Scopa

Last week, we shared the rules of Cassino with you. Scopa is a similar game, found in the same “fishing” family as Cassino, although it is much simpler than the latter game. Scopa, meaning sweep in Italian, was described by David Parlett in The Penguin Book of Card Games as “one of Italy’s major national card games”. Like Cassino, Scopa is best for two players.

Object of Scopa

The object of Scopa is to use the cards in your hand to capture cards on the table, with particular attention given to nabbing certain high-scoring cards.

Setup

Scopa requires a 40-card deck of playing cards. Traditionally, an Italian deck is used, with suits of swords in place of spades, batons instead of clubs, cups instead of hearts, and coins instead of diamonds. The Italian deck used for Scopa also has different face card ranks: re (king), cavall (knight), and fante (footsoldier). You can create an equivalent pack by taking a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards and removing the 8s, 9s, and 10s; the English queen will substitute for the knight, and the jack for the footsoldier. It does not matter that the suits don’t match up; suits generally do not matter in Scopa, although diamonds take on the role of coins in the Italian game.

You will also need some form of scorekeeping apparatus, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal three cards to each player, then deal four more face up to the center of the table. The remainder of the deck forms the stock. If three or more of the four board cards are kings, it is customary to abandon the hand, throw in the cards, and deal again.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first. On their turn, a player may use any card in their hand to capture one or more of the board cards. The cards so captured, as well as the one played by the player, are placed face-down in a score pile in front of them.

Capturing is achieved in one of two ways. The first is by pairing a card from the hand with a card matching in rank. The card captures only one other card of that rank on the board. (This is unlike in Cassino, where one card may capture as many as three others of the same rank.)

The second way of capturing is by addition, wherein the player captures two or more other cards that total the value of the card being played. For the purposes of addition, aces count as one, numerical cards as their face value, jacks as eight, queens as nine, and kings as ten. If a card can perform a capture by both pairing or by addition, the pairing takes precedence and must be performed rather than performing an addition capture. It is possible to clear the entire board of cards, called a sweep or scopa; this is recorded by putting the card performing in the sweep face-up in the score pile.

If a player cannot make any other play on their turn, they must trail by discarding one card face-up to the board. A player may not simply trail if they are able to capture something with that card, however.

Every third turn, the players exhaust their hands; new three-card hands are dealt from the stock. The board does not receive any further cards, and the cards already on the board remain in play.

Ending the hand

Game play continues until both the stock and the players’ hands are exhausted. The last player to make a successful capture adds the remaining board cards to their score pile. This does not constitute a sweep, even if the player actually captured all of the cards on the board. The hand is then scored, with players awarded one point for each of the following, in order:

  • collecting the most cards overall*
  • collecting the most diamonds*
  • capturing the sette bello (7♦)
  • primiera (see below)
  • 1 point for each sweep

*In the event that the players are tied for the most cards in these categories, neither player gets the point.

In order to be eligible for primiera, a player must have collected cards of all four suits. A player then finds the highest-scoring card in each suit according to the following list, and adds up the total of all four cards:

  • a 7—21 points
  • a 6—18 points
  • an ace—16 points
  • a 5—15 points
  • a 4—14 points
  • a 3—13 points
  • a 2—12 points
  • a face card—10 points

The player with the higher count by this reckoning scores the point for primiera.

The first player to score eleven points wins. Points should be added in the order listed above, and whenever the first player reaches eleven points, scoring ceases, with the remaining categories going unscored.

See also

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Cassino

Cassino is the lone entry of a family of so-called “fishing” games to gain popularity in the English-speaking world. Cassino, a game for two players, revolves around capturing cards on a field of play by matching cards in your hand against them. Its name is sometimes hypercorrected to Casino. The spelling with two S‘s is the traditional spelling, and helps distinguish it from people’s usual association with the word casino, which is a place where you will probably never see a Cassino game.

Object of Cassino

The object of Cassino is to use the cards in your hand to capture cards on the table. Particular attention is given to nabbing certain high-scoring cards.

Setup

Cassino requires one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Naturally, we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need some form of scorekeeping apparatus, like pencil and paper.

Shuffle and deal four cards to the board and four to each player, in the following pattern: two to the opponent, two to the table, two to the dealer, then repeating. The remainder of the deck is set aside and forms the stock.

Game play

The non-dealer plays first. Most turns, a player will either capture a card on the board, or set up a capture on a subsequent turn by building, as described below. If a player cannot make any other play on their turn, they must trail by discarding one card face-up to the board. A player may not simply trail if they are able to capture something with that card, however. Trailing usually happens immediately after someone has cleared the board of cards.

Every fourth turn, the players exhaust their hands. New four-card hands are dealt from the stock, two at a time, as before. The board does not receive any further cards, and the cards already on the board remain in play.

Capturing

On their turn, a player may use any card in their hand to capture one or more of the board cards. The cards so captured, as well as the one played by the player, are placed face-down in a score pile in front of them. Capturing is achieved in one of two ways. The first is by pairing, in which case the card captures all other cards of that rank on the board. The second is by addition, wherein the player captures two or more other cards that total the value of the card being played. For the purposes of addition, aces count as one and numerical cards as their face value. Face cards have no value and cannot be captured by addition.

A single card may capture an unlimited number of cards, so long as all of the cards captured match the card being played. It is possible to clear the entire board of cards in one play. This is called a sweep. When a sweep occurs, it is recorded by putting the card performing in the sweep face-up in the score pile.

Building

A player may also use a card from their hand to build. This is using a card from your hand to create a combination that can be captured on a subsequent turn. Builds can be created with intent to capture them either by addition or pairing. With a 5 on the board and a 2 in the hand, for example, a player may announce “Building seven” and add the 2 to the 5, then later capture both of them with a 7 from the hand. Or, with a pair of 8s in the hand and a third 8 on the table, a player might build one 8 onto the other, announcing “Building eights”, and capture the pair with the third eight from their hand on a later turn.

Note, however, that an opponent can capture a build if they happen to have a card of the right rank to do so. A build can only be captured by what it was previously declared to be a build of. For instance, if a 5 was played on another 5 with a declaration of “Building fives”, the build could not be captured with a 10.

In order to build, player must have another card actually capable of capturing the build as declared. Builds must be captured as a unit; one cannot capture just one or two cards from one.

A previously-established build may be augmented with further building before it is captured. Further building must continue in the manner it was started. For example, a build composed of a pair of 2s, announced as “Building twos”, could only be extended with more 2s. A 5 could not be added to convert it to an addition build.

Ending the hand

Game play continues until both the stock and the players’ hands are exhausted. The last player to make a successful capture adds the remaining board cards to their score pile. (This does not constitute a sweep unless the player actually captured all of the cards on the board at once.) The hand is then scored as follows:

  • Each sweep—one point.
  • Each ace—one point.
  • Collecting the most spades—one point.
  • Little Cassino—capturing the 2♠, one point.
  • Big Cassino—capturing the 10♦, two points.
  • Collecting the most cards overall—three points. In the event of a tie for most cards overall, neither player is awarded these three points.

The first player to score 11 or 21 points (as previously agreed by the players) wins.

See also

 

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Thirty-One

A $5 billAfter posting the rules to Thirteen, Twenty-One, and Ninety-Nine, we couldn’t resist covering yet another numerically-titled game. Thirty-One shares more of a resemblance to Knock Poker and Gin Rummy than any of the previously-named games, however.

Object of Thirty-One

The object of Thirty-One is to obtain a total count of cards in one suit which is the closest to 31 without going over.

Setup

Thirty-One requires a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’ve read more than a few of these posts, you know that statement is bound to be followed by a recommendation that you use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Well, guess what? This post doesn’t have one.

