As a child, every Vietnamese new year my family would gather to play an old card game by the name of Tam Cúc. It is a simple card game, consisting of only 32 cards, two color ranks, and 7 suits in total. The simplicity of the game, as well as the uniqueness of the cards, is what has stayed in my memory since those new years parties and I decided I would reimagine the design of the card game I remember so fondly.
I started out with sketches of various concepts, varying from closely resembling the original illustrations of the cards to something completely different and very geometric in style. I was particularly drawn to the fourth of the concepts because it really drew from the roots of Vietnamese artworks, particularly a set of steel drums and pottery from ancient Vietnamese culture. I was fortunately enough to visit Vietnam in the summer of 2018 and view a lot of these pieces in person and record a lot of the unique patterns and style of the culture. Using photos I took as reference, I expanded the concept to the full set of cards.
REVISIONS AND SYSTEM DESIGN
Initially, I had started with the typical color palette of the Vietnamese flag but felt that the color scheme was too loud and made it difficult to see the distinct characters/suits within each card. I decided to pare it down further and use a simple red, black, and white color palette to align the game with more commonly known card decks and allow the players to more clearly see the differences between the suits. In the game, the first three suits (The General, The Scholar, and the Elephant) and following three suits (The Chariot, The Cannon, and The Horse) are grouped together as potentially winning combinations, so I created a system using the background pattern to make those groupings more easily recognizable between the different cards. The last suit (The Soldier) can only be paired with others of the same suit, so that card had its own background pattern as well.
For the back of the card, I had pulled the floral-like symbol from the original cards and used it as the center focus of the illustration. I felt that the symbol, though accurate to the original cards, was not aligned with the concept of pulling from Vietnamese inspirations. The direct translation of Tam Cùc is "Three Chrysanthemums" and I ended up creating a visual element that more appropriately depicted that name.
FINAL CARDS AND BOX DESIGN
Once all of the cards and illustrations for each were finished, I drew from the design of the card back and expanded it further for the front of the card box and fully utilized the pattern of lines across all panels of the box dieline. I made sure to include both translations of the game name on the box so that the name as well as the reimagined design of the cards could feel more accessible and easy to understand for future players. Ultimately, these cards will be produced and printed so I may hand it out as gifts to my family and hopefully teach my friends how to play the game I've carried with me from my childhood.