When I started the Friendly Card project not too long ago, I swore to myself that I’d refrain from political jokes. Many of them would be entirely too easy, and perhaps anger the wrong people, and I feel that my own political leanings are not the sort of subject matter that a reader is interested in when reading about playing cards. The United States Playing Card Company, however, decided they wanted to make things difficult for me. That’s why I’ve very deliberately decided that today, Presidents’ Day 2017, would be the day I would review this deck full of US Presidents, published under the Bicycle brand and as up-to-date as before last year.
My first thought upon seeing this deck, aside from marveling at the extremely detailed faux-1800s ink drawings, was that there haven’t been 52 Presidents of the United States yet. I wondered how the designer of this deck was going to fill out 52 cards without duplicates – First Ladies? Vice Presidents? Notable non-Presidential figures like Ben Franklin and John Hancock? Perhaps the Ace of Spades would have the Declaration of Independence, in print small enough that one would need a microscope to read it? (Almost) none of those, apparently!
On 44 of the cards, there is a unique (and mostly direction-agnostic) portrait of a President. Everybody from Washington up to Obama is represented; there are no duplicates, either, so there is only one Franklin D. Roosevelt. The other 8 cards, then, are the Queens – famous First Ladies Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Edith Roosevelt (Theodore’s wife, not Franklin’s, which confused me because I thought Eleanor was more notable…) – and the Aces, which are famous American landmarks (one of which doesn’t exist in physical form). The two Jokers are variants on Uncle Sam. Every single one of them keeps up the amazingly detailed pen-and-ink look, with all cards printed on a tannish-beige that evokes historical parchments like the Declaration of Independence. I really can’t get over how detailed the artwork is on these. I can’t tell if these were created by way of computer assistance, or if an artist actually spent the laborious hours with a fountain pen to recreate this look.
Actually playing games with the Presidents, though, wound up being an exercise in frustration. This specific deck, whether by way of manufacturing changes or just a glitch in this one, was just too smooth. I couldn’t keep piles straight by any definition of the word, especially not in games like Stonewall. I’d shudder to think of how a game of Scorpion might work, with its piles nearing the size of the entire deck at once.
Then again, this smoothness might not lend itself to solitaire, but perhaps to competitive games. It’s not so much about keeping piles straight, as it is about ensuring that a dealt card skids all the way across the table to its destination. And what would be the most appropriate game to play with a deck of Presidents, in today’s political climate? Why not “I Doubt It“? Or, okay, there is a card game actually called President, and that only seems appropriate…if you’d asked me back in 2004, I’d suggest War. Or Slapjack, but that might be getting a little too esoteric there…