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Written by: Abha Vardhan
Briscola is an Italian trick-taking card game, which works with points. The game was originally played with a 40-set deck of cards that had clubs (bastoni), cups (coppe), swords (spade), and coins (danari) as suit symbols. Nowadays this game is played with a standard 52-card deck after eliminating some cards such as Jokers, Eights, Nines and Tens.
The game can be played with between two to six players. Three cards are dealt to each player and the remaining cards are placed facing down on the table. The dealer then takes the seventh card and puts it face down on the table. In order to win the game, the player or the team (when the game is played with four people or more) needs to score at least 61 points.
In order to understand the rules of the game, it is important that you are aware of the card rankings and point values. In order to win a trick, the card ranking is as follows: Ace, Three, King, Queen, Jack, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Two. It is interesting to note that in this game 3, in terms of ranking 3 comes after ace, making it a significantly powerful card.
Each card has a designated value, for example, Ace has 11 points, 3 has 10 points, King has 4 points, Queen has 3 points, and Jack has 2 Points. The rest of the cards have a value of 0 points.
Briscola is one of the most sought-after games among card players because it includes clever strategies that need to be employed in order to win. The rules and strategies are different, depending on which version of Briscola you play. They are also dependent on the number of players involved in the game.
This is the simplest version of the game and works as a foundation for other multiplayer types. Before you start to play the basic version of Briscola with two players, let’s get acquainted with its simple rules.
Now, let’s begin the game. One of the players becomes a dealer and shuffles the cards. Three cards are dealt to the second player and then the dealer deals three cards to himself. Then, he flips the next card of the deck and places it face-up next to the cards that are not dealt yet. This ‘face-up’ card is considered as the Trump suit or Briscola for this hand.
The player who didn’t deal the cards plays first and starts the game by playing one of the three cards. The other player plays one of his cards and wins or loses the trick in accordance with the three simple rules highlighted above.
The player who won the first trick draws a card from the stack of the undealt cards, followed by the player who lost the hand. The player who won the trick then gets to play the first card of the next trick. The winner of this hand will be the first to draw the next card from the undealt cards and he will be the only one to lead the next hand.
Gradually, all the undealt cards will be used up. When there are only two cards left, one face-up and the other face-down, the player who won the last trick gets the face-down card and the loser gets the face-up card. You will find many strategies addressing the pros and cons of players taking or not taking the last trick.
After all the cards are used up, each player collects the cards they have won in tricks during the game and counts up the points. The objective of the game is to achieve more points than the other player. There is a total of 120 points available in Briscola, so a player needs at least 61 points to win the game. If each player gets 60 points, the game is considered a draw.
When four players are playing the game, the basic rules remain the same. However, the partners sit opposite each other and play as a team. The game starts in an anti-clockwise direction and the player sitting on the right side of the dealer begins first. The other players may or may not follow suit and can play any card.
If none of the players plays a Trump suit, the winner is the one with the highest card of the suit led. On the other hand, if one or more players play a Trump suit, the highest Briscola wins. The winner of the trick is the first one to draw a card from the pile of the undealt cards, followed by the rest of the players. Also, the winner leads the next hand. When all the cards are used up, the next player takes up the Briscola card. The game goes on until the players have played all the cards.
After all the cards have been played, the partners add their points and evaluate the total point value of the cards.
Visual Cues – when playing in partnership, the pairs can communicate with each other through various signals and gestures. The game becomes more fun as the other partner tries to interpret the signals and hide them from their opponents. The traditionally followed cues are as follows:
The five players’ version of Briscola is probably the best of all. The basic playing rules and the aim of the game remain the same as the players aim to receive the highest number of points. However, there are some vital twists in this version of the game.
The highest bidder or the ‘caller of the game’ decides which card will work as a Briscola for the game. By doing so, he also recruits the ‘holder of that card’ as his partner. The remaining three players form a second team, to play against the other pair. The important thing here is that no one knows about the holder, not even the caller. It is crucial that the holder does not expose his identity during the game; however, other players can try and guess who the holder is and change their strategy accordingly.
When the game ends, the caller and the holder pair calculate their points. If their value matches the original bid, the caller receives two points and the holder gets one, while the rest lose one point. If the caller/holder receives fewer points than their original bid, the caller loses two points, the holder loses one, and the team of three gets one point each.
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