Thursday, August 17, 2006


For my birthday my dear sweet sister bought me a deck of Italian playing cards. "Wait!", I hear you cry, "what do you mean by dear sweet sister? One of them's a professional bitch and the other's a psychotic tornado!" I mean the bitch one... this year she has hosted 3 birthday parties for my family, and there are only 1.5 people still in it, so she has hosted above and beyond the call of duty. I even gave her a copy of Apples to Apples to thank her (better than me owning it). Anyway, the "you say bitch like it's a bad thing" sister gave me these Italian playing cards. They have 4 suits - clubs, cups, swords and coins, and have A,2,3,4,5,6,7,J,Q,K. There are no numbers on the cards, you have to count the symbols. They're kinda cool in an arcane but not as boring as normal cards way.

Of course I had to find a game to play with them. My research indicated that the traditional Italian card games were Scopone and Scopa, so on Sunday morning my beautiful Chinese Lost Cities partner and I sat down to see how Scopa worked. This is the 2 player variant. Players are dealt 3 cards each and 4 are dealt face-up in the middle. On your turn you play a card either by capturing cards from the middle or by adding a card to the middle. To capture, you take 1 or more cards whose value adds up to the value of the card you're playing (J=8, Q=9, K=10), and the card you played, and they go into your scoring stash. When players have played their 3 cards they get 3 more until the draw pile is exhausted. If you've played Frog Juice, it seems to be based on Scopone. At the end of the hand you do the scoring.

The person with biggest stash gets a point. The person with the most coins gets a point. The person with the 7 of coins (the beautiful seven) gets a point. The person with the highest prime gets a point, where the prime is one card from each suit where it's best to have 7s, 6s, As, 5s, I forget... Basically having more 7s and 6s than your opponent will win you the prime. That's up to 4 points available from scoring, because ties don't score. But there's an additional rule that if you capture every card in the middle at once, that's called a sweep and is worth a point straight away. Often as more points are scored in sweeps than in the scoring. First player to 11 points wins the game.

After several hours, beautiful opponent had won 3 games and I had won 2. It was interesting enough. She was counting cards, whereas I was struggling to sit up... Sunday morning, gimme a break! It was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

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