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Pairs: A New Classic Pub Game's video poster

Pairs is a fast and easy card game by James Ernest, with artwork based on The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on March 15, 2014.

Pairs is a fast and easy card game by James Ernest, with artwork based on The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

About this project

It's the final day. We can't edit this page after the campaign closes, so here's a link to the Pairs page at

If you're new to the project, please check out the FAQ at the bottom of this page. Thanks everyone, for your support on Pairs!

Understanding the Rewards: 

This campaign is very simple. There will be no add-ons and no post-campaign shopping cart, just the pledge levels listed on the right. Aside from the various freebies, every level gives you a certain number of decks. You can adjust your pledge as long as the campaign is active, but not after.

You can choose any unlocked deck for each deck in your reward. You'll make your selections after the campaign is over.

In early April, we will send you a backer survey that asks for your mailing address, and which decks you want. There are eleven versions of Pairs, as well as one completely different game, FALLING.

If you don't get them here, you might not be able to find these decks anywhere else. You will certainly be able to buy Pairs decks of some kind in the Fall, but some of the decks from this campaign will be made in limited quantity. Here's a small preview of each one:

The core deck is the Name of the Wind deck, by Shane Tyree, followed by the Fruit deck, by James Ernest. Next are the Pirate deck by Brett Bean, and FALLING by Val Mayerik. After that, we have the Modegan deck by Shane Tyree, the Barmaids deck by Echo Chernik. and the Goblin deck by Pete Venters. 

The next decks are two by Nate Taylor: The Princess and Mr. Whiffle (it looks like a kid's book, but it's a bit grisly), and the Faen deck from The Name of the Wind (which is slightly NSFW). You can read more about the content in the Faen deck on Pat's blog.

Next, we have the Professor Elemental deck by Cheyenne Wright, and an adorable Baby Cthulhu deck by John Kovalic.Our top deck, unlocked at $200k, is a deck of Muses (from the Girl Genius universe) by Phil & Kaja Foglio. Please look below for details and preview links. Or check out the Pairs page at

Pairs is a new pub game by James Ernest and Paul Peterson. It's a card game for 2 to 8 players, and it plays in about 5 minutes. 

The deck is very simple: Just the numbers 1 through 10, with each card appearing in proportion to its rank. That means there is 1 x 1, 2 x 2, 3 x 3, and so on, up to 10 x 10. That's 55 cards, packaged in a compact card box, and it's everything you need to play. For complete rules (the free beta version) click here.

The artwork for the core Pairs deck will be drawn by Shane Tyree, and based on The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. That's the first book in his best-selling "Kingkiller Chronicle," a high-fantasy series that also includes The Wise Man's Fear.

Rothfuss is a gamer, and his respect for gaming shows in the way that games like Pairs are integrated into his world. Turns out, he's also a fan of Cheapass Games! So he was happy to lend us his world for our game.

Pairs doesn't appear in those books, because we just invented it! But we decided to create a deck of cards that could easily belong in that world. And who knows, Pairs just might show up in future stories.

What's in the deck? The Name of the Wind deck is not finalized, but we think it will contain: (1) Tinker; (2) Amyr; (3) Royalty (based on Pat & Sarah); (4) Courtesan; (5) Moneylender; (6) Farmer; (7) Seven Calamities; (8) Bandit; (9) Beggar; (10) Ruh. [Sample Art] [More Sample Art]

Playing Pairs is easy. The most important rule is that points are bad. Also, there is no winner, just one loser. For example, In a 4-player game, the loser is the first player to score 16 points. The complete rules are at Or, you can watch our How to Play video, right here.

The reward levels for this campaign are pretty simple: How many decks do you want? We have 12 different decks all together, including one completely different game (FALLING). After the campaign is over, you'll receive a survey asking you to choose one deck for each slot, and there are no restrictions on which decks you can get. 

Decks: Each Pairs game will contain 55 bridge-sized cards and a small rule book, in a compact tuck box (just like a normal deck of cards). The cards will be printed on high-quality playing card stock, by Carta Mundi USA. We are very particular about playing cards, and we will make these cards extremely nice!

After this campaign is over, Pairs will go into retail stores, but some decks maybe very hard to find. We will decide which decks will be printed in large numbers, and which won't, after the survey results come in.

