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Unholy War - Level 1: Core rules and Command Cards

Level 1 Rules and Gameplay


Each player will start with a starter deck, containing 10 specific cards, and five 6-sided dice each in their dice pools.

Victory and Defeat

When a Player is injured, they'll add one die to their Player Pool, permanently becoming both stronger and yet closer to defeat. If a Player would gain an 11th die within their control, they are defeated. The game ends when one Player is left standing.


Each round of gameplay will start with the Strategy Phase, where players will draw and play cards while assigning dice. After the Strategy Phase is the Command Phase, where Command Cards engage with their foes and fight using their assigned dice to destroy the enemy player or deplete their resources. Once the Command Phase is finished, the game proceeds with the Strategy Phase. This repeats until only one player is remaining. Each Phase determines who acts in what order by checking Initiative, which is based on that card/player’s Power (more on this later).


You, and each card under your control, have dice assigned to them. The number of dice assigned to a card or player is called their “Power”. If a card is discarded, any of the dice assigned to that card is now reassigned to its Player.


Whenever a player or card has to roll dice, they’ll roll all of their Power, keeping the highest result and adding +1 for each “1” in that roll. For example, if you had a Power of 5, and rolled [1, 1, 3, 4, 4], your result would be 6 (4+1+1).

Strategy Phase - Upkeep

Players start the Strategy Phase by returning all facedown cards they control to their hand and any dice assigned to those cards to their dice pools. They then draw cards until either their deck is out of cards to draw, or until they have as many cards in hand as their Power. Any Tapped cards they control are now Untapped. Once Upkeep is finished for all players, determine which player has Initiative and then that player takes their turn for the Strategy Phase.

EXAMPLE- Jack and Tina are starting their first game. After setup, they have 10 cards each in their decks, and have 5 dice assigned to each of them. They don’t have any cards on the field to start, and they both have 5 Power, so they both draw their Power of 5 cards.

Strategy Phase - Initiative

To determine what acts first in any phase of gameplay, refer to Initiative, which is simply the highest Power of cards or Players that can act in that phase.

In the Strategy Phase, Initiative is determined based on the Power of each Player. If there is a tie between Players, those Players then roll their dice and the Player with the highest result acts first. After that Player acts, Initiative is checked again until all Players have acted out their turns.

Generally-speaking, if a Player has 0 Power after Upkeep in the Strategy Phase, they are ignored when determining Initiative and don’t get a turn.

EXAMPLE- Jack and Tina both have 5 Power, so they are tied for Initiative and must roll to determine who acts first. Jack rolls [2, 4, 4, 5, 5], while Tina rolls [1, 1, 3, 4, 4]. Jack’s total is 5 against Tina’s 6, so Tina acts first in this Strategy Phase.

Strategy Phase - Turns

Once the Player with Initiative has been determined, that player can do the following during their turn:

  • Hurt themselves at the start of their turn (gaining a die) to shuffle their discard pile with their deck, drawing until they have as many cards as their new Power (useful if you don’t have cards left in your deck).
  • Play a card face-up or facedown.
  • Assigning dice in their Player Pool to their cards.

Please take note of these rules regarding playing cards and assigning dice:

  • Cards must have a minimum of 1 die assigned to them or they are immediately discarded.
  • If a Player ends their turn with cards in their hand, those cards are returned to the bottom of their deck in any order.
  • A player must end their turn with no dice in their dice pool.

Otherwise, there is no limit to how many cards you play or how many dice are assigned to one card.

Strategy Phase – Tips for playing Command Cards:

You’ll generally want to play cards with high Defense bonuses facedown, with your high Attack cards played face-up. Try to play many cards when your deck is small (2-3 cards left), or invest your dice into fewer, important cards when your deck is full.

EXAMPLE- Jack has Initiative, and decides to invest into a smaller, aggressive army. He plays a face-up Zealot(+3 ATK, -2 DEF) with two dice, a face-up Mercenary (+2 ATK, -1 DEF) with two dice, and a facedown card with 1 die. Now that he has spent all of her dice, the two other cards he drew are returned to the bottom of her deck.

For Tina’s turn, she decides to adapt around Jack’s aggressive setup and plays 2 cards facedown with 2 dice each, and a face-up Mercenary with 1 die.

Once the player with Initiative has no remaining dice and has emptied their hand, their turns ends and Initiative is checked again (ignoring any players with 0 Power), until all players have acted and the Strategy Phase ends. This begins the Command Phase.

Assigning dice to cards

If a card ever has 0 dice assigned to it, it is immediately discarded. Dice will allow cards to act multiple times and make higher rolls, so consider carefully how to invest your dice into your cards.  

