Randy Butterfield & Midnight Cards

Randy Butterfield is probably not a name you've heard before. But if you enjoy playing cards, it's a name that you should learn about. Because Randy has designed over 40 different decks of playing cards, including several that are selling through large retailers. He also has his own website, Midnight Cards, where he sells some of his decks.

By day, Randy is a senior designer at Motive Marketing, and creates things for the wine and spirits industry, such as gift packs and displays. But at night, Randy turns into a werewolf. Actually, he doesn't, but he does burn the midnight oil doing something else: designing playing cards. Hence the name of his company: Midnight Cards. His wife actually came up with the name, and it describes perfectly Randy's need to pursue creative projects late at night when the rest of the family is asleep. Under this label, Randy spends his free time during evenings making beautiful decks of playing cards. He's discovered that this Night Owl kind of lifestyle is a great way for him to unwind and have fun exploring a different aspect of unique and personal creativity. And the market has discovered that he is a one of the best modern designers of playing cards.



Randy's post-secondary education began with a degree in Fine Arts in Graphic Design, and he subsequently worked in the pre-press department of a print shop, where he was more engaged in technical work than creative work, but nonetheless could do some freelance designing on the side. Already then, it seems he was burning the midnight oil, exploring the world of design for himself. Even today he credits this as a formative phase of his personal development, and he advises young designers to begin with a solid education and experience working in the design industry. But a new phase of life began for Randy after he found a new job designing packaging for high profile clients at Motive Marketing. He later moved to Indianapolis in 2007 to begin his family, and where he could continue working for Motive from home. It was here that began refining the formula from which his decks of cards would emerge: by day working for Motive, and at night after his wife and children were asleep working on personal projects and of course playing card designs.

He was first drawn to the idea of making a custom deck of playing cards as a result of his involvement in promoting a board game for a cousin. It was in connection with this that he found himself going to GenCon 2011, and there he heard about the impact that crowdfunding via Kickstarter was having on the game industry. Kickstarter? What's that? He and his cousin looked up Kickstarter on their phones, and the first project they saw was a creative deck of custom playing cards. They subsequently migrated to Kickstarter themselves to attempt to fund their game project, and this experience would prove useful later when Randy would later run his own projects. Being a night owl, all this inspired Randy to try his hand at designing his own deck of playing cards, which for him was the perfect night project. And so Midnight Cards began in 2012, when Randy launched his first deck, the Ornate series, for the House of Playing Cards. Since then, Randy has produced some real gems - especially keep an eye out for the stunning Draconian deck and the more recent Rome Antony & Cleopatra decks that you'll be seeing further below.

In this review, I'd like to take a look at a selection of Randy Butterfield's creations, and give you an overview of some of his work, so you can decide if some of his decks of playing cards are the kind of thing you'd like to buy and add to your own gaming shelf. Meanwhile here's Randy and his lovely family - this time while it's not midnight when he's the only one awake!




THE ORNATE SERIES

The original ORNATE decks

Our introduction to Randy's work begins with a classic style design - except that Randy isn't afraid to depart from the traditional even when designing a more "traditional" style deck!

The ORNATE deck was Randy's first published deck, which he produced for the House of Playing Cards. It went on to become a very popular deck that he later refined, and produced several different versions of, mostly in different colours, including Sapphire, Scarlet, Amethyst, and Emerald. Many consider it to be one of the best decks released in 2012, which was still the early stages of the crowd-funding revolution that helped fuel the custom playing card industry to new heights.

Picture here are two of the original decks, the Ornate Amethyst and Ornate Emerald deck. When first released, these two original decks sold out in less than a week!



Randy describes his Ornate deck as "playing cards fit for royalty", because they exude elegance and class, and are meticulously designed with an elaborate baroque theme and style. While watching an episode of The Tudors, he was struck by the elaborate and over-the-top details on all the furniture and other settings, and that inspired him to make something with elaborate and ornate detail, in areas such as the back design, borders, and background patterns.

The face cards of Amethyst deck feature gray/black background for the black suits and a purple background for the red suits, while the Emerald deck features a green/gold for the black suits and a silver/red for the red suits.



The design of the court cards is particularly note-worthy, because they are fresh and original, and aren't just yet another variation on the traditional court cards. They emphasize the faces, and use a style that is entirely different from any other custom deck that I can think of! Also a nice touch is the inclusion of the suits on the ribbons of colour that run in all four directions from the ornate circle that marks the card centre.