Coins: Campaign Coins made a handsome 39mm metal coin for our Get Lucky campaign, and it's been so popular that we decided to make another one for Pairs. Our preliminary design is shown below, along with a photo of the Get Lucky finished coins, to show what the finish will look like. The Pairs coin is included in the backer rewards at the $40 level and above.

Cut Cards: We will include one sturdy white plastic cut card with each deck. This is similar to the cut card in the How to Play video, except that it's thicker and white. It's a handy tool for covering the bottom of the deck, which is important in Pairs since you often deal all the way down to that card. This cut card will not be part of the retail product, so it's a nice backers-only perk.

Stickers: Our original plan was to include one small round Pairs logo sticker for every backer, but we've grown this to a 2 x 3.25 sticker, perfect for decorating the cut card, and we will include one sticker with every deck. The upgraded sticker will be a Kickstarter exclusive, featuring two exclusive designs: one version for the Pat Rothfuss decks, another for everything else. [No Sample Art Yet]

Companion Booklet: Every deck comes with a small rule book. The companion booklet is larger, and it will be a collection of all the Pairs variants from this set, like Calamities and Pieces of Eight, and alternate games, like Blackstone and Hawthorn. It will also contain some Pairs history (both real and fictional) and artwork from the game. One copy of the booklet will be included at 5 decks or higher.

PAX Pairs Party: Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is a huge gaming convention held every year on Labor Day weekend in Seattle. This year’s dates are August 28-31. One evening during PAX, we will find a venue in Seattle (perhaps even a pub) and throw a party to celebrate the release of Pairs. (You do not need a PAX badge to come to this party.) We’ll have Patrick Rothfuss, Shane Tyree, James Ernest, Paul Peterson, and other special guests TBD. Backers at the $1200 level will receive 2 tickets to the PAX Prime Pairs Pub Party (that’s P5 for short), as well as everything from the $120 level. More details will follow after the campaign, once we know how many guests we have.

Cheapass Games is a tiny game company in Seattle, run by designer James Ernest. We specialize in low-cost games that are funny and fast. Many of our games, including Pairs, are available in free print-and-play versions at

So far, we've had three successful projects on Kickstarter: Unexploded Cow, Deadwood Studios USA, and Get Lucky. We're learning a little more with each one, and we can't wait to bring you another one as soon as Pairs is off to press!

$20k Unlocked! Shane Tyree will do some extra art for the Name of the Wind deck, putting seven different pictures on the 7's. These pictures are various "Calamities" like floods, fires, plagues, and so on, exact list TBD. And, we'll include a variant rule in the deck, that makes the 7's behave in an appropriately calamitous fashion.

$25k: Fruit Deck. Our second deck is the Fruit Deck, which is the deck from the videos. This deck has yummy artwork of fruits and vegetables (Pears, Peaches, Cherries, Blueberries, Grapes, Pumpkins, Mushrooms, Lemons, Peppers, and Onions). [Sample Art]

$30k: Cut Cards. Backers will receive one plain white plastic cut card with each deck. These cards are simply for covering the bottom of the deck, as illustrated in the How to Play video. We will not include this card in the retail version, so it's a nice backers-only freebie.

$35k: Starbase Jeff. Once this campaign is over and the smoke has cleared, we'll add a full-color version of Starbase Jeff as a print-and-play game at Starbase Jeff is a gambling / puzzle game about building a space station, designed by Jim Geldmacher. 

$40k: Pirates. Avast! Brett Bean's magnificent Pirate deck has now been added to our collection. This is a third complete Pairs deck, containing a special variant rule: "Pieces of Eight." [Sample Art] [More Sample Art]

$50k Juggling Video: The Edema Ruh card in the core deck features a portrait of James Ernest in his renfair garb. This image is based on a video of James juggling at the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire. Now that we've passed the $50k level, we've posted the video of this unmemorable performance for your mocking pleasure.

$55k FALLING: This is not a Pairs deck; it's another entire game, with exactly the same size deck. FALLING is a real-time card game, a frenzied 90-second game about falling and fighting, where the object is to hit the ground last. We will print a new edition of this game, with all-new art by Val Mayerik. [Sample Art] [More Sample Art] [More about FALLING]. You can read more about FALLING in Update #11.

