For 2-4 players. Average game time: 15 to 60 minutes.
To play Mercenarium, you will need:
The 71-card Anthromancer Deck
Four (4) quick reference cards (one for each player)
One (1) 6-sided Fool die
One (1) 6-sided Fox die
One (1) 12-sided Zodiac die
The Anthromancer board
1. Placement: Open your game board and place it face up on a sturdy, flat surface. On the board there are colored circles in the center space of each side, that are either Red, Orange, Yellow, or Green, and have a small, black Anthromancer logo in their center. These are called ‘HOUSES’, and each player will be in control of one during the game. Players should sit at the house that they control, so that it is easier to play and move cards from that position. In 2-player games, sit directly across from each other.
NOTE: The 4 player Houses are the only board symbols that matter in Mercenarium. The center space is used in Dragonfruit Alchemy (p. xx), and has no Mercenarium gameplay function.
2. Dealing: Go through the deck and remove all 15 Hymn cards, and place them in a separate pile. Hymn cards have roman numerals and titles along their bottom edge; they also have larger illustrations, and small blue Anthromancer logos on their backs. This separate pile will be referred to as the HYMNAL, while the remaining 56 cards will be referred to as the DECK.
Once the hymns have been separated, shuffle the deck and deal five (5) cards to each player. Then, shuffle the hymnal, and deal one (1) hymn to each player. Combined, these six (6) cards are your HAND. At any point during the game, you should never hold more than one (1) hymn card, or more than five (5) non-hymn cards in your hand (If you find yourself with more than the allotted hymns or non-hymn cards, shuffle extras back into the deck or hymnal). Set both the deck and the hymnal next to the board, where all players can reach them.
New players should receive a copy of the Anthromancer Quick Reference card, turned to the side labeled ‘Mercenarium Quick Reference’. This card contains useful information for many situations and will help keep the game running smoothly.
3. Turn order: Take turns rolling 6-sided dice to decide who goes first. The player who rolls the highest number goes first. If there is a tie, tied players re-roll the dice until the tie is broken. Turns proceed in clockwise order.
NOTE: The 6-sided Fool and Fox dice do not have a side that depicts the number 6. Instead, they have special symbols; the (sphere) is on the white Fool die, and the (seed of life) is on the purple Fox die. For the purpose of establishing turn order, these symbols count as 6s.
HOW TO PLAY
Players take turns placing and moving cards in order to capture enemy cards. To win the game, a player must be the first to 5 captures, or must defeat their opponent(s) by putting them into ‘Limbo’.
On a player’s turn, they must choose one (1) option from all possible TURN ACTIONS. You may not ‘pass’ your turn without taking any action. Once an action has been taken, that player’s turn is over and it becomes the next player’s turn. There are seven (7) possible turn actions that a player may choose, and they are listed below, followed by an explanation of each. You may:
SUMMON a Card – Place a card from your hand onto the board.
MOVE a Card – Move one of your in-play cards one space forwards, backwards, left or right.
CAPTURE an Enemy Card – Move one of your cards into a threatened enemy card’s space, and capture it.
BUY a Mercenary – Spend one of your captures to take control of an enemy Jack, Queen, King or Ace.
SING a Hymn – Activate the effects of your currently held hymn.
LEARN a Hymn – Sacrifice cards from your hand or spend captures in order to draw a new hymn from the hymnal.
DRAW a Card – Draw a single card from the deck.
In Mercenarium, cards in the deck are considered Materia, Mercenaries, or Lords. Materia are cards with a face value from 2 – 10. Mercenaries are cards with a face value of Jack, Queen, King, or Ace (JQKA). Lords are cards with a face value of L. Each has a suit (Claws, Souls, Gears, or Blades). You must SUMMON these cards into battle to start earning captures.
When summoning cards, pay special attention to a card’s orientation line (see above/right). A card’s orientation line indicates which player is in control of that card; cards you own must always be placed with their orientation line directed towards your house and board edge.
To summon a card, it must first be in your hand. There are (2) ways to summon cards onto the board: House Summoning and Field Summoning.
House Summoning: If your HOUSE is empty (meaning that there are no cards currently occupying that space), any card in your hand may be placed there, regardless of suit or face value. Simply place the card in your House, oriented with its bottom edge facing your own edge of the board.
