Escoba is a Spanish game in the “fishing” family that plays very similarly to the Italian game Scopa. Escoba is popular in Spain, Argentina, and Chile, and can be played with two to four players. The four-handed game may be played either as a partnership game or with four individual players. Escoba is Spanish for broom, probably referring to the “sweep” that occurs when a player takes all of the cards on the board.
Object of Escoba
The object of Escoba is to capture cards from the table with a combined value of fifteen.
Escoba is traditionally played with a 40-card Spanish deck, with suits of batons, coins, cups, and swords and rey (king), caballo (horse), and sota (jack) as court cards. An equivalent deck can be made by removing all of the 8s, 9s, and 10s from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, leaving a 40-card deck with the king, queen, jack, ace, and 2 through 7 in each of the four suits. Diamonds take on the role the coin suit plays in the Spanish game; the suits are otherwise irrelevant.
You will also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper, or a replica of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
If playing a four-handed game with partnerships, players on the same partnership should sit directly across from each other, so that when going around the table players alternate partnerships.
Shuffle and deal three cards, face down, to each player. After all players have received their hands, deal four cards, face up, to the center of the table. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Each card in Escoba has a numerical value for the purposes of capturing. Kings are worth ten, queens are worth nine, and jacks are worth eight. Aces are worth one. All other cards are worth their face value.
In the event that all of the board cards have a value totaling fifteen, all of the cards are immediately captured by the dealer, who scores for an escoba. If the board cards total 30, the dealer scores for two escobas (see below).
Game play in Escoba begins with the player to the dealer’s right and continues on to the right, the opposite of most other games. On their turn, each player simply places one card face-up on the table. If the value of the card played plus any of the other cards already on the table equals exactly fifteen, the player captures those cards. The captured cards, as well as the card used to perform the capture, are all moved to a face-down score pile in front of the player (if playing with partnerships, one score pile is formed from the captured cards of both players on the partnership).
If all of the cards on the table are captured at once, this is called an escoba (sweep). To record the escoba, the capturing card is placed face-up in the score pile .
After three rounds of play, each player will have run out of cards. Three more cards are then dealt from the stock to each player. Play continues in this manner, with more cards dealt to each player after every three rounds, until the deck is depleted. Play continues until each player’s hands are empty. Any remaining cards on the table are scored for the last player to successfully perform a capture (but this does not count as an escoba).
At the end of the hand, the score piles are examined to determine the score for the hand:
- collecting the most cards*
- collecting the most diamonds*
- capturing the siete de velo (7♦)
- la setenta (see below)
- one point for each escoba
*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 la setenta, 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 ranking: (high) 7, 6, A, 5, 4, 3, 2, face cards (low). Setentas are compared as in poker, with the highest card compared first, then going to the second-highest card in case of a tie, and so on.
After scoring, the deal is passed to the right. The game ends when a player or partnership has reached 21 points; whoever has the highest score at that point is the winner. If there is a tie, keep playing until the tie is broken.