Samurai vs. Zombies

Finally—a Zombie game where you EAT BRAINS!

Samurai vs. Zombie Card Samurai vs. Zombies is a dead-simple, quick-paced card game with broad appeal. It skips guns & gore to focus on BEING the samurai or zombie. Kids love it (eating candy at game-context appropriate times) is the ultimate motivator and not silly rules get in the way of immersive play. It's a great drinking game while you're waiting for a pool table to open up, or a dynamic appetizer game for the avid gamer.

Gather 14 peasants as a samurai to win and rule japan. Or, if everyone dies, the zombie who ate the most brains wins. The cards, rules, and art are simple so you can learn from a friend or a video in just one sample hand (rule book is still included) and focus on outsmarting your opponents (or out sniffing their brains).

Buy Samurai vs. Zombies at the Game Crafter


Please send me your feedback.

I will be forever indebted to the people who have brought to my attenion the elements of my game that did not work for them. I read and carefully consider all comments so please be forthcoming and detail oriented in you experience with my game. With a print-on-demand publishing model you might see your impact in print sooner than later. Thanks in advance!


Ask more questions on my contact page and I'll address there here!

Can you make an app or mobile friendly web page using universal design principles where I can tap to select my throw?

I'll try! Let me know what you think of this universal thrower.


Also coming soon.


Drinking Variant

The thirsty among you might try drinking a beverage instead of (or along with) consuming a candy brain when you Brain a samurai.

the Chris Nevell

When you brain a samurai, collect a bonus brain for every 3 peasants the samurai had to discard from his or her collected peasants—not the peasants in the pot.

the Chris Nevell

When you brain a samurai, collect a bonus brain for every 3 peasants the samurai had to discard from his or her collected peasants—but not the peasants in the pot.

Gambling Variant

Everyone puts money into a pot. If a samurai wins, he or she gets it all. If the zombies win, split it up evenly by brains eaten. Round down and give the left over to the zombie who ate the most brains.

Slapping Variant

Coming soon. The penultimate and longest running version of this game was a slapping agility game. It was terribly fun, but gave people headaches. Don't play this version unless you already play football and don't need to make sense of the world for very much longer.


My wife Sarah Surrain went far above and beyond what I could ask of any person—let alone the one person I hope will stay in love with me—in brainstorming and testing and tollerating and finding even deeper wellsprings of enthusiasm for this game. Thank you, Sarah! Thanks also to Ben Javellana for getting into art school (he has long since graduated) and throwing the pizza party (I've since gone vegan) where I had the idea for this game (10 years later, still no movies of Samurai fighting Zombies. How?!). Thank you to all of the playtesters and long sufferers of my obsession. Thank you to my parents, family, and friends whose support and love infuse meaning into amusing people with art and music (other projects) and play. I have more people to thank, but I wanted to get something up here.

print-and-play games (letter size PDF)

Lion or Castle (free download)

clap, jump, and twist to the sounds of nouns
Download the rules of Lion or Castle

the Original Lion or Castle tile …or just read this version:

Find many people and any piece of ground (where you can be loud) like the tiles pictured here to right or any grid of four approximately 8-inch squares. The upper-left and lower-right squares need to have a lion drawn in them. The others need to have a castle drawn in them.

Clap a steady beat and slowly increase the tempo over time. The caller calls one of the commands in rhythm with every fourth clap. The jumper executes the command two claps later, also in rhythm. Do not stop if you make a mistake. You can win a round by slipping mistakes past your opponent.

The commands
  • Lion - cover the two lion tiles (repeatable)
  • Castle - cover the two castle tiles (repeatable)
  • Cristo - cover the two tiles in either column
  • Diós - cover any two tiles in either row
  • Spiritu Sanctu or (ninguno) - straddle the tiles to the side
  • Niño - lift one foot and replace it with the other

No call may be repeated except for Lion or Castle calls, in which case the jumper must switch feet.

