Deck of Defense

Probably the most developed and oldest big project of mine, outside of the Monkeys, has been a playing card deck featuring all the ranks of the US Military. As the son of veterans, this has a certain personal sense to it.

I don’t exactly recall what started this project to be honest. In part, it was meant as a training aid for people to learn the ranks, their titles and abbreviations. Looking around the market, I couldn’t find any comparable decks out there. The closest ones were Poker decks (52 cards) that either combined ranks or left them out to squeeze into a normal deck. With 15 ranks between E1-E9 and O1-O6 (not counting generals/admirals and warrants), it would take a custom deck to actually fit them all in.

So, I tossed the idea of squeezing and just built a deck that fit. Using some of the core concepts of normal decks (different card layouts between numbered and face cards for example), I set out to capture the foundational elements. Each suit represents one service (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines). The numbered cards are the enlisted ranks (E1 to E9), making sure to capture variations within ranks (i.e. First Sargent vs. Master Sargent). The courts or face cards represent the officers. Each card, regardless of rank, shows the grade (E# or O#), full title, abbreviated title, insignia, and branch. Each suit also uses the primary colors for each branch (i.e. red and gold for the USMC). For the wildcards, I used the flag ranks (admirals/generals, “stars”) and warrant officers.

How do you play with these cards? Just like Poker, as I also worked up some equivalents to match a normal 52-card deck (high and low concept). I also found one similar card deck from around WW1 Britain called “Militaire.” It also used ranks (albeit fewer) and assigned point per card.

When can we get these? There’s the main sticking point for this whole thing. Every service holds trademark on their ranks, insignia, etc. I have explored getting these printed, but the financials are the stopping force. Each service has different licensing processes and fees, which mean a hefty amount of money to get these licensed. Unfortunately, one service alone prohibits the use Kickstarter-type funding to getting the licensing fees and basically restricts it to formal businesses with existing revenue.

For now, these are locked in my graphic vault. One prototype exists, and people have voiced interest and support, but that’s where it sits.

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