Many board game publishers make a handsome profit from upgraded components, things like metal coins and card sleeves that make their products more attractive on the table. But some companies are building entire games around these kinds of bits. Just look at the poker-style chips and custom dice Chip Theory Games uses, or the neoprene game board in the center of Leder Games. Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile. This year, another rare and expensive component has had its breakthrough moment: clear plastic playing cards.
These unusual transparent sheets feel like normal playing cards. You can shuffle them and you can sleeve them, so they integrate seamlessly into traditional card decks. But they can also be printed, allowing designers to overlay art or hide certain game elements from view. Used wisely, clear cards offer players new mechanics and features that were simply not available in tabletop games before. Two of the best games of the year: John D. Clair’s dead calculus and Corey Konieczka 3,000 scoundrels — put them to use in your own creative ways.
dead calculus is a sandbox style game of exploration and conflict on the high seas. Each player at the table has a crew of sailors to man their ship. That gear can be upgraded over time, giving players a greater sense of ownership. Clair uses a clear plastic card for each of these crew members: for the bosun, the first officer, the deckhand, etc.
The art on these clear cards only takes up the top half of one side. Then each is paired with a traditional card of the same size and a matching card sleeve. As players upgrade their gear, they simply pull the traditional card out of the sleeve and flip or flip it over, revealing new stats that are displayed through the transparent card on top. It’s a clever system both in the way it uses novel materials and in the way it reinforces the sense of investment players have in their crew.
In 3,000 scoundrels, designer Konieczka has created an elaborate gambling game in which players select other characters to work alongside them in order to amass the most treasure. Konieczka uses many more of these transparent cards in his design: 60, versus dead calculus‘s 8. These 60 unique cards are combined with 50 traditional cards to create thousands of potential characters, a rogues gallery that similarly supports the title’s promise of game variety.
The implementation of clear cards in 3,000 scoundrels he is particularly ingenious. While the game’s traditional cards have art for the NPC’s faces, the transparent job cards overlay clothing and other accessories on top, sort of like a paper doll. Traditional and clear cards also interact creating new combinations of stats, benefits, and costs depending on how they are combined. It makes setting up each new game an act of discovery, further reinforcing the game’s futuristic time-travel story.
Of course, this is not the first time transparent cards have been used in board games. One of my favorites, Darknesshas existed since 2005. In fact, dead calculus is just the latest in a long line of similar AEG games, titles like mystic valley Y custom heroes. The company has even trademarked a name for their particular solution: they call it the Card Crafting System.
But why did two different companies release such high-profile games with such similar parts? Well, that’s one of the joys of board games. While names, locations, and certain mechanics can be legally protected, preventing other companies from using them in their own games, more common items like dice cannot be protected. The idea of using cards to play is as old as the games themselves, leading to these types of co-evolutionary designs.
Even more interesting, while both games use transparent cards in similar ways to accomplish different things, the games also occupy very different places in the business landscape. 3,000 scoundrels It is priced at a very affordable $49.95 and suitable for large boxes. dead calculus, on the other hand, has incredibly expensive components, such as plastic miniatures, sturdy boxes, and 3D resin tokens. It also carries a premium price of $79.95, which you can expect to increase once it hits retail.
You can find dead calculus at Backerkit, where a second printing is currently available for pre-order. 3,000 scoundrels It goes out for pre-order on Asmodee’s website and at friendly local game stores on September 23, with a worldwide retail release on October 7.
Dead Reckoning and 3,000 Scoundrels it was previewed with a final commercial version provided by AEG and Asmodee, respectively. Vox Media has affiliate associations. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.