Here’s a traditional card game that’s bound to get your brain pumping. Being able to add up will help, but there’s plenty more to puzzle over!

**Note:** Scopa is a very old card game, and people play with different rules. If you’re playing with someone who already knows how to play, ask them about the rules they use, so you are both playing the same game.

- A deck of cards
- 1–3 opponents
- Pencil and paper

- Scopa is played with a 40-card deck. There are four suits: diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades. In each suit, there are cards numbered from 1–10. You can make a Scopa deck out of a normal card deck by removing all jacks, queens, kings and jokers. The aces are used as 1s.
- One person is chosen to be the dealer.
- At the start of the round, four cards are dealt in the middle of the table. Then three cards are dealt to each player.
- The player to the left of the dealer goes first.
- On your turn, play a card from your hand:
- If there’s a card on the table with the same number, you can pick up both cards and put them in a pile to the side.
- If not, choose cards on the table that add up to the card you played and put all of them in your pile. Suits don’t matter for adding, only the numbers. (Although they can have different scores at the end of the game!)
- If you can’t add up cards to make your card’s number, place your card face up on the table with the others.

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- Once a turn is finished, it’s the turn of the next player to the left.
- If you take the last card off the table, you score 1 point. The next player will have to put a card on the table.
- When everyone has run out of cards in their hand, three new cards are dealt to each player. Then the player on the dealer’s left starts again.
- The round ends when everyone has played all the cards in their hands and there are no more cards to deal. The player who last took cards from the table gets any cards remaining on the table and adds them to their pile.

- At the end of the round, points are given based on the cards collected.
- 1 point for the 7 of diamonds.
- 1 point for having the most diamonds. If there’s a tie, no one gets this point.
- 1 point for the most cards. If there’s a tie, no one gets this point.
- 1 point for the best ‘Primiera’. To calculate Primiera, choose one card you collected from each suit, then add up what they are worth based on the following values:
- 7s are worth 21
- 6s are worth 18
- 1s (aces) are worth 16
- 5s are worth 15
- 4s are worth 14
- 3s are worth 13
- 2s are worth 12
- 10s, 9s and 8s are worth 10

The person with the highest sum for their Primiera gets 1 point. If there’s a tie, no one gets this point.

- After a round, the next player becomes the dealer and another round is played.
- The first person to 11 points is the winner!

After playing a couple of rounds, you might notice patterns that will help you play.

It’s easier to pick up cards with a high card. A 1 (ace) can only pick up another 1, but a 2 can pick up two 1s or one 2. A 10 has 34 different combinations of cards it can pick up!

It’s tricky to know when to put low cards on the table. Sometimes you can use them to set up your next turn, but be careful your opponent doesn’t get them! Remember the player after the dealer goes first when new hands are dealt, so they will probably be able to pick up the best cards on the table.

You can play this game with two, three or four players. You deal three cards to each player every deal, but you don’t run out of cards in the middle of dealing. Here’s how it works:

There are 40 cards in the deck, and four of them are dealt onto the table at the start. The other 36 cards are dealt into people’s hands. In a two-player game, six cards are dealt each round, so there are six rounds. In a three-player game, nine cards are dealt each round, so there are four rounds. In a four-player game, there are only three rounds, with 12 cards dealt each round.

This works because 36 is divisible by 6, 9 and 12. In fact, 36 has nine factors, which is a lot for such a small number. 37 only has two factors!

*If you’re after more maths activities for kids, subscribe to Double Helix magazine!*

24 March, 2021 at 9:08 am

Hello! Thank you for these simple to follow rules, especially using American cards! I’ve been reading some rules online and it looks like there is also 1 point gained for each scopa (If you find that you have a card in your hand that is equal to the sum of all the cards on the table you may ‘sweep’ up all the cards in one move.) collected during the round? Is this a variation or something that was left out?

24 March, 2021 at 9:29 am

Hi Lauren,

Yup, Scopa is an old game and it has several different different variants. I picked the simplest version I could find, so there are lots of extra rules to make the game more interesting if you want!

24 March, 2021 at 10:26 am

Perfect, thanks for the quick answer!