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Briscola - Rules



Cow Game




Art Puzzles

Also see pages:  Scopa and Tressette


And for a simple trick-taking game for young children, to help them learn the skills for Briscola, see my Cow Game page.

Briscola is a trump card game where players collect tricks (the played cards- prese) by having either the highest card played of a certain suit, or a trump card.  Unlike many trump card games, 

Briscola does not require the players to follow the suit lead by the first player.  Players can use strategy to decide when to follow suit and when not to:  winning the trick with a high card of the lead suit, or discarding useless cards of the non-trump suits and losing the trick, or using a trump card to win the trick. 


It can be played with 2 to 5 players.  The game with 4 players, is usually played as two teams.    


Carte Italiane, Italian card deck (mazzo) of 40 cards, or the 52-card deck with 8s, 9s, 10s removed.


To take the cards played, with emphasis on the highest point earning cards.


The players cut the deck and the player with the highest card deals.  The dealer (il mazziere o cartaio) distributes, one at a time, three cards to each player, face down, dealing counter-clockwise around the table.  Then one card is turned up and placed half under the remaining deck, which is face down.  The suit (il seme) of this one card determines the trump suit (la briscola) for this hand (la smazzata). 


The player to the right of the dealer begins by placing one of his cards, face up, in the center of play.  The play continues counter-clockwise with each player contributing one card until all the players have done so.  

The cards played do not have to follow the suit of the first card.  The trick is won either by the highest trump card played or by the highest ranking card from the suit of the first card.  The player who wins the trick takes the cards and places them in a stack, face down, before him, and cannot look at them again until just before the last trick is played.  

After a trick is won, each player, beginning with the player who won the trick, takes a card from the top of the deck.  Play continues until there are no more cards.  The trump card, the one placed face up at the beginning of play to determine the trump suit, is the last card taken. 


If playing in teams, the cards are cut before the start of of play, and the players with the two highest cards pair up, and those with the two lowest cards pair up.  Signaling to your partner what cards you have is allowed, but false signals can also be used to confuse opponents. 

Scoring and Winning:

Points are scored and a match winner is declared when a player reaches a certain point level, usually 121.  When there are only two players, the play is often to 61, and then the overall winner is the player who wins two out of three hands.  As the total value of points possible in one hand is 120, it usually takes two hands to declare a winner, but it can sometimes take three hands. 

Card Values: 

The card values in descending order are:  Ace-Asso (11 points), 3-Tre (10 ), King-Re (4 ), Queen-Cavallo (3 ), Jack-Fante (2 ).  All the other cards have no value.  When taking tricks, the strongest card is the Ace, followed by the King, Queen, Jack, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.


One variation of the game is Briscola Chiamata.  In this game, all the cards are dealt out to the five players (8 cards each), and the play involves a team of two against a team of three.  

The teams are decided by a process of Declaring (Dichiarazione), when the players Call (fa una chiamata) a card value and eventually a suit to use for the trump card.  

The process is as follows.  The player to the right of the dealer begins by naming the value of a card that would help their hand win more tricks, usually a high strength card.  The higher the Call, the stronger his hand is assumed to be.  Other players can, in turn, either Pass without making a Call, thus accepting the first player’s Call, or make a Call of their own, a card of a lower strength.  This continues until all the players, except one, Passes, or a player Calls a Two, the lowest strength card.  The remaining player gets to decide the suit of the trump card.  The player who has the card of the final Call, strength and suit, is the secret partner of the player who Called the trump card.  

The Caller begins the play as usual, all the tricks are played out.  At the end of the hand, the points of the two partners are added together and compared to the other three players.  The player who decides the strength and suit of the trump card can also Call a card that he holds in his own hand, which he might do if he has a very strong hand.  In this case, he plays on his own against the other four players.  

The scoring for this variation of Briscola is done in the same way as the regular game, with the first team to reach 60 points the winning team.  But then a system of points is used to assign points to each player.  

These are the points that determine the overall winner of the match, who is the first player to earn 11 points.  If the Call team wins, the Caller gets 2 points, his partner gets 1 point, and the opposition gets minus 1 point.  If the opposition wins, they each get 1 point and the Caller gets minus 2 and his partner gets minus 1.  If the Caller is playing alone and wins, he gets 4 points and all the others get minus 1 point.  If he plays alone and loses, he gets minus 4 points and the others get 1 point each.

Site with Briscola rules in English with many variations, and detailing a common system of signaling:  Rules of Card Games.

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Here are direct links to for Italian playing cards (there are images at Amazon of all the products) and two old Italian Tarot card decks, for those interested in history.


Alida is an on-line store based in The Republic of San Marino.  They ship Italian playing cards (Tarot, Regional, Historical) all over the world.  The cards are reasonably priced, and shipping is fast (airmail) and very reasonably priced! 

They also sell special historical cards which I think  are too beautiful to play with and should all be framed!  I've purchased cards from them without any problems whatsoever, and an very happy with the GORGEOUS cards!

Visit my Playing Cards page