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semiosphere: a card game

my partner and i are currently working on designing a card game called icon representing the epistemic certainty of the linked pagesemiosphere. we aren’t done designing it yet, so it may not be ready to play.



the game is set in the icon representing the epistemic certainty of the linked pagesemiosphere: the sphere of all signs, and their processes that operate with one another; the domain of all signs that contribute to and ultimately define a culture. it is a realm of ideas, a psychic and causal force that shaping our politics, communications, society, and planet.

there are four major influences at place in this space between minds: humanity (hearts), calamity (diamonds), technology (spades), and nature (clubs). your job is to collect ideas (cards) from various zones to build a cohesive philosophy. each turn, you will play a card from your hand into one of the four zones. you’ll either germinate an idea (discard a card into a zone), incubate an idea (combine your card with other cards in a zone), or culminate an idea(collect cards in a zone that match the value of the card you’ve played). at the center of the board, the four influences create the zones, which have restrictions on which actions can be taken. however, the location of the zones change! at the end of each round, the ideas that make up your philosophy (collected cards) are scored according to their value to humanity. the goal is to be the first player with 15 or more points.


note: it doesn’t matter which cards are next to each other, as long as they’re opposite the right card.

object of the game

the goal of semiosphere is to be the first player to ear 15 or more points. points are tallied at the end of each round. generally, 2-4 rounds are played. after each round, points are calculated:

ending state point value
most cards overall +4
most humanity (hearts) cards +2
most calamity (diamonds) cards -2

turn of play

play begins to the left of the dealer, continuing clockwise. a player must play one card each turn and perform one of the actions: germinate, incubate, or culminate. see below for more information on actions.


the influences

there are four great influences in the semiosphere, each represented by a suit

suit name meaning and representation
hearts humanity all that is good about mankind: creative, empathetic, critical, kind, inventive
diamonds calamity ecocide, war, societal failure, disease, famine and drought
spades technology technology in the broadest sense: agriculture, writing, semiconductors, etc.
clubs nature flora, fauna & fungi: their wholeness, timelessness, and indifference to man

the actions

each turn, the player make take one of 3 conceptual actions:

action description
germinate introduce a new idea to the culture of the zone
incubate allow an idea to flourish and grow
culminate synthesize an idea to its conclusion and add it to your philosophy for incorporation

in practice, you will play one card from your hand to one zone, as long as that zone permits it.



incubation is the trickiest of the actions, and the hardest to master as it involves two cards: an active card, and a passive card.


the zones

the four influces lay across two axes:

as you play, these axes will flip, moving the zones around the board each time. where two influences touch, they create a zone. all zones have one action restricted, except the frontier.

zone cross-suits restrictions
the torment humanity & calamity no culmination
the reprieve humanity & nature no incubation
the artifice technology & calamity no germination
the frontier technology & nature

the torment

the torment represents humans at odds with their natural environment: rising tides, fires, famines, droughts, and crises plague society. times are tough and no one is able to come to a conclusion of what to do to get out of the torment. new ideas are being germinated, and many are incubating, but there is no culmination to save us from the calamity.

restriction: players may not culminate ideas in the torment.

the reprieve

the reprieve represents willful ignorance and temporary abundance. there is enough food to go around, and nature provides, at least for some - but it won’t last forever. are people just sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to the looming threats? simple ideas can come to fruition here, but there is no room for incubating ideas that might rock the boat.

restriction: players may not incubate ideas in the reprieve.

the artifice

the artifice is the union of humanity and technology. man’s hubris has led him to be abundantly reliant on technology, past the point of no return.

the frontier

the frontier represents the positive combination of technology and nature - a time for challenging the status quo and seeing what else might be possible. a pivot point in history, but also a time of great vulnerability and high stakes. anything goes.

no restrictions





semiosphere is heavily inspired by:


referenced by: icon representing the epistemic certainty of the linked pagetraditional-deck

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