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“Headsnap is a gaming masterpiece, combining many of the best qualities of self-harm and card games”

~ Oscar Wilde on Headsnap

“Have you ever played snap...with heads?”

~ William Burgess

A professional shown practicing some of the basic game-winning moves of Headsnap

Headsnap is a relatively simple concept to understand, and yet has always remained as something of a sport shrouded in myth. Some say it originated when Henry VIII, whilst playing cards with Katherine of Aragon, spotted a morsel of food on the floor. By sheer coincidence, he dived for this food at the same time two cards of the same number came up consecutively. Being a somewhat short-sighted and slightly dim-witted chap, he hit his head on the table and declared the cards legally his because of the pain he had endured.

Another contrasting story is that Headsnap originated in the Royal Oak Pub, in South Cerney, around the year 2007. An innocent conversation regarding the oft-played game of snap was given a unique twist and quite possibly changed the course of history forever when William Burgess (founder of headsnap, long may he reign), uttered the quote as shown above. Without further ado, a table was cleared and a game of headsnap was begun; nobly, some may say, given the absence of actual playing cards.

Since either of those fateful events, headsnap has flourished. Its devoted players spread the tale wherever they go, and urge their new recruits to do the same - this way it truly can remain the sport of Kings.

The Rules[edit]

Some say that the greatest beauty of headsnap is the fact that it is easy to understand. It can be played whilst drunk, sober, underwater, ill, mentally unstable (although in some continents the mentally unstable aren't allowed to play, as they are deemed to have an unfair advantage), old, young, smart, stupid, asleep or, as rumour has it, dead. The only requirement is that you are not in any way a 'wimp' (Please do not confuse 'wimp' and 'wimple' - nuns are known to be excellent headsnap players due to the time spent with their heads bent in prayer. It is actually a little known fact that this is where the saying 'second only to a nun' and therefore 'second to none' originates from).

The game of snap is arguably integral to the learning process of every child. Dating back to cavemen times, the ability to scream 'snap' the loudest and claw your way to the pile of cards the quickest is a vital part of education.

To begin, the players (who can number any from 2 to 12) assemble around a table. A pack of cards is dealt equally, face-down. The players then begin to put each card down, facing upwards. (For 'Irish Headsnap', the more advanced version, see later notes).

When a card is placed on the pile which matches the card before it in number, players must react by hitting their forehead onto the table in front of them. The player who is judged to do this the fastest, either by an independent adjudicator or by their competitors, takes the cards and adds them to the bottom of their pile. Once a player loses all of their cards, they are out and can help to judge, and/or assist, the other players. When the game is whittled down to two players, these players must hit their head onto the pile of cards. The winner is the player who ends up with all of the cards.

It should be noted that a player cannot win the round if their head does not make contact with the table. A table is used so that there is a distinctive noise upon contact; additionally, it serves to weed out the strong from the weak.

Variations in play[edit]

To make the simple game of headsnap more challenging, these variations may be added to the game.

Snap This derivation of headsnap is hugely popular among the French and although it is shunned as a lesser sport by the headsnap community it is sometimes used as a way of improving one's reflexes by amateurs. Here, the players use their hands to claim a snap instead of their heads.

Irish Headsnap In this version, players must say a number as they place their card down, counting upwards through the pack. For example, the first player to place a card down will say 'ace', the second will say 'two', and so on. If the number a player says matches the number of the card they put down, it is cause for a snap. The rule for consecutive cards with the same number still applies. This can also be played silently, with players counting in their heads.

Drinking Headsnap Generally regarded as a more challenging version, this type of headsnap was founded at an unspecified party. Participants drink throughout the game, whether they are winning or losing, and may take it upon themselves to use different surfaces on which to play headsnap. Examples include the carpet, a bed or a guinea pig cage. One historical example saw the two last contestants standing and diving to the floor in the case of a snap. It is believed that these participants were awarded medals for their bravery in battle, and for the size of the lumps on their heads the next morning.

Theoretical empty swimming pool snap Although widely regarded as impossible, there is a legend that Sir Walter Raleigh was covering a lot more than a puddle when he laid down his cloak for the Queen. Had she been looking more closely, she could have observed a swimming pool full of hardcore headsnap players - it is reported that one man attempted a snap from the top of the high diving board. Needless to say, this was a reckless and superfluous attempt as he took far too long to reach the bottom of the swimming pool - he comprehensively lost the round.

Reverse Snap Apparently very popular in China, where the mirror was invented, this game is particularly painful and usually regarded as a martial art. Players sit facing away from the table, looking into mirrors. In the case of a snap, they must hit the back and not the front of their head. This variation is very well played by the particularly ugly, as they are often desperate to get away from the sight of themselves in the mirror.

Icy Snap Icy snap was a game invented by keen cricket players seeking to gain a competitive edge during the off season as part of their rigorous training programme. It is played on a frozen lake with ice no more than 5cm thick. Competitors sit in a larger circle than in classical headsnap above the deepest part of the water and snaps must be made directly onto the ice. The larger circle is needed to ensure only one person will fall to an icy death should they snap excessively. This adds a whole new dimension of strategy to the game.

Capsize Headsnap Some people learn to sail simply to be able to play capsize headsnap. Generally more of a summer game, but the very hardy have been known to play this in the Southern Ocean in winter. Players must be the first to capsize when there is a snap - the boat which has all of the mast touching the water wins. This is skilled not only because contestants must find a way of working out the logistics of play, but because players must have strong arms to be able to right so many capsizes. The opportunity should be taken here to emphasise that this version is not only for wimps, as some suggest, given the lack of physical pain involved. It is a noble version of the game in its own right and anyone who argues can take it up with Henry VIII. *While capsize snap is the logical successor to headsnap it is still undergoing rigorous playtesting to iron out some remaining issues, not least that all the cards seem to get wet and sink*

Historical headsnap figures[edit]

Queen Mary I The well known comedy saying 'Off with his head' is based upon the scarcely distributed story of Mary's first game of headsnap, whereupon her opponent complied so vigorously with the rules his head was separated from his neck. Mary spoke the words, 'off with his head?' in more a tone of surprise than anger.

Queen Victoria 'We are not amused' - one reason for the permanently perturbed look upon the Queen's face was because of her thrashing in a headsnap game against a peasant. The other reason was her dismissal from her position as head of BRUISE (see below); she was far too inexperienced a player.

Charles Dickens The real reason he wrote such long and arduously worded books was not because of a dire need to be expressed. Nor was it the result of elaborate description and thrilling dialogue; Charles was a committed headsnap player who would cheat his way to victory by claiming he could not possibly tear himself away from the book he was writing; he therefore hit his head onto the book, which was significantly higher and softer than the table. The game did, however, take its toll. Dickens managed to ensure that no-one could ever get to the end of the incomprehensible 'Bleak House' - but rumour has it that if they do, it simply reads 'many hands make light work, many hands make light work' (see below)

Nearly Headless Nick 'Nearly headless? How can you be nearly headless?' - Oh Hermione, little do you know. J.K. Rowling, herself a retired snappist, invented the slightly more macabre story of Nick's demise in a bid to keep headsnapping as it should be - underground in a post modern, ironic sort of way, that is to say, not underground at all. Nick's slightly severed head was the result of extreme headsnap, which sadly he could not continue in the afterlife because his head phased straight through the table.

Official Organisations[edit]

There are many organisations which ensure that Headsnap remains the game it always was; pointless, painful and impractical. Headsnap is believed to be one of the only sports which government health and safety regulations have yet to reach.

THUNK - Tournament of Headsnap in United National Kingdom

BRUISE - British Rehabilitation Union for Injured Snap Enthusiasts

CRASH - Committee for the Reunification and Abstraction on Simple Headsnap

OUCH - Official Underground CRASH Headquarters

Common Sayings Originating From Headsnap[edit]

"Two heads are better than one" - this is because one head can be rested while the other head works.

"Second to none" - see above, r.e. nuns.

"Body like baywatch... face like crimewatch" - referring to a player who has played too much headsnap.

"Noses to the grindstone" - being so committed to headsnap that serious injuries occour. Originated from the more hardcore era of headsnap where the millers in Flanders would use the game as a punishment. CRASH warns against this form of headsnap abuse and has set up a sub group to provide PENIS - (Provision of Equipment for Nasally Injured Snappist) - pending government funding.

"A dab hand" - a person who headsnaps onto their hand instead of onto the table to reduce injury, not only will this lose the round but it constitutes "being a wimp" see above NOTE: DAB is an acronym for Decietful Arrogant Bastard.

"Many hands make light work" - this refers to the reverse psychology aspect of headsnap, where all of the players attempt to outwit their competitors by hitting their hand and not the table. The result is a resounding silence and embarrassment. When this occurred prior to 1700, the punishment was death; now, of course, the guilty party/s will simply be brought up before THUNK and justly tried... by a maternally enraged bear.

Reigning Champions[edit]

THUNK National Champion To be resolved at an (as of yet) unspecified time and place. Perhaps the first of the eagerly awaited pub trips in 2008 will allow for the THUNK championships, although it should be noted that they are ongoing and liable to random change

The Royal Oak Commemorative Trophy is currently shared equally between William Burgess and Christopher Young for achieving the first known drawn match at headnap's spiritual home.

Oxford Splinter League As the popularity of headsnap has increased so the need for regional competitions has arosen to filter out the weak. Chosen to champion Oxford is Helen.

Standing Headsnap Champion While not yet granted full status by CRASH, an underground circuit has grown for those headsnappers who feel they need more of a challenge. In this version all players must be standing while the cards are on the floor and heads MUST hit the pile. Noted for his outstanding contributions towards this subsport and being overall champion thus far is Todd Antony Jenkins

The Dinner Dance League Occurs only once a year, at the Whitefriars dinner dance. Molly Tresadern is the reigning champion in this auspicious league.

The Young Talent Award It is vital that headsnap is passed on to younger generations to keep it alive. For her commendable efforts, lack of common sense and impressive bruise, Alice MacArthur takes the Young Talent Award.

References in Popular Culture[edit]

'I'm bringing sexy back' It is a little known fact that in this instance 'sexy' is synonymous with 'headsnap'. Some historians, however, do dispute this fact.