Michele and Charlie recently taught Sean and me a fun Italian card game called scopa. Michele spent time in Italy during college and played scopa a lot while she was there. The cards are very pretty and are thicker than normal playing cards. Scopa is quick to learn and goes at a fast pace.
We played scopa at the Sloop while keeping an eye on the Giants vs. Rams game on TV because we are all playing fantasy football this year. Scopa was a good game for that because you don’t have to think too hard and the rounds are short, so we could check on our fantasy players frequently. Scopa also helped take our minds off of how badly some of our players were playing that night!
It takes a little while to learn the symbols on the scopa cards, but not too long. They are just unfamiliar looking and it can be hard to tell the difference between a pawn, a knight, or a king, for example, or the difference between suits.
A king has a crown, so that is not too difficult. But a pawn and a knight both have feathered caps. The difference between them is that the knight is on a horse.
The other cards represent numbers. You can tell what number a card represents by counting the number of objects shown on the card. But there are also ornate decorations on many of the cards that can make it difficult to determine what number the card represents.
There are four suits in the deck: coins, swords, cups, and clubs (which look like sticks or logs). There is a one of each suit, a two of each suit, and so on, up until seven. At that point, it switches to pawns (worth 8), knights (worth 9), and kings (10).
You can play the game with two players or with four, but Michele said she thinks it’s more fun with four because you can play with partners. Each player starts out with three cards in hand, and four cards are laid out face up on the table.
On your turn, if you can, you try to take one or more cards from the ones laid out on the table. If you are unable to do that, you have to lay down one of the cards from your hand along with the others face up on the table.
In order to take cards, you need to pair up one or more cards that are on the table with one card from your hand. The card you are using from your hand must be worth the same number as the combined total of the cards you are taking from the table. So if you are using a seven from your hand, you could take a three and a four, or a five and a two, etc.
But if you have a card in your hand that is a direct match with one on the table (for example, you have a knight, and there is another knight on the table), and you choose to use that card, you have to take the direct match to it and can’t take two other cards that add up to that same amount.
If you are able to take the last face up card from the table, you say “scopa!” and your team gets a point. The round then continues with the next player being forced to lay down a card from their hand to the table. When all of the cards in the deck have been taken by the players, the round is over and points are counted.
In the first round, Charlie and I were a team, which meant that at the end of the round, the cards that each of us took were combined together and judged against the cards that Michele and Sean took. A team gets one point for having the most cards. The team with the most sevens gets a point. The team with the most coin suit cards (called “denari”) gets a point. And the team with the seven of coins card (called “sette bello”) gets a point.
We played at least a few rounds in each game. I think we were usually playing until one team reached 11 points. We played at least one game with each of the other players, and Michele’s team kept consistently winning no matter who her partner was! She is good at scopa!
Sean and I liked scopa a lot, and we are planning to get our own copy soon. We think we will also like it with two players, but it’s definitely fun with partners because you can coordinate and set each other up for a string of scopas, which is exciting.