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Subject: 'Tarot' label: A discussion on it being a help or hinderance rss

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Serge Gagnon
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After being a little disappointed that Stones of Fate did not succeed, I have started to contemplate why this did not succeed more than it did. Lets have a quick look at some of the key points:

1. Quick 'filler' game that lasts between 25-30 minutes (maybe 40 minutes tops in a 4 player game).

2. Simple rules which make it easy to learn.

3. Enough strategy and tactical decision making to 'scratch' the itch

4. Great initial reviews and even won an award (first place winner of the Polyprize - a game design competition sponsored by Polycon).

5. A 'print and play' was made made available.

6. Amazing artwork from a renowned artist Ciro Marchetti.

With all this going for it, I'm wondering if the 'Tarot' label may have something to do with 'drawing people away' from it.

Now I would like to be straight forward with this aspect as I do have an ulterior motive for this discussion. At this time, I have also created a Tarot based game with a fantasy theme on becoming a Wizard. I'm about the heavily invest a lot of time and money with the intent of self publishing this project, even to go as far as to create a new tarot deck (not only for the game but also to be used for Tarot readings) but have some reservations about marketing strategies.

Let me explain. During the playtesting stage, I was recommended by different playtesters NOT to market it as a Tarot game, but a 'Fantasy' game instead, as to not 'scare off' potential gamers to try it. I am a bit remiss to do this as it is heavily influenced by the principles of Tarot reading. Besides, if you look at the 'game board', there's no real disguising it as not being based on the Tarot.

Having had the experience with trying to crowd fund Stones of Fate, any feedback or thoughts from Mr. Laurie or Cosmic Wombat Games regarding (pardon the pun) the influence of the 'Tarot' label. Do you feel it hindered the kickstarter campaign?

Cheers!

Serge G
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Anderson
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I think the Tarot label is fine. I think with this game the memory aspect was a red flag more than anything. People with any short term memory difficulties will stay away plus I think it implies this to be a heavy concentration game because of the memory reference and not one to be played casually. Yet the game has a casual time frame.

Yet I really like Stones and feel like the more the game can get players to sit down and play it, the better its chances.
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Serge Gagnon
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I considered the 'memory' dependant aspect as well but when my group played the game, it really became almost secondary. The reasons why were because:

a) 'Sneaking a peak' and 'knowing something your opponent doesn't know' added so much to the fun factor.

b) If we didn't remember per say what was underneath, we could still bluff and get your opponent to waste an action.

c) There was a player who used the (non) strategy of just randomly placing his stones, then looking and flipping cards later and just taking the chance did have it's 'payoffs'

I found that when given the chance, people really enjoyed the game. Getting people to try it was the difficult part.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Anderson
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Note that I didn't write that I failed to enjoy the game because of the memory aspect, but the game wasn't at all shy about putting the word out that memory was a valuable tool in playing the game well. I think that had the potential to turn people off. I also disagree a bit about the value of memory. Someone with really good short term memory bordering on photographic, will, I believe, be very difficult to defeat because they will start fast by knowing all of the cards on the first layout and then never have to spend two actions to look at a card a second time.
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Jeff Cornelius
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Thanks RAVENTROLL for starting this discussion. You bring up some excellent points about Stones of Fate. I do think that the "tarot" marketing did not pay out as much as we had initially hoped. We were looking for something unique and different. Unfortunately, it appears that the community wants things that are tried and true.

However, with that being said, I believe that Rick is right on with what he said about the memory aspect. We focused WAY too heavily on the memory aspect which turned a lot of people off. We started out calling it a memory game. Not a good idea. In our relaunch and our marketing efforts from here on out we will be referring to Stones of Fate as an area control game. That is what it essentially is. It does have a memory element to it but you can easily win the game with a poor memory. The strategic and tactical choices definitely make up for that.

As far as how we proceed with the marketing of the tarot aspect, we will be keeping the tarot theme and beautiful artwork by Ciro Marchetti. We will not be heavily marketing it as a tarot game. We intend to focus more on its area control and strategic/tactical decision making aspects. If people mention the theme or like the theme we will be happy to talk about that with them and show them how the cards are written so as to bring out some of the tarot theme but that will not be a focus of our marketing strategy.

We have learned that to market to gamers you have to focus on what they want which is good game mechanics. Occasionally it's theme but for the most part game mechanics.

I am glad that you both enjoyed Stones of Fate and I look forward to hearing more from you as we approach the relaunch in August.

Thanks,

Jeff
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Anderson
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So do you still plan a presence at GenCon?
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Jeff Cornelius
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Yes, we will definitely be at Gen Con. We already have some events scheduled and are willing to just sit down and play with whoever wants to play. We are also one of the sponsors of the Card and Board Game Designers Guild playtest hall that will be going on Friday night at Gen Con.
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Luke Laurie
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Fascinating discussion! I'm taking off camping now, so not much time to contribute. I've personally found the Tarot theme not to be much of a turn off. For some, I've seen it as a strong draw. Standard fantasy themes are SO common. Some publishers won't even look at games with those themes! The ratio of people who play Stones and then back us on Kickstarter is very, very high- we just need to get more people to play the game and learn how they can help it get published.
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Jeff Cornelius
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I really wanted to bring back up this topic since we just relaunched Stones of Fate on Kickstarter.

