Scala Quaranta (Scala 40) is a popular Italian game which is a customization of Standard Rummy with some European Kalooki flavorings tossed in for good measure. The main differences from Standard Rummy are that there is minimum value required for a player's first opening meld, the discard may not be drawn from until after a player's first meld, and players are "retired" from the game when their score maxes out.
Players: Two to six players.
Cards: Two standard 52-card decks with all four jokers, for a total of 108 cards. Aces can be used as either high or low sequence values, but not both. In other words, the Aces can be used in sequences like A-2-3 or Q-K-A, but sequences that go around the corner like K-A-2 are not allowed.
The Deal: The first dealer is chosen randomly and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.
The dealer shuffles the pack and the player to dealer's right cuts. The dealer than deals out the cards one at a time, starting with the player to dealer's left and continuing clockwise until everyone has 13 cards. The remaining cards are stacked face down on the table to form a drawing stock, and the top card of this stack is turned face up and placed alongside it to start the discard pile.
Objective: As in all rummy games the objective is, by drawing and discarding, to collect Sets or Runs of cards. These combinations can laid down as melds. The winner is the player who manages to "close" the game by melding all his or her cards but one, and discarding the final card.
Play commences with the player to the left of the dealer taking a turn and continues clockwise until the hand ends.
Players do the following actions when it is their turn:
Draw: If the player has not yet made an opening meld, then they are only allowed to draw from the stock pile. If a player has made an opening meld then they may choose to draw from either the stock pile or the discard pile. However, if the player draws from the discard pile the card must be played immediately. A player is never allowed to take the top card of the discard pile and keep it in hand or discard it.
Meld (optional): If the player has cards in their hand that form Runs or Sets then they may place the cards face up on the table in front of them. The player is not required to do so but may instead hold onto their melds for strategic reasons.
If the player has not previously melded, then in order to meld for the first time (known as "opening" or the "opening meld") he or she you must put down new sets and/or runs with a total value of at least 40 points. (The name of the game - Scala 40 - refers to this minimum.) The player cannot add cards to melds (lay off) that are already on the table until after he or she has opened. If the player uses a Joker in their meld(s) then its value is the same as the card it is substituting.
Lay off (optional): If the player has already made an opening meld then he or she may choose to add cards from his or her hand to existing melds already on the table. The added cards must keep the meld legal. The player is not allowed to take cards from an existing meld to form new ones. The player may play as many cards onto existing melds that they want, including none. There is no obligation to lay off cards.
Discard: The player ends his or her turn by discarding one card face up to the discard pile.
A set or run may contain only 1 Joker, used as a substitute for one of the cards that would normally be present in the run or set. A single meld is not allowed to include more than one Joker. When putting down a set of three cards including a Joker the player must specify exactly which card the Joker represents. When using a Joker in a run then it is obvious by its position which card the Joker is substituting for. If a player has the card the Joker is substituting for then they may swap out the Joker and replace it with the card. However the swapped-out joker must be used immediately.
If a player draws the last card of the stock pile, all the cards in the discard pile are shuffled and stacked face down to make a new stock pile. The discard of the player who took the last card from the stock begins a new discard pile.
End of Hand
Discarding your last card is known as "closing", and this ends the play. You are not allowed to meld all the cards in your hand, leaving yourself with no discard. For example if the only cards you have left are two different sixes and you draw a six of a third suit, you are not allowed to put down a meld of three sixes, leaving yourself with no card to discard. Once a player has gone out then the hand is over and other players may not meld or lay off cards even if they have valid combinations in their hand.
Players are not allowed to close during their first turn to play. Everyone must have one complete turn before anyone is allowed to close.
When a player goes out then all the remaining players add up the points of the cards they still have in their hands. Cards have the following point values:
The player who closed the game has no cards remaining and therefore scores zero. Each of the other players adds the value of their remaining cards to their cumulative total score.
Any player whose score equals or exceeds 101 retires from the game, and the others continue to play. The last surviving player when all others have been eliminated is the winner.
Optional Rules and Variations
The following rules may be added to the standard game if all players agree to the variation before the first player takes their turn. It’s not an all or nothing deal, the game participants can pick and choose which variations they like.
- Single game: Some play that each deal is a separate event. The player who closes simply wins. In this case there is no need for the other players to count the value of their remaining cards.
- Higher target score: Some play that the score at which a player is eliminated from the game is 151 or 201 rather than 101. This target score should be agreed before beginning the game.
- Re-entering the Game: Many people play that a player who reaches or exceeds the target score is not eliminated if there is more than one player still in the game. Instead, the scores of all players who have reached or passed the target are reset equal to the highest score of any player who is below the target.
- No elimination: Instead of eliminating players from the game when they reach a certain score, some play until the player with the highest score reaches or passes a certain total. At that point the game stops and the player with the lowest score is the winner. Apparently the game may be played to 1000, 1500 or even 2000, though this would be a rather long game.
- Card Values: Some count the Jack as 11, Queen 12, King 13 and Ace 14 when in a set or at the top of a sequence. In this case a set of three Aces is sufficient to open. In addition, for a Joker remaining in a player's hand, some charge only the same as an Ace, in this variant 14 instead of 25.
- Earlier use of the Discard Pile: Some allow a player who has not yet opened to draw the top card of the discard pile, provided that this card is immediately used as part of the player's opening meld.
- Open and Close in the same Turn: Sometimes a player who still holds 13 cards (having not yet opened) manages after drawing to meld 13 cards and discards the last card, thus opening and closing in the same turn. Some play that in this case all the other players score twice the values of the cards remaining in their hands.
- Close on the first turn: Some allow a player to close at his or her first turn to play. In this case, players who have not had a chance to play score all their cards as penalty points, even if their hand already contains the cards needed for an initial meld of 40 or more points.
- Penalty for not having opened: It may happen that a player closes when some other players have not yet opened. Some play that such players score a fixed penalty of 100 points instead of counting the value of the 13 cards in their hands.
- Discarding Playable Cards: There are apparently several versions of the rule against discarding a card which could be added to a set or sequence on the table. Discarding a playable card may or may not be allowed in three situations: for a player who has not yet opened, for a player who has opened but not closed, and as the last discard when closing. Banning playable discards creates a problem that in rare cases a player may have no legal discard. This can be largely but not completely avoided by allowing playable discards for a player who is closing.
- First player may take the turned up card: Some play that the first player - the player to dealer's left - may start the game by taking the card turned up by the dealer instead of the top card of the stock, even if the player is unable to meld this card. This is the only case in which a card from the face up pile can be drawn and kept in the player's hand.
- No discard required when closing: Some allow a player to close by melding all his or her cards after drawing, so that the player has no card to discard at the end of this last turn.
- Four of a kind is discarded: Some play that when a a player has a meld of four equal cards of different suits (without Jokers), this is placed on the discard pile, so that the cards will be recycled into the new stock in the event that the stock runs out and is reconstituted from the discard pile. This is done during a player's turn, so that it is covered by the player's discard. Since the four of a kind cannot be extended and none of its cards can be taken from the discard pile, this rule has no effect on the game unless the stock pile runs out.
- Jokers in sets and sequences: Some allow a set or sequence to contain more than one Joker.