A deck of Italian cards consist of 40 cards, divided into four suits. Neapolitan, Piacentine, Triestine cards are divided into Coppe (Cups), Ori or Denari (Golds or Coins), Spade (Swords) and Bastoni (Clubs), while Milanesi and Toscane cards use the 'French' suits, that is Cuori (Hearts), Quadri (Diamonds, literally "Squares"), Fiori (Flowers) and Picche (Spades, literally "Pikes"). The values on the cards range numerically from one through seven, plus three face cards in each suit: Knave [Fante in Italian] (worth a value of 8), Knight [Cavallo in Italian] in the Neapolitan-type decks or Queen [Donna in Italian] in the Milanese-type decks (worth 9), and King [Re in Italian] (worth 10). A Knave is a lone male figure standing. The Knight is a male figure riding a horse; the Queen is a female figure. The King is a male figure wearing a crown. To determine the face value of any numeric card, simply count the number of suit icons on the card. Since the Coins/Diamonds are important in winning some tricks, the cards of that suit are also nicknamed as "bello" (handsome): so, "il settebello" is the Seven of Coins/Diamonds, "l'asso bello" is the Ace of Coins/Diamonds.
Beginning with the player on his/her right, and moving counter-clockwise, the dealer deals out three cards to each player, one card at a time. During this deal, the dealer will also place four cards face up on the table. A table card may be dealt before the deal begins, immediately after dealing a card to him/herself but before dealing to the next player, or after dealing all players all three cards.
As it is impossible to sweep in a game where the initial table cards include three or four kings, such a deal is considered invalid. The cards are re-shuffled, and the dealer deals again.
The 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 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.
Note that 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.
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 has contains a 1, 3, 4, and 8 (Knave, or Fante in Italian), and the player plays another Knave, 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 Knave.
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.
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 or team (see below). If no team has yet won the game, the deal moves to the right. The new dealer shuffles and deals the cards as described above.
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:
If two or more teams or players capture the same number of cards, same number of coin cards, or the same prime value, no point is awarded for that result. (ex, if both Team 1 and Team 2 capture 20 cards total, neither gets a point for the most cards). (See http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopone_scientifico#Calcolo_del_punteggio for the five point categories)
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.
The most common version of the separate scale is:
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).
Obviously, the seven of coins is the most valuable card in the deck, as it alone contributes to all the four points. It should be noted, however, that a player or team can win the "prime" even with only one seven but other useful cards. For example, if one player has three sevens (3x21) and no cards of the fourth suit (sum=63), his opponent can win the "prime" with one seven (21) and three aces (3x16), for his sum would be 69. Therefore, it is a common tactic, while playing the game, to capture aces and sixes whenever possible. For example, if a player is holding a four and there are two twos, one ace and one three on the table, he should chose the three plus the ace, unless of course he has already taken the seven or the six of the suit of the ace and unless one of the twos is a two of coins and he hasn't made the point of coins yet.
In addition to the four standard points (called "punti di mazzo", literally "deck's points"), teams are awarded additional points for every "scopa" they took during game play. A scopa is awarded when a team manages to sweep the table of all cards. For example, if the table contains only a 2 and a 4, and Player A plays a 6, Player A is awarded a scopa. Clearing the table on the last play of the last hand of a round does not count as a scopa.
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.
In some Italian cities before the game the players can agree to play with the "cappotto" variant, in that scenario if a player is winning 7 points to 0, the game can be considered over and the player does not have to reach the total of 11 points.
It is also possible to agree on a different score, usually with increments of ten (for example, 21 or 31 points).
Traditionally, one card from a sweep is turned face up in the captured cards, to remind players while calculating points that a scopa was won, and to taunt them.
Many players deal the initial table cards in a 2x2 square.
In another form of the game, the scopone scientifico, the players are dealt ten cards each and none are put on the table. This makes things tricky for the player who opens the game, for the following player can immediately score a scopa if he owns a card of the same value. The opening player will choose a value of which he has two or three cards, to reduce the probability of his opponent having one too. Of course, it is perfectly safe to open if the player is lucky enough to have four cards of the same kind. This is quite a rare event, though.
Since there are no formal rules regulating the scopa d'assi, it is good manners to agree with the other players on the rules that are to be used before starting a game.