Introducing The Cryptoeconomic Tarot (v. 1.0)

A card game for the creation of cryptoeconomic systems.

Back in March of 2018, as part of my interview process for ConsenSys, I decided to test out my theory that game design provided a unique set of tools for understanding and creating cryptoeconomic systems. This also fit into my participatory design philosophy, through which I aim to make the world of crypto design more accessible to everyone. So, during the last week of March, I created a card game inspired by the tarot that could lead to the creation (competitive or cooperative) of cryptoeconomic systems.

The Tarot is currently in its 1.0 version. A rough prototype was created back in March 2018, and it has gone through two internal revisions before being publicly announced now.

The Cryptoeconomic Tarot consists of 42 pre-filled cards spanning 11 categories, and 8 cards that are blank and can be filled out by the players. The game can be played by a single person, collaboratively with others, or in direct competition with others. It was illustrated by Dámhín McKeown and designed by me. The card deck has a Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. That means you can use it to think through your projects, even if you are working for a commercial client, but I please ask that you do not sell the deck itself to anyone.

How A Play Session Works

The game is made of two components: the 50 card deck, and a “Tarot spread” blueprint.

Here are the instructions:

A) Write down in a piece of paper: “I want to incentivize (group of people) to stop/start/continue (action).” Replace the words within parenthesis with those of your choice.

B) Shuffle the cards, and put them in a pile in front of you, with the illustrations facing up. Spread them out so you can see them. Then, place an Objective card in the positions indicated on the spread (see above, before the instructions began).

C) Do the same with the rest of the cards shown in the Spread.

D) Once you have all of the positions of the Spread filled with cards, turn all of them so you can see the written information in each card.

E) Look at your original statement. Now start reading each of the cards out loud. Does this statement sound like a possible solution to your problem statement? If not, change cards where you need to for another one of their same category.

F) Continue refining your Spread. Do you need more Actors? Different Parameterization cards? Two types of Governance? What would really make for a cryptoecnomic solution to your problem?

Why I Created The Tarot

Beyond the sheer excitement of making a game about cryptoeconomics, the tarot represented an opportunity to give a tangible structure to my own knowledge in the field, as well as introduce concepts that I consider important to the way developers design crytoeconomic systems. Here are some of the most important contributions the Tarot has provided to the design of crypto systems:

  1. Developers are prompted to think about the creation of cooperative and/or competitive systems (and coopetive ones too). Humans like to cooperate, sometimes! Let’s create systems that encourage that too, since competition alone has not successfully solved all cryptoeconomic problems.
  2. An introduction to the idea of timeframes for the existence of actors in the system. By thinking about the timeline that an actor has in a system, crypto designers are challenged to think about the sustainability of the economy they wish to see in the world, in the present and the future.
  3. A basic categorization of actors. This way, we can begin to create a common, simple vocabulary for the roles that we give to humans in crypto systems.
  4. The governance methods in the deck are based on real-life democratic and non-democratic governance from all around the world. In this way, the Tarot does not seek to reinvent the wheel, and gives developers a chance to anchor themselves on systems that have (more or less) worked in the real world.
  5. Give cryptoeconomics a new face, at first staying away from words like “engineering” and “token”, and focusing instead on the playfulness of the game. On the way, I decided to give it an aesthetic that is usually linked to a mostly female practice: the tarot as part of the fantastic world of witchcraft.

Here’s a list of references for each of the categories. There’s a look into how the symbolism for each card category was created, too.

Next Steps

There have of course been other references for the creation of common vocabularies in token engineering, which to be honest I still have to analyze and integrate into the deck. Some include:

I’d also like to look into Radical Markets once more (since the book came out after I was done with the deck) and think about how to incorporate it to v. 1.1.

Finally, I want to delve deeper into Governance, perhaps making a deck extension just focused on it.

Stay tuned :)

How To Buy/Download (free)

Many people, inside and outside ConsenSys, have asked me how they can purchase the Cryptoeconomic Tarot. The truth is that so far I’ve only created two printed decks at cost and have displayed them sparingly, in international conferences. Now I want to open it up to everyone, so I have two proposals:

  1. If you’d like a printed copy, get in touch with me at hey (at) andreamoralescoto (dot) com. That way I can get an idea of actual demand. If you’re going all the way to sending me an email inquiring about printing, I’m guessing you’re very likely to buy it, and I’d be happy to make sure you get the best version available (and a sneak peek at the Governance extension!)
  2. You can download a high-res version of the deck (248 MB). The spread instructions in their highest resolution are in the image embedded in this article a little bit before.

Have fun and please tell me how your play sessions go! Tweet a photo of your game at me or comment right here.