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Railog Playing Cards (Stylized)
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Railog Playing Cards (Stylized)

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Railog Playing Cards

In ages gone by, omyr wandered the Arlin plains riding their sitar and following Arlios. Eventually the settled around Getha lake and built villages, then towns, then cities. When they roamed westward they found the Misty Sea whose year-round and day-long mists prevented crossing without ships bearing the Eyes of Meth. The sailors who braved those mist-covered waters would play at cards to pass the time, cards that reflected omyr sensibilities.

Now reproduced for your card playing pleasure, these cards with their rich presentation of omyr culture are now available in Umath... err, I mean Earth.

The Design

Each of the cards in this deck was individually hand painted. The background for each suit uses a set palette to keep the suits coordinated, but even the dark frames are unique to each card. The face cards use a stylized representation of an omyr.

The Cards

A basic deck of Railog playing cards consists of eight suits with eight numbered cards and four face cards which vary by region. The suits also vary by region but are typically divided into two groups of four with paired colorings. In all, there are thus 96 cards in the deck.

Number Cards

The suit is indicated in the left corner with the number in the right corner. The numbers are hash marks with an under score indicating +4. The suit symbol is also produced a matching number of times on the card’s face. Some examples from an omyr deck (4 of rblus, 7 of sitar and 8 of thrim) are shown.

Rblus 4Sitar 7Thrim 8

Face Cards

Although the deck is not standardized the function and ranking of the four face cards do not often vary. In omyr decks the face cards are usually named alak, arl, deiskatun and arlas, in order from lowest to highest rank.

Alak (ah-lahk)

The lowest ranked of the face cards, the alak represents an exceptionally fierce warrior who inspires the troops to great feats. When portrayed as an omyr this card is an alak wielding a medra, a hafted weapon with curving tines intended to represent a claw. The alak is characterized by a red mane with red ticks in the fur. The card’s rank is indicated by a stylized medra.

Kron Alak

Arl (ahrl)

Ranked above the alak is the arl, representing effective military leadership whose tactics increase the effectiveness of the troops. When portrayed as an omyr this card is an arl, usually wielding a ra, a hafted weapon with a narrow, curving blade. The arl is characterized by stripes that run parallel with the fur grain. The card’s rank is indicated by a ra. Kron Arl

Deiskatun (day-ihs-kah-tuhn)

The second highest rank card is the deiskatun, or priest. The deiskatun provide protection from the supernatural through intercession with the gods. When portrayed as an omyr this card is an amri, usually wielding a staff. The amri is characterized by stripes that run perpendicular to the fur grain. The card’s rank is indicated by a sun wheel. Kron Deiskatun

Arlas (ahrl-ahs)

The highest rank card is the arlas, or sorcerer. As a wielder of magic he is supremely powerful and dangerous. When portrayed as an omyr this card is an arlas, usually wielding the suit symbol. The arlas is characterized by blue spirals. The card’s rank is indicated by an eight-pointed star. Kron Arlas

Suits

Although there are always eight suits there is substantial regional variation in the suits themselves. Although traditionally divided into four gener and four larer suits this dichotomy is not set in stone. It is typical, however, for the suits to represent gods, archetypes or principles. This is seen in the eight suits used in the traditional Markat deck.

Sitar (sih-tahr)

The sitar, a beast with enormously powerful hind legs that it uses to sprint in great leaps and bounds—and to turn 180° in the blink of an eye, is the favored mount of omyr and represents speed and agility. The symbol for this suit is a stylized representation of the defining hind leg. Its color is blue. Sitar is opposed by Larfu and paired with Meth.

Suit Sitar

Meth (may-th)

This is the god of the sea whose eye is painted on the prow of ships to enable them to see through the dense mists that cover the Misty Sea. The symbol for this suit is Meth’s stylized eye. Its color is blue. Meth is opposed by Rblus and paired with Sitar.

Suit Meth

Thrim (thrihm)

This is the god of storms and war symbolized by a silver lightning bolt. He is defender of omyr, particularly form the kronin. The symbol for this suit is a lightning bolt. Its color is white. Thrim is opposed by Kron and paired with Raimon. Suit Thrim

Railog (rah-ee-lohg)

This is the goddess who personifies the entirety of the world. She is understood as the earth goddess and mother to all. The symbol for this suit is a square that represents the four corners of the world. Its color is brown. Railog is opposed by her sister Raimon and paired with Larfu.

Suit Railog

Larfu (lahr-foo)

This is a concept, a pejorative used by omyr to insult someone. Someone who is larfu is big and strong, but slow, awkward and stupid, naive and deceived. The symbol for this suit is a maul. Its color is brown. Larfu is opposed by Sitar and paired with Railog. Suit Larfu

Rblus (ur-bloos)

This is the god of fire who is feared more than revered. Fire is an important part of life providing warmth and used in cooking and crafts. But it is also dangerous, inflicting burns and destroying homes and towns. At the annual Fire Festival the priests bless each omyr’s firestone. The symbol for this suit is a ring. Its color is red. Rblus is opposed by Meth and paired with Kron. Suit Rblus

Kron (krohn)

This is the god of destruction and earthquakes whose minions erupt from crevices that open in the ground to harrass and attack omyr and larin. The symbol for this suit is a crevice. Its color is red. Kron is opposed by Thrim and paired with Rblus. Suit Kron

Raimon (rah-ee-mohn)

This goddess is sister to Railog and appears as a silvery disk in the sky that turns like a spinning coin and traveling from here to Ylansi, the sideways world. The symbol for this suit is a bisected disc representing her when fully turned to Railog and the remaining visible edge when turned to Ylansi. Its color is white. Raimon is opposed by Railog and paired with Thrim. Suit Raimon

Games

Although these cards have multiple uses an obvious one is to play games. The standard game for mercenaries is sometimes called yamiro in their honor, but it is also known under the more general title of “war.”

Yamiro (yah-meer-oh)

The goal of yamiro is to defeat an opponent through a war fought through various engagements. It is difficult to win every battle and winning the war is as much about picking which battles to lose, and how to lose them, as it is about winning engagements.

Starting with a shuffled deck each player is dealt four cards. These form the resources available to the player and are constantly replenished: each time a card is played a new card is drawn from the pile to replace it.

Hands are played with each player alternating going first. Traditionally the dealer is the defender in the first hand so the other player goes first. A hand consists of four cards played by each player. A player must play a card on their turn, they cannot skip over or yield their turn. So a hand ends when the defending player plays their fourth card.

At the end of the hand the cards are counted to see who won that hand. Number cards are worth their face value and added together to give a total for the rank-and-file troops. If at least one alak is played then the total is doubled, and if—in addition to the alak—at least one arl has been played then the total is doubled a second time. There is no benefit to playing two alak or two arl, or even playing an arl without an alak. The highest score is achieved by playing two eight cards, an alak and an arl giving a score of 64.

However, regardless of the score, the first player to play an arlas wins the hand. Unless the opposing player plays a deiskatun. In that case the second arlas played wins the hand, unless the opposing player played a deiskatun, and so on for each arlas-deiskatun pair. Thus if the attacking player plays two arlas then the defending player must either play two deiskatun, or play a deiskatun and an arlas, with the arlas played before the attacking player’s second arlas.

In summary: victory is obtained by having a higher score where number cards are worth their face value, playing an alak doubles the score and playing both an alak and an arl quadruples the score. The first arlas played always wins, unless negated by a deiskatun.

The winning player captures the opposing players hand, adding it to his capture pile.

In the event of a tie both hands are discarded.

Play continues through eight hands after which the capture piles are counted. When counting captures number cards are worth their face value while face cards are always worth eight points. This is different than their victory value during a hand with a maximum value of 32 points for the four cards captured in a single hand and a theoretical maximum of 256 points for the game (though theoretically possible it requires a very contrived set of hands to achieve). Average game points are sixty to eighty, though much larger variation is common.

Four-Handed Play

Four players are divided into two teams. Each hand consists of four cards from each player with four hands to the game. The player to the dealer's left starts the first hand, the second hand is started by the player to their left, and so on. Partners sit opposite from one another and don't see each other's cards. Hands are won by combining each team's cards, keeping the order of play in mind when necessary (the arlas). This means each team has eight cards in their combined hand.

Solitaire Play

Although the strategy of the game comes from playing against a second player, a single player game can be managed by dealing four cards for the player. Each hands starts by turning over the top card of the deck. The player then plays a card, turns over the top card of the deck and draws a card three times. For the fourth and last card in the hand the player turns over the top card of the deck and plays a card. Victory is determined normally with the winning hand discarded and the opposing hand captured.

This is repeated until eight hands have been played. The goal isn’t to just win (which is fairly easy as there is no opposing strategy), but to win by the greatest margin.

There Must Be A Winner

Although the classic game sticks strictly to four-card hands in a variation favored by alak if there is a tie at four cards play continues until the tie is broken. Though typically this will result in only a five-card hand it is possible to have a long run. In the extremely unlikely event that the end of the deck is reached the discarded cards are shuffled and become the pile.

Playing With Standard Poker Cards

The game can be played using standard poker cards where jacks are alak, kings are arl, queens are deiskatun and aces are arlas. Due to the smaller deck size either two decks should be combined or the game played in sets of four hands with capture totals being done at the end of the set and all cards reshuffled into the deck for the second set. When counting capture points, face cards are worth ten points each raising the maximum capture value of a hand to 40 points and a game to 320 points.

What Is Railog?

These cards, the omyr (and their four anthyr) and larin, gods and so on all come from a fantasy world named for the earth goddess. It is a magical place where the world is flat, the sun dies each day (to be reborn as the dark sun, which itself dies in the east to be reborn as the sun), reality is comprised of the eight elements (which can be woven by the arlas) and the land is populated by omyr, larin, kronin, arlioin, /lar, lar, and so on, but nary a human in sight (much less elves, dwarves, etc.). The prevalent civilization has no notion of marriage or of traditional families (or parentage) with professional associations filling those roles. To change the nature of something (such as a metal alloy or even creating a mirror) requires mystical ability that is granted by the gods through spirit intermediaries to select members of those professional associations. And outside of that, most adults have at least one spirit bound to them in the form of a fetish.

In short, it is a very different sort of place though their cosmology includes our Earth as one of the eight worlds (Umath) and the souls of the departed from Umath collect in another of the eight worlds (Thuigamu), albeit bereft of memory.


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File Last Updated:
April 26, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on May 11, 2018.