Avid readers of the Friendly Card (what avid readers? 😉) may wonder why I’ve been holding off writing new articles lately. To be honest, there are only so many things that can be said about a deck of cards unless it is something very special. Well, I’ve been waiting on that “something” for a few months, something from a card artist (cardtist?) whose work I’ve been following very intently since her previous deck, the Blackjack Casino deck, struck my fancy. I speak of Laura “weenietowne” Verdin, an artist whose work for Fangamer has been very high quality indeed. When she announced via Twitter that her next deck was themed after indie platformer and Kickstarter darling Shovel Knight, I was hooked right away. The second these things became available for pre-order back in April, I slapped my fifteen bucks down right away.
Then I waited.
The confirmation email said the cards would be shipping “in Mid-June.” I figured, hey, that’s right around my birthday. Coolest birthday gift to myself ever? Potentially. June passed. No shipment confirmed. Fangamer’s site reported a delay to mid-July.
Time continued to pass.
On the 13th of July, I finally received confirmation that the cards had shipped. I caught myself yelling my excitement in the manner of a barbarian. “YEAAAHHHH!” I roared to what I thought was an empty room. My young niece and nephew, in the next room over, burst into raucous, youthful laughter. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself, either. Because, really, did that come out of me?
The Shovel Knight deck, now that I’ve held it and played a few hands with it, is very much up to the standards I’ve come to expect from a Fangamer deck. As with the Cards of Legend and Laura’s Blackjack Casino deck, these are manufactured by the United States Playing Card Company, so they bear the air-cushion finish that any other USPCC deck would have. This makes them, as always, a joy to deal and move, and allows for nice little shuffling tricks and moving Solitaire’s sequential piles with considerably less effort. But of course, I was most interested in the designs, and I am not disappointed here.
In regards to the other Fangamer decks, I recall writing that I loved the Blackjack’s artwork, but wondered why it didn’t have customized suits like the Cards of Legend. The Shovel Knight deck addresses that concern by featuring both stunning artwork and a new set of Shovel Knight-themed suits. In place of the traditional French suits, we now have Spades that look more like shovels, Hearts that resemble the in-game health counter more than the classic Hearts, Diamonds in the Passion cut style rather than the geometric one, and Clubs that are now…well, jars.
Character representation on the Shovel Knight cards is both varied and fitting. The Ace of Spades is, naturally, Shovel Knight himself (if you thought he’d be the King of Spades, you’d be wrong; that’s Polar Knight and his gigantic snow-shovel), while the other Aces and Royals are inhabited by other members of the Order of No Quarter (or important characters from the game). Amusingly, early-game boss King Knight is not a King, but the Ace of Diamonds (since it’s made clear in-game that he’s not even a real King). The Enchantress and Shield Knight are among the Queens of the deck, and there are even some NPCs from the game’s towns included on the Jokers, such as in-game-sound-test and Jake “Virt” Kaufman expy, The Bard, and an extra unranked card featuring the four Wandering Travelers, the game’s Kickstarter-backer-created bonus bosses. (With Zubaz right on top, natch…)
I’m absolutely in love with this deck’s tight design principles. No matter what card you’re looking at, everything is decked out in a cleverly limited palette of colors. Red and blue mesh together with a mid-tone beige, creating effective highlights and newsprint-like shadows where needed. It comes across very eye-pleasingly, with the print quality presenting no issues with the clarity of the cards. Even the new suits still read as clearly as the traditional ones.
By now it should be pretty clear that I really do like this deck. Of all the stuff I’ve had to wait for, this has been well worth that wait. As for what it’s best suited to, I suppose it’d be best for solitaire games that require a lot of digging. Freecell, perhaps?
You can buy this deck via Fangamer.com – be sure to enjoy the customary Haikubot messages in your email, as well.