If you think you know tarot, think again. Before the well-known Rider-Waite deck, there was Le Tarot de Marseille. Before there was complex cartomancy, a single card was pulled and considered by the reader on their own behalf. And before card-based divination, in 15th Century Europe, tarot cards were used to play a variety of games that endure to this day. That's where TPC Games comes in.
We found the Marseille tarot while doing research for one of our graphic novels, and were immediately intrigued. Not only is it an amazing oracle, it offers a glimpse at history and into modern cultures around the world through its connection to gameplay. We knew right away that we had to make this fascinating, versatile deck more widely visible, and make our mark on it, too. Marseille Sophistiqué was born.
For Gaming: The original French tarot decks were developed primarily for playing a card game of the same name, and evolved alongside gaming decks across Europe, not all of which have vanished from modern use. This means that, either by using the full 78 cards or by modifying the deck, Marseille Sophistiqué can be used to play dozens of unique, historic games from all across the globe—not to mention modern ones. We've updated our cards to increase legibility, improving player experience, while preserving the classic elegance of the Conver designs.
French tarot is the basis for a group of point-trick taking games. It is still played throughout France, and its variants are played the world-over, including in pockets of America that have larger immigrant communities. It is for four players, though it can be played with three to six, and its variations range from 2- to 8-player games, for a variety of skill levels. With luck, we'll be able to include rules for a number of the colorful variants, introducing betting and other quirks of play. (A bit more detail on games can be found here.)
For Divination: Marseille Sophistiqué has a serious side, too. Whether you're cutting the deck to reflect on a personal decision or reading an elaborate spread for someone else, the stylish illustrations offer a beautiful and inspiring oracle. Unlike the familiar, heavily-standardized symbols of the Rider-Waite tarot, the vintage designs we've drawn from encourage more varied, intimate readings, making it one of the most advanced and versatile cartomancy decks.
Our Goals for the Kickstarter: With your support, we'll produce...
- The 78-card Marseille Sophistiqué deck, offset-printed on linen coated, 400gsm artboard cardstock
- A durable land-and-top box to protect each beautiful deck
- A gracefully designed, printable PDF of rules for several tarot games
- An illustrated, printed booklet of rules for French Tarot, Baronetti and poker games for a five-suited deck
- A limited edition of custom-dyed carrying bags for the deck, handmade in Seattle, WA
The Ace of Coins – Our PDF of game rules will include French Tarot (3-6 players), Baronetti (Tarot for Two), and instructions for using a five-suited deck to play poker games. We've already hit stretch goals allowing us to include even more games, and plan to keep adding to the document as we reach further goals. As the project sees increased funding, we intend to add more formats for the document (for eReaders). We've gotten enough support that we're able to add illustration and further embellishment. The PDF will be print-resolution at 8.5x11” and will include a scaled-down version to fit the size of a tarot deck, 4.75x2.75”, should you choose to make your own paper booklet. In addition to the rules themselves, we'll also be including some historical tidbits for added flavor and depth.
The Sun – This is the discounted Earlybird special level of The Star. Get 'em while they're here!
The Star – As we offered in our video, here's the complete deck for $25. Our cards are 4.75x2.75”, on thick, 400gsm artboard. All the images on our Kickstarter are samples taken straight from the illustrations that appear in the deck, so have a look around. We've reached enough of our stretch goals that the cards will have a linen coating and a land-and-top box, and this pledge level includes our PDF of rules, and the printed booklet of introductory rules. As a special thank you, we're adding one random autographed card to each backer's shipment.
Marseille Sophistiqué uses the traditional Latin suits—Cups, Coins, Wands, Swords—and, of course, the 22 Trumps (Major Arcana). We've updated the pip cards to make them more easily legible when used for gaming, and held faithful to the aesthetic of the decks produced in Europe between the 1400s and 1800s. This means the Two and Four of Coins bear our insignia; there is no number given to The Fool; the thirteenth trump is The Card Without a Name; and we've included The Papess (instead of the High Priestess) and Judgment (instead of The Angels). All named cards are in French; we're referring to them in English here for ease of reading. Marseille Sophistiqué isn't a replica of any particular deck, just heavily inspired by a particular era's feel—and inspirational-feeling, too, we think!
