The Tarocchini are a small family of games played with a reduced tarot pack of 62 cards that is sometimes known as The Tarocchino. What distinguishes these games from others of the tarot family from Italy is that the emphasis is less on winning card points and more on scoring points from winning combinations and patterns of cards.
Many players rate Ottocento as among the best card games in the world. Four play in fixed partnerships, with partners seated opposite each other. The number of hands in played in a game is variable because the goal is to be the first team to score 800 points. Some points are actually scored during play, so it is possible for the game to end before a hand has been fully played out. As scoring is a little more involved in these games, I have elected not to simplify it here.
Pack: A reduced tarot pack of 62 cards is used consisting of four regular suits of 10 cards, a suit of 21 trumps, and The Fool.
|All Others||1 point|
Counting Card Points: The card points are counted in pairs of cards, subtracting 1 point for every pair. There is then an additional 6 points awarded for winning the last trick bringing the total to 93 points.
Ranking: Standard ranking is used...
Pips rank in suits from high to low:
King, Queen, Cavalier, Valet, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, Ace
Empty Cards: These are cards that have values of 1 point or less.
Honours: There are Four Honours in the Tarocchino family of games, they are The Juggler, The World, The Angel, and The Fool. They are always among the highest scoring cards.
The Powers: The Female Pope, The Empress, The Emperor, and The Pope are called The Powers and while numbered, they are treated as being of equal rank in these games.
Combinations: Points may be won for possessing combinations of cards. These are...
|Honours||36 points for four cards||18 points for three cards|
|Kings||24 points for four cards||17 points for three cards|
|Queens||28 points for four cards||14 points for three cards|
|Cavaliers||26 points for four cards||12 points for three cards|
|Valets||24 points for four cards||12 points for three cards|
If three or more combinations are scored at the same time, then their value is doubled.
Patterns: Scoring for these is a little more involved as The Fool and The Juggler have the privilege of acting like wild cards, used to either complete or even extend them.
Each wild card may only be used once within a single pattern but may be used in more than one pattern at a time. If the pattern is naturally complete (that is to say that the pattern is completed without wild cards), then they may be added to the end to extend it and increase the score.
Because of this, The two wild cards are easily the most important cards in the pack and while having The Fool in your hand is a matter of luck, winning or protecting The Juggler is a strategic priority.
Trumps: A pattern of trumps must be three or more starting with The World down. To use a wild card, the pattern must also contain at least one of The World, The Sun, or The Moon. Wild cards may not replace two consecutive cards in the pattern. For example – a trumps pattern may run The World, The Fool, The Sun, The Star.
Suits: A pattern of suits must be three or more cards of the same suit starting with The King down. To use a wild card, the pattern must also contain The King and at least one other court card.
A Palace: A collection of three or more of the Powers. It must contain at least two of these trumps before a wild card is added.
Aces: A collection of three or more Aces. This must include at least two Aces before a wild card can be added.
Pattern Scores: Each pattern scores 10 points for three cards and a further 5 points for each additional card. If three or more patterns are scored at the same time, their values are doubled. The maximum score for most of them is therefore 40 points. In theory, a pattern of trumps could score as much as 220 points.
Deal: First Dealer is chosen at random or by consent with the role moving to the player on the left after each hand.
Each player is dealt three packets of 5 cards, with Dealer taking the last two cards. Dealer then discards 2 cards that will count toward his/her team’s tricks at the end unless they fail to win any during play, in which case they go to their opponents. The discard may not include either Kings or Honours.
Declarations: Starting with Eldest (Dealer’s left) players may now declare and score for any Combinations or Patterns they have in their own hand, laying out the cards for the other to see. There is no obligation to do this and players do not have to declare for maximum scores (for example, they may have 4 Kings and The Fool and choose to declare and score for a sequence of 3 by showing two Kings and The Fool). These declarations are scored for immediately and once everyone has declared, if a team has 800 points or more, they have won. If both make 800 at this stage, then the team with the highest total wins.
Play: Eldest (Dealer’s left) leads to the first trick by placing a card face up on the table. Each player in turn, moving to the right, must play a card from their hand of the suit led – this is called following suit. If they do not have any cards of the suit led, it is called being void in that suit and they must play a trump card instead. However, if they have no trumps, they may then play any other card, though it will not win. Whoever plays the highest trump to the trick wins it, or if trumps are not played, then whoever played the highest card of the suit led wins it.
If the four cards of the trick contain either a Combination or a Pattern, then the team that wins the trick immediately notes the score and if they have reached 800 points, they have won.
The winner takes the cards and places them face down in their trick pile to be counted at the end.
The player that wins the trick then leads to the next one and play continues until the hand has been played out.
If The Fool is held, then it may be played at any time instead of a card that the rules might otherwise require and although it will not win, it is seldom lost. When played, The Fool is returned to to its player who then places it face up beside them until the end of the hand when they must pay the player who won the trick with a card from their trick pile (obviously, they will choose an empty card if they can). However, if they have taken no tricks, then they must surrender The Fool instead.
If more than one card of the Celestial trumps (ie the top five) is played to the trick, then the last one played to it is treated as having trumped the others – unless a trump of VI or above is also played.
Signals: There are three permitted signals players may make to their partners.
Knock: The player knocks the table with a clenched fist to request that his/her partner plays their highest card of the suit led and, if they win the trick, to lead that suit again.
Throw: The player throws their card to the trick to indicate that he/she is now void in that suit.
Drag: When a player leads trumps, he/she may drag the edge of the card being played against the table to ask their partner to lead trumps.
Scores: After a hand has been played, scores are then calculated for card points won in tricks and then for any Combinations and Patterns that can be formed from cards in the trick pile. The job of doing this is shared between the two teams.
Dealer’s side counts their card points and the difference from 93 will also tell them their opponent’s total.
The other team meanwhile, pull out from their trick pile all of their trumps, court cards, aces, and any wild cards. They then lay these out in rows, leaving gaps where they are missing cards.
On the top row, they will set out the trumps starting the the World, then below them, they lay out four rows of suit cards, each starting with the King, then Queen, Cavalier, Valet, and Ace. From this arrangement, they can see right away what Combinations and Patterns they can score – and from the gaps, they can also tell what their opponents can score.
If either team’s score has reached 800 points, then they have won, if both have, then the team with the highest score wins. If not, then the next hand is dealt.