An Exposition of the Exact Rules of Prismata 9

Prismata is a fast-paced, turn-based game that mixes together ideas from real-time strategy games and card games.  In Prismata, players take turns collecting resources, building up units, and eventually attacking each other.  The objective is to destroy all of your opponent’s units – before they do the same to you.

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Your forces are displayed on the bottom half of the screen, while your opponent’s forces are displayed on the top half.

Resources in Prismata

There are five resources in Prismata: gold, energy, green, blue, and red.  These are their symbols, in order:

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At the bottom of your screen, you see how many of each resource you currently have. Your opponent’s resources are displayed at the top of your screen.

Gold and green, once produced, are stored until they are spent.  Energy, blue, and red expire at the end of each turn, meaning they can only be used on the same turn they are produced.

Units in Prismata

You need units in order to produce resources.  Here is an example of a basic resource production unit in Prismata:

Its cost is displayed in the top-right, and its amount of health is displayed in the bottom-right.  This is what it looks like on the battlefield:

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 1.18.10 PMNote that its health is still displayed in the bottom-right.

Units that can block (more on this when we get to combat) have a blue background for their description and a shield in the top-left:

On the battlefield, blocking is also indicated by a blue background and a shield in the top-left:

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Clicking Your Units

Some units on the battlefield can be clicked, and do something when you click them:

A unit can only be clicked once per turn.  On the battlefield, units that have already been clicked are indicated by dashed lines placed over them.

A clicked unit cannot block (if it was originally blocking) until the start of your next turn.

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Note that the background has changed from blue to black, to indicate that Drone could no longer block. The shield is replaced by a hollow shield to indicate that the unit was originally blocking.

A summary of the first three Prismata units you saw:

  • A Blastforge cannot be clicked (because it has no click ability), and is never blocking
  • An Engineer cannot be clicked (because it has no click ability), and is always blocking.
  • A Drone is blocking by default at the start of your turn, but cannot block for a turn if you want to click it to produce gold.

Buying More Units

Now that we’ve seen all these units that harvest resources, let’s learn how to spend these resources.  On the left side of the screen you will see the buy box, which contains the list of units available for purchase in the present game.  Some games have a second tab of purchasable units; click the second tab to see them.

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The cost of each unit is listed under its name.  The cost in gold is denoted by a number on top of the symbol; the cost in other resources is denoted by counting the symbols.  For example, Drone costs 3 gold and 1 energy, while Shadowfang costs 6 gold and 3 red:

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If you have sufficient resources to buy a unit, click it, and those resources will get subtracted.

There is a limit to how many of each unit you can buy.  The pellets at the bottom indicate the supply of each unit you have remaining.  Each unit has a different starting supply (either 1, 4, 10, or 20).

Construction Time

Unless otherwise stated, all units take a turn to construct.  For example, if you just bought a Drone, it will look like this:

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The clock in the top-left with a “1” on it indicates that the Drone requires 1 turn to finish construction.  Units get constructed at the start of your turn, after which they immediately do something (if they do something at the start of your turn), can block, and can be clicked.

Collecting Attack Power

In Prismata, units attack by producing attack power, or Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 1.30.33 PM  You can think of attack power as another resource; it is collected and displayed at the right side of your screen (once you have any attacker on the battlefield):

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Some units produce attack power when you click them. Others automatically do so at the start of your turn.  In general, units need to be clicked when there is an alternative benefit to not clicking it (such as being able to block).

The Steelsplitter must be clicked to obtain its attack potential.

Shadowfang automatically generates attack at the start of your turn.

On the battlefield, units that can attack in some way have attack amount displayed in the bottom-left:

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Once you have collected resources, bought new units, and collected attack power, you are ready to end your turn.  At this time, damage equal to your attack power (if greater than 0) gets distributed among your opponent’s units.


Add up the health of your opponent’s blocking units.  We call this number your opponent’s total defense.  If your attack power is less than this number, then your opponent gets to defend, ie. they get to choose how to distribute damage to their units.

Defending with a unit means assigning damage to it equal to its health.  Such units are said to receive lethal damage, and die.  Your opponent clicks blocking units to defend with until all damage has been assigned.

The final unit they defend with may not receive lethal damage, if the damage remaining at that time was less than its health.  In this case, that unit lives on, absorbing its damage with no permanent change to its health.

Defense Example

Consider an example where you are attacking for 3 and your opponent has the following blocking units:

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Their total health is 1 (Engineer) + 3 (Steelsplitter) = 4, which is greater than your attack power, so they get to defend.

Your opponent could throw their Steelsplitter into the line of fire, having it take 3 damage and die:

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Alternatively, they could first defend with the Engineer, and then absorb the remaining 2 damage with the Steelsplitter, only losing an Engineer in the process:

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Their choice of defense depends on whether they’d rather keep the Engineer alive or the Steelsplitter alive.

Breach Mode

If your attack power is at least your opponent’s total defense, then you get to breach, ie. you get to choose how to distribute damage to their units!

The “End Turn” button will be replaced by a “Start Breach!” button.  When you click it, all of your opponent’s blocking units (if any) will automatically be assigned lethal damage, and die.  If you have damage remaining at this point, you can assign it to your opponent’s non-blocking units by clicking them.

Note that you must have lethal damage to kill a unit.  If you have 2 damage remaining and all they have are Blastforges (which have 3 health), then that 2 damage expires at the end of your turn without doing anything.

While breaching, you are not allowed to assign damage to units under construction unless you have already killed all units not under construction.

Breach Example

Consider the same example where your opponent has the following blocking units, except this time you’re attacking for 6:

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When you start breach, they will both die, and you will have 2 damage remaining.  Let’s say their non-blocking units include a pile of Drones (1 health each), a pile of Shadowfangs (1 health each), an Animus (2 health), and a Blastforge (3 health).  You could kill any combination of Drones and Shadowfangs, or kill the Animus, whichever you prefer.  You couldn’t damage the Blastforge.


A lot of units costing green have the fragile property:

This means that you can damage a Gauss Cannon while breaching, even if you have less than 5 attack.  It simply won’t kill the Gauss Cannon; it will merely reduce the health of the Gauss Cannon, making it easier to kill on a later turn.  Note that fragile units have a Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 1.41.39 PM instead of Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 1.41.46 PM  to indicate their health.

On the battlefield, fragile units have their health displayed on their left bar:

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This way, if you have a pile of Gauss Cannons, each with different health remaining, the health of each one is visible:

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In defense, a unit with fragile behaves the same as a normal unit, except if it absorbs damage as the last defender, its health is permanently reduced.


A lot of defensive units have the prompt property:

On top of being a normal blocker, Wall is prompt, which means it is blocking as soon as you buy it.  So unlike Engineer (which cannot block the turn you buy it), Wall does not require a turn to finish construction.

This concludes our exposition of the fundamental rules and abilities in Prismata.  There are some additional abilities, but they are simple enough to be explained in the unit descriptions.  Overall, there are very few rules.  But of course, the real challenge is to develop through experience an understanding of how the game elements interact, and how different situations play out.  Prismata presents endless strategic decisions to the players, as every game is different.

For a live example of everything that has been explained, you can check out this video here:


About Will Ma

Will Ma strives to try vastly different things in life. During the four years of his undergrad, he profited over a million dollars in online poker, appeared everywhere in school music ensembles, and ran a marathon...while being a housing don. He quit his PhD at MIT to found Lunarch Studios, and explore his childhood dream of deterministic Magic the Gathering. Nowadays Will dreams about beautiful game scenarios in Prismata that allow for endless strategic transitions.