– traditional Ligurian card games

a Ligurian game for 4 players


Deck and players

A 40-card Genoese deck is used to play, consisting of 1 (or ace), 2, …, 7, jack (J), queen (Q), king (K) in the four suits of hearts , diamonds , clubs ♣ and spades ♠.

Each card has a capture value (capturing is the fundamental mechanic of cirulla) and a prime value:


The game is played by four players, and players sitting opposite each other form a team and play together.

The game consists of a number of hands, which are the phases of the game that end when the cards in the deck run out. A game consists of a variable number of rounds, as many as are necessary to reach the set score limit, which is usually 51.


In the first hand, the dealer is chosen at random. For subsequent hands, the role of dealer passes to the other players in a counter-clockwise direction. The dealer shuffles the cards and hands them to the player on their left to cut them. Then the dealer deals nine cards per player and places four cards face up on the table, in the following manner: starting with the player to the dealer’s left and continuing counter-clockwise, the dealer gives a packet of three cards to each player, then places two on the table, then three more per player, then two more on the table, and finally three more per player.[1]

If there are two or more aces in the four cards placed on the table by the dealer, the hand is annulled: the dealer takes all the cards, shuffles them, has them cut, and deals them again.

Once the players have used up the cards they had in their hands, the hand ends and the score is tallied.



The aim of cirullone is to score as many points as possible in order for one’s team to be the first to reach the set limit score. One at a time, starting with the player to the left of the dealer (the forehand) and then counterclockwise, the players play a card face up on the table. Depending on the card played and the cards that were already on the table, in certain cases that will be described below, players may capture cards. Play proceeds in this manner until players have depleted the nine cards they had in their hands.

If, with the card that they decided to play, a player cannot capture any of the cards on the table (or if there are no other cards on the table at all), then this card is left face-up on the table. If, on the other hand, it is possible to make a capture, then a capture must be made.


Cards on the table can be captured in three ways:

Card capture is the basic mechanism for scoring points in cirulla. The cards captured, together with the cards used to capture, are placed face down in a pile next to the player who made the capture. Usually, one of the two players in the team keeps all the cards captured by the team. At the end of the hand, the capture piles are used to compute the scores of the two teams.

At the end of the hand, if any cards remain on the table, they go to the team that made the last capture, as if they had actually captured them.


When a player takes all the cards on the table, they are said to have made a sweep. A sweep is marked by turning the card that made the capture upside down and sideways in the pile of captured cards. At the end of the hand, each sweep is worth one point.

The last played card of the hand cannot achieve a sweep, even if by playing it the player captures all the cards on the table. Similarly, when cards remain on the table at the end of the hand and they are awarded to the team who made the last capture, this does not count as a sweep.


When players hold certain combinations of cards, called bonuses, they have the opportunity to earn additional points by declaring them:

If a player holds one or more of these bonus combinations in their hand, they must knock on the table to declare them, and uncover the relevant cards. These cards must be left face up, and the player will have to play them first before being able to play other cards.

For the purposes of bonuses, the seven of hearts (called poncin in Ligurian and matta in Italian) can play the role of any other card, but only if by doing so the player who has it can get a bonus. In this case, the player declares the value of the seven of hearts, and it will retain this value for the duration of the hand (but not when counting points, and thus for the prime). For example, if a player has two aces and the seven of hearts in their hand, they can declare that the seven of hearts is an ace, which will allow them to score a ten-point bonus. Then, when playing it, they can use it to get a sweep as if it really were an ace (i.e., they can perform an ace capture with it), but at the end of the hand when the score is being tallied, it reverts to being the seven of hearts.

The second type of bonuses are dealer’s bonuses. They are formed with the four cards that are put on the table at the beginning of the hand by the dealer:

The dealer must announce these bonuses immediately after the first deal of the hand, before forehand has played their first card. For these bonuses too, the seven of hearts can take on any capture value, provided that this value allows the dealer to obtain either of the above bonuses.


At the end of the hand, the points of each team are tallied. Points are the sum of: deck points, sweeps, meld points and bonus points.

Deck points

The deck points are:

The prime is a combination of four cards, one per each suit. Each team forms their own prime by choosing the strongest card of each suit, according to the prime values given in the table at the top of the page. The team with the highest prime value (calculated by adding up the prime values of the four chosen cards) is awarded the prime point.


Each time a player captures all the cards on the table, they get a sweep, marked by turning a card upside down in the capture pile. When counting points at the end of the hand, each sweep is worth one point.


If a team is able to capture certain combinations of cards, they get additional points at the end of the hand. The combinations are:


The last way to earn points is via bonuses, both hand bonuses and dealer bonuses, as previously described.


Cirullone is a variant of cirulla, inspired by scopone scientifico. For historical notes, see the page on cirulla.