I was, at the time, unemployed, and I figured that I could just about budget two hundred dollars for this silliness.
The question, of course, is: What kind of game can be played with a deck composed of exactly two kinds of cards?
Then I had a deeper breakthrough. If I use two cards as a unit of play, there are many more combinations available.
I immediately thought of two cards lying crossed on the table. If the cards are not symmetrical, there are now 32 possible crosses. (Four possible faces on the bottom, four on top, and the pair can have two different relative rotations.)
Card 1, front and back
Card 2, front and back
And here are four of the 32 possible crosses they make:
Then there's the question of how the crosses are arranged on the board.
At first I tried overlapping the crosses. That is, the ends of the arms would cover (or be covered by) the ends of the arms of the neighboring crosses. However, a little experimentation with actual cards showed that this was unworkable. The cards didn't lay flat enough, with all the overlapping, and they slid around too easily. Just putting down a card in the middle of the board could crash the whole pattern.
So I simplified it to the arrangement shown above: The crosses themselves are placed arm-to-arm in a square grid. This is still a little shaky -- the cards slide out of adjustment -- but they're easy to put back.
In this arrangement, there are zero to four twists between each cross and its neighbor. If you're just tracing paths, this is only two possibilities (the paths are switched or they're not); but perhaps the number of twists can be important too.
This uses the arrangement of crosses on the board, as opposed to the choice of cards in a cross. When two half-icons are adjacent (as in the lower pair of crosses shown) they form one of ten possible symbols.
Road ... Wall
Eye ... Star
House ... Church
Hammer ... Spade
Dagger ... Ship
Yes, the Ship is a bit of a stretch, but I'm pleased with the others. The House might be a Barn, and the Wall could be a Stone... or a Stone Wall for that matter. Hmmm... should I turn the Ship upside down and call it a Flower? Thistle? Hard to say.
But the balance of symbols is good. Weapons, tools, religion, mundanity, transportation, barrier. Considering the constraints -- that word again -- it's very flexible.
The arrangement of half-icons was more of a pain. If I put two on each end of each card, then every pair of crosses would form two symbols. That was way too many; I wanted them rarer, like Trumps in a game of Arcana.
So, one on each end. But left or right? I wanted every combination to be possible; and remember, there are only four card faces available. The arrangement I chose makes everything available, and with equal probability.
There is some dependency between the paths and the symbols. For example, the rod half-icon always appears on an end with a twist. So a Road symbol will never appear between two crosses joined by untwisted paths. There will always be two, three, or four twists by a Road. There's no way around that kind of problem, with this system.
The light paths in the background are purely decorative. They're also the same on each card. They're designed to join up within each cross, and between crosses. The little spheres are end-caps of some of these paths, in the cross arrangement.
Note that the cards work just as well in a standard rectangular grid, edge to edge. But there's much less variety available.
Yes, I wrote the cards in PostScript.
Some ideas that went by:
Sadly, Andy found another printer for Aquarius; and suddenly he could use a print sheet of exactly the right size. So I never got my cards. As you might expect, I never came up with a game, either.
So there it sits.
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