Field Summoning: If you already have at least one card in play, you may choose to a summon a new card in an empty space adjacent to any one of your in-play cards – so long as the incoming card adheres to a set of conditions. The incoming card must have either the same suit as, or a face value* no lower than, that of the card you own. In these situations, the new card can be thought of as using an in-play card as a ‘base’ for summoning.
*The term ‘Face Value’ refers to the numeral or letter on a card’s face; In Mercenarium, Jack value is (11), Queen is (12), and King is (13). Aces are high, and count as (14), and Lords (which are explained in detail on page 7) have a value of (15).
Newly summoned cards only need to be ‘based’ on one in-play card that you control. If the space that is being summoned into is adjacent to more than one card, the incoming card only needs to be based on one card for the summon to be valid.
You may not summon cards diagonally – you may only summon them into open spaces that are adjacent to one of your own cards’ 4 edges (North, South, East, or West). So long as the above rules are followed, you are allowed to summon cards directly adjacent to enemy cards, but you may not use those enemy cards as bases for summoning. Field summons must always be based on a card that you control.
Once a card has been summoned onto the board, it is considered to be IN PLAY; The term ‘IN PLAY’ refers to any card which is currently occupying a space on the board.
If you already have cards in play at the start of your turn, you may choose to move one of them as your turn action. Movement is simple and functions the same for all cards: You may move a card one (1) space, either North, South, East or West, assuming there is an unoccupied space for your card to move into. If the space is occupied by an enemy card, refer to the rules for Capturing Cards. You may not move into a space occupied by one of your own cards, and you may not move a card diagonally.
In order to win a game of Mercenarium you must defeat your foes by CAPTURING their cards; The first player to five (5) captures wins the game. Capturing cards works like a standard move (see: Moving Cards), except that a player’s card will be moving into a space that is occupied by another player’s card.
On the edges of each card is a series of dots (called an AURA) that define a card’s capture strength. Cards will have between zero (0) and five (5) aura dots per edge depending upon the card’s suit and face value. Different suits have different directional advantages, and higher face value means a greater number of aura dots distributed across a card’s edges. Blades aura is strongest on the right (relative East), Claws is strongest to the bottom (South), Souls is strongest on the left (West), and Gears is strongest on top (North).
If, at the start of your turn, one of your cards is THREATENING an enemy card – meaning your card is adjacent to an enemy card that has fewer aura dots along its touching edge – you may CAPTURE the enemy card by moving your card into the enemy card’s space. Cards that you’ve captured should be removed from the board and placed face-down in front of you along the outside edge of the board, so that all players can clearly see your ‘score’ as the game continues. Captured cards count towards a player’s total CAPTURES, and can be used to Buy Mercenaries, Learn Hymns, and win the game.
Alchemy / Aura Ties
In the event that an attacking card and a defending card are tied in combat – meaning that both cards have the same number of aura dots along their touching edges – refer to the Alchemy Wheel (pictured below and on the Quick Reference card). One of three interactions will occur depending upon the suits of the cards involved: Consumption, Annihilation, or Deadlock.
Consumption: On the Alchemy Wheel, the arrows around the edge indicate the path of Consumption. Blades, for instance, will always defeat Claws in ties, as Blades consume Claws. Any time cards of these suits tie with each other’s auras, there is a clear winner; one will always consume the other in ties. Only the consuming card in this encounter may initiate a capture; the card that would be consumed may not.
Annihilation: When there is a tie between two cards whose suits are directly across from each other on the Alchemy Wheel (as with the Blades and the Souls, or with the Claws and the Gears), either of these cards may initiate an Annihilation, in which case both cards are discarded from play and no player receives a capture point.
Deadlock: When there is a tie between opposing cards that are of the same suit, they are considered to be Deadlocked. This simply means that they cannot interact with each other so long as their aura dots are tied along their adjacent edge. Neither can initiate a capture or annihilation on the other. They are not ‘trapped’ by this interaction and are free to move into any other valid space.
