Scarab 21
Can You Be a Grand Master?
by: Docktor

Can You Be a Grand Master?


The fourth in a series... Every week, I'll be writing an article explaining some of the details of how to become a Grand Master at one of the games here in Neopia. Please note that these are not "how to play" articles that list the keystrokes and all that. Rather, they are specifically designed to discuss how to best become a Grand Master at the game.

This week: Scarab 21

I wrote about Pyramids a couple of weeks ago, and Scarab 21 is another solitaire card game. There's a big difference between this and some others though, and that's in what your ultimate goal is.

In most solitaire card games, you go through the deck once or multiple times, but you eventually use up all the cards and you've won. In Pyramid, once all the cards are gone, it's over. In Sakhmet Solitaire, you move all the cards to the foundations, and it's over. In Scarab 21, if you can keep going through the deck using up the cards, you can keep scoring and playing.

We're concerned with becoming a Grand Master here, and there are two independent ways of doing that. Firstly, you can get ranked like you can with the other solitaire games, for the cumulative total of all the games you've played. The rankings for cumulative totals is:

0 Beginner
1,000 Amateur
2,000 Novice
4,000 Expert
8,000 Master
20,000 Grand Master

But there's also a ranking for how many points you get in a single game. Those are:

0 Beginner
150 Amateur
250 Novice
450 Expert
600 Master
900 Grand Master

So, since the strategy to a big cumulative total is to sit at the computer and play a lot, we'll concentrate on how to get a higher single-game score. You'll be two Grand Masters in one game. Your schizophrenia will finally pay off!

This isn't a how-to-play article, but there are a few things to be noted. Scarab 21 is a combination of Blackjack (also known as Twenty-one) and a dice game called Yahtzee, with a bit of Poker thrown in. You don't have to know all those games, but if you do, more things will be familiar.

In Blackjack, your goal is to get higher than the dealer without going over 21. In this game, you don't have a dealer to bet against, so you have to get exactly 21 to clear a column. That can be tricky, and it helps to have a head for quick addition. However, there is no time limit, so think it through.

Like in Blackjack, you can get 5 cards totaling less than 21 and still clear the column. There are other combinations like 7-7-7 and 6-7-8 that the game already tells you about, that total 21 but also give you more points.

Clearing columns is only part of the game though. There are special combinations within a column (and special combinations of the totals of all five columns) that give you many more points than normal total-21 play and even clear the entire board. Unfortunately, they wouldn't be Neopian secrets if I described them here, and I wouldn't get this article published, either...

So instead, I'll just hint to you a bit, and let you figure it out for yourself.

Remember I spoke of there being some aspects of several games in this game? Well, in Blackjack, a true blackjack is not just an Ace and any 10 or face card, but is a specific pair of cards (hence the name of the game). Keep that in mind and you may find the Super Blackjack, worth 50 points.

How about Poker? If you've heard of the poker hand called a Full House, you might clue into another of the single-column combinations of 21 that's worth more, sort of like the 7-7-7 and 6-7-8 they tell you about. This one is worth a lot of points, but you'll have to figure it out.

More poker? Sometimes the totals of the columns themselves mean something, rather than just the cards within the columns. Not as many points for discovering these, but they do clear all five columns, which can be a really refreshing turn of events!

Now, as to what to put in which columns, other than saving up for some of the combinations, I like to keep a variety of column totals going. That way I'm not stuck with columns of 18, all waiting for the same 3's. If I load them up with pairs of face cards, then only Aces will get me to 21, and there are only 4 in the whole deck. Think ahead and leave yourself room.

I keep a couple of columns that are just for specials, until I end up having to fill them anyway at the end. I always save up the same numbers in the same columns, just to keep from doing something stupid if I'm not paying close enough attention.

Don't do the 5-cards-under-21 total unless you absolutely have to. It doesn't give you very many points, and it's eating up all those low ranking cards you need to finish off your stacks. Spread them out instead, and they'll do you a lot more good.

When you go all the way through the deck, you get to restart with whatever cards aren't currently showing in the columns, and you get a whopping 10 points (okay, all points are worth having, but...) If you've used up all your low cards already and get to the end, there's a chance you'll get back to clearing columns.

Too often, though, it seems like that first card out of the new pile is the last one I get to play. It's all luck what comes out of the draw stack, but there's some skill in how you place them.

Try to remember what cards have been played, especially if you know all 4 of something are gone, and don't get locked into something that you can't sum to 21 with the cards that are still in the deck. It's not a good idea to rely on finishing the deck and getting a new sorted draw pile.

You'll probably have to go through the whole deck at least 3 times to get to Grand Master status for the single game. As of this writing, I haven't done it yet myself.

So, in Scarab 21, the Grand Master strategies are two: play, play and play some more for one of the rankings, and learn those neat special score combinations so you can get the single score up too. There aren't any trophies for winning in this game because you can't; there are just the usual ones for highest score, typically unattainable for mortals.
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