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Card games at L’osteria – Briscola scoperta

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This morning the spring weather played yet more tricks with the temperature falling along with the rain. Not really a good time to go sightseeing and so the people wandering round Barga Vecchia could be counted on one hand.

Not everybody looked on this as a negative effect though … as it gave some time for the local card players to hone their skills without the bother of somebody wanting to disturb their game.

And you do need a good deal of concentration to play their game – Briscola scoperta – Uncovered Briscola which is a variation of Briscola where the cards are dealt face up to each player.

The deck is also upturned so that the first card to be drawn is visible. This variation usually leads to more thoughtful play; remembering which cards have already been played is also very important.

Briscola (bixkla in Maltese, brìscula in Sicilian, brìšcula or brišc in Neapolitan, briškula in Croatian, Skembeel in Libya, la brisca in Spanish, bisca in Portuguese, briškola in Slovene, бришкуле in Serbian), one of Italy’s most popular games together with Scopa and Tressette, and a little-changed descendant of Brusquembille, the ancestor of Briscan and Bezique, is a Mediterranean trick-taking card game for two to six players played with a standard Italian 40-card deck.

Apart from the Northern Mediterranean, the game is also popular in Puerto Rico. It is believed to have originated in the early 18th century in the Northern Eastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

A deck of Italian cards consists of forty cards, divided into four suits: coins (Denari in Italian, and sometimes suns or sunbursts), swords (Spade), cups (Coppe) and clubs (sometimes batons, bats or Bastoni). The values on the cards range numerically from one through seven, plus three face cards in each suit: Knave (Fante in Italian), Knight (Cavallo in Italian), and King (Re in Italian). A Knave is a lone human figure standing. The Knight is a human figure riding a horse. The King is a human figure wearing a crown. To determine the face value of any numeric card, simply count the number of suit icons on the card. The ace card of coins is usually a type of bird with circle in the middle.

After the deck is shuffled, each player is dealt three cards. The next card is placed face up on the playing surface, and the remaining deck is placed face down, sometimes covering half of the up-turned card. This card is the Briscola, and represents the trump suit for the game. Before the game begins if a player has the deuce of trump he/she may retire the “briscola”. This move may only be done at the beginning of the game or first hand. Before the first hand is played (in four player game), team players may show each other their cards. The deal, and game play itself, proceeds counter-clockwise.

The player to the right of the dealer leads the first hand (or trick) by playing one card face up on the playing surface. Each player subsequently plays a card in turn, until all players have played one card. The winner of that hand is determined as follows:

  • if any briscola (trump) has been played, the player who played the highest valued trump wins
  • if no briscole (trumps) have been played, the player who played the highest card of the lead suit wins

Unlike other trump card games, players are not required to follow suit, that is, to play the same suit as the lead player.

Once the winner of a trick is determined, that player collects the played cards, and places them face down in a pile. Each player maintains his/her own pile, though the four- and six-player versions may have one player collecting all tricks won by his partners. Then, each player draws a card from the remaining deck, starting with the player who won the trick, proceeding counter-clockwise. Note that the last card collected in the game should be the up-turned Briscola. The player who won the trick leads the next hand. During game play and only before the next to the last hand is played, a player who draws the card with the seven (7) of trump can take the “briscola”. This may be done only if the player has won a hand. Before the last hand, people in the same team can look at each other’s cards.

After all cards have been played, players calculate the total point value of cards in their own piles. For multi-player games, partners combine their points. – source

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