What Do I Know About First Impressions? Decuma

20210917_175542I love decks of cards. Even when there is an option to emulate a set of cards with a roll of the dice, I really like having the actual deck to use. I’ve got cypher decks from cypher system, I’ve got critical hit decks for 5th edition D&D, and I’ve even got multiple decks of many things. I’ve got NPC cards and critical hit cards for FFG Star Wars. Something about holding a deck of cards is just naturally satisfying.

I listened to multiple actual play sessions on the Happy Jacks podcast where they used the Decuma system to generate character connections, as well as details of the setting and the past exploits of the adventurers. When the Decuma deck went up on Kickstarter, I backed it quickly.

I also had the good fortune to interview Kimi Hughes on the Gnomecast about the game. You can listen to that interview here.


My photography skills leave much to be desired, and I didn’t have time to bribe my daughter to use her much more extensive skills to give these cards the treatment they deserve. My apologies to you for the quality of these pictures, and to Golden Lasso Games for not capturing how great these cards look in person.


The chassis that Decuma is built on is a tarot deck. The cards in the deck are standard tarot size. The box is a nice, solid box that looks like it’s going to hold up well to continued use. The box has the same gold accents as the cards within. The box is snug, meaning that if you want to sleeve your cards, it’s not going to fit inside the box.

When I first opened the packaging, there was plastic shrink wrap over the box itself, and a secondary set of shrink wrap over the deck of cards within the box itself. The box lays flat, with the cover parallel to the deck itself. For comparison, this cover is oriented on the opposite axis of the box that contains For the Queen from Evil Hat.

What’s In The Box?

The first thing you will see in the box is the booklet that explains how the game works. Underneath this booklet is an X-Card, as well as the Decuma deck. The Decuma deck, like a tarot deck, is split into three separate sections. In this case, the card backs are color coded to make separating them into their individual functions easier.

The backs of the cards feature a double red sun, a double blue star, and a double purple moon. The red and blue cards are based on the Minor Arcana, while the purple cards are based on the Major Arcana.

Like standard tarot cards, the position of the card makes a difference in how the card is interpreted. In this case, there is a different question to answer on either end of the card, with the card’s orientation indicating which question should be answered.

20210917_175638The Process

I won’t go into too many granular details, but the process of using the cards involves dealing out several red and blue cards to the players and drawing a few purple cards. Each player reveals one of the cards and answers it, establishing details about characters and locations in the setting. These cards are answered by individual players. The purple cards are answered by the group and pertain to the group’s overall history.

These details are recorded, and after several rounds, the group will have several connections established between characters, details about locations in the campaign, and a short history of the group. At any time, a character can X-Card a particular question or answer, making sure that all the details are agreeable and safe for the entire group. In the booklet, there are also alternate rules for generating only details for connections, locations, or allowing for more direct input into what questions to answer, for example.

Depending on whether this game is going to be used on its own, at this point either the campaign details are set for the beginning of the game, or the players will go around their table and narrate their own epilogues to create a complete story.

20210917_175927First Impressions

I’m very happy with this purchase. The cards look great, and I’m very interested to get them into play to see what kind of backstories they generate. I feel like this kind of group backstory generation is something that would deserve its own session, beyond a session zero. I would probably want to record and internalize all these results before I attempted to run a game that integrated this information.

I know current supply chain issues may affect the availability of these cards beyond the initial Kickstarter fulfillment, but I’m looking forward to when these cards can make it into circulation beyond the backers.

20210917_175951Future Wishes

As I said in the previous section, I’m really looking forward to these cards being available beyond the initial Kickstarter fulfillment, because they look great, and they help promote backstory development, which leads to more plot hooks, which leads to more gaming. That’s all a good thing.

Given the current state of the world, and the number of gamers that are still using online resources for their primary interpersonal gaming, I would love to see these available in a digital format. It’s possible to create piles and read questions, but I think having a little more “control” over individual cards feels more satisfying. I would love to see these available as an electronic deck for use in Roll20, as an example.

More generally, I just want to hear some more stories about people using these cards to generate group stories, and I want to get the opportunity to put them into play myself.

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