Unstable Unicorns is a strategic card game that combines elements of both luck and skill. The goal of the game is to be the first player to collect a stable of 7 unicorns. To do this, players take turns playing cards that allow them to acquire new unicorns, hinder their opponents, or protect their own stable of unicorns. It’s important to go over Unstable Unicorns’ rules and gameplay ahead of time, at least for one or two players.
The game is easy to learn, but difficult to master. It features a unique blend of strategy and luck that keeps players on their toes and makes each game different from the last. The game is meant for players of 14 and above ,and can be played with 2-8 players, and typically takes 30-45 minutes to complete a round.
The game is known for its humor and colorful art style, and it is often compared to other popular card games like Magic: The Gathering and Dominion. The theme of unicorns and the humor makes it a game that can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages and interests.
One of the most interesting aspect of the game is the different types of unicorns that are available, each with their own unique abilities, these unicorns have a big role in the game play and can have a big impact on the outcome of the game, and make it more interesting as you have to figure out the best way to use them to your advantage.
Unstable Unicorns: Rules and Gameplay
Base Game Rules
How to Setup
To start, separate the Baby Unicorn cards and the reference cards from the black-backed cards in the box. Shuffle the black-backed cards (including any expansion cards you want to use) together, then deal 5 cards to each player. Place the remaining stack of cards face down in the center of the table; this stack is your deck. Leave space next to the deck for a discard pile, which is where you will place cards that have been sacrificed, destroyed, or discarded throughout the game.
Each player must choose a Baby Unicorn card and place it in their Stable, which is the play area in front of them. Place the remaining Baby Unicorn cards in a stack on the table; this stack is the Nursery. Baby Unicorn cards that are not in a player’s Stable are always placed back in the Nursery. They are never added to your hand, the deck, or the discard pile.
How to Play
Players take turns by going clockwise around the table. To carry out Unstable Unicorns, rules dictate that you carry out each turn as such: go through 4 phases.
- Beginning of Turn phase: If you have a card in your Stable with an effect that states, “If this card is in your Stable at the beginning of your turn,” its effect is triggered
during this phase.
- Draw phase: DRAW a card from the deck.
- Action phase: Take ONE of the following actions:
- Play a Unicorn card from your hand;
- Play a Magic card from your hand;
- Play a Downgrade card from your hand;
- Play an Upgrade card from your hand;
- DRAW a card from the deck.
- End of Turn phase: DISCARD until the number of cards in your handdoes not exceed the hand limit. The hand limit is 7 cards (unless otherwise stated).
- Stable: The play area in front of you in which Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards are played.
- Nursery: The stack of Baby Unicorn cards on the table.
- Deck: The stack of black-backed cards from which players DRAW during the game. This may include blackbacked cards from any of the expansion packs.
- Discard pile: The stack of black-backed cards that have been sacrificed, destroyed, or discarded during the game. Additionally, here are some common terms you’ll see on card effects:
- DRAW: Pull the top card of the deck and add it to your hand.
- DISCARD: Move a card from your hand to the discard pile.
- SACRIFICE: Move a card in your Stable to the discard pile. This term is used for Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards.
- DESTROY: Move a card from any other player’s Stable to the discard pile. This term is also used for Unicorn, Upgrade, and Downgrade cards.
- STEAL: Move a card from any other player’s Stable into your Stable.
Types of Cards
- Unicorn cards have a horn symbol in the top left corner. A Unicorn card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed. Collect Unicorns in your Stable to win the game!
- Baby Unicorn cards have a purple corner. Each player starts with a Baby Unicorn card. Since Baby Unicorn cards are kept in the Nursery and are never in any player’s hand, the only way to bring more Baby Unicorn cards into your Stable is through a special effect from another card.
- Basic Unicorn cards have an indigo corner. They don’t have any effects, but they might have a special place in your heart.
- Magical Unicorn cards have a blue corner. Each Magical Unicorn card has an effect that can give you an advantage in the game.
- Magic cards have a green corner with a star symbol. These cards have a one-time effect; if you play a Magic card on your turn, immediately move it to the discard pile.
- Downgrade cards have a yellow corner with a down arrow symbol. Add a Downgrade card to another player’s Stable to impose negative effects on that player. (Technically, you can add a Downgrade card to your own Stable, but you’ll rarely want to do this.) A Downgrade card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed.
- Upgrade cards have an orange corner with an up arrow symbol. These cards grant positive effects. You can play an Upgrade card in any player’s Stable. An Upgrade card stays in a player’s Stable until it is sacrificed or destroyed.
- Instant cards have a red corner with an exclamation point symbol. This is the only type of card that doesn’t have to be played on your turn. In this deck, the Instant cards are Neigh cards, which can be played any time any other player plays a card. Any number of Instant cards can be chained during a single turn.
How to Win
The first person to successfully collect the required number of Unicorns in their Stable wins! Each Unicorn card counts for one Unicorn (unless otherwise stated).
2 – 5 Players: 7 Unicorns to win
6 – 8 Players: 6 Unicorns to win
If the deck runs out of cards before any player reaches a winning number of Unicorns in their Stable, the player with the most Unicorns wins. If two or more players tie for the most Unicorns in their Stable, each tied player must add up the number of letters in the names of all the Unicorn cards in their Stable. The player with the most letters wins. If two or more players tie for the most Unicorns and the most letters, everyone loses. Ouch.
*If you are playing with 2 players, make sure to read the Unstable Unicorns 2-Player Rules section (below).
Unstable Unicorns: 2 Player Rules
If you are playing with 2 players, make the following modifications before you get started so that Unstable Unicorns rules are carried out correctly. If you forget to make these modifications, you may find the game to feel less balanced.
