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Unstable Unicorns How to Play Guide

2 -8 players

30 – 45 mins

Age: 14 +

Check out our easy to read Unstable Unicorns Rules Guide.

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What is the goal?

The objective of Unstable Unicorns is to be the first player to collect 7 unicorns.

If playing with 6 – 8 players: Only 6 unicorns are required.

Table of Contents

Game setup 

  • 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 would like to use) together.
  • Deal 5 cards to each player.
  • Place the remaining stack of cards face-down in the centre of the table. This stack is your deck.
  • Leave space for a discard pile next to your deck. This is where you will place cards that have been sacrificed, destroyed or discarded during the duration of the game.
  • Each player must choose a Baby Unicorn card and place it in their Stable. This is the play area in front of them.
  • Place remaining Baby Unicorn cards in a stack on the table. This will be the Nursery.
  • Any Baby Unicorn cards that are not in a player’s Stable are always placed back in the Nursery, never your added to your hand, the deck or the discard pile.
  • Each player must also take a rule reference card.
  • The first player to go first is whoever is wearing the most colours!

Gameplay

unstable-unicorns

The Turn:

Each turn is made up of 4 phases. Players take turns in a clockwise direction.

The 4 Phases:

 Beginning of Turn Phase:
Activate any triggered card effects.
 
Draw Phase:
Draw a card from the deck.
 
Action Phase:
Play 1 card or draw 1 more card from the deck.
 
End of Turn Phase:
If you are holding more than 7 cards, discard down to the hand limit.

The Important Terms:

Stable: The play area in front of you 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 which players draw from during the game. This may include any black-backed cards from any expansion packs.
Discard Pile: The stack of black-backed cards which have been sacrificed, destroyed or discarded during the game.
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 used for Unicorn, Upgrade and Downgrade cards.
Steal: Move a card from any other player’s table in to your own.
 

The Types of Cards:

There are 5 types of cards in the game.
 
unicorn-card

Unicorn Cards have a horn symbol in the top left hand corner.
This card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed. You need to collect Unicorns in your stable to win the game.

Unicorn cards come in 3 flavours:

baby-unicorn

Baby Unicorn cards have a purple corner. Each player starts with a Baby Unicorn card. The only way to bring more Baby Unicorn cards into your hand is through a special effect from another card as they are kept in the Nursery and are never in any player’s hand.

basic-unicorn

Basic Unicorn cards have an Indigo corner. They don’t have any special effects.

magical-unicorn

Magical Unicorn cards have a blue corner and each one has an effect that can give you an advantage in the game.

magic
Magic Cards have a one-time effect. If you play one on you r turn, immediately move it into the discard pile.
downgrade
You can add a Downgrade Card to another player's stable to impose negative effects on that player. You can also technically add one 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
Upgrade Cards grant positive effects when placed in any player's Stable. An upgrade card stays in a player's Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed.
instant
Instant Cards are the only cards that don't have to be played on your turn. In this deck, Instant cards are Neigh cards which can be played any time another player plays a card. Any number of Instant cards can be chained during a single turn,

Ending the Game:

How do you win at Unstable Unicorns?

The first person to collect:

  • for 2 – 5 Players: 7 Unicorns, wins.
  • for 6 – 8 Players: 6 Unicorns, wins.
Each unicorn card counts for One Unicorn unless otherwise stated.

If the deck runs out of cards before any player reaches a winning number, the player with the most Unicorns wins.

If two or more players tie for the most Unicorns, 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 letters, everyone loses.

Advanced Rules & Clarifications:

 

Cards in your hand vs. Cards in your Stable:
Unicorn , Upgrade and Downgrade cards’ effects’ are only active when they are in your Stable and have no effect when in your hand.

Entering and Leaving your Stable:
Each time you play, Steal or bring a Unicorn into your Stable, it counts as “Entering your Stable“.
Each time a Unicorn card is sacrificed, destroyed or stolen, it counts as “Leaving your Stable“.

Mandatory vs. Optional Effects:

Some effects are mandatory, for example, “Discard a card” while others are optional. For example, “You may Steal a Unicorn“.

  • If a card doesn’t use the word “may“, you can assume it is mandatory.
You may not use an optional effect on a card that states “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn” if you forget to use it before you draw a card during your draw phase.
If the effect is mandatory, you must still do it if you or another player notices that you did not use that 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.
This means that if one card tells you to immediately end your turn after using this 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 in their hand, you cannot Neigh a card effect.
For example, you cannot use a Neigh card to stop the effect, “If this card is in your stable at the beginning of your turn, Destroy a Unicorn card.
 
Player Targeting:
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 any single player, including you.
 
Choosing Targets for Effects:
There are two play styles for player targeting that can be used in this game:
  • OPTION 1 (EASY): When you play a card with an effect you must declare which player/s you are targeting prior to 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 prior to you selecting your 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. 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 to Sacrifice a card, you can use that card to get rid of a Downgrade card in your Stable.
 
Card Effects with Multiple Actions:
Card effects that require multiple actions are sometimes separated by “then”. 
For example: “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. In the example above, if you do not have a Unicorn card to sacrifice, you may not draw a card.
 
Impossible Actions:
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 occurs, disregard that action. 
Examples include;
Discarding when you have no cards in your hand.
Sacrificing a card when you have no cards in your Stable.
Sacrificing a card that cannot be sacrificed.

2 Player Unstable Unicorn Rules:

If you are playing with 2 players, make the following modifications prior to starting:

Remove the following cards from the deck and place them into the game box as they will not be used in the 2 player version of the game:

  • All Basic Unicorns
  • Queen Bee Unicorn
  • Seductive Unicorn
  • Rainbow Unicorn
  • Nanny Cam
  • Sadistic Ritual
  • Slowdown
  • Yay!
  • Mother Goose Unicorn
  • Necromancer 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.
  • 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 per normal.

How do you win?

Win by being the first person to collect 7 unicorns in a 2-5 player game, or 6 unicorns in a 6-8 player game.

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