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Europe. Summer. 1997.

You and your friends have discovered two problems with a common solution: mad cows in England and unexploded bombs in France. Mad cows are thick on the ground in England, and theyre selling cheaper than dirt. So youve decided to spread them thick on the ground in France too, by giving them a patriotic pep talk and setting them loose in the no-mans land behind the Cordon Rouge. The upside? Youre ridding England of insane cows and their tainted meat, ridding France of unwanted leftover bombs, and (just maybe) making some money on the side. The downside? Eventually someones going to catch you. So round up your herd, drive them through the Chunnel, and set them loose in La Belle France. If youre lucky youll make a little money before Greenpeace shuts you down.
Unexploded Cow is one of the most popular Cheapass Games of all time, and we are thrilled to bring it to you in this new free edition. We have modified these rules quite a bit, including tweaks to the money values, some changes to the core game, and a new role for the city deck. We hope you enjoy playing this new edition as much as we enjoyed waiting ten years to make it.

Game Details: Players: 3 to 6 Game Type: Card Game Game Length: 30-45 Minutes What You Get: Unexploded Cow has two decks: a 12-card city deck, and a 69-card cow deck. The cards are found in a single free PDF file, and instructions for making your own cards are on the last page of this document. What Else You Need: You will need one 6-sided die, and some money. You need to be able to give every player 5000, in denominations no smaller than 100. If you must, you can use play money instead of the real thing. We suggest using the following setup for each player. You will find a suggested full bank recipe on the last page. Starting Money Denom Qty 100 5 200 5 500 3 1000 2 Total: 5000

The Basics: You and your opponents will be building herds of cows, marching them through dangerous farms filled with unexploded bombs, and blowing them up for money. This is a zero-sum game, so there is no bank and no need for a banker. Every dollar lost by one player will be won by someone else. Hint: To win at this game, you simply need to finish with more money than you started with. Some players will win more than others. To prove how awesome you are, you should keep track of your wins and losses over several games.

Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games:

This Cheapass Game is free. Thats right, free. You can print it, copy it, and share it with your friends. Obviously, if you like it, wed appreciate a dollar or two in return. We think this is the best way to get great games into your hands, so please help us make it work.

Yes! I gave Cheapass Games $_________ for this game!

To learn more, read the last page of this document, or visit

How to Begin: Shuffle the 12 City cards and put them in the middle of the table, face down. Shuffle the main deck and deal a starting hand of three cards to each player. Put the deck in the middle of the table, next to the city deck, with space for a discard pile beside it. If this is the first game of the evening, give everyone 5000. If you play again, you should start with whatever money you finished the last game with. You can borrow more money whenever you run out, as long as you keep track. Everyone pays an ante of 500. This becomes the pot. Determine randomly who will go first. Play will proceed to the left. On Each Turn: You will usually do three things in the following order on your turn: Draw, Play, and Roll. Sometimes you will also turn over a new city card. New City Card: At the beginning of your turn, if there is no face-up City card, turn over the top card of the City deck. This card represents the town you are currently visiting. You will do this at the beginning of the game, and on any turn after a player has taken the previous City card. When no City cards are left, the game goes into Sudden Death, described later. Draw: Draw two cards from the main deck. If you must draw, but the deck is empty, reshuffle the discard pile and replace the deck. Note: You cannot reshuffle until you need to draw a card. Some cards let you go fishing in the discard pile, so you have to leave the discards available for as long as possible.

On your turn, you may rearrange your field as much as you want. However, you can not rearrange someone elses field, so when you play a cow on someone, it must go at either end of the line (your choice).

Swap any number of cows in your field with cows in one other players field, cow for cow.

Events: Events have immediate effects and describe exactly what they do. Like cows, events have a price which goes to the pot. You may also be instructed to give money to other players, or take it from them, as a result of an event. Because some events bring cows into your field, they often say that this cow has no extra cost. This is just a reminder that you dont have to pay the usual price of the cow, just the price of the event. When an event says you, its referring to the person who played it. Make a Bomb Roll: After youve finished playing cards, you will roll the die to discover if anyones cow finds a bomb. This roll is automatic and always happens at the end of your turn, even if you have already rolled (due to Night Shift), and even if you have no cows in your field. Roll the die and begin counting around the table with the rightmost cow in your field, and proceeding to the left. Continue beyond the end of your field, clockwise around the table, into your neighbors field if necessary, and so on around the table until you reach the cow of the corresponding number. That cow finds a bomb and, unless something can prevent it, that cow explodes. Exception: When you roll a 6, rather than exploding cow number 6, you pass the die to the player on your left. That player makes a bomb roll, counting from his rightmost cow, in the same fashion. If he rolls a 6, this process repeats. A single roll can count all the way around the table, but can only count each cow once. This means that if you roll a number greater than the total number of cows in play, but not a 6, then nothing explodes. When a cow explodes, its owner earns a little money. Discard the cow, and take the dollar value of the cow from the pot. If the pot cant afford to pay you for your cows, you take what you can get, and discard the cows anyway. Some cows cause more harm than good. If a cow is worth negative money, he will cost you money when you buy him and when he blows up. If you blow up one of these cows, you will have to pay the big red value into the pot.

