Ten Favorite Game Mechanics #6 – The Nitu Tarot from Ganakagok

24Mar10

#6 – The Nitu Tarot from Ganakagok

A number of games over the years have attempted to make use of tarot cards: the vague allusion of Amber’s “Trumps”, the complete rewrite of Everyway’s fortune deck, the beautifully-produced Mage: the Ascension deck, to the just-plain-oddness of Psychosis. I’ve never seen any of them succeed as brilliantly as Ganakagok’s tarot.

At its root, Ganakagok is a game about making myths. Myths make use of the same tropes over and over, welded together in different combinations by the force of human imagination. Using the tarot for this purpose is ideal: Archetypal tropes are on the cards, but the cards invite interpretation. You need to add your own imagination to make a tarot card mean anything, but once you do, it doesn’t seem like you’ve made up anything at all. It feels as if you’ve discovered something hidden and profound. Something that, mysteriously, always fits.

And isn’t that what making a myth should feel like?

Furthermore, by customizing the tarot to fit the frozen world of the Nitu, the cards become the setting of the game, in a sense. The deck, just like the world, are populated with wise elders, impetuous youth, walruses, resting polar bears, fierce orcas, and ever-ravenous cannibal-ghouls. Players learn how to imagine the setting from the cards themselves. The island of ice is not a land of quantities and surveys, but becomes a realm of images, and concepts, and dreams.

Just like a myth.

Up next: I can’t let you go on vacation. The company needs you!

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One Response to “Ten Favorite Game Mechanics #6 – The Nitu Tarot from Ganakagok”

  1. One of the things I really like about Ganakgok’s Card system is that it does inspire character creation, social setting and world creation with the one card. Its very elegant.


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