Scopa is an Italian card game of the Fishing-type genre. It is played with 2-4 Players and is popular throughout the entire country.
Related to the Cassino card game, it was once thought that Cassino was also an Italian game named after the city of the same name. However, Cassino predates any Italian reference to the game and even predates the game of Scopa, although the two are related and very similar.
How to Play Scopa?
The Scopa card game is played using a special deck, the 40-card Latin pattern. Latin cards have different suits from the French or Anglo-American suits. In the Latin deck, Players will find Coins, Cups, Swords, And Clubs instead of the Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades most are familiar with.
If a Latin deck is not available to you, that is no concern. A 40-card deck appropriate for the play of Scopa can be formed from the Standard Anglo-American deck. Simply remove all 10s, 9s, and 8s from the deck. This creates a sufficient approximation of the 40-card Latin deck.
Choosing the Dealer
In order to begin a game of Scopa, the Dealer must be chosen by random means. Whatever method the Players prefer is sufficient.
Cutting the Deck
Once a Dealer is chosen, the deck is shuffled and the deck is offered to another Player for cutting.
The cutting Player will split the deck, taking the desired number of cards from the top of the deck without looking at them, and placing them at the bottom of the deck instead.
Cutting the deck is traditional in many card games.
Dealing the Cards
With the deck cut, the Dealer will then deal one card at a time to each Player, constantly rotating their deal, giving each Player one card and then dealing the next card from the deck to a different Player. This dealing procedure continues until every Player has 3 hidden cards in their hand.
After each Player has their hand, the Dealer will then deal out 4 face-up cards to the center of the table, known as the Play area.
If the four “pool”, or face-up cards in the play area, contain more than two Kings, all the cards must be reshuffled and dealt out once more.
Like in Cassino, Players are dealt a new set of three cards once they have played all three cards in their hand. Also like in Cassino, no cards are dealt from the deck into the play area after the initial deal.
Once every player has their three cards, and there are four cards in the play area, the Player to the immediate right of the Dealer will then start the game with the first turn.
Turn order will continue counterclockwise for the remainder of the game.
Players will take turns playing exactly one card from their hand, with the intent to “capture” cards from the Play area. Captured cards are used to tally a Player’s score at the end of a game, explained further in the “Scoring” section seen below.
If the card played from the hand matches the rank of a card on the table, then the matching cards are captured. Captured cards should be removed from the play area, and kept separate from the hand, kept in a pile next to the capturing Player.
In order to match, certain cards are associated with certain values. The numbered cards are valued as they are ranked.
- Jacks are worth 8.
- Queens 9, and Kings 10.
- Aces are worth 1.
These are not the point values of the cards. These are the numerical values of the cards for the purposes of capturing.
A card played from the hand can also be added with other cards in the play area in order to match a different card in the play area.
- Player 1 plays a 6 into a play area with a 4 and 10.
- Player 1 combines the 6 and 4 with the 10 and captures all three cards.
Keep in mind that you cannot match a set if you are matching an individual card. For example, imagine that you play a 5 into a play area with a 5 and 10. The 5 cannot be added with the five in order to capture the 10. Instead, the 5 must capture the other 5.
Discarding and Sweeping
If a Player does not otherwise capture cards using the card they played into the play area, it is essentially a discard. This turns it into a community card, like any other. If there are no cards in the play area at the start of your turn, you must discard a card in this way, as there is no way to capture cards that are not on the board.
Players that are able to completely clear the board of cards are said to have “swept” or to have “Won a sweep.” These sweeps are also called the titular Scopa. Players should keep one of their captured cards left face-up after they score a Scopa, in order to easily tally the points for it at the end of the game.
Play continues in this way, with Players capturing cards when they are able, and discarding when they are not.
- When a Player empties their hand, they will be dealt three more cards from the deck.
- No cards will ever be dealt from the deck to the pool, after the initial deal.
End of the Game
Play continues until the deck is completely exhausted, at which point Players continue to capture cards as they are able. The last Player to be able to legally capture a card is given the ability to capture all of the remaining cards in the pool.
- Player 1 captures a card after the deck and their hand is empty.
- Player 2 is unable to capture, and so “trails” or discards and empties their hand.
- This means Player 1 takes all the remaining cards in the play area, as they were the last Player to successfully capture.
When clearing the board in this way, at the end of the game, it does not count as a Scopa for scoring purposes.
