About

Frame not included. To add this item to your pledge, click the “Manage Your Pledge" button next to your pledge amount. Select "Change Your Pledge" on the following page and adjust your pledge amount to the sum of your reward tier + any add-ons you want to receive. You can also choose a different reward tier if you change your mind. Your pledge amount will update automatically.

Empress n.

  • story-rich playing cards with a luxurious feel;
  • a thrilling card game in which players compete for table supremacy.

Empress is a world of steam and punk in which a one-eyed despot rules supreme. It is a world of indentured peons and hardworking mules, traveling tinker bands and perspiring fixers bathed in furnace glow. Merchantmen anchor off far-flung ports while rank upon rank of Her Majesty's rifles assemble in faceless obedience. A darkened corner could turn up one of Turing's programmatic spies while, ensconced underground, seers break through into a kaleidoscope of forbidden futures. Here, there are dukes (one mad), princelings with dark pasts and kings and queens of uncertain allegiance. Overhead, her Highness's trusted fighting aces rule the skies; beneath, her elephantine automatons shake the very ground.

The enigmatic Empress is played as a wild card.

In this realm, the all-seeing, all-knowing tentacles of the Great Empress reach far and wide. So wide, in fact, that many have despaired of freedom and—at a glance of her one baleful eye—life itself. But there is hope: a tale overheard in the fevered ruminations of a nameless prophet speaks of a day when one of her subjects will approach the throne, wrench the cephalopodic scepter from her grasp and end the reign of terror. But who? 

These are not only story-flavored playing cards. Empress™ is itself also a game—a game of cunning, strategy and power. The premise? Be the first to shed all of your cards and attain table supremacy. But beware—a tragic misstep and you may find yourself wallowing in the bottom ranks. By blending memorable games from my childhood (Scum, President, Stratego) with those discovered while traveling in the Orient (Beat the Landlord, Big Two), I've created a climbing style game in which you and your friends compete round after round to ascend the throne of the Great Empress. You'll want to get in just. one. more. try.

Rifle of Clubs, Spook of Diamonds, Prophet of Spades, Duke of Diamonds, Jack of Clubs

By backing this project, you allow me to bring to print and ship to you a set of playing cards you won't find anywhere else. Here's what you get:

  • 55-card deck
  • luxurious finish
  • unique character on every rank
  • stylish indices & typography
  • metallic ink printing
  • a special wild card
  • art deco-styled tuck box
  • booklet of game rules
  • all unlocked stretch goals & bonuses

Empress is designed for gamers and collectors alike. One deck (2 to 4 players) or two (4 to 8 players) make perfect stocking stuffers, or something new to bring out on game night. (Note: shipping to the U.S. is free; very reasonable to the rest of the world.)

The “Spotlit Giant” Joker is unlocked in stretch goal #14.

Stretch goals are additions that, when unlocked, benefit every backer in the campaign. There are 18 stretch goals available to trick out your EMPRESS deck, including quality upgrades and mini art alterations for every Spade-suited character. There are certain secret stretch goals too. In short, this is where your pledge can be pushed to its fullest potential. In USD:

