Some of you may remember the article for the Werewolf Bicycle Cards that were promoted on this blog during the card project’s run on Kickstarter some time ago. Well, they shipped recently, and I happened to purchase both the standard and special edition versions when I backed the project.
The cards are your standard deck of playing cards. The court cards are illustrated with neat werewolf portraits, most showing both the human and werewolf form of each of the various characters. All the standard cards are relatively plain affairs, though the backs feature a pleasantly simple full moon with runic illustrations that I think are both stylish and tame enough not to be distracting.
The numbered cards are simple to decipher, featuring only a few small full moon symbols in the corners, and an unexciting but appropriate font and choice of iconography for the suits. Some themed playing card decks choose to do heavier theming, which can ruin the primary function of a playing card deck.
The most elaborately-designed cards here are the distinctive face cards, which are the meat of the theme. Each of the face cards (with the exception of the jokers) has a unique portrait of a human shape and werewolf shape attached at the waist, in the standard playing card form. This is a tasteful use of the traditional theme to show off the dual nature of the characters.
The deck features four female werewolves for the queen suit, and twelve male werewolves for the jacks, aces and kings, with two werewolf hunters as the jokers. The art is done in a mostly consistent style, though I have some mild criticisms. Each illustration uses largely the same color palette, making suit determination a little bit harder at a glance. One might have to rely on the corners instead of the artwork, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out once the deck has been broken in a little bit. The mirror poses generally work, and the artist chose styles that allow each distinct werewolf to be recognizable as the same person in both forms.
Their werewolves are anthropomorphic and beastly, though the noses on the queen and king of spades bleed into the fur, with the glossy print giving them a strange appearance that takes some getting used to. All of the wolves have their teeth bared, although some, like the queen of spades, have their gums exposed, and at this relatively low resolution it almost looks like the wolf has lips. This can be a little off-putting, and is harder to adjust to than the nose situation.
Overall though, the artwork turned out better than expected, and the consistent style makes this deck worthy to own for any werewolf owner.
For those considering purchase, there are two versions of the deck, which only differ in the sleeve that they come in. The cardboard sleeve of the normal edition has one of my favorite pictures in the entire deck, a very beastly and distinct looking wolf that doesn’t fit most of the rest of the deck’s art style. The special edition has a glued-on lenticular piece that, as advertised, shows a progressive transformation of a human into a beast. Though the effect is hard to capture on camera, the experience will be familiar to any child of the 80s or 90s who grew up around this kind of thing. I can’t say the difference in cost is worth it to me, and honestly I prefer the art of the standard box, but your mileage may vary.
This deck’s creator, Scott King, should be applauded for bringing cool new werewolf stuff into the world, especially such a well thought and well-illustrated set. However, the fanbase he is appealing to is only so large, so if you have even a mild interest, I suggest purchasing a set for yourself or friends who enjoy the fantasy genre. In this way, Scott gets a return on his worthy investment, and we werewolf fans will continue seeing more creative applications of the theme in the future.