Danger llamas

Just when you thought it was safe to step into the …er…field, here come the DANGER LLAMAS!

Danger llamas was borne out of a game of “Skull and Roses” in a pub. As more and more people joined the party, the game had to grow to, adding not just more players but also more rules. The result is an intriguing game of bluff and risk management, camels, alpacas, blot lords and dangerous llamas.

The 54-card Danger Llama deck contains 6 Danger Llama cards, 24 lab character cards (split into 4 different colour categories), 6 Blot-lord cards, 6 Camel cards, 6 Alpaca cards and 6 Safety Steve cards. It is not available in the shops but was produced as end-of-year holiday gift for the lab team. If anyone would like their own deck, then let me know and I’ll organise another print run.

Read on for the core Danger llama game, or follow the links below for:

Base Rules

(3-6+ players, 15-45 mins)

Winning the game

Before starting the game, decide how many points are required to win the game. A good place to start is two for a four-player ~20 min game.

Set up

Each player receives one Danger Llama card + 3 non-llama cards. If playing with more than 6 players, use the alpaca cards as extra llamas. Let’s face it, alpacas are, at heart, bonus llamas.

Game Rounds

At the beginning of each round, all players play one card face down.

Decide who will go first using an appropriate randomisation technique (e.g., the person who looks most like a llama). That player has two options:

  • Add another card to the pile in front of them.
  • Declaring that they are willing to run the danger llama gauntlet.

If the player decides to add a card, then play moves to the next player who selects from the same two options (simple!). Play continues in this way, until someone chooses to run the gauntlet. If a player does not have any cards remaining in their hand, they must declare that they will face the gauntlet and start the bidding process.

If a player declares they will face the danger llama gauntlet, they then declare how many cards they will be able to draw without hitting a danger llama. “I will run the gauntlet. 5 cards”. Thereafter the other players in order get the opportunity to either up the bid or decline the challenge. “5? I can do better, I bid 7.”

Running the Gauntlet

Once no other player is willing to increase the bid amount, the brave/foolish individual with the highest bid must face the gauntlet. This simply involves turning over cards until either the bid amount is reached, or they hit a Danger Llama card. However, they must turn over all the cards in front of themselves first. If they have a danger llama in their own pile, feel free to make fun of them for being “self llama’d”! After turning their own cards, they continue by selecting one or more in any order from any pile.

Success: – if the player successfully turns over enough cards to reach their bid without hitting a danger llama, they score 1 point toward their victory tally. All cards are returned to the players hands and play starts again with players choosing one card from their selection to play, and the person to the left of the gauntlet runner going first.

Failure: – if a player hits a Danger Llama, they not only suffer the ignominy of defeat but also, as hubris shouldn’t be rewarded, one random card from their deck is selected at random and discarded. Play restarts as previously but now the failed llama runner has fewer options. It is entirely possible, across multiple game rounds, for a player to end up with 1 or 0 cards.

And that’s it, you play game rounds until a winner is decided.

Wrinkles (expanded rules)

General tip: for new players, start with the base game. Once you are happy with what is going on, slowly add your preferred additional rules to shake things up.

Steal

The simplest tweak to make. Instead of a failed gauntlet run being punished by losing a card, a random card from the offending player gets stolen by the person whose llama they turned over and added to their deck. Note this can lead to players having more than one llama in their hand (which is fine). This tweak is particularly fun with larger groups. If the player self-llamas, then decide whether a card is discarded or goes to the player with fewest cards/victory points.

Increasing points required for victory

Increasing the points required to win makes the game longer, unsurprisingly, but it also changes the dynamics. Players may (possibly should) play a little more conservatively at the beginning of the game, as losing card(s) early has a bigger effect the longer the game. If you choose 4+ points required, consider adding an additional llama and an additional non-llama card to each player’s deck.

Teams

With larger groups, getting more people involved in each gauntlet run makes it more engaging for everyone. Increasing the number of cards that need to be selected is also, generally, a good thing. To use the Teams options, pair people together on opposite sides of the game circle. Play proceeds as normal, but when a gauntlet run is declared both players starting hands must be turned over first and then the pair of players take it in turn to select further cards. House rules for this option can include deciding if one or both players lose a card from their deck upon failure and deciding whether you allow players to confer with their team-mate or not (not is more entertaining).