So far, I would say the reactions to "tarot" are mixed. I see a lot of people in the comments who love the tarot theme and are asking about how it influenced the card design.

I also was just talking to a very nice gentlemen on Facebook that said he would not be backing because his own belief system would not support a "pagan divination" tool like the tarot.

It's interesting. I don't think we will ever know how many people were turned off by the tarot theme as they are the ones who will not pledge and therefore will not be commenting on the Kickstarter campaign. If you just look at the comments, you would think the tarot theme was the best idea ever.

We have tried to really focus the campaign this time on the game play itself and emphasize that the tarot theme does NOT mean this is a divination deck. I think that has helped some.

Do any of you have any new thoughts on this subject?
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Sean Geraghty
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The tarot theme does nothing for me. In fact, if I knew Stones of Fate was based on tarot cards before I learned how to play, I would have probably been less receptive. That being said, I still don't care that the artwork is based on tarot cards (though it is quite beautiful), it's an easy game to learn that's quick to play.

All themes are going to appeal to some groups well and other groups poorly. The trick is to make a game that transcends theme. Take for instance Battlestar Galactica. I've never watched the series, but I really like the game.

And of course there are games that are immediately appealing to you based on genre or gameplay that completely suck once you play them. Take for instance Zombies!!! I like zombies and horror themes, but that game is a bit too dicey. I'll play it with the right people to have fun, but I'd never own it.
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Greg Gresik
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Quite honestly, I will not be backing due to the tarot theme but also partially as said theme has also influenced the artwork. I realize that often times Americans are seen as particularly "prudish" when it comes to nudity and in-game art, but the fact of the matter is, at least in my circumstances, many of our game nights are played either with children involved in the gaming directly or at least around and about. As such, cards with nudity and, for many in our group, a "questionable" theme at best is really not worth the issues it might create, as there are many good card games with a more benign theme and no nudity.

So for me at least, the tarot aspect (and the nudity of some of the cards) is unfortunately a negative. Now don't get me wrong - the artwork is outstanding, and if there was no nudity, and the game theme less "pagan", I would have seriously considered backing based on game play.

So, from my perspective (and I realize that my perspective is not everyone's) the theme (and resulting nudity in the artwork) is a hindrance.
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Serge Gagnon
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Thank you for chiming in Greg and for your honesty. You bring up some interesting points and I just wanted to throw in some food for thought...

First, it's very important to note that it's easy to blur certain lines when it comes to this type of topic. I would not necessarily associate the Tarot with "Pagan" per say any more than I would associate any 'adventure' fantasy based (let alone magic) theme with being Pagan. To be honest, I know more 'spiritualists' (not necessarily Pagan) who use the Tarot not as a divination tool, but a meditative tool. Therefore, I wouldn't say in this sense, that the game is 'Pagan' themed because it's associated with the Tarot.

As far as the nudity being an issue, I do understand where you're coming from and respect that line of thought, especially when certain gaming groups I belong to have children. However, I do applaud CWG for being up-front about it and addressing it underneath the 'what's in the box' section of their KS page. Also, the way the set-up is designed allows to remove those cards without affecting the game also deserves thumbsup as it shows how conscious they are regarding the issue and accommodating a family friendly environment.

Cheers!

Serge G
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Greg Gresik
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RAVENTROLL wrote:


First, it's very important to note that it's easy to blur certain lines when it comes to this type of topic. I would not necessarily associate the Tarot with "Pagan" per say any more than I would associate any 'adventure' fantasy based (let alone magic) theme with being Pagan. To be honest, I know more 'spiritualists' (not necessarily Pagan) who use the Tarot not as a divination tool, but a meditative tool. Therefore, I wouldn't say in this sense, that the game is 'Pagan' themed because it's associated with the Tarot.

Part of the reason I put "pagan" in quotes in my original response was that I too thought it was probably too strong a word. But in all honesty, I think many people do associate Tarot with divination, even if you yourself don't see it that way.

I guess my point is simply that you are trying to draw a line where many don't necessarily see one...not a clear one at any rate.

As I said, it is certainly your prerogative to design/promote/play any game you would enjoy. I just think, that in this case, there certainly will be people (myself being one) who will chose not to buy it based on some the aspects of the game. Which, in some ways is too bad, as the game itself looks to have some decent mechanics going for it.

The crux of the question I suppose is will more people support it because of the theme/art than won't because of the theme/art?

As you stated earlier, the answer to that question will likely never be known. I, for one, am one who would have PnP, and if I liked it probably backed it, had it not been that way. But I may very well be in the minority.
 
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Glen Graham
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For the record, I'm about to back this game for these reasons in order:

1. Tarot theme.
2. Beautiful artwork.
3. Simple rules, yet strategic gameplay.
4. Short gameplay length.

I have a lousy memory, and this may (or may not) hinder my ability to win, but the above reasons make it worth buying anyway.
 
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