More Playing Card Goodness from Gamblers Warehouse

Playing Cards Dot Net is a division of Gambler's Warehouse, which has been a part of the playing card industry for over two decades. Not only do they sell a massive amount of playing cards, but they are also involved in crowdfunding and producing custom playing cards. Some of their previous projects include the Alloy decks (reviewed here); and the Regal deck, Royal Pulp deck, Double Black deck, Occults deck, Mystique deck, and Spirit II deck (all reviewed here).

In this article I'll be covering some of the newest additions to the ranks of the Playing Cards Dot Net produced custom decks. We will meet the serpent inspired Ophidian deck, plus the newest incarnation of the Double Black deck, and we will also make a trip to a steam-punk inspired Wonderland with a grown up Alice!



Ophidian deck

The Ophidian deck is named after the reptile suborder Opidia (snakes), and is a word that refers to snakes. Snakes alive! Sure enough, this deck is all about what its creators describe as "the hypnotic beauty of a snake".

The artists at Shapeshifters Playing Cards have teamed up with Gambler's Warehouse to produce this elegantly designed deck, which they introduce as follows: "Enigmatic, dangerous, elusive ... its curves awaken a mixture of fear and curiosity provoking a hypnotic attraction. Since the devil himself used its form to tempt the first woman in Paradise, the serpent has always been a recurring element of allegorical expression in any artistic manifestation. "

The tuck box immediately introduces us to an intricate and artistic tangle of multiple snakes, with an engaging design that draws you in as you rove your eyes along the twisting shapes of our ophidian friends.



The hypnotic design of these slithering creatures is also a key feature of the card backs, which are bordered in a reptilian brown. These are inspired by the classic rider back design in that they have two strong circular shapes that ensures a mirrored/symmetrical look. Yet within this traditional pattern is a detailed and intricate design that is highly original, and is full of intertwined patterns that closer examination reveals to be snakes. The overall background pattern also brings to mind the scales one might find on our reptilian friends.

All the Aces are oversized, and reprise the highly detailed artwork found on the card backs, with entangled snake-like coils. The design of the card backs also returns on all the card faces in a faint watermark style. The overall design of the faces is also highly reminiscent of the style of the Mystique deck, which was also created by Shapeshifters.



The court cards have a monochromatic look, in either black or red. While clearly inspired by classical court cards, they also offer a fresh and fully customized interpretation. A light yellow-brown serves as the soft background to the characters, and this colour complements the card backs nicely.

Especially noteworthy is the use of "scales" as part of the design. Careful observers will also be rewarded by noticing lots of curled shapes, some of which turn out to be actual snakes.



The number cards have a very bold look, highlighting the customized pips that are found on all of the cards. Especially noticeable on these cards are the use of pips on all four corners, which is an unique feature of the entire deck, as well as the arrows piercing the smaller pips used for the indices.



The Jokers complement the design of the card backs, but offer a completely new interpretation of the entangled shapes present there, with an hour-glass shapes that also incorporate ovals decorated with scales to look like serpent heads. The text of the words Joker also features a snake wrapped around it.



This deck has been printed by USPCC, which means that the creative artistic vision of this project has been matched by a quality product that looks and handles great. Like all USPCC decks, it also comes with two extra cards, which are a diptych, i.e. when placed together, they create a single large image not altogether unlike the design on the card backs.

The Ophidian deck is a brand new release, that has only just become available for the first time in early 2018. It was produced in a limited edition of only 2500 units, so be sure to get one while you can.

Double Black Classic decks

The Double Black Classic deck is another recent project from Gambler's Warehouse, which was a collaboration with artist John Powell, also known in the playing card industry as Blackout Brother.



Previous edition

The first edition of the Double Black deck was produced around 2014, in both an unbranded version and a branded Bicycle version, and it was the first ever custom deck produced by Gamblers Warehouse. One of its most striking features was its jet black tuck box, which was finished with a very classy looking silver foil. The vision for this deck was to create something that James Bond would use and be proud of: "We envisioned a deck of playing cards that someone as deadly and debonair as James Bond would pull out of their suit at a card game-- Classy and sleek with just enough customization to be unique, yet still hold the classic style of traditional playing cards. With this concept in mind, Double Black was born."

The James Bond style design continued with the cards themselves, with the card backs featuring a "black on black" design, with a very light grey providing some texture and details, including the signature Double X that was the hall-mark of this deck. The black suits featured the same black with grey artwork and a lighter grey for the indices, while the red suits had a splash of colour for the indices and a few small details in the artwork. While offering a very sleek look, the minimalist design did suffer a little in terms of clarity.



Classic edition

The Double Black Classic deck is a redesigned version of the successful original, but has more elaborate and clearer illustrations.