Play Cards: There are two kinds of cards, cow cards and event cards. You can play as many cards as you wish. Cows: Every player has a line of cows in front of him, called his field. You may play a cow into any players field, including your own. A cow played in another players field immediately becomes the property of that player, unless the cow is a Spy (described later). When a cow is played, the owner of that field must pay the price of the cow into the pot. (This is the number under price, not the larger dollar value of the cow. The large number on the right is the reward when the cow explodes.)

Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games:

Mechanic: These cows can defuse bombs, which means they can decide not to explode. If you use this ability, you collect 100 and keep the Mechanic. Its rare that you would want to use this ability, but youll figure out when. A Mechanic can use his ability only once per turn.
Marcus Lucius

Earning the City Card: If you are an expert cow exploder, you will earn the respect and admiration of the cities you are helping. These cards, in turn, let you do things like draw more cards. To collect the current city card, you must blow up your own cow on your own turn. You can do this with the usual bomb roll or by any other means. When you take the city, follow its instructions right away. Big numbers just mean that you take that amount of money from the pot. After you take a city, set it aside as a prize. It has a point value that will determine who goes first in Sudden Death. Note: You do not replace the city card until the beginning of the next players turn. This means that its impossible to take two cities in the same turn. Special Cow Powers: Some cows have special abilities, the specifics of which are as follows: Spy: Spies are yours, no matter Daisy where they go. When you play a Spy, orient it so that the bottom of the card is pointing at you, not at the player whose field it is in. This will help everyone remember that the Spy is yours. Until it dies, no matter where Wherever this cow goes, that Spy moves, it will always it always belongs to the belong to you. This means that: player who played it. 1: The owner of the field must pay for the Spy when you play it. 2: When the Spy explodes, you get the money. 3: If the Spy explodes on your turn, you get the City. If the Spy explodes on the field owners turn, he doesnt get the City. 4: The owner of the field decides where to arrange the Spy in his field, but only on his turn. 5: If the Spy moves to another field, you continue to own it. However, if the Spy ever leaves play, either by exploding or for some other reason, it forgets all about you. 6: When a player blows up several cows, the pot may not be able to pay for all of them. If one of them is a Spy, this will make a difference. In this case, the field owner handles all his own cows first, and then the owners of the Spies pay their cows, starting on the left of the field owner.

This cow can defuse a bomb instead of exploding. If you do this, collect 100.

This cow can pass a bomb to another cow in the same field.

General: Upon finding a bomb, these cows can hand that bomb to another cow in the same field. The bomb is passed away before it explodes, saving the General. They can only do this once per turn. P.F.C.: These cows are the opposite of Generals. They can steal a bomb from any other cow in the same field. This can be useful if you want to steal a bomb away from a negative cow, or keep one cow alive while the rest explode from the effects of a Mad Bomber. He can even steal a bomb when hes already holding one, though he still only explodes once. Mad Bomber: When a Mad Bomber explodes, he hands a bomb to his neighbors on the left and right (within the same field), Note that this only happens after he explodes, so if a P.F.C. steals a bomb from a Mad Bomber before it explodes, the Mad Bomber does not do his thing.



When this cow explodes, he gives a bomb to the cows on his left and right.

This cow can steal a bomb from another cow in the same field.

An example of multiple abilities: Your field contains, in order, two normal cows, a General, a negative cow, a Mad Bomber, and a P.F.C. You roll a 3, which means that the General finds a bomb. He hands it to the Mad Bomber, who explodes. Then the Mad Bomber hands a bomb to his two neighbors. The P.F.C. steals the bomb from the negative Cow, since you dont want it to explode. Nice job!

Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games:

Winning the Game: After Sudden Death ends, the game is over. If you have more money than you started with, you win. We suggest keeping score over a series of games so that, in the long run, experience and skill can triumph over blind luck and stupidity. Running out of Money: Your bankroll is meant to be unlimited. We have tried to start everyone with as much money as they will need, but players are allowed to re-buy whenever their money runs out. If youre playing for real money, which we strongly advise you not to do, a player can add more money to the table whenever he needs it, or he can simply drop out of the game when he runs out of cash. Strategy: Just because you can play all your cards every turn doesnt mean its correct. Play carefully and collect cards until you have a powerful hand, and you will have a better chance of coming out ahead. Dont forget that you can play cows on other players! This is exceptionally useful with negative cows, but it can be a good move with anything, especially if you need a way to get more money into the pot. Be warned that there is plenty of crazy in this game. A good cow is just begging to be stolen. Or shot. Whole fields move to the left. Often.

