Hand to Hand

Hand to Hand

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Hand to Hand
Designer: Kevan Davis
Players: 10-30.
Stuff required: One or more decks of playing cards with stickers, or printed index cards.
Crew required: One.
Preparation: An hour or so to customise and print the cards.
Time required: Half an hour or more.
Place required: Any large, explorable area with places to hide.
Activities: Chasing, hiding, strategy.
This is a playable game - it's finished, tested and ready to play.
This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

Every player is dealt a hand of five cards, each with its own ability to defeat others, or to change the rules of the game. Hunt down other players, lay traps and distractions, gang up or split up, run or hide, and do everything you can to build up your hand.

Setup instructions

Prepare a deck of cards. Each card has some effect text on it, so it's worth printing them out - you'll can either print straight onto cardboard, or onto labels which you can then stick onto blank cards (or playing cards). When this game was run at Hide and Seek, we used printed labels and three decks of playing cards (sticking "Attack" cards onto reds and "Defend" cards onto blacks).

The actual cards are available in the handouts section, and a plain text list of them will be edited into this article at a later date. Some example cards, though:

  • Attack: Pickpocket - Look at your opponent's hand and steal a card of your choice from it.
  • Attack: Mudlark - You may only play this card if you're carrying a stick or a stone that you've picked up off the ground. Take a random card from your opponent's hand.
  • Defend: Teleport - Name a place on the South Bank. You must both walk there, and can't issue further duel challenges until you're there.
  • Defend: Mirror - This counts as a copy of the card your opponent played, if any. (It still counts as a DEFEND card.)

The game at Hide and Seek 2008 used 168 cards, and was an equal mix of ATTACK and DEFEND cards. There were three or four copies of a lot of the cards, and only one or two of the weirder and more complicated ones.

You'll have to customise the cards to fit your environment - several of the cards from the Hide and Seek game made reference to the area around the Southbank Centre (or required players to stand on grass or mud, or stand under a roof). You'll also need to decide on a "safe zone" around the starting area - this is an area in which players can't challenge one another (to avoid any unfair ambushes at the end of the game).

Player instructions

Each player starts with a hand of cards, and will spread out around the South Bank area. You'll need to find one another and fight duels to win more cards. Whoever has the most cards at the end is the winner.

You must keep your cards visible in your hand at all times, so that other players can spot you. You mustn't stray too far from the South Bank - you cannot cross any roads, even if you're being chased.


If you see another player, you can approach them and challenge them to a duel by holding a card out, face down, and saying "I challenge you to a duel". (If they make a run for it, you must chase them down and tag them; once you're tagged, you have to stop and fight the duel.)

In a duel, the challenger will have already chosen a card from their hand, and will be holding it out face down. The victim may either choose one of their own cards to play in response, or surrender. When the victim has made their choice, both players reveal the cards that they selected:-

If one player played an ATTACK card and the other played a DEFEND card, then the DEFEND card wins. The person who played the DEFEND card enforces its instructions, and the ATTACK card has no effect. Both players keep the cards that were played onto them.

If both players played an ATTACK, or both played a DEFEND, then both cards take effect. Each player enforces the instructions on the card that they played, and they then hand the card to their opponent.

If the victim surrendered, the challenger enforces the instruction on their card, then gives that card to the victim.

Nobody leaves empty-handed. If, after a duel, one of the two players has no cards left, then the other player must give them a card from their own hand, to keep them in the game.

You can't start a duel inside the safe zone. And you can't challenge the same player to a duel twice in a row; you must challenge someone else first and then come back. If your opponent challenges you straight back, though, you can challenge them straight back after that.

An example duel

Alice plays Swipe (an ATTACK card that reads “Take a card at random from your opponent's hand.”) and Bob plays Freeze (a DEFEND card that says “Your opponent must stand absolutely still for the next three minutes.”). A DEFEND beats an ATTACK, so Bob's card takes effect, and Alice has to stand still for three minutes. Alice's card was beaten, and has no effect. Alice takes and keeps the Freeze card, and Bob takes the Swipe card and walks victoriously away, leaving Alice frozen.


At the end of the allotted game time, you must return to where the game started. Whoever has the most cards in their hand at the end of the game is the winner.


Handout thumbnail for Hand to hand
Download Hand to hand
A zip archive of rules and cards in Word format, to be edited and printed.

We used the Remington Riviera and Carnivalee Freakshow shareware fonts for these handouts, but any distinct pair of fonts (or the same font in two colours) will work.

Play history

Hand to Hand ran at Hide and Seek 2008.