Royal Game of Human Life

Adapted from rules by Sophie Halim

This is a game played with tarot cards which was compiled by Sophie Halim; she said that she excerpted it from The Truth About the Tarot by Gerald Suster.

The purpose of this document is to make it possible to learn and play the game quickly and easily. If you are interested in the Tarot or how this game may be used to learn about the Tarot, I strongly recommend that you take a look at her original document,. But if you're just trying to get started, this document will do that.

Every Tarot deck is a little different. The deck described in this game has a few trump cards that I have not seen before. To get the most out of this game, one should understand the differences and substitute the cards that actual fit in the diagram in the best way. To simply play the game, I have an arbitrary substitution table at the end of the rules for the Ryder deck; for other decks you are on your own.

Tarot Deck

The game is played with a Tarot deck ( which consists of 56 numbered cards (minor arcana consisting of Ace through 10 plus Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight in four suits) and 22 trump cards (major arcana). Game play consist primarily of playing the numbered cards in order but the order may be altered by the trump cards. The effects of the trump cards are represented by the Qabalah table shown at the end.

The numbered cards of the Minor Arcana have their face value. The face cards have the following values:
Princess: 10
Prince: 9
Queen: 6
Knight: Any number card.
The suits are ignored.


Shuffle the deck and deal each player 11 cards. Place the remain cards face down within easy reach of the players.


The goal is to be the first player to place an ace on his or her own pack.


During his turn each play takes an action and returns his hand to 11 cards. The actions are explained in detail below. They include:
  1. Draw a card and discard
  2. Trade a card with another player
  3. Play on his own pack & draw.
  4. Play on an opponent's pack & draw

At the end of his turn a player must have 11 cards.

When the deck is exhausted the discards are turned over and used as the new deck.

Draw A Card

A player may draw a card from either the deck or the discard and then discard a card from his hand. This ends his turn.

Trading Cards

As his turn, a player may trade cards with other players. The player starts by asking for a card he wants and offering a card in return. Other players may suggest other trades. Anything goes in the negotiations but all trades are by mutual consent and the actual cards exchanged must be acurately reported to the other players.

Playing On Packs

A pack with a numbered card on it may always be covered with a numbered card one value lower. Presumably you would only want to do this to your own pack.

Trump cards may also be played on the packs. The diagram shows the relationship between the trump cards and the numbered cards. It shows circles with the values of the numbered cards conected by lines with the names of trump cards. A trump card may only be played on a pack if it is on a line connected to the circle with the value of the card on the top of the pack. For example, if a deck has a 10 on it, one may play "Moon", "Universe" or "Aeon". Note that each trump card can be played on either of two numbered cards -- a lower number and a higher number.

When a trump card is the top card of a pack, the next card played on that pack must be one of the numbered cards the trump card connects to in the diagram. If the trump card was played on the lower number, the next card must be the higher number. If played on the higher number, the next card must be the lower number. For example, if there was a 10 on the pack and the player played the "Moon" on it, the next card would have to be a 7 because the "Moon" connects 10 to 7 on the diagram. If there was a 7 and someone played a "Moon" on it the next card would have to be a 10.

When there is a trump card played on the pack, the player can't play anything on the pack until the required number card is played.

It should be clear that a player will want to play trump cards that move from a higher number to a lower number on his own pack and trump cards that move from the lower number to a higher number on opponent's packs.

The Fool is a wild card and can represent any trump or number card in the deck.

Here is the diagram that governs trump card play. There are also tables tha summarize legal play. Use the one on the right to find what cards can be played on a trump card (remember that only one of these cards can be played in any given situation). Use the table on the left to find which trump cards can be played on a given numbered cards (and where it will lead to). It's perfectly legal to play a card on yourself that leads to a higher number or one on your opponent that leads to a lower card -- it just makes it harder for you to win! Also,remember that any number card can be played on a number card that is one greater.
Diagram that guides playing trump cards. Qabalah Diagram:
Game Digagram
Click for larger image
    Playing on trumps:
Trump Card Lower Value Higher Value
Magus 1 3
Priestess 1 6
Empress 2 3
Hero 2 4
Star 2 6
Chariot 3 5
Lovers 3 6
Lust 4 5
Hermit 4 6
Adj'ment 5 6
Hanged Man 5 8
Fortune 4 7
Death 6 7
Devil 6 8
Art 6 9
Tower 7 8
Emperor 7 9
Moon 7 10
Sun 8 9
Aeon 8 10
Universe 9 10
    Playing on numbers:
Number Card Trump Leads To
10 Aeon 8
10 Universe 9
10 Moon 7
9 Universe 10
9 Emeror 7
9 Sun 8
9 Art 6
8 Aeon 10
8 H'man 5
8 Devil 6
8 Sun 9
7 Moon 10
7 Emperor 9
7 Tower 8
7 Death 6
7 Fortune 4
6 Art 9
6 Devil 8
6 Adj'ment 5
6 Lovers 3
6 Priestess 1
6 Star 2
6 Hermit 4
5 Hanged Man 8
5 Adj'ment 6
5 Lust 4
5 Chariot 3
4 Fortune 7
4 Hermit 6
4 Lust 5
4 Hero 2
3 Magus 1
3 Empress 2
3 Lovers 6
3 Chariot 5
2 Hero 4
2 Star 6
2 Empress 3

Arbitrary Substitution Table

I haven't included the obvious substitutions ("High Priestess" for "Priestess" or "Magus" or "Magician") and your deck may have a completely different set of symbols. But for what it's worth, here are some substitutions for cards not show here.
In Rules Ryder Deck
Adj'ment Last Judgement
Aeon Justice
Art Temperance
Hero Hierophant
Lust Strength
Universe World