  •   ❶   $ 1 0 0 0   Alternate art “Smoking Horse” (2) of Spades
  •   ❷   $ 1 2 0 0   Alternate art “Helmeted” Peon (3) of Spades
  •   ❸   $ 1 4 0 0   Alternate art “Mustachioed” Tinker (4) of Spades
  •   ❹   $ 1 6 0 0   Alternate art “Bespectacled” Fixer (5) of Spades
  •   ❺   $ 1 8 0 0   Alternate art “One-Eyed” Skipper (6) of Spades
  •   ❻   $ 2 0 0 0   Alternate art “Falconer” Rifle (7) of Spades
  •   ❼   $ 2 2 0 0   Alternate art “Recon” Spook (8) of Spades
  •   ❽   $ 2 4 0 0   Alternate art “Bald Smiley” Prophet (9) of Spades
  •   ❾   $ 2 6 0 0   Alternate art “Mad” Duke (10) of Spades
  •   ❿   $ 2 8 0 0   Alternate art “Bookworm” Jack (J) of Spades
  •   ⓫   $ 3 0 0 0   Alternate art “Feathered” Queen (Q) of Spades
  •   ⓬   $ 3 2 0 0   Alternate art “Cyborged” King (K) of Spades
  •   ⓭   $ 3 4 0 0   Alternate art “Prizefighting” Ace (A) of Spades
  •   ⓮   $ 3 6 0 0   Alternate art “Spotlit Giant” Joker
  •   ⓯   $ 3 8 0 0   Bonus art card “Empress Tora! Tora!” (total 56 cards)
  •   ⓰   $ 4 0 0 0   Upgraded card stock and finish
  •   ⓱   $ 5 0 0 0   Illustrated e-book, with a poetic touch*
  •   ⓲   $ 6 0 0 0   Jet-black Immortal Edition available for purchase (100% plastic)

 * All 15 card characters get a four-line poem of English metre packed with story flavour.

In honour of Empress, guest artist Sandra Cravens has up-cycled a stunning array of odds-and-ends into steampunk items. The rarities in this collection are exclusive to backers who opt for the Steampunk Craft reward, and will be randomly drawn. They are destined to go fast, so get them while you can.

Clockwise, from top left:

  •  ⑴  “Phoenix Flight”
  •  ⑵  “Gambler” (unavailable)
  •  ⑶  “Cache”
  •  ⑷  “Flydragon”
  •  ⑸  “Zip It”
  •  ⑹  “Flight Wheels” (unavailable)
  •  ⑺  “Weather Permitting”
  •  ⑻  “Time Travel”
  •  ⑼  “High Hat” (below)
“High Hat” by Sandra Cravens
“Time Travel” by Sandra Cravens
“Weather Permitting” by Sandra Cravens

Q: How do I get add-ons, or change the reward I want to pledge for?

A: To add items to your pledge, click the  “Manage Your Pledge" button next to your pledge amount. Select "Change Your Pledge" on the following page and adjust your pledge amount to the sum of your reward tier + any add-ons you want to receive. You can also choose a different reward tier if you change your mind. Your pledge amount will update automatically.

Q: Why the steampunk theme?

A: I've long imagined a deck of playing cards where, instead of only the court cards having character art, every rank features its own character (as in Stratego). Depicting the Ace as an actual fighter ace would be, I thought, another interesting touch. What theme might best suit this idea? After looking online for inspiration, a gritty, apocalyptic realm in the clutches of a totalitarian regime began to take shape. I even scribbled a few lines of poetry based on a cast of characters and storyline that might inhabit such a world.

Q: How do I play Empress, what are the rules?

A: A beta version of Empress game rules are available on the official website. A PDF file will also be emailed to you once the project campaign is successful.

Q: What is the symbol behind the Empress character's head?

A: The Chinese character 寿 shòu represents longevity or “long life.” Han Chinese people once believed that 寿星 shòuxīng (Canopus), the star god of the south pole, had the power to fix the lifespan of mortals. One widely told tale is of a boy who was saddled with a lifespan of only 19 years. He met a fortune teller who told him to serve food and wine to two old men playing chess in the forest, and that they were not to be otherwise disturbed. The boy did as the fortune teller asked. These two men turned out to be the old man of the north pole and the old man of the south, 寿星. They were so pleased with the boy’s behavior that they rewarded him by switching the digits of his lifespan from 19 years to 91! The boy went on to have a long, full life, and even his death at the ripe old age of 91 was peaceful—just as 寿星 had decreed.

Q: If suits are not part of the game, why include them on the cards?

A: Two reasons. First, the player acting as Empress may choose to specify a suit as part of a Decree. Second, by removing the Empress card, one could use the deck to play any other traditional card game.

