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Immunity

This game by Don Smith was originally published in his blog at http://dev4net.com/blog/archive/2005/08/18/2376.aspx

I always thought it would be cool to make up my own card game. So I got together with Magdalena, a good friend of mine, and that's exactly what we did. These are the instructions for what I think is a really fun card game. I'm actually surprised at the amount of strategy it takes - even though that was one of our goals. I've never played a game anything like this - so to me it is very unique. If you've played a similar game, leave a comment to tell me where to learn more about it. If you like playing cards, you should really check this one out.

UPDATE: After playing a number of times, we felt it still needed something else for it to really be a great game ... so we added the jokers. This was exactly what this game needed. We've played it bunch of times since then and are confident we made the right decision. Now it's really awesome!

Overview

Immunity is a game of decisions and chance. To do well, you must pay attention, think strategically, successfully predict your opponent’s next moves, and cross your fingers. Will you form an alliance or go it alone? Will you help yourself or hurt someone else? Will you get immunity, give it to someone else, or give it up when you have it?

Getting Started

Each player uses a full deck of cards including the 2 jokers. Each of the deck of cards must be distinguishable since they are going to get mixed up with other decks. The minimum number of players is 2 and there is [theoretically] no maximum. After shuffling, everyone places 8 cards in front of them face up as shown in figure 1. The camp cards are laid down first in order and then the water cards. Once placed, they can't be moved. In other words, you can't decide which are your camp cards and which are your water cards. These 8 cards represent your play area. The rest of the deck becomes your well.

Figure 1

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to play your water cards on the camp cards of your opponents. Each time you do so, you'll receive one point. The secondary goal is to gain immunity so no one can score against your camp cards. For each card you can't play, the score for your round is reduced by 2 points. Whoever ends the rounds with the most points, wins the round. The number of rounds is determined before beginning the game. Usually the number of rounds played is the same number of players in the game. Whoever has the most points after playing all the rounds is the ultimate winner.

Playing a Round

A round consist of everyone playing all of the cards in their deck. The water cards are played during your turn and the camp cards remain where they were initially placed and act as a foundation for other cards to be played. A designated player will go first and each of other players will follow in succession clockwise. The player who goes first will rotate with every round.

Playing Your Turn

During your turn, you will play all 4 of your water cards. You want to play them on one of your opponent's camp cards so they will earn you a point. The easiest way to do this is to hand them the card and tell them where you would like it placed. You may only play a card if it is the next highest or next lowest card from the card you're placing it on. For example, a Queen can only be played on a Jack or a King. Colors and suits are of no consequence. When the card is placed, it should lay across the card sideways as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2

You may play all 4 cards on a single opponent, one or more on each, or all on yourself - you have many choices. You may NOT place a water card ...

If you can't play all 4 of the cards on your opponent's camp cards, you can play them on your camp cards, but you won't get any points for them. When you place the card, put it directly on top of the card - not sideways. This will always result in your loss of immunity (see below).
If one or more of your water cards can't be played on any camp cards (yours or other players), they have to be placed face up in your waste pile. If you have more than one to place in your waste pile, you get to decide what order they go on the pile.

Only after playing all 4 of your water cards, can you play the top card of your waste pile. If you can play the top card on your waste pile, you may continue to play the waste cards until you have no more moves, or no more waste cards. Waste cards can be played on any player's camp cards - including your own. When you have no more moves, take 4 more water cards from your well and put them in front of your camp cards. You'll play them on your next turn. Now your turn is over and the player to your left takes his/her turn.

Having Immunity

A player is considered to have immunity when the top card on each of their camp card piles is sideways. This of course is a result of other players playing their water cards for points. A player has immunity at the instant the 4th sideways card is placed. There are not degrees of immunity - you either have it or you don't. When a player has immunity, no other players may place cards on their camp cards. Just to be clear, you can play a water card on a sideways camp card - just so long as all the camp cards for that player aren't sideways.

A player gives up their immunity when they choose to play one of their water cards on their own camp cards. When a player plays a water card on their own camp cards, it is placed on straight, not sideways, and does not result in positive or negative points for the player. Of course, the alternative to playing a water card on your own camp cards is to place the card in your waste pile which will result in negative 2 points if you're unable to play it later in the round.

The Jokers

The jokers are the most powerful, most versatile cards in play and are not played as water cards. Jokers are shuffled with the rest of the cards in the deck. When you encounter a joker, place it directly in your waste pile and continue putting your 4 water cards in place. If you reveal a joker while you’re laying down your camp cards, use it to start your waste pile and use the next card to fill its place so you have 4 camp cards and 4 water cards.

Just like other cards in your waste pile, you have to play all 4 of your water cards before playing the joker. You may play the joker straight or sideways on anyone’s camp cards including your own. You may use it sideways to give immunity or play it straight to remove immunity. Jokers provide the only way you can give yourself immunity and the only way to take away an opponent’s immunity.

Jokers are also wild cards. They can be placed on any camp card and any card may be played on them – independent of the card it was placed on. If you’re unable to play your joker, it will count against you just like the other waste cards. Likewise, if you play it on an opponent, it’s worth 1 point and if you play it on yourself, it will not count for you or against you.

Scoring

Once all players have emptied their well, the scoring begins. If there are any cards in your waste pile, count them and multiply times 2 - these are the points against you. Separate the camp cards so all common cards are together. Set your cards (the one's you played on your own camp cards) off to the side. These won't count for or against you - so there is no need to count them. Give each of the other cards back to the players who originally played them. Once you get back your cards from the other players, give yourself one point for each card you get back from the other players and subtract the points against you (from your waste cards). The resulting score may be positive or negative, but that is your score for the round.

Strategy

There are a number of places where strategy comes into this game. These are just a few you should keep in mind.

  1. The more players that have immunity, the harder it is for you to get points, and the more cards you end up 'wasting'. Sometimes you'll have to decide if you want a single point and give your opponent immunity or take a 2 point hit.
  2. Likewise, if you have immunity, it might be more important to 'waste' a card just to make it harder for your opponents to score. It hurts your opponents when you have immunity.
  3. Try to forecast what your opponents are going to do when it becomes their turn. You'll always be able to see the water cards of all of your opponents. If you plan it right, you can really mess up chances they might have at scoring.
  4. The order you play cards is important. If you decide to give an opponent immunity, try to do it with your 4th water card. They will have immunity the instant their 4th camp card goes sideways.
  5. Because the jokers can be used to give or take immunity, there can be a real value in establishing an alliance. Will you be a trusted ally or a backstabber? Will you trust your alliances?
  6. You have to pay close attention to what's going on. If your opponents are good, they won't tell you when you're making a mistake … until it's too late. It's pretty easy to miss a move. For example, Aces can go on 2s and Kings - and visa versa. That's the one I miss the most often.

Rationale

When my friends Clint and Maggie and I decided to make up our own card game, we really wanted something that had some good strategy. We think we've accomplished our goal. We really enjoy playing this. So far we've only played with 3 people, but we're pretty sure it would be just as fun with 2 or more. The first term and concept we landed on was this whole immunity thing. Since it reminded us of the TV show "Survivor", we decided to name other parts of the game accordingly. So, you get 'water' from the 'well' and if you can't use it, it goes bad and becomes 'waste'. Also, when you start getting too many waste cards, you could say you're drowning :) In this context, you can see why we called them camp cards. Okay, yeah … we know it's cheesy, but it is a pretty fun game. I'd be real interested in your thoughts after you've had a chance to play a few rounds.

posted on Thursday, August 18, 2005 9:15 PM


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Last updated 3rd August 2006