Emu Ranchers Deluxe
Designed by P.D. Magnus
Players 2-4
Length 45 minutes
Extra Material None

a bigger game of bird ranching; Emu Ranchers for 2-4 players

You and your neighbor managed to make a profit through the last four years, raising exotic birds. You thought the title of Best Rancher Ever had been claimed and settled, but… No! The lure of beautiful plumage has drawn new players into the game, and this year of ranching will be the biggest yet.

Summary of the game: Each bird on your ranch is represented by a stack of cards. Cards in a single bird stack must all share a suit and must be in rank order. At the end of the hand, the value of a bird is determined by the total of the number cards in the stack. If the total is too low, then you can end up losing money on a bird. An Ace or Crown makes the stack worth more: more profit if you can cover expenses, but more loss if you can't. The object, naturally enough, is to raise profitable birds.

Setup

This game requires two copies of the Decktet.

Form the game deck by shuffling together the Aces and crown.pngs from one of the decks together with the number cards and Excuses from both decks. (The deck should have six Aces, six of each number, and six crown.pngs. The Aces and crown.pngs from the second deck won't be used.)

Deal six cards to each player. The remaining cards form the draw pile. There are no discard piles at the beginning.

Shuffle together the pawn.pngs and court.pngs from both decks and deal two cards per player face up to the middle of the table. These don't belong to anyone yet. The remaining pawn.pngs and court.pngs won't be used.

Play alternates until the last card is drawn from the draw pile.

Game play

On your turn, take one of the following actions: hatch a new bird, by starting a new stack; grow a bird, by adding a card to an existing stack; or discard a card.

After that, draw one card.

Actions

  • Hatch a new bird: You may start a new bird stack by selecting a card from your hand and playing it face up in front of you.
  • Grow a bird: You may grow a bird by adding a card from your hand to the top of a stack already in front of you. All of the cards in the stack must share a single suit, although of course number cards will each have another suit as well. Stacks must be in either increasing or decreasing order, although you may skip ranks.

Example: The stack for a blue bird might be comprised of the Ace, 2, and 4 of Waves. You may only play a Wave of rank 5 or more on that bird.

For the purpose of stack order, Aces are below 1s and crown.pngs are above 9s. If you hatch a bird with a number card, you do not need to declare which suit the stack will follow or which direction it will go; this will eventually be determined by cards you play when growing the bird.

Example: You hatch a bird with the 7 of Suns and Knots. You may either make it an orange bird (by growing it with a Sun card) or a yellow bird (by growing it with a Knot). The first time you grow it, you may grow up (by playing a card rank 8 or more) or grow down (by playing 6 or less). If you grow the bird with the 6 of Suns and Wyrms, then you are committed to an orange bird growing down.

When you add cards to a stack, you should set them at a bit of an offset so that both you and your opponent can see what cards are in the stack.

A pawn.png or court.png is a limited wild card. It may be played as any number rank, but only to grow a bird that matches one of the pawn.png or court.png's suits. It may not be played as an Ace or crown.png, nor may it be played to hatch a bird.
  • Discard: If you don't want to play any of the cards in your hand, you may select and discard one card. Put it on the top of one of the discard piles, starting a new discard pile if there are not already two discard piles.

Draw:

If you discarded, take the top card of the draw pile. Otherwise, you may take either the top card of the draw pile or the top card of one of the discard piles (if any).

Note: You cannot discard to one discard pile and draw from the other. You may only draw from a discard pile if you hatched or grew a bird this turn.

After you draw, your turn is over. If there are still cards in the draw pile, it is now your opponent's turn.

Up to twice during the game, you may draw one of the face up pawn.pngs or court.pngs instead of drawing from the deck from the deck or discard pile. You may do so regardless of whether you discarded this turn.

Year end

When the last card is drawn from the draw pile, the year ends.

After the year is over, you may play cards from your hands onto birds that you already have in play. However, you may not hatch new birds or draw cards after the year has ended. Since there is no further player interaction after the year end, you may lay down remaining cards without waiting for other players. Then discard any cards that you are not able to play.

Scoring

Total up the number cards in the bird stack. If the total is less than 18, then the you lose money on the bird. If the total is 18 or more, then you may make a profit.

  • Losing money: You lose points equal to the difference between the bird's total and the upkeep cost of 18. If the number cards total to 15, for example, you lose 3 points. Furthermore, you lose 5 points if there is an Ace or Crown in the stack; 10 if there are both an Ace and a Crown.

If you have a copy of The Excuse in your hand at the end of the year, you may discard one of your birds that would lose money rather than scoring it. If you have both copies of The Excuse, you may discard up to two birds this way. If you have no losing birds, then copies of The Excuse have no effect.

Example: At the end of the year, the stack for your orange bird is the crown.png, 9, and 8 of Suns. You lose 6 points (18-9-8=1 for the number cards plus 5 for the crown.png).
  • Possible profit: If the total of the number cards is 18 or more, you still need to pay upkeep for the bird: Discard number cards from the stack that total at least 18. You do not 'get change' for cards if you discard more than 18. If there are any cards remaining - even just an Ace or Crown - you earn some profit.

For profit, you score the total of any remaining number cards. Furthermore, you gain 5 points if there is an Ace or Crown in the stack; 10 if there are both an Ace and a Crown.

Example: At the end of the year, the stack for your blue bird is the Ace, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and crown.png of Waves. You discard the 2, 3, 5, and 8 to pay upkeep; this totals exactly 18. This leaves the Ace, 6, and crown.png. You score 16 points (6 for the number card plus 10 for the Ace/crown.png combo).

Your score for is equal to the total value of your birds. The player with the highest score wins.

If there is a tie for highest score, then the winner is the tied player who hatched more birds. If there is a tie for that, too, then the winner is the tied player with the most birds who lost money. If there is a tie even for that, then the market collapses and all players lose.

Links

Variants

This has been playtested at all player counts and works fairly well. The only lingering issue is whether a player can draw a pawn.png or court.png on any turn (as written above) or only on a turn when they played a card rather than discarding (so that taking a pawn.png or court.png is like taking a card from the discard pile). It's not clear how much difference it makes.

Credits

Design: P.D. Magnus

Playtesting: Cristyn Magnus, Don Ross, Tom Kiehl, John Velonis, Steve Kiehl, Quentin Hudspeth

Comments

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