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A Day at the Crystal Market Review


Today’s the day! For the first time (finally!), you’re old enough to visit the magic crystal market on your own.

You’ve got an empty pack on your back, a shopping list from your magic instructor, and a bit of spending money in your pocket. Your attention jumps between the bustling crowds, colorful shops, and the little crystal spirits flitting to and fro, but you’re not worried. You have the whole day to take them all in, and that feels like all the time in the world.

A Day at the Crystal Market is a solo tabletop rpg where you play a child-aged magical apprentice running an errand to buy magic crystals for your teacher.

You are excited, kind, and enthusiastic.

Along the way, you’ll visit the shops, become distracted by the wonder around you, and maybe get a bit of spellcasting practice in.

You’ll also interact with and befriend the tiny crystal spirits of the market, who will help you along on your journey.

As you collect magic crystals, your spellcasting abilities and the number of spirit friends you might make will grow.

Within the game, you are supposed to gather all of the magic crystals before the day is over, but if you don’t, that’s just fine. Your teacher will understand.

The real goal of the game is to engage in the childlike wonder of being entrusted with a task that is larger than yourself, the childlike joy in observing the world, and the childlike kindness directed where adults might not think to look.

It’s about a magical day in which nothing important happens, but everything that happens feels important.

It’s about imagining the small details of a world, holding them in your head, inspecting them, and then letting them go.

– Description from game author

How to Play

You will need:

  • A pack of playing cards (jokers removed)
  • A six sided die
  • A coin or marker to represent your character
  • Paper to make notes

Remove all of the diamond cards from the deck, turn them face up, and shuffle them back into the deck.

The diamonds represent the magical crystals. You will be able to see them when you deal the cards out in front of you.

Laying out the market

Take the pile of shuffled cards and deal them out into 4 rows of 6 cards. These represent the layout of the marketplace.

The diamonds should be face up, and all other cards should be face down. If there are no diamonds visible, run through the setup process again until there are.

Place your coin or marker on the top left card.

Take the remaining cards and place them in a pile beside the market. These cards will be your timer.

Moving around the market

You can move around the market by shifting your marker to an adjacent space. The movement can be up, down, left or right. You cannot move diagonally.

Each time you move your marker, discard a card from the top of the timer pile. When you run out of timer cards, the market has closed and it’s time to head home.

Reading prompts

When you first start the game, turn over the card in the top left space of the market (under your marker).

Refer to the related prompt in the rules. If you are keeping a journal (recommended), reflect on what you have found and answer any questions the prompt poses.

Note : If the card is a diamond, you won’t need to flip the card because the value will already be visible.

When the rules ask you to spend time, you need to discard an extra card from the timer pile.

After resolving a card, you can move to an adjacent space.

  • If the space is empty, there is nothing to do (but you still need to remove a timer card)
  • If the card is already visible, you can re-engage with it (unless it is a club)
  • If the card is face down, you can flip the card and repeat the process

The Card Prompts

Each of the cards have a unique prompt related to the face value, and the suit it belongs to.

Hearts – These cards are crystal spirits. If you have enough crystals, you can try to befriend the spirit.

Clubs – The paths are often blocked and you will need to go back the way you came. Crystal spirits can help clear the way.

Diamonds – Each diamond is a magic crystal. By collecting it, you are bestowed with a new spell.

Spades – The markets are full of distractions. They don’t just sell magical crystals.

Note: I don't post actual prompts in my reviews. This is to protect the IP of the designer. You will need to buy the game to read the actual prompts.

What makes it it different

A Day at the Crystal market is based on the Carta game engine.

Instead of setting an end point, the game uses a deck of cards to act as a timer.

In a normal Carta game, all of the cards start in a face down position. In this game, the magical crystals (diamonds) are face up.

What I liked

Using the deck as a timer and getting rid of the end point card, solves one of the biggest problems with the Carta system. A Carta game can end very quickly if you have bad luck in the layout, and the end card is turned face up near the start of the game. This is when the game normally ends (or a secondary timer is started).

Relying on a timer deck (of 28 cards) gives a relatively fixed length of game play, which better represents a standard day at the market. The length can be adjusted by the cards you turn over, but nothing will cause a sudden end to the game.

Overall Impression

This is a game of magic and delight.

The authors description of engaging in a “childlike wonder” is right on the mark.

Every card I played game me happy thoughts, and whisked me off into a magical world of crystals and helpful spirits.

There is no danger or violence here. It is very suitable to play with your children.

The prompts are well written. The ideas of walking around a market transpose well onto the card layout of Carta system.

I especially like the use of the timer deck, and the fact that the diamond cards are visible from the start. It gives you the sense of moving around with your goals in sight.

If you’ve never played a Carta game before, make sure you add A Day at the Crystal Market to your library!


The Carta System

The Carta system is from Cat McDonald and Peach Garden Games, and licensed for use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http:// The Carta logo is © Cat McDonald, and is used with permission.

How to get the Game

A Day at the Crystal Market is created by Brian Shourd @oakenboro