Cards are one of those gaming formats that have stood the test of time and haven’t evolved, regardless of the advances in technology. In recent years, collectible card games and board games in general have witnessed a resurgence in popularity. In large part, that’s thanks to the support and popularity of devoted niche subcultures, such as sci-fi and steampunk, that have introduced more potential fans into the fold. For the uninitiated, the steampunk culture is a perfect marriage of the old and new schools mixing ingenious and innovative steam-based technology and designs with the tried-and-true aesthetics of the British Victorian and American Wild West eras.
The world of steampunk has already proven that it’s a perfect match for video games with terrific titles such as the Bioshock series and the maliciously difficult Bloodborne taking huge amounts of inspiration from the movement. The PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886 set itself in an alternate-history setting of Victorian-era London and the popular Dishonored franchise is influenced in much the same way with a sequel scheduled to come out in 2016 for the popular steampunk stealth game.
As steampunk continues to sneak its way into some of the most popular gaming titles, some of the subculture’s tropes have been coming with it. As many steampunk properties are influenced by Victorian England and the American Wild West, it’s little surprise that cards are a popular pastime in the steam-powered society. The incorporation of traditional card-based amusements into modern video games has been around for a while. They include the collectible Tetra Master minigame in the steampunk-inspired Final Fantasy IX with its devices built to run on the monster-producing mist as opposed to steam, in addition to how poker is used as an entire character-building system in the Western steampunk roleplaying game, Deadlands. Whether in the alternate past or a dystopian future, you can always count on a deck of cards.
Even the card companies themselves are starting to get in on the action, and Bicycle has started to produce its own deck of steampunk playing cards for budding poker sharks. For players getting ideas of starting their own steampunk poker nights, there are some helpful guides on how to play different poker games available for those looking to be a little more creative than the typical Texas Hold’Em. If you’re going to full authenticity, you’ll probably want to play “Faro.” It’s a classic card game from the 1800s that in many ways is similar to the “Draw Poker” you might be familiar with today.
One company has gone even further and launched a Kickstarter of steampunk-inspired, metal poker chips designed with various gears and cogs. It can be used for your next round of cards or even as tokens for most major board games that feature money/token concepts.
Steampunk has exploded in popularity in the past several years. As, for lack of a better term, “geek” subcultures continue to develop a larger cultural cachet, the practices and fashions are becoming both more ubiquitous and accepted. What was once an oddity, even among convention circles, is now an ever-present force. I suspect it won’t be long before steampunk pops up in more than just your playing cards.