I'm making a deck-building card game that has a player acquire cards. These cards have costs and requirements for acquiring them, so if the player does not meet the card's requirements or does not have enough to pay for the card, they cannot acquire it.

I am trying to phrase an effect that allows a player to acquire a card without paying for it even if they do not meet the requirements for acquiring it. I've spent too much time trying to come up with an elegant way of phrasing this, so I have come here for help.

"Ascension" is a card game with similar acquisition elements, however its cards have only costs. This game uses the phrase "acquire [the card] without paying its cost." I like this phrasing because its clear, concise, and is not childish as "for free" might sound. Adding card requirements to this is resulting in long or clunky phrasing.

In short, I'm looking for a nice way to phrase this:

Acquire a card without paying its cost, regardless of restriction

I've thought of and rejected these phrases:

Acquire a card without cost and restriction.

This seems to wrongly imply that one can acquire only a free, unrestricted card.

Freely acquire a card without paying its cost

"Freely" is too vague in meaning. It could mean "at any time" or "as you please."

If there is no good phrase for this, then I am open to adopting a keyword to take the place of this meaning (a common practice in card games). If I should take this route, what keyword would be both appropriate and "catchy?"

  • So I can "acquire a card by other means, at no cost, by shortcut, etc."
    – NVZ
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    "Get a free card!" seems simple & straightforward - or have I misunderstood the concept?
    – TrevorD
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:48
  • How about unconditionally?
    – NVZ
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:50
  • 1
    How about Acquire a card at no cost and without restriction.
    – Em.
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:51

7 Answers 7


Creating a keyword for the effect is a good idea. It helps to keep wording and rules consistent and reduces the complexity of edge case interactions. If you do have a keyword for this effect, I would suggest also putting the rules for the keyword on the card. For example:

Pillage a card from from the trade row.

(Pillage: Acquire a card ignoring all costs and requirements)

As for the the keyword itself, it really depends on the theme of the game. For example, in a viking themed game, Pillage or Raid work well. In a sci-fi themed game perhaps Materialize or Transport could work. The actual word is less important than the clarity of the explanation text.

  • I'm tempted to take this route and create a keyword. I'm still looking for a good keyword to use, though. "Pillage" doesn't exactly work in this context because the player is acquiring a person (as if "recruiting" them) or an item (as if "obtaining" it) and pillaging is too hostile of a term for either of these cases. Is there a good word you or others can think of that covers these two concepts?
    – Zircon
    Jun 7, 2016 at 13:26
  • @Zircon It is difficult to offer a suggestion without proper context of the theme and tone of the game.
    – Nathan
    Jun 7, 2016 at 18:24
  • That's fair. I'm sure I can come with something on my own in time.
    – Zircon
    Jun 7, 2016 at 18:27

Since it's a game, and that gamers understand this phrase, consider

No strings attachedTFD

no special demands or limits that you have to accept.

"The donation has no strings attached, so the charity can use the money for whatever purpose it chooses."

Another definition:

Without conditions or restrictions

"They give each of the children $10,000 a year with no strings attached."

This expression dates from the mid-1900s, although string in the sense of "a limitation" has been used since the late 1800s.

Btw, "get a free card!" would be the simplest.


I would avoid putting any unusual adjectives or adverbs in the text. As a player, if I see a descriptor like "Freely" at the beginning of this card and nowhere else, I will scratch my head and wonder what's different about this card. If you think up a good keyword, great, but I suggest that any new keywords be incorporated into multiple cards' texts.

How about breaking the phrase up:

Acquire a card. Do not pay its cost.


Acquire a card. Ignore the card's cost.

If you really need to specify that the player does not pay normal or special costs:

Acquire a card. Do not pay its printed cost. Do not pay any costs associated with any active effects.

Sort of like the Monopoly method:

Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Each effect is emphasized. One last one:

Acquire a card. Ignore all costs that would normally be required to acquire it.

  • I think I'm going to go with a keyword in this case, but +1 to you because this is a good way to format the rule text of the word.
    – Zircon
    Jun 7, 2016 at 13:26

It sounds to me like want you really want is a licensing disclaimer. You might want to research the various alternatives to traditional copyright. I would suggest you start with the Creative Commons standard at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

I.E. "This card game is being distributed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. You may download this work and share it with others as long as you credit the original creator, but you may not change the game in any way or distribute it commercially."

Alternatively, you may find Copyleft or Open Source licensing to be more to your liking. Both are subtly different.

You may also want to call it a Print-and-Play game if the entire thing is free. People get what that means. Or, if you're asking for donations, try calling it a "Pay what you like" bundle.

  • 3
    I think OP means there are costs and requirements in-game, not regarding the reproduction or distribution of his/her game.
    – Em.
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:45
  • I'm a boardgamer, so my mind goes straight to collectable card games. Jun 6, 2016 at 20:49

Possibly still too long, but I like the flow of:

"You may acquire the card regardless of restrictions and without cost."


Since you don't like "Get a card for free", I would look at

  • steal a card! (of course you'd have to make this fit into the game, but it definitely means that you are circumventing all conventional restrictions on getting the card, especially paying for it).

  • find a card (if the acquisition is pure luck).

  • win a card (also means you don't pay for it, and implies an element of luck, but can also imply you have to do something to win it)

It's easy to make nouns out of these: stolen card, lucky card, lottery card, prize card. You can also try gift card (somebody gave you a present).


If the "effect" is a power or privilege that the player can hold on to for later use (i.e., it doesn’t have to be used immediately to acquire a card), perhaps you could put more emphasis on the importance of the waiver of the card’s costs/restrictions (and less on the card's acquisition), as follows:

“[Normal/stated] costs and requirements waived for the acquisition of one card.”


[This effect is] "Good for a one-time [single] waiver of a/one card’s [normal/stated] acquisition costs and requirements.”

If immediate use/card acquisition is required, perhaps you could still use the notion of “waived” as follows:

“Acquire a card: Its [normal/stated] acquisition costs and requirements are [hereby] waived.”

Definition of waiver (noun)
: the act of choosing not to use or require something that you are allowed to have or that is usually required
(from Merriam-Webster)

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