Game Design, Gaming

Confabula Baraja – A Card Game Mash-Up

My previous post was about Emma Larkins’ Confabula Rasa storytelling card game. I went into it as a word generator for poetry, but this time around I got a bit weirder. That tends to happen when you dive into tarot.

Always Playing With Weird Stuff, Aren’t You?

I said that I was going to play around with tarot cards and Confabula Rasa at the end of the previous post, so I’m following through. I already owned a deck of baraja española cards from a few years back. Almost any Latino is well-acquainted with this deck of cards – they have at least one auntie that has one hidden in a drawer somewhere that reads cards to your mom from time. I’ve seen readings with these cards personally growing up, so I’m used to seeing them if not play around with them before getting smacked upside the head by some bruja.

So, What Are Baraja Cards?

Anyway, they are a bit different than the tarot cards that you may see in the stuff you see in popular media. You can actually replicate it with a normal pack of playing cards, but the iconography is so tied to its cultural and spiritual significance it just seems cheap to perform it that way. That’s why I bought a pack, as well as the fact that there’s no way in hell my aunt would let me borrow hers.

The Confabula Baraja Set-Up

The cartomancy of baraja cards works alongside the numbers and suit of the card. I used the baraja deck in a 40-card format taking out a few numbers from their suits. I then chose one of the many spreads available, a planetary spread. Here’s how the spread looks like:


With just some cursory research on the suits/cards and their meaning, I formed a system before I used the Confabula Rasa cards. For example, the top card, the three of clubs, represents magic, packages, religion, etc. So you can imagine how this can serve as a bedrock of sorts for the words you will form from the Confabula Rasa cards.

The Cartomancy And Logomancy Meet At A Crossroads

Here’s where the beginning of my headaches started. I decided that it would be a fun idea to use the very same spread to put down the Confabula Rasa card. needless to say, it took a long time to get the words out. I will give out props to Emma for her Power Cards, but I feel as if the game might need more, or at the very least there is room for more ideas for Power Cards somewhere.

So it was time to put together the mysticism with the game. I came up with eight words, and with the interpretations for each card, I formed this strange mini-fic out of thin air. Is it amazing? Probably not. But I will admit the combo was a stronger engine than what I had done previously.

The Thieves Of the Sea (Or What Came Out Of Confabula Baraja)

Here is what came out:

I packed my bags and headed towards the sea – more like ran away from this podunk town. I was on my way towards the arms of a woman with her wits about her, hiding all kinds of clever tricks and unknown pleasures beneath her rags. Our plan was to steal something of worth from an emir of considerable power. The man curiously left his precious platinum ore in an abandoned clinic. Once we pulled off the job, the deal was made with our connections in the underground before we could even take off our disguises. It was the mob’s problem now, and my lady and I could now enjoy the spoils of our heist for decades to come.

Final Remarks

Seeing the effectiveness I reached, I think I might try this again. I will use this for a longform poem in the near future, and after seeing what the baraja cards can do as the basis of a gaming device (kind of what Weave is doing for roleplaying games) I think I might try to do something in the future as well, perhaps something that really represents Latin culture.