- PLAY the MERCENARIUM, a beautiful game of strategy and subversion with several variants for 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up.
- SEEK inner truth with the DRAGONFRUIT cartomancy system.
- HEAR the HYMNAL, the mysterious music of a lost world.
- UNLOCK the CODEX, and discover the hidden meaning of the Anthromancer.
The Anthromancer is a tool for the creation of meaning. We believe that you can view the universe with wonder and find beauty hidden in all things, and we want to share that belief with you and those close to you. We believe that it is our connection to one another which makes our lives meaningful. We believe that each of us contains a spark from which our creativity can spill forth and bring light into the world. We believe that life should be fun. We believe that our short time on this earth should be spent together laughing, smiling, creating and enjoying ourselves in the company of those we love.
This box contains a new type of experience that harmonizes the enjoyment of a game, the pleasure of music, the natural curiosity of mysticism and the hunt for deeper meaning that exists within all of us. We encourage you to think outside of this box, and to view this not as a game or a system of symbols, but as a tool for creating your own experience and for expressing your own truths. We encourage you to experiment. We encourage you to ponder, to dig deeper, to share your ideas with those around you and to seek out and broaden your consciousness.
We believe that words and ideas can be arranged in such a way as to trigger an understanding in those who consume them. And we believe that attempting to trigger this change in others and in ourselves is the noblest goal we can aspire to. This is the Anthromancer. Be Moved.
WHAT IS THE ANTHROMANCER?
“Anthro,” from the Greek anthropos, means human, humanoid, or humanlike, especially with regard to sentience. “Anthro” can be found in terms such as anthropology (the study of humans) and anthropomorphism (humanization of the non-human).
The suffix “-mancy,” from the old French -mancie and the late Latin -mantia, means oracle, divination, seer, prophet, or soothsayer, and is related to the term “mania” (madness, frenzy).
"Anthromancer" is divination by means of humanity. We create the universe.
The Anthromancer is an experience packed with symbolism. It contains the hand-designed components necessary to play the board games of Mercenarium and Solitarium, to perform Dragonfruit cartomancy readings, and to listen to the full-length concept album known as the Hymnal. It also hides a riddle for the most eager of players to unlock the deeper symbolism, meaning, and emotional significance hidden within the other elements.
The Anthromancer comes in a small box that is light and thin enough to fit in nearly any backpack, laptop bag, or purse. It contains a striking folding board, a deck of 71 beautifully illustrated cards, 3 unique dice and a 50+ page Codex that will outline how to play games and perform cartomancy readings with the included components. It also contains a small USB flash drive which contains a full-length concept album and a mysterious .exe file that hints at the deeper meanings of the project.
We expect to retail this product for $35 US. We want you to be able to walk into a games store with two $20 bills, and walk out with our product and a little pocket change.
We are very nearly finished with the under-the-hood development of the product itself. The album has been completely recorded and fully mastered by Patrick Crecelius of Cedar Box Studio. The art assets are crafted and finalized, with the exception of some minor style edits, thanks to the tireless and beautiful work of Sean Calen Blake. The hidden computer program component is being put together by TJ Hughes of Terrifying Jellyfish and is over halfway complete, and we expect it to be finished by the time the Kickstarter concludes. His visuals are being included in a series of music videos that are being released to promote this crowdfunding campaign, directed by Ben Vogelsang of Idea Machine Productions.
The hidden components of the riddle have been composed and delivered by DJs Never Ending Story, and they sound fabulous. We have a working prototype of the board and cards that has been showcased to several groups of testers. Early feedback has been very positive for both the board game and cartomancy readings, and we are ready to move forward with mass production. In other words, we’re ready. If you’re ready to be a part of the Anthromancer, pledge now and you’ll soon be enjoying this one-of-a-kind experience.
