3stica

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INTRO

3Stica ("Threestica") is a quick little abstract territory-based war game, being the unholy union of the original Gnostica rules (and, by extension, a Tarot deck), a set of FATE/Fudge dice, and a "3house" set of Looney Pyramids. The cards make up an oft-changing board, and players move Looney Pyramids around the board as minions. Every card has a power, and when a player has one of his pyramids on a card, he or she may use the power of that card through the minion. Players also have a hand of cards which allow them to use those powers through any of their minions. Cards are worth points while occupied, and the game ends when the deck is exhausted an agreed-upon number of times (once per player, for a normal game). Playing time: 15-30 minutes

REQUIRED EQUIPMENT

  • Between two and five lifeforms, near-sentient or better — opposable thumbs preferred
  • One turn marker, with two distinct sides (I use a large coin for this)
  • A 3House set of Looney Pyramids (each player takes one color)†
  • A deck of tarot or Gnostica cards (or 3stica cards: coming soon)‡
  • Fudge/FATE dice (minimum three, but preferably three per player)₮

    GLOSSARY

  • POWER -- A special effect each card has, detailed below.
  • MAJOR -- Black cards, with individual names and unique powers. Valued 1-28. (all major arcana, when played with a tarot deck)
  • MINOR -- White cards, with one of four generic powers (create, move, grow, or attack). Valued 1-14. (all four suits of minor arcana, when played with a tarot deck)
  • VALUE -- Both Major and Minor cards have a value in the top center of the card. Major cards are always higher-valued than Minor cards
  • PYRAMID -- Nine Looney Pyramid game pieces, three of each size and all of one color, per player. Sometimes pyramids are called ‘minions’
  • MINION -- Any of your pyramids on a card which is activated, or any pyramid allowed to act via other game effects, is a 'minion' for the current turn
  • TERRITORY -- Any card currently in play on the board is a territory; only three pyramids are allowed per territory
  • ORIENTATION -- A minion may point (laying on its side) in any four of the cardinal directions, or straight up (targeting its own territory)
  • TARGET -- The pyramid(s) or territory a minion is pointing to; a minion may only affect the pyramid/territory targeted, but a minion may always target itself, regardless of orientation.
  • WASTELAND -- The space at the outside edge of the current gameboard, one card wide (i.e., blank spaces)
  • VOID -- Any area more than a card's width away from the board (that is, past the wasteland). Remember — nothing lives in the void.
  • STASH -- The unplayed pyramids you have in reserve.
  • PIP -- The little dots embossed into the lower left-hand side of each pyramid face
  • PAWN -- One-pip Looney Pyramid (three per player)
  • DRONE -- Two-pip Looney Pyramid (three per player)
  • QUEEN -- Three-pip Looney Pyramid (three per player)
  • CREATE -- Add a new pawn to the board OR play a card to the board (Cups, when played with a tarot deck)
  • MOVE -- Move or push one pyramid for your minion's value OR push an empty/friendly territory (Rods/Wands, when played with a tarot deck)
  • GROW -- Replace a pyramid with one size larger OR replace a territory with one of greater value (Discs/Coins/Pentacles, when played with a tarot deck)
  • ATTACK -- Reduce target pyramid by the difference between rolls OR replace a territory with one of lesser value (Swords, when played with a tarot deck)

    SETUP

    Each player starts with a complete set of nine pyramids. Deal out five cards to each player, then tile nine cards face-up in a three-by-three grid. These are the first nine territories comprising the play area; place the remaining cards face down as the draw pile (leave room for discards).


    STARTING PLAYER

    To start the game, every player ‘bids’ a card at once. The player with the highest value Major card wins the bid; if nobody bid one, then the player with the highest value Minor card wins the bid. If there is still a tie, set aside the bid cards and repeat until someone wins the bid. The player to the right of the winner fills his hand to five from the bid cards, as does each player anticlockwise around the table. Finally, the winner claims the remaining card(s) and takes the first turn, with play proceeding clockwise.

    SCORING

    Your score is the total value of territory occupied solely by your pyramids: Major territories are each worth 2 points, while Minor ones are 1 point. Wastelands count for nothing.

    WINNING

    When the discard pile must be reshuffled, flip the turn marker; once the cards have been exhausted again, the players each take another turn, the game ends, and players take score. The player with the highest score wins the game.</.

    TURN ACTIONS

    On your turn, you must choose *ONE* of the following:

  • If you have no pyramids on the board, you must create a pawn in any empty territory or wasteland.
  • Activate a card on the board. All your pyramids on that card are minions this turn, and any one of them may use the power(s) of that card.
  • Play a card from your hand to the discard pile. All your pyramids on the board are "minions," and any of them may use the power(s) of that card.
  • Discard any, all, or none of your cards and take new cards from the draw pile until you have 5 cards in your hand.
  • Orient one pyramid.
  • Pass, ending your turn with no action taken.
    Then, give the turn marker to the next player, clockwise.

    MINOR CARD POWERS

    CREATE

    Add one of your pawns to the target territory, but only if there are fewer than three pyramids — of any ownership — in that territory already. It may be placed in any orientation. If no pawn is available in your stash, you may not create a new one on the board.

    Alternatively, create a territory by placing a Minor card from your hand into a targeted unoccupied (or friendly) wasteland. You may not create in the void — nothing lives in the void. Any pyramids on the target wasteland remain there in the same orientations, even though the territory under them has changed. If you don't have a Minor card in your hand, you cannot create a territory.

    MOVE

    Move the minion in the direction the minion is pointing, or push a target enemy pyramid in that same direction. It may be moved or pushed at least one space, up to as many spaces as the minion has pips. The moved pyramid may never end in a territory with three or more pyramids in it, nor may it end in the void. If the pyramid moved is yours, you may orient it; enemy pyramids retain orientation. Note that a minion standing upright may not use a move action.

    Alternatively, you may push a territory in the direction the minion is pointing, but only if the territory is not occupied by enemy pyramids. When a territory is pushed, all pyramids remain in their original space, with orientations intact. The territory may be pushed up to as many spaces as the minion has pips. The territory may be pushed through any space, but must land in an unoccupied (or friendly) wasteland. If a territory lands in a wasteland you control, place the territory under your pyramids. You may not push a territory into the void.

    GROW

    The target pyramid is replaced by the next size up of the same color. If it is yours, you may orient it, but not otherwise. If there isn't a pyramid of the next size up in the appropriate stash, you cannot take this action.

    Alternatively, you may grow the target unoccupied (or friendly) territory. Discard it and replace with one from your hand worth more than the original territory; thus, a Minor card can be grown into a Major territory, while any card may be replaced with a higher-value card of the same type. Any pyramids on the targeted space remain there, in the same orientations, even though the territory under them has changed. If you don't have an appropriate card in your hand, you cannot grow that territory.

    ATTACK

    Roll as many fudge/Fate dice as pips on the attacking and defending minion(s). If the defender's player rolls lower (each "+" is worth one, each "-" is worth negative one, and a blank side is worth nothing), they are reduced by the difference between rolls (if the attacker rolls 3, and the defender rolls 1, a queen would be reduced to a pawn). Any roll less than zero counts as zero, and if both rolls are equal, nothing happens. If the defender rolls a higher score than the attacker, they may shrink the attacker by one size; if any pyramid would be reduced below one pip, it is destroyed. If no pyramids of the correct size are in target player's stash, it shrinks to the next smaller one. Attacking pyramids roll one time per attack, and each defending pyramid rolls separately. Any minion may target itself without rolling and regardless of orientation; it may shrink itself by up to as many pips as it started the turn with. If you attack your pyramid in this manner, you may orient after shrinking.

    Alternatively, you may attack the target unoccupied (or friendly) territory. Discard the it and replace with one from your hand worth one less point than the original; thus, a Major card can be shrunk to a Minor territory and a Minor can be reduced to a wasteland. Any card may be replaced with a lower-value card of the same type. Any pyramids on the targeted space remain there, in the same orientations, even though the territory under them has changed, unless you destroy a territory and it leaves minions in the void (remember — nothing lives in the Void). If you don't have an appropriate card in your hand, you cannot use this action.

    MAJOR CARD POWERS

    When a Major card is played or activated, multiple actions may be taken by a single minion, or multiple minions may each take a single action. When playing Death, two different minions may attack, or one minion could attack twice; if Lovers is activated, one of your pyramids could move off of the Lovers and can still use Lovers' grow action, or a pyramid on Lovers could use move to push away one of your pyramids, and that minion could still use grow.
    Please note that you may not reverse the order of a Major card with two different powers — the Hanged Man is always an attack followed by trading hands, and never the other way around!

