Rules version 2.0

Published September 2019 for game version 2.0 comprising the Plant Traits deck (64 cards), Animal Traits deck (46 cards), Nature Calls deck (86 cards), Icon/Actions cards, and rule book. For a pdf printable version of the rules, and the cards themselves, see the Downloads page.


Catastrophic is a game of community, conservation and catastrophe. Cultivate and support the development of the most robust community of plants and animals, weaken those of your opponents, and adapt to survive the events the planet and your opponents continually throw at you.

Playing the Game

Setting up the game

Separate the cards into 3 decks: Plant Traits, Animal Traits and Nature Calls, and shuffle them. Each deck will have its own discard pile. Each player begins with a hand of 6 Plant Trait cards and 4 Nature Calls cards.

All players now simultaneously build their starting community by creating as many Plant Species as they wish. Each Species starts with 2 Population Tokens placed above or on top of the Trait Cards that make up that Species. Once all Communities have been created, the first player begins their turn.

Example starting hand, withfour nature calls cards, and six plant trait cards organised into species with 2 population tokens per species.

On Your Turn

1. Actions

Each player is allowed up to 3 Actions per turn, from the following:


Add Trait Cards into any number of existing Species.


Swap Trait Cards from any Species in your Community with Trait Cards from your hand.


Create any number of new Species by placing Trait Cards from your hand as a new set in your Community, with 2 Population Tokens per Species.


Discard any number of cards from your hand into the appropriate discard piles.


Draw cards from any of the draw decks up to your resource number, which is usually 7.

Each deck comes with three triangular tokens with which to keep track of actions.

Action Tokens

To keep track of the number of Actions you have taken, after each Action pass an Action Token to the next player.

2. Nature Calls

Draw a card from the Nature Calls deck. If the card is an Event card, you must play it immediately on your own Community. If not, add it to your hand.

At any time during your turn, you may play Event Cards on your own or an opponent’s Community.

At any time during the game, including during opponents’ turns, you can play Interaction cards (unless they state otherwise). Interactions contain a wide range of positive or negative effects, as explained on each of the cards’ text.

Play continues in a clockwise direction.

Event History

Once an Event has been played, place it with other played Events so that you can easily track how many Events have taken place.

Ending the Game

After the turn during which the 7th Event card was played, each player gets one more turn, including the player who played the 7th Event card. During this last round, additional Events can still be played.

If you want a longer or shorter game, try adjusting the number of Events played before the final round.

Winning the Game

Before starting to play, all players should agree a winning condition that can measure the success of each players’ Community.

We suggest assigning each Population Token a number of points equivalent to the Trophic Level on which its Species sits and adding up the total points for each Community.

For example:

Cards are arranged in a pyramid shape with points given to population tokens depending on the level at which that token appears.

The Player with the highest score wins. In this example the player has 4 (plant) + 6 (herbivore) + 3 (carnivore) = 13 points.

If two or more players have the same number of points, the next Event card in the Nature Calls deck is played against them both, and the winning condition is tested to crown a winner. If Communities are still equal after that Event, it is a draw.

Card Types and What You Do with Them

Plant and Animal Trait Cards

Species Introduction

A Species is made up of one or more Trait cards. These cards give them the ability to be Resilient to Events that affect a Community.

On your turn, you may use an Action to introduce as many new Species as you like into your Community by playing Trait cards from your hand.

A Species can either be an Animal or Plant. You cannot place a Plant Trait card onto an Animal Species or vice-versa.

Some Trait cards have a key-word ‘Invest’. Discard cards from your hand equal to the number following ‘Invest’ to play the card. If you do not have enough cards to discard, cards with Invest cannot be played.

Trait cards assigned to one Species should be placed in a vertical column so that the Trait Characteristics and Trait Attributes on each Trait card are visible in a column separated from other Species in the community.

Image showing trait attributes on the left and characteristics on the right.

Trait Attributes

These Attributes are the icons on the left hand side of the Trait Cards. Some Attributes are affected by Interaction Cards, for example Reproduction. Their use will become clear when playing the game and following card instructions.

Trait Characteristics

These Characteristics are the icons on the right hand side of the Trait cards. These icons correspond to Event Condition icons.

The Dispersal Attribute increases the Population by one Population Token when a Trait Card with the Dispersal icon is first placed in a Species.

Trophic Levels, Population Tokens and Extinction

Trophic Levels are the different levels of a food chain. Plant Species can only be placed on the first Trophic Level, and Animal Species can only be placed on Level 2 and above.

On each Animal Trophic Level, each Species must have 2 food sources directly below it on the previous level, so that the community develops in a triangular or pyramid structure. Species may share a food source with a neighbouring Species on the same Trophic Level.

Species must have Population Tokens to stay in the game. If a Species loses all its Population Tokens, it goes Extinct, and its Trait cards are placed in the appropriate discard pile.

If one of the food sources of a Species goes Extinct, that Species loses one Population Token per round, at the end of the player’s turn in whose community the Species lives, until a new food source is introduced or the Species goes Extinct. If the Species loses both food sources, it loses two Population Tokens per round in the same way.

You cannot move Species between Trophic Levels. If a Species goes Extinct and was a food source for another Species, you may move an existing Species from the correct Trophic Level to replace the lost food source. This replacement food source and the consumer Species will each lose 1 Population Token.

Event Cards

Determining Vulnerability

The majority of Event cards contain multiple Condition icons. These correspond to Trait Characteristics, or Condition icons on Trait cards, indicating that a Species with this Trait is well adapted to these Conditions.

Next to this is the Condition Number which shows the minimum number of Conditions a Species’ Traits need to match in order to be Resilient to an Event. If they do not have this minimum number of matching Conditions on any of their Trait cards, they are Vulnerable.

