Playing Cards from BOMBMAGIC

In the world of playing cards, there are some big names and recognizable entities like United States Playing Cards and their Bicycle brand of playing cards. Other leading figures in the industry include successful publishing companies like Legends Playing Cards and Expert Playing Cards. But even the big names had to start small, and once in a while something small makes some explosive sounds to catch our attention. In the case of BombMagic, the attractive deck that first caught my eye with its colourful fireworks was their Casino Royale deck.



I began researching more about this beautiful looking deck, and started crawling down a rabbit hole, which eventually led me to Hanson Bomb. Hanson Bomb is the founder of BombMagic, which as you can surmise is named after him. The year 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of BombMagic, and at the present time the company is busy expanding their product range on a large scale, and producing goods for customers worldwide. The slogan “Born for Magic, Beyond the Magic” was developed to mark this decade of operation, and to reflect the company's current focus.

When it all began in 2007, BombMagic was just a small studio that focused on the study of performing magic. As the years rolled by, they began developing their brand by making connections with others in the magic industry around the world. The focus became more and more on playing cards, and five years of operation saw the release of their own custom card clip in 2012, with similar products to follow in subsequent years. Things slowly began to take off for BombMagic, and the year 2014 saw significant development of their website, including payment options that would cater to the international market.

Since then, they've continued to expand, one of the high points being the release of a representative branded deck, Bomber Series Playing Cards, in early 2016. Under the umbrella of BombMagic as a retail and distribution brand, they formed the Bomber Playing Card Company, which became part of the Taiwan Playing Card Company the following year, in order to focus on the design, manufacture, sale, and distribution of playing cards.

So that brings us to today. BombMagic now consists of a team led by Hanson Bomb that includes business managers and consultants to help run their online operation, and specialists like photographers, writers, musicians, cardists, and magicians. BombMagic is not only a source for purchasing magic items that aims to meet the needs of the Asian market and abroad, but they also sell a number of downloadable magic and cardistry related video tutorials, and more importantly for most of my readers: a very wide range of custom playing cards. But of primary interest for the purpose of this feature article, are the decks that BombMagic has themselves created and published, and it is a growing list. Besides their signature Bomber Series Playing Cards, they have also produced the Kete Moon deck (a self-titled debut deck), the Vigor deck (a collaboration between noted designer Edo Huang with cardist Alvin Herp), two versions of their Casino Royale deck, and most recently, a pair of Japanese inspired Fujin and Raijin decks.

Of special interest will be the fact that their decks are printed in Taiwan. Why? Because Taiwan is the location of the factory used by industry leaders like Legends and Expert Playing Cards, and the quality of playing cards produced here is typically highly regarded. BombMagic has their own label and specifications, but uses the same factory, so there's good reason to expect good things from their brand. In this review, I'll be covering some of their most recently published designs, namely, the Casino Royale decks, and the Japanese inspired Fuijin and Raijin pair of decks.



Casino Royale Playing Cards

The name Casino Royale has been chosen because the Casino Royale deck has been designed in the style of regular casino playing cards, while the word "royale" is intended, in the words of the publisher, to indicate "the proudest and highest luxuriousness and splendidness." In other words: a practical casino style deck that represents the height of luxury.

The title brings to mind James Bond's visits to Europe's most famous gambling houses, and this deck is intended to capture something of a quality that is fitting for a classy secret agent and for royalty. And here indeed they are:



But not only are these Casino Royale decks decks suitable for secret agents or home enthusiasts playing poker; cardistry fans will appreciate the slick look and smooth handling of both these decks as well.



BombMagic has produced two different Casino Royale decks, a Spring/Summer Bright edition in their Casino Stock and Royal Finish, and a Autumn/Winter Mystic Edition in their Classic Stock and Magic Finish. So let's take a closer look at both of these!



Bright Edition

The Casino Royale: Bright Edition features a nice and simple tuck box, not full of intricate designs or details, but primarily white and turquoise, the main colour of the deck. One of the primary reasons for this simplicity is because it showcases the back design of the deck itself by means of a nice cut out window in the tuck box.

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The back of the box is plain white except for a QR code that takes you to the BombMagic website, and below that the words "Proud to be Royale".

The back design of the deck is made up of small diamonds in varying colours scattered everywhere, with some gaps to create a very interesting and pleasing look.



The cards are bordered, so it allows each card or packet of cards to easily stand out from each other and be identified, while the vibrant colours ensure that eye-catching streaks of colour will be produced when using this deck for card flourishing.



The card faces have traditional black and red for the suits, but the colour palette from the card backs is incorporated into the designs, particularly with the Aces and court cards. In the case of the traditionally black suits of Spades and Clubs, the deck's signature turquoise colour dominates here.



As a result, these cards complement the colours of the card backs nicely.



While the number cards are fairly standard, the Aces in particular feature an elaborate design.



This takes full advantage of the colours used for the diamonds which characterize the deck, and the use of triangles reinforces a sense of geometry and shape to the design.

Notice how the tradionally red suits of Hearts and Diamonds employ a soft red that complements the card backs.



There are also two custom Jokers which have been well designed, each being a juggling clown playing with a bomb. Why a bomb? Well, it's an obvious reference to the company name, which is stated on each Joker as well! These Jokers look great, add a bit more fun to the deck, and fit in perfectly with the BombMagic name.



So how is a deck like this going to be at its best? Certainly it is an ideal and practical deck that lends itself well to a few rounds of poker. Even in a home environment, it has a polished, professional, and colourful look.



Whether in the hand of gamer or a cardist, the Casino Royale is a beautiful deck!



Mystic Edition

Following up from their 2016 release of the Bright Edition, BombMagic next produced the Casino Royale: Mystic Edition of this deck. It uses a different card-stock and different finish, and a different set of colours, and a strong diamond theme is evident throughout this version.

The design of the tuck box is inherited from the Bright edition, with the only change being the use of a different and cooler colour palette. The the back of the box now includes the 10th anniversary BombMagic slogan: “Magic without Limits”.



The colour scheme of the diamonds in this version is quite interesting, now employing a purple and dull blue, as well as some grey; close observers will also pick up a one-way design.



It isn’t as bright as the previous Casino Royale deck, and the purple and other colours create a deck that has a wide appeal.



The court cards are of traditional style, and so are very recognizable at a quick glance, but feature less colours, mainly the colour of the suit.

Looking closer, instead of the courts holding weapons or flowers like they normally do, they in fact holding modified flowers or weapons which feature a diamond. Bling! This creates a very nice effect and adds a bit of uniqueness to the otherwise mostly standard courts.



The colours and style also complement the card backs nicely, altogether creating a sophisticated look that well suits the name and style of the deck, perhaps even more so than the original.



The faces of the cards feature unique coloured pips, with the hearts and diamonds being purple, and the clubs and spades a green-blue - both colours that also appear on the back design.



The Aces are larger than standard pips, and all are custom made, to fit the style of an explosive diamond, which looks very stylish.



Once again, two mischievous Jokers complete the deck, with the signature bombs that reflect the publisher's name.



The box says that the deck is Casino quality and has a Magic finish.



Fujin & Raijin Playing Cards

The newest release from BombMagic are the Fujin & Rajin decks, a pair that complement each other. These two decks are named after two Japanese gods: Fujin, the god of the wind, and Raijin, the god of thunder. The Fujin deck is a deck which is mainly a light blue, while the Raijin deck is red.



The deck boxes are clearly a pair, and have very similar aspects with the first noticeable difference being the colours of the deck. The front of the boxes features the respective god, while the back is a picture of a house and a bridge with a woman on it, being affected either by the wind (blue Fujin) or by thunder and lightning (red Raijin).

These different forces of nature will also find their way onto the card backs.



The project was created with UK illustrator Fionn Jordan - pictured below with Hanson Bomb - doing the artwork. Fionn has lived in both Japan and Taiwan for several years, and has made extensive contributions to the world of comic art. Despite being a European, his extensive time in Asia has enabled him as a westerner to create an eastern style.



