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Learn to Play

Escape the Horde is a fast-paced, fun-filled, collaborative card game where two Factions (Survivors and Infected) fight for supremacy in the Wastelands. Survivors must work together to outrun Patient Zero and their horde of zombies, using weapons, cunning and strategy. Patient Zero and the Infected attack relentlessly trying to infect and Turn all Survivors. 


Win Conditions: Survivors win when the last card has been drawn from the Stack and they have not been Turned, or if they survive the Countdown Clock (activated the moment a Survivor Turns). Patient Zero and Infected Survivors win when they infect and Turn all Survivors. Here's a rundown on how to get there...

Starting the Game

At the start of the game deal a Faction card to each player. Faction cards should remain hidden until either an in-game action triggers a player to reveal their role, or the player chooses to reveal who they are by playing a card or taking an action in a particular way. In a four player game start with three Survivors and one Patient Zero. For 5+ players, add a second Patient Zero.

Pre-game Setup

Set aside all the unused Faction, I'm Fine, Turned, Wasteland and Countdown cards as these will not be used in general game-play. Shuffle the remaining cards and then deal five cards face down to each player. In a game with 5+ players, deal three cards to each player. 

If a player is dealt a Zombie or Discard Weapon card, they must redeal that card for another (non-Zombie, non-Discard Weapon) cards, until they have a full hand of cards. Shuffle the Stack.



First Player

Each player reveals cards from the top of the Stack until a Zombie card is revealed. The first player to turn a Zombie card face-up, starts the game. Shuffle the Stack once again and then begin the game.


Game Play

Gameplay moves in a clockwise direction. Priority (the right to play a card) is held by the active player (the player who played the last card). who passes priority once they play another card, or move to another action, such as ending their turn. The player with priority may play any number of cards as they wish and there is no order to who may respond next, Chaos can be fun.

Players have no maximum hand size and may hoard cards.

All players stay in the Game right to the very end - some still as Survivors, others as Infected. 

Card Types

Cards with the lightning bolt symbol on them (located on the top right of a card) are CRITICAL SPEED cards and can be used at anytime. If a card has no symbol in the top right then they can only be played in that players turn and not at CRITICAL SPEED.

All Play cards can be used by all players (not everyone at once). These include Yeah/Nah, Steal, Rescue and Discard Weapon.

Weapons and Grenades cannot be countered or negated by a Yeah/Nah card.

Scavenger Phase

The first of the three game phases is the Scavenging Phase. Each player may play any number of cards from their hand during their turn. Survivors play their relevant text actions on cards; Patient Zero however, may keep their role revealed for as long as possible by playing the Survivor text until they are outed.

Draw Phase

At any stage during a player's turn they MUST draw a card from the Stack. Once a player draws this card (Draw Phase) their turn ends, unless the card they draw triggers an action.

If the card drawn is a Discard Weapon card, that player MUST reveal it and respond by discarding a Weapon card from their hand. 

If the card drawn is a Zombie card, that player MUST reveal it and respond by placing it face-up in front of them. The Combat Phase is now triggered. The ONLY exception to this is Patient Zero, who may instead put that Zombie card secretly into their hand, or in front of a Survivor where the Combat Phase is triggered.

Combat Phase

Once the Combat Phase is triggered only the defending Survivor may use a Weapon to fight off a single Zombie (unless a Team Up card has been used). Patient Zero or an Infected Survivor may use a Weapon to defend against the use of a Weapon used on a Zombie.

Any Survivor may use cards such as Team Up or Rescue, or they may choose to Sacrifice another Survivor by pushing them in front of a Zombie. Any player may use a Grenade to destroy (or save) any number of attacking Zombies.

During the Combat Phase other players may assist their Faction by playing appropriate cards. These MUST display the CRITICAL SPEED symbol and include Grenade, Team Up, Yeah/Nah, Rescue, Sacrifice and Weapon.

Note: If a Zombie did not die in Combat, it gets shuffled back into the Stack as it is still a living undead being.

