- The rules to Dvorak are also available in Russian, German, Slovak, Polish and in French.
- An older version of this page is archived here.
This is how a game of Dvorak works. You can either start with a deck of cards that somebody else has made (we've got lots of them archived on this site), or you can start with a pile of blank cards and build a new deck from scratch.
Dvorak is played entirely with cards, and there are just two types of card - Things and Actions. When you play a Thing card, it goes onto the table in front of you and stays there, usually having a useful effect while it remains in play; when you play an Action card, it does whatever it does and goes to a discard pile.
Take the deck of cards (if you're making up a new game, you need to make these cards first), shuffle it, and deal five cards to each player (which they hold in their hand where other players can't see). The rest of the cards go in the middle of the table as a face-down draw pile, and whenever a card is discarded or destroyed, it goes into a face-up discard pile.
Starting with a random player, you take turns in order. A turn consists of:-
- Drawing the top card from the draw pile. (If the draw pile's empty, shuffle the discard pile and turn it over to make a new draw pile.)
- Playing up to two cards from your hand. You can play one Thing and one Action per turn (or just one of those, or no cards at all).
- Checking your hand size; if you have more than five cards, discard down to five.
The game continues until somebody meets whatever victory condition the deck has. (Some decks have fixed victory conditions, while others have them written on a card - "when you play this card, you win the game if...")
Making a deck
If you're making a new deck from scratch, you need to prepare an initial set cards before the game begins. Take a pile of about forty blank cards (more if you have a lot of players), and distribute it amongst the players.
Before you start creating the cards, decide whether you want to have a theme to the game or not, and whether it needs a fixed victory condition ("If you have five pirates or ninjas in play, and none of the other type, you win!") or one that you can write on one or more of the cards ("If you have more than seven building cards on the table when you play this card, you win.").
Players can then start creating cards, writing them up (with or without a picture) and throwing them into the middle of the table. To get a good sized deck, try to get nine or ten cards from everyone. A useful way to easily distinguish Things from Actions is to have two coloured marker pens, and to underline the card titles in different colours.
Each player has absolute veto power over the cards being created - if you see something that you don't like, for whatever reason, pick the card out and see what everyone else thinks. A card only makes it into the actual game if everyone is happy with it.
When you're done, you've got a deck of cards - you can now play a game with it, as described above.
Adding and changing cards
You can also add new cards to the game while it's being played - again, just write it up and throw it onto the table. If nobody wants to veto it, it gets shuffled into the draw pile.
If you want to remove a card from the game or just change the wording of it (maybe because it's too powerful, or because it clashes ambiguously with another card), then announce your intention and see what the other players think. If nobody objects, then you can remove or change the card.
Regular players might like to agree on a basic structure for the game, when making a new deck, so that the final game is a bit more honed.
If you agree to restrict the nature of what Things can and can't represent ("absolutely every Thing in this deck is either a monkey, or a piece of food"), or decide what variables like "number of cards in hand" mean in the game world ("cards in hand are analogous to 'money'"), then you'll automatically get more card synergy, and a lot of card juxtapositions that are funny while still making sense. It's also much easier to write cards, if you know roughly what sort of stuff is going to be out there, and agreeing on clear subtypes for Things lets you make cards that only affect those things.
Over the years, the game has developed a few extra, optional rules to cover the sorts of mechanics that tend to come up a lot. Adopt or adapt them if they seem useful.
A lot of the archived Dvorak decks use consistent terminology like "discard" and "destroy", which allow cards to be written more concisely. It's easier to say "opponent discards a card" instead of "a player other than you discards a card from their hand", if everybody knows what "opponent" and "discard" mean.
You're encouraged to make up your own jargon, but there's a glossary of the terms we tend to use on the site.
"Special rules" are additions to the basic game rules to give the game a bit more depth. Rules like "each player starts with twenty hit points and you're out of the game at zero", so that people can make cards that say "every player loses 5 hit points" or "you gain 10 hit points" without having to define what hit points are on every card.
If you want to add a special rule to the game, suggest it in the same way as a card - if everyone's in favour, it gets added.
One of the early Dvorak decks included a Thing that said "Each turn, instead of playing an Action card, you may destroy a Thing." - the player who controlled it could skip playing an Action card during a turn, to trigger a special effect from the Thing.
This became so widely used that a shorthand developed for it. Instead of writing "Each turn, instead of playing an Action card...", a card would just say "Action:" - whatever's after the colon is what you get to do instead of playing an Action card from your hand.
This is called an "action ability", and still counts as an Action for the purposes any other cards that affect or react to Actions being played.
Playing cards onto other cards
If you like, you can specify that some Thing cards can be played "onto" other Thing cards to give them some sort of bonus or penalty (like armour, or equipment, or a brain-sucking alien). A useful rule for these is that if the Thing it was played onto is destroyed or otherwise leaves play, the Thing that was played onto it is destroyed.
Although it's possible to make a normal Dvorak deck where two different 'sides' are in conflict (as in the Day of the Triffids deck), such games either have to be vague (players aren't forced to pick a side, and can change and mix allegiances as much as they like) or include redundancy (players are forced to choose a side at the start of the game, and the other side's cards are useless to them except as discard-fodder).
A more effective way to create such a game is to have separate decks, each deck focusing solely on that side.
Multi-deck Dvorak is played in the same way as normal Dvorak, except that:
- Each player has their own draw and discard pile.
- When a card is destroyed or discarded, it is sent to the discard pile of the player whose deck it came from.
If playing creatively, new cards are created as normal, going into the creator's deck by default. You can still veto other player's cards, but in this case it might be more useful to resolve disputes by creating a similar card for your own deck - "if you can have something that destroys all my aliens, I'm going to have something that makes you discard your entire hand".
The Dvorak framework has been used to make collectible card games - these typically have a lot of special rules, and involve the group creation of a single, agreed card pool from which players can then build their own custom decks.
One Dvorak player has developed some Physical Challenge rules, which define a lot of additional terms for use in games, especially those which involve one or more of the following concepts: Unit, Character, Terrain, Building, Resource, Effect, Attack, Defense, Response, etc.