Reach Out and Slap Someone
A fairly long time ago, I spent a lot of time in the back of high school buses en route to various band competitions. This was before smartphones, and laptops were reserved for college students and first class passengers on airplanes, so we passed the time with Egyptian Ratscrew, a game about slapping cards as they were flipped over. I never understood the rules. For me, the only rule was to slap red-headed Hailey’s hand, because I was crushing like diamonds. Because diamonds are formed by intense pressure and infatuation, see.
And while I never ended up dating the object of my oddly manifested affections, I departed with some small fondness for slapping games. Which is why I’m going to tell you about Slap .45 even though it hardly warrants an introduction.
If you’ve ever played Slapjack or any other slapping game, you’ll know almost immediately what to expect from Slap .45. Taking place in the unruly adolescence of the Wild West, as pasted-on a setting as any (though it does result in some pleasing illustrations), you’re given a gang, a fancy-pants drink coaster called a hideout that’s placed some distance between you and the next player, and then a quick rundown of the rules. Then you get busy slapping or get busy getting slapped.
The idea is that there are four types of cards, each of which saunters someone up to boot hill via a different trail. As soon as the card is flipped, you’ve got to react fast as lightning, eyeballing the card and slapping the right spot on the table or you risk having one of your gang members getting the boot.
Let’s start with the pistol card, one of the most common in the deck. This baby requires you to slap it with one hand while pointing a finger-gun at another player. Fail to do both, or aim your finger-gun at the space between players, or break your wrist when you collide with another player, and you don’t shoot anyone. On the other hand, if you don’t think you’ll reach the pistol fast enough, you’re also free to slap one of the hideouts. This doesn’t work against cannons, though it’s mighty hilarious when an entire table of banditos scramble into cover only for you to casually slap the cannon and blast them to pieces anyway.
If this sounds like everyone will just blitz for the deck without much thought, you’re exactly right. Which is why there are horse cards. When these are flipped, you’ve got to get to a hideout as fast as possible. Slap the horse or be last into cover and you lose a gang member (thanks to a swift kick to the head). And the coolest part here is that you can slap into any hideout, so feel free to reach across the table and mess up somebody’s day.
The last type of card is gold. The basic rules don’t recommend using gold until you’ve settled in with the game, but let’s be honest here: Slap .45 is so dirt simple that you’d be a dang fool not to add these in. For one thing, they’re the only card that doesn’t result in a gang member being planted six feet under, which means not every single play is going to be a matter of life or death. For another, being the first to slap a gold card means you add it to your stash. And this is where things get interesting.
See, when playing with gold cards, every gang has their own special ability. Sure, anyone can spend three gold to “recruit” a member of someone else’s gang rather than shooting them, but the unique special abilities lend the proceedings an unexpected dash of flavor. The Union, for instance, can spend a gold to turn a regular pistol into a cannon, ignoring cover at a whim. If the Confederates are lucky enough to find a cannon in the first place, they can pay gold to kill two gang members with it. The Poncho Posse somehow uses gold as guns, the Lone Star Sheriffs can occupy two hideouts at once, and the Black Hat Outlaws can declare a particular type of card to be a “trap,” resulting in some of the game’s funniest moments when someone thinks they’ve gotten the drop on you only to remember that cannons now blow up their face.
And, well, look. This isn’t exactly revolutionary. I’m not even sure I’d consider it a great slapping game. In every other slapping game I’ve played, most of the cards weren’t actually slappable, building tension to insane heights as you flipped one junk card after another, everyone getting twitchy with anticipation as they waited for the right one to be revealed. Since every single card in Slap .45 requires you to slap somewhere, you don’t get those laugh-out-loud moments when you flip a regular non-slappable card and half the table leaps forward. It’s a question of where to slap, not when.
Then again, I’m not entirely sure that matters. It’s a light game, a filler, meant to occupy three to seven players for ten minutes, and it does a great job of that. It even has a few cool little twists, like always coming down to a two-man shootout at the end of each game, or how you can stay hidden in your hideout between rounds, making it harder for anybody to shoot you but decreasing your chances of reacting quickly to a horse or gold card. Victory might always be handed to whichever player possesses the best reflexes, but hey, that guy probably always loses every other game to the dude with the best brain for strategic thinking; so why not give the big lug a shot at the win for once?