How to Play as a Survivor

  • The ultimate goal for Survivors is to work together to escape the Zombie horde (and not be Turned). Once a Survivor is bitten they receive an I'm Fine card. Survivors win when the last card is drawn from the Stack and they have not been Turned, or if they survive the Countdown.

  • Whenever a Zombie card is placed in front of a Survivor they must respond as per directions in the Combat Phase above.

  • If a Survivor steals a Zombie card from Patient Zero's hand they must reveal it and place it in front of them as they have now triggered the Combat Phase. 

  • Survivors may play the Dodge card anytime except during the Combat Phase. A cool tactic is to Dodge during your turn, to end your turn and skip the Draw Phase.

  • Hoarding cards like Spill Blood and Grenade can be a good late-game strategy. Dodge let's you skip turns, Re-Arm refills your weaponry and Binoculars allows you to see the position of the advancing Zombie horde.










  • Pushing other Survivors in front of a Zombie may help you avoid being bitten, but this strategy is one that will more than likely end the cooperation and collaboration as other Survivors may turn agains you. Try it... and find out just how scary ir is to be all alone in the Wastelands.

  • The moment they are bitten a second time they Turn, receive a Turned card (flip over the I'm Fine) and become Infected. They now immediately change Factions and they can now only play the Infected text on their cards.


How to Play as Patient Zero & Infected

  • The goal for Patient Zero is to Turn all Survivors and have them switch Factions. Patient Zero and the Infected with they have successfully Turned all Survivors.

  • Patient Zero may play the Survivor text of cards up until the moment their role is revealed. This means that Patient Zero may hide their identity and act as a Survivor for as long as they want (or can), creating an element of social deduction in the game where Survivors are attempting to work out which of them is the real threat.

  • If Patient Zero has no cards in their hand at the START of their turn, they MUST draw an additional card that turn. Drawing two cards in a turn can be the difference especially at the end of the game, so the tactic here would be to play as many as possible the turn before and keep the CRITICAL SPEED cards in hand to use during other players turns. This rule ONLY applies to Patient Zero and does not apply to Turned Survivors.

  • As stated above Zombie cards drawn by Patient Zero can either be placed in front of a Survivor to trigger combat (and also reveal roles if they haven't been already), or placed secretly in their hand.

  • At any time during Patient Zero's turn they may place any number of Zombies from their hand onto the Wastelands attacking any number of Survivors. This triggers the Combat Phase each time.

  • Zombies cannot attack the Infected so if a Turned Survivor draws a Zombie card they MUST place it in front of a Survivor. This will trigger the Combat Phase.

  • There are several different ways to approach playing Patient Zero. One of these is 'Share the Love' which is where Patient Zero might opt to spread Zombie attacks amongst several different Survivors, constantly putting the Survivor Faction at risk of having someone Turn. Another tactic is 'Laser-like Focus' where Patient Zero relentlessly targets one Survivor until they are finally Turned. Or, Patient Zero might like to keep things quiet and cool and play 'Secret Assassin' acting like a Survivor until their role is eventually revealed.


Each time a Survivor is Turned (bitten twice) a Countdown Clock is activated. This indicates the number of rounds there are left to play in the game from the active player's turn. COUNTDOWN: Total Number of Survivors not Turned (equals) the number of rounds remaining. Each time a Survivor is Turned, the Countdown is reactivated.

Playing Tips 

  1. The Wasteland can be a lonely, desolate place, which is why we really want our players to immerse themselves in post-apocalyptic thoughts whilst playing the game. Scavenging would be a real thing, and cooperation and teamwork too for a group of Survivors who would do almost anything to stay alive. 

  2. It's okay to sacrifice a friend. Honestly, this game is cooperative until it's not, and pushing a fellow Survivor in front of a Zombie might seem harsh, but it could turn out to be a game winning move. Unless of course, your new Zombie friend comes for you.

  3. The start of the game is not where you win it, but it could be where you lose it. Try to pace yourself. You should always make sure you have the right cards for the right scenarios. Simply playing a card for the sake of actually doing something, may come back to haunt you. Hoard cards, the good ones, and use them to best suit every situation you face.

