For 3-6 players. Approximately 25-45 minutes.
Object: Using all the cards in your hand, craft a character, and convince the estate keeper that you are the most deserving of inheriting the worldly (or otherwise!) possessions of the deceased.
Separate and shuffle the cards by type: identity (blue), relationship (orange), backstory (green), objection (purple).
Place the backstory card pile in the center of the table. This is now the deck.
Designate who will be the estate keeper. If you can’t decide, do it based on who’s the closest to being a lawyer in real life. Give this person the objection card deck. They should hold on to it, face down. The estate keeper should also draw one (1) identity card, which should be used to define the deceased (although, if you have a better idea, roll with that!).
Everyone else gets one (1) identity card, one (1) relationship card, and two (2) backstory cards from the deck. If they draw a special card, shuffle it back in and draw a new one. You cannot start the game with a special card in hand.
Turn on the brain box, it’s time to make some sh*t up.
Running the Estate of a Dead Person
So what does it mean to be the estate keeper? Their job is to simultaneously play Game Master and judge, guiding the other players through their playing experience while also deciding who gets away with the riches at the end. They can award it to whoever proves to have the closest tie to the deceased, to whoever threatens them the most, or whoever made them laugh hardest. So long as they can justify it with in-game reasoning, it’s kosher.
Once the role of estate keeper has been assigned and the cards are divvied up, it’s the estate keeper’s job to set the stage by…
Stating that “someone has died.”
Introducing the aforementioned “someone” who has died and telling the story of how they passed. They are encouraged to use an identity card for inspiration.
Revealing the fortune that the other players are vying for.
The estate keeper has complete control, so they can make the story as outlandish and as detailed as they please. Some people leave behind money, others leave behind the complete Criterion Collection DVD set. They should be treated as equally valuable (because they are). Do keep in mind, however, that their words can and should be used against them by everyone else.
The estate keeper is also the ultimate authority on any rule leniencies and the amount of side banter that takes place around the table.
Taking the Riches of a Dead Person
Everyone else around the table will be playing odd characters at the arbitration as designated by the combination of cards in front of them. For all four rounds of play, it’s their job to make the most compelling or entertaining (or both, for you overachievers) case for why they deserve the fortune and/or why everyone else doesn’t. Players MUST incorporate all four of the cards they start with as well as any other cards they draw or are dealt throughout the course of the game. As players include elements from their cards into their stories, they should place the corresponding card face up on the table and turned away from them, so that others can use it for reference. Aside from needing to use all the cards in their hands, the player may tell the story in any way they like. Feel free to give characters names and to unearth repressed, fictional memories.
Identity Cards - prescribe an occupation or general description for your character.
Relationship Cards - prescribe your relationship to the deceased.
Backstory Cards - these are the most varied of the lot and consist of items in your possession, character quirks, life events, etc. that must be included in your story. Some will have a blue icon on the bottom. This means that you are encouraged not just to include this in your story but also into your verbal or physical performance.
Objection Cards - these cards will provide a player with a single sentence they are allowed to yell during another player’s speaking turn (including the estate keeper, for lols!). The “victim” of the objection does not get extra time and must respond to the objection. The victim cannot declare the objection to be false. Additional repercussions, such as forcing the player to replace their identity card, will be written on the individual card.
These cards are held in a pile by the estate keeper and are doled out at any point during the game as rewards to players who say something particularly funny or clever. The estate keeper does not look at which card they give out; they just take it from the pile and hand it over face down. The player can then hold on to the objection card and use it in the first 30 seconds of any other player’s turn. No more than one objection can be played on a player per turn.
Running a Will Arbitration
Just like real life, a will arbitration is held in four parts:
After describing the deceased and their fortune, the estate keeper prompts the other players to introduce themselves and their claim to the fortune. Players must incorporate all four cards in their hands.
All players draw another card. Then, the estate keeper gets to ask each player one direct question each. The question may be directly related to their previous speech - or not. Players must incorporate their new backstory card in the answer to this question.
Everyone takes a lunch break! Players are free to talk amongst themselves, “off the record.” Each player gets to ask one direct question of one other player. Not everyone needs to be questioned. You may pass your question. No additional cards are drawn, but objections are fair game as always.
The estate keeper has got a decision to make! All players draw another card and use it in making their last claim to the fortune.
*Suggestion: Hey players, if you feel you don’t have enough to work with with your cards alone, take a look around! Poke some holes in the other players’ arguments! It’s fun! And you, estate keeper! Don’t forget to toss in some objection cards!
Bequeathing the Fortune
The moment of truth has arrived; the estate keeper must pick a player to award the fortune to. As most things in this game, it’s really completely up to the estate keeper how to divvy it up; they can give it all to one player or split the winnings as they see fit. However, they should make sure to explain all their decisions. It makes for a better ending to a lovely, tragic, silly will arbitration.
Our game is fairly open ended and that’s because we want players to be as creative as possible when inventing their characters and stories. In general, we encourage players to adopt the age-old “Yes, And” rule of improvisation. However, here are some things you shouldn’t do, to maximize fun and make things easier for non-skilled improvisers:
Don’t invent ungrounded relationships with other players/characters, including the deceased. Sometimes, this happens organically, in which case, great! Ultimately, jurisdiction lies with the estate keeper.
Don’t introduce details about other players/characters backstory that don’t exist on the cards.
Don’t cut into others’ floor time (unless you have an objection card!). Give them the full time and attention - the more they say, the more can be used against them! That being said, in between rounds is your time to shine. Unleash your snide comments and debate skills unless the estate keeper says otherwise.
Obey the estate keeper.
Have fun fighting over dead people's things!