THE FAMOUS PIPMEN OF ELEPHANT PLAYING CARDS

What are Pipmen?

Everyone knows what Stickmen are. Those are the stick figures we draw in school. But what are Pipmen? "Pipmen" is a term Ben Jones has coined for the characters on the decks of playing cards he creates.

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



It's a brilliant concept, and Ben has done some terrific work in creating these. Here's a couple of examples:



I've had a lot of experience with playing cards, and have seen a lot of really nice decks in my time, but the Pipmen decks I'm featuring in this review series just blew me away the first time I ever saw them!

What is Elephant Playing Cards?

The man behind Elephant Playing Cards is creator Ben Jones, who lives in Sydney Australia.

An engineer by day, and a hobbyist designer of playing cards in his spare time, he runs a small company called Elephant Playing Cards. Besides numerous decks featuring Pipmen, he's also produced a trilogy of Prism decks (Night, Day, and Dusk), plus a Renaissance deck with a medieval flavour, all specialized decks of playing cards that can be found the Elephant Playing Cards website. He's got more designs in the works, including a flagship deck that is currently being launched on Kickstarter, and is appropriately called Elephant Playing Cards.



So let's go check out some of the amazing decks that Ben has created, and see what they look like!


THE PRISM DECKS

We'll get to the Pipmen decks in just a moment - and they are definitely my favourite, and are an absolute must-see! But I'm going to start with the Prism decks, because the Prism Night deck was Ben's first deck, and for him it remains a sentimental favourite. Furthermore, Ben has recently brought the Prism series to a conclusion with two follow up decks, and these are the ones that were most recently produced and now are available.

So what are the Prism decks? This series of three decks - Prism Night, Prism Dusk, and Prism Day - showcase different settings in which the effect of splitting light through a prism is explored. They were a world first in the way they used UV gloss ink on all the faces, creating a unique experience that is both very visual and tactile.



Prism Night

Produced with the help over 500 backers at the end of 2015, the Prism Night deck was Ben's very first contribution to the world of custom playing cards as a designer and publisher.



The tuck box even has a holographic seal, in keeping with the colourful theme.



Around this time, the world of publishing was seeing innovative technology that was opening the way for new possibilities in printing cards, particularly the use of UV gloss. Make Playing Cards (MPC) was one of the first companies to introduce UV spot printing, which was featured in their Impressions series (see my review here). This technology adds a secondary printing process in order to add a high gloss to selected areas of the cards, to create a very visible gloss that involves a raised surface that can actually be felt.

Other industry leaders began experimenting with this technology, and Prism Night was the first deck to be produced with this by Legends Playing Card Company. While MPC's use of this technology produces a thick and glossy result almost similar to lacquer, Legends used a different kind of ink, one that is only slightly thicker than the UV printing used on tuck boxes plus adds a touch of irridescence, and the Prism decks were the first to use this.

Here you can see the impact of this technology used for the printing of the tuck box.



In terms of the graphic design, the rays all emerge from one point. When the tuck box is opened, a similar design immediately becomes very strikingly apparent with bold black rays on white. The same pattern is also present on the shiny foil-like seal in a more subtle fashion.

Ben's concept for using UV gloss was partially inspired by MPC's Impressions series, and he had previously considered capturing the rainbow prismatic refraction of light into a design. Combining the rainbow refraction concept with a glossy layer was a natural fit, in order to maximize the effect of colours and texture.

Even independently of the UV gloss that is a key feature of this deck, the use of rainbow colours on a black background already helps make card flourishes and fans look very pretty.



The spiral lines on the card-backs here serves to accentuate this colourful effect. These also feature shapes of all four pips, and how they would look if caught in the prismatic light.



The direction of the lines on the cards is all very deliberate and thoughtful, and that's where the prism concept comes in. In Ben's words, "The colourful central symbols symbolise the splitting of light through a prism – the light is separated into its different colour components to fan out into a rainbow. Once the light has passed through the prism it reverts back to regular light; symbolised by the continuing gloss lines radiating out to the edges of the card."

As you can see, the court cards - which employ blue and orange as the main colours - also have this subtle radial pattern.



