Pascal’s Ruin

After playing lots of different games with my family, each more complicated than the next, I wanted to play a game that didn’t favor age or strategy, specifically to play either as a break in between the longer games, or perhaps when no one had the mental strength for anything particularly complicated. I was also tired of spending $50 every time I wanted to play new games with the family. Don’t get me wrong, many games are well worth the investment. But I wanted to design something that anyone who already liked playing games could probably play with existing cards and dice.

Pascal’s Ruin is designed for 2 or 3 players using a standard deck of cards and sets of role-playing dice for each player. If you have a fourth player, let them be the official dealer and scorekeeper, with the added job of taunting and making snarky remarks.


A player wins a round by having the most number of points when the cards run out. A player wins the match by winning three rounds. Alternatively, you could play in “eternal” mode, where your points accumulate from round to round, and the winner is the person with the most points when you choose to stop.

Equipment List

  • A standard deck of playing cards (52 cards, no Jokers).
  • Each player needs a set of 5 dice: D6, D8, D10, D12, D20; each player’s dice should be easily distinguishable from other players’ sets.
  • Paper & pen/pencil to keep score.
  • Rolling trays (optional) to prevent rolls from knocking stuff around.

Game Activity

To determine who starts each round, all players roll all five of their dice. The player with the highest number showing starts the round. Play will then rotate clockwise. Each round starts this way regardless of the winner of the previous round.

Create a Chain of Five Successful Die Rolls

In each turn, you create a chain of up to five successful die rolls to score the most points. The active player reveals the first card, chooses an available die, and then rolls to beat the number on the card. If the roll wins, the player places the die on the card showing the rolled value, keeping track of which dice have been used and the potential points for a full chain. 

The active player can then choose to continue or to end their turn. If they continue, the player reveals the next card and selects from their remaining dice to roll to beat the face value. They cannot reveal the next card and then change their mind. If they choose to stop (“take the chain”), the active player earns points for the chain.

At the end of each turn, the cards revealed or played in that turn go into the discard pile face up. You cannot look through the discard pile.

Challenge a Failed Roll

If the active player’s roll loses, another player can choose to pick up the chain (Challenge). The challenging player must roll the same kind of die that the original player used to roll. If the original player failed with a D12, the challenging player must roll a D12. If the challenge succeeds, the player winning the challenge continues the turn with their remaining dice.

If the challenge fails, the original starting player gets the points at that level (sum of the cards), and the turn is over.

If you have three players and both want to challenge, both roll simultaneously, and the higher roll wins the challenge. If both players roll the same value (win or lose), both players have to reroll to replay the challenge. When both players are challenging, they leave the die used for the challenge on the card, to mark that those dice are used, which may affect future scoring for that turn.

Ties End the Turn

If you roll the same number as on the card, the chain ends and the active player gets the points for that stage. Another player cannot challenge a tie. A Jack or Queen cannot be played to force or attempt a re-roll of a tie. A tie roll on the fifth card of the chain wins the chain, but only scores the sum of the cards, not the sum of the dice rolls.

Full Chain

The player with the winning roll on the fifth card of the turn wins the chain

Ending the Turn

After playing cards in the chain, the cards go into the discard pile face up and the dice are returned to the appropriate players. The next turn starts with the player to the left (clockwise) of the player that started the previous round.

If you run out of cards during a chain, that is the end of the chain, and then the end of the round. You cannot look through the discard pile.

Card Actions

Face Values 2 through 10

When revealing the face value cards, values 2 through 10, the active player chooses one of their remaining dice to roll the equal or higher number than shown on the face of the card. Roll a number greater than the face value of the card to win that level. Players can choose to stop and earn the points for that level, or continue to the next level by drawing another card. Rolling the same number (tie) stops the chain, earning points for that level. Failing the roll, rolling a number less than the face value of the card, can be challenged by another player or ends the turn.

Ace – Advance

Revealing an Ace immediately advances to the next level, without needing a die roll. If an Ace is played at Levels 1 through 4, the active player must roll for the next level; the previous choice to continue forward is still in effect. If an Ace is played at Level 5, the active roller wins the chain. Note that Aces are not worth any points when scoring the chain.

Jack and Queen – Re-Roll

When revealing Jacks or Queens, the active player takes the card for later use. Jacks and Queens must be placed face up in front of the player and visible for everyone to see. 

Jacks and Queens may be played at any point, however, Jacks and Queens cannot be used to re-roll ties or when a roll was a “Critical Hit.” (Critical Hit is a roll of 20 with a D20, or a roll of 12 with a D12.) When playing a Jack or Queen, place the card next to the face value card in the chain.

A player uses a Jack on another player, forcing that player to re-roll; a player can use a Jack regardless of whether the original roll succeeds or fails. When challenging a failed roll to pick up the chain, the Jack can be used by any non-rolling player to force players (one or both) to re-roll.

A player uses a Queen either on themselves or another player, but only to re-roll a failed roll.

King – Immediate Success

Revealing a King immediately “wins the chain” at that level. The active player rolls all of their remaining dice and takes the highest value die as the points, plus the value of the “winning” dice for any earlier levels. If the King arrives as the first card, the player rolls all of their own dice and takes the highest value die as the points. (It’s good to be the King.)

Scoring Points

To calculate points for a chain of 1 to 4 cards, add up the face value of the cards. For example, if the player stops at the third level, and the three face value cards are a 7, 3, and 4, then the player earns 14 points for that chain.

To calculate points for a complete chain of 5 cards, add up the face value of the 5 winning dice. For example, the complete chain was won with a 17 (D20), 11 (D12), 5 (D10), 5 (D8), and a 4 (D6), for a total of 42 points for that chain.

To calculate points for a chain that ends when revealing a King, use the face values of the winning dice, including the King roll. For example, the King was revealed as the third card in the chain, then the chain earned a 9 (D12), 7 (D8), and a roll of 18 (D20) for the King, for a total of 34 points.

Note that Aces have no point value and no winning dice roll. No points are earned for Aces.

Spicy Scoring Rules (Optional)

A winning roll on the final card of the deck, regardless of the chain length, wins the face value of the winning dice for that turn.

Rolling a 20 (D20 Critical Hit) on the fifth card of the chain or the last card of the deck earns 100 points for the turn.