A card game that’s played by creating the cards with which it is played, 1000 Blank White Cards is a perfect game for those times when your group is between games or unable to play your regular game for whatever reason.
According to lore, 1000 Blank White Cards was created by Nathan McQuillen of Madison, Wisconsin. During a coffee run, he spied a box labeled, “1000 blank white cards” and was inspired to create the game of the same name. More history can be dug up from the internet archive of his website. Since the game is open source, fun and simple there are multiple fan sites, each with their own take on the game. The most commonly cited version is Riff Conner’s 2001 version.
To play 1000 blank white cards, you minimally need a pack of blank white cards (another use for the gamer’s favorite, the index card) and some writing implements. However, due to the nature of the game, players often find their games incorporating other materials, some mundane, some odd, so bringing a variety of tokens, chits, writing paper, and other tidbits may be advisable.
There are three stages in the game. In the preliminary stage, players make a few new cards, shuffle them in with some older cards and some blank cards, and then deal out a hand to each player. Play then proceeds with each player first drawing a card from the deck, then playing a card. Once players are no longer able to play cards (or some other victory condition agreed upon beforehand or created by a card is reached) the game is over. The winner is usually the player who has accumulated the most points from cards, but not always. Then the players go through the cards and pick their favorites for future games.
A card consists (usually) of a few things: a title across the top, a small drawing, a few lines of text detailing what the card does, and (optionally) the initials of the creator. Cards most often either have some game play effect or grant points (which traditionally range from –1000 to 1000 in increments of 100) or both. However, like all other facets of the game, there’s no real rules on card setup or content, and even if there were, a card could easily alter them. Thought most card functions are obvious, it’s not uncommon to have a card with uncertain effects or effecting targets that may not exist.
At the beginning of your game, each player makes some cards. Usually 5 or so each, but this can vary depending on everyone’s tolerance for being creatively put on the spot. After these cards are created, mix them with 5 extra blanks and 5 extra pre-made cards from your stockpile per player. (You’ll make your stockpile after the first time you play in the epilogue stage.) This gives you 15 cards in your deck per player and a 2-1 mix of pre-made to blank cards.
If you don’t have a stockpile already (You’ve never played before), you can simply add more blanks instead of stockpile cards but this changes the ratio to 1-2 Pre-made to blanks which can heavily tax the creativity and patience of players. Alternative solutions include; having each player make 10 instead of 5 cards before the game (which holds the same problems), asking a group that has played before for a “seed deck”, making a stockpile of cards yourself before you play, or copying cards from a website that host images or databases of cards they’ve made.
If your group balks at the “work” of creating 5 cards each before the game, which isn’t uncommon, it’s easy to skip that step and add 5 more pre-made cards per player into your deck from your stockpile (or from wherever you’re adding them). This means less new cards per game, but that’s fine. You’ll find your stock of old cards grows prodigiously anyway.
Once the cards are ready, shuffle them all together and deal out five cards to each player. If you’re using standard index cards shuffling can be difficult, so just put them face down on the table and mix them thoroughly. If a player gets all blanks, or no blanks, they’re welcome to stick their hand back in the deck and draw a new hand.
Play begins with the player to the left of the dealer drawing a card from the deck and then playing a card from their hand and proceeds in this fashion clockwise around the table. However, cards can change these base rules, so it’s entirely possible that you find yourself in a prolonged rock paper scissors tournament for points until one unlucky player returns from running laps around your house.
In general cards can have any effect and they can be played on players, other cards, objects, effects, or any combination of the above in any number. Thus you could chose to play a card on yourself, three of your cards and another player’s shoe. In practice however, most cards imply appropriate targets with their effects and to keep things simple most cards are played either on a single player, a single card, the effect of a single card, all players, all cards, all similar effects, or all cards of one player. If it’s hard to tell what was intended with a card, ask the creator if they’re present, or just make a group ruling and perhaps write a note on the card. If cards only produce a one time effect, they are discarded after use. If they give points or have some other permanent effect, they stay in play until they are removed by another card.
By default, once there are no more cards in the deck for a player to draw and they cannot play a card the game ends. No more cards may be played aside from those which are triggered by the game ending. Other cards or pre-agreed conditions may also signal the end of the game.
The default win condition is having the most points once the game ends, but this is frequently altered by cards. Further, it’s entirely possible to make cards that are unreasonably powerful or cheesy, so don’t get too hung up on winning. After all, next time you can have a card ready to counter other players’ shenanigans or to start shenanigans of your own.
When play is over and a winner is determined, the final part of play is to go through the cards used in the game and create or add to a stockpile for use in future games. Most groups keep three categories of cards; favorite cards which are kept in the stockpile for use in future games, banned cards that are permanently removed from play, and everything else. Each player should select their favorite cards to be added to the stockpile. If there are cards that a player feels should be permanently removed, they can make a case for it (we ban cards that require destruction or alteration of other cards, contain subject material we don’t want randomly popping up if our daughter plays and cards that are too messy to figure out). All card that aren’t selected as favorites or banned (also called the “suck box”) are put aside in their own container.
What is gameplay like?
Gameplay is different for every group and every game. Some games are straightforward point gathering, some are rife with combinations and themed cards. Some groups focus on crazy challenges for points, some games focus around strange complicated rules or odd win conditions. What your games will be like is entirely a function of your players and your cards.
What if some players hate making cards?
Some players don’t like making lots of cards at once and others just don’t like having to be creative on demand. While making cards gets easier with practice (and between sessions, most players invariably get a few ideas just from everyday life) there are steps your group can take to make the game more comfortable for everyone. The easiest option is to reduce the number of starting cards required of all players and increase the ratio of premade to blank cards in the deck.
An option that ensures that all players get to make as many or few cards as they want is to make the pre-game card making requirement optional, and to use two separate decks; one composed entirely of pre-game and stockpile cards, the other entirely blank cards. Players can choose to draw from either deck, and the blank deck need not be depleted to trigger the default end game conditions. This setup changes the game a little. It ensures constant access to blank cards to counter or modify other cards, and allows players more comfortable with creating cards more control over the game, neither of which is ideal, but it completely removes forced card creation.
What if my stockpile gets stale?
Some players report that the majority of the cards in their stockpile are so favored that it becomes static, so aside from the new cards created during a game, every game uses the same cards. That’s why you kept that giant stack of non favorite, non banned cards. Instead of selecting all your pre-made cards from your stockpile, select half from your stockpile and half from your “other” pile. You’ll find cards you completely forgot existed.