1 to 5, are called Papi.  The 31 to 35 are called sopratrenti (above 30); likewise the 21 to 29 are sometimes called sopraventi (above 20) and the 11 to 19 sottoventi (below 20). The trumps from 33 upwards, particularly the 33, 34 and 35, are called rossi, because of their red backgrounds. 

Deal, Robbing and construction of the Fola

The rather elaborate dealing process has two purposes:

  1. to ensure that all the important cards are in the hands of the players, and
  2. to provide a small amount of information about the location of some cards.

After shuffling the pack, the dealer presents it to the player to the left to cut.  The cutter lifts a section of the pack from the top in the usual way (leaving at least three cards in the remainder) and turns over this top section so as to expose its bottom card.  If this card is a counting card, or any sopraventi (trump higher than the 20) even if not a counting card, the cutter takes it and lays it face up on the table.  If the next card is a counting card or a sopraventi, the cutter takes it in the same way, and continues to take cards until either 13 cards have been taken or a card is found that is neither a counting card nor a sopraventi.  To take counting cards and sopraventi from the pack in this way is called to rob (rubare) the pack. The opponents of the dealer immediately score the values in points of all the counting cards which the cutter robs.

The cutter now puts the remainder of the top section of the pack face down on the table and the dealer places the bottom section on top of it. The dealer now deals 21 cards to each player, first a batch of ten cards to each player and then a batch of eleven cards each. The last card of the eleven card batch dealt to each player is turned face up, and if it is a counting card the owner's team immediately scores its value.

The dealer counts the stock of undealt cards (the Fola) to make sure that it contains the right number of cards: 13 less the number if any that were robbed by the cutter. The dealer now robs the Fola, beginning by turning its top card face up. If this is a counting card or a sopraventi the takes it, places it face up on the table and turns up the next card, continuing in this way until either the Fola is exhausted or the next card is neither a counting card nor a sopraventi. The dealer’s side scores the value of any counting cards robbed by the dealer in this way. (It is important that the dealer should rob cards from the top of the Fola, rather than exposing the bottom card, which will necessarily be an empty card.)

The dealer now looks through the remaining cards of the Fola, and if it contains any counting cards or the 29, the dealer extracts them and lays them face up on the table. These cards belong to the dealer, but the dealer's side does not score any points for them at this stage. To extract counting cards from the Fola in this way is called pigliare. Note that sopraventi from 21 to 27 cannot be extracted from the Fola at this stage - they can only be robbed.

What remains of the Fola is now handed across the table to the dealer's partner who sorts it into suits, places the trumps face down and arranges the other cards face up, announcing how many cards of each suit are in the Fola. (Traditionally the dealer's partner does not announce how many trumps are in the Fola but of course this is deducible by subtraction.) 

Meanwhile all four players pick up their hands, including the exposed cards they were dealt as their 21st card and any cards they robbed or extracted from the Fola. If the dealer or the cutter robbed or extracted any cards they must each discard sufficient cards face down to reduce their hands to 21 cards. They are not allowed to discard counting cards or the 29, but may discard any other cards, including trumps. When the dealer and the cutter have made their discards, the players make their initial declarations and begin the first trick as described below under Play.

When the first player has led declarations are completed, but before second card is played to the first trick, the dealer and the cutter turn the cards they discarded face up for the other players to see and pass them to the dealer’s partner, who announces which cards each of them has discarded and adds them to the Fola, which now contains its full complement of 13 cards. The dealer's partner announces how many cards of each plain suit are now in the Fola and returns the 13 cards to the dealer, who stores them face down to one side during the remainder of the play.

Throughout the play, the dealer may look at the Fola at any time, and at any player’s request must announce again how many cards of each suit it contains.

Play

The rules of play for the 21 tricks are as follows. Any card may be led to a trick. The other three players in anticlockwise order must play a card of the suit that was led if they can. Players with no card of the suit led must play a trump. Players with no card of the suit led and no trumps may play any card. If a trump is led, the other players must play a trump if they have any, otherwise any card. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it if any were played: if no trumps were played it is won by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

One member of each team stores face down all the tricks won by their team. The dealer's partner should store the tricks taken by the dealer's team so that they do not accidentally become mixed with the Fola, which is stored by the dealer.

There are special rules governing the first trick, the play of Kings and the play of the Matto.

During the first trick, each player declares any versicole which they hold in their hands. Partners cannot combine their cards at this stage - it is only versicole that are held entirely in one player's hand that count. Each player's team scores for these versicole immediately after they are declared. The sequence of events, after the dealer and cutter have discarded, are:

  1. The player to dealer's right declares and scores versicole.
  2. The player to dealer's right leads a card to the first trick.
  3. The dealer's partner declares and scores versicole.
  4. The cutter declares and scores versicole.
  5. The dealer declares and scores versicole.
  6. The discards are shown, the dealer's partner collects them, adds them to the Fola and passes the Fola to the dealer.
  7. The dealer's partner, then the cutter and finally the dealer each play a card to the first trick.

Throughout the play, whenever one side captures a counting card from the other side, that counting card is said to ‘die(morire). Whenever this happens the side that wins the trick immediately scores the value of that counting card as a bonus. This is in addition to the benefit they will have from counting it among the cards they have won in tricks at the end of the play.

The special rule about Kings applies to the first trick played in each of the four plain suits. If on the first occasion that a suit is led a player trumps and a later player to the trick holds the King of the suit, they must play the King to the trick. This rule does not apply when the trick is not the first one to which that suit has been led. Also it does not apply when a trump has not yet been played to the trick, even if the holder of the King knows that a later player will play a trump.

The Matto can be played to any trick as an alternative to following suit or trumping, with one exception: it cannot be played to avoid playing a King to the first trick of a suit if that trick has been trumped. The Matto can never win a trick, but the Matto itself is retained by the team of the player who played it, and added to their trick pile. If the trick was won by the opponents of the player of the Matto the team that played the Matto must give the winners of the trick a card from their own trick pile in exchange for it at the end of the play (or earlier if they so choose). Naturally they will give a worthless card if possible, but if they only have counting cards they will have to give one of those, and the card they give will be counted as dying so that the team that acquired it scores its value. If the team that play the Matto win no tricks at all they will have to give up the Matto at the end of play and the other team will score 5 points for its death as well as being able to count it among their won cards and add it to all their versicole.

The written rules that we have seen do not seem to envisage that a player will ever lead the Matto to a trick. If this does happen, then by analogy with similar games the rule should be that the second player to the trick may play any card, and this card is treated as though it had been led to the trick.

Scoring

The scoring uses a system of points and resti. During the play a tally is kept of how many points one team is ahead of the other - so for example if team A is 3 points ahead and then team B scores 5 points, team A will lose their lead and team B will be 2 points ahead. If team B then scores another 5 points they will be 7 points ahead, and so on. It is convenient to keep track of this using chips of some kind: at any moment only the leading team will have chips. When they win points they take chips from a central supply, and when they lose points they return chips to the supply. If they lose the lead they return all their chips and the other team takes chips representing their lead. The resti are the stakes for which the game is played and are in a sense equivalent to 60 points. As soon as a team is ahead by 60 or more points, the trailing team pays them one resto and 60 points are deducted from their lead.

At the end of each hand, when the scores have been computed, the team that is ahead is paid one resto for each complete 60 points by which they are ahead, plus one more resto for the remainder. So if they are from 1-60 points ahead they win 1 resto, for 61-120 points 2 resti, for 121-180 points 3 resti and so on. The point score is then reset to zero for the next deal.

Strangely, it can be to a team's eventual disadvantage to win a resto during the play. Suppose that as a result of fortunate robbing and declarations and skilful captures team A acquires a lead of 65 points at some point in the play. Team B must immediately pay them one resto and team A's lead is reduced to 5. But if in the later play and final scoring team B scores 19 points more than team A, team B will end with a lead of 14 points, team A will have to pay back their resto and the result is effectively a draw even though in total A scored 46 points more than B. If on the other hand the teams had scored the same relative number of points without team A's lead ever exceeding 60, team A would have won one resto at the end for their 46 point lead.

There are in total nine ways in which points can be scored:

  1. counting cards robbed by the cutter,
  2. counting cards cards dealt face up as any player's 21st card,
  3. counting cards robbed by the dealer,
  4. declarations of versicole during the first trick,
  5. counting cards that die during the play,
  6. points for winning the last trick,
  7. points for versicole collected by each team scored at the end of play,
  8. points for counting cards owned by each team scored at the end of play,
  9. points for the team that took the majority of tricks scored at the end of play.

Items 1 to 5 have already been explained. The points are scored immediately the events happen and resti are paid whenever a team's lead reaches 60 or more. Items 6 to 9 all happen after the last trick. The total scores for these are calculated and all applied at once to find the number of resti that must be paid before the points are reset to zero for the next deal.

Item 6: the team that wins the last trick scores 10 points.

Item 7: each team arranges the cards in their tricks into versicole and scores for them as described under Card Values and Versicole above.

Item 8: traditionally each team arranges its cards as far as possible into face-up packets of three cards each with a counting card on top and then adds up the values of the counting cards they have taken. The purpose of the packets is to distribute the counting cards fairly evenly through the pack prior to the next shuffle and to help with the next item.

