Roarstack storytelling card games

RoarStack is a range of fun innovative visual creativity storytelling card games where you tell a story based on what you can see in the your cards.

Looking for a card game that exercises your creativity, visual recognition, and storytelling plus will have you roaring with laughter? You’ve found it in RoarStack, where you connect the many things you can see in inkblots to extend a group story while potentially scoring points. It is a game which draws on your visual creativity and storytelling in new ways. It can be played as a game with complex strategies as you try to get other players to use particular phrases or word, or it can be a practical problem-solving tool, or it can be just a fun-filled storytelling. You will be surprised and amused by how everyone sees something different and how quickly stories can change direction. Most card games focus on points and/or characters with beautiful graphics to help guide you. RoarStack is coloring outside the traditional lines; it is stories around abstract art inkblots, which only have the meanings you give them; It is up to you to see something related to the story. It is a game where unexpected and sometimes insightful outcomes are the norm.

Roarstack is  a family of card games for almost any age, from kindergarden to grandparents anyone that can see the cards and  tell a story can play roarstack.

RoarStack is a family of card games for almost any age, from kindergarten, to college students, to adults, to grandparents, anyone that can see the cards and tell a story can play RoarStack. Playing is fun for all ages and may even improve your creativity.

In most other card games, the difference between victory and defeat is mostly in the cards and their probabilities; your creativity and the story are secondary. But in RoarStack you have to be creative in what you see and connecting it to the story. There aren’t obvious items on the cards, only artwork that you need to interpret in context. It’s up to the players to decide how to interpret their cards and build on the previous one, which means that every game tells unique stories based on the collective creativity of everyone involved. And for strategy, its about understanding and listing to your fellow players.

An example RoarStack card from two viewpoints. What can you see in it? If the topic is animals do you see anything? If it is Westerns? If it is People?

An example RoarStack card from two viewpoints. What can you see in it? If the topic is animals do you see anything? If it is Westerns? If it is People?

Let’s give you an example so you can see how many different things are in the cards. Look at the images above, for which the video showed two interpretations. Now think about animals and look around in the card. What else can you see? Can you see part of a frog? (Hint, it’s white). Now think about westerns while still taking about animals. Anything? Maybe you can see a chihuahua with pistols on the left, or maybe its cat ready for a fight. If you are looking for people, maybe you will see a surprised person with a big hairdo (bottom left) or two faces arguing loudly (brown regions in the middle of the right card). What people see depends on their viewpoint — it is really hard to see the chihuahua on the right version of the card even when you’ve already seen it.

Here is another example.. ponder it while thinking of animals. Then think about aliens. Imaging its your play in the game and take a minute to look at them before reading on


Again, note how quickly you see different things as the card changes viewpoint. Some things are obvious, some take some time. Think of animals or aliens and what can you see?

When thinking of animals did you see a pair of blue fish kissing (bottom left) or a blue-headed owl (or maybe it’s a bear) devouring a small blue bird (upper right). For aliens, the green giant on the left is obvious — but did you see inside what might be a blue faced alien with no arms? Did you see a blue-winged angel (which was also the blue bird being eaten by the owl)? Or what about the white winged alien with small arms and blue eyes (lower middle left)? As it was described in a round of play testing, the Green Giant had eaten the other aliens and was dropping a load on the white winged alien, who is the ghost of the previous card’s alien which the giant just killed. If these sound crazy, note each of these has been an item seen in play testing, there are probably many more hiding in the inkblots that won’t been seen until the context is right.

There is some hard science behind RoarStack and why/how you see different things. The human brain often finds connections because of priming — when one concept is active in your brain it increases the potential to connect other ideas to it. What you see depends on your experience as well as on the theme, on the conversation, on your mood, and on anything else in the current context. This priming feature turns out to be very helpful when using RoarStack for innovation. It also might provide insights into what your friends are thinking — a group of girls playing in class noted one player kept seeing everything as either a battle or as related to sex.


Play Videos

We have a youtube channel with many different play videos.. check out many different modes of play.


The Many Modes of Play

Though we provide multiple potential rule sets to get you going, RoarStack is about your creativity, so the rules are also flexible. Our website will have a section for user variations — so if you develop a good new way to use them let us know.

Themes are optional but can constrain the allowed stories in any mode. Constraints can be general e.g. stories about animals, or specific relations, e.g. your character must defeat the previous character, or your character must help the previous character toward some common goal. In the expansion theme deck we’ll provide some fun themes to use.

Story Play: The simplest RoarStack game, for casual group play or children, is Story Play, wherein you relate your card to the previously played card, possibly within the optional theme of the round. In Story Play, the added sayings and card value/suits don’t matter, just the inkblots and the laughter. This is a good mode for young children and people more interested in collaboration and storytelling than competition. You can still have competition by making each card’s interaction a battle, and declare a winner based on who uses all their cards first.

Point Play: If you want to keep score and compete with others, then you can add the dimension of Point Play where Point Points are scored based on the phrase and value on the cards. When the conversation of the group matches the phrase, you score the printed number of points. You play your Point Cards at any time. Point Points can come from mundane things in the conversation from the weather to social relations to pop culture. Your inkblots and storytelling can help lead the conversation, but you don’t score Point Points from what you do/say, only from what your friends do/say. This mode encourages talking with and listening to your friends and is great for party play.  Even when it’s not your turn to play a card, you need to pay attention and engage in dialog, maybe even trying to guide the conversation so you can score points. However,  you also have to be active in the round to score, so you have to keep the story going when it’s your turn. Point scoring is generally simple — you play the Point Card in front of you, so just count up your point total as you go. You can still have a lot of fun even with Point Points even if you forget scoring — winning is not as important as the fun of the creative story process and good conversation. Note some of the cards engage everyone.

Speed play: A mode good for larger groups or big/noisy parties is Speed Play where everyone tries to extend the story. In this mode the Gestour (think of this player as a judge) starts a story and everyone picks a card and tries to create the best continuation of that story based on the inkblot on their card.  There is an optional 30 second free-for-all period where everyone talks at once and people try to convince others that theirs is the best story.  The Gestour then begins calling on players who have 10 seconds to tell their card’s story. The Gestour picks the best (or their favorite) answer and that person becomes the new Gestour. Everyone else draws a replacement card.  First person out of cards wins the hand.

Twisted Play: Another mode of play is Twisted Play, which is good for people who play traditional card games. In Twisted Play, you use just the playing card deck, and play your favorite classic card game, with a twist — you can use the inkblots to connect cards or as wild cards. For example, in Roaring Rummy you might connect a random card into a part of a straight by telling the inkblots’ secret stories and connecting misfit cards to those before and after it in sequence. In Roaring Go Fish, when you pull a card from the pool you can also match it if you can tell the story to connect it to your matching card. In Solitary stories you can play any card anywhere, if you can tell its story. Here, the role of the stories is to directly help you score points in a classic game. These variations add RoarStack’s Story Play to existing games, making almost any card wild by using your creativity. It adds a new twist and often a lot more laughter, to well-known games.

Ideation Play: Another mode of play is ideation — the generation of ideas related to solving a problem. Here, the player(s) takes a problem to be solved and uses the cards to help explore the problem, the constraints, and potential solutions. RoarStack is not only a fun game; it can also be an innovation tool for improving creativity and problem-solving. Creativity in innovation and problem-solving is often about linking disparate ideas together. Given a topic people see different things in the cards, and seeing things in the cards makes connections to other ideas. In the words of the very innovative Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just connecting things.”


BI Students Playtesting RoarStack in Ideation or problem-solving  mode

BI Students Playtesting RoarStack in Ideation or problem-solving mode


Our team has tested RoarStack in our “innovation process” class, using it for ideation in complex problem-solving. We analyzed students’ perception of their creativity before and after playing as well as its role in problem-solving. After 30 minutes of using RoarStack, more than 75% of the students felt they could learn to be more creative. There was also a statistically very significant (p=0.0001) improvement in students feelings of personal creativity. Moreover, when it comes to actual problem-solving, over 60 % of the students felt RoarStack could help them be more creative in problem-solving. From an instructors point of view, the teams came up with significantly more creative yet potentially viable solutions. It is probably also worth mentioning that on a scale of 1-5 on “fun to play” with 1 being the best, more than 60% of the class graded RoarStack as a 1 or 2. So if you are a parent/grandparent looking fun but educational gift, or if you are an educator or a company leader looking to improve your teams’ creative and problem-solving skills, RoarStack is a fun way to get them going on a new creative path toward innovation.

Expansion Decks and Themes

We are working on our first expansion deck. The expansion decks will have theme cards that direct the theme for play. They will also have added victory cards that are theme related. The first expansion will a set of general themes, but further expansions might focused themes for different interest groups such as “Kids & cartoons”, Sports, Racing, Role Playing Games, Card/Board Games or Video Games. We also plan on international version with expansion decks appropriate for different languages/cultures.


The Judge or the Crowd?

There multiple ways to decide if a play is valid. 1) There can be a designated judge who is not playing that round. 2) Use the wisdom of the crowd via uninvolved players to decide if the proposed extension to the story works with the card and the theme. 3) Laughter rules — if you made another player laugh, it must be a good play. The judge can be rotating each round, as in Apples-to-Apples, but should play a less critical role unless playing a battle type theme when its not just about what one sees in the card, but who wins the battle. The judge can also be fixed player consulted when needed. The crowd works best with relational themes such as when a card must defeat the previous character in battle and then everyone except the players of the 2 cards involved in the battle can vote. Laughter or other techniques are needed for 2-player games. Even after someone says what they see in a card, it can help the judging can help to point to the parts of the inkblot and explain it — rotating the card and point so those judging see it from the your viewpoint.

To resolve disputes, appoint a judge who sits out the round (a la apples to apples), or use the players not involved in the dispute to vote. Or maybe you'll prefer to use thumb wars.

To resolve disputes, appoint a judge who sits out the round (a la apples to apples), or use the players not involved in the dispute to vote. Or maybe you’ll prefer to use thumb wars.

The Cards and Cases

We are currently using a higher end USA-based printing service — but hope to move to a large scale and lower cost manufacturer. Many of these have minimum production rules — 500 decks for one of the US manufacturers we contacted, 2500 decks for another. And Setup fees, which can be almost $1000 for our custom double deck need to be amortized over many decks to bring down the price.

The Roarstack card games will be printed & assembled in the USA

No only are we using a US manufacturer/printer we are using a  11.8-pt. thickness, 305gsm black core card stock from French paper manufacturer Arjo-Wiggins.  This is much better than the 250-270 gsm “card stock” used in many custom board games and low-end “promotional” card decks. The 250-270 gsm paper is more of a coated art paper or business card stock, okay for trading cards, but it does not last long when playing/shuffling. Playing card stock with a core and 305-320 gsm is what you find in higher quality professionally produced playing card decks — cards that shuffle and deal properly. Note the card stock will likely be imported from Europe as that is where the best US manufacturers seem to get their paper.

Innovation Training

Our RoarStack mentor, Dr. T. Boult, who is the founder of the Bachelor of Innovation family of degrees, saw the educational potential of the game when we first invented it and help us develop at test it in in the classroom, both with  college students and with corporate execs and staff.  In early 2015, we did training for VPs and their senior staff at a Forbes top 20 company.  As the charts below show,  it was a roaring success improving the teams feeling they could be creative and learn to be creative.  Other statistically very significant (p<.01) improvements were found in their feeling they know how to innovate, can learn how to innovate. They also felt they  could improve innovation in their teams with the tools.


Can our Innovation Training including the RoarStack game help you be creative? These are results from training at a 30+$Billion company with 3VPs and their senior staff. Top row is pre-event. The lower plots are just after training with game. The change in their feeling of creative statistically very significant. Maybe RoarStack can do that for you too.

And in addition to the games ability to increase creativity is both fun and attendees found the event worthwhile:


The innovation training event attendees found the game to be fun and overall 96% found the event worthwhile.
The innovation training event attendees found the game to be fun and overall 95% found the event worthwhile.


Free Print and Play

To help people understand the card games we are  offering a low-cost full print and play double deck as either 9up (3×3) grid for hand cutting like this:

Example of Personalized Print-and-Play 9-Up Page of Point Cards.

Example of Personalized Print-and-Play 9-Up Page of Point Cards.

To give people get a chance to experience RoarStack before they backs we’ve posted 2.5 print-and-play pages (23 cards)  Download here.   If you made it this far in reading you seem serious so you can download them, print them on card stock or photo paper, cut them out and play a few hands. These free print-and-play will not have the quality of the final decks — the free ones have more compression to keep the file size down to about 1Meg — the actual files are 600DPI images and are ~90Megs.



Since it was introduced the card game has undergone multiple formal testing rounds as well as been reviewed by students and experts. After testing at UCCS, it was then evaluated at SaltCon14 where the feedback was that the art was excellent and the game play was fun but mate a bit to complex — so we added simpler initial rule sets such as basic story play. In the second and more formal tested at UCCS, in a class that had not self-selected to play, more than 60% of the class graded Roarstack as a 1 or 2, and more than 85% rated it a 3 or better on a scale of 1 (best) to 5. Like any game, its not for quite everyone, some people really don’t want to be creative and others don’t like talking with others. Now it has taken part of a successful Kickstarter, with even more feedback and play testing after that.

It has also been evaluated by innovation experts. Drew Boyd, Co-author of “Inside the Box: A Proven Method of Creativity for Breakthrough Results” (Simon & Schuster, 2013) had this to say in his review:

“RoarStack is a game with huge potential. I love the multiple ways it can be played, but I am most interested in how the cards can be used as a corporate innovation tool. The Roar Stack cards break the mold of traditional creativity tools. They can help people solve problems by making connections in unconventional ways,”

The game has also been reviewed by an independent game review company: 

Background on the team and game idea

As some background to this family of card games, the developers are part of a unique family of degrees, the Bachelor of Innovation at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. We have all taken/taught courses in innovation processes and regularly have classes that include ideation and creativity elements. The student team developed RoarStack as part of a Global Game Jam with the theme: “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” Since then the team has aggressively developed and tested iterations. Its been play tested by students, faculty, family and friends. Taking the game to crowd funding campaign Kickstarter and launching the company is par for the course in a BI student’s education — many of our fellow game students and other innovation students are already in their own startups. Those students have now graduated and the have left the legacy of Roarstack to the BI program. All proceeds from Roarstack will continue to support the Bachelor of Innovation family of degrees at UCCS.