I Want My 1000 Blank White Cards


A few weeks ago an old gaming buddy of mine was in town. He introduced me to a game that literally blew my mind. The game is called 1000 Blank White Cards (or 1KBWC). It was invented in Boston by Nathan McQuillen and has since spread its undergroundish way around the world.

A few weeks ago an old gaming buddy of mine was in town. He introduced me to a game that literally blew my mind. The game is called 1000 Blank White Cards (or 1KBWC). It was invented in Boston by Nathan McQuillen and has since spread its undergroundish way around the world. Here's the story of how 1KBWC was invented, taken from Nathan's Site:

"THE STORY, if anybody is remotely interested, is extremely simple. I was sitting at the Cafe one day, musing, staring off into space, across the room, past the booth, where a woman sat making flash cards. As my no doubt fatigued, caffeinated brain tried to find some good or wholesome thing to cling to, it lit instead on the wording on her box of cards. It read, 1000 BLANK WHITE CARDS. I read it as the GAME of 1000 Blank White Cards, and therein was born..."

The rules of 1KBWC are simple: each player draws five cards to start. On each player's turn, they may draw a card and play a card (often on top of another card). That's it. The game has no defined rules for limiting how cards are played, how points are scored or how someone wins. Play is guided entirely by the players' imaginations. The only theoretical end to the game is the 1000 card limit posited in the name. Here's why I love 1KBWC:

  • It's incredibly simple. You can explain it to anyone in two sentences (they may not get it, but hey, you can only supply the rules, not the imagination).
  • By its very nature it's free and open. The idea of trying to sell 1KBWC as a product is ridiculous. To my mind this takes us back to the very root of what gaming is all about.
  • It plays with the imagination. Let's face it: if you don't got it, you shouldn't be gaming.

I suggested a game of 1KBWC to a group of friends, confirmed non-gamers all, and it was a smashing success. By the end of the evening everyone was making up rules, drawing their own cards and having a generally fun time (maybe the multiple Long Island Ice Teas had something to do with it).

One of the cool things about 1KBWC is that cards are created out of the players' twisted imaginations. For example, "Pissed on by a holy man (+1000)" is one of the cards in the original set. Decks grow and evolve over time and each group has its own unique deck. There's also a random card server.

But I couldn't just play a few games and let it lie, no, I had to try and create a 1KBWC-like game of my own.

At the time, I was moving out of my old apartment and my computer was in a number of boxes, so a 1KBWC computer game was out of the question. What I did have, was about a dozen long boxes of Magic: The Gathering, Dune CCG and way too many other card games that none of my friends play anymore. I decided these would be the raw materials for my game. In my game each player brings a constructed deck of 40-400 cards taken from any mix of games they please. This is also where my game gets its name. Being the creative sort I am, I called my game "Mix" (for the record, my wife wanted to call it "Pastiche". She brings the vocabulary to the relationship).

I wanted a 1KBWC-like feel, so I decided to retain all the rules of 1KBWC. Players draw five to start. On each player's turn they may draw a card and play a card. Like 1KBWC, Mix is best played in a group of 3-6 people. Now in my opinion, that's a game, but some of my gaming friends wanted more structure. They wanted some guidelines to settle the inevitable disputes. With this requirement in mind, I added some house rules. These rules are considered completely optional and mutable depending on the taste and needs of the players.

We wanted a game where cards kept the feel they had in their game of origon, but one where they could interact with cards from other games in interesting ways (after all, who can resist a Lanowar Elf armed with a lightsaber?). House rule 1 is that all cards retain the abilities they have in their native game.

This still leaves us needing a way to resolve interactions between cards from different games. House rule 2 is a suggestion to solve this. All interactions between cards will be solved by the text on the cards. If the text offers no solution, then the pictures may be used. This is important if you're using art cards or Everway story cards, which don't have text on them. If the pictures don't offer an obvious solution, then the card with the most support takes precedence over the card with less support. Here's what I mean by support: a card gets one support for each card played on it. This means our Lanowar Elf card with a lightsaber card played on it has one support and would beat any card with no cards played on it (zero support). Simple, eh?

