Scala Quaranta

by Andrew Stein

Scala Quaranta is our card game of choice while on the farm. Taught to us by Gabe, this is an Italian card game that was popular in the 1920’s and is similar to Rummy.

Card playing on the farm

The game is played with two decks of 54 (include the jokers), each player receiving 13 to start the game, and there is one card placed face-up in the discard pile. Starting with the player sitting to the left of the dealer and proceeding clockwise, the player can take one from the pile of remaining cards or may take the top one from the discard pile. If the discard pile card is taken, that card must be played on the same turn. Playing on a turn requires placing cards on the table in sets of at least three that either match in value but not suit or constitute a run in the same suit (like Rummy). The first time cards are played for each participant, the total of the cards must sum to at least 40 points. Numbered cards are all worth their number value, face cards are worth ten, and aces are worth eleven. A joker on the table is worth whatever value it is replacing. Other players can play on cards that have already been placed on the table given that they have opened with their 40 points. In addition, another player can take a joker that has been played by replacing it with its correct card. That joker then must be played on the same turn. The game ends when a player has played all of his cards on the table. If a player is left with only one card in his hand, he must draw from the stack and cannot take the top card from the discard pile. Finally, at the conclusion of the game, the losing players total the points in their hand and record their score. If no cards have been played, that player receives 100 points for the game. If cards have already been played, numbered cards are again worth their number, face cards are worth 10, aces eleven, and jokers are now worth 25 when left over in one’s hand. If a player reaches 101 points, he can buy back into the game and is given the highest score of all remaining players. To win, everyone except for the winner must reach 101 points in the same game.

Katherine, Gabe and I shared many a hour playing this game together.