If you want to learn how to play Scopa, you landed in the right spot.
Having been born and bred in Italy, I cherish my fond memories of endless hours spent playing Scopa with friends and family. I am pleased to share some of that joy and authentic knowledge with you. So, let’s dive in!
This post contains affiliate links. When you buy something through one of the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
The Magic of the Italian Card Game Scopa
Playing Scopa is a delightful Italian tradition. Alongside Briscola and Tressette, it’s one of the cornerstones of Italian card culture. With its fast pace and simple rules, Scopa is easy to learn but a challenge to master.
It’s the perfect backdrop for a cozy night with friends or family gathered around a table, deep in conversation and laughter. Italians adore it!
Looking for a Traditional Italian Scopa Card Deck?
You may not need a traditional Italian Scopa deck, but it’s recommended for the best experience. Here’s our top choice.
How to Play Scopa: Master the Scopa Rules in 5 Easy Steps
Scopa is a popular Italian card game played with an Italian 40-card deck.
Scopa is a versatile game that 2 to 6 players can enjoy. While three individuals can play independently using the same rules, the game’s dynamics are more compelling in a 2-player setting, considered the classic version.
Alternatively, the game can accommodate 4 players, divided into two evenly matched teams, with each player strategically positioned between two opponents for added excitement and challenge.
Suggested Reading: Dive into Learn Italian with Games: Best 10 Websites & Apps – a fun, effective approach to language learning.
Step 1: Equipment
A traditional Italian card deck consists of 40 cards divided into four suits: coins (denari), cups (coppe), swords (spade), and clubs (bastoni). The cards in each suit are Ace (Asso), 2-7, Jack (Fante), Horse (Cavallo), and King (Re).
If an Italian card deck is unavailable, you can adapt a standard 52-card deck by removing the 8s, 9s, and 10s. The suits in this case will correspond to diamonds (quadri), hearts (cuori), clubs (fiori), and spades (picche).
Step 2: Ranking of Cards
Cards have values for the purpose of capturing, from highest to lowest, as follows:
|Horse or Queen
|7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Step 3: Goal of the Game
The goal is to be the first player or team to reach a set number of points, typically 11.
Points are scored for:
- Having captured the most cards.
- Having the most cards in each suit.
- Securing the best “Primiera” (comprising one card of each suit, with Sevens holding the highest value).
- Claiming the “Settebello,” or Sette Bello (the notable Seven of coins or diamonds).
- Clearing all the cards from the table in a move known as “Scopa.”
Step 4: Playing the Game of Scopa
After shuffling the cards, the dealer proceeds by distributing the cards one at a time until each participant holds a hand of three cards.
Then four cards are dealt to the table, face-up. If three or four kings are face up, the cards are shuffled and re-dealt.
The player who did not deal goes first. You can either “take” or “leave” on your turn.
If you have a card of the same value as one card or the sum of multiple cards on the table, you may capture that card/those cards.
For example, if you have a 5 and a 2, 3, and 5 on the table, you can capture either the single 5 or the 2 and 3 together.
If you cannot (or choose not to) take a card, you must leave a card on the table. The card remains there to be captured by you or the other player in a future turn.
Upon capturing card(s), the player collects them with the card they used for the capture, stashing them into a facedown pile of captured cards. Each team maintains a single stack for their captured cards in a team-based game.
After each player has played all their cards, the dealer deals three more cards to each player, and the hand continues. No more cards are dealt to the table. This continues until all cards have been played.
Ending the Hand
Once all cards have been dealt and played, leaving no more cards to distribute, the player or team who executed the final capture gathers any remaining face-up cards.
Step 5: Scopa Card Game Scoring
At the end of the hand, points are awarded for the following:
The player who captured the most cards gets 1 point. If you both have the same number, neither player scores.
The player who captured the most cards in the suit of coins (diamonds) gets 1 point. If you both have the same number, neither player scores.
Settebello (or Sette Bello)
The player who captured the 7 of coins (Settebello) gets 1 point.
Primiera (or Prime)
The player or team possessing the Primiera’s highest amount earns 1 point. A Primiera comprises four cards, one from each suit – a score for a Primiera is unattainable if a player or team lacks at least one card from every suit.
The Primiera’s total value is calculated by summing the values of the four cards based on the subsequent scale of values:
|King, Horse/Queen, Jack
Here’s a handy online Scopa Primiera calculator.
Each time a player “sweeps” the table by capturing all the cards on the table, leaving it empty, it’s called a “Scopa” and is worth 1 point. This is usually announced by the player saying “Scopa!” at the time of the sweep.