Finally we need a way for someone to win the game. A lot of ideas were suggested by my friends, but none of them seemed to be quite right, so we decided to leave this open. You can win a game of ""Mix" using the victory conditions of any game whose cards you are using. This means you can win by applying a good old fashioned Magic-style beatdown, building an unbeatable Illuminati power structure or, possibly, getting a royal straight flush. Figure something out.

One of the biggest opportunities offered by Mix is in the deck building. Because you can play a card (any card) from you hand each turn "for free", decks from games like Magic play even better in Mix than in Magic. Some crazy combos are also possible using cards whose text has generic terms like "location" or "hero". A Babylon 5 CCG card that allows you to fetch a "location" from your deck is a great way to get powerful Illuminati cards like "Texas" and "New York" into play. And I don't even want to think what happens when you put Trivial Pursuit cards or properties from a Monopoly game into your deck.

Mix is definitely a beer and pretzels game as opposed to a serious tournament game. You've got to be ready to play fast and loose. If you're getting into lots of disputes, I suggest you let all the players vote on the interpretation of any card in dispute. If you take the additional step of letting player create rules by vote or otherwise while the game is being played, Mix could even evolve into a self-modifying game in the style of Nomic. There are lots of ways to expand on the basic rules. Have fun!

I've had quite a bit of fun creating decks for this game. You can get quite a bit of enjoyable synergy mixing games. For example, we're using the Catherine Sakai card from the Babylon 5 CCG. This card lets you pull a "location" from your deck. We're using it to pull powerful Illuminati cards like "Texas" as well as Magic lands and so on. One of our funniest decks is nicknamed "Boy Crazy Fight Club". We found this awful game called Boy Crazy. It's basically collectable teen heart-throb cards for girls. We combine these with WWF Raw attack cards. The result can be quite devastating.

I'd like to hear anyone's suggestions for decks as well as for ways to improve the gameplay of Mix.

This sounds like Calvinball. Before Calvin & Hobbes even existed though my friends and I were playing our own similar games involving a cheap pink rubber ball about the size of a fist and an ordinary brick wall. Granted, we had more rules but they were all created from scratch.

That's awesome! I never thought of the Calvinball connection, but it's so true!

Sadly, I think you have now missed the entire point of 1KBWC. ;)

I think I know what I'm doing this weekend....going out and buying index cards for a jungle juice and beer game of 1KBWC :)

Hmm, I came up with a game last year which seems to be a blend of 1KBWC and Nomic, although I wasn't aware of the former at the time. Starting with a load of blank cards, players create new ones to fit a very loose game structure, and vote on whether to include them in the deck or not. You start playing as soon as you've got a dozen or so cards made, and continue to add, amend and remove cards as appropriate.

It's proven quite nice at creating original, themed card games - notable ones to date have included Frankenstein, Time Travel, Mornington Crescent, Roman Politics, the film "Cube" and All Of Your Base Are Belong To Us...

Details, rules and an archive of previous decks can be found at http://uncertain.org/~kevan/dvorak, anyway. And it's playable online via a MUSH thing, if anyone's interested.

Last year or so, Pyramid featured something similar called Card: The Game. I'm sure it's in their archives if you're a subscriber...

I just checked out your Dvorak page very quickly. It looks like a cool idea. I'm going to take a closer look later.

Wow.. I had nearly the exact same idea about random stuff on notecards.. although my version has instructions on the notecards.. sort of a "truth or dare" version. I eventually modified it by adding a board and some colored tokens to create a boardgame, but the original version of XAOS! (the name of my game) entailed only a pack of notecards, a penny, and a sheet of paper.

I am a game design hobbyist with at least twenty good games of various types (ie board, card, computer, RPG, etc) games "in the works" at any given time.. still not sure which to try to publish first... *sigh*.. ah the woes of genius.

Heh.. the Calvinball comments reminds me of "Guerilla Ball", a game we played when we were kids.

