Table of contents

How to play Fano

Fano is a 2+ player strategy based card game that utilizes a fano plane to create an advanced "rock-paper-scissors" style of play. The standard game is played where each player controls one suit (hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds). Cards are characterized by their value and are either combat, prestige, or commander cards. The object of the game is to promote (see promoting) your commander three times before your opponent(s). This can be achieved by strategically attacking, combining, and playing cards to counter and outmaneuver your opponent(s). Also, check out the video tutorials tab for videos on how to play Fano.


Standard deck (52 cards), a drawing of a fano plane (see attacking) or list of attack sequences if mathematical operations not memorized.

Card types

Combat cards: (ace[1], 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) are the only cards that can be played via the play card or substitute options or be discarded at the end of turn. In addition, combat cards can be used in most aspects of the Main phase (attacking and combining).
Prestige cards: (8, 9, and 10) are needed to promote and win the game. Although prestige cards may be discarded they may not be played onto the playing field from a player’s hand via the play card or substitute options at the end of turn. A player can only play a prestige card onto the playing field through a combination move. Prestige cards can not attack nor be attacked by other cards. Prestige cards may be combined for larger value prestige cards e.g. 8 + 2 = 10.
Commander cards: (J, Q, and K) serve no other function than to rank a player’s progression through the game. They do not alter the standard game; however, please see Gameplay variations below for how they can be used to alter standard play.

Summary of Card Types:

Card type Playable Attackable Combinable Discardable
Combat cards (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Prestige cards (8, 9, & 10) No No Yes Yes
Commander cards (J, Q, & K) No No No No

Starting the game

At the beginning of a game, each player selects a suit (hearts, clubs, spades, or diamonds). With a suit in hand, each player should remove the commander cards and shuffle the remaining (prestige and combat cards). The shuffled cards should be placed face down, to create each player’s draw pile. Next, the commander cards should be placed face up next to each draw pile with the Jack on top, Queen behind Jack, and King on the bottom. All players start off as a Jack and need to promote in order to reach the higher commanders (Queen and King). At this point, the game is ready to be played. Players should decide who will go first and proceed to Gameplay. In addition to the commander card slot and the draw pile, each player should leave enough room for a discard pile and four field slots. See Gameplay examples below for examples of games in progress.

Discard pile: The discard pile will accumulate cards removed during the Main phase and discarded during the End turn step. All cards in the discard pile removed from play should remain face up and accessible to all players for building strategies. Only cards discarded through the discard option during the End turn phase are placed face down and may not be seen by any opponent. If an opponent wishes to see a discard pile, the owner of the discard pile should carefully remove the cards face down before handing the face up cards to the opponent.

Field slots: The four field slots are cards considered "in play". Only combat and prestige cards can occupy field slots. When all field slots are full, a player can make room by combining or by using the substitute option during the End turn phase. Combat cards in the field slots can attack and are vulnerable to opponent combat cards.


During a player’s turn, they will execute three phases: Draw, Main phase, and End turn. The general strategy is to get combat cards out onto the playing field so that they can be used during the main phase to attack the opponent’s combat cards and remove cards from their playing field or to combine with other cards on the playing field in order to play the prestige cards which are needed to win the game.


At the start of a turn, a player will draw until they have 3 cards in hand. If the player can not draw, because the draw pile has run out, they must shuffle their discard pile to make a new draw pile and continue to draw until they have three cards in hand. During the draw phase, if a player’s hand consists entirely of prestige cards (8, 9, & 10), they may choose to discard their hand during the draw phase and draw three new cards.

Main phase

If a player has cards in their field slots, they may use them during their main phase. If no cards are in the field slots, proceed to End Turn. During a player’s main phase, they have three options (combine, attack, or promote) which they can execute in any order. Cards that enter the game during the main phase do not end the turn and can be used immediately in subsequent main phase operations (e.g. combine ->; attack ->; combine ->; promote). If at any point during the main phase a player runs out of cards, they may draw three additional cards and continue their main phase. *Note* this is the only other way to draw new cards outside of the draw step.


In order to combine, a player may only combine two cards in play if the sum of the two cards is in hand. For example, a player can combine a 2 and 3 in play if and only if they have a 5 in hand. A player can not combine two cards for a value higher than 10. If a player chooses to combine cards in play, they must remove the two cards from play and subsequently play the sum from hand onto an empty field slot. When a player combines, they may return one of the removed cards to their hand. Any cards not chosen to be returned to hand are placed onto the discard pile face up. If a player doesn’t want to return either card, both cards are placed onto the discard pile face up. If a card is returned to a players hand after combination, the card can be used immediately for subsequent main phase operations. *Note* combination is the only way to place a prestige card into play. Also, prestige cards can be combined for higher prestige cards. For example a player can combine an 8 and an ace(1) on field for a 9 in the hand and then choose to return the 8 to hand. *Tip* higher value combat cards (5, 6, and 7) all require smaller value cards in hand in order to attack. See example #2 for how this may be used strategically.

