Epic is a non-collectible, expandable card game where players mobilize Champions to attack their opponent(s) while providing support with devastating Events. To play these cards, you and your opponent(s) get 1 gold per turn. Every card either costs that 1 gold or is free. Due to this, every card is immediately playable and no card becomes worthless later. Timing your cards to the game state, as opposed to the game turn, is paramount.
In this article series, I will guide you through as much of the unfathomable depth this game has to offer as I have discovered. For now, lets start with learning to play.
First Game Setup/Objective
- Deal each player 30 random cards (their deck)
- Each player draws 5 cards from their deck
- Each player starts at 30 health
- Randomly determine who goes first
Players primarily lose health due to champion attacks. If you are reduced to 0 health, you lose. If all of your opponents are reduced to 0 health, you win.
If you would draw a card and your deck is empty, you win.
(Health can be tracked with Dice, Pen and Paper, the Epic ScoreKeeper app, or any other way you prefer.)
Turn Structure Overview
A turn consists of resolving start of turn triggers once, and then any number of Battle, Slow, and End phases in any order. Below is the basic 2-player turn flow.
Slow vs Fast
While cards are divided into Champions and Events, the more important distinction here is Slow and Fast. Any card with dots at the top is Fast. If it doesn’t have dots at the top it is Slow. (All Events are Fast. Champions with the Ambush keyword are Fast. Champions without the Ambush keyword are Slow.)
(Other Fast plays include: activating an ability by paying a cost [such as expend powers] discussed later.)
Slow champions may only be played in a Slow Phase.
From here, I am going to start by explaining the basics: how/when you may play cards, how/when you may attack with champions. Once you have that information, I am going to double back to explain the start of turn effects, then the End Phase. Finally, I’ll explain all of the keywords that break these rules, as well as other terminology/notation.
In 2-player games, at the start of your turn and at the start of your opponent’s turn, you reset to 1 gold. Unspent Gold does not accumulate.
In 3+ player games, you reset to 1 gold at the start of your turn and reset to 1 gold at the end of your turn. Unspent Gold does not accumulate.
To play a card, you must be:
- Able to pay for it
- Cards with a 1 in the upper right corner cost your 1 gold for the turn
- Cards with a 0 in the upper right corner are free
- Allowed to play it
- Slow champions may only be played on your turn in a Slow Phase
- Fast cards may only be played
- On your turn in a Battle or Slow Phase
- On your opponent’s turn in a Battle or End Phase
- When you have initiative (initiative is passed back and forth when one player is finished “making fast plays.” More on this in Combat Section below.)
Events, when played, resolve all of their text and are then put into their owner’s discard pile. Then, any other card effects resolve.
Champions, when played, enter play. Then, any of their effects and/or any other card effects resolve.
All Epic keywords are explained below. The ones that matter when playing cards are Ally, Loyalty, and Tribute (Banish, Break, Recycle, Untargetable, Unbreakable, and Unbanishable as well).
Attacking with Champions
On your turn, you can use your champions in play to attack your opponent in an attempt to reduce their health to 0. Below I discuss how a champion’s State and Position determines whether or not it may attack and/or block. Then I break down everything that happens in a Battle Phase.
State (Deploying vs Non-Deploying)
When a champion enters play it gains deploying. A deploying champion may not attack, but it may block. At the start of your turn, all of your champions in play lose deploying.
Position (Prepared vs Expended vs Flipped)
A champion can only ever be in one of three positions: Prepared, Expended, or Flipped. At the start of your turn, all of your champions are Prepared (returned to the Prepared position).
When a champion enters play it is prepared. Prepared, non-deploying, champions may attack or block. (Prepared, non-deploying, champions may use expend powers, discussed later.)
When a champion attacks (or uses an expend power), it becomes expended (rotated 90/270 degrees). Expended champions may not attack nor block. (Expended champions may not use expend powers.)
When a champion blocks, it becomes flipped (rotated 180 degrees). Flipped champions may not attack nor block. (Flipped, non-deploying, champions may use expend powers.)
Attack-Relevant Champion Anatomy
An Attack Phase
On your turn, you may declare as many attacks as you have prepared, non-deploying champions. An Attack Phase consists of
- Declaring 1 or more attacking champions
- All players get a chance to play fast actions
- Declaring 0 or more blocking champions
- All players get a chance to play fast actions
- Assigning and Dealing damage
You may either attack with one (prepared, non-deploying) champion alone or with any number of (prepared, non-deploying) champions together. Expend all declared attacking champions. (“When a champion attacks” triggers resolve now. Triggers discussed later.)
Fast Plays (Post Declare Attacks)
Once attackers have been declared, each player gets a chance to make Fast plays. The attacking player may make any number of Fast plays first. When they choose to make no more Fast plays, they pass initiative to the next player.
If that player does not want to make any Fast plays, they may progress to the next step, Declare Blockers. If they make at least one Fast play, they must pass initiative to the next player who repeats this step.
