Alloy Playing Cards

Oh, we gamers are such suckers for nice shiny things. So when I heard about the shiny cards of the new Alloy decks from PlayingCards.net, I could hardly resist. It was, after all, some kind of first.

I always love it when someone claims to be first at something. It means that some age-old boundary has been broken, or some new territory has explored. PlayingCards.net is a big outfit, with a massive range, including all the big names like Bicycle, Ellusionist, Theory11, David Blaine, Tally Ho, Piatnik, USPCC. They also have some exclusives, and they make custom cards. So what exactly is their claim to fame with these new Alloy decks, and what exactly about these playing cards makes them a "first"?

In their words, the answer is this: "iridiscent stock tuck boxes and card backs".

That left me thinking: what on earth is meant by the word "iridescent"? Time to do some research. I'll save you the need to head to google, by telling you what I discovered. Iridescent means that something shows luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles. So depending on your angle of view, the surface appears to change colour. We're all familiar with the kind of rainbow effect you see in soap bubbles and CDs, right? That's iridescence.



Now that sounds like a very cool idea to see on a playing card - and it is! A small picture online gave me some idea, but I was curious enough to do some more research, and have some decks sent to me, to see it first-hand.

The concept has also been described this way: "The cards are designed in a way to give them a metal appearance with prismatic effect."

You can see the effect immediately by looking at the tuck box, which also has this iridescent foil effect. To be fair, just calling it a "prismatic effect" is a pretty cold and objective description, that really doesn't do justice to the beauty of this tuck box, does it?



So let's add some emotion and feeling to our description. As one owner of these cards, Thomas Furgalack, puts it much more poetically:

"That one person who wanted a deck of cards made out of metal rainbows is so incredibly amped. There is no denying the beauty of these cards ... You will most likely stare at them for hours before actually attempting to use them at all. Then you will buy several more because humans like shiny things and you won't be able to control yourself, or because your pet ferret likes shiny things and keeps stealing them." He adds "Do some fancy stuff on a sunny day and everyone in a 3 block radius will see the rainbow reflection off the cards."



Several editions of the Alloy Deck were created at the same time, the main difference being the available colours: Copper (brown), Amethyst (purple), and Cobalt (blue).



Of these, the Cobalt version of this deck is the most impressive - it actually has iridescent foil on the fronts of the cards - another apparent industry first.



Here's a close-up look of the Ace of Spades, which illustrates this rainbox effect:



There's even a deluxe version (Cobalt Gilded Edition) which has holographic gilding on the sides of the cards!

That adds up to a whole lot of firsts, a whole lot of bling, and lots of shiny-ness! Just check out this next image - you are going to have to take my word for this, but I haven't used any trick photography or photoshopped anything in the picture below - this is genuinely what this deck looks like in the sunlight, which makes it come alive!



So if you like nice shiny things, then you need to take a look at this! The amazing cards of the Alloy deck were designed by Charles A.P., also known as the Blackout Brother. The project was funded via Kickstarter, reaching almost five times the original goal of $10,000. The deck was printed in Taiwan by Expert Playing Company, and produced by Gambler's Warehouse.



Are you curious now too? Let's go find out more!

The Copper Edition

Here's what the Copper Edition tuck box looks like, in all its iridescent glory.



Even the tuck box lid looks amazingly beautiful!



The tuck box even has interior printing, and looks terrific.



The Copper edition has a copper type colour on the faces. The court cards and Aces are all custom, and all of the cards have intricate and detailed borders like the ones seen here.



You do have to look carefully, because aside from the pips on the indices, the court cards are somewhat similar at first glance. But each of them does have custom and unique artwork, that is a variation on the style of classic court cards.



Here's a close-up of some of the artwork - it's really grown on me, the more I use these cards.



The number cards also all feature custom pips and design.



But the red and black suits are distinguished easily enough, with clearly distinct colours used for the pips on the indices.



As for the card backs - well here they are, with their iridescent foil:



Photos can't do justice to how great this looks in real life, because when you fan the cards and move tilt them slightly, there's a moving rainbow effect which is hard to describe unless you see it first-hand!



The Amethyst Edition

The Amethyst Edition replaces the copper/brown colour throughout the deck with a more regal purple.



Ah, you say, but is it iridescent? Oh yes, for sure it is, just check this out!



The artwork on all the face cards is otherwise identical to those in the Copper edition, but instead of light/beige and red/orange, the red and black suits are distinguished with purple and white.



Here are some of the court cards - each again with unique custom artwork.



And here are some of the number cards, diamonds and clubs being the example here:



Of course all the card backs have hot-stamped foil backs (iridescent!), but with a touch of purple instead of brown like the Copper edition shown here.



And like all these decks, the beautiful tuck box is attention-grabbing, no matter which angle you look at it from!



The Cobalt Edition

But I'm saving the best for last, and that's the Cobalt Edition!



This is a limited edition, and is individually numbered.



The Cobalt edition is a luxury edition where the central colour is blue - more on how it is a luxury edition in a moment!



As with the other versions of this deck, the arrangement of the pips on the number cards is also custom.



Of course there's lots of iridescence on the card backs, which also feature the colour blue.



But now here's what makes the Cobalt edition extra special: it has iridescent foil on the face of the cards!



Hopefully some of these photos give you some idea of how incredible this looks:



I'm told that this is an industry first! Doesn't this just look stunning?



The correct answer, of course, is YES!



And like the other versions, it also features printing inside the tuck-box.



While the Copper and Amethyst editions are stunning, the Cobalt edition is just spectacular, and it's incredible how much having foil on the fronts of the cards changes the look, especially when it is iridiscent foil!

The Cobalt Gilded Edition

The final and most luxurious version of this deck is the Cobalt Gilded Edition.

The Cobalt Gilded Edition has holographic gilding on the edges of the cards!



This makes it a real collector's item! It was produced in very limited numbers, and at this point you won't find it easy to get your hands on one.

Conclusions

So much bling! I can't say enough about how amazing the iridescent effect on these cards is. Photos really can't do justice to it, and you need to see it to believe it. Almost everyone that I have shown this deck to, has immediately become enchanted by its beauty. Like most bling, you can't help but be drawn in by the sparkle, and the moving rainbows that emanate from the cards. It's a joy just to hold these cards in your hand, moving them in the light. And stare at them. And stare at them some more. Believe me, I've seen it happen on multiple occasions! It's good that there's some choice of colours, although the gilded edition of the Cobalt deck, which is a premium version, isn't readily available. But even the `regular' editions feel `premium' due to the high level of shiny-ness. As I mentioned at the outset, I appreciate it when companies are prepared to try new things, and that's definitely what you get with this deck. It immediately grabs your attention with its high visual appeal and unusually bright appearance.

Court cards: Now all this does come at some cost - and I'm not just talking about the dollar figures needed to own one of these. Initially I found that the court cards look quite similar, and aren't as easily distinguished from each other as much as I'd like. Not everyone I showed this deck to agreed with that however - some really liked the degree of similarity between the court cards, and thought that they had a good unity of style, and helped keep the focus on the eye-catching card backs. They also pointed out that upon close study it is noticeable that the artwork for each court card is different, and over time in using these cards, I've found this myself warming more and more to the court cards and their design. For some reason this seems even less of an issue with the Cobalt edition anyway; the card faces have a sparkle as a result of the foil, and having a graphic design where the court cards aren't drastically different actually enhances this iridescent effect. In that respect the non-iridescent faces of the Copper and Amethyst edition are overshadowed by the sheer beauty of Big Brother Cobalt.

Pip placement: There is one issue with the court cards that should be mentioned, however. Normally in addition to the small index on the corner, court cards have a much larger suit pip alongside the character pictured on the card. However the intricate borders of these cards means that there's only the small indices and not the larger pips, and so the result is that the court cards aren't as quickly distinguished from each other at a glance. Along with the fact that the eye-catching iridescent effect can become a distraction, this may mean that some people might find this deck somewhat less than suitable for an actual card game or for using in magic. However they are great looking for cardistry, and collectors will love them. I've used the deck for playing Cribbage, and didn't find this to be a real problem, despite the absence of the usual larger pips on the court cards.

Quality cards: The Alloy decks have been produced by Expert Playing Card Company (EPCC), who use the same factory in Taiwan as Legends Playing Card Company (LPCC), which I reviewed in detail here here. EPCC and LPCC are considered industry leaders in producing quality playing cards. More and more produces of custom playing cards are choosing to use them, because of their established reputation and quality products. They have several grades of finish, and this deck has been made with the Master Finish (= LPCC's "Diamond Finish"), which has thinner card-stock than a typical USPCC produced deck like the Bicycle Riderbacks, but still has an air-cushion type finish, a stiffer feel, and a grade of durability that actually exceeds your typical Bicycle deck. Not only are the cards themselves of a high quality, but the tuck boxes look amazing too, and are also excellent quality.



Handling: One challenge with this deck is that due to the materials needed to create these unusual cards, they do handle somewhat differently than a standard deck. The significant amount of foil on the backs does make them feel somewhat slippery. This isn't a deal breaker, because it doesn't make them unplayable. You may find fanning and spreading a bit to master at first, but you learn to adjust, and once you're familiar with the handling, this isn't really an issue. And really, that's just a small price to pay for all this bling, isn't it?!

Design: I really appreciate the graphic design of the Alloy decks. This starts with the tuck boxes, because even independently of the iridescent foil finish, the artwork design and pattern on the box looks terrific. This continues with the design of the card backs, which to me looks very classy, and elegant. When you add in the foil, it really highlights the beautiful and clear metallic design, and looks absolutely fantastic!