If Angel rolls: 1, 2, or 3: Angel will explode one of her own cows, earn the value of the cow, and take the City card. If she rolled a 1, she could keep her Mechanic alive and take just 100, but she would rather take 500 and the City card. 4 or 5: If Jack finds this bomb, Buddy will give it to Donald (the P.F.C.). So in the case of either a 4 or a 5, Buddy collects 400 for exploding Donald, and no one gets the city. 6: If Angel rolls a 6, the die passes to Buddy and he makes a bomb roll. In this case, his cows are 1, 2, and 3, and a 4 or 5 wraps back around to Angels field (there are no other cows in play.) If Buddy also rolls a 6, then Dunkirk would make a bomb roll, and Buck would still be cow #1. Note that if Angels cows blow up because of any one of these rolls, she still gets the City because it is her turn.
Unexploded Cow was designed by James Ernest with Paul Peterson. 2001, 2011 Cheapass Games. Illustrations by Mike OConnor. Special thanks to the many unexploded Guinea Pigs who will do anything for France, including Dave Howell, Tom Saxton, Cathy Saxton, Jason Mai, Joshua Howard, Jeff Vogel, Toivo Rovainen, Mark Carstersen, Elizabeth Marshall, Falko Goettsch, Julie Haehn, Mike OConnor, Dan Tibbles, Rick Fish, Carol Monahan, Mike Selinker, and Paul Randles. Published by Cheapass Games, Seattle WA: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial - NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. There is a brief license rights summary on the following page.

Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games:

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Ending the Game: The main game ends when the last City card is taken. If this happens in the middle of a turn, the player can finish his turn. Then, as long as there is still money left in the pot, the game becomes Sudden Death. Starting with the player who captured the most City points, and going down by score, each player makes a bomb roll. This continues until either the pot is empty, or there are no more cows in play. Players cant play cards or do anything else in Sudden Death. When there is a tie for city points, the player with the first city (alphabetically) wins the tie. After every player has taken a turn, start again at the top. If the pot runs out, the game is over. If the last cow explodes and there is still money, the last cow takes it all. Negative cows still cost money in Sudden Death. However, once the pot empties, youre safe.

An Example Bomb Roll: This is a four-player game featuring Angel, Buddy, Dunkirk, and Starchylde. It is Angels bomb roll. Angel has three cows: Buck (a Mechanic), Falko (her own spy) and Winston (an 800 cow). Buddy has three cows: Donald (a P.F.C.), Jack (a negative 200 cow) and Luther (a Spy belonging to Dunkirk). There are no other cows in play.
Winston Falko

Luther (Buddy) Jack Donald

This cow can steal a bomb from another cow in the same field.




Wherever this cow goes, it always belongs to the player who played it.

This cow can defuse a bomb instead of exploding. If you do this, collect 100.


Falko (Angel)


Free? Seriously? Tell me a little more about that.

Okay, heres the deal. If I made a great game and sold it to you for ten bucks, Id probably keep about a dollar. If I sold it to a big game company, theyd probably make a nicer version for thirty bucks, and Id still get about a dollar. The rest of your money would go to printers, distributors, retail stores, and freight companies. And most of those guys dont know anything about what makes a great game. Mass-producing entertainment is a gamble. Its a convoluted way for creators to protect their intellectual property, by selling it in a way that is prohibitively expensive to counterfeit. And its getting a little old. Why do you pay $30 for a board game? The story goes like this: the retail price of a game covers the cost of manufacturing it, and there is no way you could make your own copy for that price, to say nothing of the hassle of finding little wooden men in six colors. So, its worth $30 because it costs $30, QED. But the value in a board game isnt the manufacturing cost. Its the play value. Unfortunately, this means that some games are priced way out of whack with what they are worth. And because the big gamble doesnt always work out, some of your money helps pay for the stuff that goes straight to the dump. Ive decided to try a different gamble. Im giving my games away for free. This way, you can read the rules, make a copy, and even play the thing, before you decide what its worth. If you do like my games, I hope you will send me some money. But Im also hoping you will share this experiment with your friends. You are my sales force, my marketing department, my demo team. Youre also my testers, so if you can think of ways to improve my games, please share them with me. Im easy to find at big gaming conventions, and even easier online. Look for Cheapass Games on Facebook, or drop me a line at If we do this right, we will get famous and do shaving ads. But more importantly, we will prove that there is a better way for a creator to profit from his work. And nothing has to go to the dump.

