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I have been fascinated by mass-produced divination games for many years. They mesh explorations of unknown and paranormal possibilities with the emergent qualities of play, and they are often graphically striking, reflecting the popular culture of their eras. Ka-bala is one of the most astonishing divination games ever mass-marketed in the United States. The large plastic board sits on a rounded base, allowing it to tilt freely as player rest their fingers on its corners. As it moves, a ball rolls around an inset track in the top. This can spell out words, Ouija-style, using the raised letters along the circle, or it can pick out miniature tarot cards resting in small inset spaces. At the heart of the board is a dragon similar to the one on the title page of Petrus Apianus’ 1540 Astronomicum Caesarum, adding some Renaissance creepiness to the mix. Last, but not least, the pivoting “Eye of Zohar” looms above everything in a crackling green frame, weighted on the pupil side so that it mysteriously follows the rolling ball. Of course, the game also glows in the dark. At the time this was released, Transogram produced plastic dolls, puzzles, baseballs, games, and other toys, but was not particularly focused on eerier products. On the other hand, “Orje, The Mystic Prophet”, released in 1929, was the first Transogram product that resembled a game, so Ka-bala has interesting connections to the early days of the company.

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