Monday, August 1, 2016

Front Porch Classics's Egyptian Ratscrew

Somewhere down the line writing my detailed explanation of Gamewright’s Slamwich, I became a middling expert on the game of Egyptian Ratscrew. So it should have come as no surprise the arrival on my desk of this beauty.

Egyptian Ratscrew from Front Porch Classics.

Front Porch Classics has a terrible portfolio of games. The most terrible one that I am somewhat familiar with is Deer in the Headlights.

Analysis of Box Contents

Inside the box: 2 standard decks of playing cards, 3 large wooden dice and 1 book of instructions. All of which pack into a slimline box.

Using current Goodwill Industries appraisal algorithms, this game in used condition is worth approximately $1.99.

The 2 Decks of Cards

These are 2 standard decks of playing cards, with a custom Egyptian Rat Screw backs. The Jokers are also Ratscrew themed. The rest are the standard clubs, diamonds, queens, jacks, etc. This is a little unfortunate because of how important the “munchers” are for challenging your enemies. Ancient Egyptian/Rat-themed face cards would have been appreciated.

The 3 Dice

One of the more enticing and seductive components in any game are the custom dice. These are no exception. The coolness of the dice is somewhat compromised by my knowledge that Front Porch Classics has these exact same dice as a component in most of their games, just with different printing on the sides. So later when I go into the slight modifications they have made, I’m pretty sure they figured out how to use these dice first, rather than develop special dice to take care of the new rules they were envisioning.

Body Location Die

A custom die specially-built to mock and humiliate those suffering from selective body dysphoria. This die calls out parts of the body including “back of the neck,” “ear,” “top of the head,” etc. This is one way to tackle one of the long-standing gray areas of Ratscrew: what to do with your hands.

Ratscrew requires lots of covenants among players, and the location of your hands is one such agreement. Without any prior discussion, hands slowly move closer and closer to the central pile, and constant desire to slap with the very hand a player is using the flip their card in the first place and alive and well.

Combined with the red die, the body location die specifies a hand, along with a location the hand needs to start at. For instance, this roll:

Requires the left hand to do the slapping, with a starting location of either ear. I really like this in theory, but I don’t so much enjoy the added challenge of remembering a NEW starting location over and over again. Front Porch Classics would have you re-roll these dice after every slap, but I would rather do it once at the start of the game. It’s hard enough to stay alert to doubles and sandwiches (and this version counts runs as slap-worthy too) without also messing up hand placement.

The Dark Die

Finally we have the mysterious black die. Strangely enough you never roll it, and all sides have the exact same picture. Instead, the black die goes into the possession of the person who flips a Joker.

The black die is used as a “get out of jail” card if someone messing up their slapping. If the slap comes from the wrong location, or the wrong hand, the black die allows this transgression to be forgiven as if it had never happened.

Why Slamwich Slaps Regular Ratscrew Silly

I joke a little about Slamwich ripping off a public domain game.

But the truth of the matter is this: after lots of Slamwich, it's almost impossible to go back to regular Ratscrew. The only place Ratscrew is superior is in the shape of the cards themselves: sandwich-shaped cards are delicate, easily-bent things compared to regular playing cards.

But the bright, colorful, easily recognizable pictures on Slamwich more than make up for the shape. Especially for young children, the red and black numbered faces of a playing card deck are a snoozefest compared to fish, tomatoes, birthday cake, gummy worms, etc of Slamwich.

I do like the body part slapping rules. But anyone can come up with those.

Playing regular Slamwich, my favorite hand positioning is right against the forehead, for maximum comic appeal, and there’s no die face for that.

My dream deck would look like this: perfectly square cards (like with Among the Stars) with sandwich toppings. And probably fewer of the 1 card munchers.

I think it’s safe to say Egyptian Rat Screw can stay on the Goodwill shelves, especially when Target is selling Slamwich for about $10 fresh in a shiny lunch box tin. No contest.

No comments:

Post a Comment