Egyptian rat screw is a card game. It is also known as Egyptian war or ERF, which stands for Egyptian Rat.. well, you get the idea.

It is a social game, and it is best played with 4+ players. The only limit to the number of players is how many you can fit around a table. If you are playing with a large group, you might want to shuffle in another deck of cards.

The cards are dealt out evenly to everyone until all the cards are gone. A few people might have an extra card, that's ok. All players must hold their deck face down, and ey are not allowed to look at eir cards. The object of the game is to get all of the cards.

Play begins with the player to the dealer's left playing eir top card face up on the center of the table. The next player plays eir top card face up on top of the previous card. Play continues like this, in a circle, until the game is over.

A few conditions exist that allow a player to take the whole pile:

If two cards of the same rank are on top of each other, anyone may slap the pile to win all of the cards. The person who slapped it first is the winner. Even if you are out of cards, or are joining late, you can "slap in" the game and join if you slap successfully.

If a player plays a Jack, Queen, King, or Ace, the next player has a certain number of turns to lay down another J, Q, K or A, (A "special card") depending on which card is played. A Jack gives the next player 1 turn, Queen 2, King 3, and Ace 4. If the next player does not lay down another special card, the player who played the special card takes the whole pile. If the player does play a special card, play continues.. So that now, the player after that must lay down a special card.

If that doesn't make sense, here is an example.

Play goes around in a circle.

The pile looks like this:

8 2 4 9 8 2 5 7 Q

Bob laid a Queen. This means Suzy (who goes after Bob) has two turns to lay down a special card. She lays down two cards.

8 2 4 9 8 2 5 7 Q 4 2

She didn't make it. Bob grabs the whole pile, and plays a new card.


Suzy plays a card.

3 A

Suzy now has 4 tries to play a special card.

3 A 8 3 J

She made it! Now Jane (who goes after Suzy), has one try to play a special card.

3 A 8 3 J 5

Suzy takes all the cards.

This game is also sometimes referred to simply as "slaps".

Alternative rules include:

  • "Sandwiches": Players can slap when two cards of a given rank are played, with one card between them, (e.g. 4 J 4 or A 5 A)
  • "Sixty-Nine": Players can slap when a 6 and a 9 are played in sequence. Note that even if this rule and "Sandwiches" are both in play, 6 X 9 is still not a valid slap.
  • "Fish": Whenever a player picks up cards, they are required to say the name of a fish. Yes, a fish. When player can no longer think of new fish, he/she may say something completely unrelated, such as The San Francisco Symphony, or Christmas. If the other players laugh, it's considered to be a valid fish. (Note: To my knowledge, only about a dozen people in the entire world have ever actually played this, and the creator may or may not have been drunk at the time.)
  • "European Rules": The point of the game becomes not so much to collect all the cards, but to beat the other players into submission through slapping as hard as possible. Rings are legal, though rotating them so the knobby side is down is considered to be dirty pool.

Another alternative rule:

"10 Stops": during a sequence following a 'special' card (A, K, Q, or J), if a 10 is laid down, then the sequence stops, but play continues on to the next player without anyone taking the pile of cards.

As an additional note, in case the above writeups do not make it clear, anyone who happens along is permitted to try to "slap in" and join a game in progress, as is a player who runs out of cards before the game is over.

The problem that becomes obvious after playing for an hour or two, however, is that those 'phantom' players, having nothing else to do, are likely to either slap in regardless of the card played, or hover their hands right over the pile. In the same way, it is somewhat common for the player who plays the card making a pair to spot the pair (or remember the order of cards in andvance) and immediately slap before anyone else can get their hand over.

My friends and I usually play with rules to deal with these two situations. The player who plays the card making a pair, under our rules, must move his or her hand away from the pile before attempting to slap in a separate motion. Additionally, any player who slaps when no pair is showing has to put his/her top 1 or 2 cards, face up, under the pile, to be taken by the next winner; cardless players owe those cards to the pile when they next slap in, and place them under the first card they lead out.

Any player, under our rules, is free to hover his/her hand over the pile, but only at the risk of having an opponent slap it down onto the pile, thereby earning the player the above penalty.

I understand that some players feel that cardless players who slap in incorrectly more than a certain number (usually 2) of times should be out for the rest of the game. Personally, I neither play nor teach the game this way, since it's frustrating for everyone to have players just sitting around for the next game to start, and it's very hard to judge when a false slap is an honest mistake.

some more rules:

Players are not allowed to shuffle their cards. That means if someone slaps a pair of cards, those two cards will remain next to each other. So if you remember the card before them, you will know if that pair is going to come up again.

However, if you know that you yourself are going to play a slappable card, you must play the card, then touch your deck with your slapping hand before you are allowed to slap the pile. This prevents you from just slamming your card down on the pile and picking it up.

If you slap the pile when there is not a slappable combination of top of it, you must put the top two cards of your deck on the bottom of the pile. If you have no cards, you simply get a dirty look and will be disqualified from the game if you do it too often.

With two players, you can play that any two cards whose sum or difference is seven is slappable. (eg 3&4, 9&2, 6&A) This makes it more a game of reflexes and allows the better player to end the game before it becomes tiresome.

Our group of players uses a rules variant that solves the problem of the dealing player having an advantage when slapping pairs. It requires all players to make an adjustment to the basic technique of laying cards onto the table.

To lay a card face up, grip the card on the edge closest to the pile that all players are dealing into, with your thumb on top of the card and your index finger below the card. Rotate the card so that it is face up by scraping the edge of the card that is closest to you along the surface of the rest of your deck. Then place the card onto the pile. This can and should be done very quickly, because the longer it takes you to execute this technique, the longer the other people playing have a chance to view your card while you remain in ignorance.

Additionally, slapping is done by the other, non-dealing, hand. No exceptions. If you slap with the same hand that dealt the card, the next person to slap gets the pile (if it's a valid pair). With this rule it is to your advantage to use your non-dominant hand to deal cards and your dominant hand to slap.

To deal with people "slapping in"to a game incorrectly, our group generalizes the rule that penalizes players already in-game that slap incorrectly. Any player who slaps incorrectly owes 2 cards to the pile. If that player is already in the game, they pay their debt immediately and play continues. If that player is not already in the game, then they pay that debt as soon as they actually enter the game. Usually, if a wannabe-player accumulates a large debt as a result of incorrect slapping, they'll voluntarily give up and leave the table.

Okay, more rules:

A highly amusing and moderately painful solution to the slapping problem (e.g. if you know that your next card is going to be slappable, you can immediately slap it as soon as you put it down) is to make it so that a player has to slap his head before he can slap the deck. This adds a delay factor, and, as an extra bonus, you get to see a table full of people hitting themselves in the head. Fun for the whole family.

If three sixes are played in a row, on top of each other, play stops immediately and the deck must be burned before midnight, local time. This will rarely happen with standard rules, unless nobody notices the first pair.

Any sequence of two cards that adds up to 10 may be slapped. Tens may also be slapped. Face cards break the sequence (i.e. 4-J-6 cannot be slapped), but aces count as one (A-9, or 9-A, can be slapped).

A variant I invented and, for unknown reasons, titled Gecko goes like this:
Whenever somebody wins a game, he may either (a) create a new, fair rule, or (b) remove any rule. It helps if you keep track of the rules on a sheet of paper. I usually start from very basic rules when playing Gecko, such as only slapping on doubles. It gets complicated soon enough.

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