A STATEMENT FROM THE DIRECTOR
This project started out as an impulse: just a simple, childlike desire to make a card battle game with me and my friends. As time went on, problems arose, and the impulse at the beginning started to warp and change. I never abandoned it; I just kept trying to find ways around the new problems, ways to pivot, redesign, and incorporate elements I know and love into this weird thing. I tried not to impose any restrictions on my creativity. As it grew and changed, and as it seemed to call for the involvement of other artists and creators, I had the blessing of running a successful pancake art company (Dancakes) with my best friend, Hank Gustafson, and I had the resources I needed to enlist these people. I decided that I had to convince Hank that the enterprise was worth it, or that I wouldn’t move forward at all. This turned out to be quite the boon. It forced me to think tangibly, realistically, like an entrepreneur. I never lost sight of the fact that, eventually, all these crazy ideas would need to be condensed into something palatable for the average person. The geometry and symbolism incorporated in the Anthromancer is a direct manifestation of the things that I find most fascinating about the world. There is beauty everywhere around us; clear indications of deeper order and meaning. We must simply choose to notice it. After three years of development, that game I envisioned so long ago has turned into a multimedia ensemble. What was originally designed as a “card battle” game has turned into an elaborate combination of card game, concept album, and mystical divination tool, altogether entertainment unlike anything you have ever seen. It is an amalgamation of the incredible talents of a bevy of fantastically talented St. Louisans. The gorgeous art and the exotic designs have moved me in ways I’ve never thought possible, and I am proud to have reached the point where we can share our crazy ideas with the world. I hope this project will move you, too. Thank you.
SUPPORT LOCAL ARTISTS
We expect to spend roughly $30k on the board game itself, $10k on other backer rewards, and $10k paying our artists. Our artists have been paid up front, and the funding amount dedicated to them will be used for our reimbursement. We very strongly believe in profit sharing, and all of our artists, designers, and staff that have contributed to the art, the music, the design, and other developmental components of the Anthromancer will be receiving a royalty in perpetuity (forever!). We believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that our business model should reflect our desire to help those who have helped us. All of the artists involved in this project are St. Louis natives, with the small exception of two of the performers hired to appear in promotional music videos. We believe strongly in representing your hometown, and hope to make our neighbors and friends proud with the success of this project.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
The Anthromancer comes in a small box but is bursting with content. It's more than just a board game; it's a tool for adventure. It contains many kinds of entertainment linked together in fascinating ways. It's beautiful to look at, and was designed and illustrated by Sean Calen Blake, under the direction of Daniel Drake.
MERCENARIUM is an exotic board game of strategy and subversion for 2 to 4 players. An otherworldly combo of chess, poker, and dominoes, this game blends classical elements into something alien and alive. Players take turns placing or 'summoning' cards onto the field, then move them around strategically in an attempt to capture their opponents. Some of your cards are Mercenaries, whose allegiance can be bought by your opponents. On top of that, everyone starts the game with one Hymn (and there's fifteen in total, all with unique effects) that can be called upon to bring down powerful changes in the flow of gameplay.
MERCENARIUM CLASSIC is a more strategy-based game that omits the use of the Hymn cards. This game is simple and elegant variation of the original that allows for more precision when making strategic decisions. For 2 to 4 players.
SOLITARIUM is an explosive solitaire challenge. You deal the deck out into every space and search for matches between cards. Bigger combos earn you a bigger bonus; the object of the game is to clear the deck with the best bonus after every round. There's a lot of room to create other variations and new games with Anthromancer.
DRAGONFRUIT. In addition to games, the Anthromancer can be used to perform cartomancy, more commonly known as Tarot. Each card in the deck was designed with specific meaning intended, creating a web of symbolism that can be used to reflect truths from within the self. The board, the cards, and the dice allude to the sacred geometry of the classical elements, and the Dragonfruit system blends several layers of mysticism into an integrated whole.
HYMNAL. Included within the Anthromancer on a small USB drive, the Hymnal is a full-length concept album that blends ethereal synths, universal themes and simple, infectious beats to illustrate the meanings of the Hymns. The 13-track, 55-minute album was composed by a host of talented St. Louis artists and remixed/mastered by Patrick Crecelius of Cedar Box Studio. It provides a completely new dimension through which to appreciate the art, meanings, and effects of the Hymn each track represents.
THE HYMNAL PROTOCOL. In addition to the musical album, the USB drive also contains a .exe file known as the Hymnal Protocol. This program allows users to access an interactive visualizer designed by TJ Hughes of Terrifying Jellyfish. It's meant to be used with the music of the Hymnal. Each node possesses different colors, effects and functions based upon the elemental themes of the associated music.
THE RIDDLE. Contained within each component of the Anthromancer are clues and hints at something deeper, that the avid or especially observant user may stumble upon while enjoying their product. But that is all we can say for now.
