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Subject: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The best deck of playing cards. EVER! rss

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Introducing the Pipmen World deck

I'll be up front with you: I never thought I'd find myself reviewing a deck of playing cards. As in: traditional playing cards. Hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs - Aces through Kings, you know the drill.

Except that these playing cards aren't exactly ordinary. I'll give you a spoiler right up front, and show you why:



Did you catch what is remarkable about that? Not only does each individual card have amazing artwork (without detracting from the functionality of the cards as a regular deck), but the cards all fit together to make a single massive image!

Now to be honest, prior to seeing this deck, I couldn't imagine myself getting excited about a deck of playing cards. But I am! Trust me, these cards are truly AMAZING. Seriously! When I saw these, I just had to get my hands on a copy of the deck, and I just had to post this review!

So what is this amazing deck, and where can you get one? Well it's called the Pipmen World deck and here it is:



Now I have no actual connection with the guy involved with this project. Someone made me aware of this extraordinary deck, since it is currently up for funding on Kickstarter. It was funded within 12 hours, and is currently making its way through several stretch goals. I am just staggered by the level of awesomeness of these cards, that I had to share about it with my fellow gamers here on boardgamegeek. After all, you are the discerning folks who would appreciate a classy and unique item like this.

Each individual card looks great on its own - look very carefully to see all the "pipmen" interacting with the pips on the cards. But when you put the cards together on the table to make a single larger image, they look even more stunning! At the same time the corners of the cards make it very clear what the suit/value of each card is, so it's totally usable in a card game. The guy who made this has thought of everything!

I didn't even know this project existed, but I was fortunate enough to be shown a prototype copy of the deck firsthand by someone locally who knew that I love card games and that I love polyptych artwork. I immediately fell in love with the Pipmen World deck, and volunteered to write a review of it. In my opinion, it is an incredible concept that has been brilliantly executed - it's functional and beautiful, all at the same time. Here's another sneak peek, with a photo I took of the prototype cards I saw:




ELEPHANT PLAYING CARDS

Background

But to begin with, let me start with a word about my own credentials and experience with playing cards.

First of all, I've always loved traditional card games. Trick-taking games like Hearts, Spades, Euchre, 500, and Oh Hell. Classics like Cribbage, and Whist. Foreign games like Scopa, Schnapsen, and Le Truc. Casual and social games like Palace, President, Blitz, and Fan Tan. Kids games like Cheat, Chase the Ace, and Spoons. Solitaire games like Golf, Monte Carlo, and Pyramid. These are the kinds of games that were staples in our home, and we continue to play them fairly regularly. Hey, I even wrote a Geeklist on the subject, which you can see here: Favorite Games with Standard Playing Cards.

Secondly, I've long had a long-time hobby in magic. As in: conjuring. Card tricks have always been a favourite for me, and continue to be a fun part-time hobby. I know how to do various shuffles, cuts, fans, and even some sleight of hand.

So this is all to say, that I love decks of cards. I've owned a lot of different decks in my time, use them often, and have a good idea of what you should look for in terms of quality. I've also seen my fair share of glamorous custom decks (e.g. produced by sites like ellusionist and theory11) designed for collectors. So what makes the Pipmen World deck so special that it's worthy of a review?



Introducing Ben Jones

While I've had a lot of experience with playing cards, and have seen a lot of really nice decks in my time, the Pipmen World deck that I'm going to talk about in this review just blows away everything I've ever seen before.

But first, let me introduce you to Ben Jones (pictured below), who lives in Sydney Australia, and runs an outfit called Elephant Playing Cards.



Ben is the man who is currently publishing this special deck of playing cards, which he has been creating and developing for almost three years.



Introducing the Pipmen World deck

So what is this deck that it is unlike any other you've ever seen before? It's called Pipmen World Playing Cards.

Here's what the box looks like.



But Ben Jones isn't just a one-trick pony.

Not surprisingly, this isn't his first foray into the world of playing cards. He's already run several successful Kickstarters previously for his Pipmen decks of playing cards, like the ones shown here below:




THE PIPMEN DECKS

Previous Pipmen decks

So what's a Pipmen deck? "Pipmen" is a term Ben has coined for the characters on his cards.

He explains it like this: Pips + Stickmen = Pipmen! Typical of the decks he designs are "little stickmen figures interacting with the pips to create a unique scene."



It's a brilliant concept, and Ben has done some terrific work in creating these.