Each unique Condition can only be counted once on a Species when trying to reach the Condition Number, even if there are multiple instances of it across different Traits.

Note: As an optional rule, instead of using Conditions, Vulnerability/Resilience can be determined by a convincing argument on how certain Traits can protect from certain Events.

Determining Event Impact

Depending on the number or which Species in your Community are Vulnerable/Resilient to an Event, different positive and/or negative effects occur, as stated on the card.

Follow the negative effects first and the positive effects second. The negative and positive effects are specific to each Event card.

If an Event card does not state that it affects specifically either Plant or Animal Species, it affects both.

Some Events have extra effects written above the positives and negatives (e.g. Affects all players, affects Animals only etc).

If an Event card is ‘Continuous’, its effects may last multiple turns.

Interaction Cards

Interaction cards can be played at any time unless stated otherwise on the card.

Once an Interaction Card is played, its effects must be immediately resolved by the player affected.

Once an Interaction card is played, and its effect is resolved, place it in the Nature Calls discard pile (unless otherwise stated).

Some Interaction cards have ‘Continuous’ listed under their name. These stay in a Community and their effects are active as long as they are in play.

Rules of Play

  • If there are no more cards left to draw, take the discard pile, shuffle it and place it face down as the new deck.
  • When an Event or Interaction card allows you to pick up cards from the discard pile and there are not enough; take as many cards as are available, or none if there are no discarded cards yet.
  • If a Trait card is misused (i.e. opposing Trait cards, as defined on the cards themselves, are assigned to the same Species) and an opponent notices it, they can take the most recently added Trait (that is in conflict) into their hand. If you notice that you have played opposing Traits, then state it to your opponents before taking the most recently added Trait into your hand.
  • When a card asks a player to determine Species selection via Population Token Number and there is a tie for fewest or most, the player may choose which Species are affected.
  • When prompted to pick up a card, unless specified, you may pick up from any deck.

Players are encouraged to be creative when playing Catastrophic by experimenting with different gameplay and rules.

Have a go at a Multiplayer Collaborative Mode by creating Species together in teams to create diverse and resilient Communities!

Solo Mode

Catastrophic can be played on your own. Solo Mode uses the same mechanics as the multiplayer game, with a few adjustments to the rules.

Begin with a starting hand of just 6 Plant Trait cards and build your Community normally.

You may only use 2 actions per turn. You must then pick up a Nature Calls card. When drawing during Nature Calls, you must play Interaction cards immediately on yourself if the effect is negative. Otherwise, you may decide to play the Interaction card now or put it into your hand.

Your Resource Number is reduced in this mode. You may only Draw to a maximum of 4 cards and you cannot draw from the Nature Calls Deck except during the Nature Calls section of your turn.

There are 7 Interactions that cannot be used in Solo Mode. Remove these from the deck before playing, or remove as you play. These are Continental Drift, Interspecific Competition, Migration, Foraging, Terraforming and Wide Ranging Predator.

When Interaction cards or Event cards ask you to take Population Tokens from an opponent, simply add the number of Population Tokens to your Community from the spare Tokens.

We suggest ending the game once 4 Events have taken place. However, if you want a longer or shorter game, try adjusting the number of Events you play. The longer the game, the larger and more diverse your Community should become.

Feeling competitive? Record your score and try to beat your own record.


Action - On each player’s turn they will complete three Actions from a defined list (see ‘On Your Turn’).

Action Token - Use these Tokens to keep track of the number of Actions a player has used by passing them on to the next player after an Action has been completed.

Attribute - Additional icons or mechanical text on some cards (e.g. the Aquatic Icon, the Reproduction Icon, the ‘Continuous’ text).

Community - Each player’s system of Species and all their Interactions.

Condition - These are represented by icons on most Event and Trait cards. These are used to determine if a Species is Vulnerable to an Event (see ‘Determining Vulnerability’).

Condition Number - the minimum number of unique Conditions that a Species needs to be suited to in order to be treated as Resilient to an Event.

Continuous - These Event and Interaction cards stay in a Community and their effects are active until removed or when stated on the card.

Discard - Place a card from your hand into the relevant discard pile.

Dispersal - Species gain one Population Token when a Trait Card with the Dispersal Icon is added to that Species.

Extinction - The loss of all Population Tokens on a Species. See ‘Extinction’ in Plant and Animal Trait Cards.

Nature Calls - During this part of your turn, draw a card from the Nature Calls Deck. If it is an Event card, it must be played immediately on your Community. Otherwise, add the card to your hand.

Population Token - These tokens are placed on each Species indicating the population size of that Species. When a Species has no Population Tokens it goes Extinct.

Reproduction - When a Reproduction Interaction Card is played, all Species in your Community with a Reproduction Icon will increase their Population Tokens by the number next to the icon.

Resilient - A Species is treated as Resilient to an Event if it has enough unique matching Conditions on its Traits compared to the Event (see ‘Determining Vulnerability’). Positive and negative effects occur depending on which or how many Resilient and Vulnerable Species there are to an Event.

Resource Number (RN) - Determines the maximum number of cards you can have in your hand after using a Draw Action on your turn. The default number is 7. Every player’s RN is unique to them, and can be altered with card effects.

Species - A Species is a set of Plant or Animal Traits.

Trait - A characteristic that can be assigned to either Plants or Animals.

Vulnerable - A Species is treated as Vulnerable to an Event if it does not have enough unique matching Conditions on its Traits compared to the Event (see ‘Determining Vulnerability’). Positive and negative effects occur depending on which or how many Resilient and Vulnerable Species there are to an Event.