The Made Up Game

Role-playing a computer 🤖§

For some reason, I don’t like playing tabletop games where there’s a pre-defined set of technical rules. I feel like I end up being a computer. I enjoy playing with computers, I don’t enjoy playing as a computer simulator.

So one day, nearly a decade ago, some friends stumbled upon game we called the “Made Up Game”, and I discovered my favorite genre of game: games where you play with changing the rules of the game.

So here’s the Made Up Game: a creative card game where you make up the rules.

How to start playing the Made Up Game 🏓§

While the game is all about changing the rules, we need a set of bootstrap rules to get the game started:


  1. Shuffle a deck of cards
  2. Deal 5 cards to each player
  3. Place the remaining pile of cards face-down
  4. Turn the top card up and place it next to the face-down pile


In clockwise direction, for each player:

  1. Pick up card from the face-down pile
  2. Play a card onto the face-up pile
  3. Makes a change to the rules

Lose Condition§

If the next player can’t play the game within the current rules, everyone loses.

Win condition§

If all the cards are face-up on the table.

Source: ahdinosaur/made-up-game

Your first problem to solve as a team 👥§

Something you may notice is that the bootstrap rules start with a bug:

  • At the beginning of every turn, the player must pickup a card from the face-down pile.
  • And the lose condition is if the next player can’t play within the current rules.
  • So once the face-down pile runs out, the next player can’t play, and you lose.

So if you want to survive, you must change the rules to accommodate for this.

How? Well that’s up to you!

Observations on playing the Made Up Game 🔍§

Having played the Made Up Game a few times, every game is unique, no game is ever the same.

Here are some example styles of rules I’ve seen:

(More examples)

Card games ♠️§

Since we’re using a deck of cards, why not bring in typical card game rules?

For example:

If a player plays a card of the same suit as the previous card played, then the next player must draw 2 more cards on their turn.

Story games 👑§

What if we used the cards to tell stories?

For example:

After you play a card, you tell a story about your card. Face cards are individuals and number cards are groups.

Stack games 🥪§

What if we made something from these face-up and face-down piles of cards?

For example:

  • Each player can play a card anywhere to create a new face-up pile.
  • Each player can draw a card from any available face-down pile.

Combat games ⚔§

Feeling too collaborative? Why not add in a combat system to the game?

Each player has 10 “health points”.

What is a “health point”? How do we lose “health points”? What happens if we run out of “health points”?

I don’t know, I don’t make the rules, that’s for you to decide in future rules.

Cursed games 👻§

Feeling too normal? Why not bring in the occult?

If you play an odd card, that pile becomes “cursed”.

What does “cursed” even mean? Shrug, that’s for you to decide as you play with more rules.

Anything is possible in the Made Up Game ✨§

There’s no limit to what rule changes are allowed, so really any game using cards as props is possible.

Think: strategy, role-playing, adventure, solitaire, shedding, trick-taking, matching, deck-building, and more.

How might you introduce a rule from another game into the Made Up Game?

More rule-changing games 📚§

Nomic ⚖️§

Since the Made Up Game, some internet friends introduced me to “Nomic”, a rule changing game created in 1982.

Nomic is a game in which changing the rules is a move. In that respect it differs from almost every other game. The primary activity of Nomic is proposing changes in the rules, debating the wisdom of changing them in that way, voting on the changes, deciding what can and cannot be done afterwards, and doing it. Even this core of the game, of course, can be changed.

  • Peter Suber, The Paradox of Self-Amendment

We tried playing a game of Nomic together online, but we didn’t get too far. This was only my limited experience, but the rules felt more serious and bureaucratic. I don’t get joy from being a rule lawyer, I like to be more silly and loose with my rule playing.

I’m happy Nomic exists and maybe I should try again with a different starter culture.

If I play again, I want some fun lunacy with my rules, for example:

  • Introduce celestial bodies as a foundation for “magic”, starting with the moon.
  • Moonlight somehow determines how much “magical power” that players have access to.
  • Create an arbitrary and artificial tension between players where some players have more “magical power” when the moon is brighter and some players have more “magical power” when the moon is darker.
  • Create a cooperative challenge where every cycle of the moon causes the moon to be closer, slowly increasing the environment of “magical power” to dangerous levels.

🌕 🌖 🌗 🌘 🌑 🌒 🌓 🌔

The Counting Game 🔢§

After playing the Made Up Game for some time, I later made a more casual rule-changing game based on a drinking game, which I call the “Counting Game”.

TODO: Link to a post about the Counting Game.

Good luck! 🙏§

Thanks for reading!

If you do play the Made Up Game: good luck and have fun!

Please contribute anything you learn to ahdinosaur/made-up-game.