I am sick to death of games that involve cruelty to animals. I am putting my foot down. We must not tolerate games whose entire goal is to torture helpless animals, even if those animals do stink, step on your foot, and spit in your face.
I am talking, of course, about Straw, a game whose goal, as clearly stated on the outside of the box, is to do physical bodily harm to a camel. That is just wrong. 'The game that broke the camel's back', it says. How would you like it if a camel came along and sat on you and broke your back, huh? That's right, it would suck. Especially because camels are gross.
But gross or not, no animal deserves to be loaded up with so much crap that it buckles under the pressure and literally breaks its back, with the possible exception of hairless mole rats, because those are nasty-looking little bastards. They look like aliens. I suspect they may be evolved from the chupacabra.
But Straw does not ask us to join in the torture of naked mole rats. Instead, it has players taking turns playing cards that add weight to the back of a camel. This pathetic beast of burden is piled high with gold, bird cages, and even piles of bricks. It's inhumane, especially as this treatment is intended solely to break the camel, and not to actually get all that crap across the desert.
The game continues to taunt this poor animal by offering occasional respite, as if that would help. The flying carpet actually lightens the load, and if that were the end of it, the game would only be somewhat heinous. But there are simply not enough of these cards to relieve the camel's suffering, and sooner or later, the camel will fall.
And when he does, we learn that the creators of the game want you to believe that just because you're not the one that killed the camel, everything is OK! You have piled monkeys, board games and magical lamps on the back of this beast, and now when you all but force another player to kill the camel, everyone gets points except the person who finally murdered the dromedary victim.
As if simply murdering a camel was not enough, we are provided with what someone must have thought hilarious - killing a camel with a straw. Place that one, infinitesimally small straw on the camel's back when he has reached his breaking point, and the reward for being the villain is that only you score points! So we're not just trying to torment a camel to death, we are rewarded if we can be the most creative at it.
And it gets worse! Because they assume we are deviants, they allow us to kill three camels! The game is only over when three stinky, oddly shaped pack animals are sent to an early grave. Then the players tally all the points they earned by making sport of these poor, dead bastards, and the highest score wins.
The indignity never ends. You may think this horrifying theme can be accepted because the game is suitable for a group of adults, but the game play is so simple, and the rules so easily understood, that it is perfectly enjoyable by children. That's right, train your progeny to kill camels with inhuman torture, so that they can grow up and do the same thing to disgusting game designers with twisted senses of humor (but not twisted game reviewers. We get a pass).
Just to drive home exactly how much the game designers wanted us to hate camels, the art on the game is delightfully cute and adorable. It is perfectly suited to a game for children, which makes it all the more offensive when we consider how much kids will take to Straw. With fast, fun gameplay and entertaining art, this screams out to be played by anyone looking for a light card game that they can finish in half an hour.
I am dismayed at the heartless indifference shown by the creators of Straw. They have taken an entertaining game, targeted it perfectly to be enjoyed by adults and children alike, given us quick and easy rules with enough depth to satisfy a casual adult, then thrown in great art. Then they turned it all into a game about breaking the back of a camel.
I would be writing my congressman, if I were not getting ready to play it again myself.
What? It's fun!
Quick, simple rules
Enough depth to be enjoyed by adults
Light to be enjoyed by kids
Fun, casual card game
It is simply wrong to torture camels