The Sacred Sites

Our game takes place within the Mongol lands. This territory is neither the full extent of the Mongol Empire at its largest, nor is it limited to the present-day country of Mongolia. It corresponds to a time and a place—part historical, part contemporary, part fact, part fiction–where the Mongol people and their traditions are most vividly alive.

The eight sacred sites plus Naadam echo the 9 lucky materials in Mongolian poems: gold, silver, bronze, iron, agate, amber, jade, pearl and coral.

Bogd Khan

Bogd Khan

Overlooking Ulaanbataar, the sacred mountain of Bogd Khan has for centuries acted as friend and guardian to the capital city, loved and venerated in return by a constant outpouring of stories, songs, and poems from both nomads and people from the city. It was the first mountain in the world to be officially protected, in 1778. Our card shows the face of Chinggis Khan, etched into the slopes of the mountain for the Naadam celebrations of 2006.

At this site, Alun Gua gains 5 strength; Prayer Flags, Deer Stone, and Shamanic Drum endow 1 strength to the champion of any player who holds those cards.

Burial Mounds of Noin Ula

Burial Mounds of Noin-Ula

Following the course of the Selenga River in northern Mongolia, a swath of land is characterized by tall mounds–the preserved mausolea of the ancient Xiongnu aristocracy.

The Xiongnu of the eastern Steppe was an alliance of nomads that through pluck and diplomacy was able to remain independent from the khanates and empires surrounding them. This proud confederation produced lineages of statesmen and noble knights whom they honored by interring them in the hills near the life-giving Selenga.

The climate of the region is such that extreme temperatures below zero often follow floods. This combination results in a process whereby the corpses within the tombs were effectively flash-frozen annually, slowing the process of deterioration. Modern excavations have uncovered human remains with skin still intact after two thousand years, lacquerware with decoration still legible, and even textiles.

On these textiles can be found the epic cycles of Xiongnu. Detailed tapestries depict the deeds of cavalrymen, priests performing religious rites, and the life stories of the dead in their burial mounds.

Sorghaghtani Beki gains 5 strength; Ger, Yak, and Reindeer endow 1 strength.

Burkhun Khaldun

Burkhun Khaldun

The Tuul River Basin waters an area of tens of thousands of square miles, and has also nurtured centuries of the region’s musical poetry tradition. In The Secret History of the Mongols, for example, it is peaceful, but also dark and deep as the impenetrable forests that hid the imposing fortress of Torghul, the brooding ally of Genghis Khan.

Rising above it stands the sacred mountain Burkhun Khaldun. Aside from hosting a rich array of flora and fauna, and purportedly hiding both Genghis Khan’s birthplace and tomb, Burkhun Khaldun is the ancient and inviolate link between Mongolia and the eternal blue sky. Prehistoric chants, classical literature, and modern orchestral hymns all praise the majesty of the holy peak.

Chinggis Khan gains 5 strength; Fortress, Fire, and Map endow 1 strength.

Magao Caves

Mogao Caves

In the southern Mongol lands stands Dunhuang, a small city known for its well-preserved archaeological sites. As a stop on the ancient Silk Road, it boasts structures and artifacts that date to as early as 2,000 BCE: Buddhist, Christian, Manichaean, and Jewish texts and artifacts can be found comingled in hidden alcoves of crumbling ruins.

The epitome of this mixed ancient repository is the Mogao Caves. Known locally as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, this sprawling grotto complex holds hundreds of temples, a recently rediscovered eleventh century library, ornate murals and monolithic stone Buddhas.

Zanabazar gains 5 strength; Ink and Brush, Paper, and Bankhar Dog endow 1 strength.

Orkhon Valley

Orkhon Valley

In the geographic center of the Mongolian Plateau, a wide valley encompasses the four distinct elements of the Mongolian landscape: arid desert, evergreen forests, sacred peaks, and wide rivers. In the distance stands Mount Otuken, where ancestral spirits dwell. A band of emerald copses ring the mountain’s base beyond tawny dunes, and the deep sapphire of the winding Orkhon River connects them all. Since at least the eighth century this has been a site of inspired verse. Artisans of the Bilga Khaganate, which once ruled this land, chiseled tales of the Orkhon onto monolithic steles that are still standing in the valley. Centuries later, the Qitan nomads claimed the valley, and re-inscribed the ancient steles  with their own stories.

Ulaan Tsutgalan—the Red Waterfall–roars in the valley’s heart. During dry seasons, the cataract is waterless, silent, and empty; yet when the rains come, the Orkhon River swells, and sheets of water create a furious ensemble of thunder and mist.

Jianggar gains 5 strength; if it is summer or autumn, the rainy season, all champions gain one strength point; if it is winter or spring, they all lose one point.

Sacred Yurts of the Darkhads

Sacred Yurts of the Darkhads

When Chinggis Khan was on his deathbed, a shaman came unto him and performed the cindariin hurrcag rite. He guaranteed that the essence of the dying lord would live forever with his people by capturing a fragment of the departing soul in a camel’s hair. After death and burial, Chinggis Khan’s spirit relic, and other holy artifacts associated with his life and deeds, were entrusted to the shaman’s people for permanent conservation.

Historically the Darkhads were nomadic dwellers of the steppes. They followed grazing sheep herds and game animals across the broad northern plateau; moving quickly, often, and far, was the Darkhad way. Yet wherever they went, the first and central fixtures of the camp were the Eight White Yurts. In these tents the Darkhads kept permanent watch over the spirit and regalia of the great Khan, guarding watchfully, offering regular sacrifices.

Though the position of the yurts shifts with the seasons, they are the spiritual locus of northern Mongolia.

No monster, no asset; a place of rest and healing. All visitors gain 5 strength. Players may discard one asset card and replace it from the top of the asset deck.

Uureg Lake

Uureg Lake

Uureg Lake is a taboo place. It is a source of fresh water in land where water is precious, but the people of the Uvs Nuur Basin rarely drink from it, and never bathe in it. It holds a bounty of edible fish in its depths, but the nomadic Tuvan People rarely fish from it, and never from a boat.

Large shadows move swiftly below its surface, suggesting the presence of something much larger than expected species. Modern geologists and hydrologists have suggested that certain currents in Uureg are the result of underground channels that connect the lake to other, larger, deeper, bodies of water in the Basin. Blurred photographs purport to show what the Tuvans have long known–that a plesiosaur-like creature has somehow defied time in this remote environment. Believers argue that the possibility of an interconnected warren of aquatic caves make the basin uniquely suited for hiding and protecting a population of lake monsters; nearby lakes provide depth enough to stay hidden, and a hypothetical cave system provides access to the rich, unfished food source of the Uureg.

The Uureg Lake site in ULUS hides an extra monster and an extra asset. When the caravan reaches Uureg Lake, non-resting champions must each draw two monster cards and confront both monsters together to win two asset cards.

Geser gains 5 strength; Wolf, Snow Leopard, and Bow endow 1 strength.

Whistling Dunes of Dalad Banner

Whistling Dunes of Dalad Banner

Backed by the Kubuqi Desert, Xiangshawan (“Whistling Dunes Bay”) consists of crescent-shaped sand dunes that rise to a height of 90 meters at a gradient of 45 degrees.

During dry weather, the sand inexplicably vibrates when disturbed. Sliding down from the slopes of the dunes, one can hear not only whistling but the cry of a bugle, the beat of a drum, even the noises of automobile and aircraft engines.

If several people are surfing together, the sound will be as loud as a large bell, and it feels as though the whole dune is trembling.

Khutulun gains 5 strength; Horse, Boortsog, and Snuff Bottle endow 1 strength.


Naadam is one of the oldest festivals in the world, a combination of holiday, military parade, feast period, and athletic competition that predates the Olympics by some 700 years.

Its origins lie in the celebrations, including athletic contests, that followed weddings or spiritual gatherings. Mongols practice their unwritten holiday rules that include a long song to start the holiday, then a Biyelgee dance. Traditional cuisine, or Khuushuur, is served along with airag, a drink made of fermented mares’ milk.

The main contests feature the three traditional Mongol sports: wrestling, horse riding, and archery.

The largest Naadam festival is held in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, where Chinggis Kha n‘s nine horse tails, representing the nine tribes of the Mongols, are still ceremonially transported from Sukhbaatar Square to the Stadium to open the festivities. At the opening and closing ceremonies, there are impressive parades of mounted cavalry, athletes and monks.

Naadam is a time of trading and bartering, when deals are struck and alliances formed. Other popular Naadam activities are the reciting of epic ballads and tales, and the playing of games using shagai, sheep’s anklebones that serve as game pieces and tokens of both divination and friendship.

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