  • Fool: Turn over the next card from the draw pile and play it. Repeat once. As with all actions, using the powers of these cards is optional.
  • Magician: Use any Minor power.
  • Priestess: Discard any or none of your cards, draw your hand up to 5 cards, then discard and draw again.
  • Empress: Orient a minion and create, ignoring the normal limit of three pyramids in a space.
  • Emperor: Orient a minion and move, ignoring the normal limit of three pyramids in a space.
  • Hierophant: Replace the target pyramid with one of your own color, and then orient it. This may not be done if you do not have a pyramid of the same size in your stash.
  • Lovers: Move, then create.
  • Chariot: Move twice. If both move actions affect the same minion, it may pass through the void or through a territory that has three or more pyramids, but may not end there.
  • Strength: Grow twice. If both grow actions affect the same minion or territory, you may skip the intermediate step. For example, you may grow a pawn directly to a queen without a drone in your stash.
  • Hermit: Move a targeted pyramid to any empty territory or wasteland space on the board, or move a targeted territory to any wasteland on the board not occupied by enemy pyramids.
  • Fortune: Create. When used to create territory you may draw the new territory from the draw pile, rather than choosing it from your hand. This could potentially change a wasteland into a Major card if you are lucky.
  • Justice: Trade hands with the player who owns the pyramid that your minion is targeting; then attack.
  • Hanged Man: Move, then trade hands with the player who owns the pyramid that your minion is targeting.
  • Death: Attack twice. If these actions target the same territory, you may skip the intermediate step -- you may reduce a Major territory to a wasteland without playing a Minor card from your hand.
  • Temperance: Create twice.
  • Devil: Orient a target pyramid, even if it is not yours. Repeat two times.
  • Tower: Orient a minion, then attack. If used to reduce a territory, the new territory may come from anywhere in the discard pile OR your hand.
  • Star: Orient a minion, then grow. If used to grow a territory, the new territory may come from anywhere in the discard pile OR your hand.
  • Moon: Move (ignoring the normal three-pyramid limit), then attack.
  • Sun: Create, then grow. If these actions create & grow the same territory or minion, you may skip the intermediate step (see notes).
  • Judgement: Draw cards from anywhere in the discard pile into your hand, one card for each pip of the minion, and (if applicable) immediately discard back down to five cards.
  • World: Has the power of any Major territory on the board.

    NOTES

  • A pushed territory may have to rotate 90 degrees to fit the board's horizontal-vertical tile pattern; this has no in-game effect.
  • As a general rule, when you do something to one of your own minions, you may change its orientation; however, if you do something to an enemy's pyramid, you may not change its orientation.
  • All powers are optional. For example, you may choose to use Temperance for one create rather than two. You may play the Moon just to attack or just to move.
  • When the Star is played from your hand, it goes into the discard pile -- if you are growing a territory from a Minor to a Major card, you could grow it into the Star.
  • When you play Judgement from your hand, any of your minions could be the active minion, and you can use one of the draw actions to reclaim Judgement from the discards.
  • When you attack a territory with more than one pyramid in it, the attacker rolls one time, and each defending pyramid rolls against that number separately.
  • When you orient your own minion, its targets change -- an upright minion on the Devil could orient to target a nearby enemy, change that enemy's orientation, and orient itself again.
  • Yes, a minion using the Sun can place a Major territory in a targeted wasteland without first creating a Minor territory. Similarly, you can create a Drone without a pawn in your stash.

    †A "3HOUSE" set is three Looney Pyramid stash sets. If you already have your own pyramids, you need three of each size of one color, per player.
    ‡Originally, Gnostica was played with a Tarot deck; if playing 3stica with them, Cups = create, Rods/Wands = move, Discs/Coins/Pentacles = grow, and Swords = attack. My thanks to Andrew Looney for his Pyramids, John Cooper for his original Gnostica rules, and this fine designer for being the main inspiration behind this game.
    ₮Fudge dice are six-sided dice with 1:3 odds of getting each symbol: a plus (+), a minus (-), and a blank face. Anything with identical odds — like a deck of cards with one suit removed, three chips in a bag, et cetera — may be substituted.