Well this is exciting, my first official tarot card deck review! I was drawn to the Steampunk Tarot Deck by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell because I’ve always loved the steampunk style. I played an Alchemist with a steampunk bent in our Dungeons and Dragons game last summer, and miss her terribly (she got wiped out in a TPK.) But, I digress.
So what is steampunk? It’s a fusion of industrial Victorian style with a futuristic sci-fi vibe, with steam-powered machines and gears and gizmos, and a little bit of alchemy thrown in for good measure. I’ve seen it called retrofuturistic, which is a great evocative description.
Since I love the steampunk aesthetic, I was immediately drawn to this deck when I saw it, and even more delighted to find it available in an inexpensive “mini” version. I was, however, a little surprised by just how “mini” it is! I have a Rider-Waite-Smith deck in a tin that’s the size of standard playing cards, which is what I was expecting from this one, but the mini-steampunk deck is about 3/4 of that size. So they’re quite tiny, but that just makes them super easy to shuffle and very portable to carry around with you.
As far as the deck itself is concerned, I absolutely love the images. LOVE them! The whole deck has a bit of a dark, noir vibe, though some of the images are quite playful. The colours are rich and vibrant with a beautiful use of light and shadow, and some of the cards are so evocative that they just cry out to tell a story. And it has a hint, just a hint and not enough to be obnoxious, of a girl power vibe that I definitely appreciate.
I don’t love everything about this deck, though. The court cards didn’t really wow me, and even though each image has the icon of its suit, I didn’t feel much of the energy of each element in the court cards. The pages especially I wanted to have more of the flavour of their suits, and I found it hard to differentiate between the pages and the knights. I do however like that the knights and pages are a mix of genders and even ages.
By contrast, I love the aces of each suit for exactly the thing that I found lacking in the court cards. You can just feel that water energy in the rich, bright Ace of Cups, and the brooding air energy in the Ace of Swords. The aces are some of the most evocative cards in the deck.
I’m a fan of the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition, so my personal preference is when a deck sticks reasonably close to the RWS iconography. I’d say the vast majority of these images find creative and on-theme ways to reinterpret the traditional RWS imagery, with a few exceptions. I miss the knights having horses, though I guess I can see why horses don’t exactly translate to the industrial steampunk vision.
In the minor arcana, I particularly loved the interpretations of the Three of Swords, the Four of Pentacles, the Six of Swords, and the Four and Seven of Cups. And the aces. I mentioned the aces, right? 😉
I appreciate pretty much all of the major arcana, but I was particularly drawn to the Devil, the Chariot, the Hermit and the Hierophant, which is especially nice since I find traditional representations of the Hierophant mostly difficult to internalize. On the other hand, I found the interpretations of Death and the Empress didn’t really resonate with me at all.
The only other two quibbles I have with this deck is that the back is not reversible, so if you read reversals (I generally do not) you might not like that. And, the mini version of this deck didn’t come with a little white booklet or any sort of instruction manual, and I’d heard the one that accompanies the full size of this deck is quite excellent, so I was a little disappointed. Having said that, I love the imagery of this deck so much that I imagine it won’t be long before I add the full size one to my collection, if for no other reason than I can more fully enjoy the amazing images and iconography.
The truth of the pudding is in the eating, though, so I pulled a few cards to see how this deck works in action. “What kind of story do you want to tell me?” The Empress. Hmm, I do believe this is the first-ever tarot card I drew when I got my Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Interesting. “Where will you give me your best insight?” The Fool. Uh huh. So I’m to keep an open mind and trust you? Fair enough. “What sort of adventures are in store for us?” Four of Pentacles. Profitable ones? Excellent, let’s go!
Have you had the chance to play with the Steampunk Tarot deck? What did you think? Do you have a favourite deck? I’d love to know which one and why. I’m pretty sure this tiny little deck will be taking up a disproportionate amount of my tarot attention!