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Jaxon Kelly
Jaxon Kelly

Briscola Free: Play the Classic Italian Card Game Online or Offline

Briscola (Italian pronunciation: [ˈbriskola]; Lombard: brìscula; Sicilian: brìscula, Neapolitan: brìscula) is one of Italy's most popular games, together with Scopa and Tressette (Tresette). A little-changed descendant of Brusquembille, the ancestor of Briscan and Bezique,[1] Briscola is a Mediterranean trick-taking, Ace-Ten card game for two to six players played with a standard Italian 40-card deck. The game can also be played with a modern Anglo-French deck, without the eight, nine and ten cards (see Portuguese variations below). With three or six players, twos are removed from the deck to ensure the number of cards in the deck is a multiple of the number of players; a single two for three players and all four twos for six players. The four- and six-player versions of the game are played as a partnership game of two teams, with players seated such that every player is adjacent to two opponents.

In total, a deck has 120 card points. To win a game, a player must accumulate more points than any other player. If two players (teams) have the same number of points (60) another game is played to determine the winner.

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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 trumps they 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. Deal and play are anti-clockwise.

Like other trump card games, players are required to follow suit, that is, to play the same suit as the lead player. If a player cannot follow suit, such as not having any cards in the suit played, the player is still are required to put down a card, which the player will lose in that trick, unless it is the suit of the bricola.

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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 their 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 anti-clockwise. Note that the last card collected in the game should be the up-turned Briscola. The player who won the trick leads to the next. During play and only before the next to the last hand is played, a player who draws the card with the seven of trump can take the "briscola".[citation needed] 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. In partnership games, the partners combine their points. 61 card points are needed to win and 60-all is a draw.[2] Briscola is usually played for the best of 3 or 5 games,[2] however, Pennycook records a variant whereby 1 game point is scored for a simple win, 2 for scoring 91 or more and 3 for scoring 120, regardless of whether or not all tricks are taken. Games is then 12 points.[3]

In a three-hand game, if two players score over 40, they each score 1 game point. If only one player achieves this, that player scores 2 game points. A player taking 120 card points gets 3 game points. If there is a three-way tie for 12 points, play continues until one has a lead. If there is a two-way tie, the third player drops out and play continues as a two-hand game.[3]

This is a popular add on to the game, which originated in the Italian version of "Briscola" but has been widely accepted in the Spanish version of Brisca. La conquista ("The conquest" in Spanish language) is also known as mano negra or sota negra ("black hand" or "black jack") in Spanish Brisca. The Black Hand is defined as when a player automatically gets in his hand the King card, 3 and 1 card of the chosen "Briscola". When those three cards are gathered by the player, they are shown to the opponent and the game is automatically won in spite of the points that the opponent has gathered throughout the game which might or not have exceeded the player's points.[2]

In one variant, each player, starting from the dealer's right and proceeding counter-clockwise, bids on progressively lower card values, according to the peculiar sorting of cards used in the game. Thus, if the first player bids on a Three, the second player can only bid on a King or lower. If a player bids on a Six, the next player can only bid on a Five, Four or Two. Bidding continues until all but one player have passed in a round. This remaining player has then "won the bid" and therefore gets to declare the Briscola, i.e. the trump suit. If they had bid on a Three, for example, they could choose "Three of Cups": the trump suit will be Cups, and the holder of the "Three of Cups" is determined to be the declarer's partner, though if the player holds that card themselves they will play with no partner.

In another variant, bidding proceeds in the same fashion, but players declare how many points they will score (61 or more), if someone declare 120 points he may call two cards. A player may pass, and hence cannot bid again in that game. The bid represents the number of points that player believes they are capable of accumulating. In this variant, whoever declares the trump suit also declares a specific Briscola card (example, the "Ace of Cups" if Cups was the declared Briscola) and the holder of this card is then determined to be the declarer's partner, however, they can not openly declare this and their identity is only conclusively revealed when the named card is played.

After the bidding phase, the game proceeds in the same way. First, the remaining three players are partnered with each other, without their knowledge; each player, other than the declarer's partner, acts independently, until it is clear which players are partners. Infrequently, the declarer may declare a Briscola card they already hold (if they feel they have a very strong hand), in which case the other four players are partnered against the winning bidder.

All these scores are doubled if the winning team gets all the 120 points in the deck. This is a very difficult endeavour and is called "fare cappotto". The term sounds mysterious in Italian as fare cappotto means "make a coat". A mythical but likely explanation is that an antecedent of the Briscola game was introduced in Italian ports by Dutch sailors (perhaps derived by klaverjas). In Dutch, when a team has a total victory, they make the adversary "kapot" (in German Kaputt). However Klaverjas is quite a different game, as the trump is chosen automatically and players must follow suit. In briscola, players are free to play any card so the game is more strategic and less mnemonic.

The main variations were explained earlier in this article. In some variations, when calling a two the declarer can opt to have a "blind" first hand, in the sense that the caller does not announce the suit until the hand has been played. It is rather intriguing to play a hand of briscola without knowing what suit is briscola nor whom one plays with. To further complicate the blind hand, any two played has to be covered (face down). The briscola has to be announced before the cards are turned. The blind first hand can also be restricted to bids that have a score of 62 or higher.

There is a now popular variation of the "Briscola" game where it is now played with all cards faced up instead of down, with the purpose of not hiding any cards for the benefit of the opponent to see. The players can now see all the opponent's won cards, the current hand and the deck's next card to pick; is it a harder but interesting variation of the popular game.[7]

In Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, the briscola game is called briškula and it is played predominantly in the coastal region. The game is played with Triestine cards in the normal Italian fashion though there is also a popular variation called briškula Dalmatian style or dupla briškula (double briškula). This variation is exactly the same as the regular Italian game except that each player plays two cards separately during the course of a trick. This variation is used when the game is played by two players, where four cards are dealt to both players and then 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 both have used two cards. The winner of that trick is determined by the normal rules of briscola. When played in couples, briškula uses regular rules, where all players are dealt three cards, and play one card per hand each.

In Portugal, the briscola game is called bisca and it is played with a modern Anglo-French 52-card deck. The 8, 9 and 10 cards must be removed from this deck, though, in order to obtain the 40 cards needed to play. The Kings equal to the Italian-deck kings, the Jacks equal to the knights, and the Queens equal to the knaves (to know the reason why the Jack ranks higher than the Queen, see Latin-suited cards in Portugal). The seven (called bisca or manilha), and not the three, ranks above the face cards. Thus:

The Sueca is arguably the most popular game in Portugal, being also very popular in Portuguese former colonies and enclaves such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Goa and Macau. Being a partnership game for four players, also played with 40 Anglo-French cards which rank the same as in Bisca, Sueca can be considered a variation of the 4-player Briscola, where all cards are dealt and players have to follow suit.


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