eternal players

Playing cards emerged as a revolution in the world of games.

In a specialized dictionary, the entry for ‘deck’ might have the following description:

Cartas Cartas Cartas Cartas Cartas Cartas

“Set of flat, uniform objects (called cards), presenting symbols on one of their faces that can be grouped into homogeneous sets (called suits); each suit forms a series comprising various cards of different values​​.

The other face (called the back) presents a decorative design, repeated on all cards (currently, the most common case), or does not present any printed element, as is the case with most decks produced before the nineteenth century. The set is mainly used as paraphernalia for various games, following specific rules.”

This definition distinguishes decks of playing cards from other card games, in which there is no hierarchy of values ​​distributed in different suits. There is a wide range of games based on various cards that do not comprise a traditional deck. Perhaps the most popular in Brazil is Old Maid, which Copag still produces in two versions, where pairs of cards with the male and female of various animals are grouped together. Magic: The Gathering, created in 1993 by the mathematician Richard Garfield, is another well-known game that does not use the traditional deck. Although grouped in sets of colors, the cards do not follow the typical structure of the conventional suits.

Copag offers an extensive range of these kinds of games. Games are available for all audiences, from infants to adults.

Playing is a primary activity of man as well as other animals. Johan Huizinga, an important cultural philosopher of the twentieth century and former Dean of the University of Leyden, Holland, was one of the most erudite scholars of the game concept. He considered the activity of playing as important as that of reasoning (which characterized us as Homo Sapiens) and manufacturing objects (Homo Faber). According to Huizinga, Homo Ludens (Man the Player) deserves a place in our naming of species. We have certainly played since long before we were classified as Homo.

Compared to their older cousins​​ – dice and board games – decks of playing cards were invented relatively recently. The earliest known records are from the Middle Ages, between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Board games, on the other hand, are found in even older records from ancient Egypt and Babylon. The oldest set with these characteristics (full recovered with the board and its pieces) dates from 4000-3500 BC. It was found in a tomb at El-Mahasna, to the north of Abydos, Egypt. The British Museum proudly displays a set of the Royal Game of Ur, dated to around 2500 BC. Dice also appear around 2300 BC, which may have originated from osselets, small pieces formed of animal bones, still of unknown use, but possibly primitive game instruments, with records dating back to 4200 BC.

Mesa de Senet Jogo Real de Ur
The Senet Table, left, and the Royal Game of Ur, right, are some of the oldest games known to us.

Board games are played by capturing and positioning pieces. By using a dice, the lucky factor was added to game strategies. In contrast, games using traditional decks of cards are played by combining sets or sequences of cards.

However, the main characteristic which fundamentally distinguishes card games from those previously in existence is that of being the first game based on incomplete information. While during board games all the players know the positions of the pieces and their possibilities for movement, this information is unknown in card games, adding a component of uncertainty to the strategy. In addition to the luck factor and randomness, introduced by dice, cards add a lack of complete information with regard to the pieces in the game.

The surprise of the unknown, the ease of transportation and storage, and the variety of games that can be played by different numbers of players, made ​​this new invention famous. Cards became so famous that they overtook board games in popularity and diversity.

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