Yu-Gi-Oh Rules

Yu-Gi-Oh is a popular turn-based card game where the goal is to reduce your opponent’s life points to 0. 

Yu-Gi-Oh cards

Contents and Object of the Game

Playing Yu-Gi-Oh is done with 2 players: it is a duel. 
The first player whose life points drop to 0 loses the duel.
To play Yu-Gi-Oh you will need: 

  • a deck of at least 40 cards per player
  • a game mat.

Among other items, you will need:  

– a calculator (unless you are good at mental arithmetic)
– a coin for a coin toss
– a counter (which can be a batch of matchsticks)
-a 6-sided die. 

The mat is only useful when you start to learn the game. Once you get used to the placement of the cards, you wouldn’t need the playmat anymore. The Yu-Gi-Oh game mat consists of:

  • 1 space for your card deck
  • 1 space for the card graveyard, just above the deck
  • 5 spaces for Monster cards
  • 5 space for Spell and Trap cards
  • 1 space for the Terrain Card (if you play one), at opposite graveyard
  • 1 slot for the extra deck, which includes Ritual Monster and Tuner cards, opposite the deck (maximum 15 cards).
Yu-Gi-Oh card deck

Before Starting the Duel

Each player lays down their game mat, then places: 

– their deck of cards in the space provided on the mat. Each deck can be shuffled by the opponent before being laid down (don’t be too rough on your opponent’s cards!). This is to ensure that there is no cheating in the order of the decks.
– their extra deck cards face down in a single pile in the space provided on the mat (extra deck slot).

Then you can toss a coin or roll a dice to determine who goes first. The player who wins the throw can choose whether to go first or not. This only applies for the first game.
If after a game you decide to play again, the player who lost the game can decide if they go first or not. 
Once the order has been decided, each player draws 5 cards from their deck and places them in their hand. Each player is then given 8000 life points (LP). 
It’s duel time!

Stages of a Turn

Each turn of a player takes place in 6 stages or phases:

  • The Draw phase: This is the first phase of the turn. The player whose turn it is begins by drawing a card from their deck and adding it to their hand. 
  • The Standby phase or Waiting phase: In general, it is only used to resolve any specific card effects. 
  • The Main Phase 1: This is the first main phase. The player can here play their cards, activate card or monster effects. 
  • The Battle Phase: This is the combat phase. The player who starts the game cannot perform this phase on their first turn! 
  • The Main Phase 2: This is the second main phase. The player can decide to activate card effects or set cards if they have not already done so in Main Phase 1.
  • The End Phase: The player announces the end of their turn and hands it over to their opponent. If you have more than 6 cards in your hand during your End Phase, you must discard cards and place them in your graveyard until you only have a maximum of 6 cards in your hand. 

The Different Types of Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh has 3 main groups of cards. Each group of cards is divided into several subgroups, each with specificities. 

  • Monster cards: A monster card includes a name, an elemental attribute (Earth – Wind – Fire – Water – Dark – Light), a level (in number of stars), an image, a title, a description and statistics (attack and defense). The monster card subgroups are Normal Monsters (Yellow), Effect Monsters (Orange-Yellow), Ritual Monsters (Blue), Fusion Monsters (Purple), Synchro Monsters (White), and XYZ Monsters (Black). There are cards that are prohibited, so remember to consult the list. 
  • Spell cards (green): There are several types of Spell cards: normal Spell cards, Quick Spell cards, Continuous Spell cards, Equip cards, Ritual Spell cards, Field spell cards.
  • Trap cards (purple): Surely, the cards that put the most suspense and very often change the course of a duel. These cards can be played even during your opponent’s turn, which is their strength. The different types of Trap Cards are: Normal Trap cards, Continuous Trap cards and Counter-Trap cards. 