The black backgrounds of the cards really help the coloured designs pop, but this effect is especially enhanced by the raised gloss layer on the face of the cards, as you can see here with the Aces. In the case of the court cards shown above, the gloss is applied to the radial pattern but also to the entire characters, for a very impressive glossy look.



Because of the UV gloss that has been applied, when you hold up the cards to the light, the light sparkles off in different angles and colours, in a very eye-catching and satisfying way. This also makes the number cards very stunning, and while these tend to play second fiddle to the court cards in many decks, that's not the case with the Prism deck!



It's not hard to imagine how amazing this looks in an uncut sheet format!



Here are the two colourful jokers, which appropriately round out the deck with a full rainbow look, one that even looks more stunning that is apparent here, when these cards are held up to the light!



As for the impact of the gloss layer on handling, this is a process that has now been tested and used by numerous printers and publishers. Despite the additional layer, the cards still slide over one another in a pleasing and natural way, because they bend without damaging the gloss, and hold up well.

A wise choice has been made to only have the gloss on the face of the cards. The fact that it is not present on the card backs helps ensure good performance and handling when shuffling and fanning, and also ensures that the majority of our attention remains where it belongs, i.e. the card faces.

The quality of the process used by Legends Playing Card Company is considered to be even higher and neater than MPC's Impression series; the MPC technology produces a thicker and more tactile gloss that unfortunately wears quicker. In contrast, the gloss layer applied by Legends appears to be much more hard wearing and long lasting, while still producing a pleasant visual outcome.

Prism Day

Following the creation of Prism Night, Ben worked on several Pipmen decks that we'll get to later. After enjoying success with these, he decided to return to the Prism concept in order to make a complete trilogy with the addition of Prism Day and Prism Dusk, to take further advantage of the UV gloss layer that technology now allowed.

The Prism Day deck is a white sister and companion to the Night deck, with the brightness of daylight replacing the black of night. Like the cards themselves, the white tuck box features extensive glossy areas that are accentuated when light falls on them, and draws immediate attention.



The card backs feature a two-way design that explores a rainbow arrangement of colours, which again creates beautiful fans when the cards are splayed.



Notice again the presence of prismatic lines on the card faces. But there are differences too - the spiral design of the Night card backs has been replaced with a very different design, but one which still gives prominence to rainbow colours.



The court cards are also completely custom, with blue and orange again being the focal colours, but creating a very different look against a white backdrop.



The design of the pips on the number cards also employs rainbow colours, but the pips themselves have darts of sunlight shooting through them, in keeping with the Day theme.



Once again the glossy surface produces a brighter and more interesting finish that is both visual and tactile. It's hard to convey this accurately in a 2D image, so check out this animated gif to give you a better idea of the stunning impact that this can have when viewed first-hand.



This deck was produced by Legends Playing Cards in their Diamond finish, and also looks beautiful as an uncut sheet.



The pair of Jokers finishes off the colourful theme in a unique way, this time depicting converging radials of rainbow light refracting through a prism.



Prism Dusk

The third member of the Prism series is the Prism Dusk deck. It has a number of striking elements that make it unique and stand apart from the previous two decks.

First of all, it has a unique styled tuck box made out of shiny iridescent card stock that reflects the light in altogether memorable way.



One of the most striking features of the cards themselves are the borderless card backs, which have a beautiful full-bleed design of a gorgeous starry sky.



It's intended to capture the feel of a sunset, with a sun slowly disappearing behind the horizon, and early evening stars beginning to make their appearance in the darkening night sky of dusk.



The court cards are a similar style to the Day deck, but the blue and orange make an even more striking appearance against the backdrop of dusk's sunset colours.



Here's a closer look at the effect of the UV gloss, and how it creates a raised surface and affects the light. Isn't that stunning?



The face of the cards features the same design of a darkening sky at dusk, which is borrowed from the card backs. The pips themselves contribute to the stars that emerge from the growing darkness.



And doesn't this uncut sheet look absolutely hypnotic!



Prism Dusk is truly a stunning deck, and probably my favourite of the lot!



Prism Spectrum

Didn't we say there were three decks in the Prism series? Well, yes, but there can always be a bonus item!

The Prism Spectrum deck was a limited edition version of the Prism deck. Only 100 copies were printed by Make Playing Cards, and these have a thicker gloss ink than the decks produced by Legends PCC.



The style is similar to the other decks, but in other respects - colours, gloss, and feel - it is quite different.

The Prism Spectrum originated with the inversion of the Day deck design, and is one of Ben Jones' personal favourites.



Given the extreme rarity of these decks, this deck is considered a true collectors item!




THE STANDARD PIPMEN DECKS

Now we get to what I consider the highlight of the Ben Jones designs - the remarkable Pipmen decks!

Ben Jones has run several successful Kickstarters for his Pipmen decks of playing cards, like the ones shown here below:



Pipmen Black & Pipmen Red

The Pipmen Black Edition and Pipmen Red Edition were the first of the Pipmen decks. These two decks are identical, except for the fact that they have different card backs, different Jokers, and different tuck boxes.

The tuck boxes are covered with Pipmen, engaged in a range of activities, many of which reprise what you'll find on the cards themselves.



The tuck boxes have full interior printing, and everywhere you look, there are Pipmen!



The card backs for the two decks are not exactly the same, although both feature Pipmen engaged in all kinds of activities.

I especially love the circle-of-life concept found in the very center of the card backs, which depicts human life from birth onwards - this is ingenious!



Now on to my favourite part, and what this deck is really all about: the artwork on the card faces. Here's some sample cards from these decks featuring Pipmen:



On each card, Ben's Pipmen characters are engaged with the artwork in different, unique, and sometimes even amusing ways.



Isn't that stunning? At the same time the cards have been designed to make sure they are very playable, particularly with the very clear indices.



I love the fact that this deck completely functional, so there's no difficulty whatsoever in using it for a card game. At the same time there's lots of detail to explore and enjoy during down moments in game-play while waiting for one's opponent. The level of detail is fantastic, and there's so many clever elements that have been incorporated.

Now not all the cards are plain red and black, although these colours do dominate. But here's some examples of more colourful cards.



The court cards are also interesting, since each of them pictures a reversible scene. I especially admire the clever reversible artwork for the Queen of Hearts, which depicts lovers in two different poses.



Here's a look at some more cards:



Here's an uncut sheet that illustrates what the entire deck looks like.



The Jokers are one other point of difference between the Red and Black decks. Each deck has two different Jokers, and these are unique to each deck.

Seen here are the two Jokers from the Red Edition.



The Pipmen decks are certainly a unique choice for playing card games with, being functional, beautiful, and memorable.



And the cards themselves are also high quality. They've been printed by Legends Playing Card Company in their Diamond finish, which is both durable and very good handling-wise. This really is the complete package!

Pipmen Shadow

The Pipmen Shadow Edition has similar artwork to the Red and Black Editions, but enters the world of shadows.

The tuck box has shiny UV gloss ink, a silver foil numbered seal, and full interior printing with the Pipmen theme.



Most importantly, instead of white faced and white backed cards, the faces and backs are now black, effectively reversing the colours.



Naturally this creates a whole new look and feel for the deck, even though the artwork may appear familiar!



The red is retained, while the use of white for the traditionally black pips ensures that there is no confusion between the suits, which remain very distinct and clear.



Here are two of the court cards, the first representing Nobility and Chivalry, the second representing The Hunter.



I'm particularly fond of how the uncut sheet for this version of the deck looks, with the inky black background creating a stunning backdrop for the creative designs in red and white!



All the Pipmen decks have different Jokers, and that's the case here as well. In fact, courtesy of a stretch goal, the Pipmen Shadow deck actually included an extra card, and thus has three Jokers.

Look closely at the Pipmen on the card on the right, and you'll be rewarded by seeing some unusual members of the Pipmen family who have joined the tribe.



There's one final thing to mention: decks with black bordered cards are notoriously known for being susceptible to chipping, and wear showing up quickly and noticeably. The nice thing about the Diamond finish from Legends Playing Cards is that it is substantially more durable than a regular deck produced by United States Playing Cards. As a result, you won't see signs of wear nearly as quickly as you'd expect - this is a much longer lasting card stock and finish, and is ideal for a black deck like this.

