We met a gal at Origins who said this was her favorite game, so being game connoisseurs we had to give it a go. We played a quick hand with her and quickly found that this game was essentially a simplified first portion of a hand of cribbage. It was interesting.
Straw is a game where you try not to break the camel’s back by anything more then a straw, while attempting to force your opponents into breaking the poor creatures back by a whole lot more than that. This is accomplished with item cards that each have a specified weight, most of them positive (Lutes, backgammon sets, bags of bricks, etc) and some negative (flying carpets). As you play a card down you add its weight to the current weight on the camel’s back. As soon as the weight exceeds 50 pounds, the camels back breaks and the hand is scored.
There are a few special cards in the game, and the straw is coveted among them. If the camel has exactly 50 pounds on his back when it becomes your turn, you can steal the win by breaking the camels back with the straw. If you can manage this you are the only person that scores their hand for the round, which is a very good thing. This is hard to do, but in the games we have played so far, it has happened once already, so it is possible!
Other special cards exist as well. Copy cards, which copy the last card played. Reverse cards, which simply reverses the turn order. And Aladdin’s Lamp cards which allow you to add weight of your choice between 1-10 pounds. All of these exist in the deck and make the game a bit more interesting.
Scoring works by counting up all of the numbered cards in your hand. Because the special cards are not numbered, they don’t help you one little bit. Furthermore, negative cards, which were so helpful in game now count against you by subtracting from your score. Harsh, right? I thought so, but this forced a more delicate balance in the game. Do you hang on to you high value cards for big points, or do you hang on to your low value cards so that you are not screwed when it comes back around to your turn? It certainly is a dilemma. Same thing goes with those special cards, hang onto them for a rainy day, or get them out of your hand quick because they are worth zero at the end.
Another advantage to Straw is its educational value as a game. Because of all the quick math going around, it would be a great game to help kids learn to add and subtract in their heads. It also helps keep older minds quick.
Overall I like this game. It’s not one I would play for hours and hours, but it’s a great filler game when I am waiting for the appetizers to arrive. The box is small enough to fit in any purse, and the space it takes on a table is negligible. All and all a really good filler game.