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Each player is an acolyte in a Buddhist temple, creating works to display and sell to the visitors and tourists who come by. These works are made of materials of varying value - determining both the difficulty to complete the work and its worth to you.

Completed works can be displayed in your Gallery to train your helpers, or in your Gift Shop to allow you to make sales. In the end, the winner will be the player with the most valuable completed works, sales, and backorders.

To get there, you will need to perform tasks, hire helpers, collect materials, and manage to find some time for prayer.


Mottainai includes:

  • 2 decks of 54 cards (Deluxe)
  • 6 Reference cards
  • 1 rulebook (this one!)


Mottainai is a game with a lot of concepts! We've done our best to explain them all well in this rules, but there's no perfect order in which to share all the things. If you're teaching the game to people, make sure you've read through the entire rules once before you start teaching. It will be very helpful to you!

There are many moving parts in Mottainai, but once you learn them the game does move very quickly. If you played Glory to Rome or Innovation, you're probably familiar with this.

Mottainai is a game that takes a couple plays to get the hang of.

There's a lot going on, so don't get discouraged if you feel overwhelmed on your first play or two!


Each player takes a temple mat. Shuffle the deck of cards and deal a five card hand to each player. Also deal one face-down card into each temple's task slot.

To see who goes first, each player draws and discards the top card of the deck to form the floor. The player that discarded the closest card to A alphabetically goes first.

This is our home, the Temple! If serves as your reference mat, and is also where you'll tuck cards to serve as Tasks, Helpers, Materials, and Sales.

Areas of your Temple

Card Anatomy

Game Play

A game of Mottainai consists of many turns, taken individually by players. On the following two pages are a description of what you do on your turn, divided into three parts: Morning, Noon, and Night.

Each turn, you'll be using various actions to build up the cards tucked under your temple, and to complete works next to it in the two wings: Gallery (left) and Gift Shop (right).

This will continue until one of the two game ending conditions happen: the deck becomes empty, or a player completes five works in one wing of their temple.

There are lots of winning strategies! You can race to five simple works, get lots of sales for backorders, use helpers to draw many cards and complete clay or metal works.

Don't be afraid to adjust your strategy based on the cards in your opening hand and on the floor. Use every little thing to win!

The following pages will explain how your turn works, how cards get tucked under the four edges of your temple, and how you complete works to place in your two wings.

Game Turn

Your turn is divided into three parts of the day: Morning, Noon, and Night. You take your complete turn, and then play passes clockwise to the next player's turn.

1 First, check to see if you have more than five cards in your hand. If you do, return (place on the bottom of the deck) cards until you have five.

2 Then, perform any "In the morning" effects on works you've already completed. If you have more than one, you can do them in any order. Each can be used at most once per turn.

3 Discard the card in your temple's task slot to the floor. On your first turn, this will be the face-down card you placed there during setup.

4 Finally, you may place a new task from your hand under your temple in the task slot. If you don't, it will remain empty and you'll take a prayer action later instead of a task.

1 Perform each opponent's task, going clockwise from yourself. If an opponent has no task, skip that player.

2 Perform your task. If you have no task, take one Prayer action instead.

1 Perform any "At night" effects on works you've already completed.

2 Draw the cards in your waiting area into your hand.

Waiting Area

Any time you draw a card, if is played in your waiting area, a face-down stack of cards next to your temple. You never look at or take these cards into your hand until Night.

Performing A Task

Each task you perform (yours or an opponent's) will consist of one or more actions. You always get one action for a task, plus one more for each matching helper in your temple. Covered helpers each provide two extra actions instead of one.

Each individual action can be one of three things: The action matching the task itself (i.e. Potter), a Craft action, or a Prayer action. Each action must be used. If you cannot use an action, it must be replaced by a Prayer action.

Don't Recount

Count the number of actions at the start of a task. Any new helpers or cards you gain during a task do not change this count.

So, if you are performing a Potter task and have two Potter helpers, you would have three actions. You could take them as Potter - Craft - Potter, Potter - Prayer - Prayer, or any other combination, in any order.

Action Types

Clerk: Take a card from your Craft bench, and move it to your Sales.

Monk: Take a card from the Floor, and add it to your Helpers.

Tailor: Return any number of cards from your hand. Then draw enough cards to your waiting area to have five cards total, including both your hand and waiting area.

Potter: Take a card from the Floor, and add it to your Craft bench.

Smith: Complete a work from your hand, using materials from your hand as support.

Any action can be replaced by a Craft or Prayer action.

Craft: Complete a work from your hand, using materials from your craft bench as support. The work must be the same type as the action you replaced (i.e. a Craft replacing a Potter lets you complete a Clay work).

Prayer: Draw one card (to your waiting area).

Waiting Area. Again!

Any time you draw a card, if is played in your waiting area, a face-down stack of cards next to your temple.

You never look at or take these cards into your hand until Night. Yep, it's important, so we're telling you twice!

Completing A Work

The Craft and Smith actions allow you to complete a work from your hand, and put it into play in one of the two wings of your temple. The value of the work (3 for clay, 1 for paper, etc) tells you how many cards of that material type you need to have in order to complete it. To get to that number, count the work you are building, plus some number of matching cards as support.

For a Smith action, support cards are revealed from your hand. For a Craft action, support cards are revealed from your craft bench. In both cases, you keep the support cards. The table below shows how many cards you need to support completing a work of each type.

ValueMaterial TypeSupport for SmithSupport for Craft
1PaperNone requiredNone required
2Stone1 Stone card in hand1 Stone in craft bench
2Cloth1 Cloth card in hand1 Cloth in craft bench
3Clay2 Clay cards in hand2 Clay in craft bench
3Metal2 Metal cards in hand2 Metal in craft bench

Gallery: Covering Helpers

The Monk action allows you to hire helpers. Each helper provides one extra action during each task (yours or an opponent's) of its type. Works in your Gallery can provide training cover to your helpers, making them more effective. Each covered helper provides two extra actions instead of one.

A completed work provides cover for a number of helpers equal to the work's value. A paper work covers one clerk, a stone work covers two monks, and so forth. If you don't have enough works to cover all your helpers of a type, none of them are considered covered.

Gift Shop: Covering Sales

Clerk actions allow you to move materials from your craft bench to your Gift Shop as sales. To be worth points, though, they need works to provide them cover. Cover for sales works the same way as cover for helpers.

Each work in your Gift Shop provides cover for a number of sales equal to the work's value. Each covered sale is worth its value in points at the end of the game. Works that are not covered provide no points, but still count toward majority for backorder points.

End of the Game

The game ends when one of two things happens. Either a player builds a fifth work in one wing of their temple or the last card is drawn from the deck.

When the game ends, it ends immediately. The current player's turn is not completed, and any effects that would happen after the work was completed do not occur. Cards in the current player's waiting area never enter their hand.

Your score is the total of:

  • The values of each of your works, whether in the Gift Shop or the Gallery.

  • The values of each of your covered sales.

  • Backorders: For each type of material, see which player has the most sales (whether covered or uncovered). That player counts cards of that type in their hand as backorders. If there is a tie for a type, nobody score points for it.

  • Points given by card effects on completed works (i.e. Scroll, Teapot).

The player with the most points wins! In the case of a tie, the current player, or the player in turn order closest to the current player is the winner.

Scoring Example

In this example, the player has completed six works, worth a total of 12 points. They also have one covered sale, a clay, which is worth an additional 3 points.

Finally, with the most metal sales (even though they're not covered) out of all players, metal cards in hand count as backorders. They are worth 6 more points, for a total score of 21. Some cards may have effects that give you points at the end of the game, as well.

Note that waiting area cards have no effect on end-game scoring.

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