It is a strange name for a simple game, but is it worth getting to grips with another card-slamming game from Hasbro? The shelves of toy shops are littered with card games. Some have stood the test of time and are known all over the world. Uno, for example, is loved (or loathed) by every family. It has had numerous expansions and iterations. Many card games are turn-based with an outcome that is dependent on the cards drawn. However, what can spice things up a little more is when a game becomes “all play”.
Ratuki falls into this category.
Ratuki is a family game for 2-5 players. Hasbro recommends it for children age eight years and older but, with a little leniency, a five or six-year-old could enjoy Ratuki. The principle of the game is to get through your personal deck of cards and claim piles of cards from the central playing area.
The game starts with someone shouting “Ratuki”. Players draw three cards from their draw deck. These cards are labelled one through five or contain a Ratuki (wild) card. Simultaneously, players lay cards onto the central area, forming stacks of cards. These stacks start with a “number one” card. A card may be placed on top of another only if it is one higher or one lower. The maximum number of stacks in play at any time is equal to the number of players.
If a player places a “number five” card (or a wild Ratuki card) onto the stack, then that set of cards is complete. That player shouts “Ratuki” and keeps the cards for themselves, forming a score pile. No-one owns the centre stacks and all players will play onto these cards at any time from their hand. Only one card may be played at a time and a player’s hand is refreshed back to three cards after each card is played. One house-rule to ensure “fair play” is to insist that only one hand is used to place cards on the stack and the same hand is used to take from the draw deck.
Sometimes, there may be no cards in the hand that can be played legally. Players can choose to create a discard or junk pile next to their draw deck. Once discarded, these cards cannot be used for the remainder of that round. The game continues with all players laying cards on top of the stacks in the middle, claiming those that reach a “number five” and restarting a new stack with “a one”.
The round ends when one player has exhausted their draw deck. No more cards may be played. At this point, players count the total number of cards they have in their score pile. These are the ones that they have won when shouting “Ratuki”. Each card is worth one point. Any cards remaining in the draw deck or discard pile count as penalties. Subtract one point from the total for each of these cards. This forms the player’s total for that round.
Separate the cards by player colour, shuffle them, and form the player decks. Three cards are drawn into the hand and the game restarts. The first player to score 100 points (or whatever total is chosen) is declared the winner.
Thoughts on Ratuki
This is a simple card-slamming game. It reminds me of Ligretto (a game for 2-12 players) in that players lay cards into a central area, building on existing stacks and claiming them they reach a target. It is fast and frantic. How it differs is that a player’s hand is concealed from the others. Therefore, you are uncertain if a player might be holding back their “number four” or “number five” cards to play quickly and steal a stack.
The cards are simple playing cards with printing on both sides. The colours are quite bright and vibrant with a warm feeling of the South Pacific about them. Each player has their own specific deck of one colour.
This card game differs from others in the style of the cards. Ratuki makes us use different parts of our brain. We process numbers, text and images in different areas of our brain. The cards have values displayed in five different ways:
- A simple digit – eg “3”
- A word – eg “FOUR”
- An image of fingers on a hand
- As “sticks on a tally – eg “ I I I ”
- As pips on a dice
These, coupled with the wild Ratuki cards, means that you need to keep your wits about you during play. Not infrequently a “THREE” card will be on top of a stack and you might have a “2” card or four-pip dice card in your hand, but not recognise that both of these cards can be played. Similarly, in a player’s concern to place the final “number five” card to complete a stack, they may overlook the need just to get through the draw deck. This might mean significant penalties during the end of round scoring.
Ratuki is fun. It is perfect as a filler game for most families. I think it is refreshing to have a game that plays as well for five as it does for two. Too many games seem to be designed for four players in my opinion. This game does seem to have a little luck or chance. The outcome might be influenced by the order of cards in the draw deck. But this is not a game about winning. It is more about shouting “Ratuki” and having fun.
However, everyone has the same 34 cards in their deck. There will always be three cards in the hand so there are always options to be played. The discard/junk pile is really useful but players should utilise it with care. Otherwise, these do count against a player.
I enjoy the different symbols and images on the cards. This is a nice twist on a card-stacking game and adds to the fun. For children, this will quickly teach the different counting methods (up to five).
My only very slight concern would be if playing with a person who has colour differentiation issues. The orange, red and green cards might be difficult to distinguish in certain light. This does not affect gameplay at all. It only affects the redistribution of the cards at the end of each round, and then only if four or five sets of cards are needed.
Final Thoughts on Ratuki
As a simple game of just 165 cards (with five aide-memoire cards), Ratuki can be taken and played almost anywhere. You will need just a flat playing surface to lay cards and the ability to shout “Ratuki” frequently. It is probably not the sort of game to play in a library or on an aeroplane, but around a dining room table after dinner for a few minutes, it is perfect.
We do not play Ratuki often, but when it does get taken off the shelf it is always met with the comment “Oh, I’d forgotten how much fun this is,” or, “We should play this more often.”