Briscas Review

Briscas is a medieval card game that’s still very popular through Spain, Italy, and parts of Latin America. It’s one of those games that’s easily learned, but pretty difficult to win consistently… especially against a skilled opponent. Although we didn’t understand the fuss at first, we came to see that there’s a good reason for Briscas’s longevity, and this classy iPhone game definitely does it justice.

The Briscas deck is straight out of the Middle Ages, so it doesn’t look anything a standard deck of cards. The four suits here are Coins, Cups, Batons, and Swords, and the cards are numbered from 1 to 12–the 1 being the most powerful Ace, followed in order of precedence by the 3, 12, 11, and 10. Cards with those five numbers on them are worth points (11 for each 1, 10 for each 3, and 4, 3, and 2 for the 12s, 11s and 10s, respectively). Everything else is worth zilch. The object of the game is to collect as many valuable cards as possible by winning “tricks,” or hands.

The other rules are simple. A trump suit is randomly chosen at the beginning of each game, and then the starting player plays a card from his or her three-card hand. Failure to follow suit loses the hand, unless you play a trump; otherwise, the most valuable card always wins the trick. Win the trick, and you get to start the next hand. Play proceeds until all the cards are gone, at which point the final score is tallied and a winner is declared.

There is more strategy to this than it seems. You can’t just play your most valuable cards and expect to win, because the other guy may be holding trumps in reserve. Card-counting is very important, as are sacrifice plays and decoys.

For a casual card game, Briscas looks fantastic. The game is fully animated, and includes special effects like lightning bolts and earthquakes for winning big tricks. The lilting medieval music is great, and there are even unique sound effects for each suit–jangling money for Coins, clashing steel for Swords, and so on. In addition, Briscas has a long, long list of achievements to earn, so there’s some replay value here.

Briscas doesn’t have many bells and whistles feature-wise, as there’s only one difficulty level and no variants to the basic game. Still, if you enjoy card games, it’s a solid buy at 99 cents. We’re not sure we’d pay much more than two or three bucks for it, though, so watch for price increases.

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