This is a card game found in certain parts of the south of Italy. It appears to be an early form of Whist (a word which derives from “whisk”, the English word for frusta). It is easy to learn and an excellent alternative to Briscola or Scopa for two players.
Frusta is a trick-taking game in two stages: in the first stage players compete to build a strong hand, and in the second they use this hand to try and take more tricks than the opponent.
- Number of players: Two.
- Card decks: One deck of 40 Italian regional cards. You can also use a standard international
deck of 52 cards and remove all Eights, Nines, and Tens.
How many cards are dealt?
Ten to each player. After the deal, the top card of the deck is shown to define the suit of the trump, which is the suit that always takes all other cards, card ranking notwithstanding. This card is placed face up on the stockpile (the pile of remaining cards, which is placed face down on the table).
The player who takes more than 5 tricks in the second stage of the game wins. If both players have 5 tricks, then one more trick is played from the stockpile to decide the winner.
Strength of the cards
The strongest card is the Ace, followed by the Three, the King, the Horse, the Jack,
the Seven, and so on until the Two.
How to Play Frusta
The Dealer shuffles the deck and deals ten cards to each player. He then places the stockpile (the pile of 20 remaining cards) face down on the table, between the players, turns over the top card and places it on top. This defines the trump for the game and will be the first trick to be won.
The Dealer’s adversary begins by placing one of his cards on the table, face up. The Dealer then follows by putting one of his cards on the table. The player who plays the strongest card of the suit played by the Dealer wins the trick. For example, if an Ace of Cups and a Two of Cups are played, the player who plays the Ace wins the trick.
If the Dealer’s adversary has no cards of the suit played by the Dealer, he may play a trump card and thereby win the trick. For example, if Coins is the trump suit, and an Ace of Cups has been played by the dealer, the opponent could win the trick by playing the Two of Coins – but only if he held no Cups in his hand.
If the Dealer’s adversary has no trumps, or does not wish to win the face up card, he may throw away by playing a card in a different suit. For example, if the Ace of Cups has been played by the dealer, the opponent could lose the trick by playing the Five of Swords.
The cards played for the trick are put face down between the players to form a discard pile. The Dealer then gives the player who wins the trick the card lying face up on the stockpile to place in his hand, and deals his adversary the card lying face down beneath it. This way the players will have, once more, ten cards in hand. To prepare for the next round, the Dealer then turns over the top card of the stockpile.
The player who wins the first trick now leads the next round by playing a card, and his opponent responds, depending on whether he wishes to win the card displayed on the stockpile. This first stage of the game continues until there are no cards left in the stockpile, and each player has 10 (hopefully strong) cards in hand to play in the second stage. The discard pile, now containing 20 cards, is set aside.
The second stage of the game begins with the winner of the last trick leading, exactly as in the first stage. Play continues, only now each trick is retained by the winner. Once all of the cards have been played, the tricks are counted. The winner is the player with the most tricks (6-10 tricks). If both players finish with 5 tricks, the discard pile is shuffled and a card dealt to each player. One final trick is played to decide the winner.
These game instructions were sent in by J. Edward Clapman from Oxford. It is a game he learned to play whilst being on holiday in Italy. Thank you Edward!