I like accessible, addictive card games. Like checkers, Monopoly, or similar board games, card games are simple fun and the basis for spending time with family. For me, they are also a way to game without a screen. Cards have something that checkers and the like don't, though: the card swish. I like the way cards feel. I like dealing them, holding them, flipping them, stacking them; folding them slightly to shoot them into my other hand. Cards themselves are fun.
Hidden Burrow’s given you some to print and cut out yourself in Mystic Match, a pair-playing, Tarot-inspired simple game of strategy. Though my cardstock-paper cutouts don’t quite have that swish of regular playing cards, they have some of it. Printing the cards and cutting them out was part of the fun, taking me back to papercraft projects in school.
The real draw is the Tarot-inspired caricatures on them, which is what drew me towards Mystic Match from when I first saw it. These portray characters, like The Knight or The Patriarch, and cosmic forces, like The Sun, The Moon, and The Star. There’s also a building: The Tower. You get the idea: each picture has to do with an archetype as you would see in Tarot. In addition to neat artwork, Mystic Match strikes the accessible, addictive fun I enjoy in card games. Its depth lies in the nuanced ways you can interpret the instructions – “Fates” – on each of the cards.
For printing the cards, you have two main options. You can choose to print double-sided or single-sided cards. The former, which I printed, have designs on the back, whereas the latter are simply blank white on the back. I noticed while playing that the patterns on the back of the cards help to block one's view of other players' cards while playing. Color and black-and-white printing options are also available, and the latter are not just grayscale, but rather have outlines of each drawing with complete white on the inside. These options are available as different PDF documents in the zip folder you get from your purchase. The zip folder also has printing instructions, a test page to print and make sure all lines up well, and instructions for the game.
Once printed, you cut along the dotted line, but if you consider yourself a very precise scissor-wielder you might cut along the actual borders of the cards. Successful cutting also depends on the type of paper you're using. I used a light cardstock paper type, but if you're able to print on thicker paper, it would make cutting the cards simpler. They'd also feel more like cards. Note that regular printing paper is not an option at all if you want anything of an authentic card experience.
Once you're ready to get playing, you'll deal out seven cards to each player and then turn your attention to the Fates on each card. The Fates correspond to the illustration. Fates are instructions like “You must draw two cards” or “You may trade one card with another player.” You play pairs of matching cards and must then follow their Fates. The goal is to be the first to empty your hand of all your cards, but pairs don’t come as easy as you might think. Several times my co-players and I would have a hand of around 10 cards with not a pair in sight. When you have them, you play them strategically. At the same time you want to lose your own cards, you also do not want to throw another player a boon. You could play every pair you have or no pair at all. Understanding the implications of each is key to victory.
The wording on each card is vital and could also trip up the unwary participant. The Grim forces all players to discard a random card from their hand. If another player has one card, you don’t want to play this and hand them the game. You also can’t play this and expect to rid yourself of a useless card, due to the “random” term: it’s face down with the cards before you pick one (think of the random way death strikes. The Fates on the cards, remember, are tied to the depiction). The Patriarch card forces all players besides yourself to draw one card, so I would save these for when another player was down to one or two cards. The Lovers will most benefit two parties who trust each other, as it allows a trade. This trade could be a coordinated one or a blind one – it’s up to you. Additionally, the wording states that you “may” trade a card with another player. You could discard The Lovers and forego the trade altogether, in other words. A fair amount of play is up to you and your companions' interpretation the wording on each card.
More examples of pair types include The Fool, a card that requires you to draw until you can play another pair. You’d only want to play this if you’re really desperate for pairs (and at times, I was) or if you figure out the card's secret trick. Merciful cards like The Priestess give other players the option of discarding a card. The Emperor allows you to force one specific player to draw a card. The Tower forces you to draw two cards, and could hardly ever be desirable. The Sun and Moon force all players to pass cards either to left or right, as in celestial movements. If they are played in a row, it could lead to the same card being passed right back to its originator, likely to their dismay.
You see, then, that each one of these cards has a unique strategy to it that you’ll learn as you play. The more you save and play pairs to your advantage to quickly empty your hand, the more you’ll see new loopholes and want to see what other devious schemes you can come up with. The instructions that come with the game will get you going, but they don't cover exactly what to do for each Fate instruction. While playing, you may wonder whether you're doing the "right" thing with a pair. My co-players and I occasionally wondered in certain situations whether we had to draw cards, or if we should pick random cards, or if we could talk about the cards we were going to pass around. We kept discovering that leeway is left to the players with several of the cards' Fates. Once we stopped worrying if we were doing the exact right thing and started playing with some leeway, we got into the spirit of the game. Note also that with whom you play will greatly affect how the game proceeds.
It would do you well to familiarize yourself with Tarot if you have not already. The designer explained to me that The Knight is based off The Knight of Cups Tarot card, which opened up new possibilities with that pair for me. You need to think outside the box in playing these pairs. Playing The Patriarch sounds like it would screw up other players, but it might help them. So when do you want to play it? And likewise, is there ever a good time to play The Tower? Figuring out new meanings for each card is part of the fun and replay value.
If you are curious to see what printable media is all about, and would love a new, fun card game with enjoyable art, you should check out Hidden Burrow’s Mystic Match. It’s accessible for all ages and offers depth for those into strategy. I was drawn to it by the artwork, but after playing a while and getting into the spirit of the game, I appreciate it as its own card game.
Get this game if:
You like card games such as rummy or other matching or pair-playing games.
You like accessible, simple games that nonetheless offer strategy and nuance.
You like Tarot style artwork and caricatures.
Avoid this game if:
Simple card games don't appeal to you.
This copy of Mystic Match was purchased by the author.
Disclosure: the author is a friend of the developer.