Saturday, 12 May 2018

Chase the Ace, Worcester style

At nearly every Worcester ponymeet, we play a simple card game called Chase the Ace. It's basically the game that Wikipedia describes under the name of Ranter-Go-Round, but we have one or two house rules. So, for the benefit of newcomers and (as The Descendant used to say) interested passers-by here's how we play the game.

This goes on a bit, so have a page break.

The game requires a standard 52-card pack (no jokers) and a plain one could be used, but we always play using one of Pigasus's MLP-themed packs, since this makes things a lot more fun. Also, it is a ponymeet! In our games, Pigasus is nearly always the first dealer; it doesn't have any noticeable effect on who wins!

After shuffling the pack, the dealer deals one card face down to each player. The order in which cards are distributed is up to the dealer – sometimes it's clockwise, sometimes it's anti-clockwise, sometimes it has no discernible logic to it. Dealer also gets one card, which is placed by the remaining pack.

The dealer's card must remain face down (this is a house rule), but everyone else then looks privately at the card they've been dealt. Proceeding in a clockwise direction from the player to the dealer's left, they must decide whether to stick with the card they have, or swap it – sight unseen, of course – with the person on their left.

Kings have a special status. If you get dealt a king, you do not have to swap it and can use it to block the previous player's swap. Nothing else has this power, not even cards with Fluttershy on. Aces are low and so are the card you least want to be left with at the end. It's common for an ace to be swapped all round the table.

The last person before the dealer has a free choice in choosing whether to swap, as the dealer has not been able to look at their own card. This is therefore the only time when a player may end up swapping for a king. This is compensation for being at the end of the line and thus likely to receive a low card.

Finally, the dealer turns up the card they now have. They can then choose either to stick or to swap – in this case, with the top card from the pack. As with other players, a decision to swap is irrevocable. The person who ends with the lowest-ranked card loses one life. If there's a tie, all those with the lowest card lose.

If you lose three lives, you're out of the game. The overall winner is the last one standing and gets a point on the overall leaderboard. (There are occasionally half-point games in the case of very limited time or very few players.) And yes, if there's a tie in the last round, everybody loses!

Unlike in some versions of Chase the Ace, we do shuffle the pack after every deal, so there's no mileage in remembering which cards have already gone. Well, in theory there isn't. Most of us are pretty terrible at shuffling! Still, that's all part of the fun, and as Pinkie would say, fun is serious business.

The skill, such as it is, in playing Chase the Ace comes largely in knowing the odds. As players are knocked out, the average value of a round's lowest card increases. You'll probably be fine even with a six if there are eight or nine active players, but it's a lot dicier one you get down to the last two or three.

It also helps to take note of who swaps and what their reaction to their new card is. Of course, a lot of the enjoyment comes from the bluffing and the general silliness. For example, the Cake family are generally low-scoring cards in the packs we use, so the notion of a "Curse of the Cakes" has gained currency.

Good grief, that went on a bit, didn't it? I assure you, it's a lot simpler when you're actually sitting round a table playing the game!


  1. This Covers everything pretty well. You even mentioned the Curse of the Cakes!

    The only things I'd add; AJ is best Jack, Rainbow is best King, and Celesti-ace is best troll. :P