Briscola works equally well as a two-handed or four-handed game, but perhaps its best incarnation is it's five player variation, "Briscola Bastarda", which we will explain here.
The objective of the game is to win tricks with valuable cards in them.
For the purpose of counting points, these cards have following value:
- Ace: 11 points
- Three: 10 points
- King: 4 points
- Queen: 3 points
- Jack: 2 points
The remaining cards have no point value. The total value of cards in the deck adds up to 120 points.
Make a deck of 40 cards by removing all the 10s, 9s and 8s.
Cards rank A 3 K Q J 7 6 5 4 3 2
Traditionally, deal and play are counter clockwise and the deal proceeds to the right and that's how it's explained here. It makes no real difference if you play it clockwise.
All 40 cards are dealt out one at a time until each player ends up with 8 cards.
Starting with the player to the right of the dealer, everyone in turn "declares" how many points they think they can win. Each bid must be higher than the previous one. A player who does not wish to bid can pass, but by doing so cannot re-enter the bidding process again. The bidding continues, for several rounds if necessary, until all others have passed and the one player stands.
The highest bidder then, now the "Caller", announces the Briscola. That means that he/she calls the card that will act as the Briscola. The 'Briscola' is the card that establishes trumps. By doing so, the 'Caller' also enlists the assistance of the “Holder” of that card.
For example, if the highest bidder calls the “Ace of Clubs”, then clubs are trumps and the player holding the Ace of Clubs is now playing with the Caller, and against the other three players.
However, no one knows who the Holder is. It is part of the game that the Holder not reveal his/her identity, but quietly play together with the Caller to score your points and win the day. It is for the other players to deduce his/her identity in the course of play and adjust their strategy accordingly.
Right of the Dealer leads to the first trick and thereafter, whoever wins the trick leads to the next.
In Briscola, there is no obligation to follow suit. If A leads a card, say an Ace of Hearts, then B can follow suit, discard, or trump in as he/she may please.
- The trick is won by the highest Trump played to it.
- If no trumps are played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led.
Play continues until all cards have been played.
At the end of play, all players take up the tricks they have won and count up the value of their As, 3s, Ks, Qs, and Js.
The tricks won by the Caller and by the Holder are counted together. If the total is equal to or more than the Caller’s bid, he/she gets 2 points, and the Holder gets 1 point. The other three players lose a point each.
If the total is less than the Caller’s bid, The Caller loses 2 points, and the Holder loses 1 point. The Other three players gain 1 point each.
The first player to reach 15 points wins the game.