The Tarot Ė A Fortune Jigsaw Puzzle and Deck Set by Buffalo Games Inc.
Tarot Deck Art by Amerigo Folchi

Review by Teresa Michelsen

Tarot readers across the country are likely to receive this interesting tarot puzzle and deck set for Christmas this year, as it is being promoted by Barnes & Noble, along with a companion astrology puzzle. And who could resist such an interesting challenge? Not me, lover of puzzles that I am! Contained within the hexagonal package are a 1000+ piece puzzle, a 22-card tarot deck, and an instructional booklet explaining how to use the two together.

The puzzle itself is a nice challenge, about right for intermediate puzzle-lovers, and can be put together in a weekend of dedicated effort. The colors are pleasant and the background designs are beautiful. Set into the backgrounds of different colors are 10 colored boxes in which you place the tarot cards, once the puzzle has been assembled. These positions are loosely based on the Celtic Cross, somewhat rearranged to fit easily within the borders. Most of the remaining area is taken up by small sentences printed onto the puzzle, which form the pre-set interpretations of the cards. There are 44 interpretations for each of the 10 positions, one for each of the upright and reversed positions of the 22 major arcana.

Once you have put together the puzzle, you formulate your question and select a card from the deck. The cards themselves are printed on thick, shiny cardboard stock, more like a game piece than a card, and are very difficult to shuffle without having them fly all over. It is easier to spread them all out on a table, or simply choose one at a time from the stack loosely held in your hand. The card is placed in its position on the puzzle, and an arrow on the card shows which line to follow to find your interpretation. Then arrows on the puzzle lead you to the next position. In between, there may be a box with questions about the card you just drew and its interpretation, such as "Can you think of any upcoming events that might match the card you drew? How will you prepare differently for the future?"

The tarot deck itself is beautifully designed from an artistic standpoint, but often prominently lacking in traditional tarot symbolism. For example, the Devil card simply shows a devil with green wings in a circle, while underneath him the fires of Hell burn. The Star is a baffling image of a brick building with a golden star on top, with an angel playing a lute in the foreground. In some cases, new symbolism seems to have been inserted, such as in the Chariot, where a woman seated on a pedestal holding apples in either hand is being drawn across a lake by a pair of swans.

The interpretations on the puzzle often lack depth, not surprisingly, since there is little space for detailed descriptions. For example, for the Lovers card in Position Six, which is supposed to tell me what I need to know to be successful with respect to my question, the interpretation for the upright card is "your success depends on a good love life." Nothing about making good decisions or choices, which is more what I would more typically associated with this card. Most tarot readers are likely to be somewhat disappointed with the cards and the interpretations on the puzzle, but that doesnít mean you canít have fun with it or substitute your own interpretations to get more depth out of the reading.

The little booklet that is included is very well-written, and provides not only clear explanations of how to use the puzzle and deck, but some very thoughtful, if brief, discussions of tricky tarot issues. These include appropriate formulation of questions, yes/no questions, future predictions, and how to work with the cards you receive in a tarot reading. It even has an accurate history of tarot, which is highly unusual. In the back are frequently-asked questions, including how this might differ from a real tarot reading and where to go for more information. The authors (not identified or credited, unfortunately) recommend a variety of helpful web sites and books.

In spite of its shortcomings, I definitely recommend this as a fun gift for anyone interested in puzzles and tarot. The puzzle itself is half the fun, and the pleasing artwork is enough to make up for the lack of depth Ė itís a game, after all.

Teresa Michelsen (Thrysse) has been studying tarot cards for over 25 years, and is a teacher and professional reader. She contributes articles and discussion to several tarot lists and newsletters. Her tarot-related projects currently include completing her CTM requirements, teaching beginning and intermediate on-line tarot courses, maintaining a tarot website, and running a role-playing game for learning and experiencing the major arcana. In real life, she lives near Seattle with her husband and black cat Shadow, and is self-employed as an environmental consultant.

Images © 2001 Buffalo Games, Inc.
Review © 2002 Teresa Michelsen
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes