Ithaca in the Cards
A downloadable game
Made for Global Game Jam 2019 – What Home Means to You
Rules below, and also available as PDF download below.
You are fellow travellers on a perilous journey trying to make your way home
The goal of the game is to make it home. On your journey home, you will encounter various challenges and reflect on what draws you home and spurs you on your journey.
To begin, introduce your characters. Take a deck of cards and remove the Kings, Queens, Jacks and Jokers. Each player chooses a King, Queen, Jack to represent themselves and sets the rest aside, not to be used in this game. Describe your name and look and what you achieved before setting out back home and how your journey back is dangerous. If you’re unsure, use the following divinings:
- Diamonds – scientist, wizard, sapper, engineer // wonky time machine, dimensional rifts
- Hearts – doctor, cleric, medic, cultural liaison // ascend the underworld, through the desert
- Clubs – sailor, fighter, soldier, security officer // fighting retreat, damaged vessel
- Spades – merchant, rogue, scout, captain // descending the summit, survived the wreckage
Shuffle the rest of the deck and place it in the centre of the playing space.
You will play in rounds, with each round having 2 phases.
Choose someone to begin the Challenge phase (in later rounds, this should be the player to the left of the previous player who revealed the Challenge). They draw and reveal a card from the deck to the centre of the playing space. This is the Challenge for this round, which will need to be faced together as a group. They then describe what the Challenge is; basing the severity and difficulty of the Challenge on the value of the card. A higher number is more difficult, and Aces are always worth 11.
If you’re unsure, use the following divinings:
- Diamonds – something breaks or is lost, food spoils, illness or fatigue overwhelms you
- Hearts – internal bickering, a mutiny, resentment boils over, a fight
- Clubs – the earth itself defies you, a storm, unrelenting heat, dangerous wildlife
- Spades – an old foe reappears, enemies attack, sabotage
Then, starting with the player to their left and going clockwise, each player (including the player who revealed the Challenge) chooses to either face the challenge or abandon their journey and their friends.
- If you choose to face the challenge, draw a card face-up into a stack in front of you.
- If you choose to abandon your journey, then you never make it home. Discard all the cards in your stack. Every other character describes how your leaving affected them. You may leave the game or stay to witness the end. You may still help in describing challenges.
Once everyone has chosen you will now describe how you dealt with the challenge:
- If you chose to abandon your journey, describe why and how your character abandons the group and what they go on to do.
- If your last drawn card had a higher value than the challenge, you acquit yourself well in the challenge. Describe what feat you accomplished that helped your group against the challenge.
- If your last drawn card had a lower value than the challenge, you lose something or are harmed in the process. Describe your loss.
- If the sum of all the cards in your stack is over 21, your character has died in the process of addressing this challenge. Describe how your character died. Each surviving player describes how your death affected them. Give your character card to a surviving player. It is now their character’s responsibility to bring your body or some memento of you home. You may haunt this player if they agree to it (stand behind them and comment on their character’s choices; you may peek at the current top card of the deck at any time but you may not directly describe what the card is).
- If all characters died, then you have failed on your journey home. Describe how your ghosts haunt this place.
- If the sum of the cards in any players stack is exactly 21, or only one player survives, then your journey is over and you have reached home. Describe what you do when you reach home: what you eat, who you see, where you go. If you carry another player’s character card, also describe what you do with their remains or memento. If they were haunting you, they are now laid to rest and cease haunting you.
Once you’ve finished your descriptions and scenes, move to the Reflection Phase.
You will now describe or play out short scenes that focus on an aspect of home that motivated your actions during the Challenge, or that the Challenge reminded you of, or are thematically linked to the Challenge. These could be set before, during or after the Challenge itself. Use the following prompts, based on the last drawn card in your stack:
- Diamonds – The future, stability to plan and build once you get home, things you’re looking forward to doing at home
- Hearts – Loved ones, friends and family, people and pets waiting for you
- Clubs – Safety and security from the challenges you’ve faced, how you will apply what you’ve learned from your journey
- Spades – Your past, legacies and traditions, what you learned and carried with you wherever you go
If you have reached home, you may additionally describe or play out a short scene that focuses on any one aspect of home that meant the most to your character now that they’ve reached home.
Repeat rounds until either everyone is dead or you’ve reached home.
Special thanks to Jeannie, my home and refuge, for help with the haunting rules.