Egyptian Ratscrew Card Game

Translated from French by Steve ThorsTen (2019)

Egyptian Ratscrew is a playing card game that, when you hear about it, would certainly remind you of your childhood and another popular playing card game – War – that you used to play. However, Egyptian Ratscrew is nothing like that game from your childhood.

Admittedly, you will find the rules very similar to War's, and you will indeed see quite a few things that match, but ultimately, Egyptian Ratscrew will be a different game altogether. Today, the game has nothing to do with War. Apart from having good luck, you will also have to concentrate and try to memorize certain elements to make sure that you win.

The game originated in the Isle of Beauty, but this is not a proven statement and it remains more of a mystery and a legend, rather than a proven scientific fact.

The Goal in Egyptian Ratscrew

The goal of the game in Egyptian Ratscrew is very simple indeed. You win as soon as you defeat all opponents by claiming their cards – no more, no less.

Rules of Engagement in Egyptian Ratscrew

After all cards have been distributed equally among players, you can start playing by putting your own deck face down – much like you would during a regular game of War. You all start by taking turns and the goal is to defeat a card that is facing up. The game only starts when a face card is revealed.

In order for a player to respond to another player's card, they must draw and play a face card themselves. That's why it's important to remember how many cards have been played so far and how many card there are in the deck left of a certain denomination. Meanwhile, there is a fixed number of attempts for each card, as in:

  • Joker – 5 attempts
  • Ace – 4 attempts
  • King – 3 attempts
  • Queen – 2 attempts
  • Jack – 1 attempt

The game may only begin after a face card different than a pip-value card is played. Until such a time that a card such as this is played, players continue to draw from their pile and to place cards face up and build a pile. The last player to place a face card at the end of a turn is the one to win the entire pile.

Slap Table Rule

Apart from memory, the game will also test your reflexes. If no face card is put on the table, you will have to rely on how quick you are in the cases when you put a card that matches a previously played card. In this case, you will need to slap the table before the other player has. The first player who owns a contesting card to slap the table wins.

With this condition explained, you understand why players are never in a hurry to touch the pile, as they might need to act quickly. There are variations of Egyptian Ratscrew which allow for minor changes in your overall gameplay.

Penalties in Egyptian Ratscrew

As you can imagine, a game that involves so many reflexes and critical thought would often prompt player to make mistakes. Mistakes are punished in Egyptian Ratscrew, according to the rule book. The two game conditions that merit a punishment are:

  • Trying to claim the pile when it's not yours to claim
  • Playing a card when it's not your turn

There are different penalties that can be assigned. You can agree to different penalties at the beginning of each game, such as giving a card to an opponent for each penalty that has been committed.

Adapted from the original sources:

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