Command Phase – Initiative

The Command Phase starts by determining Initiative, which is based on the highest Power of Command Cards each Player controls each cards’ Power. Cards that are Tapped (sideways) or facedown are ignored for the sake of determining Initiative, so do not count their Power.

If a Player has two Command Cards with the same Power, they choose one of those cards to act during that Initiative.

If opposing Players have a tie (such as if you both have a card with the same amount of Power), they roll to determine who acts first as normal in a tie.

EXAMPLE- Jack and Tina just started their Command Phase. Jack has a face-up Zealot and a Mercenary, both with 2 Power, while Tina has a Mercenary with 1 Power. Jack’s highest Power is higher, so he gets to choose which of his cards with that Power acts first, and decides to go with the Mercenary.

Command Phase – Actions

The card with Initiative may do one the three standard Actions during their turn: + Hide (Flip facedown to disorient the enemy) + Engage (Exert themselves to attack a target).


Often, a card needs to expend energy to Engage a target or to fuel a special power, by being Exerted. This requires the player to either Tap that card (turning it sideways and be unable to act until the start of the next round) or by removing one of its dice (which is returned to its Player's dice pool). A card must always pay one of these costs every time it is Exerted, even if it means removing that card's last die (causing it to be discarded).


The Hide Action returns the Command Card with Initiative to return to your hand, as well as up to one facedown, Untapped card you control. Play those cards facedown and reassign their dice as you choose between them.


Engaging a target Exerts the card with Initiative, who then picks a Defender to attack in an Engagement. If the Defender is faceup or a player, the defending player can now Exert a card with Ambush to become the new Attacker for the Engagement (see more on Ambushing below).

If any of the cards were facedown after announcing an engagement, they are not revealed until attack and defense dice are about to roll for that engagement.

During an Engagement, the aggressor generally will start by making an Attack Roll against their target, who rolls a Defense Roll. Each card may have bonuses or penalties to these rolls, indicated on the card. Both players announce their totals. Unless the Defense Roll was higher than the Attack Roll, the Defender is Hit and is generally discarded afterwards. If the Defender survives, they continue to make their own counterattack against the Initiator, making their own Attack Roll with an opposed Defense Roll.

Players who are Engaged by an enemy will use their dice pool for their Defense Roll, but generally cannot make Attack Rolls. If a Player is Hit, they permanently add a die to their pool (moving one step closer to defeat), and the resulting backlash Exerts the card engaged with that player.

EXAMPLE- Jack’s Mercenary (+2 ATK, -1 DEF) decides to engage against one of Tina’s facedown cards with 1 die. He pays for that Exertion by Tapping the Mercenary. She reveals that her card was a Guardsman (+2 DEF), and makes its Defense Roll against Jack’s Mercenary’s Attack Roll. Jack rolls [3, 4], for a total of 6 , while Tina rolls [5] for a total of 7. The Guardsman rolled higher, and so he survived to make a counterattack.

The Guardsman rolled poorly, for a result of 2, while the Mercenary rolled [2, 5] a total of 4 for his Defense Roll, so neither card is Hit. The Engagement ends, and Initiative is checked again.

Once Initiative is checked and no Command Cards are able to act, the Command Phase ends and the next phase begins. With the Level 1 rules, this will be the Strategy Phase.

Special notes on Command Cards

Each facedown Command card has a special benefit, the Ambush trait. Ambush: When you or a Command Card you control is Engaged, you can Exert one of your cards with Ambush to Engage the original attacker. Your card becomes the new Initiator, while theirs is the new Defender for that Engagement. Ambush can trigger multiple times (so an opponent can Ambush a card that you originally Ambushed with). Facedown cards are not revealed until players are done Ambushing and the attack/defense rolls begin.

Command Cards are very versatile, but come at a cost: Whenever you discard a Command Card, you must also discard the top card of your deck (ignore this if you have no remaining cards in your deck).

EXAMPLE- After the first turn of the Command Phase, Jack’s Mercenary is now Tapped and so is ignored for determining Initiative. However, Jack’s Zealot still has 2 Power, while all of Tina’s faceup cards have 1, so the Zealot acts next.

Jack decides to take a risk and engages Tina directly with his Zealot. Tina uses the Ambush trait of her facedown card with 2 dice and intercepts the attack with her 2 dice card, removing a die for the Exertion so that it can act afterwards (so it will be face-up and not Tapped). Now the facedown card is engaged and attacking Jack’s Zealot.

Jack doesn’t want his Zealot to die, so he Exerts his facedown card with 1 die for an Ambush, Tapping it for the Exert. Tina decides not to Ambush, so the engagement begins with Jack’s card attacking hers.

