Scopa – Italian Playing Cards

These Italian playing cards are authentic Italian decks from Italy. Playing Italian card games is a popular past time in the country of Italy and many people play the games of Scopa and Briscola.
Italian playing cards most commonly consist of 40 cards (four suits, numbered from 1 through 7, and three face cards). The three face cards in each deck are the Re (King), Cavallo (Calvary Man) and Fante (Infantry Man), except in the French region (see below) which uses a Regina (Queen) instead of a Cavallo.

Italian playing cards first appeared in the late 14th century, when each region within Italy was a separately ruled province. There is no official Italian card pattern for the country of Italy and each region uses its own type of Italian playing cards. In fact, there are 16 accepted patterns of Italian playing cards divided into 4 Italian regional styles: Northern Italian, French, Spanish, and German. Each region has its own interesting and unique styles of Italian playing card presentation. Playing with Italian playing cards gives a player a wonderful historical perspective on this great country. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to play any Italian card games. We provide you with instructions on Scopa and Briscola.

Our authentic Italian playing cards are made by Modiano. Modiano is an iconic business entity in Italy and has been the premier manufacture of Italian playing cards in Italy for over a century. Modiano is located in Trieste and has been in business for over 140 years. The Modiano brand is synonymous with quality and excellence in printing. Modiano manufactures some of the most beautiful playing cards in the world and their designs are considered by many to be the most artfully depicted in the industry. Our Italian Playing Cards make great Italian gifts.

These Italian playing cards are genuine and are the actual Italian decks that are distributed within Italy. Just imagine that you can give an authentic Italian gift with one of our Modiano Italian decks.

About the Regions

Of course any Italian deck would make a great gift for anyone, but for those more interested in the stylistic differences of Italian regional decks here is a quick description:

Northern Italian Regional Style

Includes Triestine, Trevigiane, Trentine, Bergamasche, and Bresciane.

The northern Italian playing card decks are primarily played in the northeastern part of the country. They feature t

he Spanish style suits of coins, cups, swords and batons (also known as clubs). There are 40 cards in the deck. This regional style features dark reds, blues and yellows on the face of the card. The face drawings typically use solid colors absent of shading with solid block-type coloring. The actual card sizes tend to be narrow relative to other regions and especially narrow compared to traditional US playing cards.

King of Cups
Cavallo of swords
Fante of batons
7 of coins

Spanish Regional Style

Includes Napoletane, Sarde, Siciliane, Piacentine, Romagnole.

The Spanish style decks are primarily used in the southern half of the country, including the island of Sicily. They feature the Spanish style suits of coins, cups, swords and batons (also known as clubs). There are 40 cards in each deck. This regional style features a full range of colors. The images are full with ornate details, and the use of shading gives the playing cards a life-like appearance. The actual card sizes tend to be wider than the Northern Italian cards, but are still a little smaller than their US counterparts.

King of Cups
Cavallo of swords
Fante of batons
7 of coins

French Regional Style

Includes Genovisi, Lombarde, Piemontesi, Toscane.

The French style decks are primarily used in the northwestern half of the country. They feature the French style suits of spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds. There are 40 cards in each deck. This regional style features a full range of colors to depict the face cards. However, the numbered cards of 1 through 7 are depicted in solid single colors. The French style cards are similar to the US version of playing cards, as they share the same suit pattern. Both also use a Regina instead of a Cavallo. The actual card sizes tend to be wider than the northern Italian cards, but are still a little smaller than their US counterparts.

King of Clubs
Queen of hearts
Fante of Spades
7 of Spades

German Regional Style

Include Salisburghesi and Salzburger.

The German style decks are primarily used in the Province of Bolzano. They feature the German style suits of heart, bells, acorns and leaves. There are 40 cards in each deck. This regional style features a full range of colors to depict the face cards as well as the numbered cards 1 through 7. The cards numbered 1 through 7 are depicted with an interesting scenic background below the pips. The German style cards tend to be wider and taller than their northern Italian cards. The cavallo and Fante are very similar and can only be distinguished by the placement of the suit on the playing card (a suit placed at or above the head is the higher rank, while the suit placed below the head is considered the lower ranked playing card). This is a very entertaining deck of cards given the beautiful landscapes and interesting pictures.

Italian Playing Cards     Italian Playing Cards
King of acorns
Cavallo of leaves
Fante of bells
8 of hearts

How to Play Scopa

Scopa is favorite game of Italians and Italian Americans. The word “scopa” means “broom” in Italian. Points are awarded in a variety of ways, but one of the best methods to obtain a large number of points at once is to sweep the board. This is known as a “scopa!” and the name of the game comes from this move.

Scopa – Initial Scopa Deal

To begin the game of Scopa, a dealer deals three Scopa cards to each player, one card at a time. The dealer will also place four Scopa cards face up on the table. (Note: an opening scopa board of 3 or 4 kings is considered illegal and the cards are reshuffled and the dealer deals again.)

Scopa – Card Values

A Scopa deck has four suits (Coins, Swords, Batons/Clubs, Cups). Within each Italian suit, there are cards numbered from 1 through 7, the Fante (Infantry Man, similar to the Jack in the American deck), the Cavallo (Calvary Man similar to the rank of Queen in the American Deck) and Re (King, who always wears a crown, similar to the American deck). In the Scopa point system, the Fante is worth 8, the Cavallo is worth 9, and the King is worth 10.

