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. Powers can modify any aspect of the game, from minor attack boosts to mind-bending gameplay alterations, with the game's auction system keeping power levels in check.

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. (There's a dusty mailing list.)


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 round 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 10 and choose a Hero: Do 5 unavoidable damage to that Hero.

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.

Laser Eyes requires the Hero to spend 10 Energy and choose a target during a round's Allocation Phase, giving a damage effect during the Resolution Phase.

Where a Power's text is in the form "Cost: Effect", then the cost must be chosen and allocated during the Allocation Phase, and the Effect doesn't occur until Resolution. Unless otherwise specified, costed 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 lost permanently when spent on such Powers (typically it is the more potent Powers that require Burning).

Example: Mantisman has Precognition, Laser Eyes and Big, Gnashy Claws. He has 70 Energy at the start of the round, and chooses to assign 20 Energy to his Laser Eyes (choosing Plastiqueman as its target both times), and 50 Energy to keep back for 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 30, and Defending for 10. Plastiqueman is Defending for 95. Mantisman can now assign his Attack and Defense, using Precognition. He decides to put 30 into Defense, and 20 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 10 Damage (20 Attack minus 10 Defense). Plastiqueman is hit by Mantisman's Laser Eyes twice - the attacks ignore Plastiqueman's Defense and deal 10 Damage. Mantisman takes no damage.

Gaining Super-Powers

Before the game begins, each Hero secretly invents two Powers and writes them down. They won't necessarily get these Powers themselves, but they'll be available for everyone to bid on. Invented Powers can affect any aspect of the game, and be as weak or as powerful as you like - players will get to bid on them, so the strongest powers will be balanced by costing more. When everyone has created two Powers, they are all revealed.

(For their first game, players might like to choose Powers from the online archive, most notably the 'Classic' Powers, which have been selected for their simplicity. But the game of Rumble is at its best when players make up their own Powers.)

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 be careful not to overbid on everything - while high bids all round will guarantee you some Powers, you may be a pushover if you end up paying for them all. A Hero with 17 Energy and all six Powers on the table isn't necessarily going to be able to beat a couple of mortals with 100 Energy.

If any bids are tied, run a further bidding round for the tied Powers. Heroes can bid zero for a Power if they don't 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 can be 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 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 Wray
Site by Kevan Davis