Both players reveal their facedown cards, with Jack's attacking Guardsman(+2 DEF) against Tina's defending Sentinel(+3 DEF, -1 ATK). Jack rolls poorly and misses, while Tina’s counterattack hits. Jack discards his Guardsman and discards one extra card from his deck as the price for discarding a Command Card.

The Players tie for Initiative, as all face-up, Untapped cards have 1 die, and Tina wins the draw. She has her Sentinel take the Hide Action, returning it and another facedown card to her hand. She replaces those cards facedown, reassigns their dice, and now Jack doesn’t know which of the two are which. Does he take a gamble and attack one of the facedown cards directly so that Tina doesn’t get the jump on him? Or does he Hide a card himself to give him more flexibility during the upcoming Strategy Phase?


Done some hands-on

Done some hands-on playtesting, and the game functions amazingly well!

There was an interesting situation where my opponent bunkered down with a facedown -1 ATK, +3 DEF Slime with a ton of dice, which he did for like 3 turns straight. Each time it was revealed when attacked, it would survive and then spend its initiative (now that it's faceup) to flip right back facedown. So I decided to attack the enemy player directly with high defense cards that I was unlikely to lose. In order to intercept my attackers, he'd have to drain his dice off of his Slime so that I could set it up to be slain with my high attacker.

I'm very happy with the fact that being aggressive with tanky cards is a valid strategy against a turtle. Not many games have that kind of depth.

Anyway, I'd consider Phase 1 a resounding success, all that I think is left is maybe some balance tweaking with the numbers.

Phase 2 will involve an interesting drafting mechanic, I'm just not sure whether it should be more aggressive (you immediately play a card when purchasing it, assigning the dice you spent to that card, limited to one purchase per turn) or more passive (cards you purchase are moved to the top of your deck, dice spent for those cards are unassigned this round).

I like the idea of trying both. I tried something similar with the Phase 1 rules, like swapping up whether Defender or Attacker wins on a tie or whether facedown cards can Ambush to defend other facedown cards or not, and the answer was pretty obvious afterwards, so I think I'll go with the same strategy.

Things are looking up!


How are players defeated? Is it that they are unable to add dice to cards, and therefore cannot keep cards in the field?

What happens when two players tie for Initiative?

What happens when all players choose to play all cards face-down?

Whoops. I'm an idiot

Whoops. I'm an idiot and must have left out the win condition in the last revision.

It's been added back in, but you gain dice by taking damage, with 10 dice being the maximum you can have total across all of your dice. If you ever get an 11th die, you lose.

In a tie, both players roll-off to determine who acts first, it's mentioned in the Initiative sections.

As far as all facedown cards, it would mean that the Command Phase would be skipped. Thing is, attacking facedown cards directly is generally a valid strategy, since you can't Ambush the attacker to protect your card unless your card was already faceup. The game is designed to favor the initial attacker in engagements, as a tie results in a Hit against the Defender, since the Defender won't usually get a counterattack.

Essentially, a full faceup team easily destroys a full facedown team (as you'd get a series of attacks against them that you're likely to win without retaliation), but a full faceup team is countered by a mixed team.

Generally-speaking, a scenario where every card is played facedown is unlikely to happen unless both players are playing poorly. Like running out of cards in the deck in Uno. This will be changed with some Shadow-magic cards that will be added in later levels, but at this level it's not a great strategy unless you're almost at 10 dice and are going for a Hail Mary.

Added gameplay examples,

Added gameplay examples, might work on formatting for legibility in a bit. Still getting used to the site, sorry about how ugly it is!

I formatted the OP for you

Using Markdown and a some special characters, I re-formatted the OP for you. This way it is more legible and not appearing like a Wall-o-Text! You can EDIT to see HOW I formatted the OP and learn the syntax. It's pretty simple once you know that: 1> You need to use Markdown and 2> You need to know the correct syntax.


Note #1: For Bullet points you can use a "+" but the REAL TRICK is to add TWO (2) SPACES at the end of each line such that there are line breaks. That's one of the caveats of Markdown. But I've shared it with you and now you know this one particular "hitch"!

For most messages (which are reasonably short)

You don't need Markdown, you can stick with "Filtered HTML" as the "Input Format"... But when you have detailed post with sections and subsections and/or bullets and highlights to certain words or content, it's best to use "Markdown". Cheers!

Note #1: In "Filtered HTML" when you add an URL/Link it will automatically create a HYPERLINK (HTML). But in "Markdown" it does NOT... You need to use Anchor Tags < a > ... < /a > and use HTML syntax for URLs in "Markdown"...

Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your help, man! This has helped a lot!

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