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Subject: Overview and review of "The Fool's Journey" rss

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Karen Robinson

Colorado
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“Fool’s Journey” is a solitaire card game playable with any standard deck of Tarot cards. You will also need some way to keep track of hit points; sometimes I use glass stones, but I have also used a cribbage board.

The mechanics are similar to the playing-card dungeon-crawler “Scoundrel”; in fact the designer has made it clear that “Scoundrel” provided some of the original inspiration. But while “Scoundrel” has a theme of exploring a dungeon, fighting monsters, and getting treasure, “Fool’s Journey” has a more spiritual theme.

The trump cards represent challenges to be overcome. The suit of coins represents “wisdom”, which can be used to call upon “helpers” (the court cards). The suit of cups represents “vitality”, which can be used to replenish hit points lost overcoming a challenge. The suit of swords represents “volition”, and the wands represent “strength”. The aces represent a “chance” to clear the board and get a fresh start.

The game is played in turns called “adventures”. You lay out four cards in what is called the “adventure field”, and deal with three of them before replacing them and beginning a new adventure. One way to deal with cards is to store them below the adventure field. You can store up to three Wisdom cards, one Vitality card, and one Strength card to be used later. You can also store any three non-Challenge cards in a stack called your “satchel”. The Fool is also placed below the adventure field. It isn’t used in play but represents the adventurer.

The cards in the deck that haven’t been played yet are called the “future”, and the discard pile is called the “past”.

To meet a Challenge, you can give up hit points equal to its value, or you can use Volition and/or Strength to offset its value. Once a Challenge is met, it is moved to the discard pile (the “past”) along with the cards used to overcome it.

You can use a Wisdom card along with a court card of the appropriate suit to double of the value of a Vitality, Volition or Strength card. If an ace appears, you can put the cards in the adventure field back in the “future” deck and reshuffle it. This can be helpful if you have too many Challenges to overcome and not enough resources.

That sums up the basic game. The designer also has provided optional rules that give special powers to each of the Challenge cards, which you can use after you have overcome the challenge. For example, if you play the World, you can spend one Wisdom card and restore the Fool’s vitality to full level.

I love this game. I love the theme of overcoming challenges using wisdom and strength and willpower and getting help from people you meet along the way. Sometimes it can be frustrating when too many Challenges appear too soon when you don’t have any resources to overcome them yet, but that gives the game its suspense. I seem to win about half the time.

I prefer the basic game, something I can play without having to consult the rulebook. But I appreciate that the designer has provided optional rules for those who might enjoy the extra details. He has also provided some optional tweaks that could make the game more or less difficult, like adjusting the number of cards in the satchel.

My own house rule I use is that I can replace cards from the adventure field as soon as the space becomes empty, instead of having wait until three of them are either played or discarded. That gives me an edge, but it also feels more like real life, where challenges and resources appear constantly, instead of in discrete turns. It also feels more like the solitaire card games of my childhood, playing a card as soon as the space becomes available.

I've collected tarot decks for about 45 years, and the cards feel like old friends. I don't believe they have any powers beyond feeding the imagination and accessing the subconscious, but that's pretty powerful. As I play this game, I try to think about how the resource cards are interacting with the challenges. Sometime I get an *aha!* moment that makes me teary-eyed. Most solitaire games don't have that effect on me.


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Desmond Meraz
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Riverside
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That's beautiful, Karen. Thank you for sharing your impressions. I really enjoyed the process of designing The Fool's Journey and the end result. I am happy to hear that you are enjoying the game as well and that it affords you a new way to interact with familiar cards.
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Karen Robinson

Colorado
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A few weeks ago I was at a mountain retreat, sitting on the cabin porch playing this game. There was lots of gaming going on at the retreat, but I prefer solo, so I didn't join in.

At one point a friend came by and started to talk, and all I could think of was wishing she would go away so I could get on with my game. I didn't say so, but she read my mood and said "Looks like you're in a contemplative space" and went away. I apologized to her later. She said there was nothing to apologize for, and we had a nice chat. But when she first came by, honestly, all I could think of was how I was going to find enough strength and will power to overcome the World. :-D
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