Special cards

This tweak involves assigning attributes to the non-llama cards in the deck. Decide whether the special cards are in addition to the usual 4 or whether they replace one or more non-llamas. Both options can work well and will have different effects on game play. Also decide whether every player receives the same special card(s), or if it is random per game, or dealt each game round (little trickier to keep track of numbers). You can also shuffle the llama/alpaca cards into the deck so that too becomes random; however, I only recommend this when the cards are refreshed each round. Where the four player, non-random game is a tactical battle of wits, the 12 player random cards version shifts the feel of the game toward low-key entertainment (perfect for the pub).

Alpaca

Alpacas are like llamas, indeed so much so that many can’t tell the difference. As such, they have been included to allow up to 12 players to play or to allow additional danger cards to change the game dynamics. In smaller games, alpacas can be used as neutral cards. They don’t count toward the gauntlet score, but they also don’t hurt you. You just stopped off for a friendly visit to the alpaca farm. Using alpacas in this way will make gauntlet runs slightly more difficult and you might find players playing more cards before electing to enter the gauntlet or being more conservative with their bids.

Safety Steve

Safety Steve is renowned for his llama wrangling abilities. If you turn over a Steve card during a gauntlet run. it protects you from one future llama i.e., if you turned over non-llama (NL), NL, Steve, NL, llama, you would be allowed to continue. If you use the Steve in this way, he gets “used” and you need to find another NL to complete the run. Note that adding Steve to the deck increases the potential for higher gauntlet runs. As Steve’s could, conceivably, cancel all llamas in a run it might become too easy; therefore, consider adding extra llamas/alpacas to the deck so people have to consider this new risk. Wrinkles…

Blot Lord

We don’t like the blot lord. Never kind, only ever taking away. If you hit a blot lord on a gauntlet run you automatically lose one card from your hand, irrespective of whether you succeed or not. Indeed, if you fail the gauntlet, you lose two cards. Brutal. If you include this card, I recommend players start with at least 5 cards in their hand. If playing random deals, I recommend not having more blot lords in the deck than there are players. Optional rules, Safety Steve could protect against the blot lord as well as or instead of llamas. Let’s face it, Steve is great!

Camel

Are camels “fun llamas”? The addition of a hump or two is certainly a bold look! And, you have to be bold to play a camel card. If a player picks a camel card on their gauntlet run and goes on to completes the run, they get to add the camel card to their hand. If the player played a camel card themselves and successfully complete the gauntlet, then they can either take a bonus card from the unused pile or steal a card from another player (decide on house rules before the game). So, do you take the risk of playing a camel card? You might gain from it, but someone might outbid you and you could lose it.

Personality cards

The remaining non-llama cards are each unique within the deck. You don’t need to add any extra rules, but you could customise these in any way you like to expand the game play. For example, you could assign each player a personality and if that card gets turned over then that player must finish the gauntlet run, cannot play any cards in the next round, or has to buy the next round of drinks. Or you could use the colours to denote an action: missing a turn, drawing a card from the discard or non-used pile. Any rule you add will change the balance of the game. Be careful not to make anything too overpowered or at least make overpowered cards very rare!

For these additional rules, you might find they work best if they only activate when they are selected from someone else’s played cards during a gauntlet run rather than when turning over the cards played by the player.

Some strategy comments.

At its heart, this is a simple game. However, what you are really playing are the people around you. You always know what you have played but can you infer from how your opponents are playing whether they have played a llama? Declaring your willingness to run the gauntlet may suggest that you haven’t played a danger llama card; can you use that to draw someone into picking your cards? Of course, that strat brings risk that no one will increase your bet and you’ll be self llama’d!

As game rounds go on, the players that lost cards will have fewer options. Choosing when to play conservatively and when to take risks is central to the game. However, you must also stay aware of how close your opponents are getting to their game winning score… indeed sometimes you just have to take a self-llama to ensure someone else doesn’t win.

It is the nuances that make this game so much fun! The wrinkles change the base game by introducing additional nuance, giving you something more to think about and shifting the probability of success. Can you adapt to them more effectively than your opponents?

Other Games with the Danger Llama cards

Of course, the Danger Llama deck could be used to bring some llama-joy to other card games. Whereas a normal deck of cards has 4×13 cards, the llama deck of 9×6 throws up some additional possibilities and wrinkles, changing the dynamics of popular games.

Danger Llama Super Snap (instant party fun)

Chase the Llama / Llama Rummy

Danger Llama Poker

Get your own deck

Love the sound of Danger llamas? Played with your friends or family and are now desperate for your own? Use the form below to let me know you are interested.

Likely the cost will be about £15 for people in the UK including shipping, although that could come down if there is a surprisingly large amount of interest!

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