Singularity Deck


The Singularity Deck is an evolution of playing cards that is infinitely expandable and allows for an immense number of games to be played. Check out Games for a list of games designed specifically with the Singularity Deck in mind. See this geeklist for a variety of other games compatible with the Singularity Deck.

The card back and suits have been released to the public domain so anyone can add new cards or expand the deck as they see fit. Just click on "Downloads."

You can get the Singularity Deck from Drive Thru Cards:


The Earth Set: A  stand alone deck of 6 suits, including the 4 standard suits.
The Cosmos Set: A stand alone deck of cards with 6 suits.
The Spacetime Set: A stand alone deck that is compatible with the singularity deck consisting of cards of a single suit ranked from 0-100.

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Singularity Deck Design

When designing the singularity deck I had a few goals in mind:
  1.  I wanted to make enough of the design part of the public domain such that others could easily build on top of the deck and make their own cards. There are some amazing game systems that have been designed but they are always limited by what the creator themselves define as part of the system. To this point I've made the card back image and all of the icons freely available for people to use, however they see fit. You can find the files on the Downloads page.
  2. I wanted the icons and layout to be a perfect compromise between versatility, readability, and compactness. It was my hope to maximize the utility of a card while not cluttering it with tons of information that would lead to confusion and inhibit gameplay. I generally think I've managed this, but nothing is perfect. You can checkout this geeklist to see some of the games that can be played with the deck. Also have a look at my post about some of the other playing card systems people have designed to get an idea about how others have approached this specific challenge.
  3. I wanted to design something that was beautiful and matched the aesthetic I had in my head.
By their very nature game systems have little theme. They exist as an abstract set of icons that meaning and mechanisms can be applied to. Despite versatility being one of the key factors of a great game system, a little thematic flair can be an asset. When designing the singularity deck I wanted to design suits that were distinct and hinted at a greater meaning, while being generic enough that the system could remain flexible. The hope was to give each suit a bit of its own character that could be used to help anchor gameplay. The way I attempted to achieve this was by giving the suits a conceptual role and meaning within the system and letting that drive the design of the cards. Regardless, just because I designed the suits with a specific intention doesn't mean that my descriptions should be seen as canonical. I want them to be open for others to impart their own interpretations and functions.

The Singularity Deck is made up of three stand alone sets of cards: the Earth Set, the Cosmos Set, and the Spacetime Set. Combined they represent the major components that make up our planet and the universe as a whole. The earth and cosmos sets each contains 6 suits for a total of 12 when combined. The spacetime set contains a single suit, the hourglass, but the cards rank from 0 to 100.

The Anatomy of The Singularity Deck

Before I get into each suit, I want to go over the anatomy of the cards, and some of the special ranks included as part of the deck. This information refers to the Earth and Cosmos cards. The Spacetime cards are a bit different and as such are detailed later.


The Primary Suit:  Represented by a unique icon. Each suit has a unique icon and color. I go into the design of the specific suits below. Throughout the design I never wanted color to be an essential designation of information. This color limitation meant that the suit pairings in a standard deck of cards would be lost as they are based on color. To make up for this, each card includes a secondary suit to indicate pairings.

The Secondary Suit: Represented by pairs of icons between cards. The secondary suits are called "shields". The design inspiration for the secondary suits comes from the symbology of logic gates. Between both sets of cards the symbols map onto all major logic gates. Within a set (Earth or Cosmic) each suit shares a secondary suit with one of the other suits. For example diamonds and hearts share the "AND" symbol. Across sets the AND/NAND, OR/NOR, and XOR/XNOR symbols pair up to create three sets of four suits each.

Shield Icon
Logic Gate
Suit
AND
Hearts
Diamonds
OR
Spades
Clubs
XOR
Triangles
Ovals
NAND
Planets
Antimatter
NOR
Dark Matter
Dark Energy
XNOR
Asteroids
Stars


The Primary Rank: The most basic part of a playing card is its rank. Layout wise I wanted the player to be able to fan the cards in either direction and as such all information is repeated on the right and left of the cards. This is in distinction from most standard playing cards in which the information is only on the left of the card. The ranks of the singularity deck include those found in a standard deck of cards (A, 2-10 , J , Q, K) as well as some extra ranks.

