Release Date: 
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Setup Time: 
Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Minimum Age: 

by Jonathan Leistiko


You have a big machine. Your opponent has a big machine. Incapacitate your opponent’s Juggernaut so your ground forces can infiltrate and overwhelm it before he or she does the same to you.


Obliterate your opponent’s juggernaut or damage it so severely that your ground forces can approach and overwhelm it.

You Need

A bunch of Juggernaut cards to build your Juggernaut deck. You should print out many copies of the Juggernauts card sheets so you can have a wide variety of cards to choose from. Each player needs a Juggernaut deck. There are four Juggernauts files:
The core set of “official” Juggernauts cards and blanks.
Athena: A pre-built defensive Juggernaut.
Kali: A pre-built attack Juggernaut.
Core: A 20-card set of “core” cards for you to use as a starting point to make your own Juggernaut.

You’ll also need assorted polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20) and assorted tokens.

Setting Up

Way before a game:
Juggernauts is a customizable card game. You bring your own deck of cards to the game and play with it, and your opponent does likewise. You’re also allowed to add cards to or remove cards from your deck before you play. Your Juggernaut deck may not have more than 40 cards once you’re done customizing it. You may put as many of any card you want in your deck.

At the start of a game:
Shuffle your deck. Let your opponent cut it.
Put the dice and tokens where everyone can reach them.
Conceal a die in your hand. This is your Commander. The number of cards in your Juggernaut’s matrix during the game will be equal to the number of faces on your Commander. Once your opponent has also secretly picked a Commander, reveal your Commanders simultaneously.

Draw cards equal to the number of faces on your Commander, plus three. Imagine that there’s a grid of card-sized squares on the table in front of you. Lay all but three of your cards out face-down so that each card:

  • occupies one square in your imaginary grid, and
  • is adjacent to at least one card.

This is your Juggernaut’s matrix. You may keep any of the three remaining cards in your hand or shuffle them back into your deck. Once you’ve done this, draw until you have five cards.


If you have to meet a Power requirement at any time during the game and you do not want to (or can not) spend the Power (for an attack, a defense, to retain a card – anything that requires Power), you may discard cards from your hand. Every card you discard reduces that Power requirement by one point. After you’ve discarded as many cards as you can or want to, draw cards to replace the cards you discarded. You may not discard additional cards to reduce that card’s Power cost after you draw replacement cards.

If you run out of cards in your deck, you can not draw any more cards. Refrain from shuffling your discards to make a new deck. Continue playing, but ignore any effect that requires you to draw cards.

Juggernauts is a game where both players play simultaneously. You don’t have to wait for your turn to do something – you and your opponent act at the same time. Play occurs in rounds. Each round consists of six phases:
1) Energize
2) Command
3) Activate
4) Resolve
5) Drain
6) Recover

Add a token to your Power Pool. Tokens in your Power Pool are called Power tokens, or just Power. Take care of any cards or effects that occur during the Energize phase (like gaining or draining additional Power tokens) now.

Roll your Commander. The number on your Commander tells you which card in your matrix will activate in the next phase. To figure out which card activates, count occupied spaces (spaces occupied by cards, damage tokens, or card tokens) in your matrix, starting with the upper right and reading across, down to the lower left. The card whose number matches your Commander’s roll is your active card; you may look at it if you want to. Take care of any cards or effects that occur during the Command phase (like re-rolling your Commander or rolling additional Command dice) now.

If you do not have an active card by the end of your command phase (this can happen if your Commander tries to activate a damaged sector, a neutralized card, or a card token), put an alert token on your deck. This means that your enemy’s ground forces are approaching. Remove all alert tokens when you activate an undamaged sector. If you have three or more alert tokens on your deck at the end of a round, enemy troops have infiltrated your juggernaut and taken control. You lose and your opponent wins.

Flip your Active card face up. If the card has any effects that occur during the Activate phase (like activating other cards), resolve them now. Do the same for any other cards or effects that occur during the Activate phase (like reducing activation costs).

Resolve the effects of any active cards in your matrix. All cards in all matrices (that’s the plural of matrix) resolve simultaneously. This may be a little confusing at first, so here’s a few examples:

  • A card that’s just been activated that is being attacked still gets to generate its effect. For example: If you activate an attack card that’s being targeted by your opponent’s attack, you still get to launch your attack.
  • A card that modifies adjacent cards (how much power you have to spend or how many times you roll for defense, for example) takes effect before those cards resolve (attack, defend, or are destroyed).
  • A card that tokenizes can not be used during the resolve phase that is is revealed. It turns into a token during the Drain phase, and you can’t use it until it has turned into a token. This also means that an attack can destroy a card that tokenizes before it tokenizes.
  • A card that repairs damage can repair damage that exists at the start of the resolve phase, but can not repair damage that your opponent’s attack will deal during the resolve phase. Because everything happens simultaneously, by the time your opponent’s attack has dealt damage your repair team is done doing its work.
  • If you repair a space, remove the damage token and replace it with a card token. If that space was targeted with an attack, resolve the attack next. If the attack does not destroy the space, replace the card token with a card from your hand and draw a card to replace it.


