Newly released decks from Art of Play

Art of Play is known for its fine collection of carefully curated decks of high quality playing cards, many of which are optimized for cardistry or for playing card games. Run by cardistry innovators and pioneers Dan and Dave Buck, it is not only a paradise for those who appreciate unique games, puzzles, and playing cards, but it is also the online label under which the Buck twins produce their own brand of playing cards.

The Art of Play website has been carrying a wide range of literally hundreds of custom playing cards already since 2013, but in recent years Dan and Dave have more and more been making a unique contribution to the playing card industry by producing their own decks of cards, with many colourful and impressive designs that are especially popular with cardists. So if you're looking for a quality deck of playing cards - whether it's something classy for your poker night, something impressive for your family game of Hearts or Spades, something sophisticated for your card magic, or something eye-catching for your card flourishing - look no further: Art of Play has you covered with great decks like these.

I've covered quite a large number of Art of Play's attractive decks previously, but this time I'd like to cover a number of their recently released decks, many of which continue series of other popular decks.

NEW SERIES

The Harmony Collection

The Harmony Collection is a brand new set from Art of Play consisting of four decks: Sea, Land, Air, and Space. The tuck boxes of these four different decks are lively and colourful designs, with the artwork created by artist Mauro Martins from Brazil.



In the words of the ad copy, this series "celebrates our planet's natural resources with four unique decks representing Sea, Land, Air, and Space. Together they embody our oneness as seen from the stars."

The faces of the cards in each deck have a borderless background pattern with colours that fit with the rest of the deck. Besides the indices there are no pips, but that's because of the busy design which offers enough interest on its own.



The card backs are a busy, one-way borderless design, that is engaging and intriguing - and unique to each deck.



The artwork on each court card is repeated for each suit, although different colours are used for the traditionally black suits and the traditionally red suits. That means all the Kings have matching artwork, as do the Queens, and the Jacks. Even so there is a highly customized feel due to the intense patterns of the surrounding design, and the unique graphic style that flows through the entire deck, including two custom Jokers.

And of course the artwork in each of the four decks is unique to that deck. For the court cards, the Space deck features different astronauts, the Air deck has birds, the Land deck has large African mammals, while the Sea deck has some mythical merfolk.



There is a unity of style between the decks, and yet each deck has its own flavour and style, appropriate to the domain it is depicting. These are all lively and fun decks with a very light-hearted and original feel.



As an extra indication of their own commitment to preserving our planet for future generations to enjoy, Art of Play has pledged to plant one tree for each Harmony deck that is sold.



CONTINUED SERIES

Black Wheel

Art of Play has previously produced several versions of their delightful DKNG decks, made in collaboration with DKNG Studios from California. First off the press was a set of twin decks in red and blue, named Red Wheel and Blue Wheel respectively. These were intended as a fresh interpretation of the classic Bicycle rider back, with a bicycle design being prominent. Next up was the Green Wheel deck, which had a similar look but with an eco-friendly colour scheme.

The latest addition to this series is the brand new DKNG Black Wheel deck. Like its predecessors, the tuck box has a matt look, but in this case is touched with UV spot printing in black for a very lush look. A custom seal in red ensures strong first impressions.



Anyone familiar with the previous Wheel decks will immediately recognize the design of the card backs, which are now presented in a classic black. The Bicycle influence is clearly evident, and despite the intriguing design, the plain black colour ensures that this design doesn't draw more attention than it should.



The card backs may look symmetrical, but if you observe the corners closely, you'll see that all four suits are represented, which results in a subtle one-way design.

The Ace of Spades is my favourite card, courtesy of its gorgeous illustration of a bicycle inside the giant two-tone pip. In fact, all the Aces are stunning examples of clean and stylized design.



Perhaps my favourite feature of the original Red Wheel and Blue Wheel decks were the pips, which were split in half and used metallic gold for the Red deck and metallic silver for the Blue deck.

The split-pip design continues here, with a dark metallic gold used along with classic black for the Spade/Club pips, and a lighter metallic gold paired with the classic red for the Heart/Diamond pips.



The result is a classic and stylish look, and the metallic gold accents really are a wonderful touch that creates an overall appearance of luxury and style.



Like the classy siblings that preceded it, the Black Wheel deck is a modern classic that should be well received by all.



Peau Doux

The Peau Doux (Silver Edition) builds on the success of its predecessor, the Peau Doux deck, which was created as a tribute to the legendary Cardini, known for his skill in manipulation and magic.



Cardini himself used a similar looking deck (but in bridge-size) as part of his legendary nightclub act, "The Suave Deceiver". He loved the design for fanning and manipulations, and it was a staple of his performances, and he took some remarkable measures to preserve its rights and to ensure it wasn't replicated by other magicians.

Shown here is a picture of Cardini from 1968 with his classic deck.



The tuck case largely replicates the original, featuring black with silver rectangles, and the name of the deck in a beautiful letter-pressed font on the front.

The back design of the cards is a striking one-way design with vibrant colours, with a circular pattern in layers of black and silver against a red background, with a silver Pegasus in metallic ink.



The Ace of Spades is based closely on Cardini's original, but reprises the Pegasus already seen on the back design, along with Cardini's name.



The court cards have a standard design, but limited to the same colour palette of red, black, and silver found on the backs, with metallic silver ink generating a very classy look.



The faces of the other cards are relatively standard, although the indices and pips receive a lighter treatment than normal.

The two identical Jokers also show a silhouette of Cardini, and besides a blank card there's another extra card with some information about Cardini and the deck.



But the truly signature element of this deck are the card backs, with a design that creates beautiful patterns in fans, spreads, and with other manipulations - which is exactly the reason why Cardini loved these cards so much!



NOC Colorgades

The NOC series of decks has been produced since 2012, under the guidance of magician Alex Pandrea, and is a very popular series of cards defined by simplicity and elegance, courtesy of a minimalistic design.

Now Art of Play has arranged a collaboration to produce their very own NOC Colorgrade decks, with two different options available: Desert Orange and Tropic Green.



These decks share similar traits with the other NOC decks, but the Art of Play touch is immediately evident from the tuck boxes. These are works of art, with a sleek black look, which on one side has a die-cutout that shows off the Art of Play logo with the help of the vibrant colours from the card backs.

On the other side of the tuck box is an even more complicated die-cut design, with a 5x7 pattern of circles, which reveal reveals the gradient on the card backs. Alternatively it can also reveal one of Art of Play's slogans on the card behind it: Epiphanies Await The Curious Mind. This immediately catches attention, and is a very creative and stylish touch.



The original NOC decks have gone through many incarnations, with relatively few adjustments besides a different choice for the solid colour used on the card backs. These new decks, however, take the series in a slightly new direction, since they make use of a gradient that has a range of colours within a spectrum, inspired by sunset for the Desert Orange deck, and inspired by forests for the Tropic Green deck.

Besides the Ace of Spades, which embodies the Art of Play logo in its design, the other face cards are standard.



Like the other members of the NOC family, the idea is to use a simple and relatively plain back design that accentuates and emphasizes the flourishes themselves. NOC is an acronym that stands for "Nothing, Only Colour", thereby creating a design that is the polar opposite of the over-ornamentation present in some customized decks, which assault the viewer with an overdose of colour and detailed design.

Instead, these decks are about keeping things simple, so that all the focus can be on the moves performed by the card flourisher, without distractions from an elaborate design.



Two minimalist Jokers ensure that there is some additional customization, along with two extra cards.

There is one additional secret that this deck holds, which will be familiar to anyone who already knows the NOC decks, namely a subtle marking system which marks the suit (not the value) in a clever and well-disguised manner.



Unlike some of the other NOC decks that were printed by EPCC, these new decks have been printed by USPCC with their thin-crush stock, a popular choice with cardists and magicians alike.



NEW STAND-ALONE

Illusion d'Optique

The Illusion d'Optique deck isn't just a deck of playing cards, but a miniature art gallery.

It is housed in a custom plastic box, with the name of the deck on one side, along with the promise of "54 eye-popping optical illusions". The reverse side introduces us to the designer Gianni Sarcone, and images of some of the cards inside.



The tuck box itself has a very eye-catching design, with a series of busy jagged lines in parallel, with a holographic reflective surfaces that produces rainbow colours when it catches the light.

This pattern also returns on the back of the cards, with black and white proving a suitable combination for a pattern that plays with our mind.



But the real highlight of this deck is found on the card faces - each of which offers Sarcone's interpretation of classic illusions, as well as some of his own creations.



Quality production from USPCC ensures that the cards perform as good as they look, and that they are a durable product that will go the distance.



The deck needs to be seen to be believed, and each card provides its own entertainment in miniature.





