A Rook's Edge Card Game Variant based on Roger Zelazny's Amber
Rook's Edge design by Tony Pi & David Dalgleish, © 1999


"And I, of course, am innocent of all but malice."
Fiona, Sign of the Unicorn
King Oberon of Amber has disappeared, leaving the nine Princes of Amber to war for the Throne. You are one of four Princesses of Amber, counted out of the succession by archaic, misogynistic laws. But you realize that true power in Amber is not won by swords and shields: it is seized by secrets and support. Little do the brothers realize the true game is one of innocent lies and malicious truths. Can you put your puppet on the Throne ahead of your sisters?

All But Malice is a fast-paced single-deck card game based on the Rook's Edge card game system. Players take the roles of Princesses of Amber manipulating kith and kin, vying to become the true power behind the Throne of Amber. Each attempts to create an unstoppable Cabal by collecting Devotees and sabotaging the Cabals of others through orchestrated Scenes.

Game Set-Up

Number of Players: 2-4

Equipment: A 52-deck of cards, with 2 Jokers (Trump Deck); a supply of tokens (Secrets); a unique token (Jewel of Judgment)

Playing Time: 5-30 minutes

Princess of Amber: Each player chooses a different Princess, each associated with a Suit. When Orchestrating Scenes (see below), Trumps of the Princess' Suit cost no Secrets to play.

The Trump Deck

Each card, or Trump, from the Trump Deck represents a specific character, and Each character is associated with a type of Scene. Maintain a pile of face-up Trump Discards.

You will place face-up Trumps, called Devotees, in front of you. This is called your Cabal. A player may have at most five Devotees in their Cabal; others are immediately discarded into the Trump Discards.

Each Player receives 3 random Trumps and 3 Secrets at the beginning of the game. Choose 2 Devotees to place in your Cabal. Keep 1 Trump in your Hand; these may be played to Orchestrate Scenes.

You may hold a maximum of 4 Trumps in your Hand. All others are immediately discarded into the Trump Discards. The number of Trumps in your Hand must be publically known.

The list of Devotees and their associated Scenes are given below.

Card Rank Character Scene Description
Ace Benedict Doom The mark of doom or Blood Curse.
King Eric Regency Bid for the throne and Jewel.
Queen Moire Captivity Turn a prisoner into an ally.
Jack Brand Bloodshed A whole lot of stabbing going on.
10 Corwin Duel Win admiration through a duel.
9 Bleys Conspiracy You call the shots in a conspiracy.
8 Caine Demise Someone dies...or fakes it.
7 Julian Battle War brings new allies.
6 Random Dereliction Loyalties shift.
5 Gerard Convocation A meeting forces someone to choose sides.
4 Vialle Romance Seduce a Devotee to your side.
3 Martin Reunion Lost kith and kin reconcile.
2 Dara Betrayal Someone betrays your plans!
Joker Dworkin Revelation A family secret rocks the status quo.

Victory Conditions

The first Player with a Flush or Straight in her Cabal at the end of her Turn wins, symbolizing that she has created an invincible alliance that places her puppet on the Throne of Amber. A Straight Flush and Royal Flush also win. No other combinations constitute a win. A hierarchy of poker hands is given below.

Royal Flush > Straight Flush > 4 of a Kind > Full House > Flush > Straight > 3 of a Kind > Two Pairs > One Pair > High Card

Sequence of Play

A Round consists of:
  1. Jewel Phase
  2. Initiatives
  3. Turns
    1. Covert Action
    2. Overt Action

1. Jewel Phase

Each Player acquires 1 Secret at the beginning of this Phase.

The Jewel of Judgment now goes to the Player with the highest current Secrets total. If there is a tie, the Jewel of Judgment remains with the Player who last owned it.

The Jewel allows the Player to Scry or Meddle at any time, even interrupting other Player's Turns, by sacrificing one Secret per Action taken.

2. Initiatives

Cabals are used to determine the order that Players take their Rounds, with highest poker hand showing going first. In case of ties, use the following hierarchy:

Cabal strength > Jewel of Judgment > number of Secrets > Cut High Card

3. Turns

Players take Turns according to the Initiatives calculated, until all Players have gone. Any changes in the Cabals this round do not affect the predetermined Initiatives.
  1. Covert Action

    Choose only one Covert Action to perform: Scry, Meddle, or Plan. Covert Actions costs no Secrets.

