Kickstarter Cards with Carter is our regular column about the latest playing card Kickstarter campaigns. Remember, Kickstarter pledges are not pre-orders and results are not guaranteed. 

Today on Kickstarter Cards with Carter we explore the depths of space, learn how to communicate with our fellow human beings, and put Cthulhu in his place.

The Planets: Earth by Srdjan Vidakovic (printed by USPCC)

Earth is the third entry of eight in Srdjan Vidakovic and David Goldklang's The Planets series of decks. Normally, I'd be quick to dismiss The Planets "collect-em-all" presentation, which includes a map of space and tuck box display that requires all eight decks, as an undignified cash crab, but considering I'd quite happily buy any and all of the decks released so far, it gets a pass.

That's mainly because of Vidakovic's thick line art and vintage advertisement aesthetic meshes so bloody well with the decks' retro-futuristic conceit. Each of the decks in the series - Mercury, Venusand Earth thus far - look like the kind of playing cards you'd find in a sci-fi civilization as envisioned by Jules Verne. Vidakovic really understands his playing card iconography. His pips are fantastic and his courts look weird and alien, but are still staunchly traditional. The backs are beautiful and ornate, but not overstated. The tuck box is an absolute work of art, that, in opposition to a lot of decks that try to nail the same late Victorian look, isn't too heavy on the foil. The limited edition blue version looks miles better (a blue tuck box for a blue planet) but it's limited to just 500 units. 

Earth's campaign has already reached $16,806 from some 395 backers, well beyond its $5,000 goal. A standard deck will cost you $10 plus shipping, half the eventual retail price. A pledge of $80 will net you the complete Planets set when all the decks have been released.

Bicycle: Cthulhu Cardnomicon by Ace Collectable Cards (printed by USPCC)

Cthulhu is overrated. You know how you can tell? He's the only Great Old One whose name won't trigger your spell-checker. He's kind of the Jack Sparrow of the universe that bears his name: A bit-player elevated to franchise mascot who, despite sleeping through most of his appearances and getting his clock cleaned by a boat when he bothered to turn up in Mountains of Madness, now has to be name-checked in every spin-off lest people forget they're reading Lovecraft-inspired fiction.

And that's why Diamonds is the worst suit in Cthulhu: Cardnomicon. Each of the suits in the deck is tied to one of Lovecraft's more well-known eldritch nightmares. Diamonds was chosen for ol' squid face because they symbolise his subterranean sleeping habits (and presumably all the money he gets for advertising breakfast cereal and board games). Hearts represents 10,000-time mother-of-the-millennia winner, Shub-Niggurath. Spell checker stress-tester, Nyarlathotep, lurks among the spades, and clubs is dedicated to OG of the OGs, Azathoth. 

Naturally, because these cards depict multi-dimension nightmare creatures from realms beyond mortal understanding, they're completely impossible to read at first glance, and with tentacles wrapped all the indices, this is definitely a deck that's meant to look nice next to your Cthulhu toaster rather than be put to practical use. And to be fair, it does look pretty good. The artwork for the royals and aces is easily the highlight of the deck.

Which leaves the negatives. The numbers are kind of boring. The card backs depicts mirrored image of Cthulhu (reaching out for his appearance fee no doubt) in shades of green with white outlines. The tuck box has a neat book-theme, but there's nothing here that will blow your tiny mortal mind.

I've found that Bicycle brand theme decks tend to be a mixed bag, generally aimed at fans of the theme rather than card enthusiasts. As an exercise in branding, Cthulhu Cardnomicon is entirely competent and would make a perfect gift for those who are into Lovecraft the brand rather than Lovecraft the writer. If you're looking for a beautiful set of cards in and of itself, this isn't for you. 

The campaign is looking for £10,000, is over halfway there already, and will end on May 20th. A deck will run you £11 plus shipping, with an estimated delivery date of Oct 2018. Uncut sheets are available at the £79 pledge tier. Only 250 will be produced.

ConvoCards by Lars Alexander Eiekeland

Are you a socially maladjusted mutant? Why not start your own column about playing cards on Kickstarter which you can then use to attack people who use fictional characters to promote products in ways you disagree with? Alternatively, if you want to be a productive human being at some point in the future, you can try ConvoCards, by Lars Alexander Eiekeland.

The idea is quite cute, actually. What we have here is a set of very basic playing cards with a series of questions  printed where you'd expect to find pips, royals, dancing Mexican skeletons printed in gold foil, etc. The questions, which I'm informed are based on social science, are generally quirky little conversation starters designed to keep the discourse flowing. You can use the cards in place of regular playing cards to spice up card games, or just whip them out like flash cards in case you stall in the middle of a date. Hell, you could even do some rad mentalism tricks using the questions if you're clever, but these are bridge-sized cards. Keep that in mind. 

Honestly, ConvoCards are a little outside my wheelhouse, both because they're not trying to accomplish anything I usually expect from a deck of cards, and because I generally try to avoid talking to people wherever possible. Will ConvoCards save your social life? I dunno. Possibly. Let me know. 

The campaign is looking for €1,000 and is just over a third of the way there. A deck will cost you €9 now and €9.95 at retail. You can also pay €5 to have one deck handed out to a random person on the street in the Netherlands or Norway, which is a nice thing to do. 

WTF2 and Cardistry SWITCH by Handlordz LLC

WTF2 is a really nice surprise. It's a cardistry deck - a cardistry deck with a gimmick no less - that hasn't gone entirely Mixalot. IE: There's more to it than its rear end. 

WTF2 features no pips or royals, instead it has mirrored letters that let you spell out words by fanning the cards. 

WTF2 features no pips or royals, instead it has mirrored letters that let you spell out words by fanning the cards. 

It's a killer gimmick with an absolute ton of space for creativity. The deck doesn't just feature letters, it has a handful of symbols and punctuation as well. Magicians: You'd be hard pressed to get the cards in order to spell out a word during a trick, but you could use the symbols for all kinds of goofy setups. As this is a cardistry deck, both the fronts and the backs feature a two-way design that goes from bright white to dark blue depending on which way you fan the cards.

While spelling out messages with fans might be wonderful for cardistry fiends, it'd be a shame to waste WTF2's surprisingly good visual design on a gimmick deck. The SWITCH variant is for people who want the sleek design of WTF2 but in a functional deck of cards. And these fronts aren't an afterthought. They're energetic. They read well. They're a crash course in how to use negative space. They do all this while maintaining the two-way design of the regular WTF2 deck.   

The first version of WTF won a ton of awards, and it's easy to see why. WTF2 is a major improvement over its predecessor and SWITCH could stand on its own as a casual or performance deck. 

The WTF2 and SWITCH campaign was looking for just $1,000 and has already reached $7,455. Either deck can be had for $12 plus shipping, with delivery expected in September. 

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