The age of heroes card deck and game was originally invented by Toyotomi Taira, advisor to emperor Nobusanchô Hôseki of the Yamato Kingdom in 420 GE. Hôseki was so enamored with Taira's game that he declared it a national pastime, hiring the renowned woodblock carver and artist Yugo Enogu to craft plates for a standard deck. When the work was done, these were usually printed in standard two-color style to ease the production process, but the most wealthy had full color decks made for themselves, proudly presenting them as treasures and signs of wealth.
The actual Age of Heroes
lasted from 5900 ARe to 6220 ARe and began with a campaign now called the First Invasion
when the northern tribes and Old Gods
banded together to march into the Middle Lands
, starting the greatest war in the history of Aqualon since the war of the Reshaping of the World
. On one side, Kaltani
, Angel Saxons
, and the Old Gods fought, both just for fighting's sake and to annex new lands and plunder the Great Land
; on the other side were the folk of the Great Land themselves: The wise Yamato Kingdom
, the powerful mages and armies of the Middle Lands, the soldiers of the great Arkatrash
ian empire, the mysterious Brotherhood of the Null
, and the technocrats of Altonar
. Even the Maritime Technocracy of Guantil-ya
opted to assist the Yamato folk from beyond the Iron Belt
, helping them with the refinement of their firearms technology.
This bloody war that lasted for over three hundred years finally ended in the defeat of the North, and the northern tribes retreated to their homes above the Snowzone
while their masters went further down: to the northernmost point of Aqualon where they left the world to stay in their home of Asgard
In the centuries to come, the great war was referred to as the Age of Heroes as the deeds of many great warriors and mages of that time were captured and passed on in song, story, and memorials strewn about the Great Land.
But something else arose from this great age: A popular card game that can be found almost everywhere on Aqualon, called Age of Heroes (or originally kenyajômon 剣矢杖門).
The 52 deck of cards itself is called such but is also sometimes just referred to as "a deck of cards" as it is the most common one around. The first game played with these cards is also called "Age of Heroes", but there is a variety of different games that can be played with a deck of cards, and wherever one goes, they may find local rules to standard game types.
The current standard set is printed in most large cities using a printing press and a standard Age
of Heroes typeface. A group of entrepreneurial artists and salesmen has also begun to print custom special cards with custom rules for a special version of Commanding Conquerors called "Commanding Conquerors: Heroes", creating ever expanding sets of tradeable cards that have become extremely popular in the Middle Lands.
The following cards are in a standard, modern deck:
- (Stronghold) Forts of the Middle Lands
- (Special 1) Fire and Ice
- (Special 2) Earth and Wind
- (Special 3) Lightning and Null
- 10 of Staffs
- 9 of Staffs
- 8 of Staffs
- 7 of Staffs
- 6 of Staffs
- 5 of Staffs
- 4 of Staffs
- 3 of Staffs
- 2 of Staffs
- (Stronghold) Towers of Yamato
- (Special 1) Firesticks of Guantil-ya
- (Special 2) Nature's Bulwark
- (Special 3) The War Horn Blows Green
- 10 of Arrows
- 9 of Arrows
- 8 of Arrows
- 7 of Arrows
- 6 of Arrows
- 5 of Arrows
- 4 of Arrows
- 3 of Arrows
- 2 of Arrows
The standard typeface for this deck looks like this:(Tip: mouseover for image preview.)
- (Stronghold) The Northern Tribes
- (Special 1) Kaltani Warbands
- (Special 2) Grand Druid Brynwain
- (Special 3) Thor, Champion of Man
- 10 of Swords
- 9 of Swords
- 8 of Swords
- 7 of Swords
- 6 of Swords
- 5 of Swords
- 4 of Swords
- 3 of Swords
- 2 of Swords
- (Stronghold) Halls of the Angel Saxons
- (Special 1) Angel Smiths
- (Special 2) Valkyries
- (Special 3) Allfather Odin
- 10 of Gates
- 9 of Gates
- 8 of Gates
- 7 of Gates
- 6 of Gates
- 5 of Gates
- 4 of Gates
- 3 of Gates
- 2 of Gates
Age of Heroes in the Middle Lands
In bars and inns all over the Middle Lands 'Festival', 'Rusty Shore', and the simplified version of the game 'Age of Heroes' are popular pastimes. Standard 'Age of Heroes' is mostly played in the major cities as the complex rules are better suited for literate folk, and the same is true for 'Commanding Conquerors', which was invented by the White Lancers of Aerialis
in 1320 GE. Just like the original 'Age of Heroes', these two games were initially intended for aristocrats and the educated while other games like 'Poor Old Gods' were played by children. But this versatility is part of the reason the Age of Heroes card deck has become so popular.