Remove these cards from the deck and place them in the game box. They will not be used in the 2-player version of the game:
- All Basic Unicorns
- Queen Bee Unicorn
- Seductive Unicorn
- Rainbow Unicorn
- Nanny Cam
- Sadistic Ritual
- Mother Goose Unicorn
- Necromancer Unicorn
If you are adding expansions to your game, you can find a comprehensive current list of cards to remove for a 2-player game at UnstableGames.com. Before shuffling the deck, take out two Neigh cards and hand one to each player. From there, you may shuffle the deck and deal 5 cards to each player (giving each player a total of 6 cards in their hand to start the game, including the Neigh card). Gameplay may now proceed normally!
Unstable Unicorns: 1 Player Rules
As described on the Unstable Unicorns wiki, there is a way to play as a single player. In Unstable Unicorns 1 Player Rules: Your goal is to DESTROY as many Unicorns as possible while avoiding off-limits Neigh cards hidden in the Hunting Grounds. Visit the wiki for more on that way of playing.
How and when do I play Neigh Cards?
Neigh cards are played only as another player is attempting to play a card from their hand. They cannot stop any effects of any card that has already been successfully played from a hand. Additionally, Neighs can be played to the instant pile until no one chooses to Neigh or someone plays a Neigh that points out that it cannot be Neighed. If someone attempts to play the Yay Upgrade card, it can be Neighed. If the Yay Upgrade card successfully makes it into a Stable, nothing that that player plays can be Neighed until the Yay is removed or destroyed.
Can I win if all my Unicorns are Pandas (or Otters, or Reindeer)?
No. Several Unstable Unicorns cards cause Unicorns to become a different animal or creature. These cards all work the same way, but have different themes based on the game expansion or edition. A player cannot win while any of these cards is in their Stable unless they have a Dragon’s Blessing Upgrade card in their Stable as well.
Current cards that follow this convention include:
- OTTER DEVASTATION
- HORSE SHIT
- OH, DEER
To understand how these effects work, you need to understand how the game counts Unicorns. When a Unicorn card enters a Stable, it is counted as a Unicorn. Unicorn cards outside of a Stable do not count as Unicorns. Certain Downgrade cards prevent the Unicorn card from being counted as a Unicorn as long as the Downgrade card is in effect in the Stable. Your Unicorn cards are no longer considered Unicorns, so anything that would affect Unicorns won’t affect your Unicorn cards. Note, however, that they are still considered Unicorn cards.
While this does not sound like much of a difference, it is a question that comes up, and it does affect some card reactions. Examples of card effects that would be immune to this effect are the Queen Bee Unicorn card and the Black Spot Downgrade card.
Do Unicorn cards that are other animals keep their triggered effects?
Yes. Despite no longer being Unicorns, Unicorn cards still have their usual triggered effects.
Can you return a Unicorn card to its original Stable after it is stolen to a Stable that changes it to a different animal?
No. Unicorn cards stolen into the Stable of someone with an active effect that changes the Unicorns to a different animal cannot be returned to the Stable they were stolen from, as they are no longer considered Unicorns.
What are the effects of the Blinding Light Downgrade card?
The Blinding Light Downgrade card’s effect text reads, “All of your Unicorn cards are considered Basic Unicorns with no effects.” Therefore, you can ignore all effect text on all Unicorn cards in your Stable, as well as any that enter your Stable, as long as the Blinding Light Downgrade card is in effect. This effect is continuous until the card is removed from the Stable, destroyed, or otherwise rendered ineffective. Blinding Light works on both Unicorn cards coming into the Stable and Unicorn cards already in the Stable.
How does Blinding Light interact with other card types?
- Baby Unicorn cards are immune to Blinding Light’s effect, as they can only exist in the Stable or Nursery (and never in your hand or the discard pile). They cannot otherwise be returned to your hand, destroyed, or sacrificed, as they would instead be returned to the Nursery.
- Blinding Light’s effect is continuous and is applied to any Unicorn card that is in your Stable, would be played into your Stable, or otherwise enters your Stable, regardless of source.
- Blinding Light’s effect applies before all Stable effects that would be triggered for cards entering your Stable and negates them.
- Blinding Light has no interaction with the Queen Bee Unicorn card. The Queen Bee Unicorn card states, “Basic Unicorn cards cannot enter any player’s Stable except yours.” Blinding Light specifies that your Unicorn cards are considered “Basic Unicorns” but not that they are considered “Basic Unicorn cards.” This is an important distinction— your Magical Unicorn cards are still considered Magical Unicorn cards that are Basic Unicorns. As such, these cards are not impacted by the Queen Bee Unicorn’s effect.
How does the Nanny Cam card affect Random Pull?
Nanny Cam removes secrecy from the player’s hand whose Stable it affects. Because of this, all other players using the Pull effect are granted the ability to choose a card instead when targeting the player under the Nanny Cam effect.
Unstable Unicorns Expansions
Unstable Unicorns has several expansion packs available. The expansions add new cards and mechanics to the base game, making it more challenging and adding more replayability. Some of the expansions include:
- Unstable Unicorns: NSFW
- Unstable Unicorns: Rainbow Apocalypse
- Unstable Unicorns: Nightmares
- Unstable Unicorns: Dragons
- Unstable Unicorns: Unicorns of Legend
Each expansion pack adds its own unique twist to the game with its own Unstable Unicorns rules and gameplay, so you should check out their descriptions to find the one that sounds the most interesting to you. They are designed to be played with the base game and are fully compatible with each other, so you can also combine them to make the game even more exciting.
Keep in mind that some of the expansion packs contain contents that is considered ‘Mature’ or Not suitable for under 18, as the titles mention(NSFW, Naughty & Nice) , so consider if it is appropriative for the group you are playing with.