Alpha 20Playing 20Cards

Alpha Playing Cards

Alphabet decks such as Alpha Playing Cards are card GameSystems designed for WordGame?s; they usually have a single letter on each card, accompanied by a number indicating the "value" of that letter (as on Scrabble? tiles). It would be interesting to see a "standard" alphabet deck develop out of the competing decks currently on the market, but meanwhile, since many decks are very similar, you can usually play games designed for one deck with another deck. For example, the Alpha Playing Cards, WhizORD?, and A-B-C_OY!? decks are all very compatible. Of course, all three decks have different deck sizes, card distributions, and numerical values for letters, but these differences should be trivial when adapting games from one system to another. The main difference between these three decks is that Alpha Playing Cards have semi-wild vowels. That is, a given vowel card can be either an "A" or an "E", for example.

In terms of intellectual freedom, the Alpha deck is the most open game system of the alphabet decks I have seen. Designer Tim Schutz not only posts all the rules for his system on his site, but also provides colour PDF files of Alpha cards gratis, for download and printing.

The games provided with the Alpha deck are fun; my sister-in-law is addicted to the game NewWord? and the solitaire games in the Alpha rules booklet. I have played a beta version of WordPoker? with an Alpha deck, and it was a great deal of fun. Unlike the Poker rules provided with WhizORD?, which only take into account letter values, Alpha's WordPoker? rules provide for the analogue of a full house (for example): a hand containing a three-letter word and a two-letter word, instead of three of a kind and a pair. Only after hand types are compared are letter values for similar hands compared.

The Alpha deck is my favourite of the alphabet decks I have seen. The production values on the commercially-published deck are high, and I appreciate the freedom of the system. On the other hand, the "semi-wild" vowels innovation may make it difficult to play certain old standard alphabet-deck games, such as the Victorian game Anagrams, at least in the usual way.

(Adapted from Game Systems, Part 2 in The Games Journal)


BoardgameGeek page for Alpha Playing Cards

Official Alpha Playing Cards home page