Altogether about 10,000 of the original ORNATE decks were produced, which in the world of playing cards is quite a large amount for a custom playing cards project. These original decks are no longer readily available, but fear not, you're about to hear about some revised versions!

The White ORNATE decks

Rather than go into too much detail about the original and hard-to-get decks, since they were later revised and updated, I'll focus on the White ORNATE decks instead. Randy made a final project for the Ornate decks under the House of Playing Cards banner, wanting to go out in style, with a definitive and improved version. The project was for a White edition of the Ornate decks, and four decks were released simultaneously: Amethyst (purple), Emerald (green), Sapphire (blue), and Scarlet (red). Effectively these are the Ornate series Mark II, or version 2.0.

These decks also came together as a complete set of four, and with tuck boxes that now had continuous artwork when placed side-by-side. Now that's the kind of attention to detail that I like, especially when it includes panoramic/polyptych artwork!



Overall these decks were still like the original ones, but they had the benefit of a face-lift. In addition to the tuck boxes revisions, there were some minor changes, such as a new pip layout for the number cards, and some adjustments to the card backs which you see here.

I love the elaborate artwork on the card backs of these decks, which is accentuated by the fact that a simple colour scheme is used, and it's completely in keeping with the ornate baroque style that Randy was targeting.



Perhaps the biggest change in this revised series was to the colours, with the purple, green, blue and red "popping" more as a result of the carefully designed and intricate white/grey background patterns. When you see these in person, you're immediately struck by a sense of luxury and class.

All the White Ornate decks were made available in both an unbranded version and a Limited Bicycle version, as seen here with the green Emerald deck.



To give some idea of what this revised version looks like, here's the new-look red Scarlet deck:



One thing to notice is how the pips now feature two-tone colours. For the Sapphire/Scarlet decks, the black suits feature blue/gold and the red suits feature red/silver, as shown in the example below with the diamonds and hearts.



For the Amethyst/Emerald decks, different two-tone colours are used: the black suits feature green/gold and the red suits feature purple/silver. These two-toned colours really add to the impression of elegance, ornamentation, and the use of gold and silver adds an appropriate royal touch.

Pictured here is a box cover and card back from the new-look purple Amethyst deck.



I'm especially a fan of the Emerald deck that I have, but the nice thing about this series is that since colours are often a matter of personal preference, a variety of colours is available.

The Obsidian ORNATE decks

As part of this White ORNATE project, a special limited edition black Obsidian Ornate deck was also released. In case you're like me and aren't sure what the word "obsidian" means, I looked it up and naturally occurring volcanic glass that has a beautiful deep black or blackish green colour. It captures well the unusual colours of this deck, and is a fitting name to describe a deck that immediately stands out as a result of the colour palette used.

The Obsidian deck was intended to be the high point of the series, which is obvious already just by looking at the tuck box, which features black with gold foil - inside and out!



The cards of this edition all have a glamorous looking dark hue which reflects the obsidian title, and is well complemented by the other colours in the palette used.



While the red suits of the Obsidian deck are accented with silver, the black suits are accented with luxurious looking gold. If the Ornate decks are intended to have a royal touch, then this is the most royal of them all!



Including the Obsidian decks, altogether more than 25,000 of the White ORNATE decks were produced, which is a huge number! Given the popularity and longevity of the ORNATE series, and the important role it had in launching Randy's career in designing playing cards, he continues to have a soft spot for them, and they remain on his list of personal favourites.


THE IMPERIAL SERIES

Imperial Red & Black decks

Let's leave the traditional behind for a moment now, and join Randy as we head to imperial Russia, and to the fine jewelled creations enjoyed by Russian tsars.

In 2013, Randy launched a project for a series of Imperial decks that were inspired by Faberge Eggs and Imperial Russia. This was created as the first ever House of Playing Cards deck on Kickstarter. Even to this day, this series is one of Randy's own personal favourites, in part because he enjoys using the Lightwave modelling software required to make images like these.

The two main decks were the ones you see here, a Red Imperial deck and a Black Imperial deck. These tuck boxes had a luxurious gold foil interior.



From the 1800s to early 1900s, the House of Faberge famously created beautiful Imperial Eggs, which it produced mainly for the Russian Romanov Tsars. Less than a hundred of these exquisite jewelled eggs were ever produced, and so these artworks have become iconic and are highly sought after and valuable. While the original jewelled eggs are far out of reach of anyone besides billionaires who have enough money to prize them out of the hands of their current owners, you can bring some of these priceless treasures to your gaming table on these playing cards.

Randy's goal with the Imperial series was to create unique egg designs, with a different style for each suit. Randy enjoys 3D modelling, and that's how these were created, and then rendered, with each suit having the following style:
Diamonds - inspired by Nature/Fantasy/Elves
Clubs - inspired by Greek mosaics, colors and geometric shapes
Hearts - inspired by Ancient Rome, with the Russian Double-Headed Eagle central
Spades - inspired by a Baroque/Gothic look



A notable feature of the real life Imperial Eggs was that it featured a surprise inside. This is captured by the Aces all having a golden Surprise in the center, representing either important buildings or symbols from Imperial Russia. The example shown below is from the Red Imperial deck.

The card-back on the right features the Russian Double-Headed Eagle. In contrast the Black deck (not shown here) has card-backs that have a Baroque/Gothic look.



The different court cards also were given a theme, with Jacks being the "Warrior" Eggs, Queens being simple and elegant with light colours, and Kings like the King of Clubs shown here being the most decorative and ornate, each also with a Crown.

Notice how the pips have a 3D look, and appear to pop out from the surface of the card - they represent gold bordered enamel buttons.



A 20 page collector's art book was created as a companion for the Imperial deck. Even some 3D printed eggs were available as add-ons for Randy's Kickstarter project for this deck, alongside the usual options like uncut sheets.

Imperial Gold deck

More recently, an Imperial Gold deck was created, and is currently available from Randy's website. This was originally planned as a stretch goal that didn't get reached, but was subsequently self-funded by Randy, with only 1000 produced. The tuck box of this limited edition (with numbered stamps!) has its own unique design and looks stunning. Tiny eggs are depicted in a repeating gold foil pattern, and the box just oozes royalty and class! Everyone I've shown this deck to personally has been immediately impressed by the tuck box.



So what else has changed, aside from a more glamorous packaging? Well the indices and pips were given a small facelift to improve them from the originals, but for the most part this deck is simply a more luxurious version of the original Red and Black Imperial decks.



The patterns on the cards of this deck make it nice for cardistry, as you can see from this fan, although the touch of red is at the top rather than the sides of the cards, so the red isn't typically noticeable during a spread.



It's an unusual theme, but there's no doubt that these eggs evoke a sense of richness, wealth, and luxury, and the result is a deck of playing cards like none that have gone before it.




THE DRACONIAN SERIES

Draconian Spitfire & Lightning decks

From the sheer luxury of the Imperial Gold, and the Russian royal tsars, we now go to the world of fantasy: the Draconian decks, inspired by the dragons of old!



The Draconian Spitfire deck (orange) and Draconian Lightning deck (blue) were the two main decks here, while we'll get to the Brimstone deck later.

The touch of a dragon is immediately evident from the moment you hold one of the tuck boxes in your hand, which are embossed with scales, in a wrap-around design.

The dragon scales look incredible, but the embossed box design is just the beginning. The borderless card backs have a optical illusion formed from dragon scales, featuring a spiral fan with full bleed artwork. Even if you spin a single card, it looks absolutely incredible!



But when spread or fan the cards...wow, what a powerful hypnotic effect! The spiral full-bleed artwork makes these cards ideal for cardistry, as this shot of the orange Draconian Spitfire shows well.



The colours and design of these cards looks absolutely amazing, and this is really a deck that needs to be seen to be believed! Here's some cards from the Lightning deck.



The black suits all feature a touch of the lightning blue colour, while the red suits all feature a touch of the spitfire orange colour, and of course some dragon scales make an appearance here and there as well.



Draconian Brimstone deck

In addition to the Spitfire and Lightning decks, a special Draconian Brimstone deck (black) was also made, which used spot UV varnish over white ink to create a ghostly effect.



Doesn't that look sweet!



As much as I'm drawn to other decks from Randy for various reasons, right now the Draconian has to be my favourite. Just spreading out the cards slowly, or creating a visual fan, generates an immediate "wow" from almost everyone seeing them for the first time.

I gave one of these decks as a gift to someone who enjoys cardistry, and he is absolutely smitten by it. It completely deviates from the symmetrical and geometric designs used by most other decks of playing cards, and yet it looks absolutely stunning, and creates a hypnotic and startling effect, which is amplified further by the borderless card-backs. It's creative, colourful, and brilliant!


THE BOWL-A-RAMA SERIES

Bowl-a-rama Red & Black decks

Are you already getting a sense of Randy's versatility? First the Ornate series, then Faberge eggs, then fantasy dragons ... and now 10 pin bowling? And they aren't just thematic variations, but each has a completely different look - and that's the case here as well, as we leave the world of fantasy and dragons behind, and head for the local bowling alley.

The Bowl-a-rama decks are another series of clever playing cards from Randy. Produced under his label Midnight Cards, this combines two most unlikely allies: playing cards and 10-pin bowling! Randy grew up bowling in leagues with his three brothers, and it is this experience that he brought to the designing table with this deck.

Several editions of the Bowl-a-rama deck were produced, the two main ones being Red (entitled "Bowling the Midnight Oil" , which is a nod to Randy's own habits as a midnight owl) and Black (entitled "Four Butterfields of the Apocalypse", which is a nod to Randy and his three brothers ). To my knowledge, only 1000 of each was produced.



The artwork uses the cool retro vibe of the '50s and '60s, including a Bowl-a-rama logo inspired by bowling alley signs.

Perhaps my favorite thing about these decks are the Numbers Cards. They ingeniously emulate the look of an overhead view of a Bowling Pins setup, with the pips arranged in different scoring leaves! Isn't that a brilliant idea? This makes them extremely unique and thematic!



The court cards for the Bowl-A-Rama Decks are various characters dressed up in their favorite Bowling attire, all with a name emblazoned on their shirts.



As is typical for most decks of playing cards, the Ace of Spades is decorated more than most, in this case with some appropriate ten-pin imagery.



Another noteworthy element is that each Number Card has a unique Team Name towards the top. Examples include: "Wrecking Balls", "Lane Violation", "Spare Change", "Gutter Humiliation", "Split Happens", and "Les Miserabowl". In the world of bowling, players often come up with creative and clever team names.

Most of the team names Randy chose are found in actual Bowling Alleys around the world, while about a quarter of them are names he made up or reference his personal life somehow. There's also wisdom about this on the inside of the tuck box: "You can tell a lot about a team from their name".



Bowl-a-rama Cosmic Lane deck

And for those looking for an even more exotic touch of theme, you'll be pleased to know that night bowling is also available!

Here's the Bowl-a-rama Cosmic Lane deck, which features cards that glow in the dark. Yes, really!



This deck was inspired from the unique experience of Cosmic Bowling, with a hefty dose of an '80s vibe.

The card faces of this deck are printed in a special Glow-in-the-Dark Ink overlay. Compare how lighting alters how it looks, with the "Lights Off" and "Lights On" shots below:






THE GRINDERS SERIES

Grinders Copper & Blue decks

From the bowling alley, we now head to the black-jack table - or whatever your favourite card game might be. After our game of cosmic bowling, the night is still young, right?

The Grinders decks (available in Copper and Blue) immediately capture your immediate attention with tuck boxes that look both gritty as well as classy.



These decks are designed to capture the feel of a grinder, who is a professional casino worker. As such, Randy's aim was to make them feel workmanlike, but while retaining some elements of grandeur and opulence. You can get the feel of this deck by picturing a classy looking worker in a tuxedo, working at the tables in a casino!

The card backs have an intricate design with subtle references to casino games like Poker and Roulette (notice the circular design!). Shown here is the Copper deck.



The Blue deck has a similar design, but of course a different colour scheme. This means you can have a choice of red or blue - or of course get the pair!



Due to the aim of making this a very functional deck, that doesn't depart too far from the ordinary, the face cards are fairly standard in appearance.



While the court cards have a classical design - certainly the most "traditional" we've seen from Randy so far! - they still feature some beautiful artwork, as is evident from the close-up detail shown here from the Jack of Spades and Jack of Hearts.



The Jokers are particularly special and noteworthy. They illustrate a poker player about to play his cards. One of them has a Queen of Hearts reveal, which magicians will especially appreciate and find useful.



Grinders White Gold deck

As a companion to the Blue and Copper poker pair, a limited edition White Gold deck was also created, with only 500 printed.



