In a little over a week is the deadline for people to submit games for the Carta Jam. Organized by Peach Garden Games, it is to encourage and celebrate games that use their Carta SRD TTRPG engine.
Carta SRD is an engine developed to create exploration-style games. It uses a randomized board built using a deck of standard playing cards. A set of tables is used to describe the player’s exploration results based on the card’s suit and face value and add story prompts. This can provide a board-game experience or a hybrid storytelling experience. A typical Carta-driven game without extra mechanics runs about 15-20 minutes of game play, though involved storytelling versions and versions with multiple rounds may run longer.
The basic Carta SRD uses a 24-card board arranged in a 4×6 card grid. The cards are typically placed face down until the player explores that square, which is represented on the board by a marker of the player’s choosing.
There are two modes of basic play which can be used together or separately.
- Survival Mode introduces a resource that the player loses as they move around and which can be added or removed based on their interaction with the cards. if the resource hits zero, the player either has to restart or looses.
- Collect Mode scatters a resource on the board that the player needs to gather a certain amount of and reach a finish point to complete the game.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the entries so far! I will not be rating these, but I may be pointing out some elements I particularly liked from what I have seen in reading the games and in play.
Tales of an A.E.R.P. by Ashley Morgan
Created by fellow Streampunk Aux-crew Ashley Morgan, this game puts the player in the role of an autonomous robot exploring a new world as part of a deep-space probe. Using the Survival and Collect modes from Carta SRD, the player needs to gather Data and bring it to the explorer’s return ship before the drone’s Condition, indicating its power and physical status, reaches 0. Each of the suits marks a type of terrain: Desert, Jungle, Tundra, and Plains. Random events occur as one might expect as the robot interacts with the terrain, flora, and fauna it finds on this world.
In addition to the basic board game, Ashley encourages the player to further immerse themselves in the storytelling by either creating a map as the player explores the board or write a journal from the point of view of the robot, using the card prompts to inform the events that occur to the robot character. While Tales of an A.E.R.P. is sci-fi oriented, I could also see this game altered slightly to fit with a magical construct exploring worlds Spelljammer-like fantasy setting.
One nice touch about Ashley’s game design is that they have tried to make it as accessible-friendly as possible. They have provided four different PDFs, giving the player the option of a print-friendly version of the game (and less-visually stimulating for those of us with visual processing disorders), as well link-filled interactive versions for computer use. Finally, they used a dyslexia-friendly font for a bulk of the game’s text.
Two Stand to Fall by Amorphous and Empwnleon
This game is built around the relationship between two people, the danger that they face together, and the lengths they will go to survive and help one another. It can be played with either a fantasy or sci-fi theme.
The Character and their Partner have faced many hardships together, but this current Crisis has proven far more dangerous than you all had seen before. As a result, the Partner has faced the Crisis alone in a moment of self-sacrifice.
To play Two Stand to Fall, the player needs a deck of playing cards, several d6, a player token, and materials for journal writing to record the adventure.
Unlike some of the other games mentioned in this blog, this one takes place over a setup stage and two rounds. As a result, the game will take between 30-60 minutes to complete. In the setup the player defines the Character and their partner, the Crisis that is ongoing, and the Sanctuary where they start the game.
When this is finished, the first round of play is the Preparation Phase. In this phase, the player does a typical Survival and Collect mode Carta game on a 4X6 card grid. While exploring the grid, the Character needs to gather enough Resources (representing skills or items) to face the Crisis and find a Key that they need to advance to the next phase, represented by the Ace of Hearts. However, the Character also gathers Stress through card prompts or backtracking onto face-up cards. This round automatically ends when the Character gathers 5 or more Stress or finds the Key.
The second round is the Confrontation Phase. This one relies on a modified Survival mode. The player uses the 28 cards not used previously to build out a 4×7 rectangular grid with the Ace of Diamonds and the Ace of Hearts at opposite corners of the grid. The dice are used to randomize results whenever the Character encounters a Setback in the course of crossing the board. The player can continue no matter the dice result, but losing a Setback check causes the loss of a resource. If the player reaches the Ace of Hearts before they either run out of resources or staying under 12 Stress when using the Key, they rescue the Partner and potentially defeat the Crisis.
This game is a great possibility to explore a Hero’s Journey, focusing on developing the Character and the Partner through exploring their past relationship and how the character face the current Crisis. It also gives a strong anime vibe in the art and some of the prompt events.
Check out the Carta Jam yourself!
Unfortunately, there is now way I can cover all of the games in the Jam with 23 entries and counting, but I will review several others I find interesting in another post as well as making a classifieds-style blurb for all the entries to date. If you would like to take a gander yourself, submissions can be found on the Carta Jam page. If you would like to make your own, the basic rules and resources available from Peach Garden Games can be found on this page.