Like the previous version, two different editions of the main deck are available: an unbranded Classic edition, and a Bicycle branded Limited edition, with different tuck box corresponding to each. Both boxes are finished with a custom seal, and beautiful silver foil accents which really come to life on the dark black background, and look absolutely stunning and regal.



Every secret agent needs a gun, and if you look closely you will see a pair of crossed revolvers as part of the exquisite artwork.

Both tuck boxes have a very classy interior printing that adds to the sense of elegance and sophistication. No doubt Mr Bond would approve.



The artwork on the face cards has had a complete makeover. While there is still a focus on black backgrounds with custom designed faces that use white/grey along with some small instances of red accents to highlight some details, the use of a more distinct and vibrant white and red ensures that the artwork is more visual and clear against the backdrop of inky black.

The pips also have a whole new look, and the solid design that is embellished with single diagonal stripe offers a tuxedo like impression that fits better with the theme and artistic direction of this deck, and also makes them far more visible and recognizable. On the number cards the pips have a custom arrangement within a honeycomb design consisting of 13 faint circles, for a very creative and original look.



The branded and the unbranded versions of this deck have identical cards, but there is one exception: they have slightly different card backs. The unbranded deck changes the single-circle design to two circles separated by a diamond shape that includes our two double-black revolvers in the center.



Besides the two Jokers pictured above, this deck also comes with two extra cards, a double backer, and a split King-Queen gaff card.

Unlike the first edition of this sleek deck, which had darker tones that made the suits and values very difficult to discern, the Classic deck does a much better job of offering a classy feel while still being usable. It's a solid improvement of the original, that retains a jet black look that James Bond types will appreciate, and combines being suave and sophisticated, with style and discernment.



Once again, printing has been done by USPCC, with their air cushion style finish ensuring smooth handling and playing cards that are long lasting.

Waterproof edition

As a successful stretch goal, a special Double Black Waterproof deck was also produced to complement the Classic decks covered above.

With this unique version, transparent spot varnish has been used on the tuck box to create a textured and glossy look, with an embossed feel that is emphasized by the matt black of the box.



This deck features cards that are 100% plastic, and hence fully waterproof. The artwork and designs have been applied to the cards by means of UV spot varnish, for a textured and glossy look that matches the tuck box.

The overall effect is highly unusual and curious - the cards look almost jet black at first glance, and it's only when you hold them up to the light at the right angle that the glossy parts of the surface comes to life as the light reflects off it. They're not practical for use in an actual game for this reason, but they certainly make a great novelty item.



Unlike the main decks, due to the unique demands of all-plastic rather than paper cards, this waterproof version has been produced in Taiwan, rather than in the United States by USPCC.

Alice of Wonderland decks

The Alice of Wonderland decks (available in Gold and Silver) were inspired by the classic Lewis Carroll book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as well as the Steampunk genre.

With artwork by Juan Solorzano, this project was originally crowdfunded in 2013, and finally brought to life in 2015. Ever since his childhood, Juan was fascinated by fairy tales, and it is this childhood love and passion that helped fuel the artistic vision he had for this project. This is not just another Alice in Wonderland deck, because that's been done several times already. Instead, Juan wanted to continue the story-telling beyond the classic book, by continuing the adventures of Alice further than the original story. In his imagined world, Alice is now a young lady who has earned the title "Alice of Wonderland".

Gold deck

These are two companion decks, but can be purchased separately, so let's begin by taking a look at the Alice of Wonderland Gold deck, which pictures our elegant Alice on the tuck box.



Besides extending the original story, a steampunk Wonderland theme is now the background setting. Here's how Juan explains it: "The original Wonderland story was written and set in the late 1800's Victorian era. The genre of Steampunk derives from that same era so it ties in nicely with the Wonderland theme. However, my deck of Wonderland playing cards is part of a larger picture, one that tells the story of the continuing adventures of Alice. In this more mature setting, Alice is now a young lady and the world she remembers from Wonderland has changed, everything is now Steampunk - but still Wonderland. The 4 main kingdoms of Hearts, Clubs, Spades, and Diamonds, rule Wonderland. "

To evoke this setting, the card backs have gold borders, with yellow and brown being the prominent colours. Hints of the Steampunk theme are evident in the presence of the 1800s style hat and machine-like cogs, while several silhouettes of white rabbits allude to the Wonderland theme.

All the Aces are over-sized and have a watermark style background that harks back to the Steampunk theme, as is evident in the prominent cog shape featured in the Ace of Hearts below.



The card faces employ a yellowed/brown vintage style background, to bring us back to the historical era they depict, and the slightly darker edges give a bordered look that makes them look very classy.

The court cards are particularly delightful, with a very non-conventional colour scheme that employs a soft palette of light pinks, greens and browns. This matches the vintage feel well, and complements the original designs used for the characters. Each suit emphasizes a different shade of green-brown, and depicts characters of a different ethnic background, which helps give each suit its own internal unity.