The backs of each deck relies on the use of a single colour but in two shades, with the bolder colour being in the shape of various clouds, and the lighter colour in the background either showing lightning (Raijin) or wind (Fujin). Here's the blue Fuijin card-back:



Having a single colour on the card back produces a nice look, especially when performing moves like a spring, which creates a nice blur of either blue or red. Here's the red Raijin card-back along with a Joker.



The back of the cards are bordered, which allows for clarity in cuts, and attractive fans, especially when using cards from both decks.



The pips on these decks are very nice, with the Hearts and Diamonds being the standard red, while the Spades and Clubs are blue.



This ensures that the cards fit with the different colour backs of both decks nicely. Because the Fujin deck is blue and the Raijin deck is red, this also creates a really great look when they are used in concert.



Also notice how the pips themselves don't consist of a solid colour, but have a unique design according the pip type. The Hearts and Diamonds have lightning across them, while the Clubs and Spades both have wind patterns on them.

The court cards all feature nicely a hand-drawn style of art by Fionn Jordan, in a Japanese style. Some of the courts go full bordered and right to the edge of the card, but they are all unique pieces of art.



The indices of these cards are smaller than usual, but they are still very crisp and clear, so this doesn’t present any real issues with quick reading of them. In fact, because they are smaller, fans and spreads that show the entire index are easier to perform, since not as much space needs to be given to allow them to be seen.



Each of the red court cards also features a bold red circle in the background, and the blue courts feature a blue circle. This gives a bit of colour to the otherwise just black and white drawing, and simplifies identification of the suit.



The courts aren’t immediately recognizable as kings, queens, or jacks in that they don’t differ that much, and are so different from standard court cards, but they are nice to look at, and have a very unique and distinctly oriental flavour.

The faces of both decks are identical to each other except for one thing: the Jokers. One of the jokers in each deck shows the god, either Fujin or Raijin, while the companion joker in each deck shows the effect that the wind or lightning has on the house which is also featured on the box. Together these two Jokers also form a single picture when placed beside each other (i.e. a dyptych), illustrating the god at work in causing destruction. It’s a very nice idea and looks cool.



Conclusions

Casino Royale

Casino meets Royale: The Casino Royale decks are certainly the most practical of the ones I've reviewed in this article. The number cards are very functional and readable, and that makes this a deck of playing cards that can perform well for crossover purposes, including at the card table or in the hands of a traditional gamer. They work well for casino type games, and at the same time they do have a "royale" look that sets them apart from a typical deck of plain ordinary cards. The touch of royalty is already evident from the tuck box, with its window style die-cut design that gives a glimpse of the stylish card backs. The colourful diamond backed design of the card backs adds to a sense of luxury and class. The Casino Royale decks are certainly ones that add elegance and style to any card game.

Summer meets winter: The two Casino Royale decks make for a nice set, because they complement each other nicely, and yet the different colour scheme also sets them apart. The Bright edition has a more summery feel, with bright and cheerful colours like yellow, orange, red, and turquoise, while the Mystic edition uses cooler colours like purple and gray to reflect the more chilling temperatures of winter. They are both very attractive, but while one feels playful and bright, the other feels more sober and serious. Both the Casino Royale decks will have a different appeal, and together they do a good job of conveying the warmth and cold of every season.

Handling: The stock is reasonable soft once is has been broken in, and has a nice smooth cut which is always great. The embossing pattern is quite wide, and the cards have a coating which allows the cards to slide easily over each other, although once the cards have been used a bit it doesn’t always fan and spread the most evenly, but it is still easy to do.



Fujin & Raijin

West meets East: One thing I really appreciate about the Fujin & Raijin deck pair is that although it has a clearly Eastern theme and style, it has been produced by a Westerner: UK artist Fionn Jordan. The Japanese theme will particularly appeal to those who have an interest in Oriental culture and ideas, but the fact that it has been created by a European shows that this theme can have a universal appeal. Most playing cards I've seen are indebted to Western influences and artwork, so it is refreshing to see some deck of playing cards that have a very different feel and flavour.

