From Ludocity
Designer: Kevan Davis; developed with Minkette, Tassos Stevens, Holly Gramazio and Crabapple at a Coney Playday.
Year: unknown
Players: 6-20.
Stuff required: Printed cards; printed sheets; envelopes; ribbons.
Crew required: One.
Preparation: Envelope-stuffing.
Time required: Half an hour.
Place required: A large outdoor area, with places to hide small things.
Activities: Finding, trading.
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?)

A game of scavenging and bartering in a post-apocalyptic economy.

Setting up

Prepare a deck of around 40 cards - as listed below - to represent the items that the players will find and barter.

Prepare 20 handouts - as described below - which define the characters' identities and the objects they're trying to collect, summarise the rules, and have a clear map of the playing area. (If you're feeling dramatic, mark some apocalyptic hazards to explain the boundaries, or to give hints as to where items might be found.)

Fill 20 envelopes with 1 handout and 1 card each (the character section suggests a range of starting cards which are of no use to the owner, but thematically appropriate), and a ribbon for each player to wear around their arm so that the players can spot one another to initiate trades.

Hide the remaining cards around the playing area before the game starts. (If you can, try to hide them in loosely appropriate locations - the petrol can near some parked cars, the hacksaw stuck to a tree, etc. It gives players a small reward for creative "now, where would I find a petrol can?" thinking, and helps to strengthen the real-world post-apocalypse theme.)

Player instructions

As a survivor in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, you need to scavenge and specialise to survive. In your envelopes are your identity, a map of the area, a ribbon to wear on your arm, and an item card that you're carrying but don't really need.

Scattered around the wasteland are twenty other item cards, dropped or stuck within plain view - all of these cards, and the card you're carrying, are worth 1 point at the end of the game. However, your character sheet lists four items which are of particular interest to you in your professional capacity - these will help you make your mark on this collapsing society, and will be worth a greater number of points to you at the end of the game.

If you meet other survivors out there, identifiable by the ribbons on your arms, you can trade cards so that you both get something you want. After a while, when all the easy-to-find cards have been picked up, it's worth focusing on trading to track down the items you really need.

In half an hour's time, night falls, and you must all return here. The player with the highest total score will be in the strongest position to make a bid for power in this post-apocalyptic city, and will win the game.

Item cards

A few item cards.

Basic items:

  • Bellows, Binoculars, Boots, Box of Matches, Coin, Encyclopaedia, Glass Bottle, Goggles, Hacksaw, Helmet, Jaw Bone, Knife, Lab Coat, Live Chicken, Loudhailer, Lump of Chalk, Map, Microscope, Morphine, Needle, Newspaper, Notebook, Paintbrush, Petrol Can, Pickaxe, Plastic Netting, Rags, Scrap Metal, Screwdriver, Seeds, Spade, String, Telescope, Tin of Beans, Tin of Soup, Tin of Syrup.

Special items, with their effect explained on the card:

  • Gun ("The gun starts with two bullets. If you're in conversation with another player, you can fire the gun at them by tearing a corner off of this card. Your target must then give you a card at random from their hand (if they have any cards).")
  • Tin Opener ("If you've got the Tin Opener, all tinned food items you're carrying are worth 2 points to you at the end of the game.")
  • Lockbox ("If you have both the Lockbox and the Key, you can take them back to the game moderator to receive the contents of the box. (It might be empty if someone else got there first.)")
  • Key ("There's another item out there that needs a key. That card has instructions on how to use the key on it.")
  • Diary Entry / Note / Radio (These give some sort of clue towards finding a high-value-to-somebody card which has been hidden a little more thoroughly than the rest. The clue cards still count as 1 point in themselves.)

In the games run at the ICA, the Lockbox contained the Gun and a random other item and was hidden in a location described by the Radio, and the Live Chicken was well-concealed at a location described in a Diary Entry. To balance this, the Cook and the Soldier (whose 5-point items were the Chicken and Gun) were given a small bonus; the Cook had an automatic tin-opening ability, and the Soldier got bonus points for any bullets remaining in the gun.


The "Doctor" character sheet, with a map of the post-apocalyptic ICA area, from Sandpit #10.

Artist: Your latest piece is nearing completion. If you can gather the final few materials you need, your masterwork will surely do wonders for survivor morale.

  • Starts with: Tin of Syrup
  • Requires: Lump of Chalk (5) Notebook (4) Paintbrush (3) String (2)

Astronomer: By studying the skyline and the heavens, you hope to reassemble some understanding of the city's place in the world and its calendar.

  • Starts with: String
  • Requires: Telescope (5) Notebook (4) Map of London (3) Encyclopaedia (2)

Beekeeper: Your bees provide the survivors with a little honey, but they also keep the crops alive. With more colony collapses on the wind, you need to strengthen your hives.

  • Starts with: Packet of Seeds
  • Requires: Plastic Netting (5) Tin of Syrup (4) Box of Matches (3) Bellows (2)

Brewer: Most people in a post-apocalyptic world could use a drink, or a swab of medicinal alcohol. With a few more containers and filters, you could double your output.