In the 14th century GE, so many printing presses had spread that special taxation was placed on different types of prints in the five great cities of the Middle Lands. In the Grand Middlish Tax Legistlation of 1363 GE, the five Keepers and the representatives of their cities agreed, among many other things, that the printing of playing cards, post cards, and Yamato new years cards (@Ganjitsubaikai) would fall under postage taxation regulations. Printers had to put a unique mark on one of their Age of Heroes cards, usually the 'Forts of the Middle Lands Stronghold'. These cards were meant to identify the printer and jurisdiction. Selling card decks in a city of a different jurisdiction within the Middle Lands would require for them to be stamped or franked at a post station of the city they were produced in. This rule usually only applied to packaged cards, meaning it was relevant mainly for traveling traders.
Special typefaces and promotional card backs and texts became popular in the 15th century when prestigious inns and game establishments as well as some entitled noble houses commissioned custom prints, which became more and more popular over the course of the century. These never made it into wide circulation and were generally considered a sign of status. Some bought in bulk to distribute the decks to customers, who would then play with them, showcasing the crest, sign, emblem, or name of the establishment or family promoting themselves.
Age of Heroes on the Corsic Ocean
On the Corsic Ocean and parts of the Ocean Belt
, the Age of Heroes card deck enjoys some popularity as well, though barely anyone there plays 'Age of Heroes' or 'Commanding Conquerors'. The game 'Admirals', which is centered around building, hiding, and destroying fleets, represented by pairs, triplets, and quadruplets, enjoys its greatest popularity here and is in fact said to have originated with one of the Great Pirate Houses
of the Corsic Ocean. You will be hard pressed to find any port where people aren't playing 'Admirals' in every bar that actually has tables inside.
Still, almost all decks used on the Corsic Ocean are second hand at best. There are only one or two actual printing presses on the Seventeen Yonder Islands
that print Age of Heroes decks, and since the market is already well-established in the Great Land, few feel the need to compete with big league publishers like Command Tower Entertainment
. The Steel Nomads
, traders that regularly crossed the Iron Belt
despite the arduous journey, regularly stock up on decks, always finding buyers among the Seventeen Yonder Islands and the smaller isles hidden between them.
Age of Heroes in the Yamato Kingdom
In Yamato, the Age of Heroes card deck is called kenyajômon 剣矢杖門, roughly translating to "Swords, Arrows, Staffs, and Gates", but is actually understood as what Middlanders call "the Age of Heroes" as in the historical age. Four character words like this are called yojijukugo 四字熟語, which means "four character idiom". Any four character Yamato word that works as an idiom is thusly titled and considered to be of high literary standard, which often involves them in poetry. Though the number 4 is often considered unlucky in different cultures of the Great Land, the Yamato people believe differently, arguing that in being the number between both 3 and 5, the two numbers that govern the natural world, the number 4 is a uniting number. "Four" also sounds like "death" in the tongue spoken in the Yamato Kingdom and is associated with the cycle of rebirth because of it. It is also referred to as "the linking number".
Another popular yojijukugo is shunkashûtô 春夏秋冬, which means "the four seasons" but literally translates into "Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter". Shunkashûtô is also the name given to the foremost institute of weather science located in Yamaseki.
Asking a visiting official if they cared to play a round of kenyajômon was a polite way to establish that you were wealthy or influential during the 5th to 9th century GE. This invitation was usually politely refused, but when it wasn't, it was expected that a fully colored set of cards would be presented.
The original kenyajômon cards vary slightly from the modern typographic print versions of the Age of Heroes card deck. Specifically, the special cards and strongholds are not always named the same but can be correlated with their modern counter parts by comparing the symbol and the number of symbols on special cards.
Just like the title, kenyajômon (剣矢杖門), the Yamato characters correspond to the symbols: 剣 are swords cards, 矢 are arrows cards, 杖 are staffs cards, and 門 are gates cards.
The oldest ukiyo-e style woodblock printed card sets looked like this:
(Tip: mouseover for image preview.)
The special cards correlate to their modern counterparts as follows:
- Forts of the Middle Lands
- Towers of Yamato
- The Northern Tribes
- Halls of the Angel Saxons
- Special Cards
- Artificial Calamity -> Fire and Ice
- Mastery of the Weather -> Earth and Wind
- Defensive Technology of Altonar -> Lightning and Null
- Firesticks of Guantil-ya ~ Firesticks of Guantil-ya
- Natural Bulwark -> Nature's Bulwark
- Green Horn of Ten Thousand Nations -> The War Horn blows Green
- Kaltani Warbands ~ Kaltani Warbands
- Grand Druid Brynwain ~ Grand Druid Brynwain
- God of Death Frey-ja -> Thor, Champion of Man
- Angel Saxon Arms and Armor -> Angel Smiths
- Valkyrie ~ Valkyrie
- Allfather Odin ~ Allfather Odin
Games using one or more Age of Heroes (Kenyajômon) card decks
In the following, you will find a number of common rule sets for card games played with an Age of Heroes deck of cards.