Item 9: the team that has more than 42 scores 1 point for each card they have in excess of 42. That is easy to calculate if the cards have been arranged into packets of three: 42 cards make 14 packets so the team with more than 14 packets will score 1 point for each extra card they have beyond these. With a little thought it can be seen that this is equivalent to scoring 2 extra points per trick. For example if one team has won 13 tricks and the other team 8 the team that is 5 tricks ahead will have 52 cards and therefore score 10 points for tricks. If the tricks divided 12-9 they would be three tricks ahead and score 6 points for their 48 cards.

Tactics

The object of the play is, of course, to save one’s own counting cards, to help to save one’s partner's counting cards and to capture those of the opponents, and particularly those forming versicole. There are certain cards which are of special importance, and are called carte gelose (jealous cards). These are: the Papa Uno, because it forms part of three different versicole; the Papa 3, because without it one cannot form a versicola of Papi; the 20, because without it one cannot form a versicola delle diecine; the 30, for the same reason and because it may also belong to a regular versicola; and the Sole, without which one cannot form a versicola composed entirely of Arie.  The 13 and the 28 may to a lesser degree be considered carte gelose. Cards the loss of which will destroy a potential versicola (particularly the middle card of a regular versicola such as 31, 32 and 33) are also to be treated as carte gelose. Except when one is forced to do so, one should never play a carta gelosa to a trick one cannot be sure of.

A player who holds a King of a suit and fears that an opponent may be void of the suit may wish to lead a low card of the suit at an early opportunity to avert the risk of having to sacrifice the King if the the first round of the suit is led by another player. Leading a low card from a suit in which one has the King in this way is called to ‘hang’ (impiccare), or sometimes to ‘smother’ (affogare), the King.  If the holder of the King has length in the suit – five or six cards – it may be good to continue to lead it.  If partner becomes void before the King holder’s left hand opponent, it may then be possible to save the King by leading it, so that partner can overtrump the King holder’s right hand opponent. Alternatively, if one is short in trumps, it may be possible to exhaust both opponents’ holdings in the suit and keep the King to throw on one of partner's winning trumps later in the hand.

A player may repeatedly lead a suit in which his partner is void or will soon become void, so that his partner may win the trick with a carta gelosa or other tarocco nobile. In this case it is the player's responsibility to lead this suit only so long as there are other cards of that suit still in play, taking into account the number already played, the number in the Fola, and the number in the player's own hand. If the player to the right trumps, the leader's partner will know that it is safe to overtrump with a carta gelosa, since the other opponent will have to follow suit. To lead a card in a plain suit in which the player to one’s left has one or more cards is called a rifitta, and is always the safest possible lead.  A player who has been leading a suit and reaches the point where no other players hold cards of that suit must not continue to lead it without first switching to some other lead. The switch is a signal to partner that the suit is no longer safe. The only occasion on which the switch is unnecessary is when the first unsafe lead is the last card of the suit in the player’s hand, since partner can then be expected to know that this is the last card of the suit in play. A particular case of a rifitta is that in which the player knows that the opponent to the left still has the King of the suit because it was exposed at the start of play. It is normally bad play to lead towards one’s partner’s King.

In general, it is not good play to lead trumps early in the hand unless the two partners hold between them a great many trumps, including most of the high ones. A signal to one’s partner that one has the Trombe (40) is called a fumata, and is made by leading either a Papa or a sopraventi (a trump from 21 to 27).  If the whereabouts of the Trombe is already known, such a signal is taken as indicating possession of the Mondo, or, in general, of the highest Aria whose whereabouts is not known.  Some players also recognised playing the 10 the first time one trumps a trick in a plain suit as a signal that one has the Trombe. Some also used a fumata with the 25, 26 or 27 to indicate possession of the two highest trumps, or of two Arie, and one with the 21, 22, 23 or 24 to indicate possession of the three highest trumps, or of three Arie

A player who has strong trumps may decide to respond to partner's fumata by initiating a giuoco di giro, that is leading trumps repeatedly in an attempt to exhaust all the opponents’ trumps. A signal to commence a giuoco di giro is to lead the Uno or other carta gelosa, in the knowledge that partner is certain to be able to take the trick: this signal is known as girare – to ‘turn’ a card to one’s partner. In a giuoco di giro it may be possible to catch an Aria belonging to the opponents by means of a finesse: for example one player may lead a series of sopratrenti towards partner, who holds back a high Aria until the opponents’ Aria falls.

When playing third to a plain suit or trump trick, a tenuta consists of playing a sufficiently high trump to prevent the fourth player from winning the trick with an important counting card.  For example, with a trump from the 6 to the 9 one can make a tenuta to a Papa, with one from the 14 to the 19 a tenuta to the 13, and with a sopraventi a tenuta to the 20.

Variations

From the surviving literature it is clear that above game with fixed partnerships was the principal and most respected form of the game, at any rate in and around Florence and Rome, from the late 17th to the mid 19th century. The rules were remarkably stable but it is not surprising that there were a few variants.

Cascare. Some allowed players who had no more trumps in hand to ‘drop’ (cascare) their cards. The player would lay their cards face up on the table, was not permitted to win any more tricks, and took no further part in the play. In each subsequent trick, the player who won it would take a suitable card from the exposed hand to complete the trick. It is plainly inadvisable to take advantage of this rule if one still has a King in one’s hand, but when one has no further chance of winning a trick it may be helpful to let partner know how matters stand.

Looking at past tricks. In many circles players were allowed to look back at any tricks previously won by their team. This seems undesirable as it is liable to further slow down a game that can already take a long time to play.

Robbing more than 13 cards. Some allowed the cutter to continue to rob cards so long as they were all counting cards or sopraventi, even if more than 13 cards could be taken that way. In this case, the dealer will not be able to take a full complement of eleven cards on the second round of the deal.  Instead, the dealer takes all the remaining cards, exposing the last one, and then waits for the cutter to discard. The cutter discards as many cards as were robbed, laying thirteen of them face down to form the Fola and giving the remainder, which will necessarily be empty cards, to the dealer, who will then have a full hand of 21 cards.

Penalty for failure to rob. In the early days some played that if the dealer was unable either to rob or to extract any cards from the Fola, the dealer's team had to pay a penalty of 1 resto to the opposing side. However, the rule was abandoned as being too brutal.

Bonus for winning the girata. some played that the overall winners of each girata (round of four hands with the same partners) received an additional payment of 3 resti.

Winning every trick. Some played that if one of the teams won every trick, their payment in resti for the final score was doubled, but not any resti they may have received during the hand.  This privilege is not mentioned in any of the Italian sources. 

Extracting the 29. Most played that the dealer must extract the 29 from the Fola if it is present, since although it is not a counting card it can be used in a versicola. One author mentions with disapproval an alternative version where the dealer only extracts the 29 if it could be used immediately as part of a versicola in the dealer’s hand.

Devil, World and Flesh. A few players recognised an additional irregular versicola consisting of the 14 (the Devil), the 35 (the Twins) and the Mondo. This was called the Demonio, Mondo e Carne (the Twins being taken to represent the Flesh) and was worth 20 points, the 14 being treated as worth 5 points when included in this versicola.

Other forms of Minchiate

Minchiate without Partners. Several sources describe versions of Minchiate for four players, each playing for themselves. While the partnership game was treated as a game of skill, these games have more of the character of gambling games. In one version it was possible for a player with a poor hand to drop out by agreeing to pay a fixed amount to the winner of the last trick, but in return the player who has dropped out was paid for any counting cards that died during play. In another the Fola was not robbed by the cutter or dealer but instead could either be used by the first player or auctioned to the other players if the first player decided to drop out. Sometimes the Devil, World and Flesh versicola was allowed, and sometimes the scores for versicole including Arie were increased.

Minchiate for Three or Two players. These games are briefly mentioned in a couple of sources, but were evidently not regarded by the authors as worthy of much attention. Probably they were only used to pass the time when there were not enough players present to make up a four-player game.

A Sei Tocci and Al Palio. These were not Tarot games at all but games of chance using Minchiate cards. Each player was dealt a small number of cards to begin with. Further cards were flipped one by one from the remaining deck and were acquired by a player holding an adjacent card or the closest card.

Details of these games can be found in the History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack (see sources).

Other Websites and Sources of Information

Nazario Renzoni's Germini page provides an introduction and rules of the game in Italian.

The game of Minchiate and its history are described in detail in Chapter 12 of "A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack" (volume 1) by Michael Dummett and John McLeod (Edwin Mellen Press, 2004).

One of the most comprehensive Minchiate handbooks was published in Dresden in 1798. The full German text of this manual Regeln des Minchiatta-Spiels is available online thanks to Hans-Joachim Alscher.

One of the standard Italian texts is the Regole Generali del Giuoco delle Minchiate (Florence, 1790)

On the TreTre site, Girolamo Zorli has published a critical edition of a 1716 manuscript Regole del nobile e dilletevol gioco delle Minchiate by Niccolò Onesti.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (john@pagat.com).   © John McLeod, 2008, 2020. Last updated: 3rd July 2020

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