by Jonathan Leistiko
Score points by successfully bidding for and claiming ownership of the magic ewe. When the magic ewe is more strongly contested, the reward for claiming ownership is correspondingly greater.
A poker deck (jokers removed).
An ewe totem (It doesn’t really have to look like an ewe. Any plush toy should work just fine. For that matter, you don’t even really need the ewe. You can play the game just fine without one.).
Paper and pencil to keep score.
Optional: Pass The Ewe Reference Sheet (144 KB).
Shuffle the deck. Deal the cards evenly to the players. Set any remaining cards aside, face-down. You’re allowed to look at your hand and arrange the cards in any way you want to.
Put the ewe where everyone can reach it.
Give the paper and pencil to someone. That person gets to keep score.
Play starts to the dealer’s left.
There are five suits in this game: The 12 royal cards (J, Q, K) of all four traditional suits make one suit; they don’t count for their normal suits. The remaining cards in the other suits (A to 10 in spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds) make the other four suits.
If you’re starting a hand, you must play one or more cards of only one suit (S, H, C, D, royals). Play passes to your left.
When play passes to you, you may pass or play. If you pass, play passes to your left. If you play, you must play a homogenous set of cards that beats what was most recently played. The rank of the card you play is irrelevant, but the number of cards you play and their suit is relevant.
Hearts beat spades and clubs. Clubs beat hearts and diamonds. Diamonds beat clubs and royals. Royals beat diamonds and spades. Spades beat royals and hearts.
If the most recent play was one heart, you can play one club, or one spade, or two hearts. You can not play more than what you need to beat what was played; you can’t play three or more hearts or two or more clubs or spades.
Short play example:
Alice starts a hand by playing two clubs. Bob plays three clubs. Cathy passes. Dan plays three diamonds. Alice passes. Bob passes. Cathy plays three royals. Dan plays four royals. Alice plays four diamonds. Bob plays four clubs. Cathy plays four hearts. Dan passes. Alice plays five hearts. Bob, Cathy, and Dan all pass and Alice takes the hand.
If play passes back to you and you were the last player to play, you get the ewe totem and all of the cards played go face-down into your Wool Pile. You get a one-point bonus to your score. The hand is over.
If all players have cards left in hand, the player to the left of the player with the ewe starts the next hand. If at least one player is out of cards the round is over. If you have cards in hand at the end of a round, you lose one point for every card in your hand. If you have the ewe at the end of a round, you get a two-point bonus to your score.
If the round is over, count the number of cards in your Wool Pile and have the scorekeeper add that to your score. If one or more players have 100 points or more, the game is over. If the game is not over, collect and shuffle all of the cards.
If you have the ewe at the end of the game, you get a 5-point bonus to your score.
If you have the highest score at the end of the game, you win. Ties go to the youngest player.
Wild Jacks – One-eyed Jacks are wild; you can use them as any suit.
As I was drifting to sleep on August 22nd, 2006, I was trying to think of a game that would be funny without forcing its players to be funny (by telling jokes, or doing pantomime, or what-have-you). I figured that a fast-paced, relatively simple card game where you’re vying for control of a totem would work well. Using an escalating reward creates an interesting approach/avoidance dilemma for the players.
Thanks to Ben G. for discussing the rules with me. Thanks to Ben, Natosha, and Sharon for very valuable play testing and insights. Additional thanks to Frank, Glenn, and Ryan for additional play testing.