Take a look at some of these examples of playing cards from Pipmen decks he's published previously.





Isn't that stunning? Here's a look at some actual printed cards:



The Pipmen World deck

Now that's already amazing. But it gets better yet. With the Pipmen World deck, Ben has taken this concept to a whole new level. A polyptych level!

So what's a polyptych? It's a picture that consists of several individual parts, and when these individual artworks are put together, they make a larger single picture. I love the concept of polyptychs. If you're a long time user here, you may have seen my GeekList on the subject, showcasing examples of polyptych images in games. There's some stunning examples of creative game artwork there: It's a work of art! Games that are puzzles: cards with artwork that forms a single picture when combined

But while there's some amazing polyptychs in other games, the Ben Jones' Pipmen World deck has to be the best yet. First of all, every single card in the deck is a self-contained picture. Here's two examples:



Notice the pipmen above climbing the snowy mountain on the left, and digging tunnels below the earth on the right. And below, we have some pipmen divers and one flying a hang-glider in an electrical storm. Very neat!



But now let's start joining some of these cards together. In a truly remarkable way, Ben has designed the artwork so that all the individual cards can be put together to form a larger panoramic image. This is truly amazing, and has to be seen to be believed! When the cards are placed alongside one another to form a larger picture, it is very impressive.

Here's some examples of the concept featuring a cityscape and sky along with some camels in a desert and cows in a farmer's field:



Here's another lot of cards, featuring an ocean scene, including both above and below the water:



Ben Jones, you're a genius! It really is a stunning piece of work, but that's not all. You can put every single card from the entire deck together to make one complete and massive image!

To see an animated gif showing you how this works, click here.

To give you some idea, here's a poster showing the entire picture:



The Pipmen Collectors Edition deck

While the focus of this review is the Pipmen World deck, I also want to make mention of the Pipmen Collectors Edition deck.

It's also available in the same Kickstarter, and features a complete deck of cards with all the original Pipmen designs, packaged in a black tuckbox with gold foil.



I've shown you some of the original Pipmen cards already, but here's a couple more:



Other decks

There's even uncut sheets and posters featuring these and other decks of cards available on the Kickstarter. At Ben's website I discovered that he has also produced other specialized decks of playing cards, including the Prism Day, Prism Dusk, and Prism Night decks, and even a Renaissance deck with a medieval flavour.



So Ben has lots of experience under his belt already, and a healthy fan base. But he's really outdone himself with the Pipmen World deck, so that's the one I want to concentrate on in my conclusions.


CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Here are some of my final thoughts about the Pipmen World deck, since that is the deck in particular that blew me away. Here are seven reasons to consider picking this up, and why I just love it:

1. It's a stunning deck to admire: the individual cards

First of all, the artwork on the individual cards can be admired and enjoyed, and is sure to create some real talking points! I enjoy studying and appreciating the artwork on each individual card, and I love how the stickmen interact with the everything - this is very creative. Ben has done some very imaginative and brilliant work here, and I can't say enough about how amazing each card looks.

2. It's a stunning deck to admire: the larger picture

While the artwork on the individual cards is already fantastic, what really takes this to the next level is how these individual cards combine to make a single larger picture. This is an outstanding idea, and it definitely has the feel of being a single whole, without feeling like being a cobbled-together collection of disconnected pieces. I've been admiring some of the uncut sheets and posters that Ben is making available as options in his Kickstarter, because the whole picture really does look great.



3. It's a puzzle deck to piece together

Being able to piece together cards in a larger picture is a truly remarkable achievement, because this is a real work of art that can just be enjoyed and appreciated. But it's also a fun exercise to assemble the cards to make that single image. Now, granted, most of the time you don't use playing cards for this purpose. But that's what makes this deck special: you can use it as a fun puzzle challenge. Ben reports that the fastest he's seen it done (without any hints or knowledge of the picture in advance) is around 13 minutes by a duo, and around 18 minutes as a solo effort. It took one of us around 15 minutes, and that was already knowing what the final picture looked like! So give it to your friends, and see how long it takes for them to put it together. It's not as easy as it sounds!

4. It's a functional deck to use

Having said that these cards can be fun to piece together, does this deck have any other value aside from that, or is it just going to be a collector's item? I've seen some amazing artwork on decks of cards before, but it was purely cosmetic, and the decks themselves weren't even functional, because the artwork interfered with the clarity of the symbols. Fortunately, that's not the case with this deck. The opposite indices of each card have a very clear statement of what the card is, with the number and suit, as you can see clearly in the image below. One might think that the white borders on the edge of the cards interfere with the panoramic image, but from my own lengthy experience with playing cards I've learned that having a coloured image bleed all the way to the edge of a card might look great in isolation, but it's just not practical, and sometimes you can even tell what a face-down card in a deck is by looking at the colours of the edge. So on that particular point, playability has trumped aesthetics, and I think that's a good move. So Ben has obviously given all this careful thought, so that this deck isn't just going to be resigned into becoming a collector's piece that will collect dust. Brilliant: this is actually a deck you can use.



5. It's a quality deck to last

I was fortunate to see an actual printed copy of the deck via a someone who managed to get hold of this directly from Ben. The deck I saw was a prototype, and looked great, but the quality of the final printed cards will be even higher still. The cards are being printed by Legends Playing Card Co, a market leader in playing card manufacturing, with their `diamond finish' that ensures optimum durability and playability. Even the boxes are high quality - I'm told that these will use casino-grade tuck paper with embossing and foil stamp, as well as full colour printing to outside and interior printing to inside.

6. It's a unique deck to stand out

This deck isn't like any other deck of playing cards. Aside from the instant appeal of the Pipmen concept, it stretches this already unique take on playing cards even further by having the artwork of the separate cards work together. It really does do a great job of using the polyptych concept. It's a deck that is going to get instant attention, and you'll have people around you clamouring to see it.



7. It's an available deck to get

I don't know how long this deck will be available. But what I do know is that it's available on Kickstarter right now. Judging from his website, some of Ben Jones' older decks and uncut sheets have gone for steep prices, and can be hard to get. The Pipmen World deck, on the other hand, is available right now. There's few things worse than reading about an amazing deck online, only to find out that it has sold out, and isn't available anymore.

Recommendation

So is the Pipmen World deck for you? Clearly this project is a labour of love for Ben Jones - it's something he's been working on for a few years, and now it's coming together in published form. It's a dream come true for him, but it's also a dream come true for anyone who is looking for an amazing deck of cards. I'm thinking this is a must have for anyone who enjoys playing cards, or even to use as a gift. Every gamer should own at least one set of playing cards, and if you are going to own only one deck, I'd make it a beautiful one like this!

I really can't say enough about this amazing deck of cards. Well done Ben Jones!


BoardGameGeek reviewer

For more of my reviews on custom playing cards, subscribe to this list: Pictorial Reviews of Playing Cards by EndersGame



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please consider giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
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Images are not displaying correctly and os I have no idea what you're talking about.
 
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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russ wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Images are not displaying correctly and os I have no idea what you're talking about.
I see them fine. They're hosted at BGG, so perhaps try refreshing the page simply...?
Still don't see them. It might be a browser issue. Because I used to have to use it for work on this computer, I'm using Firefox. While I don't have that job anymore, chrome doesn't have the browser history etc.
 
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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I just see empty space on the page; no images are displayed.
 
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whac3 wrote:
russ wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Still don't see them. It might be a browser issue. Because I used to have to use it for work on this computer, I'm using Firefox. While I don't have that job anymore, chrome doesn't have the browser history etc.
FWIW I'm using Firefox too. Do you see anything if you go to this page (one of the image's pages): ?
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/3432077/endersgame
I just see empty space on the page; no images are displayed.
Thanks for helping out Russ. Sounds like Moshe must be experiencing a bug that has nothing to do with this particular review as such, because the images have been included correctly as usual, and should be visible to users.

Moshe, maybe you should instead post a report in the BGG Bugs forum, and try trouble-shooting the issue further there?

Meanwhile, might I respectfully suggest that you move any further discussion about that there, so we can keep comments here on the deck of cards, as reviewed above?
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Well just btake it from us that they look rather stunning.

Cartoonish, but stunning.

You could always check the kickstarter if you want to see better pics?
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Yep Moshe is really missing out, these look amazing! Personally thoguh I think I prefer the Collectors' Edition cards for playing with as I like the cleaner lines and more uncluttered appearance. I really appreciate the cleverness of the polyptych though, and they are both really stunning.

Susie_Cat.