This is a more luxurious edition that features gold holographic foil with black, and a UV spot varnish overlay on the card-backs.




THE ANCIENT ROME SERIES

Rome: Antony & Caesar decks

We now leave the glitz and glamour of a modern day casino far behind, and head back in time, all the way to Ancient Rome. Sure, why not? If Randy can do fantasy dragons, cosmic bowling, and casino grinders, there's no reason he can't do classical ancient history is there? Let's find out!

The tuck boxes

The Rome: Antony & Caesar decks is a pair of ancient Rome themed decks that are still relatively new. In over five years of designing cards, Randy has wanted to tackle the theme of Ancient Rome for some time, and this is the result after nearly a year of hard work. These decks are actually his personal favourites of all the decks he's ever created, and the amount of love he's poured into them really shows in the amazing attention to detail and quality in every respect!

The tuck boxes are red (Caesar deck) and blue (Antony deck), and have gold foil accents, Caesar's deck featuring an imperial Eagle, and Antony's featuring a majestic Lion. The reverse side has a laurel wreath and the SPQR designation. According to Randy, the print quantities were 3000 for the Caesar deck, and 2000 for the Antony deck.

I was just blown away when I first saw and opened the tuck box - the gold foil and designs look incredible, and there's even printing of a map inside the tuck box. It really looks incredibly stunning and classy all round - far more than this photo can do justice to!



Both tuck boxes have Latin text on the very top. Caesar's says "ALEA IACTA EST and VENI VIDI VICI" ("The die is cast" and "I came, I saw, I conquered"), while Antony's says "TARUM ET CLAMA DIMIT CANIBUS QUATIT" ("Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war".) I love it when designers add small details like this!



As an added luxurious touch, some of the decks were provided with limited edition "toga sleeves". The tuck boxes alone look amazing, but if you have one with a gold-foil printed "toga sleeve", that makes it look even more impressive!



The cards

These two decks focus on a very specific part of Rome's history, namely the First and Second Triumvirates. The First Triumvirate ended when Julius Caesar defeated Pompey the Great and became Dictator, before being assassinated by members of the Senate. The Second Triumvirate ended when Octavian defeated Mark Antony & Cleopatra, and eventually became the first Emperor of Rome under the new title Augustus.

The card backs have artwork that depicts the death of Julius Caesar and the death of Marc Antony respectively. The diagonal stripe on the card-backs means that the cards look amazing when they are fanned, and will give the deck a whole different look depending on which way you fan the cards.



A bold diagonal design like this isn't something you see often, but let me tell you, this looks amazing when you spread the cards or fan them! Someone I know who enjoys card flourishing was just blown away by how these looked, especially because it has a different effect depending on which way you fan them. The colours are very striking, and it really looks beautiful!



The rich and vibrant colours are a deliberate choice, because they are the kinds of colours associated with ancient Rome.

Meanwhile the court cards depict 12 of the most influential men and women from the end of the Roman republic, including Cicero, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Marcus Brutus, Servilia Caepionis, Julius Caesar, Cassius, Octavia Minor, Pompey the Great, Marcus Agrippa, Livia Drusilla and Augustus. But the attention to historical detail doesn't end there: they even have a facial likeness referenced from actual ancient statues! Now isn't that impressive? The character's name is also to be found in tiny print on the card - I'm very appreciative of that, because it's one thing to include historical characters, but I enjoy being able to easily see who is who.



The orientation of the pips on the number cards is designed to be a set-up reminiscent of opposing soldiers. The diagonal stripe is decorated like an ornate Roman shield, and because there is also something similar on the backs of the cards, it makes the deck look terrific when fanned or spread, whether face-up or face-down. As a result, it's an ideal deck for cardistry as well, and the design of the cards makes normal cardistry moves look so much better.



Each card's Roman numeral equivalent is subtly added in tiny print somewhere on the map, as is the text of the number and suit in tiny print, on the left just above the shield-like stripe.

The Aces each contain the suit pip wrapped in a laurel wreath, with the added glamour of a royal gold touch. LEG XIII refers to Julius Caesar's 13th Twin Legion, which was one of his key legions in the Gaul and Civil Wars, and with which he famously crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC.



Clearly an amazing amount of thought has gone into the design of every aspect of these decks! It's hard to imagine more that could be done to make a deck look absolutely perfect in every way!