An unusual feature of these cards is that they only have pips in the indices, and not the usual larger pips besides the characters themselves - although the pips of each suit have also been cleverly incorporated into the artwork of each character multiple times. And if you look carefully, you'll also see a couple of smiley faces disguised in the artwork!



Juan's artistic approach has been has been guided by this approach: "I am keeping the traditional de la Rue design style by only illustrating the face cards and keeping the numbered cards basic, but with a hint of Wonderland."

The pips are quite custom, and are filled with artwork that harks back to the Steampunk Wonderland setting. Aside from these touches, they are unadorned, and very functional.



For the Jokers, this deck takes advantage of the fact that many decks include extra cards. As a result, the Alice of Wonderland playing cards come with three Jokers, so you can take your pick which to use. Included are Jokers featuring the Cheshire Cat, Alice herself, and the White Rabbit. These are individually labelled with character names along the sides of the cards, and unlike the court cards, depict the entire character in a one-way design.



Artist Juan Solorzano certainly has done a fine job of bringing his imagined Steampunk Wonderland to life, and his characters are lively and memorable.

Silver deck

The artwork of the Alice of Wonderland Silver deck matches that of the companion Gold deck, but uses a different colour scheme.



As expected, the card backs now employ a more regal and polished silver look instead of a vintage gold/brown look. Furthermore, the card faces have dispensed with the vintage style background, and gone to an unadorned white, which really makes the grey and black stand out.



The big difference with the Silver deck is noticeable with the card faces, which use the same artwork as the Gold deck, but are now presented in a stark black and white. This emphasizes the drawings themselves, and brings to mind the famous drawings by John Tenniel that accompanied the 1865 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

This impact of the simple black and white colour scheme is particularly noticeable with the court cards, which look exquisite! To ensure clarity and functionality, the pips of the Hearts and Diamonds use the traditional red, and these stand out all the more on the otherwise black-and-white canvas. Besides this change in colour, all the other details in the Silver deck are the same as the Gold deck.



The original plan was for these decks to be printed by USPCC, but there seems to have been some major issues with the fulfilment of the project, and I'm almost certain that the published decks were printed by another publisher, perhaps NPCC. The quality doesn't match usual USPCC standards, and while there is some air-cushion style embossing, it's a smoother and inferior finish that doesn't spread or fan as smoothly as one would like. Somewhat surprisingly, the Silver deck handles noticeably better than the Gold deck, perhaps because there is less ink on the cards. The artwork is nice, but due to the card quality being what it is, I'd recommend these decks more as a novelty item rather than for serious use, although they should be fine for playing card games.

Recommendation

Once again Gambler's Warehouse continues to produce the goods. They have a lot of experience in the custom playing card industry, and offer services as a fulfilment company for many card designers, who rely on their expertise and experience to help produce custom decks. But in addition to helping others make their crowd-funding projects a reality, they also collaborate to produce decks like the examples shown above.

Besides producing playing cards, Gambler's Warehouse also sells them at their online retail outlet. All of the above decks can be purchased at their subsidiary Playingcards.net website, along with a wide range of hundreds of other quality playing cards for sale there, all of which include free US shipping in the price.



Want to learn more?
Gamblers Warehouse: http://gamblerswarehouse.com
Playing Cards Dot Net: http://playingcards.net

Direct links for the decks featured in this review: (prices listed include free US shipping from playingcards.net)
- Ophidian deck ($16.00)
- Double Black Classic deck ($18.95)
- Double Black Waterproof deck ($14.95)
- Alice of Wonderland Gold deck ($13.95)
- Alice of Wonderland Silver deck ($13.99)




BoardGameGeek reviewer

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Tom
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Excellent review, as always, Ender. I always enjoy the photographs of the decks. I have to express my opinion on some of these decks, though. The snake deck is repulsive and the double black decks are lacking in any sort of visual beauty. I do enjoy the art on the Alice decks. Just the very humble opinions of a very amateur, small-time deck collector.
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Tango Papa Delta wrote:
Excellent review, as always, Ender. I always enjoy the photographs of the decks. I have to express my opinion on some of these decks, though. The snake deck is repulsive and the double black decks are lacking in any sort of visual beauty. I do enjoy the art on the Alice decks. Just the very humble opinions of a very amateur, small-time deck collector.

Thanks for the feedback Tom. Of the three featured here, the Alice of Wonderland decks are probably my favourite in terms of artwork as well. I only wish that the cards themselves had been printed by USPCC.

The Double Black Classic cards look even more impressive in person than they do in pictures, because the white and red really looks quite stunning against a black background, and it is a very striking and sophisticated look. The silver foil on those tuck boxes also looks amazing, and those boxes are easily the most outstanding, eye-catching, and stylish of all the ones featured in this review.
 
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