You make the cards. The cards make the rules.
Card Form (March 29, 2007)

Card Wars is a design exercise disguised as a game. Or maybe it is the other way around.


What is Card Wars?

Card Wars is a modification of the card game War. Instead of using a standard deck of playing cards the players make their own custom cards before the tournament. Those cards are shuffled up and randomly distributed to the all participants.

Starting Out

Each player will create 21 cards with the numbers 1 through 9 printed on them. 3 of those cards will be rares, 9 will be uncommons, and 9 will be commons. Each of your common cards will be printed twice.

All the cards have a title that can hold 30 characters. All the cards also have a rules block in the bottom half. Rare cards have space for 180 characters, uncommons can hold 60 characters, and common cards can only hold 30 characters.

When you finish filling out your card form then submit it to me. I'll print them, cut them out, shuffle them up and redistribute them to the players. Odds are that you will only get 2 or 3 of your own cards, so design your rules with fun and balance in mind.

Meta Rules

Most of the base rules of Card Wars can be changed by the rules on the cards. However, the following rules cannot be altered.
  • You cannot make rules that permanently destroy or physically deface other cards. Rules that temporarily alter cards are fine. For instance, "Place a counter on all 2s" is OK. "Rip up a card that annoys you" is not.
  • Rules that let you permanently take a card from your opponent must also give a card to your opponent. In other words, you can trade cards one for one, but each player must end a round with the same number of cards they started with. Rules that allow you to temporarily take control of any number of cards are fine, as long as they are returned to the owner at the end of the round.

Making a Deck

Once all the cards are created they will be shuffled into 3 rarity piles and dealt out randomly to the players. Each player ends up with 30 cards (3 rares, 9 uncommons and 18 commons). Most of the cards you receive will have been created by other players, not by you.

Select your 21 best cards and put the remaining 9 in your sideboard. Between rounds you are free to exchange cards from your sideboard into your deck, but you must always start a round with 21 cards.

Game Rules

A game is 3 rounds. The player that wins 2 out 3 of those rounds wins the game.

Set Up for each round

  • Shuffle your cards. Cut your opponent's deck. Draw 5.

Turn Order for each round

  • Place Phase 1: Both players simultaneously place a card from their hand face down in slot 1. (There are 9 imaginary slots on table.)
  • Reveal Phase 1: Both players simultaneously reveal the cards.
  • Draw Phase 1: Both players simultaneously draw 1 card.
  • Repeat phases 1 through 3 for slot 2, then again for slot 3, etc. Continue until you placed cards into 9 slots.
  • Scoring Phase: Starting at slot 1 you score 1 point if your card's value is higher than your opponents. Continue scoring through all 9 slots. If you have more points than your opponent then you win the round. If it is a tie then the round doesn't count; you'll have to play another round.

Rules Conflicts

Most cards have rules which will modify the above rules. Roll with it. Anything could happen so I'm not even going to try to think about it at the moment. If two or more cards conflict then keep the following rules in mind:
  • Cards with lower printed values resolve first. Note that a card's value may have been modified by another card, but this doesn't matter. The printed number is all that counts.
  • If cards conflict and they share the same printed value then they all fizzle. Ignore all those cards' text.
  • It is up to the two players to resolve conflicts not covered by the above rules. Use whatever means necessary to make your case (eye witnesses, results from other games, actually reading the rules, etc.). If possible try to use logical, well-reasoned arguments instead of emotional tantrums. But in the end, it is up to the two opponents to reach an agreement.
  • Remember, these conflict rules can be modified by cards, too.

Tournament Rules

There are nine players. Play each player once and report your scores to Ryan. He will keep track of the standings. The winner of the tournament is the player with the best overall record.

Final Thoughts

I have no idea what is going to happen. This could be fun and interesting, or a completely chaotic mess. Approach this more as a game design exercise than a game and all will be well. If the game is completely broken then there is always the option to iterate based on our newfound knowledge and then try again in the future.


previous (prev.) lower numbered slots
next higher numbered slots
adjacent (adj.) the previous and next slots on either side of this slot
opponent (opp.) your opponent
you the controller of this card
owner the owner of this card (usually the controller, but not always)
hand the cards in your hand
deck cards you haven't drawn yet
table cards in play
pile the discard pile, where discarded and destroyed cards go
discard remove a card from hand and put it in the pile
destroy remove a card from the table and put it in the pile
place remove a card from hand and put in on the table
reveal turn a face down card face up
draw take the top card from your deck and put it into your hand