Once all the cards have been exhausted from the deck and from the Player’s hands, Players will tally together the appropriate points based on their captured cards.
As explained above, these points will be further expanded upon in the “Scoring” section.
A summary of the Scopa rules can be found below:
- Players can capture multiple cards at once, but only a single card may be played from the hand per turn.
- Players do not draw three more cards from the deck until the hand is completely empty. If you end the turn with one card in your hand, you cannot draw until that card is played in your next turn.
- Players are not allowed to “trail”, or discard, anything that has a match on the board. If you play a card that can capture, it must be used to capture.
- Played cards must be matched to cards of the same rank, before they can be combined to equal the value of another card for the purposes of capturing. If you have a 3, and there is a 3 and 6 in the play area, you must capture the 3 instead of combining both 3s to capture the 6.
- Players may not “pass.” A card must be played, whether by capturing or discarding.
Scopa Scoring & Points
Scopa is scored using special conditions, which Players meet using their capture cards. If Players meet the required threshold in their captured cards, they award themselves the associated point value. These conditions are explained below:
Every Scopa a Player captures awards 1 point.
The Player with the greatest number of cards in their capture pile is awarded 1 point. In the case of a tie, neither Player receives the point. This is similar to the Escoba card game.
The Player that captures the most Diamond cards (Coins if using the traditional Latin deck) will be awarded 1 point. Ties do not award any points.
A special condition, when a Player captures the 7 of Diamonds (Coins if Latin), they are automatically awarded 1 point.
A Primiera is a collection of four cards that are all differently suited. For example, 4♦ 5♣ 6♠ 7♥ would be a Primiera, just as 3♥ 3♦ 3♣ 3♠ would also be scored as a Primiera.
The Player with the highest value Primiera is awarded 1 point. Primieras are not scored based on their numerical value. Instead, there is a special table used to calculate the card value of a Primiera:
The value of each card in a Primiera is listed above. So, for example, a Primiera composed of 7♦ 7♣ K♥ K♠ would be worth 62 points. 42 from the 7s, and 20 from the Ks.
Only the Player with the highest value Primiera is awarded a point.
The first Player to win 11 points according to the above conditions wins the game. Supposing both Players win 11 points in the same game, then the Player with the greater point total wins the game. If there is a tie, gameplay continues until one Player has a higher score than all others.
Imagine the following is your hand in a game of Scopa:
4♥ 6♦ J♦ J♥
Now assume the following are the cards in your hand:
10♠ 3♦ 6♣
Jacks are worth 8 numerically, and as such there is no combination that can be made on the board to equal 8 and capture either Jack. However, there is a 6♦ on the board that matches with the 6♣. Even though there is no greater move that can be made, there is nothing wrong with simply playing a natural match.
Players who focus too heavily on trying to capture large combinations of cards in a single turn will harm themselves in the long run. Capture cards when possible, as there’s no reason to trail cards when you can capture.
- Match cards whenever you are able. You cannot draw a new set of cards until all three cards have been played from the hand. As such, there is no reason to trail if you can match a card. You might lose your chance to match and capture to another Player if you delay it, attempting to get a bigger return, you might end up with nothing. Do not trail when you do not have to, captures take priority.
- Try to capture as many diamonds as you can. Just as you should place priority on capturing over trailing, you should prioritize capturing diamonds over all other kinds of captures. If you can choose between capturing a diamond and a non-diamond, always capture the non-diamond. Just like if you trail when you could have captured, waiting will give your opponent the chance to steal the capture away from you. Don’t let that happen with such valuable cards as the diamonds. The Player with the most diamonds wins a bonus point.
Is it easy to learn Scopa?
Scopa is easy enough to learn, so much so that the game is very popular. There are many online guides, including this one, that can help explain how to play the game. If you would rather watch a video to learn, such videos also exist.
What is the best card in Scopa?
The best card in Scopa is the 7♦ as this is a special card that automatically awards a point. This single card essentially brings a character 9% closer to winning the game.
Can you take more than 2 cards in Scopa?
Scopa does not allow anything but 1 card played from the hand per turn, however, multiple cards can be captured, or picked up, at the same time. You can take multiple cards, but can only play one from your hand per turn.
Can you play Scopa with a standard deck of cards?
Yes, playing Scopa with a normal 52-card Anglo-American deck is easy. Just remove all 8s, 9s, and 10s from the deck and set them aside removed from play.
Other Italian Games
- Briscola rules
- Sette e Mezzo