First level attack (0 Power): You’re launching one attack. Your opponent rolls his or her Commander one time to determine what card in his or her matrix is targeted.
Second level attack (3 Power): You can launch one accurate attack or two normal attacks: If you’re making one attack, your opponent rolls his or her Commander two times to determine which card in his or her matrix may be targeted and you pick which one actually gets targeted If you’re making two attacks, your opponent takes two first-level attacks.
Third level attack (8 Power): You can make one very accurate attack, or one first-level attack and one second-level attack. If you’re making one very accurate attack, your opponent rolls his or her Commander three times to determine which card in his or her matrix may be targeted and you pick which one actually gets targeted Otherwise, your opponent takes one first-level attack and one second-level attack

If you’re launching an attack, select an attack level, spend the required Power, then have your opponent roll his or her Commander the number of times indicated. Put a targeting token on each card that’s targeted to make it easier for your opponent to remember what cards he or she needs to defend.

If an attack neutralizes a card, do not replace the card with a damage token if defense fails. Instead, turn the card face-down (if it is not already) and put a neutralization token on it. If you’re trying to activate a card with a neutralization token on it, you have two options:

  1. Remove a neutralization token instead of activating the card. Removing a neutralization token does not count as activating a card and may cause you to gain an alert token during the Command phase.
  1. Pay three Power and remove a neutralization token. You may do this as many times as you want to. If you remove the last neutralization token this way, you may activate the card.

Defense and Damage
First level defense (0 Power): Roll three times
Second level defense (3 Power): Roll 5 times
Third level defense (8 Power): Roll 7 times

When one of your undamaged spaces is targeted by an attack, select a defense level, spend the required Power, then roll your Commander the number of times indicated. If any roll shows your targeted card’s position, the card survives. Otherwise, discard the card and replace it with a damage token.
Remember to account for any affects that take effect when resolving attacks (like bonuses to Defense from adjacent active cards).
If you have a card that requires power for a first-level defense and you don’t want to spend any power, you can use a zero-level defense. Roll your Commander once. If you do not roll your card’s position, discard it and replace it with a damage token.

Cards that tokenize move to the side of your Juggernaut for later use. Cards you pay the price to retain stay face-up where they are. Move any other cards you activated to your discard pile.

Add one card to your matrix for every card you removed from your matrix during the Drain phase. Draw a card after each card you play. You can play cards anywhere in your matrix; you don’t have to play a card in the space that the card it’s replacing occupied. Your cards must form a contiguous mass when the recover phase is done.


If you have three or more alert tokens on your deck or all spaces in your matrix are filled with damage tokens, the game ends and your opponent wins. If you both lose, the game is a tie.


Asynchronous Play: The player with the Commander with the fewest faces goes first. If tied, choose randomly. Just take turns; everything else is unchanged.
Double Command: Each player rolls two Commanders during the Command phase and picks one to use. This is a good variant to use if you’re feeling frustrated with the amount of control you have over your Juggernaut.
Battle Royale: You can try playing with more than two players. You may not have more cards in your deck at the start of the game than 20 cards, plus 10 cards per player
Alternate Sutdown: If you roll a damaged sector, your hand size decreases by one. If your hand size is ever zero or less, you lose.

Origin and Credits

Over the last decade or so, I’ve tried several times to design and implement a customizable, non-collectible card game, with varying degrees of success. This is the first one that’s actually made it all the way to completion. Interestingly, it’s also radically different from all of its predecessors.

It’s worth noting that (because I thought of the game’s mechanics before I thought of the theme for the game) I had a lot of trouble settling on what the theme/genre would be. The two front-runners were battling juggernauts (which is what you have now) and rival city-states engaging in espionage and trade wars. As rival city-states, attacks would represent espionage, sabotage, and actual warfare. Defense would be counter-espionage, security, and traditional defenses. Power would represent money, political clout, and natural resources. I’m still not convinced that I made the right choice. That said…

Go to your library or local comic shop and read Gear by Doug TenNapel. The mecha in that graphic novel are similar to the Juggernauts I’m envisioning in this game. Heck, go out and read everything you can that Doug has made. (He’s the guy who created Earthworm Jim.) Excellent, excellent stuff. I’m especially fond of his graphic novel, “Creature Tech”. I enjoy his angular, high-contrast art; his recurring mantis-themed characters; and his use of unusual situations as stages for moral and ethical questions.

Thanks to Brandon W. for play testing. Thanks to Aaron B. for hosting Monday Night Games Night. Thanks to Sharon for tolerating my late-night ramblings about game mechanics.

Juggernauts © 2006 Jonathan A. Leistiko
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.