  • Starts with: Box of Matches
  • Requires: Glass Bottle (5) Petrol Can (4) Tin of Syrup (3) Rags (2)

Builder: You've been gradually renovating the buildings around the Mall, and giving survivors somewhere to call home. Your current plans require a few more tools.

  • Starts with: Paintbrush
  • Requires: Hacksaw (5) Pickaxe (4) Spade (3) Helmet (2)

Cook: It takes skill to make something healthy from meagre crops and looted junk food. If you had a few more ingredients, the other survivors would appreciate your work more.

  • Starts with: Jawbone
  • Requires: Live Chicken (5) Box of Matches (4) Knife (3) Any tinned food (2 per tin)

Doctor: Your impromptu surgery has been running low on tools and supplies since the last outbreak, and the survivors are feeling the consequences. You need to restock.

  • Starts with: Microscope
  • Requires: Morphine (5) Knife (4) Hacksaw (3) Lab Coat (2)

Explorer: The survivors can't just scavenge from this same patch of rubble forever - they need to look further afield, into the wider city, and maybe even out into the wasteland beyond. You should be the one to scout it out.

  • Starts with: Coin
  • Requires: Map of London (5) Binoculars (4) Boots (3) Telescope (2)

Engineer: It takes a lot of work to keep the survivors supplied with heat and light; if you can complete the current round of repairs, society will thank you for it.

  • Starts with: Goggles
  • Requires: Scrap Metal (5) Screwdriver (4) Bellows (3) Hacksaw (2)

Fisher: The lake is polluted, but you've found a few clear streams running in from the north. With a little equipment, you could bring the survivors a whole new food source.

  • Starts with: Binoculars
  • Requires: Needle (5) String (4) Plastic Netting (3) Knife (2)

Gardener: You keep the survivors supplied with the fruit and vegetables you can coax from the soil here. If you could expand your operations a little, you're sure life would be easier for everyone.

  • Starts with: Boots
  • Requires: Spade (5) Live Chicken (4) Packet of Seeds (3) String (2)

Historian: Only by looking to the past, can we hope to understand the future. Finding out what happened here is fundamental to the future of this small society.

  • Starts with: Notebook
  • Requires: Newspaper (5) Map of London (4) Encyclopaedia (3) Coin (2)

Motorist: You've managed to get one of the old petrol-driven cars running again. You just need a few more things, and you can take it for a spin across the city.

  • Starts with: Helmet
  • Requires: Petrol Can (5) Scrap Metal (4) Map of London (3) Goggles (2)

Mystic: You've seen what's going on. You know the truth. You know how it ends. You just need to hone your visions, spread the word, and the survivors will be saved.

  • Starts with: Lump of Chalk
  • Requires: Loudhailer (5) Morphine (4) Goggles (3) Jaw Bone (2)

Prospector: There's a lot of useful material to be found in the strata of the rubble, and you've heard rumours of vast tunnels underground, if only you can dig that far.

  • Starts with: Scrap Metal
  • Requires: Pickaxe (5) Spade (4) Helmet (3) Box of Matches (2)

Ratcatcher: Rats were always a problem, but as nature reclaims the city, distant wildlife is also returning. If you can scale up your operations to rabbit or even deer, the other survivors would see you in a whole new light.

  • Starts with: Spade
  • Requires: Knife (5) Gun (4) Hacksaw (3) Binoculars (2)

Scientist: You're investigating the pollution in the lake to the south. With a little more research, you could design a filtration system and win the respect of the other survivors.

  • Starts with: Glass Bottle
  • Requires: Microscope (5) Lab Coat (4) Encyclopaedia (3) Goggles (2)

Soldier: The Mall needs to be defended from rival factions beyond the arch, and you're the only one here with the training to maintain the peace.

  • Starts with: Knife
  • Requires: Gun (5, +2 bonus for each bullet remaining) Helmet (4) Binoculars (3) Boots (2)

Teacher: Everybody needs to be taught how to survive. If you can get a classroom together, the survivors will thank you for improving their lives.

  • Starts with: Needle
  • Requires: Encyclopaedia (5) Lump of Chalk (4) Loudhailer (3) Notebook (2)

Tailor: Very few clothes were designed to be worn for this long, or in these harsh conditions. Your repairs help maintain the wider fabric of the Mall's society.

  • Starts with: Plastic Netting
  • Requires: Rags (5) Needle (4) String (3) Knife (2)

Play history

Rubble started as an unfinished card game design in 2007, and was revived during brainstorming at a Coney playday. It ran at Sandpit #10 in April 2009, along the ruined Mall outside the ICA in London.

Brendan Adkins ran the game in Seattle at Go Play Northwest in 2009, extended to run in the background of other events for a day and a half.


Americanized and location-neutral PDF copies of game materials are available online: character sheets (warning, 40Mb file) and item cards, including a page of blank cards and a page of card backs.