The branch of the thinderin forest which gave rise to the exiles on Silusia Alpha were always associated with the use of life decks, but since they assumed a self appointed duty as stewards of the Temple of Chromatic Enlightenment the Light Guards have evolved a particularly strict and intricate interpretation of the laws and customs of life deck usage, which they term the Life Game. The remainder of this article discusses the form played on Silusia Alpha but variants of the Life Game can be found elsewhere in other thinderin cultures.
The Life Game evolved from earlier, simpler and looser styles of working with life decks which are still practiced on worlds where thinderin quaternary was once spoken, such as Usaraxa and Low Glade. Here, the cards are still used for prophetic amusements which are only half serious, for some kinds of competitive games and more rarely in decision making, but the elaborate rules that govern the customs of life deck usage on Silusia Alpha do not exist.
The Life Game is actually an umbrella term for a number of different kinds of card games that use the life deck, each with their own names. These games use many types of rules but share two common features. Firstly, they very often involve the permanent transfer of cards from seedling to seedling. Secondly, they can involve a "life reading" in which shuffling and dealing from the decks in prescribed orders leads to the generation of decision arrays, interpreted according to long established rules of lore within the culture where the Life Game is played. Occasionally, there are ceremonies where new cards, not belonging to any of the participants, may be introduced into the game and won by the players, and sometimes there are games where cards are destroyed. In general terms, it is considered bad luck and also discreditable to have a small deck. Running out of cards altogether, is a social disaster. The precise rule set which is employed for a given game, depends on the reason why it is being played. Some rules are used in social settings, almost as a form of gambling, whilst others are of a more serious, almost religious nature. One of the simplest and yet riskiest games works almost exactly like the human game "snap". It is known as "Call Match" and is generally only ever played between friends, and where there is an agreement afterwards to play "Shuffle and Deal" from the winners deck. Played in this order, the game can be an amicable way for seedlings to enjoy taking an ostensible risk but then to equalise their status in the game afterwards. Friends will sometimes use this arrangement to help one of their number who has lost a lot of cards. It is, however, also possible to play "Call Match" in a much risker way, without the "Shuffle and Deal" at the end. This is high stakes gambling. There are approximate thinderin equivalents to human trick taking games and to games that involve passing cards round a circle. These tend to result in fewer permanent transfers of cards at the end of the game and are typically played in more sedate social settings. Games that involve predictive and prescriptive "life reading" from one or more life decks can be called for at job interviews, before Temple ceremonies and on specific seasons and calendar occasions, including also ritual challenges.
Components and tools
Amongst the thinderin groups that practice the Life Game, every seedling will have their own life deck of cards. A standard life deck is the gift of a birth grove and given to the seedling when it is old enough to achieve independent locomotion in a ritual departure ceremony they call the "Casting Out". Thereafter, the seedling is responsible for looking after its personal cards, although the number and nature of the ones in the deck can change dramatically throughout its life. The life decks are surrendered when the seedling puts down roots in a grove and becomes sexually mature.
Any member of thinderin society can be called upon to participate in a life game at almost any time and whilst it is not expected that a seedling must take part in every challenge, certain prescribed events are more or less mandatory and repeated evasion or postponement of play is considered socially unacceptable. Because important life choices depend upon the outcome of "life readings", non-thinderin observers (and thinderin observers from cultures that do not practice the life game) often consider that it leaves an undesirable fraction of a seedling's life open to a ridiculous level of chance and undermines stable relations and a stable society. The players of the Life Game, counter that it prevents their lives from stagnating and offers unexpected opportunities and further that it is more in tune with the random nature of chance in the universe. It is important to realise that despite the possibility for chaotic outcomes, the leaders in thinderin organisations on Silusia Alpha preferentially play the skilful variants of the life games and avoid "Call Match" and similar formats, so that some of the wilder outcomes to which they might be subjected are in fact under a degree of control.