PS And for what it's worth, I use Firefox and can see the images perfectly here so it's not that.
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Is this actually a review, or an advertisement for a Kickstarter? Cause it sure looks like an ad.
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jumbit wrote:
Is this actually a review, or an advertisement for a Kickstarter? Cause it sure looks like an ad.
That's just my gushing enthusiasm

If you read my other reviews, you'll notice that in most cases I only review things that I'm very enthusiastic and positive about. Naturally, that enthusiasm will show up in how I write my review.

Because of the time and effort that goes into making one of my pictorial reviews, I'm not usually going to waste my time with something that I'm lukewarm about, or that I think is merely mediocre.
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EndersGame wrote:
jumbit wrote:
Is this actually a review, or an advertisement for a Kickstarter? Cause it sure looks like an ad.
That's just my gushing enthusiasm

If you read my other reviews, you'll notice that in most cases I only review things that I'm very enthusiastic and positive about. Naturally, that enthusiasm will show up in how I write my review.

Because of the time and effort that goes into making one of my pictorial reviews, I'm not usually going to waste my time with something that I'm lukewarm about, or that I think is merely mediocre.

Any reviews on games that you loathe with a fiery passion from deep in your soul? You know, games that are abominably bad but people still seem to like them. devil
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Redward wrote:
Any reviews on games that you loathe with a fiery passion from deep in your soul? You know, games that are abominably bad but people still seem to like them. devil
I know it's something of a stereotype, but you can read about my evil plans for my copy of Monopoly here (includes disturbing photographic evidence).

I also didn't find many redeeming qualities in the Redemption CCG as reviewed here, and I wrote a follow-up blog-post about tacky games here.

On a more charitable note, you can read my joke review of the overly juvenile My Little Pony Hide & Seek here.

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Hmm, but this is more of an optimistic preview than a review about a game product you've played with, right?

I.e. (unless I am misunderstanding something), the product described is currently collecting crowdfunding and has not been released yet, so it sounds like you don't physically have this deck of cards, but rather are basing your impressions off of creator-supplied photographs and descriptions? Or am I confused?

Edited to add: never mind - see Ender's comment after this.
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russ wrote:
Hmm, but this is more of an optimistic preview than a review about a game product you've played with, right?

I.e. (unless I am misunderstanding something), the product described is currently collecting crowdfunding and has not been released yet, so it sounds like you don't physically have this deck of cards, but rather are basing your impressions off of creator-supplied photographs and descriptions? Or am I confused?
That's a fair question Russ, but I can assure you that I have seen and handled a copy of the actual Pipmen World deck in person.

As I wrote under point 5 of the conclusions: "I was fortunate to see an actual printed copy of the deck via a family member who managed to get hold of this directly from Ben. The deck I saw was a prototype, and looked great, but the quality of the final printed cards will be even higher still."

While I relied much on promotional images to demonstrate the polyptych qualities of the cards, some of the pictures above are my own photos of the prototype deck that I was looking at firsthand.

Here's another of my own pictures, showing all the physical cards from the actual printed deck on my table, after we tried piecing together the entire puzzle for the first time.

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EndersGame wrote:
That's a fair question Russ, but I can assure you that I have seen and handled a copy of the actual Pipmen World deck in person.

As I wrote under point 5 of the conclusions: "I was fortunate to see an actual printed copy of the deck via a family member who managed to get hold of this directly from Ben. The deck I saw was a prototype, and looked great, but the quality of the final printed cards will be even higher still."

Aha, sorry I missed that in my initial readthrough! Thanks.
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russ wrote:
Aha, sorry I missed that in my initial readthrough! Thanks.
I should have made that clearer from the outset, Russ, so thanks for bringing it up. I have made an edit to add a sentence in the introductory section to mention it there as well.

Bear in mind that I'm the perfect candidate to love a deck like this. I have a long-standing interest in traditional card games, as you can see from my geeklist here. I have a long-standing interest in games with polyptych artwork (panoramic images that consist of individual images placed together), as you can see from my geeklist here.

In this case, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, because someone who had a copy of a prototype showed it to me, figuring I'd like it. I didn't even know it existed before he told me about it. Unsurprisingly, I was quickly sold on it, and wanted to take a closer look at it and review it.

