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.”
- 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 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.
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!