My mind is mostly taken up with math right now. Well, math and a busted furnace. We are launching a kickstarter for our card game, Hogswallow, on Tuesday, Nov 17th, and that means it is crunch time now in terms of prep work. The game is done, but I have to make sure all the web images are in order, the copy is written, and the budget has been examined from ever single angle. And with each examination, it changes slightly. We are still hunting for that sweet spot where everything works out between funds needed, number of backers needed, and the cost of publishing & shipping the game.
We have our sights set on the least amount of money that we need to make this project a reality, and are focused on doing a small first edition printing, but it will still be more than we have raised for any of our previous projects. We are going to have to get creative with our marketing during the kickstarter and reach beyond our own circle of friends and fans to make this a reality. For that, I need everyone’s help. If you want a copy then by all means, back the game, but even if you don’t want one – please share the heck out of it once it goes live.
Up above I have given you a sneak peak of the amulet we are having ceramic artists make for the premium collectors edition of the game, and down below I will give you a preview of the rules to play this game, and the pictures of a couple of the cards. Enjoy, have a great weekend, and stay warm!
You are now in possession of the ancient mythical card game known as Hogswallow. Unless that is, you somehow only have this letter and not the actual cards, which would suck for you. If you do have the cards, great! We can play! Pick them up and feel their weight.
Do you get a sense of their ancient history? Do you understand their mysterious cosmic power? Are you in awe at the mayhem and bloodshed from famous Hogswallow games of old? Do you struggle and sweat to break forth and seize your own fate from their arcane clutches?
No? Good! That is because they are just a deck of cards and you are just a fragile human. I am sorry to disappoint you, but there is no magic inherent in the actual physical cards; they are simply a facilitator for myth and competition. The real magic, my friend, must come from you and your own imagination.
The glyphs on the cards do not have fixed and agreed upon meanings. They are purposefully pliable, bendable, fluid, and nebulous. For instance, the card with a skull on it can be used to mean any number of things; such as death, graveyard, murder, a curse, bad luck, or poison, but also a face, or a thought, fear, hunger, a creepy smile, and so on, etc.
Essentially, these cards mean what you need them to mean in the moment, so long as you can defend your interpretation and present it with confidence and skill. They are adorned with primitive and evocative symbols intended to invoke potential, not to nail down understanding.
There are three major variations that can be played with a deck of Hogswallow cards: High Hogswallow, Low Hogswallow, and Dilly Dallying (you can also use them for fortune telling, if you must.)
There is one common guideline to all games of Hogswallow however – once a card is played and added to the story, its meaning is fixed. You cannot undo or negate what has already been added to the tale, but you can change the circumstances through your own cards. Additive storytelling over subtractive editing.
For instance, you might play a card and declare that “Long ago, there was an evil witch.” I cannot on my turn declare that she is not a witch but is really a princess. I could however, play a card to make her the Queen of All Witches, or even a lost princess who was raised as a witch. Similarly, you could then play a card and declare that the Queen of Witches gave birth to beautiful daughter. I could not turn around and say that she was ugly, or was really a son. But I could play the play a card and say the child died (or the witch died in childbirth) or that it was stolen away, etc. You can only add to the story already in play,.
High Hogswallow is a communal, yet competitive, storytelling experience. Together, the players weave a myth, building off of each other’s cards to raise the stakes higher and higher. Any gathering of Hogswallow players always begins with a round of High Hogswallow due to tradition (and it is just easier to get familiar with the cards that way.)
The deck is shuffled and each player draws three cards to begin the game.
The eldest player begins by playing a single card (face up) in the center of the playing field and makes a statement of fact. “Long ago, there was a tree; The world tree.” or “Our story begins with a cow.” or “The King stood at the edge of the battlefield surveying his impending doom.” This is the seed to the story, around which all major events should happen.
Then that player draws a new card and the story proceeds clockwise around the circle, with each player placing a card down, adding to the ongoing story, and drawing again to refill their hand.
If a player feels that they cannot add to the story, they may pass their turn by shuffling their entire hand back into the deck and drawing one less card than they were previously holding. Ie. If they had three cards and passed, they would only draw two new ones. If they pass holding only a single card, then they are out of the game for the rest of the story.
A winner is declared when one player brings the story to a satisfactory close, as decided by a majority of the other players at the table. It is rather common for someone to assume they have finished the story and won only to be surprised by an unexpected and rather brilliant addition that carries it onward.