Age of Heroes (the game)
Two Player Rules
1. At the start of the game, each player gets a random stronghold card. Reselect until both have different sides. Swords and gates form one side, arrows and staffs another.
2. Each player places their stronghold card in front of them.
3. All players play five elements and the winner chooses the starting player.
4. Each stronghold card has 4 sides to fortify. Use the card’s edges for this purpose.
5. Shuffle the remaining cards and distribute 15 cards to each player in the first round, 14 in the second, 13 in the third, 12 in the fourth, 11 in the final round.
6. Before the first play, players take turns placing fortifications on the sides of their stronghold one after the other, either until all four sides are covered or until both players no longer want to place fortifications (a player may freely choose have up to four fortifications or as little as one).
7. On their turn, a player must place or discard a hand card. Cards are always placed on enemy cards, except where the rules mention exceptions.
8. When placing a card on an enemy card, you place them in the original direction of your own fortifications when placing them on a side of your stronghold or perpendicular when placing them on a side of your opponent’s stronghold.
9. You can only place cards of higher power on top of other cards. Card power of cards below the top card of a fortification pile does not have to remain consistent.
10. Strongholds have the highest power but can only ever be put on a side of their owners played stronghold.
11. Strongholds can also be placed on top of one’s own played stronghold to replace it if they share the same side. The old stronghold is then discarded.
12. Numbered cards have their number representing their power.
13. Numbered cards and special cards whose type conforms with the stronghold they are placed at are trumps, meaning they can beat cards of other types with even or higher value.
14. The round ends when all cards in all hands have been played or discarded or when a stronghold has been conquered on all four sides.
15. A side is conquered or defended by you as long as the top card placed on it was placed by you.
16. Any side left empty at the beginning of the round cannot have cards placed on it and is always considered conquered by the opposite side.
17. The winner of each individual round is the player with the most combined conquered and defended sides, or the player that first conquers all four sides of the enemy stronghold.
18. The player who first wins three rounds wins the game.
19. A draw counts as a win for both sides.
20. If both players reach three wins at the same time, the game ends in a draw.
21. Special cards have a power of 11 but can have special effects when of the same type as your stronghold.
22. Special cards have the following special effects:
- Kaltani Warbands
Search a fortification pile and replace any number of swords cards with an equal amount of cards from your hand. You may not take the top card of any pile this way.
- Grand Druid Brynwain
You may choose a fortification pile placed at your stronghold, shuffle it face down, then distribute the cards equally between all players, discarding left-overs. The side becomes empty (see rule 16).
- Thor, Champion Of Man
You may discard the top card of a fortification pile adjacent to the pile onto which you place this card.
- Fire and Ice
Staffs replace the trump type of fortification piles adjacent to the pile onto which you place this card for as long as it remains on top of its pile.
- Earth and Wind
Arrows are also considered staffs when you place cards for as long as this card remains on top of its pile.
- Lightning and Null
Starting with the player to your left, each other player must give you (3 if two players, 2 if three players, 1 if four players) staff cards from their hands if possible. You have to then give them the same amount of cards from your hand.
- Firesticks of Guantil-ya
For as long as this card lies on top of its pile, arrows you place on adjacent fortification piles count as trumps and have their power increased by 1/2.
- Nature’s Bulwark
You may replace the card below this card with a card from your hand.
- The War Horn Blows Green
This card is always a trump and can beat strongholds that have been placed as fortifications.
- Angel Smiths
The next gates card you play has a power of 11 regardless of its regular power while you play it.
Search up to two fortification piles for up to one card of an opponent’s stronghold’s type not lying on top, then switch them with an equal amount of cards from your hand.
- All-father Odin
When placed on a fortification pile, put all other cards from that pile into your hand, then put an equal amount of cards from your hand under this card.
Example (A) shows a Northern Tribes stronghold (stronghold of swords) surrounded by 4 fortification piles. The top, left, and right pile are still the cards placed at game start. The bottom card, 8 of arrows, has been conquered by the player's opponent using a 10 of staffs. Neither of these cards are a valid trump (which would be swords for as long as cards are placed next to the stronghold of swords), so the 10 of staffs can be used to conquer the pile as its power is greater than the 8 of arrows. In this setup, it is notable that the left fortification pile is lead by a special of swords, God of Death, Frey-ja (Thor, Champion of Man in modern). This is the highest swords card other than the stronghold itself, and since it is placed next to the swords stronghold, it cannot be beaten in power. In the simplified version of the game (see below), the pile would be unbeatable until the stronghold is replaced with the stronghold of gates. The top fortification is lead by the 4 of swords, meaning that only swords and specials can be used to conquer it.