As you probably know, the detailed information about the designer, background about his other games and about this particular project, is standard fare for my comprehensive reviews. That's not promotional ad-copy, but is just typical of the thoroughness and research I put into a detailed review. It also made sense that where possible I would use good existing images that showcased the beauty of this particular polyptych deck. I'm still smitten by it!
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I agree, my first thought was this is great, how do I get a copy. Then I found it was on KickStarter, and thought, "Eh?" It did feel like an advert, but reading properly (yes, on the third try!), I could see that it wasn't and yes, it was in keeping with Ender's other reviews.

Personally, I'm very glad he drew my attention to it, because I probably wouldn't have spotted it else. I think it will bring quite a bit of extra publicity though and I do worry that it might mean Ender gets asked to review other KickStarter projects. For me this would make his reviews worth that little bit less, but that's probably just me.

Susie_Cat.
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Hi, Ben! Thanks for the info on these. Very cool!

On the website, I saw a red, black, and shadow (I think) edition. I briefly looked at the images and wasn't entirely sure what the differences are, especially between black and red. Do you have any information about these?

Thanks again!
 
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Susie_Cat wrote:
Then I found it was on KickStarter, and thought, "Eh?" ... Personally, I'm very glad he drew my attention to it, because I probably wouldn't have spotted it else. I think it will bring quite a bit of extra publicity though and I do worry that it might mean Ender gets asked to review other KickStarter projects.
Don't worry Susie_Cat, I already get asked to review Kickstarter projects more often, but I usually say `no'.

Mostly I'll only agree to review something if I am very enthusiastic about it, and if it's in its final published form.
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yosemite wrote:
On the website, I saw a red, black, and shadow (I think) edition. I briefly looked at the images and wasn't entirely sure what the differences are, especially between black and red. Do you have any information about these?
Unfortunately I don't know the exact answer to that Dan, because I've only seen an actual copy of the Pipmen World deck, and I haven't seen copies of the Red, Black, or Shadow decks.

Based on the many images I'm seeing here, one obvious difference is that while the back designs of all three decks are somewhat similar, the card backs have different colours: Red, Black, and Inverse.



In addition, the Jokers in all three decks are different. Aside from those two minor differences, the Red and Black decks seem to have identical cards.

The Shadow deck seems to have the exact same Pipmen artwork on the card faces as well, but with a reversed colour scheme, like the Ace of Clubs shown on the box cover on the right below. You can see examples of more cards from the Shadow deck here.

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Asger Harding Granerud
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They look amazing, thanks for sharing this!

Regards
Asger Granerud
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Gorgeous. Thanks for reviewing! Makes me want to play regular card games again.

Edit: Thanks again for making me want something I didn't know I wanted.
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abonosky wrote:
Gorgeous. Thanks for reviewing! Makes me want to play regular card games again.

Edit: Thanks again for making me want something I didn't know I wanted.

Thanks, Ender! The red and black really had me confused. Your help is much appreciated.
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Quote:
4. It's a functional deck to use

No. No, it isn't. Why is it so hard for some designers/publishers to add the suit in all four corners?

Yes, it looks awesome. No, it is not a functional deck to use.
 
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BaSL wrote:
No. No, it isn't. Why is it so hard for some designers/publishers to add the suit in all four corners?

Yes, it looks awesome. No, it is not a functional deck to use.
I hear what you're saying, Bas, because it means cards can only be fanned one way while still having the indices showing.

But to be fair, the criticism you're making can be made of a standard Bicycle deck, and indeed of most decks. The usual convention with American playing cards these days is only to have indices on opposite corners. Wikipedia states the following about the standard 52 card deck: "Modern playing cards carry index labels on opposite corners (rarely, all four corners) to facilitate identifying the cards when they overlap and so that they appear identical for players on opposite sides."



I realize that you can get decks that have indices on all four corners, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. That's why it's fair to compare the functionality of the Pipmen World deck with that of a standard deck. In that regard it compares favourably, because it's no less functional than a typical Bicycle deck.

In contrast, look at these cards below from the Bicycle Frost deck. The `artistic' design interferes with the functionality, because the pips for the hearts and diamonds are almost indistinguishable, as are the pips for the clubs and spades. You need to study the card far too carefully than you should in order to figure out what the suit is.



This is an issue with a lot of artistic decks, such as the Bicycle Gold deck below, where the Spades and Clubs look far too similar at a quick glance.



Unlike many such artistic decks which get this wrong, in contrast the Pipmen World deck has very clear indices that don't make this mistake.

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Noord Brabant
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Ah. Weird. Suits in all four corners seem to be the standard over here.
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