Q: Is there a forum community I can join? Are you on Discord?

A: Absolutely! We'd love you to join the official Facebook group and interact with a fun gaming community while ensuring you're up-to-date on everything EMPRESS. Or hit me up on Discord's playing cards channel. I'd love to chat with you about card games, deck design, whatever you're into.

This bonus art card is unlocked in stretch goal #15.

You reached the end! I adore you kind of people. I hereby bequeath to you this animated GIF.

The great eagle, swift and sure, rescued the cephalopidic scepter in her nimble talons.

Risks and challenges

Having successfully produced and fulfilled one other card project on Kickstarter (Better Covenant Cards), I know how necessary it is to have a high-end product. I am committed to delivering playing cards of excellent quality and shipping them to backers in a reasonable time. Unforeseen challenges may arise. Frequent communication through updates ensures that you as a backer are fully informed on the journey towards making Empress playing cards a reality. Artwork as presented is subject to minor revisions. The finished product may vary slightly from the portrayals shown here. As the printing process takes place, changes may need to be made, at which time I will keep backers informed. You, as a backer, are responsible for import duties, VAT or any other duties that may be payable to the relevant tax authorities in your respective country as well as providing correct shipping information after the campaign has ended.

Thanks for visiting the Empress Kickstarter project page! If you have any questions at all, just drop me a line at colin@empress.cards

(Card pips based on Chris Aguilar of Vector Playing Cards 3.1, https://totalnonsense.com/open-source-vector-playing-cards © 2011, 2019 Chris Aguilar – conjurenation@gmail.com)

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Make a pledge without a reward

    CA$
    About $8

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 20 or more About $16

    Basic One Deck (ends Oct. 20)

    By demand, for a limited time, one (1) deck of Empress playing cards. Get it before the clock runs out!

    Includes:
    • Empress playing cards
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
       
    7 backers
    CA$
    About $16

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 24 or more About $19

    One Deck

    One (1) deck of Empress playing cards along with any stretch goal bonuses. Suitable for collectors and games with 1-4 players. Comes with one high-res digital wallpaper.

    Includes:
    • Empress playing cards
    • Digital wallpaper
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited (487 left of 500) 13 backers
    CA$
    About $19

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 45 or more About $35

    Two Decks

    Two (2) decks of Empress playing cards along with any stretch goal bonuses. Ideal for 4-8 players. Comes with a high-res digital wallpaper.

    Includes:
    • Empress playing cards
    • Digital wallpaper
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited (248 left of 250) 2 backers
    CA$
    About $35

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 80 or more About $61

    Shirt + Your Name + Two Decks

    You choose the Empress-related character or art and I'll design a shirt around it for you to wear. Plus, you'll get your name in the rules booklet in your pair of decks for posterity.

    Includes:
    • Custom t-shirt
    • Your name in the deck
    • Empress playing cards
    • Digital wallpaper
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited (44 left of 50) 6 backers
    CA$
    About $61

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 134 or more About $103

    Steampunk Craft + Two Decks

    Get a unique handcrafted item courtesy of steampunk artist Sandra Cravens. Plus, your name is featured in the Empress rules booklet in your twin decks. Free shipping.

    Includes:
    • Handcrafted steampunk item
    • Your name in the deck
    • Empress playing cards
    • Digital wallpaper
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited (6 left of 7) 1 backer
    CA$
    About $103

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. All gone!
  8. Reward no longer available

    Pledge CA$ 39 or more About $30

    Two Decks (Early Bird)

    Two (2) decks of Empress playing cards—for a limited time special price—along with any stretch goal bonuses. Ideal for 4-8 players. Comes with a high-res digital wallpaper.

    Includes:
    • Empress playing cards
    • Digital wallpaper
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 30 backers
    CA$
    About $30

    By pledging you agree to Kickstarter's Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.

    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.