Each player will also usually place a stake on the outcome of the game in the form of a single banknote of the appropriate currency. What denomination it is doesn’t matter, so long as everyone’s is equal, but often a $5 bill is used. The game can be played without wagering, however, by distributing four markers or tokens of some kind (such as poker chips) to each player.

Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. The remainder of the pack is placed in the center of the table, forming the stock. The top card of the stock is flipped face-up and placed next to it and is called the upcard, the top card of the discard pile.

Game play

The value of each card in Thirty-One is as follows: aces are worth eleven, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards are worth their face value. Each player is trying to obtain as closest as possible to a score of 31 in one suit.

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. This player draws either the upcard or a card from the stock, then discards one card face-up to the discard pile. Play then continues with the next player to the left.

If a player has obtained a score of exactly 31 in one suit, this is called a blitz, and the player immediately reveals it, ending the hand. If a player is satisfied with their score before someone reveals a blitz, they may knock on the table rather than drawing and discarding. Each player after them has one additional turn to improve their hand. When the turn of play returns to the player who knocked, the hand ends.

At the end of the hand, whether by a player revealing a blitz or by knocking, all players reveal their hands, and each is scored. If a hand contains three cards of different suits, the highest card is the hand’s score; if the hand contains two or three of one suit, the values of these cards are totalled to score the hand. The player with the lowest score is the loser of the hand; this player folds one corner of their bill (or forfeits one marker) to signify the loss. If a player knocked to end the hand, and this player is the loser, the penalty is doubled.

Play continues until one player has folded all four corners of their bill (or has run out of markers). This player remains in the game, but if they lose a fifth hand, then they are eliminated and surrender their stake into the center of the table. Game play continues until all players but one have been eliminated. The remaining player is the winner of the game and keeps all of the money.

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Speed

Speed is a two-player card game that really lives up to its name. In Speed, players compete to get rid of their cards as quickly as possible—which involves lots of fast movement. Fans of Spoons and Egyptian Ratscrew will probably like Speed a great deal.

Object of Speed

The object of Speed is to be the first player to run out of cards in both their hand and stock.

Setup

Speed is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. While game play is not quite as boisterous as it is in Spoons, it’s still a good idea to use sturdy cards that aren’t easily damaged, meaning Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is the safest option.

Shuffle and deal a hand of five cards to each player. Then, deal fifteen more cards to each player, each pile forming that player’s stock. Then deal two piles of five cards in the center of the table, which form the two talon piles. Finally, place the remaining two cards face down next to one another between the talons, forming the discard piles.

Game play

Players pick up their hands and examine them. Both players then place a hand on one of the face-down discard pile cards, and on the count of three, flip them face up. Players may now play cards from their hand to either of the discard piles; the players make their moves simultaneously, not taking turns. To be played to a discard pile, the card must be of consecutive rank from the top card of that discard pile, as in Neosho Rapids. Card ranks go “around the corner”; a king may be followed up on by an ace, which may be followed by a two. If two players attempt a play at the same time, the player whose card or hand is on bottom is accepted.

As players deplete their hands, they may draw replacement cards from their stock, up to a hand limit of five cards. Eventually, possible plays usually dry up, and both players end up being blocked. When this happens, both players count to three and flip the top card from one of the talons over onto the discard pile on the same side. Play then resumes if possible; otherwise, another card is flipped up from each talon. If cards from the talon piles are needed but they have been exhausted, each player shuffles one of the discard piles, forming a new talon.

Game play continues until one player has exhausted their hand and also has no cards left in their stock. That player is the winner.

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Incorrect and imperfect decks

Most card games rely on the fact that the exact composition of the deck is known, but the identity of any individual card may or may not be, depending on the role it is currently fulfilling in the game. Therefore, keeping the composition of the deck correct and cards indistinguishable from the back is vital to ensuring game balance and fairness to all players. Decks of cards which do not fulfill these requirements can be categorized as either incorrect or imperfect.

