In Ganakagok, the characters are men and women of the Nitu who know that the Dawn is coming, and who begin to take action in anticipation of the rising of the Sun, to herald the Dawn or to oppose it. As the game progresses, the Dawn comes inexorably closer and closer. At the end of the game, the actions of the player-characters will have determined the fate of the world, the people, and the individual characters.
The game uses a tarot-like deck of cards created by me and designed by my friend Dave Petroski to inspire the in-game situation and constrain the consequences of character action. The impact of their use in play is to create a story that feels mythic to the players, giving the actions of their characters a kind of dream-logic and inevitability that is literally awesome.
from Odin's Aviary: Man, did I luck out starting with this. It's a game set in an ancient Eskimo world, and we played it outside as the weather chilled and the sky darkened. Great stuff. Each person played a single, self-generated character, the game master gave us some elements to start off with and the rest was dictated by our choices and the drawing of cards specific to the game, each of which had an Eskimo word and various associations for it printed on it. We took turns telling our character's parts of the story, but each character could contribute within the system to another's tale. Blew my mind.
from As If You Care: ...I played Ganakagok, which was like taking Inuits, Crouching Tiger-type movies, and a sad romance and mixing them into a beautiful story of tradition vs. love on the endless ice. So fun. Don C. ran this for me, Jeff Collyer, Patty K., and Joshua Seigler. The imagery from that game (which ended when my tradition-bound character was eaten by an enormous ancestral orca) will stick with me for a long time.
from See Page XX: Ganakagok does several things which, together, produce an amazing game-play experience that preserved my empathy for my character. At the heart of all of those things is a common thread: everyone gets a chance to participate in every scene, but only in a way that happens through the "lens" of their characters. Even when my character is not physically present in a scene, he can affect that scene through his possessions, others' memories of him, and so on. This is gold. By making sure that I don't ever step out of "my guy" to affect the larger story of the world, I remain identified with him without ever losing sight of the big picture. This is a strange and magical kind of unity that Bill has crafted, here: a game where character and story interact and exist as peers, but where one cannot be affected at all without the use of the other. My authorship of the story does not occur without the involvement of my own character. And that is where my heart starts to beat with newfound warmth for the stories arising from play. Ganakagok makes character and story into an inextricable pair, like a key and its lock, and it has already started to affect my designs—my 2007 Game Chef entry Schizonauts was among the first. Much of that game follows Ganakagok's example, from its turn structure (which guarantees everyone participates in every scene), to the ways that absent characters can still be a part of scenes as they play out.
Listen to IPR's podcast review of the game on Voice of the Revolution.
You can contact me here: billwhite @ganakagok.com
Ganakagok is on Facebook.
A brief essay I wrote about designing the game is on the Flames Rising webzine.
In How To Run Ganakagok, you can hear actual play excerpts from the games I ran at Gencon 2009.
Actual Play (Audio) provides links to actual play recordings of Ganakagok games taped by my brother Mel White.
Show your Ganaka-love! Join Nearby Gamers and add Ganakagok to your tags!
The Story-Games Codex has a Ganakagok wiki page.
Consensus Games: Ganakagok is my design blog entry about Ganakagok, when I thought it was ready the first time. It is mainly of historical interest now.
Preview the rulebook here.
Here's a pdf of the Ganakagok character sheet.
Here's a pdf of the Ganakagok oracle deck, to print out on cardstock and cut apart to make your own Ganakagok deck. If you don't have a Ganakagok deck, though, you can still play the game with a normal deck of playing cards.
If you want, you can print out these stickers on Avery mailing labels and slap them on to your deck to make things easier.
If you have a Ganakagok deck, you can play the structured freeform version of the game with up to 12 players!