$65k: Modegan Deck. This is the second Patrick Rothfuss / Shane Tyree Pairs deck. The Modegans are a distant and isolated culture, and their Pairs deck will look quite different from the first. In addition, the Modegan deck will contain the rules for an entirely different game, called Blackstone. (Rules in Update 6.) [Sample Art]

$75k: Rules for Tak. Tak is an abstract strategy game featured prominently in The Wise Man’s Fear. It has aspects of chess, go, and other traditional strategy games, but it’s entirely new. James Ernest and Pat Rothfuss will take a crack at writing it, although we might or might not get it right. If we get somewhere, we will give you, our faithful Pairs backers, access to the closed beta test. Wahoo!

$85k: Echo Chernik’s Barmaids. Echo Chernik is one of the most talented illustrators working today, and she will draw a set of ten barmaids for this very special edition of Pairs. Each barmaid is carrying the appropriate number of drinks. (Note: These samples don't have numbers yet, but the final cards will) [Sample Art] [More Sample Art

$100k: Pete Venters' Goblins. We asked celebrated Magic artist and goblin specialist Pete Venters if he'd like to make a Goblin Pairs deck. Instead of just 10 fantasy goblins, he has decided to give us a "Goblins Through the Ages" theme, with everything from Cave Goblins to Goblins in Space. And now we've unlocked this deck too! [Sample Art] [More Sample Art]

$105k: Bookplates. We will include one bookplate, autographed by Pat Rothfuss, for backers at the $80 level and above. This will be an archival quality, self-adhesive, cream colored 3" x 4" bookplate. It will have artwork by Shane Tyree, and will be signed by Patrick Rothfuss. [Sample Art]

$110k: Rothfuss Laughing Ringtone. For all you Patrick Rothfuss fans, what is more charming than his self-deprecating laugh from 3:15 in the project video? We’ll create two ringtones from this sound bite: one that’s just the laugh, and the other with Pat muttering “God Damn” at the end, which didn't make the final cut. Chose your favorite, or grab them both!

$115k: Princess and Mr. Whiffle Deck. The Princess and Mr Whiffle is a very dark little story by Patrick Rothfuss, masquerading as a children’s book, and the characters are perfect for a Pairs deck! If you’re keeping track, this is the third of four Patrick Rothfuss-related decks. This deck will be lovingly illustrated by Nate Taylor. [Sample Art] [More Sample Art]

$120k Rothfuss Outtake Video: If the ringtones aren't enough for you, check this out. We’re going to cut together the highlights of Pat’s raw Kickstarter video footage for your viewing pleasure. He took a few stabs at getting it right, and he’s been gracious enough to let us show you all the ways he got it wrong.

$125k: Stickers Upgrade. Originally, we offered a small round logo sticker as part of every reward level. Now, the sticker is growing to 2 x 3.25 rectangle, just the right size for the cut cards. Also, we’re giving you a sticker with every deck. The sticker that comes with the Pat Rothfuss decks will feature Shane Tyree artwork from the Name of the Wind deck. All other decks (including FALLING) will come with a Cheapass Games / Pairs logo sticker. Both stickers will be Kickstarter-exclusive designs. Hooray for freebies!

$130k: Faen Deck. This is another Patrick Rothfuss deck, the fourth in the set (and the third from the Name of the Wind series). The Faen deck will be illustrated by Nate Taylor, and contains images of ten Faerie characters, including Bast (sketch below). We’ll release more sketches from this deck as we get them, including a very sexy Felurian (meaning PG-13). This deck will also have a great new gambling variant, Hawthorn, which is explained in Update #12. [Sample Art]

$140k: Veronica Belmont Cameo. Veronica Belmont, host of Sword & Laser, has agreed to go cavorting with the Fae! We will include Veronica as one of the Mortal Guests in the Faen Deck. Will she be dancing, making music, or getting hit on by Bast? We're not entirely sure, but we know it will be glorious.