The Emperor - This is the discounted Earlybird special level of The Magician. Come on, catch that worm!
The Magician – In addition to our lovely deck, rules PDF, and printed introductory rules booklet, The Magician adds a handmade drawstring bag to the deal. Stitched with pride in Seattle, WA by Orange Cloud Handmade, we're thrilled to offer a product made here in the USA, by a female entrepreneur. The bags are preshrunk cotton, with knotted cotton cord drawstrings. Each will be hand-dipped in vegetable dye in your choice of color, red, blue, yellow or green, in an ombre effect that matches the aesthetic of the deck perfectly. Undipped bags will also be available, if that's your preference.
We've seen enough pledges for bags that we're adding a dye-stamped design, see the stretch goal below for a sketch.
The World – For the true tarot fan. The World offers the deck, the PDF, the rules booklet and a handmade bag, as well as a unique computer desktop wallpaper and an 8.5x11” gicleé print.
The wallpaper will be designed to your specifications, featuring up to five of our tarot illustrations, whichever are your favorites. This is an item exclusive to our Kickstarter and customized just for you!
The gicleé (photo-quality) prints will be produced here in Portland, OR. We always go local when we can. Now that we've unlocked our second print design, backers at this level will get their choice of two prints (see our designs in the Add-on section).
The Lovers – You can have The World... and more! In addition to getting everything at our $50 level, The Lovers, limited to two backers, offers one-of-a-kind, 19x29” (image size, h*w) heavyweight, poster-sized, digital prints of our deck from our vendor's samples. They looked so cool when they arrived, we knew that two special someones would appear, to take them home. If we only find one backer for this level, it's your choice of which print you'd like. (You'll also get all gicleé prints, rather than a choice of two.)
$22 - You can add extra decks to any pledge that contains a deck, for a discounted rate. (International shipping covers an added deck. For the awesome people overseas who buy 3+, $5 shipping for each deck after 2. Shipping is spendy!)
$7 - Our 8.5x11”gicleé prints are now available to add on. These are being produced locally in Portland.
$3 - The Happy Squirrel card of Simpsons' fame, honorary 23rd trump and 79th card. We're printing this addition directly though our vendor to match the quality of the rest of the deck.
More add-ons will be unlocked with our stretch goals!
We want to make the deck, and past that, we want to make it the best deck it can be. Our big vision for Marseille Sophistiqué is to see it presented as nicely as possible (without adding too much bling, since it has an old-world aesthetic) with a booklet of printed rules, so you can open the box and get playing right away.
Stretch Goals: These are our major stretch goals, with other secret mini-goals to be added as we go along. Six out of our nine planned major stretch goals improve all the levels that include the deck, so you really are all in it together.
$3200 – Achieved! This isn't exactly a stretch goal, it's the goal, meaning the deck and all other pledge rewards will be produced. Hooray, we did it, and it's all thanks to you!
50 Pledges for Bags– Achieved! 50 people have backed levels which offer bags. Now we will produce a rubber stamp using a local vendor in Portland, OR, to place a stamped design in dye on all of the bags. They're going to look truly spiffy! We'll have pictures of the bags soon. The below is a mockup (which may change, depending on the needs of our bag/stamp vendors) of our stamp design.
78 Backers - Achieved! Our first mini-stretch goal presents The Happy Squirrel card, a reference to The Simpsons we were only too tickled to find out about. We've done up the "23rd trump" in Marseille Sophistiqué style, now available for digital download.
$3350 – Achieved! All of the decks will now have linen coating. This will increase durability and add classic texture for good looks and easier shuffling.