Pipmen Collectors

The Pipmen Collectors Edition is currently nearing the completion of production, and is a special version of the Pipmen decks that features a complete deck of cards with all the original Pipmen designs, packaged in a classy black tuck-box that is finished with gold foil.



It was released at the same time as the Pipmen World deck, and was intended to be a more luxurious version of the original Pipmen decks. The elegance is immediately obvious from the beautiful tuck box, which has embossing and gold foil accents, with an all new graphic design.

The two most popular Jokers of the series so far were used for this decks, while the card backs feature an all new design.



All the other cards in the deck feature the same designs as the other Pipmen decks.



As this uncut sheet shows, the Pipmen cards are a real treat to study and enjoy, and will be appreciated by card players and collectors alike.




THE PIPMEN WORLD DECKS

Pipmen World

Now the Pipmen decks are already amazing in themselves. But it gets better yet! With the Pipmen World deck, Ben has taken this concept to a whole new level - a polyptych level!

I'll explain the word polyptych in just a moment, but first: here's what the tuck-box looks like.



Once again, as with the other Pipmen decks, every single card in this deck is a self-contained picture.

For example, notice the adventurous Pipmen climbing the snowy mountain on the left, and the hard-working Pipmen digging tunnels below the earth on the right.



Here we have some Pipmen divers, and a brave or foolish Pipmen flying a hang-glider in an electrical storm. Very neat!



But now for the really fun part: let's start joining some of these cards together! In a truly remarkable way, Ben has designed the artwork so that all the individual cards can be put together to form a single giant panoramic image!

This is truly amazing, and has to be seen to be believed! When the cards are placed alongside one another to form a larger picture, it produces something very impressive indeed, as you can see it starting to take shape below.



This is what we call a polyptych - which is a picture that consists of several individual parts, that can be put together in order to make a larger single picture. I love the concept of polyptychs, and if you're a long time user here, you may have seen my GeekList on the subject, showcasing examples of polyptych images in games. There's some stunning examples of creative game artwork in that list, which you can find here. But the Pipmen World deck might have to be the best of them all.

Ben has been creating and developing this special deck of cards for almost three years, so he's poured an enormous amount of creativity and effort into this.



As with the other Pipmen decks, each individual card definitely looks great on its own - here we have some shots of the sky, with some Pipmen balloonists, and a romantic Pipmen couple enjoying the moonlight.



But it is when you put the cards together on the table to make a single larger image (polyptych), that they look even more stunning!



In my opinion, this is an incredible concept that has been brilliantly executed - it's functional and beautiful, all at the same time.

Here's some more examples of the concept, this time featuring an ocean scene, including details from both above and below the water:



Ben Jones, you're a genius, and this is truly something stunning and unique!

At the same time this doesn't come at the cost of functionality, because the indices of the cards still make it very clear what the suit/value of each card is, so it's totally usable in a card game. Yes, Ben has thought of everything!



To see an animated gif showing you how the entire polyptych image works, click here. Here's a poster showing the entire picture:



Pipmen World Full Art

With the incredible success of the Pipmen World deck, there were requests to see another version of this beautiful deck, without white borders.

As a result, Ben produced a Pipmen World: Full Art Edition, which includes a gorgeous wrap-around tuck box:



This deck has the same artwork as the original, but to enhance the puzzle effect, it eliminates the distraction of borders. While the borders are essential for a deck to function best as playable deck, they do distract somewhat when piecing the cards together to make a single image. The absence of borders ensures a full art image that eliminates that issue, and heightens the polyptych effect.

The full art version is designed to be a beautiful work of art that enables people to have fun putting together the cards, and to see the overall picture in all its glory.



Here's how it looks when piecing the cards together - the panoramic effect is even stronger and more impressive!



Even independently, the full art cards look stunning.



Ben has put careful thought into this re-design, so even though these cards are primarily designed to optimize the visual beauty of the larger whole, they are still playable and functional too.



I'm a huge fan of the Pipmen World deck, and the Full Art version certainly is the way to enjoy this concept at its best.



Because of its unique character, this isn't a deck you'd expect to see normal or frequent usage in card games. To ensure quick production and delivery in a smaller volume, these were published by MPC with their 300 gsm smooth finish; and as a result the full art deck doesn't have the same durability as the standard Pipmen World deck. In my mind this doesn't matter too much - I think most of us realize that this beautiful deck is intended more as a collector's item anyway.




THE EGOR KLYUCHNYK DECKS

While most of the decks produced by Elephant Playing Cards have been Ben's own designs, there are two exceptions, both of which were a collaboration with designer Egor Klyuchnyk from Anomaly World Studio. They first teamed up to produce the Medieval deck, but this partnership was not be the last between Egor and Elephant Playing Cards, with the branded deck that was recently launched also a result of involvement from Egor's Anomaly World Studio.

Medieval Playing Cards

This next deck in the Elephant Playing Cards quiver is the Medieval deck, and was designed by Egor Klyuchnyk. This beautiful hand-drawn deck was inspired by the fearless knights, powerful lords, and gorgeous queens of medieval times.



Besides the lovely and highly detailed black and white illustrations, the tuck case has a very papery feel, that brings to mind the touch of parchment or papyrus, lending extra authenticity to the medieval theme that the artwork depicts.

A beautiful addition to this deck is the red wax-style seal, and it was this unique seal that first attracted Ben Jones' attention and interest in this design. But despite the impressive looks, don't be afraid to open the box by breaking the seal, because once the deck is opened the flap will fold back inside the deck like a normal deck.

The card backs have elaborate renaissance styled artwork, with the influence of heraldry very apparent in the form of a coat-of-arms inspired design.



The great artist Diego Velasquez served as an inspiration for the style found throughout the deck.

The published Silver version features black and white artwork for the most part, which serves to heighten the impact of the ornately styled artwork, and also causes the red of the Heart and Diamond pips to make even more of an impression than normal. The background canvas of the face cards is a off-white and uneven grey, which adds to the parchment feel and antique historical flavour of the deck.

The court cards feature a one-way design, much like the original old style of playing cards. The Kings feature a variety of knights, like the ones shown here.



Meanwhile, here are some of the ladies that inhabit the medieval court. The elaborate and wide borders convey a sense of nobility and royalty that suits the court card characters well.



The Aces are gorgeously over-sized, with very ornate and detailed artwork that fits the theme well.



Each suit also has its own unique coat of arms, which serves as a subtle water-mark styled background design on the ornate number cards throughout the deck. The thinly bordered font used for the indices adds an extra level of style.

Also noticeable on the number cards are the unusually wide pips. This ensures that they make their presence on the cards very much felt, and evokes a sense of that which is unshakeable, and a clear statement of allegiance. I'm especially fond of the smug shape of the Heart pips and of intricate look of the Club pips.



The two Jokers also have unique artwork, one picturing a knight on horseback, the other a griffin-like mythical creature, that also makes an appearance on the card-backs.



This deck was produced in Legend's Playing Card's Robusto stock, which is an incredibly sturdy stock, reflected in the obvious thickness of the cards. These are extremely durable, and while they may lack the finesse and delicacy of other decks, they match the robust characters that this deck captures and conveys.

Now while the Silver version of the Medieval deck pictured above looks impressive, a Gold version that was planned as a stretch goal looks even more stunning!



Unfortunately this goal didn't get reached, but there is a possibility that some time in the future this beautiful deck will still see the light of day! Staying tuned to Elephant Playing Cards on social media is one way to find out if ever this beautiful Gold version does get produced.



Elephant Playing Cards

Another design that Ben is currently working on is a branded deck of cards, which is intended to be a flagship for the Elephant Playing Cards (EPC) brand.

This deck, appropriately called Elephant Playing Cards, has just been launched on Kickstarter.



This project is another collaboration with Egor Klyuchnyk, the artist behind the Medieval deck.

The tuck boxes feature embossing plus foil, so it is immediately evident that these decks are going to be another quality product, and a worthy bearer and ambassador of the EPC name!



While the number cards have a standard look that is very functional, the court cards are entirely customized, with the colour scheme of the Desert deck shown here featuring warm pinks and yellows.



Besides the Desert deck pictured above, there's also a Tundra deck planned.



In contrast to the warmth of the Desert deck, the icy blues and purples of the Tundra deck reflect a frosty wasteland landscape.



