7 Croatian card games you can play right now

Cards for playing Belote
Image by regionalni.com

All of us have played some kind of card game in our life. Maybe it was poker, or Texas Hold ‘Em or Uno or even Go Fish. But have you tried playing a Croatian card game?

There are a variety of card games played in Croatia and across the Balkans. In this post, we’ll share 7 Croatian card games including how to play, how many players are needed and where to find the cards. Pick one to play with your friends on your next long coffee.

  1. Belot (Belote)
  2. Briškula (Briscola)
  3. Skopa (Scopa)
  4. Šnaps (Schnapsen)
  5. Tablić (Tablanet)
  6. Trešeta (Tressette)
  7. Trijumf (Triumph)

Let’s get started…

#1 Belot (Belote)

Belot (Belote), also called “Bela”, is probably the most popular card game in Croatia. In addition to Croatia, Bela is most often played in France, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Cyprus, Greece, and Saudi Arabia.

Bela is a trick taking strategy game played with 32 cards in a counterclockwise direction. One session of the game lasts from 20 to 40 minutes until a certain score is accomplished. The minimum number of players is 2, and the maximum is 4. The game becomes most interesting when it is played by 4 players because then people can play in pairs – 2 against 2.

Cards used for playing Bela are called “mađarice”. Cards are divided by 4 “colors”:

  1. pik (green)
  2. tref (acorn)
  3. karo (bells)
  4. herc (heart)

Every suit includes 8 different cards each of which represent a certain number of points. The game can become intense and passionate, especially when teams have almost the same number of points up until the end of the game.

Bela can be played just for fun, but some people take it very seriously. To play it very well, it is important to follow which cards have already been played.

  • Find instructions on how to play belote here
  • Find tips for mastering Belote here
  • Buy standard “mađarice” cards for playing Belote here

#2 Briškula (Briscola)

Briškula (Briscola) is usually played on the Croatian and Montenegrin coasts and islands. This game is played with cards called “tršćanske karte” (Triestine cards). One deck includes 40 cards.

The game involves trick taking and it is played counterclockwise. Briškula can be played with 2 to 6 players, but it is usually played with 4 players. One session of the game usually lasts for 25 minutes.

There are 2 versions of the game. The first one is called obična briškula (casual briscola) and it is played by only 2 players or 4 players in pairs. The second is dupla briškula (double briscola) or Dalmatinska briškula (Dalmatian briscola) which is played by 2 players. Obična and dupla briscola differ in the division of cards and in a few small rules.

When playing in pairs, team members are allowed to exchange secret signals. These secret signs are called “moti” and players arrange them before the start of the game. By using moti, players give each other signals about which cards they hold in their hands. They can also give false signals to confuse their opponents.

  • Find instructions on how to play Briškula here
  • Buy Triestine cards for playing Briškula here

#3 Skopa (Scopa)

Skopa (Scopa) is a fishing card game that is usually played in Dubrovnik and its surroundings. It is a version of the Italian Scopa, and it is also popular in Argentina and Brazil.

Scopa is played with cards called “tršćanske karte” (Triestine cards) and one deck contains 40 cards. Skopa can be played by 2, 3 or 4 players, in pairs.

The aim of the game is to collect the “scopa” meaning the cards on the table. All the cards are put at the table instead of the players holding them in their hands. The goal is to match the cards of the same value. Unlike other card games, this one is easy to pick up quickly.

  • Find instructions on how to play Skopa here
  • Buy Triestine cards for playing Skopa here

#4 Šnaps (Schnapsen)

Šnaps (Schnapsen) is a very popular trick-taking card game in Croatia. It is usually played by only 2 players, but it can also be played with 3 or 4 players.

Šnaps is commonly played with the same cards used for playing Belot, but it can also be played with other card sets. Only 20 cards from the set are used, which include the ace, king, lady, boy, and X.

The aim of the game is to have 0 points at the end of the game. Players have a certain number of points at the beginning depending on their cards. When one of the players reaches 0 points, the game is over. The game is played counterclockwise. It is a challenging game, requiring a lot of focus. One session lasts for 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Find instructions on how to play Šnaps here
  • Buy standard “mađarice” cards for playing Šnaps here

#5 Tablić (Tablanet)

Tablić (Tablanet) is an easy-to-learn fishing card game. It is popular in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. The game is played with a set of 52 cards divided into red and black colors. The set is divided into pik (green), tref (acorn), karo (bells), herc (heart). Each “suit” includes 13 cards.

Players of Tablić have to match the number of points of their card with the number of points of the cards on the table. The goal of the game is to collect as many points and tabla (tables) as possible. Tabla happens when the player collects all the cards from the table.

Tablić is usually played with 2 or 4 players. Playing this game is simple and fun, making it a good choice for children. It is a great tool for encouraging children to use their brain and to practice counting.

  • Find instructions on how to play Tablić here
  • Buy standard cards for playing Tablić here

#6 Trešeta (Tressette)

Trešeta is an Italian trick-taking game that is very often played in Istria, on the Croatian coast, and islands. The game is easy to learn, but it is tactical. It is usually intended for 2 to 4 players.

Rules of playing Trešeta often vary depending on the geographical location. The game is fun, but if you want to be good at it, it requires good concentration.

The game is played with tršćanske karate (Triestine cards) as with Briškula. One deck contains 40 cards divided into 4 colors:

  1. Baštone
  2. Dinare
  3. Kupe
  4. Špade

The goal of the game is to have as few points as possible. These points are called “punat” and every card is assigned a certain number of punat. One session of the game can last from 10 to 20 minutes.

What makes Trešeta unique is that communication is completely forbidden during the game. Only 2 signs are allowed: tučem and strišo. They are actually warnings indicating when players are planning certain moves.

Mediterranean players are very passionate about the game and they often play for a round of drinks or marenda (Mediterranean term for a brunch).

  • Find instructions on how to play Trešeta here
  • Buy standard cards for playing Trešeta here

#7 Trijumf (Triumph)

Trijumf (Triumph) is an easy-to-learn Italian game that is played on the Croatian coast and islands. A set with 40 cards of tršćanske karte (Triestine cards) is needed to play this game. This set is called “mac”. It is usually played by 2 players or 4 players in pairs.

Trijumf is played in the clockwise direction. The rules of the game are a combination of briškula and trešeta. Cards are divided into 4 parts, which are called “zog”:

  1. Kupe
  2. Bate
  3. Špade
  4. Dinare

If the game is played in pairs, communication isn’t allowed. Although, when players really get into it, you can often hear them swearing.

  • Find instructions on how to play Trijumf here
  • Buy standard cards for playing Trijumf here

Check out our other posts about daily life in Croatia here.

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