Our Creative Commons Agreement

Summary: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial - NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit: or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. This agreement means... You are free: To Share to copy, distribute and transmit the work (in this case, the electronic files that comprise the work). Under the following conditions: Attribution You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). In this case, Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games: Noncommercial You may not use this work for commercial purposes. No Derivative Works You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. With the understanding that: Waiver Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. (For example, a license to manufacture, or approval to distribute a new set of rules or graphics, can be obtained under a separate agreement.) Public Domain Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license. Other Rights In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license: Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations; The authors moral rights;

Rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights. Notice For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. That means including all pages of this document, unaltered.

Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games:

How to Make your Unexploded Cow Cards:

This game requires a total of 81 cards: 12 City cards and 69 Cow cards. They fit nicely on 9 sheets of paper. But what then? Here are a few reasonable methods for making your own cards. Method 1: Labels on Playing Cards Print the cards on full-sheet labels, then cut the labels and affix them to a deck of playing cards. Full-sheet mailing labels are great. Get white ones, not clear, suitable for your type of printer. You can get them at any office supply store for about 25 each (in packs) and they will be very handy for making cards and game boards. Print the card sheets on full-sheet labels. Print the file at 95% so that the stickers will fit easily on the cards. You will be applying these labels to playing cards. The better the cards, the happier you will be. Good playing cards have rounded corners, laminated card stock, and a textured finish that keeps them from sticking together. You can buy a new poker deck for around $3, or you can find canceled casino decks for around $1. Some casinos and card rooms give away their canceled decks for free, so keep your eyes open. Make sure that the cards are poker sized (2.5 x 3.5) and not bridge sized (2.25 wide). Trading card games are usually printed on poker-sized cards, and sometimes your game store will have a blowout price on these cards. Sometimes they are even free. Compare the price of 54 junk common cards to the $3 youd pay for a new poker deck, and decide accordingly. Apply the cut labels to the card fronts. Your cards should now be fairly easy to shuffle and deal. You will probably want to skip the card backs, since adding another label to the back of the card will make the deck thicker and harder to shuffle. Instead, use cards with different backs to easily distinguish your City deck from your main deck. Method 2: Card Sleeves Print the cards on plain paper and insert the paper, along with a stiffening card, into trading card sleeves. Sleeves that are made specifically for trading card games can be found online and at most hobby stores. To build this deck, print the cards at 100% on plain white paper. Thicker paper helps keep the images bright. Cut them down to 2.5 x 3.5, keeping the white borders. As with Method 1, you probably wont have much use for the card backs, since sleeves are usually opaque on the back. Sleeve each card with a stiffener: a poker card or trading card behind the printed paper. This deck may be slightly more durable than the label deck described above, depending on the quality of your card sleeves. But it wouldnt hurt to have some extra sleeves on hand just in case.

Method 3: 110-lb Index Print the artwork directly on heavy cardstock, and then trim the sheets down to card size. I have experimented with a few different card stocks for printing playable cards. Most of the Cheapass Games were printed on 110-lb Index, which is a grade that you can find at your local office supply store. If your printer has a straight paper path, youre more likely to have good result with this paper. Also, inkjet ink tends to show through this stock, just barely, so this is a time where you are better off printing the card backs just to keep the cards from being marked from the back. Aligning the backs with the fronts can be a challenge, depending on your printer. Hold the pages up to the light to make sure that your registration isnt too far off. The challenge with this method is cutting the cards. You need a decent paper cutter, or access to one (at your job or the local copy shop). Use the card backs, not the fronts, as a cutting guide, since you want the backs to be indistinguishable. If there is some misalignment between the fronts and backs, it is better that it show up on the fronts. Although it is tempting, do not begin by trimming off the outside of each page. Instead, make a single vertical and a single horizontal cut through the interior of the pages, creating four sub-sheets with multiple cards and raw edges. Then, set the cutter depth (using the backstop that your cutter hopefully has) to 2.5, and trim each card or strip of cards to exactly this width. Next, set the back stop at 3.5 and finish the cards the other way. If you have a corner rounder, you can take the extra step of finishing the corners. This is a simple scrapbooking tool, which clips a round corner on a piece of paper. Rounded corners make cards much easier to shuffle. Stocking the Bank: When it comes to money, you can use chips or paper. Poker chips are easier to handle, but paper money is cheaper and lighter. Make your own call. It may be hard to find exactly these denominations, but here is what we suggest for a perfect bank. It contains enough cash for every player to re-buy once (60K):

40 * 100 30 * 200 40 * 500 30 * 1000

A Gender Note: For clarity, the masculine gender is used throughout this rulebook. By a large proportion, the amateur bomb-hunters who use mad cows to discover unexploded bombs in France are male, as are both of the egocentric and uncivilized principal authors of this game. We are also assured by both Wikipedia and other persons in the know that the word cow is not gender-specific, giving us license to refer to our mad cows as he and give them names like Martin and Buck.

Unexploded Cow is and 2001, 2011 James Ernest and Cheapass Games: