Playing Cards from Enfabled

The word "Enfabled" isn't really a word in English. I know, because I checked several dictionaries to be sure. But I think it is a very stylish word, even if it is made up! It is a deliberate play on words, that is the result of smashing together the words "enable" and "fable". To "enfable", then, means to put something into a short story form or fable. So if something is "enfabled", it has been enabled into a fable! See, that makes total sense doesn't it? It could be a word. It should be a word. It isn't, of course, but it is the clever name of publisher whose decks of playing cards I'm covering in this feature article.

Enfabled is a tabletop gaming company that originally went under the label Undefined Knowledge, and more recently has been operating under the name Enfabled. They're not new to the world of gaming either, and have produced a few games under the last few years, including the rummy style card game Draw Blood: Remix (2016), and the gear-collecting card game Carry On: Gear Collecting Card Game (2016). They're currently working on a forthcoming deck-building card game with a dice-rolling battle system, entitled Goddess & Gorgon. The latter title, which is planned for launch in the Fall, has a mythical theme, so the "Enfabled" term nicely captures the idea of fantasy story-telling that this game will evoke.

But over the years, Enfabled has also produced a number of decks of playing cards, which can be used for playing traditional card games, or even just for collecting. And it's these decks of playing cards that I'm especially interested in and will cover in this review. Not all of the decks they have made are readily available, with some of them being completely sold out and no longer in print. So in this article I'll just cover the ones which are available, and that includes my personal favourite, Stained Glass Playing Cards; a deck celebrating urban architecture, New York City Playing Cards; and a deck inspired by retro consoles and classic computer games which is now up for funding on Kickstarter Classic Console Playing Cards, which is an improved and revised edition of a previously successful title.

So let's get ready to appreciate some artistic expression, whether it be in the form of stained glass windows, urban architecture, or classic console games, and check out what Enfabled can contribute to our tabletop gaming experiences with playing cards!




Stained Glass deck

My favourite deck in the Enfabled line-up is easily the Stained Glass deck (2nd edition).



Enfabled has been around for a while, and in 2014 they produced the first edition of their Stained Glass Playing Cards, under their previous label Undefined Knowledge. It was a solid success, and sold out completely.

But it was also only the second deck they had ever made, and they have learned a lot in the mean time. They wanted to incorporate the feedback they'd received, and implement various improvements to make this popular deck even better. Hence this redesign, which addresses the minor issues of the original deck, and brings it back into print in an improved version.

The card-backs of the second edition feature a beautiful stained glass design that gives the deck its name.



Also the court cards have a distinctive stained glass look, with separate segments of colour. The faces have a very minimalist look, which is true to the aesthetics of stained glass, and ensures that the focus remains on the colours rather than individual details.



Each suit has a different colour scheme, and even though some (but not all) of the artwork is similar between the Spades and Clubs, there are differences in orientation, and colour palette.



The Spades and Clubs use a gray colour for the pips and letters, while the Hearts and Diamonds use a gold colour for the same thing, to ensure that the black and red suits are easily distinguished.

Also notice how the Hearts and Diamonds are distinguished from each other by using a different colour palette for each.



The pips of the number cards also feature custom designs, and are comprised of stained glass designs, while the faces of all the cards are done in black to make the colours stand out better.



All the Aces are oversized and rely on a similar style, while the two Jokers finish off the deck with a simple but effective monogram of the company logo.



Changes from the first edition include a move away from one-way card-backs to a mirrored design; adjusted colour palette; clearer distinction between red and black suits by using Gold and Gray; branded Ace of Spades; different coloured jokers; and a new tuck box design. In my opinion the original deck looked good, but had almost too much colour, and the new and updated deck is an improvement.

Here's what the front and back of the tuck box the second edition looks like:




New York City deck

The New York City deck of playing cards was conceived as part of an Urban Design series, which had the goal of highlighting urban architecture, in this case featuring New York City.



The card backs feature a city scape of skyscrapers, while the Ace of Spades mentions the deck branding and cleverly incorporates the silhouette of a city tower.



This style is applied to the over-sized pips on all the Aces. In fact the pips on all the cards feature a different building shape that is used to designate each different suit.



For example, here are some number cards for the Spades and Clubs.



The court cards feature actual buildings from the New York cityscape, including towers like the Citigroup Center and Chrysler Building pictured here. Others included in the deck are the Bloomberg Tower, Trump World Tower, Empire State Building, WTC One, Hearst Tower, and Bank of America Tower.



The Jacks all picture notable bridges from New York City.



As with most other decks from Enfabled, the printing was done by MPC.



This is a deck that will especially appeal to those who enjoy architecture, or have connections with New York.




Classic Console deck

Following the success of the original edition, Enfabled decided to produce a revised edition of the Classic Console deck (2nd edition).



With a very low funding target of just $2000, this deck was inspired by retro consoles and classic video games. If you are the nostalgic type who enjoys iconic images from the previous age of technology and games, then this is a deck for you!

The intent wasn't to provide an accurate depiction of characters or properties, but rather to transform familiar and recognizable images into a meaningful and functional design, and that's already evident from the card-backs.



Just like with the NYC deck, the Aces have over-sized pips with iconography that is used for the pips throughout the deck. For this deck, the suits represent the following four retro consoles:
- Spades: Genesis
- Clubs: SNES
- Hearts: NES
- Diamonds: ATARI 2600



These pips are also a key feature of the customized number cards.



The court cards were inspired by the most popular games on each of these systems. For example, most people will be familiar with Tetris, which is featured on the Jack of Hearts. The other two games represented in the Hearts suit (NES) are Legend of Zelda (Queen) and Super Mario (King).



And here with the Diamonds are the Atari 2600's Donkey Kong (King) and Pac-Man (Queen), while the Jack (not pictured here) features the classic game Breakout.



Even though I grew up in the 1980s, I didn't play as many video games as most of my peers, so probably other people will do a better job of recognizing these games than me!

The Clubs (SNES) feature the games Link To The Past (King), Super Metroid (Queen), and Link To The Past (King), while the Spades (Genesis) feature Sonic (King), Striker (Queen), and Earthworm Jim (Jack).



What is striking is that each court card still has a shape and design that strongly reflects its suit, like the Spades and Clubs shown above.

People were very happy with the first edition of this deck, and there is good reason to expect a similar reception for this one.




Conclusions

Stained Glass: The NYC architecture deck is interesting, but I suspect it might have somewhat of a limited appeal. The real star here, however, is the Stained Glass deck, especially since it has the benefit of improvements and revisions from the first edition. It looks absolutely fabulous, and just what I was hoping for! I'm a bit concerned the edges may show signs of wear over time, but that's an issue with any black bordered deck, and there are ways to deal with this. For some ideas, see the section "Using a Black Deck" in my review here of Ellusionist's Black Tiger deck, which includes a link to a free download of "The Black Deck Book".

Classic Console: The Classic Console deck will also have an appeal to a specific audience, but many of us will have fond memories of hours spent video gaming in our youth, and for those born in the 1970s and 1980s, this deck will evoke a lot of nostalgia. The success of the first edition indicates that there is enough of a demand for this deck of playing cards to merit a second edition, and from the images of seen of the first edition, this revised version is an improvement.

Inexpensive: The decks from Enfabled are among the cheapest you'll find in the custom playing card industry. Typically an average deck costs $15-20, but these are selling for only $10 on the Enfabled website, which makes them relatively inexpensive for a custom deck.

Short campaigns: One thing interesting about Enfabled is that they run short Kickstarter campaigns. Part of this is because their projects typically reach their funding goals quickly, and because of their philosophy for crowdfunding, which they explain as follows: "We are not trying to raise millions of dollars to build an army of robot kittens. We just want to make a deck of playing cards, and we usually find an audience of amazing backers fairly quickly. If people show up late to the party, we usually have a handful of extra decks for sale on our website. Also, the faster the campaign ends, the quicker things move into actual production. Then before you know it, there is a deck of cards in your mailbox!"

MPC produced: Another reason that enables them to do this successfully is because they print their decks with MPC, rather than with some of the usual candidates like USPCC or EPCC/LPCC. Unlike most other printers, MPC doesn't have a minimum order requirement. This means that Enfabled can more easily run a successful project, without needing a very large order size, and can also get the published deck into the hands of backers in a much shorter space of time, while also having enough copies remaining to sell over on their own website.

Card quality: Enfabled uses MPC's 310sgm casino quality card stock, with black core (to prevent light shining through the cards) and a linen finish. MPC actually offers two 310gsm linen finishes, the French casino finish and the German master finish, the latter having deeper air pockets, but it is only available for large orders, which is why the Enfabled decks have the French casino finish. But both options have an embossed surface that is similar to the concept of USPCC's Air Cushion finish. While the quality of the MPC cards does not quite match a USPCC produced decks, it is still a decent quality air cushion style finish that is more than satisfactory. They have a cleaner cut than a USPCC produced deck, but don't spread or fan quite as smoothly as a top drawer deck, despite the embossed finish, although the cards do packet nicely. If USPCC produced decks deserve an A grade, these would get around a B grade, which means that they are still very good, and far better than your average mass-produced cheap souvenir deck of cards; they still spread, fan, and shuffle quite nicely.

Experience with games: As well as producing several different decks of playing cards, Enfabled has also produced several games. Under their previous label "Undefined Knowledge", they produced the original edition of their Draw Blood rummy game, and their medieval card game Four Wizards. Under their new label "Enfabled" they have produced three more recent titles, Zen Squire, Draw Blood Remix, and Carry On.

Experience with playing cards: Enfabled is by no means a new kid on the Kickstarter block. Under their "Enfabled" label, they have successfully produced the second edition of their Stained Glass deck, while under their previous label "Undefined Knowledge", they have produced several decks of playing cards including their Cat deck (1st & 2nd edition), NYC deck, Classic Console deck (1st edition), Super Suits deck, and their Stained Glass deck (1st edition).



Where do you get them?

If you're interested in picking up some of these playing cards for yourself, the first place you should look is the official Enfabled website, which is how you can get most of these decks directly from the publisher. To get on board with the second edition of the Classic Console deck, head to the Kickstarter project here.

Recommendation

While I'm looking forward to see what the final published version of the revised Classic Console deck will turn out, I'm especially pleased and grateful to have a copy of the Stained Glass deck. Almost everyone who has seen it has been wowed by it, and speaks of it very highly. It's beautiful from the moment you first set eyes on the tuck box, the card-backs are very attractive and well-designed, and the court cards especially are very well done and true to the stained glass theme.

Whether you enjoy stained glass artwork like I do, or like the look of the urban architecture deck, or have a nostalgic connection to classic console gaming, perhaps Enfabled will have a deck of playing cards that's right for you.



What to learn more? Check out:

Enfabled: www.enfabled.com

Direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Stained Glass Playing Cards (2nd Edition)
- New York City Playing Cards
- Classic Console Playing Cards (2nd Edition)




BoardGameGeek reviewer

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Amy (Other Amy)
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I love that all of these incorporate the theme into the pip cards.
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Tony Sanfilippo
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You are one fanatic card collector aren't you? Although I do not play regular card games, I might have to get a deck or 2 because of you. I would like a good quality deck that shuffles and handles well
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keso55 wrote:
You are one fanatic card collector aren't you? Although I do not play regular card games, I might have to get a deck or 2 because of you. I would like a good quality deck that shuffles and handles well
Actually they also make great and unique gifts for people, which is another reason I get them. In the last month alone I've given away over a dozen custom decks to friends and family, and they just love them! For the artist friend: a couple of "arty" decks; for the cardistry friend: a Virtuoso deck; for the magician friend: a classy deck with lots of gold foil on the tuck-box; for the gamer friend: a beautiful and functional deck perfect for Cribbage and traditional card games; for the friend who is a history buff: a Jody Eklund deck.

If you're looking for a quality deck that shuffles and handles well, all the decks over at Rare Playing Cards are high quality (see some examples in my reviews here and here); as are the ones over at Art of Play (see some examples in my review here). Both have a large range, and an extensive and curated collection that only includes quality playing cards that handle well. You can't really go wrong with any deck that has been printed by United States Playing Card Company, Legends Playing Card Company, or Expert Playing Card Company; most of the decks available at Rare Playing Cards and Art of Play are produced by those reputable printers.
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Tony Sanfilippo
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EndersGame wrote:
keso55 wrote:
You are one fanatic card collector aren't you? Although I do not play regular card games, I might have to get a deck or 2 because of you. I would like a good quality deck that shuffles and handles well
Actually they also make great and unique gifts for people, which is another reason I get them. In the last month alone I've given away over a dozen custom decks to friends and family, and they just love them! For the artist friend: a couple of "arty" decks; for the cardistry friend: a Virtuoso deck; for the magician friend: a classy deck with lots of gold foil on the tuck-box; for the gamer friend: a beautiful and functional deck perfect for Cribbage and traditional card games; for the friend who is a history buff: a Jody Eklund deck.

If you're looking for a quality deck that shuffles and handles well, all the decks over at Rare Playing Cards are high quality (see some examples in my reviews here and here); as are the ones over at Art of Play (see some examples in my review here). Both have a large range, and an extensive and curated collection that only includes quality playing cards that handle well. You can't really go wrong with any deck that has been printed by United States Playing Card Company, Legends Playing Card Company, or Expert Playing Card Company; most of the decks available at Rare Playing Cards and Art of Play are produced by those reputable printers.
Thanks Ender
 
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