Blue meets red: Another thing I like about the Fujin/Raijin set is the combination of blue and red which dominates these decks. These colours are consistently used in both decks, and not only are blue/red used for the traditionally red/black suits (with the red being more vibrant than normal), but these are also the colours used in the two different card backs. It gives the decks an inherent unity, and they work together nicely as a pair, which is evident already from the tuck boxes, both of which employ these colours as well. Cardists may even want to mix and match cards from both decks to create a single deck that has card backs from both, to produce new card flourishing effects.

Handling: The stock of the Fujin and Raijin decks is quite a stiff stock, and is quite durable because of this. Springs with these decks produce a nice audible sound due to the stiffness, which is nice. Because of this also though, the cards do require breaking in. The cut is quite smooth, so the edges of the deck are smooth and nice to handle. The embossing pattern is quite wide, and there appears to be no coating on the deck, so the cards don’t slip out in cuts very much. However, the cards do still fan very evenly, though not as easily as with a deck that has some form of coating.



Suitability

Card games: Of the two sets reviewed here, I don't find the Fujin and Raijin decks as practical for use in card games, in part due to the full-bleed artwork on some court cards, and how distinct the court cards are from traditional designs. The Casino Royale decks however work fantastic for this purpose, and add a real touch of elegance and class to a card game. For card games, I'd recommend the Casino Royale decks, whereas for card flourishing, I'd recommend the Fujin and Raijin decks.

Card flourishing: Both decks actually work quite well for card flourishing. You can see a great promotional video of both the Casino Royale decks being used for card flourishing here. But the Fujin and Raijin decks can be even more impressive in the hands of an experienced cardist, especially when both decks are used in concert together, as you can see in this promotional video here.



BombMagic

Taiwan printer: Card collectors and card flourishers are very fussy where playing cards are produced, because it can make a big difference in quality. These playing cards are produced in the same factory that is used by Legends and Expert Playing Card Company. It is located in Taiwan, and reports about playing cards printed there are consistently positive, unlike the mixed reports about decks produced in China. The printing quality of the BombMagic decks seems to be fairly close to that of the EPCC/LPCC decks, but it does depend on the combination of stock/finish they use, which can vary.

Quality & handling: BombMagic uses their own terminology for paper stocks and finishes, so there is nothing that compares exactly with the terminology of finishes used by other publishers. The two Casino Royale decks were produced with different stocks/finishes; the Bright edition is their Casino Stock and Royal Finish, while the Mystic edition is their Classic Stock and Magic Finish. The Fujin and Raijin deck use the same stock/finish as the Bright edition. The Casino Stock/Royal Finish somewhat resembles the Elite/Damask Finish used by Legends/EPCC; it's somewhat stiff and requires breaking in, and the cards don't seem to have much of a coating to make them slide easily. The Classic Stock/Magic Finish feels somewhat softer, and the cards also seem to fan more easily. BombMagic does also seem to use different combinations, e.g. their COSMOS deck is Casino Stock/Magic Finish; while their Kete Moon Special Edition, and Vigor deck are both Classic Stock/Royal Finish. So different options are available and this can affect the performance and handling.

Where to get them: While some of these decks available via regular distribution channels like Rare Playing Cards, your best bet for getting all the decks is via the publisher's website here, where they sell for less than $8 each - considerably less than the typical deck of custom playing cards these days. Note that the Bright Edition of the Casino Royale deck is sold out at the publisher level, although it is still available at some other places online.



Recommendation

Especially considering their price point when obtained directly from the publisher, these decks of playing cards are good value, and compare very favourably to other custom decks. If you like the look of either the Casino Royale deck or the Fujin/Raijin decks, you might want to consider picking them up!



Want to learn more? BombMagic: www.bombmagic.tw

Direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Casino Royale Bright Edition
- Casino Royale Mystic Edition
- Fujin & Raijin decks




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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