Using the fano plane: A fano plane is a finite projective plane
composed of 7 nodes and 7 cycles which is often used as a
mnemonic in octonion mathematics. In Fano, every straight line of
three numbers (6 lines) are similar to the cycle at the heart of the
plane. Each line or cycle behaves like rock-paper-scissors. Just like
the rules of RPS: paper -> rock -> scissors, attacking in Fano is the
same: 3 -> 5 -> 2. To visualize the remaining cycles look at three
members in a straight line. When you reach an edge it wraps
around to connect to the first number again. Imagine each set of
three numbers are on a conveyor belt. For instance, 6 -> 3 -> 4
is one sequence of 3 numbers on a conveyor belt; the numbers
continue to loop making two more sequences: 3 -> 4 -> 6 and
4 -> 6 -> 3. All 7 sets of three numbers in a line or in a circle have
three associated sequences (21 sequences in total). The fano
plane ensures that every number can attack 3 of the other 6
numbers and be attacked by the remaining 3 numbers. For
additional help, see the YouTube videos on attacking.


A player may only attack if they and their opponent each have one or more combat cards in play. A player can’t attack with a prestige card. Attacking in Fano is like the game rock-paper-scissors; except that instead of 3 total members in a single cycle, Fano has 7 total members (the 7 combat cards) and 7 total 3-membered cycles. In order to know which card can attack another and what a card can become, a player should be familiar with the octonion fano plane (see right).

Attacking involves 3 cards: 1 in play on the attacker’s field, 1 in play on the opponent’s field, and 1 in the attacker’s hand. The 3 cards must follow a fano-projection or attack sequence (described on the right) to be considered a viable attack. When a player attacks the opponent, the two cards in play are removed from play and sent to their owner’s respective discard piles face up and the card in hand is placed into an empty field slot. For example, if a player has a 3 in play, and their opponent has a 4 in play. The player can only attack the opponents 4 with their 3 if and only if they have a 6 in hand. If the player attacks, the 3 and 4 are placed onto their respective owners discard piles face up and the 6 is played from hand onto an empty field slot. Cards that enter play while attacking can be used in subsequent attacks or combinations during the same main phase.


During the main phase, if a player manages to have all three of their prestige cards in play, occupying 3 of the 4 field slots, the player may promote their commander by placing their prestige cards onto the discard pile face up. All players start off as a Jack commander. When a player promotes for the first time, their commander becomes a Queen. Promoting a second time changes the commander from a Queen to a King. A third and final promotion wins the game. *Note* Promoting is not the same as combination. A player can’t return one of the prestige cards to their hand before they are placed onto the discard pile. When a player has promoted they can proceed to the final phase, End turn.

End turn

When a player has completed their main phase they may perform one final action to end their turn:

Play card A player may put a combat card from their hand into play in an empty field slot, ending their turn. This is the only option in the game for increasing the number of cards in play.
Substitute A player may send a card in play to the discard pile face up before playing a combat card to end their turn. This option can be made regardless of how many field slots are occupied. A player must have a combat card to play and can not simply send a card from the field to the discard pile. Prestige cards can be sent to the discard pile.
Discard A player may choose to discard any number of cards from their hand instead of playing or substituting cards to end their turn. Cards discarded in this way are placed face down. Discarding at the end of turn is the only time cards are placed face down in the discard pile. This option can be used to throw off an opponent from determining the cards in hand. A player can also choose to discard 0 cards, simply ending their turn if they like what they have.

How to win

When a player promotes 3 times, they have won the game.

Gamplay examples

Example 1 (attacking):

If a player has a 4 in play and their opponent has a 6 in play, the player may attack the 6 with the 4 if and only if they have a 3 in hand (4 -> 6 -> 3). If a 3 is in hand and the player chooses to attack, the 4 and 6 are sent to their respective discard piles and the 3 is placed onto the attacking player’s playing field from hand. Additional attacks or combinations may be made utilizing the 3 that is now in play.