OTHER DECKS

In addition to the decks featured above, Randy has been involved in the creation of a number of other decks that deserve mention, and I'll cover these more briefly.

The Blue Crown Luxury Deck

Shortly after the release of his original Ornate series, Blue Crown contacted Randy to ask if he'd be interested in working on their planned project for a Luxury version of their Crown Deck. That soon became the second major design credit in his growing list of achievements.

These were made in Blue, Red, and Ivory, with 2500 printed of each.



These are gorgeous luxury versions of the original Crown Deck. For example, the Ivory version here has a tuck box made entirely with gold and silver foil with multiple embossing, a back design with metallic gold ink, and of course custom Ace of Spades and Jokers.



The 2013 United Cardists Deck

Randy also designed a deck for United Cardists forum, the 2013 United Cardists deck, which was created to promote and support their forum.

One noteworthy thing about this deck is the strong use of the colour green - to match the forum colours.

This deck would later become an annual release featuring different designers, but Randy's deck has the honour of being the original deck in this United Cardists Annual Deck series. It was also noteworthy for being the very first deck to use colored foil inside the tuck.



The Brazil 2014 Commemorative deck

To commemorate the 2014 Rio Olympics, Randy Butterfield created a special deck for The Blue Crown: the Brazil 2014 Commemorative deck.

This deck had a heavy focus on Yellow and Green, which are of course the major colors of Brazil's flag and their coat of arms. Both the tuck box and the overall design have obvious allusions to Brazil's favourite sport: football (aka soccer).

As a special bonus, red and yellow flag cards were even included!



The LUXX decks

Randy also had opportunity to be work with the luxury brand LUXX, which is a series of top tier premium playing cards that are intended to be of the highest calibre.

The first of these projects were the original LUXX Brown deck and LUXX Blue deck, which were Victorian/Deco inspired designs. This gave Randy the opportunity to work together with Paul Middleton, as part of a project for JP Playing Cards in 2014.



After this successful release, Randy created a second beautiful series of decks for LUXX, the LUXX Shadow Edition, with two versions, Gold and Silver.

These have a darker feel with metallic inks, and again feature packaging that is amongst the most glamorous imaginable. The court and pip cards were the same as the original deck, but using metallic gold and red ink for the suits. This time the card backs used grey and black tones with shading, along with silver and metallic inks.



The third design from Randy in the LUXX luxury range is the LUXX Elliptica deck, which reflects a love for borderless decks.

This was produced in four different colours: Red, Blue, Green, and Purple.



Never Forgotten deck

In combination with Robert Wright, Randy produced a special release for the 52 Plus Joker Convention, entitled the Never Forgotten deck.

As is evident from the ribbon adorning the tuck box, this deck is a special tribute to victims of different cancers, and was made in memory of Robert's mother.



Honeybee decks

The Honeybee deck is a design Randy produced to be the first deck that was ever produced by Penguin Magic.

This pays tribute to the traditional Bee style deck, but instead of a diamond pattern, it features a borderless honeycomb pattern complete with two realistic honeybees walking on the back. As the ad copy says, "You can almost taste the honey as you gaze at the golden yellow backs!" The faces are same as the usual face cards of a Bee deck, but there is a Beehive Ace of Spades and a Beekeeper Jokers, plus a new background pattern on the court cards.

Pictured here is version 2 of this deck, which has borders, and is currently in the process of being produced.



Forthcoming decks

So with all that under is belt, is Randy now done? Not at all! Here are just some of the decks he's got in progress this year, all at varying levels of completion: Honeybee decks (Yellow, Black, and Metalluxe), Lux Reduxe decks (Red and Blue), Snake Oil Elixir deck, Draconian Wildfire deck, Rage Knight and Fury Knight deck, and more.

Personally I love the look of the Honeybee decks that are in the works, and especially the Metalluxe one shown below (which is being handled by Penguin Magic) sounds amazing!




CONCLUSIONS

Versatility: One thing is for sure: Randy Butterfield is a very versatile designer! He has designed classy looking luxury decks, fantasy decks inspired by dragons, playful decks inspired by bowling, lush decks inspired by Russian jewels and Ancient Rome, baroque styled decks with intricate detail - it's just mind boggling how varied some of these decks are! And yet they're all from the same guy! I don't know what his wife feeds him, but whatever it is, it sure is working! Often a designer has a very distinct style that is evident in all his decks, but with Randy that's not immediately obvious, because he is able to produce a range of impressive and unique styles, almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing. But maybe that's what happens after midnight?