  4. Using the Sacrifice card against someone you suspect might be Patient Zero will result in them having to reveal their role as they cannot be attacked by a Zombie. However, it'll more than likely come back at ya with a ferocious attack.

  5. Whilst Patient Zero may be classified as a brain-dead zombie, you're not (hopefully). So a bit of cunning and smarts go a long way to outwit those pesky Survivors and always look for the weakest link, the one straggler you can pick off easily (the one with no cards in hand is usually a good target).

  6. If you're not laughing, you're not playing Escape the Horde the right way!

Game Variants (house rules)

  • In a three player game if you find that Patient Zero has the ascendancy in your play group, try reducing the number of Zombies in the Stack. Some groups take out two Zombies to ensure that Survivors stand a chance in their pods, but essentially it is down to tactics. Pushing another Survivor under the bus is one such tactic, where one Survivor will Sacrifice the other and take their chances with just one round to play (using the Countdown Clock). Nasty, but effective.

  • Another variant includes playing with all roles revealed at the start of the game so everyone knows just who is who. This eliminates the social deduction shenanigans, and can lead to some really fun strategies.

  • We will keep you updated with other 'house rules' shared by players around the world.

Rules FAQ

Q: Can Patient Zero use the Dodge card to give another Patient Zero, or Infected player an extra turn?

A: Yes. The Dodge card states player and does not specify what "type" of player, so this interaction can indeed occur.

Q: If I play a Dodge card during my turn, does that stop me from drawing a card at the end of my turn?

A: Yes. This is a really good play, especially late game. By playing a Dodge card during your turn, you effectively end your turn and can no longer play non-critical speed cards, and you do not draw a card.

Q: Can I use the Sacrifice card to sacrifice myself?

A: Yes. The Sacrifice card states Survivor which means any Survivor, as long as they are one of the closest Survivors to the Survivor being attacked.

Q: What constitutes 'closest Survivor'?

A: The Survivor (or if Factions cards have not yet been revealed, the player) seated directly to the left or right of the Survivor being attacked.

Q: What happens if a Zombie is placed in front of Patient Zero before their role is revealed?

A: Firstly, Patient Zero (or an Infected player) cannot be attacked by a Zombie, so the follow will occur. Firstly, Patient Zero will be forced to reveal their role and in a game with only one Patient Zero, this will reveal all Faction cards. Then, Patient Zero will have the choice as to which Survivor they will place the Zombie in front of, thus triggering combat with that Survivor.

Q: What happens to a Zombie if it successfully bites or turns a Survivor?

A: Any Zombie that does not die during the Combat Phase, is shuffled back into the Stack.

Q: Can I reveal my Faction anytime I like?

A: In the spirit of fair play, Factions should remain hidden until an action triggers a player to reveal who they are. This adds to the ongoing intrigue and the ultimate question, "Who, is Patient Zero?"

Q: Does a weapon discarded from the Discard Weapon card go into the Discard pile, or Armoury?

A: Great question. This one sounds a lot trickier than it actually is. All weapons, used and discarded, are placed in the Armoury, where they lay awaiting a Rearm.

Q: How does the rule with Patient Zero placing Zombies onto the Wastelands actually work?

A: This is one of the most debated questions. The rule reads, 'At any time during their turn Patient Zero may place any number of Zombie cards from their hand in front of any number of Survivors.' Patient Zero therefore has the option to place them one at a time, or all at once in front of any Survivor(s), which triggers the Combat Phase each time. Survivors must then defend themselves against the Zombies as they appear. 

Q: The rules state that other players may assist their Faction with appropriate cards... which also includes Weapons. Does that mean anyone can use a Weapon at anytime during the Combat phase?

A: Only the defending player may use a Weapon to fight off a single Zombie (see Combat rules). They may also use a Team Up, which will allow any other player to use a Weapon this Combat. Any Infected player however, Patient Zero or a Turned player, may use a Weapon to negate the use of a Weapon. 

Upload the Rules

<< Escape the Horde Core Set Rules >> 


We've included a few short videos to provide a visual representation of gameplay.