The Rules of Rumble
Originally written by Ben, rewritten later by Kevan


Rumble is a fast-paced game of superhero combat, with players secretly allocating energy points to attack and defense, attempting to outguess their opponents and knock them out of the game.

Heroes are imbued with original super-powers invented by the players at the start of each game (or selected from the online archive) - each power affects the basic bidding rules, with endless possibilities.

Rumble is a game for any number of people, and can be played face-to-face (writing powers onto blank index cards and tracking energy with beads and coins, or pens and paper), online through any form of instant messenger, or through email. A Rumble Arena mailing list has been set up to help people arrange moderated games through email.


Each player in the game has a number of Energy points, representing their Hero's general level of strength, alertness and psychic resolve. This starts the game at 100, and is knocked down by successful attacks (it may also be "burnt up" in the use of the more dramatic Super-Powers).

When a Hero's Energy drops to zero or below, they are eliminated from the game. The last Hero standing is declared the winner.

The game of Rumble is divided into a number of rounds, each consisting of a Allocation Phase and a Resolution Phase. To begin with, we'll ignore the Super-Powers and look at the core of the game.

Allocation Phase

During the Allocation Phase, players choose how much of their Energy to assign to Attack, how much to assign to Defense and how much (if any) to pump into their Super-Powers. Defense will defend against all opponents, but Attacks (and offensive Powers) should be targetted towards specific opponents. These decisions are made secretly; either noted down on a scrap of paper, or memorised.

Example: Mantisman has 80 Energy. He decides to assign 50 Energy to Defense, 20 Energy to an Attack against Doctor Cuttlefish, and 10 Energy to an Attack against Plastiqueman.

When all the superheroes have decided how to spend their Energy, their choices are revealed simultaneously and the game moves on to the Resolution Phase.

Resolution Phase

Attacks now resolve, and we see whether Defenses are adequate. Each Hero totals the Attacks that were made against them this round, and subtracts any Defense they may have made. The remainder is the damage they suffer - this is subtracted from their Energy.

Example: It turns out that Mantisman was Attacked by Doctor Cuttlefish for 40, this round, and by Plastiqueman for 20 - a total of 60. Since Mantisman only spent 50 Energy on Defense, he takes 10 damage.

At the end of this round, Mantisman's Energy has fallen from 80 to 70, so he only has 70 Energy to assign in the next round.

If a Hero is attacked by two or more other Heroes and is only able to defend against some of the combined damage, the defending Hero chooses exactly which points of Attack to block, and which to take - Mantisman could choose to take the 10 damage from either Plastiqueman or the Doc, or 5 from each, or any other division. (This becomes significant if one of the attackers has, say, a super-power that has extra effects when it successfully causes damage.)

When all Attacks and Powers have resolved, and everyone has updated their Energy levels appropriately, the next Round begins, starting again with an Allocation Phase.


Super-Powers add to the game by affecting how the Hero is able to Attack, Defend and otherwise do battle - Powers may give bonuses to Attack or Defense, or convey some other advantage. Some of them remain in effect permanently, while others require Energy to activate.

Some simple example Powers:-

Gain 3 Energy at the beginning of each round.
If you use no other Powers in a given round, add 20 to your Attack.
You may choose how to put Energy into Attack or Defense after other people have revealed their choices. You must still choose which powers you are using normally, however.
Spend 20 and choose an Opponent: Add that opponent's Defense to your Defense, this round. Use once per round.

Regeneration takes effect automatically at the start of each round.

Big, Gnashy Claws only take effect if the Hero uses no other Powers during a round.

Precognition adjusts the structure of the game to the Hero's advantage - Super-Powers always take precedence over the basic rules.

Tai-Chi requires the Hero to allocate 20 Energy during a round's Allocation Phase, giving a bonus during the Resolution Phase.

Where a Power's text is in the form "Cost: Effect", then the cost must be allocated during the Allocation Phase, and the Effect doesn't occur until Resolution. Unless otherwise specified, powers can be used any number of times per turn.

Some costs simply involve spending Energy in the same way it is spent on Attack or Defense; some require that the Hero Burn Energy - the Energy is actually lost as damage, when spent on such Powers (typically it is the more potent Powers that require Burning).