More money, more bling: I love the card-backs of the Copper and Amethyst edition. But to be honest, these editions just pale once you've seen the Cobalt edition, which has the iridescent foil on the card faces. Let me warn you, once you've seen the Cobalt edition in person, there is no going back! It's only 50% more expensive than the Copper and Amethyst editions, but for the extra money you pay, you get a deck that is iridescent on both sides. It looks so much better than the Copper and Amethyst editions, and in my opinion is easily worth the higher cost. If I was only to buy one of these three decks, it would be the Cobalt edition for sure, despite the price tag being bigger. It's just so much better, and the Copper and Amethyst seem like kindergarten level beside it - despite how good as they are! So more money, more bling: in this case, my advice is that if you are going to spend money to get the bling of these decks, spend the extra and go straight for the limited edition Cobalt version, because you won't regret it. It really makes the face cards come alive and the entire deck looks incredible!

Ideal for collectors: I gave a Cobalt edition of this deck to a collector of playing cards. He has a collection of some wonderful decks already, but this is what he had to say, after seeing the waves of iridescence: "Wow... I am just blown away!" After playing around with the deck for a bit, he made an even stronger statement: "This is my new favourite deck." Gushing comments like this that helped assure me of my own sanity, and convinced me that it wasn't just me who was smitten by all the shininess that this deck offers!

Availability: So where can you get these decks, especially since the Kickstarter has long ended? Since the Alloy Playing Cards were produced by Gambler's Warehouse, they are still available for purchase from its subsidiary, PlayingCards.net, which is where I got my decks from. They have slightly higher prices than some other websites (the Copper and Amethyst decks are around $US25 each, while the Cobalt deck is around US$40), but that's because they have the shipping costs built in - shipping to the US is free. You can get the decks separately (Copper, Amethyst, and Cobalt), or for better value you they have a special price on a set of three. The Gilded Edition was printed in very limited numbers and currently is listed as out of stock (here).



Recommendation

This is a stunning deck that will be the talk of the town. It is definitely something to consider if you enjoy something unusual, or are looking for a visually stunning deck of cards. And while you're visiting PlayingCards.net, check out the wide range of many other decks they have available!

Want to learn more?
Alloy Copper edition: http://www.playingcards.net/Alloy-Copper-Playing-Cards-Speci...
Alloy Amethyst edition: http://www.playingcards.net/Alloy-Amethyst-Playing-Cards-Spe...
Alloy Cobalt edition: http://www.playingcards.net/Alloy-Cobalt-Playing-Cards-Speci...
Alloy deck set of three: http://www.playingcards.net/Alloy-Limited-Edition-Series-on-...



These decks are also available at your favourite Murphy's Magic retailer. See the product pages at Murphy's Magic for Copper, Amethyst, Cobalt


BoardGameGeek reviewer

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Stephen Tavener
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One of the reasons foil cards annoy me in games like Magic: the Gathering, is that the cards tend to warp. Any sign of that happening here?
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mrraow wrote:
One of the reasons foil cards annoy me in games like Magic: the Gathering, is that the cards tend to warp. Any sign of that happening here?

I probably haven't had them long enough to tell. But I'm fairly sure that foil Magic the Gathering cards look quite different than foil playing cards, are a different concept, and are also created by an entirely different process.

Magic the Gathering cards have a holographic foil laminate that is bonded to the entire card back, left for some time, and then eventually overprinted with the matching card art.

Foil playing cards, on the other hand, are created by heat stamping actual metallic foil onto just parts of the cards. One publisher describes it this way: "Hot foil stamping, is the process of using heat to transfer a layer of metallic foil onto a surface, allowing it to adhere onto the paper." I'm not aware of hot stamped metallic foil ever creating issues with card warping.

The innovative thing about the Alloy deck isn't the metallic foil as such, because this has been done with playing cards many times previously, but the fact that it is iridescent foil, and that it's done on both the backs and the faces of the cards.
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Dylan Posa
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These are really stunning - I think I like the Copper colour scheme the best.
 
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DylanP wrote:
These are really stunning - I think I like the Copper colour scheme the best.

I also much prefer the Copper deck to the Amethyst deck. But it's purely personal preference - some of my family members prefer the purple of the Amethyst deck!

The Cobalt deck outshines them both though, due to having iridescent foil on the card faces, while the Copper and Amethyst decks only have this on the card backs.
 
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Nadine Sehnert
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Cool - thanks for the review. Just ordered the 3 deck set!
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DinoSnert wrote:
Cool - thanks for the review. Just ordered the 3 deck set!

These decks are still among my all-time favourites. So much shininess, and so much bling!

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
 
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