hist-games: Partita Rules Resend

Mckay, Michael michael.mckay at compaq.com
Wed Sep 2 08:41:13 PDT 1998

Hmm, AOL wierdness happened.  I'm resending the Partita rule from my work
email.  This time for sure!  -mjm-
Rules of Partita
The 17th century form of a Bolognesi Tarot Card Game

Partita is the name of a card game that was popular in Bologna region of
Italy.  The rules of the game come to us from Instruzioni necessarie per che
si volesse impare il dilettevole giuoco dei Tarocchini by Carlo Pisarri
(1754).  Pisarri compares a "very old" manuscript describing former means of
card play with the current games [of 1754].  The majority of my information
comes from Michael Dummett's The Game of Tarot (Duckworth, 1980).  In
chapter 16 of The Game of Tarot, Dummett lays out a number of reasons that
causes him to place the origins of this game in the first quarter of the
16th century.  Throughout most of history, the game has been confined within
the Bologna region.  The game is very complex, yet the rules changed little
during Partita's lifetime.

Partita is played with 4 players (partners sit across from each other).  The
middle part of Partita is very similar to the basic Tarot game.  It adds a
round of point counting before and after the game (based on sets and runs of
the cards).  Another unusual feature of Partita is that the partners are
allowed to make certain limited signals to each other during play.  I have
dropped an additional scoring system from these rules (to simplify things a
bit, and make it practical to teach within a couple of hours).  I will note
the places where I have simplified the rules. 
Deck Description
Partita can be played with a standard Tarot deck (where the 2-5 number cards
in each suit have been removed).  The trump cards are in a non-standard
order (probably because of this, the Bologna tarot decks were amongst the
last to add numbers to the trump cards).  The biggest difference in ordering
is amongst what is know as the "Papi" (cards 2-5; Popess {High Priestess},
Empress, Emperor, and Pope {Hierophant}).  In this version, all 4 Papi are
equal (the last one played is the highest, in regards to taking a trick).
There are some other minor ranking differences, which I will detail in a
chart below. Note that if you use a modern Bolognesi Tarot deck, there will
be four Moors instead of Papi (changed in the 18th century).  When teaching
the game for the first time, it may be simpler to retain the rest of the
trump in the numbered order (until a good Bologna replica deck becomes

Rank	Name	Points
20 *	Judgement (Angelo)	5
19 *	World (Mondo)	5
18 *	Sun (Sole)	-
17 *	Moon (Luna)	-
16	Star (Stella)	-
15	Tower (Saetta)	-
14	Devil (Diavolo)	-
13	Death (Morte)	-
12	Hanged Man (Traditore)	-
11	Hermit (Vecchio)	-
10	Wheel (Ruota)	-
9	Stength (Forza)	-
8	Justice (Giustizia)	-
7	Temperance (Tempra)	-
6	Chariot (Carro)	-
5	Love (Amore)	-
1-4 * *	Popess, Empress, Emperor, Pope (the four Papi)	-
0 *	Magician (Bagattino)	5
-	Fool (Matto)	5
* These cards are not numbered in present day Bologna tarot decks
* These cards are equal to each other, the last one played in a trick is the

Starting the Game

As usual for Tarot card games, dealing and card play are counter-clockwise.
The dealer gives 15 cards to each player, in 3 rounds of five cards apiece.
The dealer takes the last two cards into her hand.  The dealer has to
discard two cards, which can not be "5 point" cards (such as Kings, or the
trumps worth 5 points).  The cards that the dealer discards are counted as
points to her side, unless she and her partner capture no tricks at all
during the card play (in which case the cards must be surrended to the

After the first 5 cards have been dealt, if all players agree the game may
amdare a monte.  If this happens, all the cards are thrown in, and the deal
passes to the next player.   The first player speaks first (declaring a
monte if he wishes to restart the game).  This continues with each player
until it reaches the dealer.  If all have declared a monte, than the game
will be restarted.  Note that this is one of the areas where I have
simplified the 17th century version of Partita.  There are a couple of other
declarations that players could make, and these would effect the "meld
point" scoring for captured tricks.

The game consists of three parts.  Just after the hand has been dealt, all
players may score their hands according to the "meld points" contained
within.  Next, normal card play occurs.  Finally, the partners score any
"meld points" that they have in their captured tricks.   I'll describe each
part in more detail below. Note: The first declaration (before the game is
started) is found in a number of other tarot cards games.  The scoring of
meld points after card play is unique to the Bolognesi tarot games.

