Phases and Zones

A turn in the UCG is divided into different phases. Cards and abilities may resolve during each of these phases. It is important to remember the order and appropriate actions taken during each phase of your turn. The different card types discussed prior are only played on certain phases of your turn.

Outline of Phases of the Turn

Phases of Turn

Ready Phase


  • The Dawn Phase is the Phase the brings character cards in the Exhausted Zone to the Active Zone. The same applies to any effect cards that you have in play with the Timing of Permanent.
  • Resource cards in the Expended Zone are moved to the Reserve Zone.

Dawn Phase


  • All Dawn step triggered abilities resolve in the order of the player’s turn first and then each player that went before them.
  • Any Pitfall Effects you have in play with the Bide ability will gain One Bide Counter.
  • The only cards that can be played during this phase of the turn are effect cards with the Timing of Immediate.

Draw Phase


  • All Draw step abilities resolve in the order of the player’s turn first and then each player that went before them.
  • If you do not have a Shadow Architect in play, you draw One card from your deck and place it into your hand.
  • Assimilate! You use the Assimilate ability of the Shadow Architect (if you have one in your Shadow Zone) in the place of your normal draw for the turn. Be sure to completely read the ability. Once this is done, place a Retribution Counter on the Shadow Architect.
  • The only cards that can be played during this phase of the turn are effect cards with the Timing of Immediate.

Note: Many activated abilities, especially ones that make players discard cards, can only be used during YOUR turn!

Primary Phase


  • All abilities that refer to a Primary Phase, resolve in the order of the player’s turn first and then each player that went before them.
  • During your Primary Phase, you are allowed to play one resource card from your hand. This can be changed by other card abilities in the game.
  • You are allowed to play any card type during this phase.
  • This is the only phase that Effects with the Timing of Action, Hidden, and Proxy can be placed in the Effect Zones.
  • Epic Characters can be played with their Epic Conditions and once per turn.
    Note: This includes other Epic Characters and/or Terra Characters played with Terra and Alternate Costs. Any abilities that could be used by a card to put a character into play from another Zone would still work that turn.
  • This is the only phase of the turn you can use the Retribution Abilities of Shadow Architect you control.
  • Shadow Architect cards can be played on this phase.
  • You may also use the activated abilities of card(s) you control as long as you meet the activation cost of each of their abilities.

Conflict Phase


  • Whenever a character has been declared as an attacker, this starts an Encounter.
  • Characters can be declared as attacking by being placed into the Encounter Zone. Once they have completed an Encounter, they are placed into the Exhausted Zone.
  • Characters can only be declared as an attacker once per turn.
  • You opponent can then declare their blocking character(s) by placing them in the Encounter Zone. Enemy characters can only team up against your attacking character if they have the ability Assist.
  • You and your opponent can only play Immediate Effect cards and the activated abilities of characters after an attack has been declared. They can also resolve after blockers have been declared. The use of Activated abilities and card playing is not allowed during any other time during an Encounter.
  • You can only declare attacking characters one at a time and only against an opponent. You cannot target specific cards in play for attacks. Thus, a separate declaration of attacks must be made for each character.
  • Characters deal damage according to their Combat value to one another at the same time unless a character has the ability Expertise. Characters that receive damage equal to or in excess to their Combat stat are considered Slain.
  • Attacking Characters with the ability Cunning return to the Active Zone after attacking. If they Activate for an ability, they will go to the Exhausted Zone after attacking.
  • Unblocked attacking characters deal damage equal to their Combat Stat to the opponent's deck or Shadow Architect.

Dusk Phase


  • Any abilities that refer to the Dusk Phase resolve in the order of the player’s turn first. From there it goes to each player that went before them.
  • If your hand has more than Eight cards in it, you must discard cards down to exactly Eight.

Clean Up Phase


  • All damage is removed from all cards in play and then the turn ends for the player.

The Playing Field

The Playing of the various types of cards in the Universal Card Game can be daunting at first. However, each card make sense how it is played based on the Archetypes associated with the card. Each of the primary card types in the game are all played in the same Zones of the playing field. This section will cover the zones of the game and the various types of cards that can be played within each zone.

We will first start off with a layout of the playing field. This is best shown with the Universal Card Game play mat.


Playmat 2017

Playmat 2018

Deck Zone

The Deck Zone is where the players shuffled deck will reside. It is face down for the player to use for the drawing of cards. It is also where the player will take damage. The size of each player's deck at the beginning of the game must be exactly Sixty cards. Each player must have a deck to play the game. A player sometimes cannot draw, or take a point of damage by placing a card from the top of their deck into The Void. When this happens, that player immediately loses the game.

