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Pips: Original Playing Card and Dice Games


Players:  2 or more (best with 2-4)
Average Duration:
60 minutes - 4x4 (standard) game with 2 players
90 minutes - 4x4 (standard) game with 3 players
120 minutes - 4x4 (standard) game with 4 players
30 minutes - 3x3 game with 2 players
120 minutes - 5x5 game with 2 players
150 minutes - 5x5 game with 3 players
180 minutes - 5x5 game with 4 players
*  2 decks of cards
*  one set of 15-20 dice per player (each set distinguishable from the others)
OR two dice and 100 poker chips per player (again, each set distinguishable from the others)
Object: To maneuver armies through a playfield of cards and conquer the armies of the other players.

The Deal

With one deck of cards, deal the playfield by dealing four rows of four cards each, face up. Kings and queens are not allowed on the playfield, so if any come up, set them aside and replace them with different cards. (Note: for a longer game, or with 4 or more people, a 5x5 playfield is recommended. With just two people, a shorter but less dynamic game can be accomplished with a 3x3 playfield.) Place the first card vertically and, as you complete the row, alternate between horizontal and vertical cards. Start the second row with a horizontal card, the third with a vertical, and so on. The resulting playfield should look something like this:

Place the rest of this deck aside, out of play. Place the second deck in a stock pile, face down, next to the playfield.

The Play

Each card on the playfield represents a territory that can be held by a player's armies. Initially, all territories are unoccupied; the object of the game is to occupy all territories simultaneously. As soon as this happens, at any point in the game, the game is over and that player is the winner.

Occupation of a territory is indicated when dice (or poker chips) are played on top of a card. If a die showing a 5 is placed on top of a card, that means that five armies, belonging to the player with that color dice, is occupying the territory. If more than 6 armies are present, multiple dice can be used to represent this. Only one player can occupy one territory (card) at any given time.

The rank of the card determines how naturally strategic it is. The strength of an occupied territory is the rank of the card (with aces counting as 1 and jacks counting as 11) plus the number of armies on it. With one exception given later, the strength of a territory cannot exceed 13; so an occupied jack cannot normally have more than two armies on it, while an ace can have up to 12.

Players take turns, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, and continuing clockwise. A turn consists of three stages, which must be performed in order, although any or all of the stages may be skipped. Initially, only the third stage is possible, so the first turns of each player will consist of only the third stage. Because of this, you may which to skip down to the instructions for stage 3 and come back to read the instructions for stages 1 and 2 afterward.

Stage 1: Attacking

The orientation of the cards indicate what attack patterns are possible. Armies on a card can only attack out of the narrow end of a card. So armies on a vertical card can attack the cards directly above it and directly below it, but not the cards to the right and left. In the example layout above, an attack from the three of clubs can be launched to the two of hearts, but not vice versa; similarly, the ten of spades and the eight of diamonds can both attack the three of clubs, but not vice versa.

If a player has any armies that are capable of attacking territories occupied by another player (you can't attack unoccupied territories), then that player may choose to attack on his turn. If he does, he turns over the first card of the stock pile and places it face up in a discard pile. (If the stock pile ever gets exhausted, the discard pile is reshuffled and used to replenish it.) After a card has been turned, the player is obligated to attack at least once on his turn (unless a mistake was made and no attacks are actually possible; in that event, just ignore the flipped card).

The turned card indicates a strategic advantage or disadvantage that lasts for the duration of that player's turn, no matter how many times he attacks during that turn. If the card is anything but a king or queen, it changes the overall strength of the cards on the playfield that have the same rank. Playfield cards of the same color increase in strength by two, while playfield cards of opposite color decrease in strength by two. For example, if the ace of hearts is turned, then territories denoted by red aces on the playfield increase in strength by two, while those denoted by black aces decrease in strength by two.

If a queen is turned, all territories of the same color increase in strength by one; territories of the opposite color are unaffected.

If a king is turned, no territories are affected; if the king is a red one, the attacking player is immediately granted one army to deploy on any territory he currently occupies. In this instance only, the army may be deployed on a territory that already has a strength of 13, thereby increasing its strength to 14. If the strength of this card is subsequently decreased to 13 or below through the normal course of play, it cannot be raised to 14 again except by another red king. Also, a red king cannot be used to add an army to a territory that already has a strength of 14.

If a black king is turned, the attacking player must remove one of his armies from the playfield. If this means removing the only army from an occupied territory, so be it: that territory then becomes unoccupied.