Once one player passes without making a Fast play, after everyone has had a chance to make a Fast play, progress to Declare Blockers.
Your opponent may block an attack directed against them with one or more of their prepared champions (may be deploying). Flip all declared blocking champions. (“When a champion blocks” triggers resolve now. Triggers discussed later.)
Fast Plays (Post Declare Blockers)
Once blockers have been declared, each player gets a chance to make Fast plays. Unlike in the Post Declare Attackers phase, the defending player may make any number of Fast plays first. When they choose to make no more Fast plays, they pass initiative to the next player.
If that player does not want to make any Fast plays, they may progress to the next step, Assign Damage. If they make at least one Fast play, they must pass initiative to the next player who repeats this step.
Once one player passes without making a Fast play, after everyone has had a chance to make a Fast play, progress to Assign Damage.
If an attack is unblocked, the attacking champions deal damage equal to their offense to the opposing player’s health.
If the attack is blocked by at least one champion,
- The attacking champions assign all of their offense to the defending champions’ defense (divided however the attacking player chooses)
- The defending champions assigns all of their offense to the attacking champions’ defense (divided however the defending player chooses)
- All damage resolves simultaneously
- If a champion takes damage equal or greater to its defense, it is Broken and put into its owner’s discard pile
- No damage is dealt to the defending player
- Even if all of the assigned blockers are removed before offense is assigned
- The number of attacking and defending champions is irrelevant
All Epic keywords are explained below. The ones that matter during a battle are Airborne, Blitz, Breakthrough, Righteous, Unblockable, and Unbreakable (Break as well).
Start of Turn
At the start of each turn, do all of the following steps once.
- Each player loses all gold, gain 1 gold
- The current player draws a card (the first player of the game skips this step on the first turn)
- The current player’s champions in play prepare
- The current player’s champions in play lose deploying
- Resolve start of turn triggers
Attempt to End Turn (End Phase)
Once you no longer want to declare any Battle or Slow phases, you can attempt to end your turn (End Phase). When you do, your opponent(s) get a chance to make Fast plays. If they do not, the turn ends, and the next player starts their turn following this same process.
If an opponent does make one or more Fast plays, once the current player receives initiative again the current player may either:
- End the turn
- Return to Phase Choice in order to declare additional Battle and/or Slow phases until eventually declaring another End phase
Trigger -> Effect – When the condition before the ‘->’ is met, the effect after the ‘->’ resolves. For example, “When this card attacks -> Your champions get +2 offense this turn.”
Cost: Effect – When you pay the cost before the ‘:’, you get the effect after the ‘:’. For example, “Break this card: Draw two cards.” Normally you can’t just break a champion you control, but this is an exception. Also, you only get to draw two cards if you use this ability to break the champion. (You do not draw two if it breaks by other means.)
Gray Text Box – Any text in a gray box on a card is only active while that card is in the discard pile.
Airborne – Only other champions may block a champion with airborne. (If an airborne champion attacks with a non-airborne champion and the opponent is able to block the non-airborne champion, they may block the whole group.)
Ally – Trigger (you play a 1-cost card from your hand of the same alignment of an active card’s ally effect), resolve the effect. An active card is either a champion you have in play with an ally effect (Fire Shaman) or a card in your discard pile with a “gray box” ally effect (Plentiful Dead). (Using a “1: Effect” ability, such as on Rage does not count.)
Banish – Put that card on the bottom of its “owner’s” discard pile.
Blitz – Ignore deploying restrictions preventing attacking or using expend powers.
Break – Move a champion in play to its “owners” discard pile.
Breakthrough – Any offense on attacking breakthrough champions greater than the combined defense of defending champions is dealt to the defending player. (Other attacking champions’ offense and/or damage dealt to defending champions is ignored.)
Controller – The player who currently may use a champion to attack/block/expend/activate abilities.
Expend Abilities – Cost (Expend the prepared/flipped, non-deploying champion), resolve the effect.
Loyalty 2 – Trigger (When a champion with Loyalty 2 enters play, you may reveal 2 cards of the same alignment), if you revealed 2 cards of the same alignment resolve the effect.
Tribute – Trigger (When a champion with Tribute enters play), resolve the effect.
Recall – Return this card to hand.
Recycle – Banish exactly 2 cards from your discard pile to draw a card.
Righteous – Any damage dealt by this champions gains its controller the same amount of health.
Unbanishable – May not be “banished.”
Unblockable – May not be “blocked.” (If an unblockable champion attacks with a non-unblockable champion and the opponent is able to block the non-unblockable champion, they may block the whole group.)
Unbreakable – May not be “broken.”
Untargetable – May not be “targeted” by any affect that says “target.”
Now you know everything required to play a game of Epic. Once you have played at least a game or two, if you would like some basic strategy advice of FAQ answers check out part 2 of my Epic Progression series (coming after Gen Con). (I will also clean up this article a bit more after Gen Con too, so let me know if you notice any substance you would like me to clarify/add.)