At the beginning of the game players will shuffle their decks and place them face down into the Deck Zone. The player will then draw Eight cards to form their initial hand.


The Hand does not have a physical area on the playmat. They are the cards you can play on demand into the various zones in the Universal Card Game. These cards must never be shown to other players, unless stated on the card, or if you are on a team with another player.

If your hand were to ever exceed Eight cards and you reach the end of your turn, discard your hand down to exactly Eight cards. Whenever you play a card from your hand, you must place it into your Ignition Zone. Then pay the required cost of the card. Then place the card in its proper zone in the play area.

The Void

When you take damage, or a card would leave the playing area, it is placed into The Void. If you take direct damage in an encounter, the top card(s) of your deck will be placed into the void. This is done by discarding one card for every point of damage taken. Cards are also discarded like this if told to do so by Effects or Abilities. If a card cannot be placed into The Void from the top of your deck, you lose the game.

Active Zone

The Active Zone is the area where you place your cards to be ready for Encounters or to use their abilities. It is the primary zone where characters are played. Characters within the Active Zone can be used for Activated abilities. They declare attacks against other players. Many types of Effect cards that do NOT have the Timing of Action or Immediate often come into play into the Active Zone. Any cards that either Activate or use an ability that states you must Activate it are used, and then placed in the Exhausted Zone.

Exhausted Zone

The Exhausted Zone is where card are placed after they have attacked or used their abilities. Any cards within the Exhausted Zone cannot be used in Encounters. Also, they cannot be used for abilities that would need the card to "Activate."

Reserve Zone

The Reserve Zone is for Standard and Unique Resource cards on standby. They can be used to pay costs required to bring cards into play. Resource cards do not reside in the same zones as other cards. They will only enter the Active/Exhausted Zones of the game whenever the card would be changed from being a resource card. Whenever an ability would require the resource card to Activate, the resource card would be moved to another zone of play.

Expended Zone

The Expended Zone is where Resource cards that have been used for paying card costs are placed. Cards placed in the Expended zone cannot be used until they are placed back in the Reserve Zone at the start of the next turn. This same rule would apply for resource cards that have been used to generate resources. They cannot be used both for either abilities or the generation of the resource until the beginning of the next turn.

Ignition Zone

Cards in queue to be played are placed into this zone for their cost to be paid. Once played here, the cost is then paid. This can allow another player to respond or pass. If the player chooses to pass, the card will enter play.

This Zone is also the same Zone where cards would be placed to show that they are activating or using an ability. The same process is applied where the card is placed and the cost paid. Once the cost is paid, the other players may respond or allow the ability to resolve. Once a card has been allowed to be played or activate, it would then be removed from the Ignition Zone. It is moved over to the proper zone where is will reside in play.

Effect Zones

Effect Zones act as Ignition Zones to cards that would be played in response to other cards being played. You need to have an available Effect Zone to respond to an opponent's card in the Ignition Zone. Certain types of Effect cards, like Pitfall Effects, reside within your Effect Zones. They can remove your ability to respond to your opponent's actions. Sometimes a Pitfall Effect cannot trigger its ability and you have no open Effect Zones. In this case, you CANNOT play or activate cards in response to the card played in your opponent's Ignition Zone.

Encounter Zone

Cards declared as attackers or blockers are placed one at a time within each player's Encounter Zone. The opposing player may then use their characters to stop the attack. Characters can only be declared as attackers once per turn. Cards can never reside within the Encounter Zone permanently. They must return to a different zone of play once an Encounter has concluded.

Shadow Zone

The Shadow Zone is where your Shadow Architect card is placed from your hand when you meet its Resource Condition. These cards take damage in place of your deck. They replace your standard draw action with its Assimilate ability. Your Shadow Architect must be slain, and the Shadow Zone open, to play another Shadow Architect.

Decimated Zone

The Decimated Zone is where cards removed from the game are placed. At the end of the game, shuffle all cards that have been placed in the Decimated Zone back into the deck.

Note: If the card is a Token Character, it will return back to your Sideboard instead. 


This Sideboard is where cards are placed that are not currently in your deck. The size of the Sideboard cannot be not more than Twenty cards. Cards used for different deck configurations are placed in this Zone. The Sideboard can only be accessed after the first match of the game. This is the only Zone where Token Characters can start. If a player cannot play the proper Token from their Sideboard, the ability or card that will not generate a token. Whenever cards are used in-between matches to modify your deck for the next game, be sure to place cards from your deck back into your Sideboard. At the beginning of your next game you still must have Sixty cards in your deck and twenty cards in your sideboard. A Sideboard is not required unless you are using Token Characters.