What I got for Christmas

Look what I got!

Cards from the Dan Dare card game

It’s a reproduction of a 1950s card came based on the Dan Dare comic. I’d guess the original was made in 1952 or so, because all the pictures on the cards are from the first three story arcs, from the start to the middle of Marooned on Mercury. And yes, I could tell that from glancing through the deck, and yes, I’m aware of what a massive geek that makes me.  (It’s worse than that: I immediately spotted an error on one of the cards. The elevated tube-train is labeled as a Treen telesender but it’s actually an electrosender: the telesender was a teleporter. Ha! I am a special kind of nerd.)

Anyway, the game itself is very simple. There are four suits with 11 numbered cards each, and the rules provided are for a simple trick-taking game along the lines of Whist. There’s nothing Dan Dare about the game besides the artwork. You could play that game with a normal set of playing cards. You could certainly put pictures of anything you liked on the cards and the game would be unchanged.

The game mechanics feel dated, more so than the 50s futuristic artwork. It’s interesting to compare the game with modern licensed board and card games. Games today are more complex and often make some attempt to model the story of the licensed property, with unique mechanics that reflect the property’s unique story elements. For example the Battlestar Galactica board game has the players moving their characters around the ships of the fleet and fighting off Cylon attacks, and has a special mechanic that some players are secretly Cylon agents. The Arkham Horror board game has the players running around Arkham fighting monsters, and has a sanity point mechanic to reflect the Lovecraft source material. If Dan Dare were new today, I’d expect a licensed game to have elaborate rules that modeled players cooperating to fight some evil Treen plot.

But those games reflect a modern approach to games design, influenced by cross-pollination from tabletop roleplaying games. Back in the 1950s there wasn’t that tradition of novelty in game design. Card games were things like Whist, so a licensed Dan Dare card game was a Whist variant with pictures of spaceships on the cards.

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