While I like card-driven games because I find they usually give a good feel for the uncertainty of battlefield friction, the one thing I dislike is figuring out the effect of that Queen of Spades by looking it up in the rules. Or cutting up loads of cards from a PDF printout. Enter Hong Kong-based Artscow (a similar service is provided by Printer Studio in the US), an online company that allows you to print your own images on everything from mugs, key chains and blankets to... cards. These 54 card decks come in different flavours:
- Playing Cards (Mini) are the least useful as they are small regular playing cards where you can only upload an image for the back;
- Playing Cards 54 (Mini) are the same but you can choose an image for the back and one for each front face, with or without poker symbols;
- Playing Cards Single Design are the same as 1. above but in standard size
- Playing Cards 54 Designs are the same as 2. above but in standard size
- Multi-purpose Cards (Rectangle) are standard size cards that allow you to choose a different image for the front and back of each and every card (which is useful for combining different decks in one order).
Another major advantage is that you can share your designs with other people (something you can't do with Printer Studio) who can then have them printed as is, change images, texts or fonts or use them as templates for their own cards (unlike places such as Shapeways, you don't get any commission from people having your shared sets printed). There are quite a few decks for wargame rules from stables such as Piquet or the Toofatlardies although you'll have better luck finding them with Google or by trawling the relevant mailing lists and forums than using Artscow search function. You can find some by going through the Artscow user gallery but you need to brace yourself for endless numbers of babies and wedding cards and gadgets...
One of the best things about Artscow cards is the price which ranges from $7.99 to $13.99 for the decks described above before any special offers. These prices are not exactly cheap but Artscow has a policy of sending coupons very often with special offers that include free worldwide shipping and discounts of 20 to 40% (and once in a very long while up to 50%). So you can get a good deal if you are not in a hurry, save the designs you want to buy and wait for an interesting special offer. As an example, these decks sat in my account for a while but, in the end, came to less than $5 each with free shipping across the world.
Some useful links: