A (Mainly) Card Game by Matthew Dwight Moore (2020)
SHORT VIDEO TUTORIAL:
One regular deck of playing cards (with jokers) + 2 dice
Collect all aces, 2s, and 3s, totaling 12 cards. Aces=1 point each, 2s=2 points each, 3s=3 points each toward winning the game. Shuffle and place in a pile facing down. This is the treasure pile. Flip over the top card at the beginning of the game.
One player is the red army and one is the black. The red army starts with all the remaining red cards + 1 joker. The black army does the same with the black cards + 1 joker. Each army should have 21 cards (4,5,6,7,8,9,10, J, Q, K for both suits of the same color + 1 joker) and should be held secretly in their hand from the other player. All number cards are called armies. All face cards (excluding jokers) are called wizards.
(All face cards except jokers)
Each wizard (J, Q, K) that is activated in a battle adds a roll of the die (1-6) to the army’s total score in the battle, so players can never be sure exactly what numerical value they will bring to the battle. Each wizard activated in battle then goes into the dead pile.
(1 per player)
A joker can serve as any army (4-10) or wizard (1-6). They can also serve as a zombie during a zombie attack. After the joker is used for any purpose, it is discarded from the game and cannot be used again. But if it is unused at the end of the game, it is worth 2 game points.
To obtain the most points at the end of the game.
There is a battle every turn. The way this happens is that each player places exactly 3 concealed cards down to combat the other army’s 3 concealed cards. (The only exception is when one has fewer than 3 cards left in one’s hand; if this happens it will be the last turn of the game, but more on that later.) For every battle, one must choose in advance which one card will be designated as activated (the one that will be automatically discarded from the game after used in the battle). The activated card may be an army, a wizard, or a joker. Using the other cards in the battle is optional. Once the cards are placed, everyone reveals their cards. Then the attacker must decide which (if any) of the second and third cards are to be activated. After this, the defender decides. Then the battle begins.
The winner of the battle is the one with the highest total number. This can be based on the one designated activated card, or a combination of other number cards or rolls that are activated. Armies count as the number appearing on their card (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10) and wizards count for 1 die roll each (1-6). No more than 2 armies or 2 wizards can ever be placed or activated in one battle. (A zombie attack is the only possible exception, since it does not matter if the zombie card is an army or wizard, but more on that later.)
In the event of a tie, the attacker wins. Any cards not activated in the battle go back to one’s hand and can be used again. All activated armies and wizards from both sides share this pile. If a joker is used, it leaves the game forever.
For example, the players are battling for a treasure card worth 2 points. Player 1, the attacker, plays a 5, 9, and Q, with the 5 in the first activated slot. Player 2 plays a 6, 8, and K, with the 6 in the first activated slot. They both turn over all their cards. As the attacker, player 1 must first decide whether to also activate their 9 and/or Q in the battle. They finally decide to activate all their cards. Then player 2, the defender, decides to save their 8 and K by putting those cards back into their hand. Player one wins the battle (5+9+Q > 6). Player 2’s 6 card and player 1’s 5, 9, and Q cards all go into the dead pile.
The winner of the battle gets to choose whether to:
1) take the treasure card (1-3 points: Aces = 1, 2s = 2, 3s = 3), or
2) free one or more armies and/or wizards from the dead pile (zombies)
If the winner takes the card from the treasure pile, they flip over the next treasure card and begin the next battle. But the winner may choose instead to obtain armies and/or wizards from the dead pile. The number of dead cards a player may take is limited to the number of points on the point card they would have taken. For example, if a player wins the battle for 2 points, they may take 2 dead cards instead. This option is not available to zombie cards in the treasure pile (i.e., any card in the treasure pile higher than 3).
But if the winner of the battle chooses to select a card or cards from the dead pile, they have to roll one die against the loser of the battle’s die. If the loser of the battle wins the roll, the winner of the battle must select the dead cards only at random. If the winner of the battle wins the roll, they may see all the cards and select accordingly. The winner of the battle wins on a tie roll. After either of these moves, the army that had been defending now becomes the attacker. This alternates after each battle.
For example, player 1 wins the battle. Instead of obtaining three points from the treasure pile, they choose to take three cards from the dead pile. They roll a 4 and player 2 also rolls a 4. Since the player selecting the cards from the dead pile wins on a tie, player 1 gets to look at all the dead cards and selects any three cards. (If player 2 had instead rolled a 5 or 6, player 1 would still be able to take three cards from the dead pile, but they would not be able to look at them in advance.)
Optional rule: If the winner of a battle chooses to revive cards from the dead pile instead of taking the card from the treasure pile, the card that was visible on top is shuffled back into the treasure pile. In effect it resets the point(s) both armies are battling for in the next battle.
(3 cards of opponent’s color in one’s hand committed in the same battle)
A zombie is any card a player takes from the dead pile that is of the opponent’s color. (Jokers are removed from the game after being played, so they cannot be revived from the dead pile used as a zombie. However, if still concealed in the player’s hand, they can be used as a zombie during a zombie attack.) If a player has 3 zombies, they can present these as a zombie attack. In order to carry out a zombie attack, a player must play 3 of the opponent’s cards face down as if it were a regular battle. [Optional: one can scream, “Zombie attack!”] As soon as they are revealed, four things automatically happen.
1) The non-zombie player removes all three cards they brought into that battle. Those cards are protected from the zombie attack.
2) The zombies automatically kill any one card at random in the opponent’s concealed hand. Both players get to see what the card is before it goes into the dead pile.
3) The zombie attacker takes whatever point card the opponents were battling for.
4) The 3 zombie cards are then shuffled randomly into the treasure deck. Zombie wizards return to the dead pile. Zombie jokers are removed from the game.
Nothing can prevent a zombie attack. On the occasion both players play a zombie attack in the same battle, the effects are the same for both. Both players get to kill a card from the opponent’s hand and all the numbered zombie cards are shuffled into the treasure deck. The treasure card goes to the zombie army with the highest total number, even if this includes zombie wizards (for which dice will have to be rolled to determine 1-6 for each); the attacking player wins the points on a tie.
Zombies can be used in regular battles and count as point cards to determine the length of the game, although they have no value towards winning a battle. In other words, zombie cards have a value of 0 during a battle, but as long as a player still has at least three cards total (be they army, wizard, joker, or zombie), the game continues. If a player has enough cards, they may conduct multiple zombie attacks during the game, but not during the same battle.
END OF GAME:
The end of the game is triggered when at least one player has under three total cards (including zombies and the joker) in their hand. When this happens, the last battle ensues. The player with the least number of cards must play all of their remaining cards (jokers are never mandatory). If they only have one card to play, they get to roll two dice (to count for three total slots). If they only have two cards to play, they get to roll one die (to count for three total slots). The same is true for the other player if they also have fewer than three cards going into the last battle. As always in battle, the winner is the one with the highest total, and the attacker wins on a tie.
When the game ends, the points are totaled. A player is never compelled to place or activate a joker in a battle. If a joker is the player’s last card, it automatically counts as 2 points towards the game. If the joker is the player’s only remaining card after a battle, they must immediately declare this. They immediately have the choice of 1) ending the game and redeeming the unused joker for 2 game points, or 2) proceeding directly into the final battle, during which they must decide if the joker will transform into an army, wizard, or zombie. Whatever they decide, the battle is supplemented by 2 die rolls (to make up for two remaining empty slots). After the battle, the game ends instantly.
It is possible that not all 12 starting treasure cards will be obtained, so each game will likely have different point totals. The absolute highest total one player might theoretically earn in one game (excluding zombies) is 26 points: 1 joker (2pts) + 4 aces (4pts) + 4 2s (8 pts) + 4 3s (12pts). But, of course, it is also possible that some zombie points (4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s) will end up in the treasure pile and will add to the variability of the total points as well. The winner is the player with the highest number of points.