Start by ensuring the cards are separated into Penguin and Action decks, as indicated by the card backs. Thoroughly shuffle both separately and deal three cards from each to all players. Finally, using your preferred method, give each player five “health” points.
Place the decks facedown in the middle of the table. During play, cards will often get discarded. Keep discarded cards separate and face up for each deck. Players may not look through or change the order of either discard pile, unless a card tells you to do so. When a deck runs out of cards, shuffle its discard pile, replace the exhausted deck and continue the game.
Decide amongst yourselves who’s going first. This can be by dice roll; extreme rock, paper, scissors; who owns the game… whatever, be creative!
At the start of each player’s turn and before anything else, players must draw two cards from the Penguin and/or Action decks. The combination is personal choice. That is, you could take two Penguin cards, two Action cards, or one of each.
Once you’ve drawn, your turn has officially begun. During, you can play as many cards as you wish from your hand, against as many players as you want. You’re not required to play cards or attack, doing nothing is still something and is perfectly valid… for cowards!
Players may have no more than eight cards in hand at the end of their turn; extras must be either used, or discarded. Life’s hard in Pentarctica and Penguins must stand on their own, so gifting cards to others is forbidden unless expressly stated otherwise.
Penguins Cards: are used to attack and defend. The numbers at the bottom are the Penguin’s attack and health, and Penguin vs. Penguin combat is decided by these, e.g. if your 5 – 8 Penguin fought a 4 – 5, yours would win, and the enemy defeated should be discarded. But, if that same 5 – 8 fought an 8 – 5, both would be defeated.
Combat damage always goes both ways and a Penguin is defeated when its health equals zero. A player can attack a single target with multiple Penguins within the same turn for stackable damage to defeat tougher foes. But, damage still goes both ways and each Penguin takes full damage from the enemy.
Penguins cannot attack the same turn they’re played unless stated otherwise and must wait until their next turn to initiate combat.
At the start of each turn, all Penguins in play return to full health. Finally, Penguins cannot be removed from the game once they’re played, except through defeat.
Weapon cards exist to aid your Penguins in combat by boosting attack power. They can only be equipped during your turn, unless stated otherwise.
Any Weapon can equip to any Penguin giving a boost by the indicated amount, e.g. a 5 Weapon equipped to a 5 – 8 would make effectively a 10 – 8. Only one Weapon can be equipped at a time, but can be equipped alongside Armour for a further boost.
Armour Cards: work the same as Weapons except Armour boosts health while Weapons boost attack.
Weapons and Armour: can be equipped to a Penguin immediately upon being played, and players can choose to take them back into their hand during their turn. However, they cannot be removed once used to attack with, and you must wait till your next turn to transfer or withdraw.
Weapons and Armour match uniquely to one Penguin (Each states which) and if you make a combo that Weapon or Armour becomes worth double its value.
Finally, when a Penguin receives fatal damage that would normally result in defeat, if it has a Weapon or Armour equipped this can be discarded to avoid defeat in a single instance.
Trinket Cards: play directly on you as a player, and can be used the turn they’re equipped. They are immune to combat and cannot be destroyed unless specifically targeted by a card.
A player can only have one active at a time and can choose to swap for another any time during their turn, provided they haven’t used it. Once activated, a Trinket cannot be removed from the game by its owner, until their next turn.
Finally, like Weapons and Armour, Trinkets have a bonus effect that can be used if a combo is made. This secondary effect can only be used if the owner also owns the combining Penguin, and it’s in play.
Curse Cards: appear in both Penguin and Action decks for equal number and are to be played the moment they’re drawn for an immediate effect, with only two exceptions.
A Curse goes to your hand: if you drew it in your opening hand, or if a card specifically tells you to keep any play when drawn cards. In both events, Curses become Instants to be played at the discretion of their owner. They can be played on anyone at any time. However, keep in mind most Curses affect everyone, this means you too!
Spell Cards: can only be used during their owner’s turn, and only after the draw. The effect of each should be dictated by the card’s instruction. Each is unique; there are no duplicates, and each has the full effect clearly on the card.
Each Spell also has a secondary effect that can be activated if the correct combo is made. Unlike equipment however, this secondary effect can be used if the combining Penguin is active anywhere in the game, even when owned by an opponent. So always be on the lookout for combo opportunities!
Instant Cards: play in the same way as Spells, with one difference. Instants, as the name suggests, can be played at any time; be this before another player’s turn, during combat, or even the moment you’re defeated.
The effect of Instants happen in the order they’re played, i.e. playing an Instant does not mean its effect happens before the effect of another Instant played prior, unless expressly stated. In situations of confusion all players should discuss amongst themselves and proceed with majority rules.
Winning a game is easy… in principle. All you have to do is reduce every other player’s points to zero while defending your own. Reducing player’s points is achieved in a number of ways.
If you have a Penguin in play during your turn and your opponent doesn’t, you can attack your opponent directly, and in doing so remove one point from their total. A Penguin’s attack only ever removes one point regardless of their power. This point is gone from the game unless stated otherwise.
Some cards allow you to steal points from other players and add them to your own in a multitude of ways. Cards for stealing points are mostly in the Action deck, and cards for removing points in the Penguin deck. However, there are exceptions. Rule specifics for exceptions will be on the card.
When a player hits zero points, don’t assume they’re out, quite the opposite! Once reduced to zero they can no longer win the game; but now get the chance to prevent their nemesis from winning by becoming a Rogue.
Upon defeat players discard their hand and any Trinkets they have; their turn is now over. On their next turn they become a Rogue, and no longer draw cards from the Action deck and must discard any Trinkets drawn. Rogues still draw two cards at the start of their turn, but only from the Penguin Deck.
All Penguins drawn by a Rogue go automatically into play, and any Weapons or Armour drawn are equipped to these Penguins. Weapons and Armour are discarded if drawn by Rogues with no Penguins.
Unlike other players, Penguins summoned by a Rogue can attack the turn they’re played. However, Rogues must first attack any other Penguins currently in play before they can attack points directly. Rogues, like other players, can choose not to attack. Finally, Curses drawn by Rogues happen in the standard way and affect all players as normal.
Penguin Brawl is fully customisable and has been designed so each character is part of a unique set. The set a card belongs to is identified by the number in the top left, e.g. Merguin is #015; and if you were to find every card marked #015, all would relate to Merguin.
So if you didn’t like Merguin, or any cards in his set, you can remove all #015 cards from your game decks and presto: problem solved! However, when playing in standard mode removing complete sets is not advised as games should be played with a minimum of 120 cards.
This is where expansions come into play. Standard mode supports up to 240 cards, which, could consist of the 120 cards from the base game and up to 120 cards from expansions. Cards from the original 120 are not required in a game of Penguin Brawl when playing with expansions; however, they do make a good starting point.
Be aware when adding or removing cards; entire sets should remain together and splitting will cause balance issues. Curses don’t belong to a set and can be replaced at will. Finally, beyond the 240 card limit for standard mode, games should be played in Penguins Gone Wild mode.
Head to Head (2 Players)
Playing a two-player game is a simple matter of altering a few basic mechanics as follows:
- Double player’s starting points from 5 to 10.
- Double cards drawn of each turn to 4.
- All Curses go directly into player’s hands for the duration of the game, and are now effectively Instants.
Penguins Gone Wild (9+ Players)
For games of 9+ players, or when playing with more than 240 cards, game play mechanics should be altered as follows:
- Starting hand increases from 6 cards to 8.
- Maximum hand size is increased from 8 to 10.
- Players can only have up to 10 points at any one time.
- Rogues only draw 1 card per turn.