Example: Mantisman has Precognition, Tai-Chi and Big, Gnashy Claws. He has 70 Energy at the start of the round, and chooses to assign 20 Energy to his Tai-Chi Power (choosing Plastiqueman as its target), and 50 Energy to Attack and Defense (using Precognition, he can choose how many to assign to each later).

The Resolution Phase begins. Doctor Cuttlefish is Attacking Mantisman for 50, and Defending for 30. Plastiqueman is Defending for 95. Mantisman can now assign his Attack and Defense, using Precognition. With a 95 Defense bonus from his Tai-Chi, he decides to put all 50 into an Attack against the Doctor. (Because Mantisman used other Powers this round, he doesn't get his Big, Gnashy Claws bonus.)

Doctor Cuttlefish takes 20 Damage (50 Attack minus 30 Defense). Mantisman takes no damage, 95 Defense being more than enough to fend off the Doc's 50 Attack.

Gaining Super-Powers

Before the game begins, each Hero chooses two Powers that they wish to see used in the game - they won't necessarily get these Powers themselves, but they'll be available for everyone to bid on.

For the first few games, players might like to choose Powers from the online archive (most notably the 'Classic' Powers, which have been selected for their simplicity and dramatic robustness), but the game of Rumble becomes far more unpredictable and entertaining when players make up their own Powers.

Made-up Powers can affect any aspect of the game, and be as weak or as powerful as you like - players should obviously be careful about making anything too potent, as it could easily end up in the hands of an opponent.

Looking at all the chosen Powers, each Hero may bid an amount of Energy (from their initial 100) for each. These bids are made in secret, then revealed simultaneously - the highest bidder for each Power gets that Power and loses Energy equal to their bid for it (losing bidders get to keep their Energy). The highest bid for a Power is known as that Power's Power Strength, and is a general measure of its potency.

Bid carefully. While bidding 40 Energy may guarantee that you'll win that enviable Adamantium Exoskeleton, it'll also mean that you'll start the game with 40 Energy already gone. And make sure you don't overbid on everything - while high bids all round will guarantee you some Powers, make sure you'll have a good amount of Energy left if you happen to end up paying for them all... A Hero with 20 Energy and four Powers isn't necessarily going to be able to beat a mortal with 100 Energy.

If bids are tied, the tied Heroes bid again. Heroes can bid zero for a Power if they don't really want it; if everyone bids zero on a particular Power, it is discarded. (Further to this, Heroes are permitted to discard any Powers they have won but do not wish to use; this is most relevant for 'environmental' powers which affect all players, which can be worth bidding on just so that you can choose to discard them.)

When all bids are resolved and Powers have been assigned to Heroes, each Hero is free to make up a suitable name for themselves, and the Rumble begins...

Genre Variants

Although particularly well-suited to super-heroes, the Rumble system can easily be applied to other genres of conflict, and it's been interesting to see how many new game mechanics can be suggested by a change of setting. A few variants that we've attempted are listed below, and their archives can be accessed through the sidebar.

Dungeon Rumble takes place in a fantasy dungeon setting, with players being adventurers. Super-Powers are "Objects", and Adventurers' Energy becomes "Hit Points" (or "HP").

Giant Monster Rumble is fairly similar to the Super-Hero setting; players are Monsters which spend Energy to obtain and activate Mutations.

Hacker Rumble sees players hacking maliciously into one another's computer systems; players are Hackers, spending Bits to install and activate Programs.

Spaceship Rumble is a game of interplanetary dogfighting, with Ships diverting Energy between Attack and (in place of Defense) Shields, as well as whatever Systems the ship is fitted with.

Corporation Rumble takes place in the cut-throat world of global business - Corporation spend their Millions on Lawsuits (Attack) and Counter-Suits (Defence), furthering their empires with acquired Assets, over a number of Fiscal Quarters (Rounds).

If you've been playing extensively in any other genres, get in touch and we'll provide the means to archive them.

Rumble - The Game of Superheroic Combat

Rumble Genres:-

v1.3 - July 2003
Game by Ben
Site by Kevan