Emu Ranchers, also known as "Pets or meat?", is a card game for 2 players designed by P.D. Magnus. Emu Ranchers uses a special deck of cards called the Decktet. For those unfamiliar with the Decktet, a brief introduction to the cards contained in the deck can be found further below.
It's a hardscrabble life for emu ranchers like yourself, raising exotic birds for foreign markets. With the high cost for every bird you hatch, it probably won't be worth it in the end. You can't tell at the beginning of the year which of the six bird varieties will do best, and beware the birds with exceptional plumage! If they thrive, they can be worth big money; but if they go wrong, they can bankrupt your ranch.
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. At the end of two years, the player with the highest total profit wins.
Deal six cards to each player. The remaining cards form the draw pile. There is no discard pile at the beginning.
Play alternates until the last card is drawn from the draw pile.
On your turn, you may do one of the following: 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, you draw one card.
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 2s and Crowns 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.
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 the discard pile, starting the pile if necessary.
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 the discard pile (if any).
After you draw, your turn is over. If there are still cards in the draw pile, it is now your opponent's turn.
When the last card is drawn from the draw pile, the year ends.
After each of the two years is over, you may play cards from your hand 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.
Total up the number cards in each bird stack. Neither the Ace nor the Crown count in this total. If the total is less than 18, then you lose money on the bird. If the total is 18 or more, then you may make a profit. Your total profit or loss for the year is added to your grand total profit or loss for the entire multi-year game.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.
Example: At the end of the year, the stack for your orange bird is the Crown, 9, and 8 of Suns. You lose 6 points (18-9-8=1 for the number cards plus 5 for the Crown).
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 of Waves. You discard the 2, 3, 5, and 8 to pay upkeep; this totals exactly 18. This leaves the Ace, 6, and Crown. You score 16 points (6 for the number card plus 10 for the Ace/Crown combo).
Your score for the year is equal to the total value of your birds.
Shuffle the cards and deal a new year. The player who went first should go second in the next year. Since there is some disadvantage to going first, a game is decided based on the sum of the scores for two years with each player going first once.
This game uses a special deck of cards called "The Decktet". Comprehensive information about the Decktet can be found on the official Decktet website. What follows here is a brief introduction.
There are six suits, ten ranks, and a total of 36 cards in a standard Decktet deck.
Each suit has one ace and one crown. Between the ace and crown are cards numbered 2 through 9. These numbered cards each have two suits. For example, "the Market":
is a rank 6 card with suits Leaves and Knots. Suits are not repeated at a rank, so there are three cards of each numbered rank. For example, these are the 6s:
|6 of moons|
6 of waves
|6 of suns|
6 of wyrms
|6 of leaves|
6 of knots
Design: P.D. Magnus
Playtesting: Cristyn Magnus
The emu rancher image is based on photos by J Rad and Shawn Kinkade. The bird variety montage is based on photos by Donovan Mueller, Matthew Romack, Marcus Smith, Rauch-Dickson, Scott 48074, and Brian Marshall. All the photographers generously posted their photos on Flickr under Creative Commons licenses.
This Emu Rancher rule writeup is derived from the official Emu Ranchers rule page and is licensed under:
The Decktet card back was created by Frank Griese.