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This is a thin slice of the full Mnemoscene idea: a narrative card game system. This is a physical card game for 1-4 players, and is the basis of the CS Hamlet game. It's also set up to be pretty straightforwardly a digital game, as Digital Card Shark.


Card Shark plays 1-4 players. In a Card Shark game, there is a deck of events which the player(s) draw from. These cards represent events in the story. Each player has a hand drawn and refreshed from the deck, and each player has a special “Ending Card”.

A turn consists of playing an eligible card from the player's hand to the Log, reading the event aloud, and then changing the state of the game as the Event instructs. The player then draws a new card from the deck, and the next player takes their turn.

The game ends either when no player has any eligible events, or when the game state matches a player's Ending Card.



Event Cards - Each has:

  • At the top, a Title which synopsizes the event.
  • some conditions for the game state (Relationships between Characters, Counter values, Events in the Log).
  • text depicting a scene. This text may include variable values, so that multiple characters can be “applied” to it, for greater player choice.
  • possibly, choices in how the scene can be resolved.
  • some stat changes as outcomes of the scene and/or Choices :
    • addition of a character to the state
    • declaration of, or value change on, a relationship
    • valence change of a relationship
    • change in value of a counter
  • a Deck Membership, generally “starting” or not.
  • on the back, a Log Summary or two which appear when placed in the Log. If there is a Choice in the Event, then two alternative Log Summaries may appear, opposed so that one of them will appear when placed in the Log.

State Cards - The kinds of cards waiting in The Wings and played into The State include:

  • Characters - with the name, picture, and possibly a text sketch of the character
  • Relationships - landscape-format cards with the name of the valence and space for counters. They may also be reversible, if the relationship has opposed values, such as love and hate. With a valence, they indicate a directional relationship with an arrow.
  • Counters - cards specific to a setting & stats that outcomes will affect. Portrait card with room for, well, counters.
  • Character States - small (1/2 or 1/3 size) cards that can be placed on/near a character card if a particular stat becomes relevant, and which has space for counters.

Like Event Cards, State Cards may also have a Deck Membership, generally either “starting” or not.

Ending Cards - Each ending card specifies a state that ends the game with that player as the winner. The card contains:

  • Conditions - which must be met by the game state for the character to win and end the game.
  • Final Scene - a short description of the scenario or text describing the closing scene.


There are three parts of the ‘table’:

  1. The Log - a stack of cards, with one third of their back showing. Reading down the log (onto progressively higher cards in the stack) reads like a terse log of the game’s events.
  2. The State - this holds state cards, which are of several types. This is where the ‘state’ of the game is represented. Playing an event will generally involve placing state cards into this area, changing counters on them, or connections between them.
  3. The Wings - an area holding all of the state cards and counters that are not in play, and the Discard.


Counters may be placed on Counter State Cards or on Relationships to indicate a value.


1. Separate the Event, Character, and State Cards according to Deck Membership. Place Starting Deck cards onto the table:

1. Place starting Event Cards, which is most or all of them, into _The Wings_ as the _Draw Deck_.  
1. Place starting Character and State Cards into the State.
1. Place relationship cards and counters as specified by the Character or State cards.

1. Each Player draws an Ending Card, which they keep secret from other players. 1. Each Player draws 5 Event Cards from the Draw Deck. If two or fewer are playable based on the starting state, the player may 'mulligan' and draw a new complete hand. 1. Place non-starting cards and counters into The Wings.


The player who has most recently seen a play live is the first player.

Each turn consists of a player choosing an Event card to play or discard.

When a card is played as an event, the player reads the Scene, chooses any Applications (characters put into open roles in the scene), and if there is a Choice on the card, makes that. The player then changes the State section of the table according to the Outcomes listed on the card, and plays the Event Card into the Log ‘on top’ of the topmost card in the log, so that only the Log Summary of the previous cards are showing. Thus, reading down the Log shows the Log Summaries of the cards, and the stack reads like a terse log of the game’s events.
All players should check whether the new State satisfies their Ending Card. If so, they have won. If a player's Ending Card is impossible (a required character is dead, etc.) then that player turns their Ending Card over and works toward the Default End. (?)

The active player then draws another card from the Draw Deck and play moves to the next player.

Ending the game

Eventually, the game reaches an end when:

  • there are no more cards (dissolution)
  • no player's Ending Card can be satisfied (default)
  • one or more player's Ending Cards are satisfied (goal success)

A dissolution ending means that the story has been told, but has come to no conclusion. All players have 'lost'. A default ending means that the story has come to the 'destined' conclusion, and there is no winner. A goal success means that the player(s) whose Ending Card were met have 'won'.



To play collaboratively rather than competively, choose two or three (very particular) Goals that are shared by the table. Can the group get them satisfied? Within x turns?

AI and Ghost Players

This is a card game that allows for a fairly simple AI: the AI draws cards from The Wings until it draws a card that can be played. Unused cards are returned to the deck and shuffled in.

Theming and Tarot

This is a system, not a particular game. One game in it is CS Hamlet.

Generally, I'm thinking of other stories that would work particularly well for this. I think this might also be the structure, the best structure, for the CS Tarot idea there. If the player could not see the card's full description, and prior to playing it could only see a Tarot card that represents the events, then the feel of the game will be one of playing oracle, overseeing the characters' fate without getting to determine details. This also offers some default deck sizes, along multiples of a Tarot deck.


Some room for growth in this: * AI - * States can be about the dramatic state, not just characters and relationships. For instance, we could implement the Hamlet’s Hit Points system by creating a ‘tension’ stat and having every card have a condition with a max/min tension and adding/removing tension counters. * Applications will complicate the game significantly and really start to demand digital tracking. Applications would mean making role cards for the State area and then playing Characters into them, as well as mapping them during events and saving that somehow in the log. :/

making/mnemoscene/card_shark.txt · Last modified: 2020/06/30 14:43 (external edit)