EXTRAS. For generous backers who decide to pledge a little more, we have also created a limited-edition t-shirt, an Art Book (with high-res images all of Sean's illustrations, plus scans and backstory from Dan's notebook of secrets), a limited edition Hymnal Pendant (containing a jump drive so you can wear the music around and give it to people), and signed prints of your favorite cards from the deck.
A VISION YEARS IN THE MAKING
This project started out as nothing more than an impulse, a leftover spark of curiosity from my childhood. I remembered the card battle games with their TV show tie-ins and brightly-colored characters, and felt like I’d like to design my own sometime. I was on an airplane flying to a pancake art gig when the itch came back to me, and decided to take out my notebook and tinker with ideas instead of ignoring it. After a week or two of experiments, I decided that a card battle game would be a pretty hard sell, especially to my business partner, Hank, who keeps me from spending all of our money on frivolous things. Even if you find the resources and the connections necessary to design, illustrate, and playtest such a huge undertaking as a card battle game, even if you make it to market with a product that’s actually kind of fun, then you’ve got to compete with Magic The Gathering. Most people don’t have the time, energy, or interest necessary to dive into anything that involves deck building. And yet I still had this itch. I was disheartened for a moment, and I distinctly remember being very conscious of the fact that I had a decision to make. Either I could bail and go back to my other projects, or I could continue chewing on the idea and try to figure something out.
I returned to the drawing board, imbued with a new sense of purpose. This time, I started by asking myself questions. No card battle game? Why not? Because they’re too complicated, expensive, and intimidating to new players. What kind of games aren’t intimidating? What kind of games do I play, do I enjoy? I thought of the enormously popular strategy game, Settlers of Catan. But then, I had to concede that despite my love of that game, I neither own it, nor play it often. Well, why not? Because I never have $60 lying around when I end up in a game store. Plus, it takes a while to set up and play, and just looking at all the components sometimes makes my anxiety flare up.
Okay, so what games do I own, what games do I play? I thought of Hive, a simple strategy game that a friend hand made me a copy of, something that fits in my pocket and you can play at a coffee shop without looking like a lunatic. I thought of chess, and poker, of dice and dominoes. I thought of creating some kind of card battle game with a strategic movement element. Perhaps a grid? But then, how to balance the deck? I decided I didn’t want to worry about deck building, which meant everyone would have to draw from the same pile---but how can you balance something like that? I realized that a classical deck of playing cards works and has worked for so long because it is perfectly balanced. Four suits, 13 cards each. You have the same chance as anyone else of drawing a good hand.
I continued to hack, and sculpt, and question my decisions until I had a 5x5 grid and 52 tiles like Mahjong. I borrowed the north-south-east-west attack values from a minigame in Final Fantasy 8, called Triple Triad. After a few plays I realized that tiles were very unwieldy and hard to carry around, so I switched to square cards. At this point, I’d come up with some neat sounding suits: The Cogs, The Souls, The Blades, and the Fangs. A few months later, the Cogs had become the Gears (so as to avoid potential phallus-related homophone comedy) and the Fangs turned into the Claws. I wanted each suit to start with a different letter and have distinct colors. Initially, the colors were Red, Blue, Yellow and Green.
Now that I had a basic system, and was able to have a little fun with my roommates playing this curious and surprisingly deep board game, I started to think about the aesthetics. How would these cards look? How could I use the suit names to inform the art, the design? I spent a lot of time thinking about that distinct but arcane aesthetic that classical board games all seem to have. It’s all so minimal. Nothing is dressed up much more than it needs to be, except for maybe the court cards. I reached out to my designer, Sean Calen Blake, who was responsible for creating the logos of my band and our company, Dancakes. This time, though, I wanted his own creative voice to show through. I didn’t want a rigid and corporate logo. I wanted beautiful, fluid illustrations in his own trademark style.
As I started researching the history of these games, trying to find out why things were designed the way they were, I uncovered something deeper than I expected: Playing cards are direct descendants of original tarot cards, back before they were used for divination by mysterious, smoky fortune tellers. Immediately, I thought, that’s neat. Can I use that? Hundreds of hours and cups of coffee later, after becoming the temporary resident of a handful of St. Louis coffee shops (Kaldis, Hartford, Foundation Grounds, among others), and after a lot of googling, all kinds of weird patterns started to show up and make themselves known. I found that the classical suits of a deck of cards go hand in hand with the four classical elements. I found out that the classical elements go hand-in-hand with the platonic solids, which I’d always known as the dice you use to play Dungeons & Dragons.
I started to dive into Eastern and Western mysticism, and found an eerie correlation with these classical elements and the chakras of the human body, the colors of the rainbow, and the whole tones of a musical scale. My almost-too-perfect sources discovered, I set to work. At this point, some of the unrelated music I’d been working on suddenly seemed strangely related to this project. I’ve always been fascinated with sacred geometry, numerology, mysticism, and pattern recognition. I filled notebooks with shapes, patterns, designs, lists, charts, graphs, curious thoughts and realizations, and started to see a really compelling way in which I could create an entirely original system of divination through music. My mantra throughout this project’s development was “How cool would it be if….” Whenever I had a new or exciting idea, I would write it down and tinker with it, rather than shut it down immediately. And more often than not, I could find places for all of those ideas.
That first decision not to quit, back when it was still a card battle game, kept coming up and I kept deciding not to quit. To stay with and bend and carve and sculpt my ideas instead of deciding what I was making in advance. I just let the ideas flow out of me. I wasn’t worried about making a deadline. I learned how to have faith that, when it was ready, I would know. And if I was still changing things, making big alterations and redesigning ideas from the ground up, then it wasn’t ready. This naturally caused some stress in my business partner, Hank, who was an excellent litmus test of the validity of my ideas. If I could convince him something was worth it, then it probably was. So many times he told me I would eventually have to stop changing everything all the time, but he also backed off and allowed me the freedom to continue to add, change, and rework as I saw fit.
The Major Arcana called out to become a tracklist. It helped that I'd already tried to give my music files eerie, neologistic titles that carry a synesthetic imagery to them. But a tracklist of 22 was far too lengthy. I noted that each suit has 13 cards, and started to clue into the significance of the number 13 throughout mystical traditions. The Fruit of Life particularly drew my attention, and I realized that I was going the right direction. This love-affair with ancient symbolism became the theme of the rest of the development process, and the more I tried to squeeze symbolic concepts into this, the more I had to work with within it. If I decided that the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, are all somehow enchanted (not to mention Fibonacci numbers), I started to realize that these numbers are simply everywhere. From there, I picked and chose which symbols best suited my needs---which ones are the most eerie, which ones are the most fascinating or poetic.
As the project became deeper, so, too, did my ambitions deepen to complete it. I spent most of the development process in a state of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, as the US presidential elections unfolded and I allowed myself to be whipped around by media smokescreens and nasty internet arguments with loved ones. Anthromancer, for me, was machiavellian for a long time. I wanted to manipulate the world into doing my bidding. I wanted to do it by projecting a self-awareness into the project, by leaning on this creepy symbolism. I was coming from a dark, fearful, selfish place, and that was reflected in the art and intention. But, as with everything else in the project, that thesis began to change. As we came through the elections and I realized what I’d been doing to myself; as I began to revisit some of the spiritually curious parts of myself I’d been ignoring, as I started to read lots of interesting and affirming books on the mind, the spirit, psychology and the wonders of the universe, who I was started to come back into focus. I had been lost in a dark confusion, and I was finally starting to feel the relief that comes with that.
I realized then that I did not want this projection of control, this dark manifestation to be my legacy. Anthromancer couldn’t be that. It wasn’t finished. But so much of the music had come from this place. I realized that, for me, the lyrics and the energies of the album and the symbolism carries a lot of parallels to my journey as a person. My transition from being unaware, to painfully aware, to accepting of my place and my continued search for meaning and balance. I was going to release this as some kind of “artifact,” with a concocted story about how our corporation had discovered this box under the ice, in the ruins of Atlantis. But the more I realized what I really wanted out of this, the more absurd that cover story began to seem. Sure, it was cool, it was creative, it felt interesting. But it wasn’t genuine. If there’s anything I’ve learned since I began this, it’s that being genuine makes a difference. This artifact didn't come from space. It came from my brain, with the help of a lot of very talented and wonderful friends that I've had the good fortune to meet over the last few years. I'm not remarkably special or different than anyone else. My strength lies in my willingness to tell myself "yes" when the world would have me say no instead. I try to be honest with myself, with those closest to me, and with the world, and doing so has resulted in the most interesting piece of art I've ever had a hand in making. Thank you for reading. I genuinely hope that you will become a part of the Anthromancer as well.
YOUR PLEDGE, YOUR REWARD
When this campaign concludes, we anticipate earliest deliveries of this product to our backers sometime in February of 2018. Digital components will be available much sooner than that, and everyone who backs this project at the $10 tier or above will have access to the music and the print-and-play edition of the product, as well as the digital codex, allowing you to enjoy the Anthromancer while you wait for your physical copy to arrive.
THANK YOU TIER ($1) Thank you for supporting the Anthromancer! We can't do it alone, and every little bit helps.
AIR TIER ($10) Get access to the digital compenents of the Anthromancer in its entirety. This includes print-and-play files, the entire album, and the Hymnal Protocol .exe file. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of September 2017.
VOID TIER ($20) Get the limited edition T-shirt and sticker to show the world that you helped make Anthromancer a reality. AIR TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018.
EARTH TIER [EARLY BIRD I] ($25) Thank you for being an early contributor! Your faith in us and our product is invaluable, and we deeply appreciate your support! Get the retail edition of the Anthromancer before the rest of the world! AIR TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018. Limited to 100 backers.
EARTH TIER [EARLY BIRD II] ($30) Thank you for being an early contributor! Your faith in us and our product is invaluable, and we deeply appreciate your support! Get the retail edition of the Anthromancer before the rest of the world! AIR TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018. Limited to 200 backers.
EARTH TIER ($35) Get the retail edition of the Anthromancer before the rest of the world! This includes the board, the cards, the special dice, the 50+ page codex and the USB drive with the digital album and hymnal protocol, all house in a beautiful box that looks great on a shelf or coffee table. Also includes early access to the digital assets, so you can familiarize yourself with the games while you wait for your product to arrive. AIR TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018.
WATER TIER ($50) Get the Anthromancer, all of its contents, access to digital assets, and a limited edition T-shirt and sticker. EARTH TIER and VOID TIER are included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018.
FIRE TIER ($80) Get all the components of the lower tiers, plus a gorgeous art book (with Sean's illustrations and scans from Dan's notebooks), a beautiful Fool and Fox USB pendant, and a signed, numbered print of your favorite card from the deck. WATER TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018.
AETHER TIER [DRAGONFRUIT] ($500) Learn your past, present, and future as Dan Drake, director of the Anthromancer, spices up your party or event with 3 hours of Dragonfruit tarot card reading. Airfare and travel expenses are not included in the pledge amount, and may incur additional cost depending on your location. FIRE TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of June 2018. Limited to 10 backers.
AETHER TIER [MERCENARIUM] ($1,200) You and up to 9 friends have will have a great time as Dan Drake and Hank Gustafson will read your fortunes and play/teach all game types of Mercenarium for 3 hours. As a party favor, each of your friends will go home with their very own boxed copy of Anthromancer. Airfare and travel expenses are not included in the pledge amount, and may incur additional cost depending on your location. FIRE TIER (x1) and EARTH TIER (x9) are included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of June 2018. Limited to 10 backers.
AETHER TIER [HYMNAL] ($7,500) Experience the music of The Anthromancer with a live performance of the Hymnal in concert by Dan Drake and his band at your home, business, or school! A rider contract is required. Airfare and travel expenses are not included in the pledge amount, and may incur additional cost depending on your location. FIRE TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of June 2018. Limited to 3 backers.
COSMOS TIER ($10,000) Get your hands on the original, one-of-a-kind Anthromancer notebook, handwritten by project creator Dan Drake throughout the development of the Anthromancer. A veritable Mentaculus of sacred geometry and alien mathematics, or merely the scrawling of a madman? You decide. FIRE TIER is included within this tier. You can expect to receive your rewards for this tier by the end of February 2018. Limited to 1 backer.
AWARDS FOR THE ANTHROMANCER
Anthromancer was named one of the PixelPop Select at the PixelPop Festival 2017.
"Congratulations! Based on several criteria including game design, aesthetic polish, event presentation, attendee feedback, and originality, our jury at PixelPop Festival 2017 selected Anthromancer as among the show’s most noteworthy projects exhibited."