An incorrect deck is one with an incorrect composition for the game required. That is, if the game requires a standard 52-card deck, the deck must consist of ace through king in each of the four suits. Other games, such as Pinochle, require a different composition, which the deck must match to be considered correct. Incorrect decks are those which are either missing one or more card, or have somehow had extra cards included, usually because they were mixed in with cards from another, similar deck. Missing cards most frequently happen because they were accidentally left in the box or somehow found their way outside of the play area (e.g. by being dropped on the floor). In most games, when an incorrect deck is found to be in use, the deal is void. Collect all of the cards, correct the deck, if possible, and redeal. Any game play prior to the hand where the deck was found to be incorrect stands, however. If the deck cannot be corrected, because the missing cards have become lost, a new deck should be substituted.

An imperfect deck is a little more troublesome. That’s because imperfect decks include all other problems with a deck of cards that cannot be fixed by simply adding or removing cards. These include anything that makes the deck identifiable, such as printing defects or damage. If this is discovered in the middle of a hand, the hand continues, but for the sake of fairness, all players should be informed as to what the identifiable card is. After the hand ends, the deck is replaced.

You can avoid incorrect and imperfect decks being put into play by verifying the cards before game play starts. You can also guard against the cards becoming incorrect during game play by simply counting them to ensure the correct number is there between hands. If you use multiple decks of cards, ensure they have contrasting back designs (never use two blue decks, use one red and one blue).

 

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Contract Bridge

Contract Bridge, the game most people are referring to when they just say “Bridge”, was one of the most popular games of the 20th century. Though it first appeared in 1920, many date the game’s “birth” to November 1, 1925, when yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt perfected it. One of the game’s strong suits is that it lends itself equally to social play for fun, but also for strategic, analytical play—so much has been written about Contract Bridge theory that one could scarcely hope to digest it all. The only other card game that is as prolific in terms of works written about it is the many variants of Poker.

Contract Bridge is the king of the trick-taking games, and most of the games of that family that have succeeded after Contract Bridge came to the fore bear some resemblance to it. In particular, those who have played Spades will find picking up Contract Bridge to be relatively straightforward.

Object of Contract Bridge

The object of Contract Bridge is to accurately predict the number of tricks in excess of six that the partnership will be able to win, and thus win two games, which constitute a rubber.

Setup

The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.

Scorekeeping is traditionally done on pencil and paper by one player from each partnership, with both scorekeepers logging the scores of both sides to keep each other honest. The score sheet is divided vertically, with headings of “WE” and “THEY” (referring to the two partnerships), as well as horizontally, resulting in a sheet divided into four quadrants. Preprinted bridge score pads are available for purchase.

Bridge is usually played with two decks of cards with contrasting backs, like those offered in a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. While one deck is being dealt, the next dealer shuffles the unused deck so that it’s ready for the next hand, thus saving time.

Deal thirteen cards to each player, one at a time.

Game play

Bidding

Bidding begins with the dealer. Bids consist of a number, representing the number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) that the partnership will collect during the course of the hand, and either a suit to become trump for the upcoming hand or “no trump”. From lowest to highest, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, no trump. Therefore, the lowest bid is 1♣, which would be overcalled by a bid of 1♦, and so on up to 1♠, then 1NT, which would be overcalled by 2♣.

Rather than overcalling an opponent’s bid, a player may instead double it, which keeps the bid the same but doubles the risk of breaking and the reward of fulfilling the contract. Any bid so doubled by an opponent can be redoubled, which again doubles the risk and reward of accepting the contract.

Players who do not wish to make a bid may pass. Whenever three consecutive players pass, bidding is closed, and the last bid becomes the contract. The winning bidder becomes the declarer, their partner the dummy, and the other partnership the defenders.