All the customized and over-sized Aces have elements that incorporate the designs of elephant heads, while the Jokers also feature elephants.

If you're interested in supporting this, head to the Kickstarter project for it here.


NEW PROJECTS

Cyberpunk

Ben has more new projects in the works for Elephant Playing Cards, including one called Cyberpunk.

Not a lot has been revealed about it yet, except that it is expected to have lots of foil and embossing on beautiful dark stock.




CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Innovative Prisms: Ben Jones isn't afraid to be on the cutting edge of technology, as is clearly the case with his Prism series, which were the first ever decks to employ a new UV gloss print to both sides of the cards, thereby adding a tactile and visual element that is simply not possible with standard printing. Combining this with a "prism" theme of rainbow colours, and an inspired graphic design that takes full advantage of this effect, and you end up with a very creative and beautiful looking custom deck, that has elements of beauty hitherto impossible. Of the people I've shown the above decks to, the Prism Night deck is a common favourite. Laymen are typically blown away by the impact of the gloss and colours of the cards, and many people who have looked at my Prism Night deck consider it the best custom deck they've ever seen, which is high praise indeed. I love it too, and it's just a pleasure to admire the cards and angle them in the light, watching the changing visuals produced by the gloss layer. I can't recommend these highly enough.

Unique Pipmen: As much as I appreciate the innovative looks of the Prism decks, as far as artwork goes I especially love the creativity behind the Pipmen concept. The detailed artwork on each card can be admired and enjoyed, and is sure to create some real talking points! I love how the stickmen/pipmen interact with everything, and even while playing card games the detail is fun to look at and appreciate during moments of down-time - the whole concept is very creative. Ben has done some very imaginative and brilliant work here, and I can't say enough about how amazing each card looks. This also gives these decks a very unique feel, making them stand apart from other custom playing cards. Certainly the world of custom playing cards has seen a lot of different ideas, but the idea of Pipmen is something that most people have never seen before.

Pipmen World: While the artwork on the individual cards of the Pipmen decks is already fantastic, what really takes this to the next level is how these individual cards combine to make a single larger picture in the Pipmen World decks. This is an outstanding idea, and it definitely has the feel of being a single whole, without feeling like being a cobbled-together collection of disconnected pieces. It's proven to be a fun exercise to assemble the cards to make that single image, especially if you've never seen the deck before and don't know what the overall image looks like. You can use the Pipmen World deck as a fun puzzle challenge: we've enjoyed giving it to friends, and watching them solve it. It's not as easy as it sounds, and typically takes around 20 minutes! Combining individual Pipmen cards with a complete puzzle is something that makes this deck an instant attention-getter, and you'll have people around you clamouring to see it.

Functional design: Even while Ben Jones' Prism and Pipmen decks are very creative works of art, it would be a shame to consign them to pure collector's items, especially since they are very usable. I've seen amazing artwork on decks of cards before, but it was purely cosmetic, and the decks themselves weren't functional because the artwork interfered with the clarity of the symbols. Fortunately, that's not the case with the decks from Elephant Playing Cards. The indices of each card clearly state what the card is, with the number and suit, so playability is always a factor in the design. As a result, the Prism decks and the Pipmen decks are actually decks you can use!

Medieval modernism: Besides the Prism and Pipmen decks, the Medieval deck seems like the odd child in the Elephant Playing Cards family. It lacks the innovative UV gloss of the colourful Prism decks, and it doesn't have the same inspired creativity of the Pipmen decks. To be fair, it's hard for any deck to match the level of creativity and innovation of the Prism and Pipmen decks. And the Medieval deck does have a different character also because it was not designed by Ben Jones himself, but by another artist. Even so, it does have many modern touches that make it special, starting with the stylish seal on the tuck box, the sturdy parchment-like looks and feel of the tuck box and cards, and a stylish pen-and-ink line drawing design with obvious influences from heraldry and legendary knights, which all adds up to a package that still makes it very unique and appealing.

Elephant ambassadors: My family has always loved elephants, and elephants are the all-time favourite animal for one of my children, who has been collecting elephant paraphernalia for years. So the Elephant Playing Cards brand was always going to be a hit for us. But that's especially going to be true of the new Elephant Playing Cards deck, that is currently getting funded on Kickstarter. If you're a fan of elephants, or if you like the looks of the EPC brand, this new deck is something you'll want to check out and consider supporting.

