Unstable Unicorns is a turn-based strategic card game about your two favorite things: Unicorns and Destruction. The first person with 7 Unicorns in their Stable wins!* *Only 6 Unicorns are required if you are playing with 6-8 players
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
114 Black-backed cards
13 Baby Unicorn cards
8 Rules reference cards
HOW TO START
To start, separate the Baby Unicorn cards and the reference cards from the black-backed cards in the box. Shuffle the black-backed cards (including any expansion cards you want to use) together, then deal 5 cards to each player. Place the remaining stack of cards face down in the center of the table; this stack is your deck. Leave space next to the deck for a discard pile, which is where you will place cards that have been sacrificed, destroyed, or discarded throughout the game. 114 Black-backed cards 13 Baby Unicorn cards 8 Rules reference cards Each player must choose a Baby Unicorn card and place it in their Stable, which is the play area in front of them. Place the remaining Baby Unicorn cards in a stack on the table; this stack is the Nursery. Baby Unicorn cards that are not in a player’s Stable are always placed back in the Nursery. They are never added to your hand, the deck, or the discard pile.
Each player may also take a reference card to quickly reference the rules. Now you’re ready to play! Whoever is wearing the most colors is obviously the unicorniest, so they go first.
HOW TO PLAY
THE TURN Players take turns by going clockwise around the table. Each turn is made up of 4 phases. Beginning of Turn phase: If you have a card in your Stable with an effect that states, “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn,” its effect is triggered during this phase. Draw phase: DRAW a card from the deck.
Action phase: Take ONE of the following actions:
• Play a Unicorn card from your hand;
• Play a Magic card from your hand;
• Play a Downgrade card from your hand;
• Play an Upgrade card from your hand;
• DRAW a card from the deck.
End of Turn phase: DISCARD until the number of cards in your hand does not exceed the hand limit. The hand limit is 7 cards (unless otherwise stated).
THE IMPORTANT TERMS
Here are a few setup terms you’ve seen already: Stable: The play area in front of you in which Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards are played. Nursery: The stack of Baby Unicorn cards on the table. Deck: The stack of black-backed cards from which players DRAW during the game. This may include blackbacked cards from any of the expansion packs. Discard pile: The stack of black-backed cards that have been sacrificed, destroyed, or discarded during the game. Additionally, here are some common terms you’ll see on card effects:
DRAW: Pull the top card of the deck and add it to your hand.
DISCARD: Move a card from your hand to the discard pile.
SACRIFICE: Move a card in your Stable to the discard pile. This term is used for Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards.
DESTROY: Move a card from any other player’s Stable to the discard pile. This term is also used for Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards.
STEAL: Move a card from any other player’s Stable into your Stable.
THE TYPES OF CARDS
There are 5 types of cards in the game.
Unicorn cards have a horn symbol in the top left corner. A Unicorn card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed. Collect Unicorns in your Stable to win the game!
Unicorn cards come in 3 flavors:
Baby Unicorn cards have a purple corner. Each player starts with a Baby Unicorn card. Since Baby Unicorn cards are kept in the Nursery and are never in any player’s hand, the only way to bring more Baby Unicorn cards into your Stable is through a special effect from another card.
Basic Unicorn cards have an indigo corner. They don’t have any effects, but they might have a special place in your heart.
Magical Unicorn cards have a blue corner. Each Magical Unicorn card has an effect that can give you an advantage in the game.
Magic cards have a green corner with a star symbol. These cards have a one-time effect; if you play a Magic card on your turn, immediately move it to the discard pile.
Downgrade cards have a yellow corner with a down arrow symbol. Add a Downgrade card to another player’s Stable to impose negative effects on that player. (Technically, you can add a Downgrade card to your own Stable, but you’ll rarely want to do this.) A Downgrade card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed.
Upgrade cards have an orange corner with an up arrow symbol. These cards grant positive effects. You can play an Upgrade card in any player’s Stable. An Upgrade card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed.
Instant cards have a red corner with an exclamation point symbol. This is the only type of card that doesn’t have to be played on your turn. In this deck, the Instant cards are Neigh cards, which can be played any time any other player plays a card. Any number of Instant cards can be chained during a single turn.
THE END OF THE GAME
The first person to successfully collect the required number of Unicorns in their Stable wins! Each Unicorn card counts for one Unicorn (unless otherwise stated).
