Semper Fidelis

It’s been a little over a month since my grandfather passed away. I’d always known he was in the United States Marine Corps, but I’d never heard any details of his service record, and had felt it impolite to ask him. I did learn, though, that he had risen to the rank of Lance Corporal, and served as a military policeman. He was certainly proud of being a Marine, having hung up a few noteworthy pieces of memorabilia in his den, and attached a Marine insignia lapel pin to his favorite NASCAR hat (Tony Stewart, for the record). I get the feeling that he might have enjoyed playing a hand or two with this deck, bearing Marine Corps livery and chevrons on each card. I’ll never know for sure, as I didn’t think to seek out this deck for some time after his passing, but I would still feel inclined to keep it with the rest of his keepsakes.

2017-02-21 18.04.45
Dirty tablecloth threatening to muss up your brand new cards? Play cards on top of another, larger deck of cards!

The Marine Corps cards were originally available from MarineCorpsGiftShop.com, a website dealing in pseudo-official Marine Corps merchandise (as they appear to be run by actual Marines, though not officially sanctioned by the USMC itself). I purchased mine from Amazon, having sifted through other, similar decks that didn’t seem quite as interesting to me. What sets the Gift Shop’s deck apart from the others is the way the pips are handled; while they don’t totally redefine the suits like ones I’ve covered in the past, the pips are displayed as the respective chevrons of the various ranks, ranging from Private First Class on the 2, up to Master Gunnery Sergeant on the 9, with the 10 of each suit showing the various Warrant Officer insignias, and the Jack, Queen, King, and Ace displaying commissioned officer ranks from Captain to Colonel. Yes, this deck assumes that Ace is always high.

While I can’t imagine how they would have pulled this off, design-wise, my biggest criticism of the use of rank insignia is that there is no visual difference between suits. The PFC of Spades looks the same as the PFC of Hearts, unless you’re reading the rank and suit in the corner, which are designed just as any other typical French deck would be designed. I give them props for including as many chevrons as the number of pips on the card, but this is one of those stylistic choices that can potentially make gameplay a little more confusing…albeit not nearly as much as it might have been.

Criticism aside, to be honest, I’d actually play a few rounds of this deck if I wanted a change of pace from the rest of my collection. The card construction is honestly nothing special (it’s not as awful as the paper-cut-prone VW deck, nor as slick and smooth as a Bicycle deck), so I’d mainly be playing it for the design. The Marine Corps deck, I suppose, would be nicely suited to games like – what else? – War, but I suppose more thematically appropriate would be something like draw poker, or any other game with an “ace high” rule (if you’re looking for a solitaire game specifically, I might suggest Aces Up or Auld Lang Syne). As for me, perhaps I’ll play it until it’s unshuffled, and add it to my nice box full of keepsakes of Grandpa.

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