At this point, the attacking player commences an attack. He does so by indicating which territory is attacking which (saying something like, "Attacking from the jack to the seven," is usually sufficiently unambiguous), and then, as a courtesy, he indicates his advantage or disadvantage. He does this by calculating the strength of his attacking territory and comparing it to the strength of the defending territory. For example, if the attacking territory is a jack with two armies (strength 13) and the defending territory is a seven with four armies (strength 11), the attacker has an advantage of two. So he says, "Attacking from the jack to the seven, advantage two." But if the jack had one army (strength 12) and the seven had six armies (strength 13), he would say, "Attacking from the jack to the seven, disadvantage one." If the strengths of the territories are even, he says, "Attacking from the jack to the seven, even odds."

(Note that the turned card must be taken into consideration when determining advantage. If the turned card is a red jack, and the attacking territory is a red jack with two armies (strength 15), and the defending territory is a seven with four armies (strength 11), that's an advantage of four.)

After the statement of attack is made, each player rolls two dice. The attacker looks at his roll, adds his advantage (or subtracts his disadvantage), and says this number. The defender then reports his dice roll. For example, if an attacker with advantage two rolls an eight, he reports ten. But if he has a disadvantage of two and rolls an eight, he reports six. The defender simply reports whatever he rolls.

If the attacker's number is the same as the defender's number, nothing happens, and that round of attack is over.

If the attacker's number is higher than the defender's, he wins the round of the battle, and the defender loses, from his territory, the difference of the numbers. So if the attacker rolls an eight with advantage two (making ten), and the defender rolls a seven, then the defender loses three armies.

If the defender's number is higher, the attacker loses the difference. So if the attacker rolls an eight with advantage two (making ten), and the defender rolls a twelve, the attacker loses two armies. If a player loses by more armies than he has to give up, there is no additional penalty beyond losing all armies on the territory.

If either the attacker or defender loses all his armies, the territory is conquered, and the winner -- whether attacker or defender -- must choose then and there whether or not to move into the conquered territory. If the winner chooses to do so, he can move any or all of the armies in the winning territory into the conquered territory. If he moves all armies in, of course, he loses ownership of the evacuated territory. Obviously the victor may not move in so many armies that the conquered territory exceeds a strength of 13. If the attacker conquers a jack, for example, he can't move more than two armies into it, regardless of how many armies he was attacking with.

After the round of attack has concluded -- and whatever the outcome -- the attacking player can choose whether to engage in another round of attack or continue to stage two of his turn. There is no limit to the amount of attacking a player can do on his turn except considerations of what constitutes legal attacks in the first place.

Stage 2: Advancing Armies

If a player owns adjacent territories (horizontally or vertically but not diagonally, and regardless of the orientation of the territories), then he may choose, if he wishes, to shift armies from one to the other. Care must be taken not to shift armies such that the strength of a territory (card rank plus number of armies) exceeds 13. It is permissible to evacuate a territory entirely by moving all its armies to an adjacent territory, but it is more common that at least one army be left behind, to retain ownership of the territory.

On a player's turn, only one movement of armies between one pair of adjacent territories can occur. Once the movement has been executed, stage two of the player's turn is over.

Stage 3: Deploying Armies

Players can deploy armies to their own territories or unoccupied territories, but not on territories occupied by other players. A player may deploy armies in stage 3 of his turn unless all territories on the playfield are either full (strength 13) or occupied by other players.

To deploy, the player simply rolls two dice. The number on the dice shows the maximum card rank that can be deployed upon. For example, if the player rolls a seven, he can deploy armies on a card of rank seven or below. Jacks count 11, so to deploy on a jack, one must roll either an 11 or a 12. It is possible that a dice roll will be too low to permit any legal deployment to happen: for example, if there are no cards that rank four or below that are not occupied by other players, and the dice roll is a four, the player cannot deploy any armies, and his turn is over.

To determine how many armies can be deployed, the player looks at the numbers underneath the two dice: the highest number is the number of armies that can be deployed. So if a player rolled a six and a three (the numbers underneath being one and four, respectively), then he can deploy up to four armies on a card of rank nine (six plus three) or less. The armies must be deployed to the same territory: each player can only deploy onto one territory per turn.

After deployment, play passes to the player on the left.


The game ends whenever one player simultaneously occupies all territories on the playfield. Because this game can potentially last a long time, players may want to agree to a time limit: whoever occupies the most territories by a certain time wins; comparing the number of armies can be used to break ties.

Note that in a game of three or more players, it is possible for one player to lose all his armies, all territories being occupied by the other players, and still be in the game! He can't do anything on his turn until when and if a territory becomes unoccupied, but at that point he can try to deploy onto that newly unoccupied territory and get back into the game that way. However, it is perfectly acceptable (but not expected) for a player to resign after he has lost all his armies and territories.

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