Example 2 (combine -> attack):

Combining can be used strategically to set up a subsequent attack or second combination. In this example we will see why one may want to combine for a combat card (ace[1]-7). It is the players turn and they have an ace[1] and 4 in play while the opponent has a 3, 6, 8, and 10 on their playing field. The player is pretty certain the opponent has the 9 in hand, which is the last prestige card they need for a promotion and a win. The player draws and their hand now consists of 2, 5, and 10. At first glance, the player can not attack the 6 or the 3 with their ace[1] or 4. However, the player can combine the 1 and 4 for the 5 (in hand). The 5 can then attack the opponent 6 but needs an ace[1] in hand. When combining, a player may choose to return one of the combined cards to hand. In this case, the player may choose to return the ace[1] to their hand and attack the opponent’s 6 with the 5 they played through combination (5 -> 6 -> 1). The opponent’s 6 and the attacker’s 5 are sent to their respective discard piles while the ace[1] (returned to hand during combination) is placed once again into play. This move prevents the opponent from winning the game next turn at the cost of the 4.

Example 3 (advanced):

In this example we will see how a player can combo attack/combine 3 times to draw a new hand. To start, the player draws up to three cards and their hand now consists of 4, 3, and 8. The player has an ace[1], 5, and 7 on the playing field. The first instinct is to combine the ace[1] and 7 for their prestige card in hand (8). However, they take a step back to examine the opponents playing field. The opponent has a 2 and 6 in play and may be wanting to combine for an 8 next turn as well. Instead of combining ace[1] and 7 immediately for their 8, the player instead chooses to attack the opponent 2 with their ace[1]. The attack removes both cards and the player places their 4 into play (1 -> 2 -> 4). Next, the player attacks the opponent 6 with their 4, removing both cards and placing the 3 into play (4 -> 6 -> 3). Finally, the player combines the 5 and 3 for their prestige card (8) using all cards in hand which prompts the player to draw 3 new cards and continue playing. This sequence of moves not only results in the prestige card (8) but also seriously damages the opponent’s playing field--removing all of their cards and preventing them from combining next turn for a prestige card.


Fano can be extended to any number of players. For 2-4 player games, only one deck is required, while 5+ player games will require additional decks. Similar to the directional fano plane, in multiplayer games, a player can only attack to their left. This means that each player will be attacked from the right. You will want to play strategically to place cards that the player to your right can not attack while also choosing cards that you can use to attack the player to your left.

Gameplay variations

Additional rules can alter Fano in various ways. Some ways to vary your gameplay are listed below:

2-suit 2-player

In this game variation, each player commands half of the deck (red vs. black). This variation increases the "luck" factor when shuffling the discard pile. Additionally, the game progresses more slowly due to increased attacking. In standard play, because only one of each card is used, it is easier to play "safe" cards that are difficult to attack due knowledge of the opponent discard pile. This variation also introduces same value combinations e.g. 4 and 4 for an 8. In this game variation you can either keep all 6 prestige cards or remove 3 of the 6 prestige cards. In the case of keeping all 6 prestige cards, promotion rules can be altered depending on how long/difficult the desired game:

  • Easy mode: Any 3 prestige cards of any suit can be used to promote.

  • Intermediate mode: Must have 8, 9, and 10 but they can be any suit

  • Hard mode: Must have 8, 9, and 10 same suit.

  • Joker’s wild

    Add a joker into each players deck. The joker is wild and can be any number before it enters play. If a player plays a joker at the end of turn they must declare what the joker is during play. If the joker is removed, it becomes wild once again. A joker can enter play as the result of combination or through attack but assumes the identity of the combination or last number in the sequence of the attack while it remains in play. A joker can not be returned to hand after being used in a combination. A joker can only be a combat card (ace[1] - 7). The joker’s wild variation can lead to same number combinations e.g. 4 and 4 for an 8.


    Specials are standard play breaking rules that can be only used once per promotion (for a total of three times per game). Games can be played where each player has access to all specials and may choose different specials at each promotion or specials can be administered to each suit--creating separate playstyles for each suit. For example, hearts will always have one type of special and spades use a different special.

    1. Reverse Fano: For one attack each promotion a player may reverse the arrows of the fano plane, giving them 21 additional sequences of attacks.

    2. Oversum: For one combination each promotion a player may combine two cards and play a card of any lesser value than the sum. For example, 5 and 6 can be combined (11) for any card including any prestige card. This special has yet to be heavily tested and may need to be restricted to only prestige results.

    3. Temporary Joker: Like the "joker’s wild" variation above, a joker is wild until played. Once per promotion during a players turn, if the player needs to shuffle their discard pile they may choose to add a joker to the pile. The joker is wild until played and once used/removed must be removed from the game. To balance the specials, the joker can not be a prestige card. (This special becomes a little weaker in 2-suit 2-player variations).

    4. Perfect defense: Once per promotion, a player may declare a card they have on the playing field as the card with perfect defense. Until the player uses this card, the card cannot be removed by the opponent. This rule does not continue if the card returns to the playing field after being removed. (This special becomes a little stronger in 2-suit 2-player variations).