The first rank is the Alpha Card. Functionally it is just an ace, but thematically paired with the omega card (shown a little bit later) it represents the beginning of each suit. The image on the Alpha card is the earth, with each suit showing a different rotation of the earth. You could put all of the alpha cards in a stack and make a flipbook showing the earth's rotation.

The standard Number Ranks go from 2 to 12. I made available separate expansion cards that brings the number of ranks up to 24 for each suit, but I chose 12 for the main deck for a couple reasons. The main reason is that I wanted the secondary dice pip ranks (discussed later) to repeat twice within a suit and since they go from 1 pip to 6 pips it was necessary that the main ranks had 12 total cards.  The other, less important reason is that I'm a fan of the base twelve number system. I've thought about putting out a little set of cards that could swap out the 10, 11, and 12 cards for ones with base 12 iconography so that this would be a proper base twelve deck of cards.The card art for the 12 rank depicts the subject that each suit represents.

The Earth suits include the Civilization Card. This is ranked above the King. Since thematically I placed the Ace/Alpha card as the lowest rank I wanted  there to be a card that existed above the king, just to help prevent any players from getting any monarchical inclinations.

A quick aside: The history of the Ace and its transcendence to being the highest ranked card is pretty interesting. I've heard stories about it one-upping the king following the French revolution, but that seems to be a bit apocryphal. From my reading it seems the earliest game that had ace high was an Italian game from the 16th century, called Trappola. The term ace originally meant "unit", hence representing a single pip. In the past when ace was the low card the term "ace" was used to represent bad luck, whereas now since aces are high people say that something "is ace" as an indication of quality.
Anyway the imagery on the civilization card represents that society based on the subject of each suit. For example the club represents plants, which is illustrated by a society that lives in tents among the trees.

The Tower Card exists in the cosmos set and replaces the city card. It shows a monument to the subject matter of each suit in that set.

The omega card represents some catastrophe associated with each suit. Since hearts represent animals, the omega card for hearts is overpopulation. The idea is that each suit begins with alpha and ends with omega (with the exception of the singularity card, shown next).

Last, is the Singularity Card which is the namesake card of the deck. The singularity card is ranked both 0 and infinity and sits outside the other cards representing the cycle of the universe to which we are all beholden despite our best intentions and machinations.

The Secondary Rank: Represented by dice pips.The number ranks each also include a secondary rank represented by dice pips. The dice pips allow for games in which some numbers are represented twice. A good example of this is Hanabi. To play with these ranks the cards are simply flipped over, and again the right and left sides are symmetric. I spent a long time debating between different systems for  representing the secondary ranks, including roman numerals and uniquely designed iconography, before settling on what was the most obvious solution all along, dice pips. The face cards do not have dice pips associated with them, because I wanted them to have a more flexible hierarchy. If say for example the queen had a two pip dice and the king had a 3 pip dice, while not necessitating that the king always be ranked higher than the queen it would have introduced iconography that would have fought against the players if a designer wanted to make a game in which the queen card ranked higher.

The Suits of the Singularity Deck:

The Earth Set Suits: 
These cards represents the constituent components and forces that make up the earth itself. This set contains the "standard" French suits of most common playing cards.

Clubs: In the singularity deck the clubs specifically represent Bikonta which is an early division of life that became plants. Unsurprisingly, the color of the suit is green. As with the other french suits, my interpretation of the suit for the singularity deck is posthoc and the design of the suit is largely unchanged from the conventional design. The weapon of choice for the forest royalty is the wooden club/staff. The civilization card shows a society that is nomadic and lives in the woods. The omega card depicts global pollution and famine.


Diamonds: The diamonds represent information/the synthetic. To some degree this is a catchall for the things that exist on earth as the result of intelligent manipulation. The royal cards are scientists who use pens and scrolls. The civilization card is a university/ research campus. The omega card represents the overthrow of the earth by artificial intelligence. 

Hearts: The Hearts represent unikonta, which is the early division of life that became animals and fungus. The royal hearts use swords and includes the suicide king. The civilization card is a city that has a large concentrated number of people. The omega card represents overpopulation. 

Triangles: The triangles are the first suit in the singularity deck that is non-standard. It represents mountains/stone and any non-organic material on earth. The royal cards hold large hammers. My favorite royal card in the earth set is the queen of triangles. The civilization card is a society of miners living among the mountains.

Ovals: The ovals suit represents prokaryotes (single cellular organisms). The royal cards carry shovels as soil is the result of prokaryotes mixed in dirt breaking down other organic material to make nutrients usable by plants. The civilization card represents a society among the dirt. Design-wise this was inspired by hobbit holes. The omega card is global disease.

Spades: The spades represent the most abstract thing conceptually in the earth set. It represents the concept of syntropy. This is paired up with the asteroids suit in the cosmos set which represents entropy. Entropy is the property of matter that in a closed system disorder and chaos will increase. In essence syntropy is the inverse of entropy, it represents the collection or consumption of energy in order to maintain organization in a system. A possible example of this could be a lion eating a gazelle. Or a plant absorbing energy from the sun to maintain its existence. In a sense war could be considered a form of syntropy in that one group increases disorder in another group (through violence) to take their resources in an effort to maintain function and stability in their own group. This is why the royal cards hold spears and wear armor. The civilization card represents a society that lives in a large bunker.

An aside: Syntropy doesn't really exist. This is beyond the fact that I'm already stretching the definition of it to suit my own purposes. Syntropy doesn’t exist in the way that cold doesn't really exist. Temperature is the measure of energy in a system. Something can have more or less energy than something else and that energy only moves around the universe. In that sense something is only more or less chaotic than something else which is a measurement of entropy.

The Cosmos Set Suits

These suits represents the components that make up the universe itself.

Stars: The stars suit represents electromagnetic radiation, such as light or radio waves. The royal cards are holding maces and of course…morning stars. Naturally, the tower card is a light house. The omega card shows the earth being destroyed by a super nova.

Circles: The circles suit represents baryonic matter, which is the matter the stuff around you is made out of, including the planets themselves. This is in contrast to the other forms of matter represented by other suits. The royal cards are holding shields. The omega card depicts the earth being sucked into a black hole.


Antimatter: As soon as antimatter comes into contact with ordinary matter they both obliterate. The icon for the antimatter suit is based on the shape of the containment units designed to study antimatter. The royal cards are each holding a mighty axe. The tower card actually shows two towers that are opposites of each other. The omega card shows the earth being obliterated by its antimatter counterpart.

Dark Matter: Dark matter is just the name for much of the matter that exists in the universe that is distinct from baryonic matter. It is called dark matter because it has proved incredibly difficult to detect. The royal cards are each holding keys.

Dark Energy: Dark energy is the most abundant component of the universe and yet we barely understand it, despite it explaining the expansion of the universe. The royal cards are all holding bows and arrows. The tower card depicts the possible relationship between Dark Energy and Time. The Omega Card depicts a theoretical end of the universe called the big rip.

Asteroids: The Asteroids suit represent entropy, the force of the universe that always draws matter towards chaos and disorder. This pairs up with the spades suit which represents the inverse of this force. The royal cards are all holding lances. The tower card depicts a building modeled after an asteroid collision. The omega card depicts an asteroid colliding with the earth.


The Spactime Set

The Spacetime Set is a special stand alone set of cards that consists of a single suit, the hourglass, and contains ranks 0 through 100. The anatomy of these cards are slightly different from the other sets of cards as can be seen below.

Each card in the Spacetime Set has a primary rank from 0 to 100. It includes two copies of the 0-rank and 100-rank cards. Each card also has a secondary rank of I through V in roman numerals (20 cards with each numeral). Additionally, each card has a bit symbol which can be interpreted as either a 0 or 1(looking at the white part), or as a 1 or 2 (looking at the number of circles in the symbol).


Each card depicts grains of sand falling down the hourglass starting with 100 grains and dropping down to 0. The alpha card in this set is the 100-rank card and the omega is the 0-rank card. The set also includes a special "Death" card representing the end of time for an individual being.

The singularity Deck Card Back: