How to Play Briscola (Rules and Instructions)

The Briscola rules are similar to your standard trick-taking card games, win the trick by matching the trump and calculate your accumulated points at the end of the game. 

The difference with this card game is that the deck of cards you usually use to play is a unique Italian deck, and winning tricks is made slightly easier.

This means that it’s an excellent introductory game for beginners of trick-taking card games as the rules aren’t quite as harsh as other versions. 

There also aren’t too many different games to play with an Italian deck, so if you find yourself with one, it’s definitely worth learning how to play Briscola, and this article should help. 

What is Briscola?

Briscola Card Game Info Image

Briscola is a trick-taking card game of Italian origin where players need to win tricks (or Briscola’s), and each trick that gets won gives that player a score at the end of the game. 

The difference between other trick-taking card games like Sheepshead (see Sheepshead rules) and Briscola is that players aren’t forced to copy the same suit as the Trump card; they can play any card they like to try to win the trick. 

Number of Players Required: 2-6 players (not 5, however). 

Who Can Play It: Teens, Young Adults, Adults.

Difficulty: Medium level of difficulty. 

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes. 

Similar to: French Tarot, Pinochle; Rummy

Main Objective: Take cards throughout the game to earn a score; the player or team with the highest score at the end wins. 

Why We Love It: Not as tricky as other trick-taking cards games, Briscola can still be a challenge. 

Playing Briscola – What You’ll Need.

Briscola uses an Italian-style deck throughout the game for an easy set-up, then get yourself your own Italian deck like this one from Napoletene

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However, if you’re unable or unwilling to grab the specific Italian-style deck to play Briscola with, you can use your own standard 52 deck card instead. 

See our FAQs on how to set this up with your normal American standard deck. 

How To Set Up Briscola

Setting up Briscola, first of all, depends on how many players you have – 2, 4, or 6 players. You’ll need the full deck if playing with 3, then take the number 2 card out to leave 39 cards. 

Shuffle the deck and then deal out 3 cards to each player, leaving the rest of the deck face down as the draw pile

The topmost card on the draw pile needs to get overturned; whatever suit of that card is the Trump or Briscola for the duration of the game. 

Briscola Rules

In Briscola, the ranking of cards goes like this from highest to lowest: Ace, 3, King, Cavallo or Queen, Fante or Jack, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2.

Keep in mind that the following rules will be for 2 player games. If you’re playing with more players, then we’ll highlight some variations in our FAQs. 

Starting the Game

The player who doesn’t deal the cards begins the game, decide who deals by drawing cards with the player with the highest value card, starting as the dealer.

The starting player begins by playing one of their cards from their hand and laying it face-down on the table.

How to Play Briscola

As Briscola is a trick-taking game, the aim is to lay down the card which matches the Briscola card’s suit and is also the highest possible value.

After the starting player lays down 1 of their cards, the other player needs to lay down 1 of the 3 cards in their hands.

Depending on the 2 cards that both players use, 1 of 3 things happens:

  • Whoever played the card with the highest ranking (following the above ranking guide) wins the trick.
  • Neither player matches the Briscola card, so the first player who plays a card wins the trick.
  • 1 of the 2 players matches the suit of the Briscola card, who wins the trick. 

The winner of the trick gets to keep their winning card and set it aside and draw a new card from the draw pile.

The other player then also draws a new card from the draw pile, and the game restarts, with the player who won the last round laying their card down first.

This continues until all of the cards in the draw pile have been used up, and the game moves into the scoring phase. 

Scoring In Briscola

The value of each card is as follows:

  • Ace – point value of 11; 
  • Three – point value of 10;
  • King – point value of 4;
  • Queen – point value of 3;
  • Jack – point value of 2;
  • All other cards – no point value.

Players will need to go through all the cards which won the trick and have been set aside and tally up a score.

Whoever has the highest score overall wins the game. However, if both players manage to score more than 61 points, then the game is a tie

Briscola Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you play Briscola with more than 2 players?

If playing with 4-6 players, then Briscola follows the same rules, except the game gets played in teams instead. 

4 players, the rules are straightforward as players sit opposite their partner and work together to try to win the most points. 

6 players 2 teams of 3 need to get formed, and teams also sit across from the other team as well. 

3 player games follow the same rules but with the aforementioned 39 card deck instead. 

How Do You Play Briscola with American cards?

To play with an American deck, simply remove the Jokers, Eights, Nine, and Tens from your deck to leave 40 cards and play the game with those instead. 

What cards are in a Briscola deck?

A Briscola or Italian deck of cards features 40 cards, 4 suits from 1-7, and 3 face cards made up of 4 cards apiece.

The face cards are slightly different as well, as these are King, Cavallo (calvary man), and Fante (Infantryman).

The suits are also different and are Coins, Cups, Swords, and Batons instead of the usual 4 that you’re more likely to be familiar with. 

Alternative Games to Briscola

Trick-taking card games can be a challenging way to play cards, and yet the challenge is usually what makes players come back for more when they’ve finally figured out the game.

Briscola is certainly a fine example of this, but if you’re looking for different trick-taking card games, then look no further than the Wizard rules, Scopa rules, Sueca rules and the Pitch card game rules

Alternatively, check out some more games you can play with your deck of cards by taking a look at the Solitaire rules or Tonk.

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