Spiritu Sanctu and NiƱo cannot follow each other.


If someone makes a mistake, call Carlo in rhythm instead of calling or executing the next command to win the round. Not calling Carlo after a mistake is also a Carlo-able mistake.


If Carlo is called out of rhythm or when no mistake was made, it still wins the round unless you call Quinto.

Carlo Quinto ex Machina

Finally, if Quinto is called erroneously, call Carlo Quinto ex Machina, which, if called appropriately, garners that player five points. If called in error, that player loses five points.

It is not possible to win this game. Everybody dies.

Coup Bocce (free download)

a 3-player bocce variant
Download the rules of Coup Bocce

…or just read this version:

Find two other people. Look over a set of bocce balls. Notice that they are grouped by color most obviously, but also are grouped by their scoring pattern—the pattern of lines cut into their sides. The black balls are the balls of the government. The red balls are the rebel balls. Always throw the balls scored with parallel lines first and remember who threw which balls.

The oldest player collects the two black balls of the government scored with parallel lines. The youngest player collects the two red rebel balls scored with parallel lines. El Presidente, the oldest player, throws first. Play bocce.

Here's the trick: the first person required to throw his or her third ball is deposed by the third player who then finishes the round for him or her with the remaining balls—scored with perpendicular lines—of the same color. As a result, in every round, only one player will throw all four balls of one color. The other two players throw two balls each.

The winner of the round, regardless of who was deposed, becomes el Presidente for the next round. Only the player who began the round as el Presidente can score points.

You should totally sell this game and call it Coup Bocce.

Phil Gaebler
the Round House, Indiana

Mount Scrabble

A two player Grab/Speed Scrabble variant

If you've played Grab Scrabble…

Mount Scrabble is Grab Scrabble with two rule changes. Each time players grab, they take one more tile than they did in the previous grab. For the first grab each player will take four tiles, five for the second, and for the last grab each player will take ten.

The second rule change introduces a word length minimum. Each tile must be part of at least one word that has at least as many letters as were pulled at the start of the round. The winning player's final board will be 50 tiles with each tile being part of a word of at least ten letters.

If not…

Start with a full set of Scrabble tiles jumbled face down on a table between two players, without the board or any racks. The space on the table in front of each player replaces the board and is referred to as the board.

The object is to be the first player to call “go” when there are no tiles left to grab.

Each player grabs 4 tiles at the beginning and arranges them to make a board that meets two conditions. The tiles must form what would be a valid Scrabble board. Each tile must be part of a word at least 4 letters long.

Once both conditions are met, yell “go.” Both players must draw the next set of tiles whether their board is valid yet or not.

If you yell “go” when your board is not valid, you are a bad person. The winner sends me a dollar.

in the lab

Future Paper Baby

a card game that unlocks the future

Future Paper Baby Card I hope to produce a card and online/Facebook version of Future Paper Baby. It is so unique that I don't want to tell the internet too much about it before I have it available for sale. The NSA already knows about it, but they've got bigger fish to fry, like terrorists and journalists. This game is fun, but probably less fun than that.

If you've ever wondered what your friends are thinking, or what you're thinking, this game will be for you once I finish making it.

on the back bunson burner

Mao: the Cutthroat Beanbag Party Game

a funny/depressing beanbag-throwing game for couch potatoes inspired by Jung Chang's Mao: The Unknown Story

Pictures from the Mao game

I never did quite get the game play for this game right. One version that I tested on some friends and my family-in-law was won by my father-in-law because he correctly guessed what everyone in the room had voted. It was like 8 people.

The impetus behind the game was two-fold. I thought there should be more party games where people can just sit around and not have to lean forward or act stuff out. If you want to act stuff out, play charades or celebrities. This game featured numbered beanbags with voting mechanism sewn in. At any given time, your rank or how you vote might affect whether or not you keep your beanbag, get promoted, or get demoted. At the end of the game, the 2nd highest ranked player wins (representing Deng Xiaoping).