Point Cards

Rank	Standard Deck Name	Points
21	World (Mondo)	5
20	Judgement (Angelo)	5
1	Magician (Bagattino)	5
-	Fool (Matto)	5
King (K)	-	5
Queen (Q)	-	4
Knight (Kn)	-	3
Jack (J)	-	2

The First Declaration
After the cards have been dealt, each player may declare certain
combinations of cards that they hold in their hand.  They do not have to
declare anything, and may optionally declare a smaller set or run than they
actually have.  Anything that is declared, must be placed face-up on the
table.  Obviously, deciding what to declare is an interesting strategic
choice.  The card combinations are detailed in the "Meld Points" section

Game Play
Once the first declaration of points is finished, normal card play insures.
Note that some information has been disclosed by the declarations, so
players will have more clues than usual as to the contents of the other
players hands.  The last trick of the game has a bonus of 6 points.  Once
all tricks have been captured, count normal points in groups of 4 cards.
The dealer (and her partner) will end up with two extra cards (from the
discard).  If there are no points in these cards, they should be scored as 0
points.   This will result in a total of 77 points for this part of the

During the actual card play, the partners are permitted to make certain
signals to each other.  Only one signal can be given at a time.
*	When a player has the lead, the partner may instruct her to lead her
highest trump by saying "Sminchiate".  
*	The player may strike the center of the table when playing a card.
This indicates she has the highest remaining card in the suit of the card
that was just played (including trumps).  
*	If the player strikes the edge of the table, it indicates she has
the second highest card in the suit of the card that was just played
(including trumps).
*	If leading, the player may draw back (tirare indietro) the card
slightly toward herself before laying it down.  This signals that the
partner should play her highest card in an attempt to capture the trick.

Final Scoring
After the "normal" card play points have been counted, the captured tricks
are examined for meld points (see the "Meld Points" section for more
details).  Note: the 17th century version of Partita had an extra set of
points that were counted here, which I have removed for simplicity (an
interesting aside is that they used chips to keep track of these extra

Meld Points
The meld points are counted twice during a hand.  The first time is from
individual hands before cards play has started.  The second time is from the
collected tricks of both partners.  I'll state a couple of obvious facts
here.  The first is that since you have to show any declared meld points
before card play occurs, this will reveal parts of your hand to both your
partner and the opposition.  The second is that there will usully be more
meld points after card play, than before.  There is a method of laying out
the cards that will speed the counting of points (usually used after game
play).  I have copied the example below from The Game of Tarot (page 323).

Meld Points (Sets and Runs)

Combination	Point Value	
Sets (cricche)
Three/four tarocchi	18/36	
Three/four Kings	17/34	
Three/four Queens	14/28	
Three/four Knights	13/26	
Three/four Jacks	12/24	
Runs (10 points for 3, + 5 for each extra)
King + 2 of 3 same suit (Q, Kn, J and/or Ace)	See description	
21 + 2 of 3 top trumps (20, 19, 18)	"	
3 or more Papi	"	
3 or more Aces	"	

The term "tarocchi" refers to the four trumps cards worth 5 points (Fool, 1,
20, 21).  The Fool and the 1 of trumps (Magician) may be used as "wild
cards" (contatore) to assist in making runs.  The contatore are very
valuable, because they can be used as wild card in multiple locations.  They
may not be used to substitute for the 21 or a King in a run.

The runs count 10 points for a run of three cards, plus 5 points for each
additional cards.  A run of trumps is called a grande.    A grande consists
the 21, and 2 or more of the next 3 cards (20, 19, 18).  The grande may be
extended by using consecutive number cards from 17 and below.  The wild
cards may not be place next to each other when used to extend a grande.  For
example if you have 21, 20, 19, 17, 16, 13, and both contatore; the 21, 20,
and 19 form a grande; the 17 and 16 extend the grande, but since both the 15
and 14 are missing you can't use the contatore to extend down to 13.  The
score for this example without the contatore would be 20 points (10 + 2*5).
If there are 3 or more runs, the points are doubled.

Trumps	Swords	Batons	Cups	Coins
21	K		K
17	Kn	Kn		Kn
16		J		J
	A	A	A
One Papi
1 (Magician)

The cards have been laid out in 5 columns.  The first column is trumps ,
while the four suits follow.  Only cards of interest are laid out (for
example normal number cards are of no interest).  Remember that the 1 of
trumps is a contatore, and serves as a wild card.  This side has two sets
(cricche): three tarocchi, scoring 18 points, and three knights, scoring 13
points (total of 31 points).  It has three runs: a grande of five (21, 20,
contatore, 17, 16) scoring 20 points; a run of four in Swords (K, contatore,
Kn, Ace) scoring 15 points; and a run of 4 aces (3 real aces and the
contatore) scoring 15 points.  Since there are three runs, the points are
doubled  to 100 (from 50), giving a total score of 131 in the final meld.
The points from the initial declaration and the card play will need to be
added in as well.

To unsubscribe from this list, send email to majordomo at pbm.com containing
the words "unsubscribe hist-games". If you are subscribed to the digest version,
say "unsubscribe hist-games-digest". To contact a human about problems, send
mail to owner-hist-games at pbm.com

More information about the hist-games mailing list