2 – 5 Players: 7 Unicorns to win
6 – 8 Players: 6 Unicorns to win
If the deck runs out of cards before any player reaches a winning number of Unicorns in their Stable, the player with the most Unicorns wins.
If two or more players tie for the most Unicorns in their Stable, each tied player must add up the number of letters in the names of all the Unicorn cards in their Stable. The player with the most letters wins.
If two or more players tie for the most Unicorns and the most letters, everyone loses. Ouch.
*If you are playing with 2 players, make sure to read the 2-Player Rules section.
If you’ve reached this point in the rules, you know everything you need to know to get started! We added the next section of advanced rules and clarifications for your reference to explain certain interactions that may cause confusion or raise questions throughout the game. You might never need to use it, but it’s here for you just in case!
ADVANCED RULES AND CLARIFICATIONS
Cards in Your Hand vs. Cards in Your Stable
Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards have no effect while they are in your hand. Their effects are only active when they are in your Stable.
Entering and Leaving Your Stable
Each time you play, STEAL, or bring a Unicorn into your Stable, it counts as “entering your Stable.” Any time a Unicorn card is sacrificed, destroyed, or stolen, it counts as “leaving your Stable.”
Mandatory vs. Optional Effects
Some effects are mandatory (ex. “DISCARD a card”), while others are optional (“you may STEAL a Unicorn”). If a card does not use the word “may,” you can assume it is mandatory.
If a card has an optional effect that states “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn,” you may NOT use that effect if you forget to use it before you DRAW a card for your Draw phase. If the effect is mandatory, you must still do it if you (or another player) notices that you did not use the effect.
Beginning of Turn Effects
If you have multiple cards that state “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn,” their effects occur simultaneously. That means if one card tells you to immediately end your turn after using the effect, you can still use the other beginning of turn effects of cards in your Stable.
Neighing Card Effects
Neigh cards can only be used to stop a player from playing a card from their hand. This means that you cannot Neigh a card effect. For example, if another player already has a card in their Stable that states “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn, DESTROY a Unicorn card,” you cannot use a Neigh card to stop that effect from being used.
Cards use specific terminology when referring to players.
Any player refers to any single player, including you.
Another player refers to any single player, excluding you.
Each player refers to every player, including you.
Choosing Targets for Effects
There are two play styles for player targeting that you can use when playing Unstable Unicorns:
Option 1 (easy): When you play a card with an effect, you must declare which player(s) you are targeting before using the effect. This allows players to decide if they want to respond with a Neigh card.
Option 2 (advanced): When you play a card with an effect, players have to choose if they want to use a Neigh card before you select targets.
Both options are viable for gameplay, so you can select your house rules for consistency within the game.
Searching for Cards
Some card effects allow you to search the deck or the discard pile for a card (ex. “When this card enters your Stable, you may search the deck for a Downgrade card
and add it to your hand”). Once you have retrieved that card, reveal the card you chose to each other player before adding it to your hand.
Getting Rid of Downgrade Cards
Some card effects allow you to specifically remove Downgrade cards from your Stable. In addition, if a card’s effect states “SACRIFICE a card,” you can use that card to get rid of a Downgrade card in your Stable (ex. “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn, you may SACRIFICE a card, then DESTROY a card”).
Card Effects with Multiple Actions
When a card effect requires multiple actions, those actions are sometimes separated by “then” (ex. “SACRIFICE a Unicorn card, then DRAW a card”).
If a card says “then,” you may only perform the second action if you successfully perform the first action. In the example listed, if you do not have a Unicorn card to SACRIFICE, you may not DRAW a card.
Sometimes, the effect of a card in your Stable or a card played by any other player may require you to perform an impossible action. If this situation occurs, disregard that action. Some impossible actions include:
DISCARD when you have no cards in your hand
SACRIFICE a card when you have no cards in your Stable
SACRIFICE a card that cannot be sacrificed
If you are playing with 2 players, make the following modifications before you get started. If you forget to make these modifications, you may find the game to feel less balanced.
Remove these cards from the deck and place them in the game box. They will not be used in the 2-player version of the game:
All Basic Unicorns
Queen Bee Unicorn
Mother Goose Unicorn
If you are adding expansions to your game, you can find a comprehensive current list of cards to remove for a 2-player game at UnstableGames.com.
Before shuffling the deck, take out two Neigh cards and hand one to each player. From there, you may shuffle the deck and deal 5 cards to each player (giving each player a total of 6 cards in their hand to start the game, including the Neigh card).
Gameplay may now proceed normally!