Diversity: This is related to the previous point, and it reflects something of the breadth of his designs so far. With his versatile talents, Randy has used his abilities to create diverse decks, and over time has crafted an incredible range of different decks. He has an established and proven record in the playing card industry, with a large number of different designs to prove it. So accompanying his versatile skills, is an impressive range of completed projects. My favourite is probably the Draconian deck, simply because of the stunning borderless card backs.

Thematic: Randy has tackled a wide range of different themes in his projects: Dragons. Ten Pin Bowling. Ancient Rome. Russian jewels. This certainly doesn't reflect someone beating the same drum over and over, but shows a willingness to take on subject material with a wide range of themes. What I especially appreciate is how thematic these different projects are. In each case Randy has clearly done a lot of thinking to figure out ways to make every aspect of the deck fit his theme, which is evident from the designs of the tuck box, card-backs, and of course the faces of the cards themselves.

Success: It's one thing to come up with a good design, and have good quality cards, but it's altogether another thing to actually find people who are going to serve as willing partners to help make these become a reality, and to find buyers for your ideas. Randy isn't just someone who has good ideas, but he's found ways to turn them into products, and he has developed the skills and experience to market what he makes. Randy shared with me the print quantities of all the decks he's made so far, and I did the math and added them up: by my count, it is around 93,000 decks of cards! By the end of the year that number should easily have reached over 100,000 decks, which is a tenth of a million! Staggering!



Quality: Randy has chosen to publish many of his own decks with Legends Playing Card Company, with their Classic finish. Legends is based out of Hong Kong, and along with Expert Playing Cards (which uses the same factory) is the main competition to the US Playing Card Company that produces Bicycle decks. Personally, I've found that the quality of the Legends decks is even higher than those of the Bicycle decks, especially the incredibly clean cut of the cards. For more details about the quality of their decks, see my review here. Randy has opted for their Classic finish rather than their Diamond finish, simply because it feels less plastic-like, and my own experience with the Legends decks also favours this finish as the best. So the card quality of these decks rivals that of any Bicycle deck, and arguably even exceeds it.

Night owl: The man from Midnight Cards often does his best work shortly before and after midnight. I'm not going to be the one to start suggesting that he turns into a werewolf, but clearly he has found a way to make his creative juices really work well at this time of the day, and turn it into a productive and also relaxing endeavour. It's a great name for a playing card company, and it really says something about Randy's creative process, and about the way he's managed to incorporate his hobby into a lifestyle that includes a day job and a family.

Where do you get them? I'm very pleased to come across Randy's work. If you're interested in picking up some of his playing cards for yourself, the first place you should look is his Midnight Cards webshop, which is probably the best way to support his efforts directly. Right now he has some terrific deals available, including the Grinders decks for around $10 each, the Rome Antony & Caesar decks for around $11 each, the Imperial Gold deck for around $15, and perhaps the best deal of all, all three Bowl-a-rama decks (including the Cosmic Lanes edition!) for only $14.95 as a set of three, which is cheaper than what the Cosmic Lanes edition alone costs at many other places. For some of his other decks, another place you can look is over at Rare Playing Cards, and the publisher Legends.



Recommendation

I'm very impressed with the versatile designs produced by a man who has found a way to burn the midnight oil as an ideal way to unwind from his normal work, while unleashing his creativity at the same time, and simultaneously producing something beautiful for fans of playing cards to enjoy. Randy's designs are very diverse, and there's bound to be something you'll like among his decks of playing cards. I'm very pleased with the decks that I own, and find that they really make a game of Cribbage or other traditional card game just that much more special. Randy was also very courteous in answering all the questions I posed to him when making this review, and he's been a real pleasure to communicate with, and seems like a terrific guy to deal with. I can only recommend his designs highly!

Want to learn more? Midnight Cards: http://midnight-cards.myshopify.com


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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Russ Williams
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TФФ Ъad about thЄ chԐԐsy Faux Cyrillic in the "IMPEЯIAL" title... :/
 
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russ wrote:
TФФ Ъad about thЄ chԐԐsy Faux Cyrillic in the "IMPEЯIAL" title... :/

Just pick up the Imperial Gold version, which is the one I have - it was produced separately and later, and looks a whole lot more classy all round anyway, in my opinion!

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