Common Abbrevations

It is OK to abbreviate, as long as the abbreviation is obvious. If a word wraps from one line to the next you need to use a hyphen character, although you do not need to hyphenate on a syllable break. (You get design style points if you can figure out how to phrase a rule so that it follows all normal rules of English.)
Abbrev. What it means
OC The opposing card or cards in the same slot as this one
S# Slot number. S1 is the first slot. S3-S6 means the Slot 3 through Slot 6, inclusive
[BT] The beginning of each turn. (ex., [BT]:Draw a bonus card)
[BT#] The beginning of a specific turn ([BT1]) or turns ([BT2-BT3])
[P] After each placement phase ends
[P#] After a specific placement ([P3]) or range of placements ([P5-P9])
[R] After each reveal phase ends
[R#] After a specific reveal phase or range of reveal phases
[D] After each draw phase ends
[D#] After a specific draw phase or range of draw phases
[SSCORE] Start of the scoring phase
[ESCORE] End of the scoring phase

Card Creation Tips

  • When creating cards it is advisable to think like a game designer, not a game player. Your goal is to make cool cards, not broken ones. Try not to make cards that are obviously too weak or too strong.
  • Another player will probably end up with a card you designed. Do your best to keep the rules clear and simple. If there is a question about one of your cards then the owner may interpret it however he or she sees fit; even if it goes against your original intention.
  • Whenever possible give your card a trigger. This is an event that causes the card's rule to fire off. It will be helpful to follow the standard Magic convention and use the format:
    trigger : rule
    For example, "Start of each turn : Draw a card." or "After drawing a card : Put a +1 counter on any revealed card."
  • Cards without explicit triggers will be considered to trigger instantly when revealed. For example, the card "Destroy one card" is the same as "When this card is revealed : Destroy one card".
  • If a card leaves the table its effects go away. For instance, if the card "Your cards get +1" is destroyed then your cards will no longer have the +1 bonus. However, you can get around this by using counters. For example, if the card "Place a +1 counter on all of your cards" is destroyed then the +1 counters would still remain.
  • There are 9 players and 189 unique cards. Rules conflicts, timing problems and other assorted aggravation is inevitable. Keep an open mind when playing and remember that discussing the problem, and coming up with a resolution, is potentially more interesting and rewarding than the game itself. In fact, it could be argued that debating rules is really what this game is all about.


What is the value of an unrevealed card?
Cards that aren't revealed (for whatever reason) have a value of 0. While unrevealed they are considered to have no special text.

What about cards that have not been revealed when it is time to score?
They are worth 0. They do not automatically reveal. Note that an unrevealed card will still win if it goes up against an empty slot.

Can unrevealed card values be modified?
Yes. If another card says, "All card gain +1" then the unrevealed cards will have a value of 1.

What is the difference between "value" and "points"?
A value is the relative strength of a card. By default, it is the number printed on the card. The value of a card may change as other rules come into play. A point is used for scoring. Whoever has the most points at the end of a round wins.

Can I look at unrevealed cards? (Either mine or my opponents?
No. Once they are down you can't look at them unless some other effect lets you.

Can I use the words "tap" and "untap"?
Yes. Since we are all Magic players then we all know what this means. However, what effect tapping and untapping cards has is not defined. If you want it to have meaning then you will need to explain it on a card somewhere.

When do card effects happen?
By default a card's rule triggers when it is revealed. You can change this by explicitly stating a trigger, i.e., "When any card is destroyed : This card gets a +1 counter".

How long does an effect last?
In general it will last until the end of round or until the card is is removed from a slot. However, cards that have discrete actions, such as, "Destroy one card" don't keep destroying cards repeatedly. That card would destroy one card, then stop. But if you had a way to hide that card, then reveal it again, it would trigger once more.

During scoring something happens in Slot 4 that affects Slot 1. Do I go back and rescore Slot 1?
No. You only score each slot once, in order from 1 to 9.

What happens if cards are stacked in a slot? For example, during scoring I have a 6 and a 7 stacked in a slot and my opponent has only an 8. Who wins the point?
During the scoring phase you score 1 point if you have the highest card in the slot. So in the example above the player with the 8 would win. As always, a card may have a rule that overrides this one. (i.e., "Multiply this card's value by the value of any card stacked with it.")

How do I score against a blank slot? For example, I have a 2 and my opponent has nothing?
Empty slots have no value. Any card, no matter its value, beats an empty slot.

What is a card's "value"? Is it the printed value or the modified value?
If a rule refers to another card's value it is assumed to be referring to the card's modified value. If you want to refer to a card's printed value then use the phrase "printed value". For example, the card "Destroy all 1s" would destroy all cards with a current value of 1 point, while the card "Destroy all printed 1s" would kill cards with the number 1 printed on them.

Unanswered FAQs

I swap the position of my card with my opponent's card. Does this imply that I also swap control?

A card says it has "no value". What happens if I put a +1 counter on it?

Future Suggestions

  • The cards should be randomized by designer, but not by number. Each player gets two common 1's, two common 2's, etc. up to two common 9's. One uncommon 1-9. Three completely random rares.

  • The draw phase should be first. Start the game with 4 cards. Why? Because most other games are like that and the final draw phase (after slot 9 is placed and revealed) is a waste.