The player who makes the last capture of the game gets 1 point.
After all the points are tallied, the role of the dealer passes to the other player, and another hand begins.
The card game continues until one player reaches the predetermined points goal (usually 11) and is declared the winner.
Italian Scopa Card Game: Strategies and Tips
Remembering which cards have been played can give you a significant advantage in Scopa. This lets you know whether playing a particular card or holding onto it is safe.
While it might be tempting to play for Scopas all the time, it’s often better to play in a way that lets you capture more cards or more coins.
Be careful about leaving high-value cards or coins on the table, as your opponent may be able to capture them on their turn. It’s generally safer to play cards that match cards already on the table to avoid giving your opponent an easy capture.
If you can choose between capturing with a single card or a combination of cards, it’s often better to take the combination to leave fewer options for your opponent.
However, remember that leaving a lone card might force your opponent to capture it, possibly setting you up for a beneficial play on your next turn.
Diverse Flavors of Scopa: Exploring Popular Variations
While the classic game of Scopa has its own charm, the many variations of this famous Italian card game bring unique twists and turns to the table.
Each variant introduces fresh challenges, adding extra layers of strategy and fun. Here are some of the most prominent variations of Scopa.
Asso Pigliatutto (Ace Sweeps All)
This game variant, often favored by children, follows the standard Scopa capture rules but with an added twist. When an Ace is played, it gathers all the table cards and scores a point for a sweep, given that no other Ace is on the table.
In this interesting variant, a player who plays an ace can clear the table only if the table’s cards sum to a multiple of ten. If not, the ace behaves as a regular card.
Re Bello (Handsome King)
In some versions, an additional point is granted to the player or team that secures the King of coins or diamonds.
An intriguing twist on the classic game, Scopone is played with two teams of two players. The dealer deals nine cards to each player instead of the usual three, increasing the scope for strategic plays.
Scopa di Quindici
Multiple variations of Scopa exist under this name. Each one enables a player to seize a group of cards from the table that, in combination with the card in play, total 15.
Scopa con le Scalette
This variation is played similarly to the conventional Scopa or Scopa d’Assi. However, it offers extra points for sequences made within the coins or diamonds suit.
This game is a Scopa variant with a particular sequence (Napola) consisting of seven cards (from Ace to seven) of the same suit. The team or player who can make a Napola score additional points.
While each variant has a unique appeal, they all maintain the heart and spirit of the classic Scopa game, ensuring an engaging and enjoyable gaming experience.
Suggested Reading: Discover the intriguing blend of history and ongoing fun in Italian Card Games: A Rich History and Enduring Entertainment.
Italian Scopa and Card Games FAQ
Explore common queries about Scopa and other Italian card games.
Can Scopa be played with more than two players?
Absolutely! While the rules I’ve provided outline the 2-player version, Scopa can be easily adapted for 3 to 6 players. The principles remain the same; the strategy gets more complex!
How do I play Scopa with three players?
Playing Scopa with three players is quite similar to the two-player version. Each player will play for themselves, and the rules remain the same.
It’s important to remember that Scopa is a game of strategy and calculating odds, so adding an extra player can change the game’s dynamics.
Can I play Scopa with standard American cards (52-card deck)?
Yes, you can play Scopa with a regular 52-card deck. If you can’t find a traditional Italian 40-card deck, remove the 8s, 9s, and 10s from a standard deck. You’ll be ready to play in no time.
Where can I buy traditional Italian Scopa cards?
Acquiring traditional Italian Scopa cards is simple, thanks to online platforms. A noteworthy marketplace is Amazon, which boasts a few authentic Italian playing card decks.
I highly recommend a particular set called Scopa – The Traditional Italian Card Game, as it includes everything you need to immerse yourself in the genuine Italian Scopa experience.
How can I play Scopa online?
Several websites offer the opportunity to play Scopa online. You can immerse yourself in a game of Scopa right from your home.
Are there other popular Italian card games I should know about?
Definitely! Briscola and Tressette are two other highly popular games in Italy.
Briscola, like Scopa, is played with a 40-card deck and involves capturing the highest number of valuable cards.
Tressette is a trick-taking game that requires strategic play and a keen mind. Each of these games, like Scopa, offers a unique taste of Italian card culture.
Armed with these rules and strategies, you’re now ready to delve into the delightful world of Scopa.
Remember, the goal is to win and enjoy the rhythm and camaraderie that make this game a beloved Italian tradition. So, gather your friends, deal the Italian cards, and let the fun begin. Happy playing, and may the best Scopa player win!