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The Card Game

This is a self-modifying card game, affectionately known as ``The Card Game''. I originated it when I was in high school, but it has evolved considerably since then, because by playing cards, one can create, modify, and destroy other cards in the game. If you have blank index cards, pencils, and friends with sufficient creative whimsy and/or bloodthirsty competitiveness, this game is for you!

Players:

For 3–∞ players. Works best with about 4–10.

Deck of Cards:

At the beginning of each game, you use the deck of cards which was left at the end of the previous game. If you want to start a new copy of the game, here is a sample starter deck.

Rules:

1. Setup. At the beginning of the game, shuffle the cards and deal hand of 3 cards to each player. Play goes around to the left starting to the left of the dealer. The rest of the cards go into a draw pile, and cards no longer in effect go into a discard pile. If you run out of the draw pile, shuffle the discards into a new draw pile.

2. Your turn. On your turn, you must either (1) draw a card, or else (2) play one of your cards. When you play a card, you may normally choose to play it either on yourself or someone else (unless the card says otherwise, e.g. if it affects everyone). Place it in front of the player you are playing it on. That person must do what the card says, or else lose. Cards take precedence over the rules, when played in accordance with the rules. (However, you may always choose to lose rather than do something you do not want to do!) If the card has a permanent effect, leave it in front of that player. If any card no longer has any effect, discard it.

3. Playing out of turn. You may play a card out of turn if (a) it says you can, (b) it is a response card to a card that was just played, or (c) to settle a dispute. If a card says ``Play immediately'', play it as soon as you get it!

4. Response cards. A card is a response card if it modifies another card (e.g. ``Rip up a card'', ``Cross out one word and replace it with another'', ``Just Kidding, that card has no effect'', ``No, do the opposite of what that card says.'') Response cards may be played out of turn, and take precedence over the card which they are responding to. After playing a response card, other players may continue to respond to any cards currently being played, including other response cards. (You are also allowed play response cards as normal cards on your own turn, to affect cards already in play.)

5. Settling Disputes. From time to time, disputes arise as to the interpretation of the rules and cards. There is a mechanism built into the game to resolve these disputes. Once two or more players have contradicted each other, the first person to play a ``Settle a dispute'' card to the table gets to resolve the disputed issue by making a pronouncement. It is not allowed to play a settle a dispute card preemptively before any one has disagreed with you. The pronouncement must be at least halfway reasonable; it is not allowed to use ``settle a dispute'' cards in unambiguous situations. Very unreasonable interpretations should be shouted down by the other players.

6. Making and Destroying cards. If you are instructed to make a new card, take a blank index card and write on one side of it. New cards normally go into the discard pile (otherwise it would be too easy to win!). Destroyed cards, like discarded cards, have no effect.

7. Winning and Losing. Like most games, the goal of the game is to win, and avoid losing. You win or lose if a card says so. Thus you will normally want to play WIN cards on yourself and LOSE cards on other players (assuming nobody has a response card, such as ``No, do the opposite of what that card says"!) Players who lose discard all of their cards and are out of the game. Some additional ways to win or lose: 1) if any player wins, the game is over and all non-winning players lose, and 2) if all but one player loses, the remaining player wins.

Frequently Asked Questions

Game Play

Is there anything special about having no cards?

No. Zero is a number just like any other number. Obviously, you will have to draw a card on your next turn.

Can I play a WIN card in response to a LOSE card?

No. Just because a card's effects contradict another card's effects doesn't mean that it modifies them. A response card will explicitly or implicitly refer to another card which it affects.

What if there is a dispute and no one has any ``settle a dispute'' cards?

What do you normally do to resolve disputes? Achieve some sort of consensus through voting, argument or compromise. Most games don't have any dispute resolving mechanisms at all! I've done everything I could for you and you still complain...

Can I play a ``settle a dispute'' card to challenge another ``settle a dispute'' card?

Not usually. The rules say that the first person to play a settle a dispute card wins. The exception would be if there was some sort of genuine question regarding the validity of the first ``settle a dispute'' card, in which case this secondary dispute can be resolved with another ``settle a dispute'' card.

What if a card says that a player must die?

Dying is considered as a synonym for losing. Even if one took it literally, players are encouraged to quit the game in lieu of actually dying.

Making Cards

Can I write down on a card that it cannot be affected by response cards?

You can write it, but it won't do any good. Response cards take precedence over the cards they are responding to, including any misguided text on the other card trying to stop this from happening. It is, however, possible for a card to protect another card from being responded to (but the protecting card would itself be vulnerable to a response).

Can I make a card which responds to some specific other card?

Yes, but it's usually not very interesting. When the deck gets big, the odds that both cards will come out at the same time are very small, so your card will almost never be any good. It's better to frame counteraction cards more generally so as to be useful in a broader range of circumstances. It's fine to mention special interactions with other cards, but it's boring to create cards which don't usually do anything.

Can I make a card which targets another player by name?

This sort of thing is rude, and custom mitigates against it. Depending on the ethos of your playing circle and the emotional fragility of the target, you should suggest making a different card. Point out that the card won't be very interesting when that person isn't playing.

If it takes me a long time to think of a new card, can the other players continue playing?

Yes. It isn't totally consistent with a literal-minded reading of the rules of the game, but it is customary nonetheless.

Victory

How long does a game usually last?

Usually between a minute and an hour, assuming there are enough WIN cards in the deck. If the games are short you probably want to play several in rapid succession.

Does there always have to be one winner?

Not necessarily. Usually there is because of Rule 7, but sometimes multiple players win simultaneously, or everyone loses.

What happens if one player becomes effectively omnipotent?

Customarily, if cards make a player so powerful that they can do anything they want (for instance an infinite cycle that puts the entire deck in one player's hand) then the game is called and that player is declared the winner. The same thing applies if a bunch of co-operating players become collectively omnipotent (unless they are willing to make the game interesting by turning on each other).

Miscellaneous

Are blank cards cards?

Technically, no. ``Cards'' only refers to cards which have been created, but not yet destroyed. (By the way, if you write out a summary of the rules on a card for the benefit of the players, make sure to write THIS IS NOT A CARD on it!)

What if my deck runs low on WIN, LOSE or ``Settle a Dispute'' cards?

In between games, sneak some in when no one is watching. If you don't tell anyone, I won't.

What if someone tries to make a truly awful card like ``Rip up all the cards'' or ``Commit Adultery (literally)''?

Apply social pressure. If they persist, get rid of it by lawful means, or when no one is watching. Also remember that all players have the option to lose rather than obey a card.

Does this game work better when people are drunk?

It's not a good idea to mix drugs.

Copyright

Is this game under copyright?

No. Under U.S. law one can only copyright an entity if it takes a fixed form. This game evolves with time.

Are these rules under copyright?

Under current U.S. law, unless otherwise stated, all works are considered by default to be under copyright even in the absence of any notice. However, I grant you a license to do anything you want.

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