Back in the early days of Collectible Card Games, InQuest magazine came up with something called "Ultimate Chaos", where each player played a different card game. They played every game on the market against each other, and it sounded like a lot of fun. Inspired by those articles, my playing group tried it several times, and based on those experiences, I came up with the following rules (or perhaps "guidelines" would be a better word) to make the game work more smoothly. They are based around the pretense that the game is a conflict between entities of Chaos who are more interested in amusement than actual victory.
The heart of the rules are 1) a set of guidelines for figuring out how to apply cards from one game to another, 2) a victory point mechanic that gives points for doing interesting things as well as successful things, and 3) a mechanism for getting cards from each game into the hands of other players to improve the odds of amusing interactions. I guess you can judge for yourself whether this worked or not. You'll note that the examples focus on On the Edge, Feng Shui, Illuminati, and Star Wars. Not surprisingly, those were the games we played most often.
Rules of Engagement for Lords of Chaos, by Priority
I. Ignorance: Ignorance of another player’s rules is the ultimate defense, at least once or twice. Any move which would have been stupid if the appropriate rules were known may be retracted, at least until the other players get annoyed.
II. Variation: No player will be restricted in a current game to a rules arrangement decided upon in a previous game. Alternate arguments may always be advanced.
III. Roles: Players are players, cards are cards. Any effect which targets cards in its native game does so under any other rules, and any effect which targets players in its native game does so in any other rules.
IV. Specificity: Any effect which uses a specific Rules Term (defined as a concept defined within the rulebooks for the game) applies against any matching specific Rules Term under other rules. Matching requires that the Term be used as the same part of speech; i.e. Turn as a unit of time does not match Turn as something which is done to cards.
V. Attack Flexibility: The active player may make attacks under his choice of any rules sets directly involved in the attack.
VI. Homology: Effects by game A on game B should be resolved using the closest possible game mechanic in game B
VII. Reality Bubbles: Cards and players are affected by combat and global effects under their own rules, applying Specificity and Homology independently of other cards and players.
VIII. Filling Holes: When there is no appropriate matching point between two games, attempt to use the mechanic from the acting game as directly as possible in the subject game.
IX. Suspension of Disbelief: A combination of events should still be allowed even if it seems silly (such as a foot soldier attacking a space ship) if there is no rule which can be raised against it.
- Alter-Edge (On the Edge) reads “all non-Astrals suffer -2 Power”. Reality Bubbles says that the effect on each card must be considered separately. By Specificity, a Star Destroyer (Star Wars) suffers a -2 Power, but does not suffer a reduction in Armor, even though by Homology Armor would be considered as DP by the On the Edge player. Shadowfist, on the other hand, has a Specific term “Power”, but since that is a player characteristic, and Alter-Edge affects cards, we drop back to Homology, and Shadowfist characters suffer -2 Fighting, since Fighting is the closest match to Power. Again using Homology, however, any Shadowfist Magic character would count as Astral, and would not suffer the penalty.
- Star Wars wants to play Presence of the Force, which adds one force icon to each side of a location, against Illuminati, which has Japan, the Boy Sprouts, and the central Illuminati card in play (UFOs, for the sake of argument). Based on Homology, Star Wars can only play the card on Japan, since a Place is the closest match to a “location”. However, Illuminati doesn’t have a Homologue for Activating Force so by Filling Holes Illuminati activates Force as identified in the Star Wars rules, and may use it as appropriate, including picking up the card at the end of each turn, Using it to activate captured Star Wars cards, etc. Shadowfist, on the other hand, has the concept of generating Power, and Homology would suggest using those rules for activating Force.
- On the Edge declares an attack against a Star Wars Star Destroyer. While under Star Wars rules the attacking character should have to be at the same location, On the Edge invokes Attack Flexibility and uses his own targeting rules. This means that the Star Destroyer, which is guarding Tatooine, is a first rank card, and may be attacked (any passengers would probably be second rank). Shadowfist indicates a desire to send along aid; since On the Edge doesn’t have rules for this, Filling Holes declares it legal under Shadowfist rules. Each attacker sends one character (though Shadowfist could send more). Under Reality Bubbles:
Were the Star Wars player able to draw Destiny, the attacking side would be faced with the problem of Attrition. This would fall under a combination of Filling Holes and Homology: since On the Edge has no rules for Attrition-type damage (only On the Edge matters by the first consideration), apply the Star Wars rules as closely as possible; since the subject of Attrition determines what gets whacked, On the Edge argues that by Homology, the number in the lower left of the card is the Attrition value, and applies the Attrition to the Shadowfist character. Shadowfist points out that the character isn’t worth enough Attrition to cover the loss, so On the Edge, the original attacker, is forced to discard (Homologous to Lose) enough cards to cover the remaining Attrition loss.
- Star Wars is faced by two attackers. Under its rules, she (by Homology) adds the Shadowfist character’s Fighting to the On the Edge character’s Attack Power and compares the total to the Star Destroyer’s Power. If the attacking total is greater, the difference is suffered as Battle Damage normally (i.e. Forfeit or Force loss).
- By Homology, On the Edge is involved in a Gang Up attack. This doesn’t mean much, but does place the assistance in context. Under the On the Edge rules, he (by Homology) compares his character’s Attack Power with the Star Destroyer’s Armor. If the Armor is greater or equal, the attacking character is killed.
- The Shadowfist character takes damage equal to (by Homology) the Power of the Star Destroyer.
- Shadowfist uses his White Disciple to do 2 points of damage to the same Star Destroyer listed above. Since Star Wars has no Homologue for ongoing damage, Filling Holes argues that the Star Destroyer gains two damage counters, handled as indicated in the Shadowfist rules. However, since damage in Shadowfist reduces Fighting, not Power, the Star Destroyer will be unaffected, except when fighting a Shadowfist card, in which case (by Reality Bubbles) the Shadowfist card will treat the Star Destroyer’s Power as Fighting, and thus the damage counters will apply in that circumstance. At no point could the Star Destroyer be destroyed by these damage counters, however.
Scoring for Ultimate Chaos
There are several ways to score points in a game of Ultimate Chaos.
1. Nomination: Any player may receive a point if another player nominates them and it is seconded by a third player. Nomination is encouraged for suitably twisted applications of game logic, witty card play, and general elegance in the midst of anarchy.
2. Eliminating the Competition: A player receives 2 points for knocking another player out of the game. In addition, a player receives 1 point for being the last player in the game.
3. Achieving Native Victory Conditions: There are several categories of Victory Conditions:
In the event a game used in Ultimate Chaos does not have victory conditions which fall into one of these categories, the player must submit to the other players an alternate system for scoring points.
- Isolated victory conditions are those which can be achieved without interacting with other players, such as accumulating Influence (On the Edge), controlling 13 Groups (Illuminati), or swaying 10 Population markers (Kult). A player fulfilling an isolated victory condition receive 3 points. These points may only be received once for each victory condition.
- Conquest/survival victory conditions are those which require the player be the last one standing, either by conquering all of the others or being the last one not destroyed by some other means. A player with conquest/survival victory conditions receives 1 point every time a player is eliminated by any means.
- Theft/Bodycount victory conditions are those which require a player to achieve smaller victories against opponents without necessarily removing them from play, such as killing 25 points worth of opponents’ warriors (Doomtrooper) or stealing 7 Agenda points from your opponent (Runner victory conditions from Netrunner). Each time a player meets a Theft/Bodycount victory condition, they receive 2 points. These points may be received multiple times.
4. Achieving Adopted Victory Conditions: Under some circumstances (generally involving Filling Holes), a player may be able to meet the victory conditions of another game. This is worth 1 bonus point plus the listed value in section 3, and may often be grounds for Nomination.
5. The Power of Chaos
5A. In all the Confusion...: Whenever a player takes an action which significantly but amusingly confuses things, they may nominate themselves for 1 point.
5B. The Jumpin’ Jesus Phenomenon: Whenever three or more players become involved in a single sequence of actions, every player involved receives 1 point. (If 6 or more Lords should be insane enough to play at once, this should be changed to "more than three players")
If all players agree before the game, a player may “borrow” some portion of another player’s rules at any time, but must pay one point to the “lending” player
The Eye of Chaos
An optional amusement which may be introduced into Ultimate Chaos is the Eye of Chaos. The Eye increases the volume of card exchanges within the game, improving the odds of unusual card combinations, and generally raising the confusion level.
Forming the Eye of Chaos: After all Lords and Ladies of Chaos have performed the setup for their respective games, each draws two cards at random from their decks. These cards, plus a standard playing card Joker, are then shuffled together to form the Eye. Players with games that use two or more decks may choose cards for the Eye from whichever deck or decks they desire.
Basic Use of the Eye: On each player’s turn, he must place one card from his hand at the bottom of the Eye and replace it with the top card of the Eye. This may be done at any time during the turn.
The Joker : When a player draws the Joker, he may exchange it at any time for a single card from his own deck or discard pile, or from the discard pile of any other player. When used, or at the end of the turn if it is not used, the Joker must be shuffled back into the Eye.
Note that drawing cards directly from the Eye (rather than trading them in) is discouraged under these rules in order to prevent games such as Battletech and Star Wars from using the Eye to increase the supply of Force they have available. However, when a player does something which is supposed to have that effect (such as recovering Lost Force), use of the Eye should be allowed.
- Any time a player discards a card he may choose to place it at the bottom of the Eye. Cards which are “removed from the game” may not be placed in the Eye. If multiple cards are sent to the Eye at the same time, shuffle them before placing them under the Eye.
- At any time during his turn, a player may choose to shuffle his hand into the Eye, and draw a full starting hand of cards from his own deck. This may only be done once each turn.
- Any action a player may take which would affect another player’s deck or discard pile may be applied to the Eye.
- Players may not examine the cards in the Eye without an excuse.
- Any time a player is able to exchange cards in play or cards from his hand for cards from his own deck or discard pile, he may choose to draw the replacement cards from the Eye. Ex: a Lord playing Magic: the Gathering casting Transmute Artifact may substitute an artifact he has in play for an “artifact” from the Eye, rather than one from his deck.