$3500 - Achieved! We're upgrading the box the deck is housed in from a standard tuck box to a land-and-top (that is, a box with a lid). While it improves durability, we've mostly included this level because the boxes look so classy.
$3650 - Achieved! We're adding another gicleé print to the mix. Backers at The World level and higher will receive both, and prints will become available as add-ons, too.
$3800 - Achieved! We're adding two more games to the PDF, Scarto and Droggn. Scarto is a simpler 3-player game that manageably introduces a number of more advanced tarot concepts, like irrational suits. Droggn takes Scarto further, introducing bidding, and is among the more obscure extant tarot games.
$3900 - Achieved! This is one of our pet goals! We're including a printed booklet of the rules for French Tarot (3-6 players), Baronetti (2 players) and information on how to use a five-suited deck to play poker games along with every deck.
$4050 - Achieved! We're adding rules for Taroky to our PDF. This variant is popular in the Czech Republic--and is a variety of tarot game with a large following in the USA; Hello, Texas! Taroky uses a modified set of cards from the deck, playing with only 54, that is, the trumps and partial sets of the four suits.
$4200 - Achieved! Check out the Add-on section above to see The Mosaic, now available as a choice for The World pledgers--or anyone else who fancies it.
$4500 - Achieved! Every backer who is getting a deck will receive one random card, signed by our illustrator, Nick Wirtz.
$4800 - Achieved! We're making the rules PDF fancier, with illustrations and other embellishments.
$5100 - Achieved! We'll be adding another print option to our Add-on section.
$5600 - Achieved! Our PDF of game rules will also be formatted for ereaders. This upgrades all pledge levels, hooray!
$5800 - Achieved! Hungarian Tarok will be included in our PDF of game rules. Break out the funny hats!
$6000 -Achieved! The Happy Squirrel Card is now available to add on.
$6600 - If we reach this goal, our printed rule book will be expanded to 44 pgs.
We believe in showing the love, but try as we might, we couldn't find a price we liked to get our decks printed in the States. Still, we know lots of great vendors for pretty much everything but small-run offset printing, and we're going local to the Pacific Northwest for literally everything else (we're even regulars at the Post Office).
We're proud to know and work with these fine folks:
Jim Mattingly, Seattle, WA - If a video makes the project, and Jim's music made our video... well, let's just say we're extra-super-grateful to know such a creative composer! Give Jim's tracks a listen at www.alonetone.com/xenotolerance.
Orange Cloud Handmade, Seattle, WA - Shannon's professionalism and enthusiasm for our job has been quite a treat--it takes flexibility to go through all the quoting and changes of a crowd-funded project. Oh, yeah, and her bags are quality down to the last stitch. Visit www.orangecloudhandemade.etsy.com to check out more of her work.
Lasko Digital, Portland, OR - Oh, if Lasko was an offset printer... Nuff said. For all things digital, they're at www.laskoprinting.com/home.
Risks and challenges
Confidence is Key: Marseille Sophistiqué is already completely illustrated, and samples from our printer are in-house and looking promising. Through our umbrella company, Three Point Comics, we have years of experience with printing and design, as well as with managing large shipping projects. Our illustrator, Nick Wirtz, has professional game design experience, so we're able to curate, clarify and playtest the historical game rules we're providing with the deck. Perhaps most importantly, we've had a lot of fun working on this project, and we hope you can share it with us!
That being said, experience has also taught us that no project is without its obstacles. This is our first Kickstarter (though you'll see we've backed several), and our first tarot deck. We're hoping to get our product delivered as early as mid-October, but we've set our expected date in December, just to be sure. We'd rather under-promise and over-deliver, when it comes to being on time with your goods.
We are working with China to get our printing done, which presents all the challenges of language barriers, timezone differences and a major print job rolled into one. This is our second overseas project, and communication has been fairly smooth so far.
We are very enthusiastic about the advantages the Marseille-style cards offer readers, but aren't experienced enough to really try them for ourselves as an oracle.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)