Like so many interesting terms from other languages, yūgen doesn’t translate precisely into English. It’s an aesthetic term from Japanese, referring to what we might call an epiphany: the realization, prompted by art or beauty, of something profound that can’t be expressed verbally, only felt. Already, it’s an intriguing term, because it’s a term about two layers of being able to put something into words!
For the time being, I’ve titled the card game I’m working on Yūgen, because it’s about building abstract ideograms that convey the essence of a term without words. As you can see from yesterday’s photos, the cards are simple – black brushstrokes on white square cards – but made so that they can be assembled in a variety of ways from your hand. If you’ve played Tsuro or Carcassonne or any other of a great number of tile-matching games, you get the idea; lines that run off the card always lead to the center of a side of the card, and you can rotate your card to match up the lines from adjacent cards to form a contiguous flowing stroke.
There are some basic scoring rules to fiddle with, but those are coming along. I was inspired to include plain white or black stones as scoring tokens, extending the aesthetic theme further in a tactile and visual sense, but also had to consider that the original scoring paradigm would require a lot of those tokens, making the game heavy! The game also currently includes one or two special bonus scoring opportunities for particularly elegant or pleasing constructions. Hopefully, I’ll get the first rough version to the table tonight!