Have you ever wondered what the future will look like? Sure, flying cars, space travel and exotic alien races may be interesting, but the real question is: what will we be doing with our free time? Many science-fiction movies and shows have endeavored to answer the question, and they commonly come back to card games and games of chance.
Sabacc (Star Wars)
Featured throughout Star Wars films, animated shows and video games, Sabacc uses a total of seventy-six cards which can each have a negative or positive value (some cards can be flipped to either).
The goal of Sabacc is to get as close to the absolute value of 23 as possible; essentially, it’s a more complicated version of blackjack. Each round, players can either stand with the cards they have or play one of their cards.
Sabacc is a fantastic example of a game that has seemingly simple rules with rather complex outcomes, as each player must develop their own strategy to get as close to either 23 or -23 as possible.
Poker (Star Trek)
The Star Trek franchise, as with my science-fiction franchises, makes the (reasonable) assumption that poker will remain a standard card game for many years to come. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, characters often play poker games, including 5 Card Draw and 5 Card Stud, which is featured as the Captain’s game of choice in the final scene of TNG.
Interestingly, 5 Card Stud is known as one of the earliest types of Stud poker, and dates back to the Old West; it relates directly into the Star Trek theme of the “final frontier.” It’s easy to see why the writers would assume that poker would make it to the stars.
Tall Card (Firefly)
Little more than a passing reference on the show itself, the canon rules of Tall Card remain a mystery–yet it’s actually been turned into a real game. Unlike other card games, Tall Card has two decks; one a set of numbered cards and the other, oddly, a set of discs bearing fruit.
On the show, the crew of the Firefly use Tall Card to gamble for sheets representing their chores – it’s difficult to imagine a more noble purpose. That is to say, until a genius-turned-psychic interrupts the happy gang with one of her unique “episodes.”
Tongo (Deep Space Nine)
Tongo appears familiar… until the characters start talking about it. A combination of cards and roulette, this game is about more than just its rules; like poker, there is a heavy psychological component. Much of the game involves strategy and posturing, as each player is able to “acquire,” “confront,” “evade” or “retreat” at each turn – though the exact specifics of each action is not generally defined.
Confusingly, Tongo also uses a myriad of financial terms: indexing the margin, leveraging the buy-in and indexing the exchange. So while it could be found in a modern day casino, it would probably be played by a very distinct subset of players.
Pyramid (Battlestar Galactica)
A poker-like offshoot with hexagonal marked cards, Pyramid was featured in the original Battlestar Galactica – though it was strangely replaced with a sports-based game later on. Pyramid involved a deck of 52 cards, all with different symbols which, one must presume, had some meaning. By all appearances, it was played extremely close to poker – and those willing to play a hand of Pyramid themselves will find the game very similar.
So what have we learned about card games of the future? They range from insanely incomprehensible to extremely familiar. Card games, overall, really haven’t changed much for decades – and they aren’t likely to change significantly for many centuries to come. For now, you can take solace in the fact that your kids – and their kids, and their kids after that – will probably be playing games very similar to poker.