Play of the hand

The defender to the declarer’s left leads to the first trick. As soon as this opening lead is made, the dummy reveals their hand, spreading it face-up, grouped in vertical columns by suit. The dummy takes no further part in game play; instead, when it is the dummy’s turn to act, the declarer plays a card from the dummy hand.

Players must follow suit if possible. If a player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card. The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump was played, in which case the highest trump wins. Aces are high.

Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile face down in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.

Trick scoring

After the thirteenth trick has been played, both sides count the number of tricks collected and tally the trick score for that hand. Trick scores are entered under the horizontal rule dividing the sheet.

If the declarer succeeded at making the contract, the scores are as follows:

  • Trump was clubs or diamonds—20 for each odd trick bid
  • Trump was hearts or spades—30 for each odd trick bid
  • No trump—40 for the first odd trick bid, plus 30 for each additional odd trick bid

Multiply these values by 2 if the contract was doubled, or by 4 if it was redoubled. Therefore, a successful bid of 2♠ would score 30×2=60, a successful bid of 3♦ doubled would score 20×3×2=120, and so on.

If the contract was not fulfilled, the declarer scores zero, and the opponents score a premium (see below).

Whenever one side reaches 100 points, the game is concluded. The winner of the game is now said to be vulnerable, which affects the scoring of some premiums, as described below. A horizontal line is drawn across the score sheet to separate games. Trick scores then reset to zero—points from the first game are not carried over to the next—and the next game begins. When a side wins two games, a rubber is concluded. At the end of a rubber, trick scores are added to all of the premiums accrued during the game, and the partnership with the most points wins the rubber.

Premium scoring

All premium scores are entered above the line. Premium scores do not affect when games end and are not tallied until the end of a rubber.

The following premiums are scored for overtricks (odd tricks taken in excess of the contract):

  • If the contract was not doubled or redoubled—the trick value, as would be scored below the line (described above)
  • If the contract was doubled—100 if not vulnerable or 200 if vulnerable
  • If the contract was redoubled—200 if not vulnerable or 400 if vulnerable

A partnership is also eligible for premiums based on the number of honors held in one hand. The five honors are the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of trump, or the four aces in a hand played with no trump. Honor bonuses are not affected by doubling/redoubling or vulnerability.

  • Four honors in one hand (trump contract)—100
  • All five honors in one hand (trump contract)—150
  • All four aces in one hand (no-trump contract)—150

If the declarer does not make contract, the defenders score a premium depending on how many tricks below contract—called undertricks—the declarer collected:

Defenders not vulnerable
Undertricks Undoubled Doubled Redoubled
1 50 100 200
2 100 300 600
3 150 500 1000
Each additional 50 300 600
Defenders vulnerable
Undertricks Undoubled Doubled Redoubled
1 100 200 400
2 200 500 1000
3 300 800 1600
Each additional 100 300 600

Other available premiums:

  • Collecting 12 tricks, called a small slam—500 if not vulnerable, 750 if vulnerable (not affected by doubling/redoubling)
  • Collecting all 13 tricks, called a grand slam—1000 if not vulnerable, 1500 if vulnerable (not affected by doubling/redoubling)
  • Fulfilling a doubled contract—50
  • Fulfilling a redoubled contract—100

Finally, after a rubber has been completed and the score has been tallied, the winner of the rubber scores points based on how many total games were played before they won the rubber:

  • Win in two games (opponents shut out)—700
  • Win in three games (opponents won one game)—500

See also

 

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Plastic cards sliding too much?

It can take time for someone who is used to handling paper cards to get used to plastic cards. One of the main problems people have when adjusting to plastic cards is managing the slipperiness of the cards. A specific problem that a lot of people encounter is squaring up the deck in a nice pile on the table. The top card will, seemingly of its own volition, try to slide off the top of the deck.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to counteract. All you have to do is press down on the top card with your index finger as you’re setting the deck on the table. This forces the air out from between the cards, increasing friction between them. The cards will stay in a nice, neat, squared-up pack, with the top card remaining exactly where it should.

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