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  • Writer's pictureThomas Cardwell

PNW: Card Games Inspired by the Pacific Northwest

I've been hard at work on a new project over the past two years, and I'm thrilled to share it with you. I'll be launching a Kickstarter next month!

What is it?

This is PNW: Card Games Inspired by the Pacific Northwest, a collection of six modern card games in a fully illustrated hardcover book.

All you need is a deck of cards and whatever tokens you have lying around to hunt with a pod of orcas, forage for tasty mushrooms, brave the swift rivers of the salmon run, and more.

A hardcover book opened to a pencil sketch of a ridge trail overlooking a lake.
Pack your bag and go hiking in Trail.

What's inside?

There are six games in the book that all require a standard deck of cards. Each of the games is built around a PNW theme with a different player count. Each game also has an associated complexity rating relative to the other games in this book. I believe there is something in here for many kinds of gameplay experiences, but all of the games (even the higher complexity) are intended to be approachable, especially to those familiar with card games or board games.

Forage — Set collection

Players: 2-8 — Complexity: 1

Collect sets of mushrooms by moving your token around a grid of cards (the forest) and swapping cards into your hand. The closer you are to winning, the more cards you play revealed; a notorious forager is an observed forager.

The PNW book nestled into a tree with moss growing to its left.
Okay, you caught me—I did just find the book in a forest.

Trail — Drafting

Players: 3-4 — Complexity: 2

Pack your bags and plan your trek. Select cards from a shrinking number of options, then move as far as you can with the supplies you've packed, visiting landmarks along your trek before turning back.

Orca Isles — Worker placement

Players: 3-6 — Complexity: 2

As a pod of orcas, gather prey and hunt in the wooded isles of the PNW, competing for the tastiest morsels. Place orcas at randomized hunting grounds, making three-card-poker hands against competing orcas.

Important note: affectionately known as a "worca-placement game". 

Book held up by me, showing interior artwork of whales hunting salmon under sea, with surrounding game text.
Aren't they just the cutest vicious predators you know?

Cabin by the Sea — Solitaire

Players: 1 — Complexity: 3

Build a cabin using materials around you. Each turn, choose to build from the supply, the beach, or the card washed ashore for the round. Utilize your resources in the proper order to build your abode without losing too many cards to the sea. Finally, look around and take in the ocean air from your completed cabin by the sea.

Salmon Run — Deck building

Players: 2 — Complexity: 4

Find your way as a salmon traversing the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Brave the sea, the river, and the stream to return to where you were born, adapting to each environment to reach your destination. Start with a small deck of three cards and add to your deck over time to satisfy each round’s objective—i.e. "play three pairs"—racing your opponent back to the spawning grounds.

Signal Fire — Team trick-taking

Players: 4 — Complexity: 5

Communicate successfully with your teammate by sending signals across the ridge and the valley. Take tricks in different locations on a grid of cards, moving your token according to card values. While listed as the most complex, fans of trick-taking games such as hearts or bridge will find the core of this game familiar, with the twist of movement and a randomized map of trump suits.

PNW book on wet rock with crashing waves behind.
Of course I wasn't nervous to put my only product sample on this rock; why do you ask?

Who is it for?

I believe that people who enjoy the following will have a great time with this book:

  • card games, modern board games, or beautiful books

  • games that are compact and can easily be played at a family dinner, popped in a bag to go out with friends, or brought on a camping trip

  • supporting local, independent creators

  • a taste of the Pacific Northwest, wherever you are

  • games that don't have fifty component types and four decks to construct

  • games that do have fifty component types and four decks to construct (sometimes we're the same people; don't @ me)

  • giving gifts to people that like those things^

One of my goals with the project was to make a variety of modern board game concepts accessible to a wide range of people. For instance, I've now playtested the same deck-building game with my in-laws and with a tabletop game convention crowd (mutually exclusive groups, in my case), and I'm pretty satisfied that both camps seem to sincerely enjoy the games in this book. I've received more than one call from my in-laws on a Friday night exclusively to ask about some rules to one of the games they are in the middle of trying to play, and I'm excited to give them a complete rulebook for all the games (but keep calling, Tracey, I appreciate your enthusiasm)!

When can I get it?

I'm launching a Kickstarter in early March to get some support for a manufacturing run. You can currently preview the Kickstarter and sign up to receive an email when it launches (it helps me a bit on the platform if you sign up before the launch).

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter (@tomcardgames) for more frequent updates on the project!

PNW book on a gravel path through some dense trees, dappled with light.
"This lighting never works on people" - Megan Shinner


The book has been brought to life by Megan Wyreweden's illustrations and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her (visit her shop). The interior art is brimming with character and whimsy, and the cover art is absolutely eye-catching. And it's all been captured beautifully in the photos by Megan Shinner.

I am also grateful to all the incredible playtesters who have helped me hone the games. Almost one hundred unique playtesters have given feedback in over five hundred playtests.

Most of all, I'm grateful for my wife. She is my champion: my biggest fan and my biggest critic (she's the editor).

My cute wife in a corduroy bomber jacket standing with me and the PNW book on some wooden stairs in a forest.

More coming soon; thanks to everyone along for the ride!


Fun games of the week:

This is an unintentional trick-taking edition, I suppose—you can blame my friends Erich and Paige.

  • Sail, a two-player, cooperative, trick-taking game with modular obstacles and objectives.

  • Ghosts of Christmas, a competitive trick taking game where you play three tricks at once (past, present, and future), with some fun twists based on the outcome of each of the three tricks per round.

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