Game Rules

Mortalls can be played either as a traditional discussion group or as a discussion/card game, for 4 – 8 players, ages teen – adult. 

The primary object of the game (in either mode) is to create a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere where players can freely talk about death and dying by answering the question prompts that make up the game.

Some guidelines that will help facilitate the conversation:

A relaxed and accepting atmosphere is important.

Confidentiality. Agree not to share other players’ answers outside of the game.

Do not push players into answering a question they don’t wish to answer.

No criticism of someone else’s answer is allowed.

Always be sensitive and respectful of others’ feelings.

Listen mindfully and don’t make assumptions.

Be aware that the discussion questions in this game bring up topics that most people are not used to talking about. People may often be thinking about them, but they don’t normally talk openly about them. It’s only natural that there may be some initial hesitation or resistance to answering some of the questions that appear in the game. Give players the room to participate at their own pace.

Playing in DISCUSSION MODE (for 4 or more players)

Remove the “Someone is about to Expire” cards from the deck and shuffle before playing.

Roll dice. Highest roll goes first.

First player draws and reads the question for group discussion. Anyone may participate. When done, place the card on the discard pile and let the next person take their turn drawing a card. There is no competition or winner in the discussion mode. Play either for a set time period (30 – 60 minutes) or decide ahead of time the number of rounds you will play, to make sure every player has an equal opportunity to ask questions.

Alternate rule:

Players may roll the dice before drawing their card. If you roll an even number, you ask the group the question. If you roll an odd number (the tombstone counts as a “1”) then you must answer the question yourself before opening it to the group.


Playing in CARD GAME MODE (for 4 – 8 players)

Be sure to add the “Someone is about to Expire” cards to the deck and shuffle before playing in game mode.

OBJECTIVE: Win the game by either collecting three cards in the same suit or being the last survivor in the game.

There are 8 “suits” in the deck: arrow, broken wheel, butterfly, crow, hourglass, pocket watch, praying hands, orchids. (FYI: These are all traditional symbols related to death.)

3 of these suits are ACTION CARDS – the broken wheel, crow, butterfly. (There is added color and instructions on how to use them on these cards, so beginning players are aware of their significance.)


Players roll die… highest roll is the dealer. (The tombstone on the custom die is a “1”.) Dealer deals three cards face down to each player, who then pick them up and hold.

The player to the Dealer’s left then begins the game: Draw a card from the deck and add it to your hand. There are then two parts to your turn:

First: Read your choice of any ONE of the Question Cards from your hand and open it up for group discussion, as in the regular discussion game.

(If you do not wish to follow this with an ACTION CARD, say “Pass” and the next player begins their turn.)

The “SOMEONE IS GOING TO EXPIRE” card is the exception to this rule. You MUST play this card if you draw it or have it in your hand. When it is played, every player, starting with the player on your left, must roll the die one time. If any player rolls a tombstone (or a 1 if you are using a regular die) that player expires, places the cards in their hand in the discard pile. Players who have died no longer have a turn and cannot win the game (they are beyond such petty concerns now!), but can still answer questions and participate in the group discussion.

Second: After discussing the Question Card, you may optionally play any ONE of the following ACTION CARDS to try to increase your chance of winning:

BROKEN WHEEL – When this card is played, every player takes a card, sight unseen, from the player on his or her left.

CROW – Show this card, and you may steal any single card held in another player’s hand, sight unseen.

BUTTERFLY – You may play this card if you roll a “tombstone” (or a 1 on a regular die), and it will protect you from dying. Once this card is played, the threat of death is over for all players in that turn, and regular game play resumes with the next player to your left.


– Players may play only one ACTION CARD per turn, even if they have more than one in their hand. You can also opt not to play any ACTION CARD in your hand at your discretion, and instead hold them for future use or in building a set of three of a kind.

– An ACTION CARD may only be played once. It is then laid face down in the “discard” pile after being played, and cannot be used to build a set of three of a kind.

– Players hold on to the cards in their hands as they accumulate with each round of play, except for any ACTION CARDS that they choose to play, which are placed in the discard pile after being played.

– A “SOMEONE IS ABOUT TO EXPIRE” card MUST be played when it is dealt or drawn, and cannot be held in your hand. If you have more than one EXPIRED card in your hand, play one on your first turn, and the other on your next turn.

– If you acquire a set of 3 cards, you can only reveal them to win the game when it is your turn.


Play ends when one player collects any 3 matching cards in a “suit” and reveals them when it is his turn, or only one player remains alive.

ALTERNATE RULES you may wish to try:

– For a longer game: Require players to gather 4 cards in a “suit” instead of three.

– For a shorter game: Before dealer deals out cards at the beginning of the game, each player rolls the die. Whatever number a player rolls, that is the number of cards the dealer gives them.

– During game play, when it is a player’s turn they may roll the dice before drawing their card. If you roll an even number, you ask the group the question. If you roll an odd number (the tombstone counts as a “1”) then you must answer the question yourself before opening it to the group.