|Skill(s) required||Speed, counting, pattern recognition|
|Play||Clockwise or Counterclockwise|
|Card rank (highest to lowest)||J Q K A (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2)|
|Playing time||10 - 30 minutes|
Egyptian Ratscrew (also known as Egyptian Ratslap, Egyptian Ratkiller, Egyptian War, and many other similar names) is a card game of the matching family of games. The game is similar to the 19th century British card game Beggar-My-Neighbour, with the added concept of "slapping" cards when certain combinations are played, similar to and perhaps borrowed from Slapjack.
The game is played with a standard 52-card deck or with multiple standard decks shuffled together for larger numbers of players. As many people can play in one game such that they can reach the central pile at an arm's length. Each person is dealt an equal number of cards; extras are distributed as would in a normal deal. As a variation, one or more Jokers may be added to ensure an even deal or to change gameplay.
Players cannot look at their cards at any time including placing a card onto the central pile. Players are to flip the cards away from themselves when placing a card upon the pile.
The player to the left of the dealer begins by placing a card face-up, always from the top of his/her deck, to start a central pile. Play then proceeds around the circle and each player takes turns laying down one card on the central pile at a time until a face card or Ace is played (making that player the "challenger" for that moment in play). The next player (the "challenged") then has a number of chances to play another face card or Ace, as follows: four chances after an Ace, three after a King, two after a Queen, and one after a Jack. The challenged player plays his/her cards, one at a time, until he/she either draws another face card onto the pile or exhausts all of his/her allowed chances. If the challenged player is able to play a face card, the next player after him/her must beat it; if the initial face card could not be beaten in its allotted chances, the challenger who placed it takes the pile.
Any player who takes a pile is always the one to start the next pile. When taken, piles are always added to a player's deck underneath, face-down. Cards are rarely or never shuffled.
In addition to the basic progression of play, players should agree beforehand on certain card combinations that when played, entitle the fastest player to slap the pile and subsequently claim it. The simplest and most common combination is often the Double (any two cards of equal rank.) Though other common slappable combinations include Sandwiches (a double with one card of a different value between the two), consecutive-number runs of at least three in ascending or descending order (eg. 7, 6, 5; 10, Jack, Queen) and wild cards (usually Jokers, if used in play).
For a legitimate slap, the person to react the fastest and slap the pile first claims the pile. If multiple players slap simultaneously with no discernable victor, then the person whose hand has contact with the most cards by comparison takes the pile. (with a special case being the optional rule of Texas' Rules, where, of the disputors, one pulls away what they can while their opponent attempts the same.)
Hands must be entirely withdrawn before the pile may be slapped. It is considered unfair to hover one's hand too close to the pile and slap frequently. Optional rules which negate this involve either slapping with the hand not delivering the card to the pile, or Redneck Rules wherein players, or convicted players, must bring their hand to their foreheads before being able to slap with that hand.
Players who have no cards left to play are eliminated. If a player has fewer cards than chances left while trying to counter a face card and runs out of his/her deck without countering, either the next player continues attempting to counter the face card with the current chances left or that particular play ends and the pile goes to the player who laid down the face card.
Even without cards, eliminated players can "slap in" on any appropriate card combination and re-enter the game as long as there are at least two people still containing cards.
If players slap the pile when the card combination does not merit a slap, the slapper must discard one or more penalty card(s) and place them face-up at the bottom of the pile. Play then resumes according to the card last played. Players with no cards get a strike for each illegitimate slap and after the third strike, become unable to slap in until the next game.
If cards are played out of turn, these cards become dead cards. They can be either placed at the bottom of the pile or left alone wherever they land. Either way, dead cards do not make for legitimate slaps. Any slap over a dead card, even if a player intentionally places it out of turn, results in a penalty. Penalty cards may be placed at the top of the deck as dead cards to create more confusion and potential illegitimate slaps.
Memorization may help players recognize slapping possibilities before cards are set onto the pile. For example, if a game has only two players and one player legitimately slaps a double, the other player may recognize that, later on in the game, the double will arise later on as a sandwich that can then be slapped.
Some players may also intentionally fake a slap, since in doing so a player can possibly convince another player to slap incorrectly as well, or obtain an advantageous position in the deck that the player remembered from previous pile collections in the game.
While gaining the entire deck is the object, it is virtually always advantageous to have a deck as rich in face cards as possible with as few non-face cards as possible; the chances are then higher that the player will play a face card (whether to become the first challenger, or to counter a face card as the challenged player). Non-face cards are disadvantageous as they dilute the face cards in the player's deck, possibly causing them to lose a desirable pile by not being able to counter a face card. This may lead players to refrain from slapping on card combinations if there are no face cards in the pile. Although players should keep in mind that in order to win they must obtain all of the cards in the deck, including the non-face cards, so they might as well get them when they can.
Also, when someone plays a facecard, that person may want to slap on the last card dropped thereafter, (1st for Jack, 2nd for Queen, 3rd for King and 4th for Ace), regardless of knowing what that card might be. This strategy is profitable because the reward of the pile outweighs the risk of "burning" a card. This strategy is also known as a risk slap. The risk slap may be used by players who have a noticeable lead in cards and are comfortable with sacrificing one card on the chance they might gain the pile which they slapped. In some games, it may even be permissible to slap the final card, with no penalty.
Additionally, a player can intentionally slap incorrectly to "burn" a card or two leading up to a face card remembered from earlier in the game. This is especially useful if the preceding player has played a high value face card such as a jack, where there is only one chance to play a face card.
The player who collects every card in the deck wins the game. If the last remaining active person runs out of cards while trying to counter a face card and is unsuccessful, the pile goes to the player who played the face card and thus ends the game.
- Morehead, Albert H.; Mott-Smith, Geoffrey, eds. (2001). "Egyptian Ratscrew". Hoyle's rules of games. New York: Signet. pp. 202–3. ISBN 978-0-451-20484-4.
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