Axe-A-Lot-L Rules and Review – Chop Those Limbs!

Axe-A-Lot-L card game thumbnail

Tim Buckley’s Ctrl + Alt + Del webcomic is probably the longest running webcomic I follow, and I’ve spent the last 15+ years checking in on a growing cast of characters and storylines every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. So when I heard he was developing a card game featuring axolotls and axes, I was immediately intrigued.

After all, who doesn’t want a little more adorable violence in their board game nights? And boy does this game deliver that in spades, as we found out during a live stream of our weekly board game night!

So how does one start severing limbs and battling to be the last one standing? Let’s start with a look at the rules and how to set up the game.

How To Play Axe-A-Lot-L

Player Count: 2-6
Estimated Play Time (2-4 players): 20-25 minutes
Estimated Play Time (5-6 players): 30-45 minutes
Axe-A-Lot-L Rules PDF

While there are a lot of card types in Axe-A-Lot-L, the only really confusing part of setup comes when you are first opening the game. You have 3 sealed packs of cards that are divided by card count rather than deck type, so you might have parts of a deck in 2 different packages.

Axe-A-Lot-L insert and sealed cards
There are also fun Axolotl facts on the sides of the box – I may have said a few prayers to Xolotl during our games.

To help make things easier, check out the picture below for the different types of cards you’ll want to watch out for when getting everything opened and sorted.

Axe-A-Lot-L decks and card types
Top row, from left to right: Starting Limbs, Main Deck, Limb Deck, Revenge Deck, Morph Deck.

Bottom row, from left to right: Armed and Dangerous (has Legless Ball of Floof and Rage rules on the back), Disarming Smile (Has Player Reference Rules on the back).

Axe-A-Lot-L Setup

Start by removing the following cards from the main deck, depending on how many people are playing:

  • 2 Players: Remove 8 Axe-A-Lot-L cards, 4 Regenerate cards, and 2 Hide cards
  • 3 Players: Remove 6 Axe-A-Lot-L cards and 2 Regenerate cards
  • 4 Players: Remove 4 Axe-A-Lot-L cards
  • 5 Players: Remove 2 Axe-A-Lot-L cards
  • 6 Players: Remove no cards

Next, give each player a set of 4 Starter Limbs, 1 Armed and Dangerous card, and 1 Disarming Smile card to display in front of them.

Axe-A-Lot-L starting cards
All players should have a setup like this in front of them.

Finally, deal 4 cards from the Main Deck to each player and select your method of choice for deciding who goes first. You’re now ready to play!

Axe-A-Lot-L Gameplay

Before we get into how a turn works, let’s quickly cover what some of the Starter and Main Deck cards do, as they are often referenced on other cards or occasionally do not have their own rules text outside the rulebook.

  • Axe-A-Lot-L (Attack card): Target opponent must discard a limb of your choice. If you were the one who played this card and it is your turn, your turn ends.
  • Axe-A-Little (Attack card): Target opponent must discard a limb of your choice. Must be played by discarding a 2nd Axe-A-Little card or 2 other cards from your hand.
    • We ruled that Armed and Dangerous does not require these extra costs when playing. If we find out this is incorrect, we’ll update accordingly.
  • Armed and Dangerous: Discard one of your limbs, then choose one of the following effects:
    • Perform an Axe-A-Little on target opponent without paying any additional costs.
    • Draw one card from the Main Deck.
  • Disarming Smile: When you are attacked by an Attack card, reveal the top card of the Main Deck. If that card is a Blocks-A-Lotl or Regenerate card, the attack against you is cancelled.
  • Regenerate (Defense card): Choose one of the following effects:
    • Discard one card from your hand, then draw one card from the Limb Deck and add it to your Axolotl (we ruled you can only have a maximum of 4 limbs at a time unless another card states otherwise).
    • Cancel an Axe-A-Lot-L targeting you.
  • Blocks-A-Lotl (Defense card): Cancel an Axe-A-Little. You may discard one card from your hand to redirect the Axe-A-Little target to a player of your choice instead.

While the remaining Main Deck cards are very clear about what they do and how they work, sometimes more complex card interactions can still come up in gameplay. Should this occur, you can check the Axe-A-Lot-L FAQ and Errata page for additional card rulings.

Your goal in Axe-A-Lot-L is to be the last axolotl with at least 1 limb to your name. As a result, your turns are usually going to be spent finding ways to sever your opponents limbs while trying to find ways to protect or regrow your own.

During your turn, you may play as many cards as you are able or as few as your wish. Take note of any cards you play with an X in their lower left corner – these are cards that can only be used once per game, and are removed after they are played.

Axe-A-Lot-L once per game effects
So far, the Kickstarter promo (Worm of Destiny) and the Disarming Smile and Armed and Dangerous cards you start with are the only once per game effects.

Your turn ends when one of the following conditions are met:

  • You run out of cards you can play
  • You play an Axe-A-Lot-L card
  • You pass

At the end of your turn, you draw 2 cards (3 if you played no cards on your turn), then if you have more than 4 cards in your hand, you discard down to 4. Should the Main Deck run out of cards, shuffle the discard pile and use it to form a new Main Deck.

Should a player run out of limbs, they’re not out of the game so long as there are at least 2 others with limbs – they instead become a Legless Ball of Floof and Rage! Legless Balls of Floof and Rage are no longer considered players or opponents (so cards referencing either no longer work on them), but they can still have a big impact on those who remain.

Legless Balls of Floof and Rage begin their retribution by discarding their hand and replacing it with 5 cards from the Revenge Deck. They continue to take their turns in turn order, but are limited to playing 1 Revenge card per turn.

Revenge cards have a variety of effects, ranging from the retributive limb chopping you’d expect to changing the rules for the remainder of the game! Reason is lost on these limbless creatures so you’d best hope you were on their good side when they still had limbs.

Axe-A-Lot-L revenge cards

The game ends when one of the following happens:

  • Only 1 player has limbs remaining
  • A Legless Ball of Floof and Rage starts their turn with no cards.

If only 1 axolotl still has limbs, they are declared the winner! If multiple players still have limbs, the one with the most limbs is the winner. In the event of a tie, the tied players each take turns drawing cards from the Main Deck until 1 draws an Axe-A-Lot-L card. That player then becomes the winner.

Axe-A-Lot-L Optional Rules

While each of these rules are marked as being optional, I highly recommend using all of them. Each adds a little more to the gameplay without dramatically increasing complexity, and should only really be avoided if you have especially young children who are just getting into board gaming.

Special Rules For Limbs

Several of the Limbs in the Limb Deck have unique abilities that can help you turn the tide of battle if you’re fortunate enough to regenerate them.

Axe-A-Lot-L limbs
Of course, the “special ability” of other limbs is that they’re quite difficult to pronounce…

Of course a few, like the peg leg, instead offer a unique burden to their player in exchange for their use, and many others have no ability at all, often serving as an amusing pop culture reference or a unique experience for your axolotl.

Despite that, however, the limbs with abilities are usually good enough to justify gambling on the use of a Regenerate card to try and recover them, adding a little extra opportunity to a move that costs two cards.

The Morph Deck

Axe-A-Lot-L’s morph deck can give players a unique ability to begin the game with beyond their Armed and Dangerous and Disarming Smile cards.

Axe-A-Lot-L morph cards

You may utilize the morph deck a couple different ways:

  • Give 1 Morph card to each player who did not win the previous game of Axe-A-Lot-L.
  • Give 1 Morph card to all players.

Our table preferred the first method, as it gave us a chance to get some sweet vengeance on the previous victor. Both uses offer a great way to spice up gameplay though.

Tactilotl Retreat

Recommended for 5 and 6 player games, the Tactilotl Retreat card dividers provide a safety mechanism to keep players from getting knocked out before they can take a turn.

Axe-A-Lot-L Tactilotl Retreat divider

In our experience, this is probably a rule worth implementing in the first round of a 4 player game as well. A motivated player can often take 2-3 limbs away from an opponent in one turn, especially with an effect like Packsalotl or a card from the main deck that lets them draw cards.

That said, 4 player games are also fast enough that early introduction of the Revenge Deck can also make gameplay quite interesting.

Axe-A-Lot-L Strategy Guide

While Axe-A-Lot-L definitely has some chaos factors that can leave you staring down some very sharp blades with little recourse, a little planning can actually go a long way toward taking your most dangerous rivals out of the game or thwarting their efforts!

Don’t Let Axe-A-Lot-L Cards Clutter Your Hand

Axe-A-Lot-L is among the most powerful attack effects you can draw from the Main Deck, but since it ends your turn when you play it, you can only use one per turn. Further, since you have a hand limit of four, holding too many of these can force you to discard cards at the end of your turn, which wastes resources.

If you’re unlucky enough to be holding more than 2 of these cards, definitely use your extras for the discard costs of other cards. It’s also frequently correct to do this when 2 Axe-A-Lot-Ls are in your hand, but there are times it’s also better to keep one in reserve.

Just beware of Axe-ident cards if you choose to go that route.

Try To Avoid Discarding At The End Of Your Turn

I touched on this a moment ago, but putting yourself in a position where you have to discard down to your maximum hand size is always bad in this game. Many cards require you to discard 1 or 2 cards from your hand to use them, so throwing cards away without reaping that benefit is a waste of limb-chopping resources.

Many Cards Have Multiple Effects – Plan Accordingly

This is especially important for Regenerate and Blocks-A-Lot-L, as you can trade them 1 for one against an opposing attack card, or you can spend an additional card from your hand for a different effect instead. Knowing when to spend the extra resources is key, as sometimes you’ll want to hold back to prepare for a stronger move later.

Armed And Dangerous Is Almost Always Better As An Axe-A-Little

Seriously. Trading a limb for a card is almost always too high a cost, even if you have a Regenerate. Trading a limb for a limb though? Pretty darn useful for closing a game or taking an opponent out.

The Order You Play Your Cards In Matters!

There are plenty of effects that let you draw extra cards, which is very useful in a game that lets you play as many as you like in one turn. While playing an Axe-A-Lot-L card last is probably obvious, cards like the Random Axe of Chaos can change the cards everyone is holding, allowing a formerly defenseless opponent to potentially defend themselves or vice-versa.

Axe-A-Lot-L Review – Is It A Good Game?

Axe-A-Lot-L delivers exactly what it promises in terms of gameplay. It’s a “take that!” style of game whose rules are easy to understand, but elevates itself above the norm by ensuring everyone has something to look forward to in game – even when they’re knocked out.

This makes a lot of sense, as Tim stated that he designed this game with his oldest son in mind, who loves both axolotls and card games. Top notch parenting on full display if ever I’ve seen it, and I appreciate that this labor of love got shared with the rest of us too.

In fairness, axolotls are pretty adorable. This is Larry, a roommate of one of our Patrons.

Our crew had an absolute blast playing Axe-A-Lot-L, and universally agreed it was exactly our speed and well worth the pickup for those who like this style of game. Our first game took substantially longer than 20-25 minutes, but each game after that was extremely quick and fast-paced.

I only have 2 complaints about the game itself, and they’re honestly both pretty minor. First, I really would have liked to have seen a few more Morph cards. Maybe the design space was left open for future promos, or even an expansion, but only having 6 does mean the same cards come up pretty often, even in smaller games.

Second, I do feel there is still room for clarification on some of the rules. As you might have noted above, we made a couple judgment calls that the FAQ page didn’t cover, but this is something that can easily be corrected as more feedback from gameplay comes in.

In terms of box design and production, I appreciate the small size of the box and the fact that the exterior uses its space so well. Axolotl facts on the bottom box half are fun additions and unique art from the cards adorns the top half’s sides.

The interior of the box is also large enough to accommodate sleeved cards – to a point.

Axe-A-Lot-L box with sleeved cards
While I started with matte sleeves, I shifted to Dragon Shield’s clear classic sleeves to better see card backs.

Even after removing the cardboard insert, I have to place the Revenge Deck on top of the other cards for everything to fit while sleeved, and cannot use the Tactilotl Retreat dividers for their intended purpose (they’re placed at the end of a side).

Not a huge deal, as everything (barely) still fits, but there was definitely some trial and error to figuring this out. I’d have been cool with the box being a little bigger to account for card sleeves, but I also understand gaming groups like ours are generally in the minority when it comes to considerations like that.

Production quality on the printer’s side is honestly my biggest complaint with the game overall. Not Tim’s fault, but there were two problems I noticed immediately. Let me bring back our setup picture for a moment to demonstrate my first issue:

Axe-A-Lot-L starting cards

Many of you might have noticed one of the legs is considerably faded in this picture, something our team all noticed without being told in advance as well. The three sealed blocks of cards in the box are not divided by deck, but by number of cards. That yellow leg was the first card of one deck, and the other 3 yellow limbs were the last 3 cards of another (or vice-versa, I don’t recall at this point).

Clearly, there were some printer consistency issues here, but it also made sorting cards extremely confusing when unwrapping everything. A little annoying, but not the end of the world.

The second issue actually ties in with the signed promo Axe-A-Little card.

Axe-A-Lot-L mismatched card sizes

Yes, the promo is actually that much larger than the rest of the cards on the side and top. This was a major impetus for sleeving the game, as it is very easy to tell that card apart between its size and the slight damage it received by being tossed into the shipping box without so much as a sleeve to protect it.

Easy enough for us to fix for fair gameplay, but not something we really should have had to either.

All of that being said, the gameplay is the most important part of a game. While I am shining a somewhat harsh light on some of the problems we found, none of this impacted our enjoyment of Axe-A-Lot-L when all was said and done.

Plus, since my cards are now sleeved, I know we’ll be able to chop and regenerate adorable limbs for years to come!

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