The Fair Tech Card Game
It’s Time to Play a New Game. In Turning Tables, underpaid factory workers trump Mark Zuckerberg, tech critics come to the rescue, and politicians are urged to step up and curb the power of Big Tech.
Turning Tables is a new card game that turns Big Tech into Fair Tech. It’s fun to play, and along the way you’ll turn the tables on Big Tech power and pick up inspiring ideas from critical thinkers.
The Turning Tables deck is an alternative to traditional decks that reflect medieval power structures. In some important ways our world is not so different from the middle ages: instead of the kings, queens and clans, we’ve now got big tech companies and their CEOs reigning supreme. Turning Tables invites you to engage this world in a critical way. While most of the deck follows the structure of a traditional deck (Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, and numerical cards), it has many additional features. For instance, using one of the 12 Good Jokers, players can activate an alternative power structure in which the face cards numbered 2, 3 & 4 have the highest value. These 12 Good Jokers are the authors, activists and creative thinkers who inspire us to use technology in a positive way, so we can reclaim our digital rights. The Good Jokers are the game changers: they have the power to turn the tables and give the upper hand to the people who currently have the least power. Once the tables are turned, a worker in an Amazon distribution centre can beat Jeff Bezos. But there are also 12 Bad Jokers. These Jokers represent the mechanisms that stand in the way of change. Playing a Bad Joker re-activates the traditional power structure and we are back where we started.
Get your copy
You can buy Turning Tables (€15) at our shop at IMPAKT [Centre for Media Culture] or at our webshop.
On this webpage you will soon find more information on the people featured in the Turning Tables card deck.
Gameplay, guide and rules
Introduction to the deck and the goal of the game
The cards in the deck
- 52 Value Cards
- 12 Good Jokers
- 12 Bad Jokers
- 4 Blanks
The deck explained
The deck contains two main types of cards: Value Cards and Jokers. The Value Cards are similar to a standard 52 card-deck, from the Ace and King down to the lowest value of 2. But in the Turning Tables deck, the lowest numbered cards (2, 3 & 4) are also face cards with characters on them. The characters on these Value Cards are the underpaid workers who work long hours under deplorable conditions to keep the world of Big Tech running, as well as users like you and me, who provide Big Tech with the data that generates billions of dollars for them. Besides the 52 Value Cards, the deck contains 12 Good Jokers and 12 Bad Jokers. Playing a Good Joker reverses the current power structure run by Big Tech and makes the characters on face cards 2, 3 & 4 the most powerful cards in the game. Playing a Bad Joker restores the “traditional” Big Tech power structure.
Number of players
This game is best played by three, four or five players, but it can also be played by two players or more than five players.
How to win a round
The player who played the highest-ranking Value Card wins a round and gets all the Value Cards played in that round. But the trick of this game is that you can reverse the value of the cards by using your Good and Bad Jokers in a smart way. In each round, playing a Joker can turn a high Value Card into a low Value Card (and vice versa) – turning the tables to produce an unexpected winner!
The value of the Value Cards
When a Bad Joker is active, we’re in the Old World, where the Big Tech power structure rules the game, and the hierarchy of the cards (from high to low) is: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
When a Good Joker is active, we’re in the New World, where the Fair Tech power structure rules the game. Here, the hierarchy is the reverse of the Old World hierarchy (from high to low): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
How to win the game
The game ends when the Bank is empty and all players have run out of Value Cards. The player with the largest number of Value Cards at the end of the game wins.
Game area on the table
The game area has three sections
- The Circle
- The Joker Box
- The Joker Dorm
Once the game has started, each player in turn places a card from their hand in the Circle, face up. The winner of each round takes all the cards from the Circle and adds them to their personal Win Stack.
Players play a Joker by placing it face up in the Joker Box. The Joker on the top is the active Joker, which determines the prevailing colour, suit and power structure (see ‘Using Jokers to reverse the power structure’).
After each round, the Jokers that were played in that round are placed in the Joker Dorm with the last active Joker face up on top of the stack. This Joker remains active as long as there are no Jokers in the Joker Box.
Starting the game
Dealing the cards for the first round and activating the first Joker
One player acts as a dealer and browsing through the open deck takes the first Bad Joker, and places it face up in the Joker Dorm. This opening Joker stays active until a new Good or Bad Joker is placed face up in the Joker Box. After selecting the opening Joker, the dealer shuffles the cards and then deals seven cards to each player, face down. The piles of seven cards remain face down.
Determining which player starts the game
Players agree on who will start the first round. The second round will be started by the player to the left of the player who started the first round, and so on. (It is possible to use the cards in the deck to determine randomly who starts the first game, see Alternative ways to play the game).
Definition of a ‘turn’ and a ’round’
The first player in a round starts their turn by playing a Value Card face up in their area of the Circle, or by first playing one or more Jokers followed by a Value Card. Directly after playing their cards, the first player refills their hand to seven cards by taking cards from the Bank. This ends the first player’s turn. The game continues clockwise with the next player. Once each player has played their turn, the round is over.
Using Jokers to reverse the power structure
A player can decide to play one or more Jokers before their Value Card. The Jokers played in one turn must always be of the same kind (Good or Bad). By playing a higher number of Jokers of the opposite kind to the active Joker(s) a player can switch the power structure. The high ranking cards in the Circle now become low ranking and the player can beat them with an appropriate Value Card.
Players may choose to play more Jokers than necessary to deactivate the active Joker(s) and make it more difficult to reverse the power structure again.
Using multiple Jokers
When a player plays multiple Jokers in the Joker Box they together become the active Jokers. The Joker that is put on top determines the trump suit. The number of active Jokers determines the strength of the active power structure.
Using Jokers to change the trump suit
The suit of the active Joker in each round determines which player wins if there is a tie. Players are allowed to play just one Joker (and not more than one) of the same kind (Good or Bad) as the active Joker to change the trump suit. The strength of the power structure depends on how many consecutive Jokers of the same kind (Good or Bad) are at the top of the Joker Box, so playing a Joker of the same kind as the active Joker keeps the current power structure active and makes it stronger, because a larger number of opposing Jokers are required to reverse it.
Jokers to the Joker Dorm
At the end of each round, all the Jokers in the Joker Box are placed in the Joker Dorm. The Joker on top remains active until, in the new round, one or more Jokers are played and placed in the Joker Box.
The power of the active Joker in the Dorm
The Joker that is on top in the Joker Dorm at the start of each round determines the active power structure and trump suit. Placing just one Joker of the opposite kind in the Joker Box is enough to reverse the power structure. Placing a Joker of the same kind in the Joker Box changes the suit and makes the current power structure stronger (opposing players now need to place two or more Jokers in the Joker Box to reverse the power structure).
Cards of equal value
When cards of equal value are played in any one round, the colour and the suit of the active Joker determine the winner of the round.
Here are some examples from a four-player game with the Good Joker of hearts active, meaning the New World power structure is in effect (2 highest, Ace lowest):
- Played cards in the Circle: Ace of hearts, 2 of clubs, 2 of hearts, 2 of diamonds.
Winner of the round: 2 of hearts.
Reason: 2 is the highest value in this New World power structure and the 2 of hearts is the only heart – the same suit as the active Joker.
- Played cards in the Circle: Ace of hearts, 2 of clubs, 3 of clubs, 2 of diamonds.
Winner of the round: 2 of diamonds
Reason: 2 is the highest value in this New World power structure and the 2 of diamonds is the only red card – the same colour as the active Joker.
- Played cards in the Circle: Ace of hearts, 3 of hearts, 2 of clubs, 2 of spades.
Winner of the round: No winner yet!
Reason: 2 of clubs ties with 2 of spades.
Tiebreaker: The player who was first to play the number card with the value of 2 wins the round.
Playing and ending the game
Before starting a new round
After each round is completed, the dealer removes all the Jokers from the Joker Box and places them face up in the Joker Dorm, making sure the active Joker from the previous round is on top. This Joker stays active until one or more Jokers are played into the Joker Box.
Starting a new round
The player to the left of the player who started the first round starts the second round, and so on.
Bank runs out of cards
As the game nears its end the Bank will run out of cards, and players will not be able to refill their hands to seven cards. Players continue to play with a lower number of cards.
Players run out of cards
Any player who runs out of Value Cards has to leave the game and wait for the others to finish. If the player has any Jokers left, the Jokers go to the bottom of the Joker Dorm stack, face up.
Ending the game
One after the other, players will run out of cards. The game ends when there’s only one player left. If the last player is still holding one or more Value Cards, they add them to their Win Stack. Any remaining Jokers must be placed at the bottom of the stack in the Joker Dorm, face up.
Determining the winner of the game
All players count the cards in their Win Stack. The player with the most cards has won the game.
Alternative ways to play the game
We recommend that you play your first game as described above, but here are some easy ways to alter the gameplay and make it even more exciting.
Alternative gameplay 1: extended rounds with a second turn
The player who opened the round can choose to extend the round by playing another card on top of their first card. This card must beat the winning card on the table. The player can of course also switch the power structure by playing the required number of opposite Jokers – or change only the trump suit by playing one Joker of the same kind as the active Joker(s) – before playing their Value Card.
In turn, all the other players must now play a second Value Card, with optional Joker(s). Any player without cards because the Bank has run empty cannot take part in this extended round, and cannot win it. The winner of the second turn wins all the Value Cards from this double round, and adds them to their Win Stack!
Alternative gameplay 2: the winner of a round gets only two Value Cards
If the game is played by three or more players, players can choose to let only two Value Cards go to the Win Stack of the winner of each round. The cards of the highest value in the New World (2, 3, etc) go back into the Bank. If there are two or more cards of the same highest value, the winner of the round can decide which card(s) go back to the bank. This rule applies as long as the bank can still refill all players’ hands to seven cards. After that, all the cards go to the winner of that round (standard rules). This way the chances of the game having an unexpected outcome are increased and the game will be more focussed on the people who currently have the least power in the world of Big Tech when it gets closer to the end.
Using blank cards to replace lost cards
The deck includes four blank cards. You can use them as replacements if you lose one of the other cards. Use a black or red marker to assign the value and suit of the lost Value Card or Joker to the blank card.
Using blank cards as Wild Cards
Before starting the game, players can agree to include one or more of the four blank cards in the game and allow them to be used as Wild Cards.
Option 1: Using a blank card as a Value Card
The player playing a blank card as a Value Card can choose its value and suit. All rules apply to this card as they would apply to a normal card of that value and suit, meaning that it can be beaten by a Value Card played by a subsequent player in the round.
Option 2: Using a blank card as a Joker
The player playing a blank card as a Joker can choose its suit and whether it is a Good Joker or a Bad Joker. The same rules apply to this card as a normal Good or Bad Joker.
Players can agree before the game to apply both options 1 and 2, or only one of the two.
All players will need to remember the value and suit of a blank card used as a Value Card or Joker. We recommend noting it on a piece of paper visible to all players.
Blank cards as additional Good Jokers
Blank cards can also be permanently added to the game as extra Good Jokers. Use red and black markers to put the Good Joker star symbol and its suit in the upper left and lower right corners of the card. You can also write the name and/or draw the face of your favourite tech critic, artist or activist on the card! Please make sure to assign a different suit to each additional Good Joker you create.
Fewer Bad Jokers
Players can also agree before the game starts to play with 8 Bad Jokers and 12 Good Jokers. The 4 Bad Jokers that are removed from the game should each have a different suit. This way chances are higher for Fair Tech values to prevail. And isn’t that what we all want?
Using the card deck to determine which player starts the game
The dealer gives each player one additional card. All players show their card to the other players. Players with a Joker get a new card from the Bank. The player with the lowest Value Card starts. Please note: since the Bad Joker is active, a 2 is the lowest possible value at this point. In case of a tie, each tied player gets a new card until one player has a lower Value Card than any other player. The dealer then places the cards used for this process back into the stack, shuffles them, and places all cards face down at the centre of the Circle, to form the Bank.
Players pick up their seven-card hands, and the game can start with the first round.
Turning Tables is produced by IMPAKT [Centre for Media Culture] in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Concept and development: Arjon Dunnewind
Design: Bram Buijs and Steven van der Kaaij (Hoax Amsterdam)
Research: Marina Eroshenko
Production assistant: Sophia Zwaveling, Aishwarya Kumar
Advisors: Harm Hofmans, Rachel Uwa, Imar de Vries, Rosa Wevers, Friso Wiersum, Jeroen Witjes
Feedback group: Lars Bleijenberg, Froukje van Dooren, Michelle Franke, Andrej Kapor, Bram Koning, Yejin Lee, Timo Meilof, Sabine Persijn, Daniela Tenenbaum
Editing: Steve Green
Funding: Creative Industries Fund NL, Democracy and Media Foundation, City of Utrecht, Fonds Cultuurparticipatie, Fonds SozioKultur.
For feedback, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
CODE – Reclaiming Digital Agency is a collaboration project initiated by IMPAKT. CODE brings together artists, non-artists, politicians, policy makers and researchers from various countries to engage in dialogue, critical discussion, and artistic intervention. Through CODE, we hope to influence public policy at a national and international level, by creating awareness for issues at hand, and by defining ways in which we can improve laws and legislation that will protect us as digital citizens and consumers. We want to inspire and facilitate cross-disciplinary collaborations with the potential to catalyse system change.
For more information on CODE go to code.impakt.nl