You enter the room and hear the click of the door behind you. On a stone altar of light marble, there are three small statues overlooking 12 cards laid out in neat rows upon the smooth surface. An uncomfortable chair faces the altar. This is what you wanted - an opportunity to be a part of the Order of Ptolemy but can you learn the lesson of the initiation or will you fail in the only attempt you will ever get?

The Order of Ptolemy: The Initiation was originally conceived as an entry in a 9-Card Nanogame contest on BGG and strictly speaking the game/puzzle does fit on 9 cards but the puzzles require larger cards than the contest allowed.

It is presented as extracts from a Wikipedia like biography page of a fictional 12th Century scholar who founded the Order of Ptolemy.

It's an escape room game in the sense that there are a series of puzzles that need to be resolved but has been designed with casual play in mind - the puzzles can be put down and returned to at a later stage very easily. As players start making connections between the different components of the cards the puzzles and the answers should reveal themselves.

There are four sets of puzzles - the first and second set can be solved simultaneously but the third and fourth use some of the answers from the first two in the solution process.

There is a final one word answer.

Inspired in part by some online Riddles, some of the puzzles may require a small amount of Google but logically so.

This is a partially tested version that I would like to turn into a print and play escape room game.

I dont see a way to include the pdf directly so I am adding the images of the cards with a link to the pdf. Its a four pager, each page with 4 cards (low ink but the colour is important)



  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the update. I've taken the liberty to put the High Priestess and Justice in their orginial place. I hope you don't mind. I'll second flix in saying that a lot of effort has gone into this puzzle. Too bad I came to it too late -- it would have been a good one to solve with a printout of the PDF over a coffee. (Well, several coffees probably ...) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Claude_Goeminne what is the working for the Uranus one? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Claude_Goeminne what is the working for the Uranus one? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Claude_Goeminne Thank you for accepting my answer but I don't know why you accepted it? My answer is not complete. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 7:35

1 Answer 1


I think I'm close to the end, but I've run out of ideas.

Partial answer

First lesson: the 12 concepts

The right edge of each card explains how to find a "concept" in another card:

Card: The Fool
Hint: The fool hides the protector (The Emperor)
Explanation: Like in a cryptic clue, the word is hidden in a phrase, "haj. Up, it erred"
Solution: JUPITER

Card: The Magus
Hint: Examine the sinister side of the Magus (The High Priestess)
Explanation: "sinister" means "left", we need to read the first letter of each line
Solution: SATURN

Card: The High Priestess
Hint: What does the dexter of the high priestess conceal? (The Lovers)
Explanation: "dexter" means "right", we need to read the last letter of each line
Solution: NEPTUNE

Card: The Empress
Hint: The Empress would reside and rule from the capital. Perhaps, these capitals are important (The Hermit)
Explanation: We need to read the capitalised letters
Solution: MERCURY

Card: The Emperor
Hint: Look literally and vertically at the heart of the emperor to find the city (The Hierophant)
Explanation: We need to read vertically from the "B" of the first line (the letter in the middle of the line)

Card: The Hierophant
Hint: Are the numbers of the hierophant only numbers ? (Strength)
Explanation: A1Z26 with 13 1 18 19
Solution: MARS

Card: The Lovers
Hint: Lovers face each other (The Magus)
Explanation: We need to read from the end

Card: The Chariot
Hint: It is the last part of the sentences of the chariot which are the most important (The Wheel of Fortune)
Explanation: Last letter of each sentence
Solution: COPPER

Card: Strength
Hint: One of One, Two of Two and so on... (The Chariot)
Explanation: First letter of the first word of the first entry, first letter of the second word of the second entry, and so on...
Solution: ADEPT

Card: The Hermit
Hint: The Hermit steps down in threes. His coordinates are 10.22.23 28.12.12
Explanation: I don't know for this one
Solution: URANUS

Card: The Wheel of Fortune
Hint: The number of the Wheel of Fortune points toward the letters that are important (Justice)
Explanation: The Wheel of Fortune is the 10th card, so we read every 10th letter

Card: Justice
Hint: In justice, consequences are after the ... (The Fool)
Explanation: First letter of every word after "the"
Solution: CINNIBAR (but I think it's "cinnabar")

I don't know the method for The Hermit but I deduced the solution with "Ignore the 7th planet".

Second lesson: the 12 bearers

The left edge of each card is made of 2 elements. We need to find pairs which point to famous persons.

First element: Flying a kite made of 100-Dollar bills (Strength)
Second element: Founding Postmaster (Justice)
Person: Benjamin Franklin
Explanation: Benjamin Franklin is famous for his experiment with a kite and lightning, he is on the 100-Dollar bills, and he was the first Postmaster General.

First element: So twice five miles of fertile miles (Justice)
Second element: With walls and towers were girded round (The Chariot)
Person: Kublai Khan or Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Explanation: Kubla Khan, poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

First element: Gnome (Justice)
Second element: Helical (Strength)
Person: Michelangelo
Explanation: Anagram

First element: The well-known HMS Galapagos (The Empress)
Second element: The famous Beagle Tortoise (The Hierophant)
Person: Charles Darwin
Explanation: Second voyage of HMS Beagle

First element: Qiantang (The Hierophant)
Second element: Year of the Goat, 1031 (The Fool)
Person: Shen Kuo
Explanation: Shen Kuo was born in Qiantang in 1031.

First element: Not the son or the father of Francis the First (The Magus)
Second element: But his close friend (The Fool)
Person: Leonardo da Vinci
Explanation: Leonardo da Vinci was a close friend of Francis the First.

First element: Islamic author (The Magus)
Second element: Kitab al-Manazir (The High Priestess)
Person: Ibn al-Haytham
Explanation: Islamic author of the Kitab al-Manazir.

First element: The day after Valentine's Day (The High Priestess)
Second element: The year of birth of the bard (The Wheel of Fortune)
Person: Galileo Galilei
Explanation: Galileo Galilei was born on the 15th of February (the day after Valentine's Day) of 1564 (The year of birth of Shakespeare).

First element: XVIIM (The Wheel of Fortune)
Second element: DCCLVI (The Hermit)
Person: Nikola Tesla
Explanation: Thanks to @fljx in the comments. XVIIMDCCCLVI can be interpreted as 10/7/1856, which is the birth date of Nikola Tesla.

First element: Ramo (The Hermit)
Second element: Mayyahk (The Lovers)
Person: Omar Khayyam
Explanation: Ramo Khayyam flipped

First element: Cobalt & Sulfur & Phosphorus (The Lovers)
Second element: Erbium & Nickel & Copper (The Emperor)
Person: Nicolaus Copernicus
Explanation: Thanks to @fljx in the comments. The symbols of the elements are Co, S, P, Er, Ni and Cu. We can rearrange them to Copernicus.

First element: 52° 48' 35.51" (The Emperor)
Second element: 0° 37' 42.57" (The Empress)
Person: Isaac Newton
Explanation: Coordinates of the birthplace of Isaac Newton

Third lesson: the precepts

According to the card "Enlightenment may follow", we need to answer 7 questions:

  • What is our private name for members of the order?
  • What is the first lesson a novitiate must learn?
  • What star guides our thinking?
  • Where is the foundation stone of the order?
  • Can you begin to employ the forces you wish to control?
  • Are you worthy?
  • How do you determine what the cards say?

  • The bottom of the three "statuette" cards indicates cards:

  • "Ignore the 7th planet" (A statuette of an owl) $\Rightarrow$ We need to ignore Uranus: The Hermit
  • "No space program" (A statuette of a raven) $\Rightarrow$ We need to ignore Mercury: The Empress
  • "Toss Scorpio" (A statuette of an elephant) $\Rightarrow$ We need to ignore The Chariot

    If we take the letter at the bottom-right of the remaining cards, we have :
    If we take "the letter before" as indicated by the bottom of the card "The enlightenment may follow", we have :
    which is an anagram of WANDERERS.
    I think it is the answer of "What is our private name for members of the order?".

  • Now, we can use the "statuette" cards. Each statuette indicates 6 pairs, and we can use the letters and symbols at the top of the cards to find three substitution cyphers.

    A statuette of an owl

    Hint: They lead together
    Explanation: We need leaders
    Solution: The Emperor and The Empress

    Hint: The Vitruvian Man
    Explanation: The Vitruvian Man was made by Leonardo Da Vinci
    Solution: The Fool and The Magus

    Hint: Rapidly changing father of Chronos from the first lesson
    Explanation: "First lesson" indicates the concepts. "Rapidly" = "Quickly" and "Changing" = "Silver", so "Quicksilver". The father of Chronos is Uranus.
    Solution: The Wheel of Fortune and The Hermit

    Hint: The powerful arm of the law
    Explanation: "Power" = "Strength" and "Arm of the law" = "Justice"
    Solution: Strength and Justice

    Hint: Servants of the church
    Explanation: We need religious people
    Solution: The High Priestess and The Hierophant

    Hint: The vehicle of Cupid
    Explanation: A chariot is a vehicle and Cupid is the Greek god of love
    Solution: The Chariot and the Lovers

    We now have the blue substitution cypher:
    Blue cypher of the owl

    A statuette of a raven

    Hint: PI
    Explanation: $\pi \simeq 3.1$ so 3 and 1
    Solution: The Emperor and The Magus

    Hint: Circle of Life, both good and bad
    Explanation: I don't really know
    Solution: The High Priestess and The Wheel of Fortune

    Hint: Emperor's New Clothes
    Explanation: In the tale, the emperor is fooled.
    Solution: The Emperor and The Fool

    Hint: Ludovico Buonarroti
    Explanation: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is the full name of Michelangelo
    Solution: The Chariot and Strength

    Hint: The author of the Rubaiyat
    Explanation: Omar Khayyam wrote the Rubaiyat
    Solution: The Hermit and The Lovers

    Hint: Biblical Law?
    Explanation: "Law" = "Justice" and "Biblical" = "The Hierophant"?
    Solution: Justice and the Hierophant

    We now have the red substitution cypher :
    Red cypher of the raven

    A statuette of an elephant

    Hint: Non-tropical Earth Signs
    Explanation: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are Earth astrological signs and there is the Tropic of Capricorn, so we need the cards associated with Taurus and Virgo.
    Solution: The Magus and The Hierophant

    Hint: Fibonacci's first and fourth
    Explanation: The first and fourth numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 2.
    Solution: The Fool and The High Priestess

    Hint: Helium and Lithium
    Explanation: Helium and Lithium are chemical elements like Cobalt, Sulfur, Phosphorus, Erbium, Nickel and Copper
    Solution: The Emperor and The Lovers

    Hint: Betting on the races
    Explanation: A chariot is used for races, and a bet needs fortune (luck).
    Solution: The Chariot and The Wheel of Fortune

    Hint: Light minutes to the sun with the muses
    Explanation: The light spends 8 minutes to go from the Sun to the Earth and there is 9 Muses. So we need the 8th card and the 9th card.
    Solution: Strength and The Hermit

    Hint: Astrology from Princess Ceca
    Explanation: "Princess Ceca" is an anagram of "Pisces Cancer". So we need the card associated with Pisces and Cancer
    Solution: Justice and The Empress

    We now have the green substitution cypher : Green cypher of the elephant

    We now can decipher the words at the bottom of the Major Arcana cards:
    Green words:

  • CIENTSKY[B/W] (The Fool)
  • LIKETHEDI (The High Priestess)
  • VINENOMAD (The Hermit)
  • SOFTHEAN (The Wheel of Fortune)

    Blue words:
  • WECLAIM[K/V]I (The Empress)
  • PLANETS (The Emperor)
  • NSHIPITHT (The Chariot)
  • HEANCIENT (Justice)

    Red words:
  • EWAYSB (The Magus)
  • HSAREMA (The Hierophant)
  • NYALLTH (The Lovers)
  • ECOMEO (Strength)

  • I'm missing :

  • The explanation of The Hermit
  • The explanation for "Circle of Life, both good and bad" and "Biblical law?"
  • The answer of 6 questions
  • The fourth puzzle

  • How to continue the puzzle ?

    With the coloured words, we can try to create sentences:

  • With the green words, we have LIKE THE DIVINE NOMAD OF THE ANCIENT SKY [W/B].
  • With the blue words, we have WE CLAIM KINSHIP ITH THE ANCIENT PLANETS.
  • With the red words, we have HS ARE MANY ALL THE WAYS BECOME O.

  • $\endgroup$
    • 6
      $\begingroup$ I'm amazed by the amount of effort that has gone into both the puzzle creation and this answer. For one of your missing bearers, XVIIMDCCCLVI can be interpreted as 10/7/1856, which is the birth date of Nikola Tesla. $\endgroup$
      – fljx
      Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 21:54
    • 8
      $\begingroup$ And the symbols of the elements are Co, S, P, Er, Ni and Cu. Which with a little rearranging gives you Copernicus $\endgroup$
      – fljx
      Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 21:58
    • $\begingroup$ @MrClarinico can you update your answer? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 14:11
    • $\begingroup$ @fljk Thank you a lot for your help ! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 7:32
    • $\begingroup$ I think the word you have found as name for the members is already the overall one-word answer to the puzzle. All the mentionings of planets and nomads and the name of the order itself seem to point that way. And I don't think that the seven questions are meant to be answered explicitly. Some of them such as "Are you worthy?" seem too vague. The Hermit has me stumped, too. $\endgroup$
      – M Oehm
      Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 19:28

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