The Particularities of Certain Phases


During Main Phase (1 or 2): 

  • You can activate as many Spell and Trap cards as you want, as long as you can pay the cost. 
  • You can put as many Spell and Trap cards on the field as you want, as long as you have enough space in the Spell and Trap area. 
  • You can summon monsters in 2 ways: the normal summon by taking the monster from your hand and placing it on the field, then the special summon. Summons of monsters from the extra deck count as special summons. 
  • There is no limit to the number of Special Summons you can make per turn.
  • You can only do ONE Normal Summon per turn
  • You can change the battle position of your monsters on the field once per turn. A face-up card placed lengthwise is said to be in attack position. Rotate the card 90° to put it in defense position
  • You cannot change the battle position of a card that has already fought during the battle phase
  • You cannot change the battle position of a card that has already changed battle position this turn.
  • A monster that has just been summoned cannot change battle position the same turn (except if it’s part of the card effect).

During the Battle Phase: 

  • You can attack with your monsters.
  • A monster can only attack ONCE during the Battle Phase (except if it’s part of the card effect).
  • Only monsters in attack position can attack (except if it’s part of the card effect).
  • Note that you and your opponent can still activate Trap Cards, as long as you can pay the cost.
  • The player who starts the duel has no Battle Phase on their first turn.
  • To engage in battle with your monster, you must choose the monster that will attack, choose the target, then “Declare attack”.
  • If your opponent has no monsters on the field, you can attack their life points directly.
  • If you attack a monster in a face-down defense position, your opponent flips the monster over and reveals it. If this monster has a flip effect, it will be activated and resolved at the end of the damage calculation. 
  • Once the attack is declared, if no card intervenes (especially a trap), you proceed to calculate the damage.
  • The damage calculation is carried out by taking into account the attack of the monsters and their defense.
  • If both battling monsters are in attack position, then their attack stats are taken into account. The monster with the lowest attack is destroyed, then the difference in attack points is inflicted as direct damage to its owner’s life points (except if a card effect intervenes). 
  • If both monsters (in attack position) have the same attack value, they are both destroyed, and neither player takes damage.
  • If you attack a monster in defense position, your monster’s attack is compared to the defense of the attacked monster. 
  • If your monster’s attack is higher than the attacked monster’s defense, then the monster is destroyed, but no damage is inflicted to your opponent’s life points (except if a card effect intervenes).
  • If your monster’s attack is lower than the defense of the attacked monster, no monster is destroyed, but you suffer damage equivalent to the difference between the attack of your monster and the defense of the defending monster (except if a card effect intervenes).
  • If your monster’s attack is equal to the defense of the attacked monster, no monster is destroyed, and no player suffers damage (except if a card effect intervenes). 
  • If you have finished attacking with your monsters, you must declare that you “end your Battle Phase”.

Last Essential Point: Chains

It often happens that several cards are activated in a row. This is called a chain. Knowing how to resolve chains is essential to avoid misunderstandings during a game.

The rule is simple: to resolve a chain, you must start with the LAST CARD that was activated. 

An example: Your opponent decides to summon the monster Gemini Elf, during their Main Phase. On your side, you have the Bottomless Trap Hole card placed. This card is supposed to cancel your opponent’s summon and destroy their monster. When your opponent summons the card, you decide to activate your trap card. However, your opponent won’t let you as they activate their Seven Tools of the Bandit trap card. The goal is to neutralize your Bottomless Trap Hole card and destroy it. 

This chain therefore has 3 elements: the Gemini Elf summon, the activation of the Bottomless Trap Hole and the activation of the Seven Tools of the Bandit. To resolve it, you must first start with the last card activated, in this case, the Seven Tools of the Bandit.

Seven Tools of the Bandit will neutralize the Bottomless Trap Hole card and destroy it. As a result, the summoning of Gemini Elf is no longer canceled by the Bottomless Trap Hole card. Your opponent can therefore carry out their summons.

Official rules in PDF

Explore the official Yu-Gi-Oh rule in PDF.