    Scry: Scry lets you to peek at any one card, even in another Player's Hand. Do not move or reveal card to others.

    Meddle: Meddle lets you shuffle the Trump Deck.

    Plan: A Player may draw a Trump from the Trump Deck and place in her Hand.

  2. Overt Action

    Perform one Overt Action (Scheme, Court, Beguile) or Orchestrate Scenes. You may choose only one Overt Action (e.g., you cannot Court and Beguile at the same time, or Orchestrate Scenes and Scheme simultaneously).

    Scheme: Gain 1 Secret, plus 1 per Trump discarded from your Hand.

    Court: You may Court a new Devotee per Secret sacrificed. Take the top card from the Trump Deck:
    • If it is a Joker (Dworkin), then a Devotee suspects you have ulterior motives. Choose a foe: she picks one Devotee in your Cabal to discard. Then, shuffle the Discards back into the Trump Deck.
    • If it is not a Joker, place the Devotee in your Cabal. Discard any extras immediately.

    Beguile: You may Beguile a foe's Devotee, bringing him to your side. Place a Secret on the desired Devotee. Your foe may:
    • Concede: She gains the Secret, you gain the Devotee.
    • Counter: She places a Secret on the same Devotee. Go to Dispute.


The Suit of the top card of the Trump Deck determines the outcome of a Dispute.

The Defender may choose to sacrifice 1 Secret to Meddle with the Trump Deck before the top card is turned over, once.

Turn over the top card of the Trump Deck. This is the Decision. The Princess with that Suit wins.

Orchestrate Scene(s)

The Player may instigate as many Scenes as she desires. Sacrifice a Secret to instigate each Scene, unless the Suit is your Princess' (i.e., free). A Princess' free control over her Suit represents her calling in an old favour.

Note: Betrayal (2s) and Revelation (Jokers) are the only Trumps playable from your Hand at any time, with no Secret cost. 2s cannot negate another 2 or Jokers.

Card Rank Scene Action
A Doom Everyone with the named Devotee in their Cabal immediately sacrifices a Secret.
K Regency Take the Jewel of Judgment immediately.
Q Captivity Take any Devotee from the Trump Discards and place in your Cabal.
J Bloodshed Choose Foe. Take a number of Secrets from her equal to the number of Devotees in your Cabal.
10 Duel Target a Foe with at least one Scene. Both must discard a Trump simultaneously, immediately. Higher discard must take the top card from the Trump Deck and place it as a Devotee in their Cabal. If a Joker (Dworkin) appears, lose a Devotee instead.
9 Conspiracy Take all x number of Trumps from one Foe's Hand. Return equal number of Trumps, not necessarily the same ones.
8 Demise Choose a Devotee. All with that Devotee in their Cabals immediately discard all such cards.
7 Battle Take a Trump in your Hand and place it down as a new Devotee in your Cabal.
6 Dereliction Pick a Foe's Devotee. Switch with a Devotee in your Cabal of your choosing.
5 Convocation For one Devotee that appears in 2 different Cabals, you choose 1 to Cabal to retain that Devotee. Discard every other instance of that Devotee in all other Cabals.
4 Romance Name a Suit. Deal face-up in a new pile from the Trump Deck, until the named Suit or a Joker (Dworkin) appears. Add the Devotee to your Cabal, and reshuffle the Trump Deck only (not the Discards). If it is a Joker, lose one Devotee from your Cabal instead, and shuffle all Discards back into Trump Deck.
3 Reunion Name a Rank. Deal face-up in a new pile from the Trump Deck, until the named Rank or a Joker (Dworkin) appears. Add the Devotee to your Cabal, and reshuffle the Trump Deck only (not the Discards). If it is a Joker, lose one Devotee from your Cabal instead, and shuffle all Discards back into Trump Deck.
2 Betrayal Nullify Scene (except 2s and Jokers), any time. Free.
Joker Revelation Shuffle the Trump Discards back into the Trump Deck, any time. Free.

Contact Information

Questions and comments? Email Tony Pi (, or David Dalgleish (,