Card Games – What’s Up With That?

I love card games. Especially classics like Cribbage, Hearts, and Rook. And hobby card games like Gother Than Thou, Groo, Lord of the Fries, Love Letter. Lunch Money, and Quest for the Fayslewood.

Trading card games not so much. I’ve had my flings with a few, including Lord of the Rings, Mythos, Spellfire, and Vampire: the Eternal Struggle. But TCGs require constant feeding or they die.

At GDW and TSR, I had a hand in publishing some card games. And over the past five years, I’ve self-published several of my own, including Clashing Blades, Creatures and Cards, and Wolf Man’s Curse. (Stick around, I’ll introduce you to those three, and tempt you with a 20% discount.)

Card games don’t get the respect they deserve. Because they’re smaller and less visible than board games and RPGs, they have a harder time finding distribution and store shelf space (where they’re easier to steal).

If hobby gaming were the music industry, standalone card games would be “indy bands” that struggle for booking, but are often actually better than stadium-filling board game and RPG “bands.”

Wolf Man's Curse! card backBetter? How?

  • They’re less expensive. Card games tend to be $10-$15. If you’re into PDF print-and-play, they’re even cheaper.
  • They’re more portable. You can fit one in a pocket. Count your pockets; that’s how many you can carry and still leave your hands free for bringing a pizza to your game night.
  • They play faster. So they’re perfect pick-up games while waiting for your RPG group to assemble. Or between convention events. Or during lunch. And if you spend a game session with card games alone, you can play more than once, giving everyone a chance to win at something before the get-together is over.
  • They’re easier to learn. Card game rules tend to be much, much shorter than other games. As we grow older, pursue careers, marry, start families, and so on, that’s increasingly important.

Allow me to introduce you to three of my favorite self-published card games. Each uses a specially illustrated poker-sized deck, so you could even use them for Cribbage, Hearts, or whatever.

Clashing Blades! suits in colorClashing Blades is a 2-player fencing duel of spades (attacks), diamonds (parries), and clubs (ripostes). Face cards add an optional musketeer-style event deck. The 6, 7, 8, and 9 of hearts are used to keep score, the rest for an optional “bloody wound” rule. The game represents fencing’s en garde, exchange, and disengage steps in a quick and energetic fashion.

It’s my first card game design, based on fencing classes in college. I think it represents that well.
20% off Clashing Blades

Creatures and Cards is my most recent design, for 2-4 players. It literally came to me in a dream, ready for play-testing. Each player chooses a hero to play—Fighter, Priest, Wizard, or Thief, each with a special power. In competition, those heroes enter a dungeon to fight (spades) against monsters (clubs) rescue followers (hearts) and gain treasure (diamonds). Play through the draw deck twice, then the player with the most points of followers and treasure wins.
20% off Creatures and Cards

In Wolf Man’s Curse, yes you are a werewolf! Every player is. The game is for 3-5 players. Face cards and jokers form a “full moon” deck of three nights each, and you play hands to take or avoid taking tricks of victims (hearts), bobbies (spades), angry mob (clubs), and gold (diamonds). The jokers are silver bullets, and the game ends when the “Fiancée” card is turned. sample Wolf Man's Curse cards

At that point, if a player has both a silver bullet and the “Fiancée, that werewolf dies at its lover’s hand. Then the werewolf with the most mob points is lynched. Then the one with the most bobbies points is hanged, if it is guilty of slaughter. Among the survivors, any innocent werewolf (no victim cards) wins, otherwise the richest werewolf does. (Sometimes, in a 3-player game, everyone dies.)

This was my third card game design, and it may well be my favorite, utterly savage and backstabbing.
20% off Wolf Man’s Curse

Check Popcorn Press and DriveThruCards for more self-published card-game designs. Thanks!

Moving On

Okay, folks, I’ve a confession. Dark Conspiracy is like an old girlfriend who ran off with another guy. Bughunters languishes in someone else’s basement pit. Dragon Dice and I remain on speaking terms, but we’re separated. I gave them each all my heart, but they’ve moved on. I’m older now, and wiser: I no longer do work-for-hire. So if you love me, please give one of my new heartthrobs a dance. They live at,, and

State of the Smithy

“Blacksmith at Work” photo by Derek Key, CC by 2.0

A year ago, I had an audacious plan: Finish translating Aquelarre, write a sonnet weekly for The Pastime Machine, release a monthly 6-page D6xD6 RPG expansion, publish another poet or author monthly, launch a D13 RPG Kickstarter this fall, manage an annual Halloween anthology, attend a half-dozen conventions, and possibly publish a dice game and a couple of Monster Con card game expansions.

Today, I’m staring at a bucketload of unfinished business. My Aquelarre translation is overdue. I’m behind on The Pastime Machine. The monthly D6xD6 schedule is on hold after just two releases early in the year. I have a stack of unpublished poetry books and novels (including one posthumous title by an old friend). My D13 RPG project is delayed indefinitely (with a half-dozen illos already paid for). I’m barely able to leave my house. And the dice and card plans are in limbo (also with some art finished). While this year’s annual Halloween anthology, Lupine Lunes, is still a go (with family help), that project is much lower key than in the past.

So what happened?

You may know that I’ve have a neurological condition for a decade—a diagnosis of “more-than-migraine/less-than-seizure”—and over the past two years I’ve suffered some related prescription side effects. Add in new family responsibilities—including a daughter’s foot amputation—and I’m fairly overwhelmed.

As a generally upbeat, hopeful guy, I kept planning for the future, expecting things would sort out eventually.

I still believe they will, but the sorting out is taking longer than I had hoped. And part of that is facing the idea that I just can’t keep up the pace. I’m at diminished capacity. It’s sobering, but I can’t keep expecting to “recover.” This may be my new reality.

I love my work. Translating Aquelarre has been the opportunity of a lifetime, but I’ve been talking with Stewart Wieck (the publisher) about getting help. On the side, I’ll continue drafting a sonnet a week for The Pastime Machine. And with family help, we’ll finish Lupine Lunes. I can’t even think about the rest right now.

But one last thing: I apologize to everyone who was counting on me for more. That weighs on me. I’ve done my best, and my best wasn’t good enough. I’m truly sorry.



Halloween 2106: Lupine Lunes

Lupine Lunes KS bannerIt’s that time of the year again—Halloween season! And for the eighth year in a row, Popcorn Press is holding an open call for horror poetry and short fiction. This year we’re featuring werewolves and lune format—but we welcome nearly any horror subject and form.

If you’re new to our “Popcorn Horror” event, it started back in 2007, during my second term as WFOP president.

Not having time to prep a Halloween party, I was struck by the idea of celebrating by publishing an anthology in one short month: start taking submissions on Oct. 1, and have an ebook delivered by Oct. 31, with files to press for a print book that same day. It was a crazy amount of work—on top of a day job and the WFOP presidency—but it was also a joy, and all sorts of people took part, even those who don’t normally think of themselves as writers or poets. There’s something about Halloween that inspires people to wear an identity they wouldn’t try the rest of the year.

On a related note, for years now I’ve been of the opinion that about 100 years ago, academia stole poetry from the general populace (and maybe creative writing in general). This annual Halloween project is one small way of stealing it back.

So, mark your calendars for Oct. 1, and get ready to submit something of your own! Or help make the project a success by pre-ordering copies so we can pay our authors. You’ll find all the details on our Lupine Lunes Kickstarter page.

Thanks, Happy Halloween (and clap for the wolfman).