Basically, there was a field with a goal line at either end. And a ball. And whatever the hell else was lying in the yard at the time (rakes, bats, other balls, snowmen in winter, squirtguns, etc). It could be played in teams or every man for himself. The object? To cross the goal lines as many times as possible while holding the ball. If you made one goal, just turn around and head for the other one. If you came into posession of the ball in the middle of the field, you had to head for the farthest line to score. That was it. And ANYTHING was legal. Hit the ball to a teammate with a shovel? No problem. Knock the ball from an opponent's grip with a well placed blast of the garden hose? Okay. Wait in ambush behind the garage? Cool.

We had many hours of fun with that game. A lot of the strategy depended on what ball we were using that game. Sometimes a football, sometimes a whiffle ball, or a basketball, or a soccer ball. We even played once with a water balloon.

We made up endless variants of the game. "Rocketball", "Combat Ball", etc. Ask if you want to know the rules.. but they were all fun.

I'm gonna shut up now.

First off, hey, thanks all for the votes of appreciation. I'm just sitting here, did the periodic Google search for my little game, and apparently it's just getting more exposure. Damn fine.

Just a few comments and clarifications: one, I'm not from Boston, the game wasn't invented in Boston, and my feelings, for that matter, about Boston as a whole are mixed at best. It /was/ invented (as you can probably glean at the above linked site, so long as my old ISP keeps it about, or ultimately at http://steaky.dhs.org/ once I get everything moved) at the late lamented Cafe Palms, once part of Madison, Wisconsin's favorite night spot, and now a bit of ash and foundation stone covered by crappy quick-mart.

BWC, if it's more than the product of a momentary snap decision and a fecund social climate, descends from two sources: a game called "rules" (has other names - check your local philosophy undergrads) played by the Madison goth scene for a while (basically, get a notebook, take turns defining the rules of the game on successive lines -- also of course much like the human-language variants on Turing instructions in Gödel Escher Bach); and a game called (nod to Pratchett) "Cripple Mister Onion", played like a fun version of the game of Mix above - just dump all the games in the closet on the floor and run with it. That, honestly, probably had a little to do with Calvinball, although it and Watterson's strip were pretty contemporaneous. We only played Cripple Mister Onion a few times.

Anyway -- again, it's great to see the attention the game is receiving, and keep playing. Just remember, the whole point is that it's totally open ended. The only way I've been able to explain the "rules" is as follows: any card played should be able to change the game rules, parameters, and experience in any way provided it complies with, or breaks in interesting and specific ways, the existing rules in play. All the rest is commentary...

So get to a copy shop and cut up some index cards ASAP (or email me and I'll send you a "deck" of BWC cards for five bucks or something -- I'm working right now as a graphic designer at a printing collective, and have endless supplies of cardstock etc. -- I could even make custom signed decks or some crap if you really want to piss me off... ;) )

Pies! Pies! Pies!!!

- n.

Hiya Nathan, glad you read my article. Thanks for the correction. Gotta be a little more careful on my fact checking!

From the BWC mailing list: "at http://www.virelai.net/cards/ --
an ongoing, monthly BWC game in Seattle." Awesome stuff.

Some more notes from the mailing list:

"I'm just popping in here to inform fans of 1kBWC that I have a new page up about it. The main page is at http://www.geocities.com/nconner23/bwcards.html - This is a slightly different version from what you may be used to; I added some extra guidelines (I hesitate to call them 'rules', since we keep breaking them) that give the game a bit more of that card game feel. You can see some sample cards from our games, too."

Looks like the Dvorak card game has gotten itself a new page at http://www.dvorakgame.co.uk - lots of new decks, too.

For anyone who wants to meet other 1KBWC players (or those who would like to try out the game) check out this meetup site: http://1kbwc.meetup.com/

Real fun game... My version has these rules:

-Players take turns drawing cards.
-Some cards are kept on the field if they allow you to play it later or if the card is passive. There are cards that effect everybody that we put in the middle, and cards that one person keeps or only effects that one person, which are kept by the person in question.
-The player that gets to or over 1000 points wins.
-If you reach the bottom of the pile, shuffle and redraw.