Step-by-step rules on how to play Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale Board Game. The Roll-N-Write genre has come a long way since Yahtzee and there is no clearer example of that than the ingenious Cartographers.

Taking something that used to just be about hard numbers and probability, they pumped brilliant thematic elements, as well as, trials and tribulations to create something unique and lively. These games sometimes run the risk of not having enough player action, but with the brilliant Ambush mechanic, there is just enough to keep it spicy. This game can be played with 1 – 100 people, it is completely up to you.

FOR MORE: Cartographers Page | Games Like Cartographers | Buy Cartographers on Amazon


Queen Gimnax has ordered the reclamation of the northern lands. As a cartographer in her service, you are sent to map this territory, claiming it for the Kingdom of Nalos.

Through official edicts, the queen announces which lands she prizes most, and you will increase your reputation by meeting her demands. But you are not alone in this wilderness. The Dragul contest your claims with their outposts, so you must draw your lines carefully to reduce their influence. Reclaim the greatest share of the queen’s desired lands and you will be declared the greatest cartographer in the kingdom.

In Cartographers, players compete to earn the most reputation stars by the
time four seasons have passed. Each season, players draw on their map sheets and earn reputation by carrying out the queen’s edicts before the season is over. The player with the most reputation stars at the end of winter wins! Learning how to play Cartographers may be a bit intimidating, but once you go through it once, you got it.


Time Needed: Approximately 30 – 45 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play Cartographers the popular thematic map-making roll-n-write board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Give Each Player A Score Sheet
To kick off this how to play Cartographers guide, you will see that this game starts off like almost every other roll-n-write. From the disposable pad of gameplay score sheets, give each player one. They are all the same, but they do have two different sides. The A and B sides provide different gameplays due to a changed configuration. All you need to know is that all players need to use the same side. Everyone needs a writing utensil as well.

2. SETUP | Fill Out Personal Info
At the top of your score sheet, you need to fill out your name, your title and draw your family crest in the blank shield space. This is all for fun and not necessary at all, but if you are going to learn how to play Cartographers we are going to teach you right.

3. SETUP | Lay Out Edict Cards
From left to right lay out the A, B, C and D edit cards in a row in the center of the table. Also included are scoring cards that have four different symbols on the back of them. Shuffle those into their individual stacks, then take one from each and randomly put them under the aforementioned letters. These are your scoring conditions that are now unique to this game.

4. SETUP | Put Out Season Cards
Next to the letters put your stack of season cards that you will go through and in turn trigger things and different scoring opportunities. Put these in order of Spring on top, Summer, Fall and finally Winter on bottom.

5. SETUP | Put Out Explorer Cards
Find the event cards with the compass symbol on the back, these are the explorer cards. Go through and pull out the 4 “ambush” cards which are purple and look a little different. Shuffle those 4, randomly and secretly pull out 1 and add it to the remaining (non-ambush) cards. Shuffle those together and put them under the seasons face-down. Keep those other 3 ambush nearby but set them aside for now.

How To Play Cartographers Layout

6. GAMEPLAY | Round 1 Spring | Phase 1 | Explorer
Flip over the top Explorer card so everyone can see it. It is most likely going to have an icon of its terrain type and a configuration shape (like a Tetris piece).

7. GAMEPLAY | Round 1 Spring | Phase 2 | Draw
At the same time, all players make a mark on their score sheet based on the card that was flipped. Anywhere on your personal grid, draw the chosen shape and shade it in with the pattern of the chosen terrain type. You can put it anywhere it fits, you cannot overlap mountains or shapes you have already put down. You can rotate and flip, as long as the shape orientation stays the same.

8. GAMEPLAY | Claiming Gold Coins
There are two ways to gain gold coins which allow you to shade the coins at the bottom of your scoresheet which gives you things later. Some Explorer card shape options will have a coin symbol next to it. If you choose this and draw it on your grid, shade the leftmost coin on your track. The second is by surrounding mounts. On your scoresheet, once you add shapes covering all four sides of a mountain symbol, shade in a coin.

How To Play Cartographers Mountain Gold

9. GAMEPLAY | Round 1 Spring | Phase 3 | Check
After everyone has made a decision and drawn something in, you need to check if the season is over. The current season will have a number in the top left corner. Spring, for example, has the number “8”. You then look down to the stack of explorer cards that has been flipped this season and add up the total of all those cards top left corner numbers. If the total of explorer cards is LESS than the season you go back to Phase 1 of the season. If that total is EQUAL TO or GREATER than the total, the season is over.

10. GAMEPLAY | Dealing With Ambushes
When flipping explorer cards, if instead of getting a normal card you hit one of the purple Ambush cards, you stop and deal with it. The bottom of the card will have a directional arrow on it. All players pass their score sheet to the player next to them in that direction. This player then gets to draw the ambush shape on their opponent’s maps, hopefully screwing things up for them. The ambush card gets removed from the game and the score sheets then gets passed back and you move on to flipping a new explorer card. You score negative points for spaces around monsters so keep that in mind.

11. GAMEPLAY | Dealing With Ruins
The other specialty card you may flip when flipping explorer cards is a “ruins” card. When you hit one of these, then immediately flip another explorer card until you hit a non-specialty one. You do that explorer card as normal BUT now at least one of its squares needs to overlap one of the “ruins” symbols on your scoresheet. You do not have to wait for the ruins to draw over it, but you do want to keep these readily available for these cases. If you hit an ambush in this process, stop and deal with that.

12. GAMEPLAY | Round 1 Spring | Phase 4 | Scoring Edicts
After you have flipped enough explorer cards for their time values in the top left corner to equal or exceed the season total, you move to scoring for that season. Each of the four seasons are going to have a combination of 2 of the four letters (Like A/B or B/D or A/C) that is unique to that season. These are the two unique scoring edicts that you score this round. Each of those will have their own condition to get you points. Add it up and fill in the total in the respective space at the bottom of your scoresheet.

13. GAMEPLAY | Round 1 Spring | Phase 4 | Scoring Coins & Monsters
Besides the unique scoring conditions of that season, you always score positive points for gold coins and negative points for spaces around monsters. For the coin space you fill in a number equal to the number of coins you have shaded in at that moment. For any empty spaces around monsters at that moment, take a negative point for each and fill it in. Add all together to form your season score.

14. GAMEPLAY | Round 2 Summer – Round 4 Winter | Repeat
Each season acts the exact same. Each one has its own scoring mechanisms, but you go through the same flip, draw, check and repeat format for each. Before each season you reshuffle all the explorer cards and you add in new Ambush cards (meaning the longer you go without flipping them, the more likely they are to hit).

15. GAME END | After The Fourth Season Has Completed
Once all four seasons have properly ended, players add up their total score by combining their individual scores from each season.

16. WINNING | High Score Wins
Whoever collectively has the highest total of all four of their season scores added together, wins. Learning how to play Cartographers may be many steps, but once you have it, you have it.



Learning how to play Cartographers, you will see that there are six possible shadings (terrain) to anything that is filled out on your map. Those include: Forest, Village, Farm, Water, Monster and Mountain. You do not have to draw these perfect, they just have to be enough so everyone can clearly see what they are.

How To Play Cartographers Board Game Terrain Types


Rift Lands: If the rift lands card is revealed, each player draws a 1×1 square anywhere on their map and fills it with any terrain type shown on the card. All normal rules and restrictions apply.

Ruins: If one or more ruins cards are revealed, each player must draw one of the available shapes, depicted on the next explore card that is revealed, so that it overlaps a ruins space on their map. If not possible, instead draw a 1×1 square anywhere on their map and fill it with any terrain type.

Ambush: If an ambush card is revealed, check the direction of the arrow shown on the card. Each player immediately passes their map sheet to their neighbor in that direction. Each player draws the depicted shape on their neighbor’s map, then fills the shape with the monster terrain type. If a player cannot legally draw the depicted shape on their neighbor’s map, they must instead draw a 1×1 square anywhere on their neighbor’s map and fill it with the monster terrain type.


  • 100x Double-Sided Map Score Sheets
  • 13x Explore Cards
  • 16x Scoring Cards
  • 4x Ambush Cards
  • 4x Season Cards
  • 4x Edict Cards
  • 4x Mini Pencils


We hope you can now say you know how to play Cartographers. This ingenious, modern roll-n-write board game is making big waves. They brought a great theme into the genre, with fantastic new mechanics with just a touch of player interaction to keep things exciting. Not too many games in this genre feel as rich as Cartographers and that sure comes through in the gameplay.