The game rules seem simple at first. The deck is divided into five suits -- the four usual suits plus a fifth one called royals which is made up of all the jacks, queens, and kings. All the cards are dealt out to the players evenly; the remaining cards are put to the side. The first person plays one or more cards of the same suit. The next player needs to play cards to beat those cards or pass. If you play cards that make all the other players pass, then you take all the cards in the middle of the table and put them in a stack in front of you called your wool pile. You also get the totem and the 1-point bonus that goes with it. That is the end of the hand. If all the players still have cards, play another hand. Continue playing hands until someone runs out of cards; that is the end of the round. Whoever has the totem at the end of the round gets 2 bonus points. Anyone who still has cards in their hands will get negative points. The cards you have gathered into your wool pile are positive points. The first player to reach 100 points wins.
Easy, right? The tricky part is the ranking of the suits. Here it is:
Hearts beat spades and clubs. Clubs beat hearts and diamonds. Diamonds beat clubs and royals. Royals beat diamonds and spades. Spades beat royals and hearts.
If the most recent play was one heart, you can play one club, or one spade, or two hearts. You can not play more than what you need to beat what was played; you can’t play three or more hearts or two or more clubs or spades.
I played a game with 3 adults and played again with 2 kids. Both times I had to look at the reference card during the whole game. Even my husband, who has a pretty good memory for such things, had trouble keeping it straight. I thought it might get better with the second game, but it didn't. Each player had to glance down at the reference card every time and it slowed down the gameplay.
What's the bottom line? I like the scoring system and, as I said before, it is kind of fun watching my husband and his friends get so happy about gaining possession of a stuffed animal :-). I just think the gameplay would go more smoothly if the game was played with specialized cards. I recently purchased a copy of the card game Escalation and it occurred to me that it plays almost like Pass the Ewe except in reverse. If you have a good memory, then Pass the Ewe may be your game.