Skip to content
If you like Solo "board games", visit our sister site

Carta games, like Into the Glacier and Apex Predator, are exploration games.

The base idea is that players lay cards out in a grid, and then turn them over one at a time, exploring prompts and mechanics as they do.

The game is a sort of boardgame / storygame hybrid, where players explore journaling prompts by physically moving their marker from card to card and looking up the results.

It can have a definite goal, making it more boardgame-like, or it can be more nebulous and story-focused.

Carta was inspired by:

– The Wretched and Alone SRD by Matt Sanders & Chris Bissette
– The Estate of Baron Archambaud, an Ingrate, by Galazor
– Board games like Zombies! and Betrayal at House on the Hill

The SRD was built for stories about solitary discovery. GMless Multiplayer rules can definitely be added, but the default ruleset is a single-player one.

You might want to tell stories about:

  • Exploring a classic-style dungeon in search of treasure
  • Wandering around a city and seeing the sights
  • Being pursued through a haunted mansion
  • Searching an alien planet for survivors
  • Just playing Monster Hunter

– Description by Author (modified slightly for context)

Primary mechanic

  • A grid of playing cards is laid out (4×6)
  • Player moves around the grid
  • As cards are turned over, a matching prompt is read and a journal is written
  • Some prompts increase or decrease an optional resource
  • The game ends if a specific card is found, or they run out of the resource

How it Works

The Carta system uses a deck of standard playing cards (with the Jokers removed) and a small marker to keep track of your position.

A key component of a Carta game is use of limited resources. The resources will decrease and increase as the game proceeds. You will need a marker, a small toy or a die (eg D10 or D12) to track the value.

Before starting the game, two cards are removed from the deck. These cards are the Starting Point and the Goal Card.

The remaining cards are shuffled. The top 22 cards are drawn into a pile that will become the game board.

The Goal card is added to the drawn cards, and the smaller deck of 23 cards is now reshuffled (The goal will be well hidden within the deck)

Laying out the cards

The 23 cards are laid out in a 4×6 grid. (4 cards high, 6 cards wide). The last card will be the Starting card that was not shuffled into the deck.

All the cards are placed face down.

Resources add complexity to the game. The SRD included sample rules for Survival and Collect Modes.

Game Play

The players places their marker on the Starting Point Card.

They can move their marker one space in any direction. When they land on a card, they turn it face up and refer to the relevant tables to see what has happened.

This continues until they find the Goal Card or run out of resources.

What’s Unique About the System

Using a partial deck, and random placement of the cards, along with movement determined by the player means that each playthrough will end up with a different result.

Instead of relying on random luck to lose the game, the use of resources provides a way for the player to be involved in their success or failure. (To a limited extent)

Layout out the cards in a grid works well when applied to themes of dungeons, cities, space ships, castles, haunted houses, or alien planets.


The Carta SRD document has a section with useful statistics. They can be used to balance the difficulty of the game.

There are also extensive tips on tweaking the difficulty. Examples include:

  • When designing a game, you could include additional goal cards (Offering different outcomes for the story)
  • You may also want some cards to be visible during gameplay. If you want to do this, the visible cards should be shuffled into the deck face up.
  • The length of the game (and the chances to encounter certain key events) can be adjusted by increasing the size of the board layout to 5 x 6.

My Thoughts

This is a really solid system that has had an excellent uptake from the community. If you look at the JAM page, you will see more than 40 entries.

Unlike the LEADS system where the length is predetermined, a Carta game can end quite abruptly when the Goal card is found.

With that said, there is no reason why designers could not leave out the Goal card and simply give a 4 x 6 grid to explore. The game would end once the entire area had been explored. It would work well for city, planet or landscape themes.

I like the grid layout. It works especially well when the game applies themes of exploration in a limited area (eg Dungeon or City).

Including a section with inspiration for card prompts is a fantastic addition to the SRD. Coming up with enough prompts for 52 cards can be quite difficult.

Even though the prompt ideas have been designed for the Carta system, they would work equally well as inspiration for other games involving 52 cards.

How to Get it

Carta is written by Cat McDonald and Peach Garden Games

The SRD can be download from the itch page :

Several games are can be found on the Carta Jam page.

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.

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.