"Why," we have been asked, "are All or Nothing's hearts and diamonds white and not red like everyone is accustomed to?"
The easy answer is, "It's Shannon's fault. She's like that." But the truth is really a little more complicated.
Card games made their way to Europe from Arabia and China in the 14th century. The Arabian decks included a nifty polo club suit. Some Chinese decks had images of characters from their favorite novels. Fourteenth century Europeans, obsessed with royalty as they were, preferred the images of kings and queens.
Early European card decks were elaborately hand painted. Different countries had their favorite suits: cups, swords, acorns, leaves, batons, coins and even bells. Much lore and symbolism has been attached to card game symbols in their many permutations, and why not; we humans love stories every bit as much as we love games.
It is reported that a couple of 15th century French men, Etienne and Etienne, good friends and avid players, developed the suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades generally in use today. The flattened styling was especially cheap to print. The French decks made their way to America through New Orleans.
One evening, before our little group was allowed to play our usual game, a large piece of white poster board was placed in the center of the card table. Then a plethora of pens was passed out. Previously, concepts for the look of All or Nothing had been tossed around, but still none of us knew what any of the others were talking about. Pictures being worth so many words, we were instructed to explain ourselves with drawings.
All or Nothing. Yin and Yang. Black and White. Not one color printer between the four of us.
"What if we have black suits on a white background and white suits on black? We could eliminate the red altogether?" suggested Shannon.
And why not? Pure hearts and white diamonds have as much cultural relevance as bleeding hearts and blood diamonds. It's good to look at old ideas in new light. The preliminary drawings we worked up were pretty cool. Modern simplicity and tradition combined. But how to indicate the flip cards....?