Low Hogswallow is louder, more belligerent, and involves a great deal of bluster and exaggeration. Each player tries to build the best hand possible completely on their own, and then presents it to the others and defends its superiority against challengers.
This variation plays in five alternating rounds known as the Pitch, the Dilly Down, and the Narrowing. You will also need at least five chips, tokens, or coins for each player. The more chips you have, the longer the competition will last.
To begin, each player draws (or is dealt) five cards. Then, determine the player generally believed to be the most dangerous and unstable one of the group. Always let this person go first. Or lock them up. The choice is yours.
- The Pitch
Each player will then look at their cards in secret and figure out what the represent or what story they tell when taken all together.
Starting with whomever is the most confident with their hand, each player puts a token into the center of the table as their bid (or bows out of the round with a fold and no tokens played) and reveals their cards to the rest of the players. They then declare what their hand represents.
For instance: cards that look like a man, woman, bird, animal, and house might represent The American Dream (having a family and a home under the auspice of an eagle), or it might also represent a minotaur (man-animal) hooking up with the Greek goddess Hestia (woman-house) but being caught in the act by Odin’s Ravens. The choice is ultimately up to the one who played the hand.
Once each player at the table has revealed or folded, it then falls to the players to argue the merits of their own hand and pick apart their opponents offering.
For instance, using the above example, I played “The American Dream” and you played a bridge over troubled waters (waves, wood, death, and two men). You could argue that my offering is only a fallacy, an unreachable goal, while yours is one of the most popular songs ever created.
We would argue back and forth, around and around, until one of us folks or another player gets bored of our debate and calls for a vote. The winner takes the pot and the game proceeds.
- The Dilly Down
For the first Dilly Down, each player draws (or is dealt) five cards and immediately puts a token into the pot. There is no folding in a dilly down.
Starting with whomever won the last round, each player then reveals a single card clockwise around the table. The player attempts to trump the card played before them if they can, but must play something from their hand even if it does not beat the last card played. In a Dilly Down, only the elemental cards matter and trump each other in the following ways:
Fire burns Trees -> Trees block Wind -> Wind freezes Water -> Water douses Fire
The winner of the Dilly down takes the pot.
Then each player plays a standard Pitch (as above) using the four cards remaining in their hand. Hands are argued, a winner is declared and claims their winnings.
- The Narrowing (or second Dilly Down)
After the second pitch is played, players will only draw (or be dealt) four new cards. A new Dilly Down (as above) commences, with each player bidding one token (No folding in a Dilly Down allowed), trying to trump the previous card, and one person claiming the pot.
This leaves the players with three cards to form a final hand for the last Pitch. The Pitch is played (as above), a winner is declared, and winnings claimed.
A set of hands in Low Hogswallow goes as such:
Deal 5, Pitch of 5 – Deal 5, Dilly Down, Pitch of 4 – Deal 4, Dilly Down, Pitch of 3 = End of Round
Then shuffle all cards back into the deck and can start all over at the top, if there are any players willing and able to pick up and continue after the preceding carnage.
In this variation, each player draws or is dealt 5 cards. No chips are needed, as the cards will serve as point trackers, but you are welcome to use them anyways.
Starting with the eldest player, and proceeding clockwise, players will play a single card to try and trump what has come before them. Unlike a normal Dilly Down, (where only elemental cards matter) any card can be played and it’s merits argued. If a player gives a legitimate reason why one card trumps another, it should be respected and play moves forwards.
For instance, the first player could play a card that looks like the sun, and say that it is the sun. The second player could trump this with perhaps clouds, or a shelter, to block the rays of the sun. These would be legitimate trumps for most groups of players. A fish, an eye, or a man would probably not be considered trumps to the sun, unless they are very creatively argued.
You are only trying to trump the standing winning card on the table. You cannot trump previous losing cards and take control.
Once all players have played a single card and the winning trump determined, all those cards are set aside (usually by stacking them next to the winning player to keep score) and new round begins from the four cards remaining in everyone’s hand. You do not draw new cards!
The winner is the one with the most cards/point once five hands have been played.
Feel free to create your own variations and have fun. The point in the end is to stretch your imagination, tell a story, have a good time, and try not to get punched in the teeth. I do warn you to be careful though. There is a powerful magic in stories and there are meanings upon meanings possible in these glyphs. Think twice before sitting down to gamble amidst strange women and goblin men.
Gandersnitch the Goblin