ALCHEMY: THE LORDS
There are four (4) cards with a face value of ‘L’ in Anthromancer, with the title of LORD. Lords cannot be ‘bought’ in the way that Mercenaries can. Lords have no aura dots, and function as suit-specific ‘wildcards’. For purposes of summoning, their value is considered fifteen (15), and higher than an Ace (14). This means that they can be field summoned on any friendly card regardless of suit. This also means that, once played, only other Lords and other cards of that Lord’s suit may be field summoned adjacent to them (unless that space is also adjacent to a separate valid card).
Lords always resolve captures using Alchemy. They always defeat cards whose suit is consumed by their own (for instance, the Lord of Blades always defeats Claws). Likewise, they always lose to cards whose suit consumes their own (the Lord of Blades is always defeated by Gears). In captures, they always annihilate with cards that are opposite their suit (as with Blades and Souls), and they always deadlock with cards of their own suit.
The title of MERCENARY is given to the ‘Court Cards’, with a value of JACK (J), QUEEN (Q), KING (K), or ACE (A) (Note that 10s and Lords are NOT considered mercenaries, despite their unique illustrations). While Mercenaries have the strongest auras in the Deck, this comes at a price: A player that has acquired Captures may use their turn action to ‘flip’ one of their Captures in order to ‘buy’ an enemy Mercenary, and gain control of them.
In order to Buy a Mercenary, you must be in possession of at least one (1) face-down capture, and there must be an enemy Mercenary in play. Select one of your face-down captures and flip it so that it is face-up. You must then immediately shift the orientation of the enemy Mercenary of your choosing to line up with your board edge. This Mercenary is now under your control, and on your next turn can perform movements and captures like any of your other cards. Once again, the Mercenary’s BOTTOM EDGE (defined by its orientation line) should be facing the edge of the board controlled by the player that has just bought it.
In this way, you can strategically buy an enemy’s Mercenary to subvert their tactics, alter the layout of the board, and gain a powerful ally. If you ‘spend’ a capture, it still counts towards your total captures for determining victory, but each capture can only be used to buy once. Once a capture is flipped face-up, it has been ‘spent’ and cannot be used to buy anything else for the rest of the game.
Contracts: A bought or summoned Mercenary is considered ‘Under Contract’ until it is once again the turn of the player who bought or summoned the Mercenary. This means that buying or summoning a Mercenary guarantees you at least one (1) turn in which you may choose to use your bought or summoned Mercenary, without the threat of another player buying it. If you would like to ‘buy back’ one of your Mercenaries from an opponent, or if you wish to buy a Mercenary that was just summoned, you must wait at least one full round for their Contract to expire.
There are 15 powerful cards in the game of Mercenarium known as hymns, which are tied to the musical and mystical aspects of Anthromancer. Within Mercenarium they offer players special abilities to dramatically change the board state and create more exciting scenarios. These hymns are kept separate from the deck during gameplay, in a pile referred to as the hymnal.
At the start of the game, each player receives one (1) hymn card from the hymnal, in addition to five (5) non-hymn cards from the deck. A player may never hold more than one (1) hymn at a time; if a player finds themselves with multiple hymns in their hand, return extra hymns to the hymnal and shuffle the hymnal. As a regular turn action, a player may choose to activate the effects of their current hymn – referred to as SINGING a hymn (note: players do not actually have to sing anything). Each hymn has unique effects that are tied to their card’s core meaning (see the Hymnal codex section for more info). These effects are summarized in the table below, and can also be found on the Quick Reference card and the ‘Hymnal Protocol’ section of Anthromancer.com, so that new players don’t need to have this list memorized. After singing a hymn, it should be discarded, unless otherwise specified by the hymn’s effects:
If a player sings a hymn, it will be discarded or otherwise removed from their hand. After this, they may wish to draw a new hymn. This is called ‘Learning a Hymn’. Learning a hymn counts as a turn action, and if a player chooses to learn a hymn, they can take no other action on their turn.
In order to learn a hymn, an OFFERING must be made by discarding a certain combination of cards. Acceptable offerings are as follows:
Two (2) cards with a face value between 2 and 9.
One (1) card with a face value of 10, J, Q, K, A, or L.
If a player has face-down (or unspent) captures, they may spend one of these captures (and flip it face-up) as an offering. This capture is then ‘spent’ and cannot be used to learn additional hymns or buy mercenaries.
