I Found This Pokémon-Like Card Game at Formula Drift and I’m Obsessed
The game is called Chicane.
The vendors at this past weekend's Formula Drift New Jersey event offered your usual fare. Bride backpacks with their signature red, blue, or green straps. Royal Purple oil. Custom coilovers. But one booth, in particular, caught my eye and made me do a complete 180. That familiar trading card size and shape with the instantly recognizable yellow border running around the card itself—was someone selling Pokémon cards? At Formula Drift? No, not exactly. They're not Pokémon cards. They're part of a new car-based trading card game called Chicane and they were among some of the coolest things I've seen for sale.
The cards themselves are laid out very similarly to the Pokémon cards that took school playgrounds by storm in the '90s. Up top, you had the Pokémon's name and its Hit Points rating. You had a big flashy picture in the middle that took up nearly half the card's real estate. Below that, you had some specs for attacks or special abilities. It's the same here, except the HP doesn't stand for Hit Points, it stands for horsepower—and who among the collective Pokémon/cars fanbase hasn't mixed that one up—and instead of a Pokémon, the image is of a cartoonified, almost anime-like car.
This, according to graphic designer and the game's founder, Marco Fernandez, was all on purpose.
A graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa with a Bachelor of Science in industrial design and engineering, Fernandez got into drawing at a young age by sketching characters from Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon. "Then The Fast and the Furious came out [in 2001] and that changed the perspective on what I wanted to draw," he told me in an interview. "The over-the-top colors and graphics were meant to appeal to a younger audience. Cars with crazy body kits and wings."
Fernandez has been designing these character cars for about five years now. On Instagram, he started doing a "who's that Pokémon?" type of a game where people would guess what kind of car he'd drawn. Separately and as a Formula Drift fan, he started out by sketching drivers' cars as fan art and getting them to sign his sketchbooks. Eventually, those two ideas merged into him wanting to create something more memorable, playable, and collectible. A card set that people could collect. Thus was born Chicane, the trading card game.
Fernandez started working on the game in early to mid-2020 and began putting out cards in 2021. The whole thing is absolutely inspired by that '90s nostalgia of collector's cards. He was an avid player of The Pokémon Trading Card Game and wanted to capture the simple but brilliant magic the cards cast over him and countless others all over the world. When designing his cards, Fernandez recognized the allure of other trading card games such as the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game and Magic: The Gathering but was always put off by the big paragraphs of text those cards came with.
Chicane cards don't have that. Everything is organized in an easy-to-digest manner and the yellow outline puts a tidy box around it all. Yellow is one of Fernandez's favorite colors; he says it signifies the gold medal you'd win for first place in a race. It's an unrelated bonus that Pokémon cards have the same yellow border, but Fernandez pointed out that those cards are blue on the back. His stay yellow.
Buying and Playing
When I walked by Fernandez's booth, he was selling single cards starting at $5 each. He used to sell a starter pack but has since stopped because it included a limited edition card that's sold out. Currently, he's looking for a manufacturer to sell a booster pack that'll give you everything you need to play the game, so around 10 cards. You'll need map cards, rival cards, and mod and cheater cards.
You can take a gander at the rules below:
If you're into learning new card games, this probably piques your interest. But much like with my own Pokémon card collection, I just wanted to put the cards in a binder to look at. I was immediately taken by the cars' cartoonish proportions, but also the accuracy with which Fernandez managed to capture their shapes and front facias.
Fernandez takes commissions, by the way. His rate, which includes a design and 100 cards, starts at $300 and goes up from there depending on the car, how detailed it is, whether or not it's a race car, or if it wears a complicated livery. Fernandez will design anything you'd like, but as he told me, "My roots come from JDM." He's always been a JDM fan, it's JDM over everything.
The artistic process is old school: Fernandez begins everything as a pen-on-paper sketch, sometimes involving markers. Once the client signs off on it, he transfers the design over digitally with SketchBook Pro and Adobe Illustrator. He has a local supplier in Canada that he sends the designs over to to get printed, and then he picks them up for distribution himself.
Currently, he's designed and printed about 80 cards, but there are plans to expand—mostly in the commission direction if he can. He sees it as a way to collaborate with drivers to make something collectible for the fans, and has recognized that people liked the cards as a cool representation of their favorite cars. Especially at a Formula Drift race. Fernandez has supplied drivers such as Rome Charpentier, Kyle Mohan, Daniel Stuke, Ricky Hofmann, Mike Power, Joshua Reynolds, Yves Meyer, and Alec Robbins with cards. Maybe the drivers sign them and give them out during autograph sessions. Armed with a neat souvenir, Fernandez has noticed that fans then head to his booth to check out what else he's got.
Seeing as board games are going through a bit of a renaissance, Fernandez couldn't have timed Chicane better. But even if you aren't into games, the cards are just sweet things to have.
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