One of the secondary projects I've been thinking about over the years is writing up the cards and games inspired by the second chapter of Sand and Ash:
“Three of snakes in the north, one point.” Rutejìmo tapped his card against one of the four piles before picking up the top card from the other three piles on the table.
“Damn, that was my three of scorpions.” Gemènyo sat with one leg in a crook and his pipe balanced on his knee. He groaned and pulled out a six of snakes and set it on the east pile. “Your turn.”
Rutejìmo glanced down at his cards. He only had two left, but neither would help him get another trick out of the cards on the table. Hissing through his teeth, he plucked out the card with an illustration of two rocks sticking out of a sand dune.
Rutejìmo placed it on the south pile. He shuffled through the stack looking for another snake. He got through the pile before he realized he picked the wrong one. “Damn.” He grabbed a random card, the five of birds, and set it down on top of the rocks. “Your turn.”
“So,” Gemènyo said, “you think Mapábyo is going to have her rites soon?”
Rutejìmo glanced up. “Probably. Why?”
“Oh, just curious.” Gemènyo set down a three of horses on the north pile. “I heard her asking you about it.”
Rutejìmo had only one card left. He set it down on a eight of birds. “I’m out. She was just curious. Don’t worry, I didn’t say anything to ruin the surprise. Not like there is anything I could do to ruin the joy of being abandoned in the middle of the desert to die.”
“Ha!” Gemènyo slapped down his card on top of Rutejìmo. It was a four of scorpions.
Rutejìmo looked at the cards and groaned.
“A broken chain!” Gemènyo plucked the sequential cards from the four piles. “That gets me eight points. I win!”
Since I wrote that, I've been figuring out how this specific culture, the sun clans of the desert, would frame their card games. I didn't want to use our own deck but wanted to come up with something specific to them from the ground up.
When I was working on the calendar, I started building up the culture's foundation. In specific, the whole idea of the eight original spirits that myth say sided with Tachìra in his fight to win the affections of Mifúno. Because of that, the calendar started with eight months and I thought the cards should also have eight suits (instead of five of our own cards if you call jokers a “suit”).
Of course, the excerpt above refers to scorpions and snakes, but I figured that could be a deck- or card-specific label. (Ah, the joys of making up a world while still writing it.) Mostly I was looking for suit names that start with different letters (SWBHRPIF) and this seems like a good start.
In the chapter, I had rocks used as a form of jokers. At first, I thought about only having 2-4 of them but a full suit would be a lot easier. It also ties into the “jacks are wild” that I used when playing poker.
Having the suits meant the cards. The standard poker deck is fifty-two cards, so I figured I would go with something about the same size. That mean having five, six, seven, or eight ranks per suit which would be 40, 48, 56, or 64 cards in total.
There is something about the symmetry of having eight suits and eight ranks. It would also fit well with the semi-nomadic nature of the desert clans; having a deck of cards that if you lost half of them would let you “rotate” and keep playing.
In essence of only having one deck of cards, I wanted to also include my favorite: tarot cards. When I was taught how to do readings, I went with reverse meanings which meant you needed to have a deck where you can tell if the card is reversed or not.
That led into the overall design of the deck and the games. These are cards that someone saves up months or even years for, and then plays until they cannot be played again. Games should handle cards missing, maybe even quarter or even half of them. Likewise, there should be variants to run with games where half or quarter of the ranks are gone.
So, that works with the symmetry of having eight suits and eight ranks. If you want to play a game that only requires half suits and quarter ranks, you can “rotate” the game to play with half ranks and quarter suits and still have an enjoyable game.
For the most part, I would see someone only having a full set of ranks and a half or quarter set of suits, so the games will be described as:
- Full (8 suits)
- Half (4 suits)
- Quarter (2 suits)
- Half/Half (4 suits, 4 ranks)
Creating the cards is going to take me the longest. For the first iteration, I'm going to use the same framework I wrote to do my covers with roughly the same design.
Actually, I'm stealing the Sand and Blood cover until I can illustrate them.
One of the big differences is that this deck has a white border. As much as I love full bleed cards, using so many colors makes it easier to identify the card from the edges. The white makes it harder to do so.
Obviously, I'm using placeholders for images on the cards. One of the biggest and longest steps is to come up with the individual card images and the back.
Another tasks coming off this is to finish my conscript for Miwāfu. I want those for the titles, suits, and ranks on the card.
As usual, opinions, feedback, and comments are always appreciated.