More of a poker deck with a set of Major Arcana cards included, the Dishonored tarot is a step sideways to a different world. Unfortunately there’s no white rabbit or cheshire cat to guide you on your journey with this deck. If you’re a fan of the setting, this could be a useful tool or prop. As a divinatory tool there’s a lot of work to be done on behalf of the reader to make it work.
A simple tuckbox. Nothing special here. My original box separated at the long side seam and is held together with some clear packing tape at the moment. I’m keeping an eye out for an appropriate new container. This deck calls for a wrapping of faded and frayed linen, and a creepy pine box to keep it in. Maybe with crystals and a tiny rat skull or two to keep it company.
The Book? What book?
No book! Just two additive cards to round out the card count, with some details on the deck and a game called Nancy which is an in-universe card game in the Dishonored universe, yet I can’t really understand how its’ played. There’s a set of scoring rules, and a list of ‘sets’ that have special scoring rules, but no base how-to-play instructions included. I found some online (more on that later), but the lack of even a Little White Book to explain the deck and its metaphors is a real drawback and letdown.
The cards themselves are tall for their width. I’d almost call them ‘lanky’ at 4.7” x 2.5”, which makes them narrower than a common tarot card and slightly shorter, while an inch and a quarter longer than a poker or baseball card for the same width. I have to assume this is a thematic and stylistic choice, giving room for the portrait-style artwork for the courts and majors while also implying they come from a different world with different standards than our own.
Speaking of the artwork: all the majors are full-body character portraits save for one ‘World’ card; the court cards are double-half-portraits like one would expect from a Poker deck; and the pip cards are symbols and numbers only. The four minor suits are: black Rats, red Skulls, red Swords and black Pistols. There’s no correlation between the suits minor here and those of a traditional Tarot deck. I gather that’s not really a part of this ‘tarot’ deck. The suits are relevant to the world of Dishonored and any additional inference you’ll have to add on your own.
The Court cards come in Kings, Queens, Commoners and Jacks. The half-portraits are mirrored above/below like classic Poker cards. There’s color-coordination between the suites. However these characters are just hints of characters; they’re not named characters from the Dishonored universe. You’re welcome to ascribe traits and personality to these people if you wish to.
The 22 Major cards don’t follow a traditional Tarot structure either. They’re archetypes of people within the Dishonored world with a short label for context. Some of those contexts are ‘personal’ like “the Boatman,” “the Lady,” or “The Witch”, while others are not, “Lust,” “Judgment,” and “Regret” for example. The characters depicted and their context labels make sense if you’ve played the game or otherwise know the world of Dishonored, but if you didn’t then you don’t know why the little girl is labeled “Judgment” or why there are two men depicted on the “High Overseer”. Then again, you wouldn’t have picked up this deck if you didn’t know something about the setting or wanted to learn.
Reading with this deck
It’s pretty clear this is more a ‘playing’ deck than a ‘reading’ deck. The lack of imagery and associations for the minors means the reader must do a lot more work to use them for divination. The Majors are more symbolic of players and archetypes in the Dishonored world without the situational meanings of half the Majors in a traditional Tarot: there’s no Tower moments, no Stars. Judgment is one specific character’s perspective on another’s actions. The meanings and modes of interpreting this deck are a major shift from what one could expect from a RWS tarot.
A game of Nancy
Maybe it was described in-game via a book or other interactable object, but there’s nothing that comes with the deck that describes how to play ‘Nancy.’ However a quick internet search revealed https://dishonored.fandom.com/wiki/Game_of_Nancy which describes the game in detail. It’s a pity that the fanbase had to make available the rules on how to play Nancy. I first expected a Poker-like game of wheeling and dealing, but Nancy is far more complicated than that. It uses the entire deck, majors and all, and has a number of high-scoring combinations. One of the two reference cards included in the deck summarizes the scoring combinations in Nancy, but the basics of playing this in-universe card game aren’t included in the deck.
More so than many ‘in-universe’ tarot decks, the Dishonored tarot and divination deck represents the world it comes from and requires a paradigm shift in thinking to use. The lack of a LWB or other guidebook means the reader really needs to know the world and setting of Dishonored in order to make much use of this deck aside from a prop.
I give the Dishonored playing and divinitory cards deck 3 out of 5 stars.