Recommendation

These new designs from Art of Play continue Art of Play's stellar reputation in producing wonderful decks for card magic and card flourishing, as well as novelty designs, with the Optical Illusion deck being an especially fine example of the latter. By collaborating with world class artists and creative thinkers, Dan and Dave Buck continue to ensure that their growing catalogue includes fresh new designs that are the kind of thing that consumers today are looking for.

Not only do these decks feature the best in looks, but as always the creativity of the designs is matched by quality materials and tuck boxes. High quality embossed air-cushioned cards ensure durability as well as smooth handling and consistent performance. The above decks are prime examples of the high quality designs that Art of Play is contributing to the playing card industry.

Whether your interest is in card games, card magic, card flourishing, or even just card collecting, you're almost certain to find some treasures in Art of Play's growing collection, and the decks reviewed here are fine examples of what they offer. If you enjoy quality playing cards, puzzles, or games, then you definitely need to check out whether they can help improve the tools in your hands when you are at play. After all, these guys have turned play into an art!



What to learn more? Check out Art of Play:
- Official website: artofplay.com
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest

Direct links for items featured in this review:
New series: The Harmony Collection (Sea, Land, Air, Space)
Continued series: DKNG Black Wheels, Peau Doux (Silver Edition), NOC Colorgrades (Desert Orange + Tropic Green)
New stand-alone: Illusion d'Optique




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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Kevin Shillinglaw
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Amazing!

Do you know if the Black Wheel is only available through their site?
 
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Deathstroke wrote:
Do you know if the Black Wheel is only available through their site?

I'm not sure - my order was directly from Art of Play.

Apparently the Black Wheel deck was created to coincide with Black Friday, so it's only been available since last month. It may take a while to make its way to other retailers if that's what they plan to do.
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THANK YOU Ender! I've know about your (amazing) game reviews for as long as I've been BGG. Can't believe I only just now discovered your interest in playing cards.

A question about the Harmony cards -- and the other ones here for the matter -- do they by any chance have 4 jokers or cards that can be used as jokers?

The reason I ask is I love to play Tichu with normal cards, as I don't much like the faux Chinese art of the original. For this to work, a deck needs either 4 jokers or 2 jokers plus two other special cards (e.g. info cards about the art or whatever) with normal backs, or in some cases 3 jokers plus 1 info card.

I've found some decks do indeed have 4 extra cards like this. Fingers crossed at least some of the beautiful decks here do as well.

And while I'm at it, I'll thrown in my recommendation (no affiliation) -- Playing Arts: https://playingarts.com/en (some of the editions have 4 extra cards)
 
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ghopper21 wrote:
A question about the Harmony cards -- and the other ones here for the matter -- do they by any chance have 4 jokers or cards that can be used as jokers?

The reason I ask is I love to play Tichu with normal cards, as I don't much like the faux Chinese art of the original. For this to work, a deck needs either 4 jokers or 2 jokers plus two other special cards (e.g. info cards about the art or whatever) with normal backs, or in some cases 3 jokers plus 1 info card.

I've found some decks do indeed have 4 extra cards like this. Fingers crossed at least some of the beautiful decks here do as well.

That's a great idea! Virtually all decks of cards printed by USPCC have four extra cards besides the standard 52 in four suits. Typically these are the 2 Jokers plus either 2 ad cards or 2 gaff cards. Of course the ad cards and gaff cards don't necessarily have backs matching the rest of the deck.

But in the case of the Harmony decks I'm happy to report that the four extra cards all do have backs matching the rest of the deck: two Jokers and two ad cards. So if that works for you, you're in luck. Here's a photo I took for you of the Sea deck cards, so you can see exactly what you're getting:




ghopper21 wrote:
And while I'm at it, I'll thrown in my recommendation (no affiliation) -- Playing Arts: https://playingarts.com/en (some of the editions have 4 extra cards)

I agree - these are great! I actually covered those in a review here:

Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: What happens when 55 different artists team up to make one deck of playing cards


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Great to hear this! And THANKS for the pics of the ad cards and jokers. Going to definitely order the Harmony decks. And also good to know about USPCC decks typically having 2 jokers plus 2 extras.

I've also written to the Art of Playing folks suggesting they include info about any extra cards on their website descriptions. A world in which the default is 52 + 4 not just 52 + 2 would be a wonderful place.

And look forward to reading your review of the Playing Arts cards!
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My two Black wheel decks arrived a couple of days ago and they are amazing! Thanks again for that review!
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