As the term “Top Trumps” rings a bell for those of us from a certain era, it might not stir memories of stats comparisons of vehicles or sports figures, but of sheer, unadulterated horror. This chilling reminiscence comes from two remarkable sets released in the late 1970s, the Horror Top Trumps with the “Dracula” Pack and “Devil Priest” Pack.
Introduced by Dubreq and later repackaged by Waddingtons, the Horror Trumps—or if you’d like, Horror Top Trumps or Top Trumps: Horror—boasted 32 characters per set. They featured hand-drawn illustrations predominantly influenced by Universal’s 1930s horror films and Hammer Horrors of the 60s and 70s. However, “influenced” may be understating the artistic process. The imagery was essentially a fusion of light-boxed or hand-drawn old horror stills, subtly reimagined to intensify the ghastly gore factor.
This artistic approach, for all its seeming brutality, firmly anchored the allure of the Horror Trumps. The images, with their robust lines, intense shadows, and garish color scheme—seemingly brought to life with magic markers—had a distinct comic book aesthetic. In an era when comic books were ubiquitous, and it was common to imagine superhero and horror realms colliding, these cards catered to a youthful imagination where horror was exciting, not necessarily gruesome.
The Horror card sets contained the expected cast of characters, like Dracula, Werewolf, the Mummy, and Frankenstein (the Monster, frequently known merely as Frankenstein). However, it was the offbeat choices that truly sparked intrigue: the red-skinned Diablo casting judgment from the skies, the peculiar Death, the four-eyed Thor, and the smirking Prince of Darkness.
In the absence of blurbs or background info, the evocative imagery and names alone were often enough to stir the imagination. Who would not wonder about the harsh realities on Venus when seeing the Venusian Death Cell? Or imagine the societal dynamics of the Zetan Warlord consulting the Zetan Priest? The strange internal mythology crafted within these 64 cards brought an added dimension to the game.
Today, we can easily decipher some of these influences—like the Venusian Death Cell being a revamped Sea Devil from Doctor Who—but back then, a single image paired with an evocative name was enough to spur countless stories in a young mind.
The Horror Top Trumps of the ’70s did more than just entertain; they crafted a community of young horror enthusiasts who found joy in collecting and trading these terrifying cards. A trip down memory lane with Dracula and Devil Priest decks reveals an era when horror was playful and thrilling, a time before horror became synonymous with “video nasties” and gory films. They stand as fascinating artifacts of ’70s pop culture, underscoring the enduring appeal of the horror genre.
Cards in the Dracula Pack: Dracula, Ape Man, Cannibal, Circus of Death, The Executioner, The Freak, Fu Manchu, Gargantua, The Ghoul, Godzilla, The Gorgon, Granite Man, The Hangman, Headhunter, Incredible Melting Man, King Kong, Lord of Death, The Mad Axeman, The Mad Magician, Madman, Maggot, Man-Eating Plant, Phantom of The Opera, Prince of Darkness, The Risen Dead, Skeleton, The Sorceress, The Thing, Two-Headed Monster, Vampire Bat, Werewolf and Zetan Warlord.
Cards in the Devil Priest Pack: Alien Creature, The Beast, Colossus, Creature From Outer Space, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Cyclops, Death, Devil Priest, Diablo, Dr. Syn, The Fiend, Fire Demon, Frankenstein, High Priestess of Zoltan, Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Jailer, Killer Rat, The Living Gargoyle, The Living Skull, Lizard Man, Martian Warrior, Mistress Vampire, The Mummy, The Slime Creature, The Sorcerer, Talon, Terror of The Deep, Thor, Venusian Death Cell, Wolfman, Zetan Priest, and Zoltan.
Beware The Retro Horror Top Trumps
The Horror sets were re-introduced in a retro collection by Winning Moves. However, each pack contains 30 cards instead of the original 32. The missing cards, are as follows: