They’re the most important (or only) component in many games: randomisable, concealable, invertible, portable, rotatable, categorisable and packed with information. I’ve yet to design a game which utilises this potential: my mechanics rely solely on the number of cards in a player’s hand.
Why have I allowed this to happen? I mostly work with area control games: if four areas are better than three, the same should be true of cards. In worker placement games, a player’s hand size can determine the areas of the board they can access. My playtesters, however, keep asking me for cards with some “wow” factor.
Instead, I’ve given them decks. A deck is to a card what a cube is to a square: much more complex, but with many characteristics in common. I recently improved a deck by splitting it into sections: some cards are now guaranteed to appear early on. A weak, unloved card is eventually replaced by a stronger version.
That, however, is just one way of looking at it. If we imagine the weak card has simply evolved into the strong one, what are we left with? That’s right, a new project in which players draw whole decks instead of cards: Pokémon, the Copyright Infringement Game.