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Nate Steffenhagen via Portfolio52

This Was Once the Fifth Playing Card Suit

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Nate Steffenhagen via Portfolio52

While the Middle Ages treated playing cards as objects of sorcery and the more reasonable French introduced the four main suits that are still used today (hearts, clubs, spades, diamonds), a more recent development almost changed everything we thought we knew about a full house. There was once a fifth suit.

In the late 1930s, the United States Playing Card Company was one of several manufacturers to introduce a 65-card deck. In addition to the four established suits, the packages contained a fifth: the eagle. (In England, companies sometimes used a royal symbol of crowns depicted in blue.) The cards were green instead of red or black and were intended for use in bridge games. Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games makes a passing reference to the suit in its index; collectors who have gotten the deck have noted it contained instructions for playing a five-suit version of poker, where Five of a Kind was a possibility and terms that now seem strange to the tongue and ear (“Queen of Eagles”) were commonplace.

Nate Steffenhagen via Portfolio52

But where did the notion come from? Though other mentions of four-plus decks appear in playing card retrospectives, playing card historian Andrew Ward attributes the idea for five-suit bridge to Walter Marseille, a Viennese psychologist who thought the added cards made the games more complex and interesting. While bridge players seemed intrigued by the variation—decks routed to New York for retail sale were snapped up immediately—it posed a formidable concentration challenge. According to media coverage of the era, most people had enough trouble focusing on 52 cards, let alone 65. “The brain cells of average bridge fans are sorely taxed by the strain of 52 cards and four suits through the complex sequence of play,” Life magazine wrote in 1938. “To players with durable memories the new game offers a challenge, to others a high hurdle.” One journalist sniped that “four-goal football” might be next.

The naysayers were correct. While popular in Europe for a time, five-suit games never really caught on. By the end of World War II, the eagle was nowhere to be found, and Marseille's contribution was largely forgotten.

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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest
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Learn All About Fonts by Playing With These Poker Cards
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Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

Want to learn about fonts? Try playing poker with the Font Deck, a pack of cards designed to help users learn the finer points of typography and font design.

The deck is the work of Canadian designer Ben Barrett-Forrest, who runs a graphic design studio based out of Ontario and the Yukon. In 2014, Barrett-Forrest designed the precursor to the Font Deck, a product called the Design Deck that aimed to teach users about the ins and outs of graphic design. Some of the Design Deck cards feature typography lessons, but the Font Deck—available for $17 a deck on Barrett-Forrest’s website or on Kickstarter—gives the topic a deeper dive.

A male hand holds fanned-out cards next to a Font Deck box and a stack of playing cards.
Courtesy Ben Barrett-Forrest

The deck includes topics like letter anatomy, old style typefaces, the difference between a font and a typeface, and profiles of specific typefaces, like Helvetica. The cards themselves are printed by the same company that makes popular playing cards like Bicycle and Bee, so they’re gambling ready, if you feel like betting your fortune on that slab serif card.

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Dungeons & Dragons Gets a Digital Makeover
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Since the 1970s, players have been constructing elaborate campaigns in Dungeons & Dragons using nothing but paper, pencils, rule books, and 20-sided dice. That simple formula has made D&D the quintessential role-playing game, but the game's publisher thinks it can be improved with a few 21st-century updates. As The Verge reports, Wizards of the Coast is launching a digital toolset meant to enhance the gaming experience.

The tool, called D&D Beyond, isn’t meant to be a replacement for face-to-face gameplay. Rather, it’s designed to save players time and energy that could be better spent developing characters or battling orcs. The resource includes a fifth-edition rule book users can search by keyword. At the start of a new campaign, they can build monsters and characters within the program. And players don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring their notes to a quest—D&D Beyond keeps track of information like items and spells in one convenient location.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, said in a statement when the concept was first announced. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D.”

This isn’t the first attempt to bring D&D into the digital age; videogames inspired by the fictional world have been produced since the 1980s. Unlike those titles, though, D&D Beyond will still highlight the imagination-fueled role-playing aspect of the game when it launches August 15.

[h/t The Verge]

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