Scopa – Game Play

The scopa player to the dealer’s right begins play. This player has two options: Either place a card on the table, or play a card to take a scopa trick. A trick is taken by matching a card in the player’s hand to a card of the same value on the table, or if that is not possible, by matching a card in the player’s hand to the sum of the values of two or more cards on the table. In both cases, both the card from the player’s hand and the captured card(s) are removed and placed face down in front of the player. These cards are now out of play until scores are calculated at the end of the round.
Example: The player’s hand contains the 2 of coins, 5 of swords, and 7 of clubs (or batons). On the table are the Ace of Coins, 5 of Cups, and 6 of Swords. The player’s options are: * Place the 2 of Coins on the table
* Take the 5 of Cups using the 5 of Swords, and placing both cards face down in front of him
* Take the 6 of Swords and ace of Coins using the 7 of Clubs, and placing all three cards face down in front of him.


Scopa – Must Take Trick Rule

It is not legal to place a card on the table that has the ability to take a trick. If, for example, a 2 and 4 are on the table, and a player holds a 6, the player must either take that trick, or play a different card from his hand.

Scopa – Single Card Trick Rule

In any circumstance in which a played card may capture either a single or multiple cards, the player is forced to capture only the single card. If the table contains a 1, 3, 4, and 8 (Fante), and the player plays a Fante of a different suit, the player is not allowed to capture the 1, 3, and 4, even though their total does add up to 8. Instead, the player is only allowed to capture the Fante.

Scopa – Continuation Deal

After all players have played all three cards, the dealer deals out three more cards to each player, again beginning with the player to his right. That player then begins play again. No additional cards are dealt to the table. This process is repeated until no cards remain in the deck.

Scopa – Making Scopas

A Scopa is achieved when a player takes a trick and removes all of the cards from the board. The board is empty at this point and the next player is forced to discard a card into the board, since there is not an opportunity to take a trick. A Scopa trick should be noted separately during the game, since a player making a scopa will receive one point. Some players stack their trick sideways, upside down or in a separate pile to track a Scopa until the end of the deal.

Scopa – End of Deal

After the dealer has played the final card of the final hand of the round, the player who most recently took a trick is awarded any remaining cards on the table. After the last card of the round has been played, points are calculated for each player. If no one has won the game, the deal moves to the right. The new dealer shuffles and deals the cards as described above.

Scopa – How to Keep Score

Points are awarded at the completion of each deal. If playing in teams, the team members combine their captured cards before counting to calculate points.
Players/teams get one point for each “scopa”.
In addition, there are up to four points available for the following, each worth 1 point apiece:
(a) captured the greatest number of cards (In case of a tie, no one receives a point)
(b) captured the greatest number of cards in the suit of coins (In case of a tie, no one receives a point)
(c) captured the seven of coins (the “sette bello”)
(d) obtained the highest “prime” (This is sometimes erroneously referred to as simply “capturing the most sevens” – see below.)

Scopa – Determining Prime

The “prime” for each team is determined by selecting the team’s “best” card in each of the four suits, and totaling those four cards’ point values. When calculating the prime, a separate point scale is used. The player with the highest number of points using this separate point scale gets one point toward the game score as listed in (d) above.

The most common version of the separate scale is: seven = 21 points, six = 18 points, ace = 16 points, five = 15 points, four = 14 points, three = 13 points, two = 12 points, King = 10 points

For example, if one team captures the sevens of Cups and Coins, the six of Clubs and the Ace of Swords, that team’s prime is (21 + 21 + 18 + 16) = 76.
Other versions of the prime’s point scale exist. Most use the same ranking of cards but have variant scores (e.g. 0 points for face cards instead of 10). A variant that is popular in America but disliked by purists is to award the prime to the person with the most sevens, or the person with the most sixes if there is a tie (then aces, and so on down the prime’s rank order).

Scopa – Winning the Game

The game is played until one team has at least 11 points and has a greater total than any other team. It is important to note that no points, including scopa points, are awarded mid-round; they are all calculated upon completion of the round. For that reason, if the current score is 10 to 9, and the team with 10 points captures the seven of coins or a scopa, the team cannot immediately claim victory. It is still possible that the opposing team could end up with a tied or higher score once all points are calculated.

How to Play Briscola

A deck of Italian cards consist of 40 cards, divided into four suits: Coins, Cups, Swords, and Clubs (or Batons).
The values on the cards range numerically from 1 through 7, and there are three face cards in each suit: Fante (Calvary man, Jack or Knave), Cavallo (Knight), and Re (King). 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. Below is a table identifying card rank and point values. Unlisted cards have no point value, and are ranked in descending ordinal value, from seven to two. Note however the odd ranking of the three.

Rank and point value of cards
Cards, by Rank Point Value
Ace (Asso) 11
Three (3) (Tre) 10
King (Re) 4
Knight (or Horse) (Cavallo) 3
Knave (or Jack) (Fante) 2

In total, a deck has 120 points. To win a game, a player must accumulate more points than any other player. There is a variation of this point system which assigns the three 3 points (that is, a 4 can beat it), but it maintains its 10 point value.

Game play

After the deck is shuffled, each player is dealt three cards (or, if playing only with 2 players, 9 cards are dealt to each player). 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. 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. 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. There also exists a variation whereby the three, is ranked as a three (i.e. a four can beat it) but maintains its status as worth 10 points.