What do Armenian coffee grounds and strategy card gameplay have in common? Not much before Dave Davignon and Armine Tahmassian of Mek Mek Games put their brains together to weave a delightfully intricate and interactive narrative of fortune telling and 14th century Persian poetry. The Cranston couple has been developing Hoki, a solitaire game that incorporates both strategy and luck, for the past four years – and now their growing following can make a pledge to help fund it.
Named after the Armenian word for “soul,” Hoki isn’t your ordinary deck of cards. An optometrist by day, visual artist Tahmassian hand-drew a range of imagery in black ink influenced by her Armenian culture. She then digitally colored each miniature canvas to form the foundation of the inventive solitaire experience.
“In Hoki, the pictures in each card have symbols that point to different fortunes,” explains Davignon. “If you clear the deck, you will receive a fortune and guidance.” The game is infused with traditions ranging from Armenian coffee cup reading to Klondike solitaire, in which “you can put something in your mind as you play, and if you win, that thing will come true. This is called ‘Opening your Fate.’”
Until you open the box and begin to play, Hoki is intentionally mysterious. “The story is designed to reveal strategies in an entertaining way and help folks realize them on their own,” says Davignon. “We’ve never
encountered a game that has room for something like this and we couldn’t help but build on it.” A musician and video editor and producer, Davignon offers a glimpse of the mood with a video on their website of a shrouded woman tempting the viewer with the promise of becoming a seer.
Many mechanics of the game will be familiar to the avid tabletop enthusiast – yet not intimidating to novice players. Davignon explains, “It’s a non-builder style solitaire game like Accordion, which is based on matching and other choices rather than sequencing the cards by rank. One game of Hoki takes five minutes. You have to make the right choices to increase your chances of discarding every card in the deck.”
Here’s the fun part for gaming junkies: Hoki uses a legacy system. “Each time you win, your deck transforms a bit,” says Davignon, “until finally you transform your whole deck and unlock a book that gives you a fortune every time you win. You will have become a ‘Seer’ and can forever use the game to tell your fortune!”
If strategy isn’t your forte, there’s still a chance you can win simply by making lucky choices, but the duo tweaked traditional solitaire gameplay somewhat to stack the statistics in favor of those who give it a little thought. But Hoki doesn’t aim to ostracize – the “teacher” character in the game makes for a nice foray into modern tabletop gaming and legacy systems for the uninitiated. “Folks who haven’t played many games don’t know what this experience is like. This was partially our mission, to show this to a wider audience,” says Davignon.
For Davignon and Tahmassian, Hoki has been an opportunity to flex their skills and develop new ones in the creative sphere. “Reflecting back is almost like seeing the curvature of the earth,” relays Davignon. “You know it is huge but the scale is too big to comprehend when you’re close to it.” And if the fortunes are in their favor,
production is on the horizon.
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