$150k: Hank Green Cameo. Award-winning YouTuber and internet entrepreneur Hank Green wants to be seduced by Faerie women. At least, on a card. And he's fine with showing a little skin. In fact, he demands it. We're putting Hank on a card in the Faen Deck,  as a mortal guest at a Faerie revel. *sizzle*

$155k: Professor Elemental Deck. Artist Cheyenne Wright will bring Professor Elemental and his many minions to life in this exquisite Pairs deck. Cheyenne has worked with Cheapass Games for many years, illustrating games like Unexploded Cow, Freeloader, and James Ernest's Totally Renamed Spy Game. He is also the colorist for the Girl Genius web comic. Professor Elemental is a "Steampunk flavoured mad Professor" whose amazing work you can check out right here. [Sample Art]

$170k: Baby Cthulhu Deck. John Kovalic is best known as the creator of the comic strip Dork Tower, but he's also done some work with Cheapass Games. This Pairs deck from John Kovalic is based on his favorite theme, tiny little baby Cthulhu monsters. We're calling it the "Shallow Ones" deck. [Sample Art]

$200k: Foglio Muses Deck. Are you keeping count? This is number twelve. That's as many different decks as we can reasonably print, and we've saved the best for last. Phil and Kaja Foglio are frequent collaborators with Cheapass Games, but they are best known as the creators of the Girl Genius web comic. For the Pairs deck, Phil and Kaja will draw a set of ten Muses, who are ancient and powerful clanks (sort of like robots) from the world of Girl Genius. [Sample Art]

$250k: Companion Book. Each Pairs deck already comes with the basic rules, and many of them will contain a unique variant as well. Now we can also produce a separate, pocket-sized collection of all the rules and variants, as well as some artwork and information about the history of Pairs (both real and fictional). We will include one copy of this companion booklet for backers at the 5 deck level and above. It will also be available in the Fall (price TBD), and the contents will be free online.

$300k: Laughing Video. Can we make it this time? This was a popular stretch goal from our last campaign, though we didn't quite make it that time. If we reach $300k, James Ernest will post a video of himself laughing all the way to the bank.

What's Next?

If you want to be a part of the final hours of this campaign, James Ernest (@cheapassjames) will be tweeting from the end-party in Las Vegas. We have reservations for 7:30 Friday at an undisclosed steak house. If we reach $299k, James gets lobster.

Sometime in early April, we will send you a survey asking which decks you want, as well as your shipping address. We should be able to show you all the art, or at least a decent cross-section, and we'll know a little more about which special rules go into which decks. Your choices will help us decide how many of each deck to print. So please answer your survey promptly!

Thanks again for your overwhelming support, and special thanks to all the artists and contributors who helped make Pairs happen! This game seems poised to be a phenomenon: not just a successful Kickstarter project, but a popular evergreen game. Thanks to everyone for an amazing campaign!

Risks and challenges

Pairs is actually our easiest project to date, but it has the potential to grow very large, with the addition of many different artists and deck designs. As projects grow, there is the increasing possibility that certain elements (such as artwork) will take longer than expected.

However, we lack most of the risks associated with an average game project: we have a complete game design that we are very proud of; the artwork for the core deck is nearly finished; and we are an experienced game publisher with a 17-year track record, and three successful Kickstarter campaigns.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • This is now our most frequently asked question.

    The answer is no. This campaign has no add-ons, and we will not have any after-the-campaign shopping. This makes it simpler for everyone, but it does mean that you need to choose the level you want before the campaign closes.

    If you miss out, don't worry. Many of these decks will be available for purchase in the Fall.

    Last updated:
  • Yes, you can choose any mix of decks at any reward level. We will send out a survey in early April, asking which deck you want in each slot, and we will use that data to set our print runs.

    Last updated:
  • Yes. Our Pairs variations are like "dealer's choice" poker variants, like "Deuces Wild" or "Follow the Queen." You don't need a certain deck to play any of them, although some decks will be decorated with their particular variation in mind. All of the rules variants will be available for reference at

    Last updated:
  • Most of them. In order of family-freindlyness, they are:

    1: Fruit deck. Completely harmless.
    2: Pirates, Goblins, Name of the Wind, Prof Elemental, Baby Cthulhu, Muses, Barmaids: Perfectly safe so long as you approve the subject matter.
    3: Modegan, Princess: Might be a little scary, but only barely.
    4: Faen: Promises to have some PG-13 images.

    FALLING isn't on this list because it's not a Pairs deck, but it's also in category 2: perfectly safe as long as you don't mind the idea of people falling out of the sky and competing to see who hits the ground last. ;)

    We will make as much art as possible available during the survey process, so there are no surprises in your decks. At the moment a lot of the art is not yet in, but the example images are fairly representative.

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  • Yes! In fact, the game was designed with two players in mind, and we were delighted when we found out that it scales up to 8. If you think of the game like Blackjack, in which each player takes a turn squaring off against the deck, it makes sense that it works for any number of players.

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  • Yeah, it seems like we're missing a trick there. Except that this deck is supposed to belong in the fantasy world, not just be about it. So in the case of the Chandrian, just talking about them would get you assassinated. Who knows what horrors await those who stay up late drinking and playing a card game about them.

    Instead, the seven Calamities are more like indirect references to the Chandrian, in a way that's probably lost on nearly all the Four Corners players. But we'll know. :)

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  • No. We have had many requests from our EU backers to "make it easier" for them to order this game, but we simply can't get a discount on shipping. Some manufacturers have distribution hubs in the EU, but we don't.

    The customs form will list each deck with a value of $10, and the other items as free.

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  • We are printing these cards at Carta Mundi, USA, on Corona 300 11pt Playing Card Stock, which is a casino-quality laminated playing card stock, similar to the card stock used in Magic: the Gathering. These cards will be bridge sized, which is 2.25" x 3.5", and the box will be just big enough for the deck (no padding or hang tabs).

    In previous Kickstarters we have made a big deal about increasing the quality of the cards as a stretch goal. This was less of an issue in this campaign, and is therefore less visible, because we knew we were starting with the best. Also, we are sticking with the small box because, despite sacrificing some visibility at retail, we want the game to be as portable as possible.

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  • Not at first, but the components themselves are language-neutral. Each card has just a number and a name, and the name isn't relevant for game play.

    The rules in each deck box will be in English, but they are quite simple, and we will probably post translations at As soon as someone volunteers.

    In fact, Franck Lefebvre was kind enough to provide us with a French translation of the playtest rules already. You can find them at

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    5 backers

    Supporter: You're glad this project is happening and you want to lend your support. Thanks! Backers at this level will receive an exclusive Pairs logo sticker and our thanks.

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    1,660 backers

    One Deck: You'd like a copy of this game when it comes out. Hooray! Backers at this level will receive one deck and the sticker listed above.

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    Pledge $24 or more

    1,799 backers

    Two Decks: You like this game even more! Backers at this level will receive two decks and a sticker.

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    944 backers

    Three Decks: You get the idea. Backers at this level will receive three decks and a sticker.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $42 or more

    1,311 backers

    Four Decks: But wait, there's more. At the $42 level, backers will receive four decks and a sticker, as well as a limited-edition "Good Luck" coin. This is a handsome 39mm metal coin with the Pairs logo, similar to the coins that we made for Get Lucky.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $51 or more

    698 backers

    Five Decks: Backers at this level will receive five decks, as well as the sticker and good luck coin mentioned above.

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    359 backers

    Six Decks: Backers at this level will receive six decks, as well as the sticker and good luck coin mentioned above.

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    Pledge $80 or more

    384 backers

    Eight Decks: Hooray! Backers at this level will receive eight decks, as well as the sticker and coin mentioned above.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $90 or more

    96 backers

    Nine Decks: Awesome! You know that your friends and neighbors will love this game as much as you do! At the $90 reward level, you receive nine decks, plus the sticker and coin listed above. You will also get an exclusive 4x6 Pairs postcard featuring our favorite piece of Shane Tyree art.

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    44 backers

    Ten Decks: Huzzah! At the $100 reward level, you receive ten decks, plus the sticker, coin and 4x6 Pairs postcard listed above.

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    Pledge $120 or more

    432 backers

    Twelve Decks: Amazing! You are a true sponsor of this game, and you're happy to share it with everyone. At the $120 level, you receive 12 decks, plus the sticker and coin listed above. You will also get a second coin, and a 6 x 9 postcard signed by artist Shane Tyree.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1,200 or more

    4 backers Limited (46 left of 50)

    PAX Pairs Party! Join us in Seattle for a celebration of pub games. Backers at this level will receive everything from the $120 level, plus two tickets to the Pairs release party. This will be one evening during PAX, August 28-31 in Seattle. Meet Patrick Rothfuss, Shane Tyree, James Ernest, and other special guests. Eat, drink, play games!

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Funding period

- (25 days)