If you are currently holding a hymn that you do not wish to use and would like to draw a new hymn, you may discard your current hymn along with any one (1) card as an offering.
In the event that you have no cards you want to get rid of besides an unwanted hymn, you may spend one of your captures while discarding the unwanted hymn as an offering.
If any of these offerings are made and a player no longer has a hymn in their hand, they may then draw a hymn from the hymnal. This hymn can be used on the player’s next turn. You cannot make offerings out of cards that you already have in play; Offerings must be made from your hand or from your captures.
In the event that a player has the face-up Zodiac card as their current hymn, they may discard this (along with another card or capture) as an offering, and draw a new hymn.
You may use your turn action to DRAW a single card from the deck and place it into your hand. You may not hold more than five (5) non-hymn cards at a time. If you are already holding five non-hymn cards and you would like to draw a new card, you must first discard one (1) non-hymn card from your hand.
WINNING THE GAME
To win a game of Mercenarium, you must use a strategic application of the Turn Actions to achieve one of the following win conditions:
STANDARD VICTORY: The most straightforward way to win is by being the first player to acquire five (5) Captures. Captures are awarded by capturing enemy cards (see Capturing Cards). If you reach five Captures before anybody else can, the game is over, and you win. Spent captures (from buying Mercenaries and learning Hymns) still count towards your total for determining victory; you do not ‘lose’ captures after spending them.
ELIMINATION AND LIMBO: Players can be blocked from summoning and moving cards, and you can use this mechanic to win the game by Elimination, especially in 2-player games.
In 2-Player Games: For a player to be eliminated from a 2-player game they must have no summoned cards in play and an enemy card must move to occupy their House. This prevents that player from being able to summon new cards, putting them in ‘Limbo’. If a player cannot escape from Limbo on their next turn, they lose.
If, in a 2-player game, a player with earned captures or a hymn in their hand is put into Limbo, they have a chance to escape. On that player’s next turn, they must open their house or take possession of an in-play card (by singing a hymn or buying a mercenary) to stave off elimination. If they don’t have a hymn that can remove them from Limbo, or if there are no available mercenaries on the board, that player is eliminated, and the game is over. In the event that a player puts themselves into Limbo (such as by discarding their last in-play card while an enemy is in their house), they still have until the end of their next turn to escape.
In 3- and 4- player games: In 3- and 4- player games a player can remain in Limbo indefinitely, and they can continue to use their turn actions to draw cards, buy hymns, or take other actions until an opportunity to summon another card into play presents itself. To win by elimination in 3- and 4- player games, you must place all your opponents into Limbo simultaneously, at which point the last player with cards in play is declared the winner.
In some games, a STALEMATE can occur. If, at any time, the only reasonable course of action for players is to repeat or cycle through the same moves, a stalemate is declared after three (3) repetitions. Stalemates can occur for a couple of different reasons, such as when one player has four (4) Captures (meaning they only need one more Capture to win) and their opponent’s only means of preventing a final Capture is to cycle cards around the board indefinitely. If stalemate conditions appear, the game ends in a draw.
SINGULARITY (SUDDEN DEATH)
There are only fifty-six (56) cards in the deck, and fifteen (15) cards in the hymnal. As such, and particularly in games with 3 or 4 players, there is the possibility that the hymnal and the deck will run out, there will be no more cards for players to draw and, if a player is in Limbo, a player will have no valid turn actions available to them. If at any point no cards remain in the main deck, the game enters Singularity.
In Singularity, all the cards that are not currently in-play, captured, or in a player’s hand – both hymns and non-hymn cards – are shuffled into a single deck and placed next to the board. During Singularity there is no maximum hand size (meaning a player can hold more than 5 non-hymn cards and more than 1 hymn at a time), hymns no longer require offerings to draw (meaning that if a hymn is on the top of the singularity deck, any player may draw that hymn for free), hymn I. Fireyes has its function changed to: “Draw 5 cards”, and hymn VII. Primary, has its function changed to: “Search the Singularity deck for any (1) card. Place that card into your hand, and shuffle the Singularity deck.” (These hymns are also changed when rolled for hymn XIII. Zodiac during Singularity).
In the unlikely event that the Singularity deck runs out of cards before a winner is declared, the game ends in a universal Stalemate.