The other more inspiring idea behind the game was to show how completely screwed everyone is when they have a ruler like Mao. No one could do anything that made any sense for the country. It was Mao's way (often Stalin's way) or death (usually both). The game featured a little book with anecdotes about how awful Mao was. Each turn would be a little mini-exercise in intrigue, mind-reading, and arbitrary behavior. Almost all moves are punished at varying degrees. To get ahead, you get lucky and stay under the radar. Even alliances are dangerous.


a 2-player Ladakhi-themed mathy card game race to guess which cards were not dealt

This was a cute game I invented in Ladakh while acclimatizing to the debilitating altitude. Aside from the few short trips to town to get headache medicine, I spent the first 3 days in bed. Despite my hermitude, I was impressed by the custom to yell “Jullay!” expressively to everyone you passed on the path.

Build a deck of card so each of the 4 suits have these cards: ace (1), 2, 3, 5, 7, Q (11).

Shuffle the deck of 24 cards, deal 4 cards face down (to the kitty), deal 10 cards to each player, then ask each other a series of questions until one of you is ready to guess the suits and numbers on the cards in the kitty.

You can only ask questions like: what is the sum of your clubs, or what is the difference between your highest heart and lowest spade. If I had more time, I would have worked out a way to make the first player' turn less of an advantage. I also would have tried to limit the questions to be easy to remember the limits and varied enough to leave room for strategy. Finally, I would have adjusted which card numbers were used, how many cards should be in the kitty, and how many should be in each hand.

If you're ready to guess, you say “Jullay!” instead of guessing on your turn. You opponent gets the option to ask or decline to ask one more question. Write down your guesses. If you are right and your opponent asked a final question, you win. If you are right and your opponent declined to ask a final question and was also right, draw. If you were wrong, and your opponent was right, he or she wins. If you were both wrong, draw.

How Long Will You Be Staying in London?

an inane desultory 2-player guessing game

I was once asked by a surly customs official how long I would be staying in London. I answered. He looked me over as surliness beaded on his brow. He then asked if I had attended the fête de la musique last night. I was carrying a baritone ukulele. I had. I answered so, but indicated that it wasn't that much fun. I lied for no reason I could think or say. Everything I do is fun so of course it was fun. The music was good, the company was great, the atmosphere was incomparably Paris at its most vivacious. The surliness, now seeping into my clothes and into my shirt through my sleeves, evaporated with a stamp.

“Kept me up all night, the ruckus. Enjoy your stay.”

Buddha's in the What?!

a card game of intrigue only

I can't remember the rules to this game but it was fun. The goal was to figure out who stole the outsized Buddha statue from the local wat. If you won the game, that was great for you!

Do right, Dugong

a boring mathy matching card game

I will eventually post images of cards from this game because my wife drew them and they're super cute. This game involved laying out a 3 x 3 grid of cards and doing math to collect certain combos quickly. It was pretty fun but no better than poker. My 2 best games are better than poker. I dare you to buy them when I eventually have them for sale and argue with me about it.

don't play these games

Elevator Sumo

a 2-player game that will probably kill the participants

Any time you're in an elevator with someone else, liven up the ride by trying to get any part of the other person to touch the wall of the elevator, forcibly. He or she will do the same to you. The violence will send the car off it's cables. Both of you and anyone else in the elevator will plummet to your deaths. Don't play this game.

Pool Sumo

a 2 person game with significant risk of drowning for very little benefit

Find another person and go to shallow water. See? Doesn't this sound dangerous already? Grab your opponent's foot and pull it above the surface of the water before he or she can lift one of your feet from the ground. If this is not fun, switch roles or go to deeper water. Yep. It's deadly. Don't play it.

[——name redacted——]

a group card game whose name will remain unspoken and is beneath your dignity

I first met my then-future-brother-in-law during a game of this and he was so offended that he moved to Asia.