Quality printing: All of these decks are printed by Legends Playing Card Company, a proven market leader in playing card manufacturing. While they have a range of finishes, all of them are a quality product that is durable, as well as providing very smooth handling. I've previously done some detailed reviews of decks by Legends Playing Card Company here, and have covered comprehensively the different major finishes they offer in a follow-up review here, and I can only speak highly of their products. Even the tuck boxes are high quality, in most cases using casino-grade tuck paper with embossing and foil accents, and often featuring interior printing as well. Most of these decks use their Diamond quality finish, which features very precise printing, and a cardstock that is more sturdy and durable than normal, with an embossed finish that handles well for shuffling and spreads.

Ongoing projects: Ben Jones is a long way from hanging up his design boots, and has several more designs in the pipeline. He's also making a real effort to bring the designs of Elephant Playing Cards to an international audience that hasn't yet seen it. All this means that we can expect to continue seeing new designs from Ben, and I look forward to seeing the decks that he'll be producing from here on in. His current project for a signature Elephant Playing Cards deck looks terrific, although the style is quite different from what we're used to with Prisms and Pipmen! If his work interests you, then definitely consider staying in touch with his upcoming projects by following him on social media, to get the latest news and updates.

Amazon specials: Ben has just launched a couple of the Pipmen decks on Amazon, in order to expand the reach of his designs to a wider market. This is good news for buyers, because not only does it mean that these decks are readily available in an easy way from a big online retailer, but they are also currently at a very attractive price point as well. Currently you can get the Pipmen Standard deck for under $12 here, and the Pipmen World deck for under $14 here - which are remarkable deals that won't last!



Recommendation

So are the decks from Elephant Playing Cards for you? Clearly these projects are a labour of love for Ben Jones. He's a dedicated publisher, and in the friendly correspondence I've had with him, he's also proven to be a real gentleman. These decks are produced with high quality, and they feature unique, amusing, and creative artwork that has all the marks of creativity and innovation.

Every collector who enjoys playing cards should have at least one Pipmen deck in his collection, and they make gifts for others as well. And every gamer should own at least one set of playing cards, and if you are going to own only one deck, I'd make it a beautiful custom one like these!



Want to learn more?
Elephant Playing Cards: www.elephantplayingcards.com
Kickstarter projects: www.kickstarter.com/profile/585926215/created?ref=bggforums

Follow Elephant Playing cards on social media for news of upcoming projects: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
- Prism Playing Cards: Prism Night, Prism Day, Prism Dusk, Prism Spectrum
- Pipmen Playing Cards: Red Edition, Black Edition, Shadow Edition, Collectors Edition
- Pipmen World Playing Cards: Pipmen World, Full Art Edition
- Medieval Playing Cards: Medieval Silver Edition
- Elephant Playing Cards: Elephant Playing Cards (relaunch)

Direct links for Amazon.com:
- $11.97 Pipmen Standard deck: purchase on Amazon
- $13.97 Pipmen World deck: purchase on Amazon




BoardGameGeek reviewer

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Russ Williams
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Those Pipmen cards are interesting, but look much more wacky and chaotic than most of the arty decks you've been presenting. I think I'd find them hard to "read" easily during play! (Or maybe if I only focused on the corners, which are indeed in standard coherent style.)
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russ wrote:
Those Pipmen cards are interesting, but look much more wacky and chaotic than most of the arty decks you've been presenting. I think I'd find them hard to "read" easily during play! (Or maybe if I only focused on the corners, which are indeed in standard coherent style.)

Thanks for your feedback Russ.

I've used the Pipmen cards numerous times for playing Cribbage, and it hasn't really been an issue - precisely because of the corners/indices, as you mention.

When holding a hand of cards, I fan the cards slightly so that I just see the corners/indices, which is all I need to make decisions about what to play. And when waiting for my opponent to make decisions, I enjoy using the downtime to look at and study the artwork on the cards!
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N Jones
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Thanks, Ender! Picked up a Pipmen set. These look so fun!
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