Despite playing card games for some 45 years, I did not really think of a deck of 'ordinary' playing cards as a game *system* until I learned about the Decktet, and that enlightenment put those 650-year-old cards into perspective: there is an awful lot that can be done with them and, as a staple, we take that sort of multifarious use for granted. A deck just 100 years younger is the Tarot, its major and minor arcana often associated with the occult and prognostication. Into this history comes a fantasy themed deck called Questeros: published by FunDaMental Games with instructions for different purposes by Wes Woodbury. As we're here primarily to talk about games, let's discuss the multiplayer and solo offerings first.
Leveraging the Tarot's four 14-card minor arcana suits and 22 major arcana, Questeros' multiplayer game is a predictive Whist variant themed along fantasy RPG tropes of Classes, Quests and Initiative. Over the course of seven rounds, players try to win as many tricks as they predict, with a shoot-the-moon bonus for one player winning none. The standard rule of following the lead remains, with the major arcana being trumps and each of them having a special power, the more game-breaking of which are introduced incrementally: a nice touch. The trick-taking USP here is that you can pay XP (victory points) to ignore the 'follow the lead' rule which, although adding an extra thought process to every card play, does mix things up nicely.
While the multiplayer game offers entertainment for two to six players, the punningly entitled Ero's Quest solo game stands in Patience' stead. Here, you Encounter the major arcana cards 1-21 in order, winning them over as allies, disarming them with gifts or besting them in combat. To this end, you start with a dagger (1 of Swords), some coins (1, 2, 3 of Orbs), hit points (1-10 of Cups) and the potential to cast spells (1 of Staves). Each turn allows a generous six actions before you must Rest, which discards the top card of the deck to keep the timer ticking. In your turn, you Purchase or Learn from the deck to Develop your abilities, Recover health or other cards, even Forget some of what you've Learned to make room for more useful cards. Only one Encounter is allowed each turn, so you are encouraged to progress as the combative types dole out damage equal to their rank. There is an interesting pace to the game, although you will meet your foes and allies in the same order every time.
Being able to improve your abilities only with the next card in sequence (two of Swords, four of Orbs, 2 of Staves, etc), leads to the problem of a 'bad shuffle'; they could simply be at the bottom of the deck. Yes, you can trawl, but you can't play what you don't find. Once you do have some better skills, there is a math-y puzzle to solve, facilitated by occasional beneficial encounters, especially later on. Still, you might find yourself lacking patience if you're unfairly outmatched.
Two other uses of the Questeros deck are presented: a Tarot; and an RPG 'Fate deck'. With regard to the latter, as someone who frivolously bought a Harrow deck to embellish his Pathfinder Crimson Throne (Paizo) campaign, I can certainly see the major arcana being of use in an RPG setting, with its generic fantasy vibe and four keywords per card as described in the manual. As for actual Tarot use, that's a personal choice and one I cannot predict myself making, but the art by John de Campos feels both modern and classic at the same time, so if it calls to you I hope you find answers to your questions.
In summary, there is a lot you can do with the Questeros deck, and it certainly is an attractive addition to any collection. While each part may not necessarily be 'best in class' on their own, it is a multifunctional deck that straddles the card and role playing game boundaries with character. Questeros is due to hit Kickstarter on 23 March. We'll add a link to the KS campaign when it goes live.
And, one interesting side note: it may not be immediately apparent from our 360 shot, but the box cover and card backs can all be rotated 180 degrees to read the same either way, much like the ambigrams in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. It's a rather clever touch that typifies the thought that has gone into the Questeros design.
(Review by David Fox)