New Custom Playing Cards From Gamblers Warehouse
In this review article I'll cover some of the latest additions to the ranks of the custom decks from Playing Cards Dot Net. This 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.
Today we will first meet the GRID Blackout deck, which uses special UV inks that show up under black light. Then we'll take a look at the goldsmith inspired design of the Bicycle Syndicate deck, before moving to the Hercules deck, which is a delightful homage to a mythical hero, and my favourite of all the decks showcased here!
Grid Blackout deck
The Grid Blackout deck is the latest and last in the series of GRID decks. The first edition was produced in 2012, and was hailed for its modern and minimalist design. A follow-up version of the deck called GRID 2.0 was produced the following year, and used special UV sensitive inks for interesting black light effects, including hidden UV reveals on certain cards.
The original GRID decks were widely appreciated for the unique distinction of having stylish artwork that shows up only under black light. But even without the black light, the design offered a lot to admire, and was the subject of praise. This latest version of this deck, Grid Blackout, also employs UV inks that produce vibrant patches of purple and blue under a UV light, as well as a stylish technology-inspired design that is much like its predecessors.
But unlike the decks that preceded it, the Grid Blackout deck is all about the colour black. That's already obvious from the tuck case, which immediately introduces us to accents of silver foil and stylish black, courtesy of UV spot printing. For extra classiness, the interior is entirely silver foil.
The back design harks back to what made the original GRID deck popular, with a design inspired by a digital world full of vibrant light and circuitry. But unlike the white bordered cards of the previous standard editions, the Grid Blackout deck has cards with black faces. The card backs feature white pattern on the black, which ahs details that pop out under UV light for a very cool effect.
As for the faces, these also feature a black canvas, and a simple white and grey colour scheme is used for the actual designs on the cards.
But all is not what it appears to be, because you only need to place these cards under our black UV light, and you are in for a whole new look, given the use of UV sensitive inks!
It's worth mentioning that unlike the predecessor of this deck, the UV light doesn't reveal hidden lines and details that can't be seen in regular light, which is somewhat of a pity. What glows is the white printing, (not the gray/silver), so there isn't the same level of hidden surprise being revealed as we've seen before in GRID 2.0. Even so, the effect is cool and impresses, and the UV inks do enhance the features and look of the design.
Two Jokers and a couple of extra cards including a double backer bring the total cards to 56. Courtesy of USPCC printing under their Bicycle brand name, the cards handle well, although with black edges you will always see signs of wear quicker than normal. But given the extra features of this deck, it's more of a collector's piece anyway, and will best be enjoyed by the person looking for something unique in their collection.
The intricate details on the pips and borders give this deck added appeal and an original feel. But to be best enjoyed, it really needs a full black light experience to showcase everything it offers. It may be somewhat of a novelty, but isn't that exactly what a lot of our favourite custom decks are exactly about?!
Bicycle Syndicate deck
The Bicycle Syndicate deck is another recent project from Gambler's Warehouse, and sees a collaboration between well known playing card blogger Max Playing Cards, and the Shapeshifters design team, which also has produced several other decks, including Mystique and Ophidian.
The name already captures something of the collaborative concept, with the deck inspired by teamwork: "parts and gears in perfect harmony to create the beauty". The tuck case design has been deliberately inspired along the lines of the craftsmanship this collaboration produces, and is intended to bring to mind the intricate work of a goldsmith.
The exquisite pattern from the back of the box returns on the card backs, which are designed to represent "an elaborate structure where metals are combined with precious gems and mechanisms that seem to hide a real treasure." A palette with a range of brown and gold inks has been used here, and it does have a genuine gold touch to it without looking garish or cheap, and which helps bring out several details from the design.
Unlike the card backs, the faces have a white background, which ensures that they are very practical for use in card games or magic. But the level of detail and artistry that has gone into the designs is significant, and in some ways this makes the deck immediately feel like more of a work of art to be admired than a tool to be used.
The style of the ornate borders and pips will look familiar to anyone who has seen other decks from the Shapeshifters team, but I find that it has a more settled look in this deck that is more pleasing to the eye. Having cards in a solo black or solo red colours, depending on the suits, ensures a simplicity that emphasizes and heightens the beauty of the designs.
The deck is rounded out with two Jokers, representing day and night respectively, an ad card and a double backer.
Of all the Shapeshifters decks I've seen, this is quite easily my favourite so far, and I think that it has the capacity to be more practical than some of their previous decks. It won't appeal to everyone, but if what you see here draws you in, then you're certain to be even more impressed when you see the cards firsthand.
And of course the trusted name of Bicycle on the box guarantees that we get the usual quality USPCC handling, so there will be no disappointment with the performance of these cards.
The Hercules decks feature illustrations and designs by Blackout Brother, with two separate editions printed, each with their own look. Both decks are a tribute to the legendary hero from Greek myths, Hercules, who is depicted on the box cover, and tell the famous story of his twelve tasks.
The Bicycle Edition Hercules deck had a larger print run of 5000 decks. The tuck box has a more standard look and feel, with red, white, and ivory used against a jet black background, although full interior printing with a delicate pattern in ivory and black makes an immediate statement when you open the box.
Our hero Hercules is famous for his adventures, and the designs in this deck are especially inspired by the tales surrounding his 12 tasks. Each of the dozen court cards in the deck depicts something that is at the heart of one of the 12 labours he had to carry out, such as his encounter with the Nemean lion, the Cretan bull, and the golden apples of Hesperides. Each court card has small capitalized text that indicates which of the dozen tasks it represents.
The mythical creatures and events illustrated on the cards have an energetic quality about them, that makes them appear as if they are leaping from the playing cards into life. Red touches on the diamonds and hearts ensures that the suits are easily distinguished.
But it's not just the court cards that look classy. Each number card has a similar overall graphic design to the court cards. The indices are set in a white rectangular panel and touched with gold edges, while ornately designed pips are set inside intricate oval-shaped banners. To say it is a work of art doesn't seem to do justice to the stunning beauty that is on display in this marvellous deck!
The artwork of the Limited Edition Hercules deck matches that of the companion Bicycle Edition deck, but uses a different colour scheme. This is immediately evident by taking a look at the tuck box, which has the same design but set on a blue background, and laced with red, silver and gold foil, for a very dramatic effect. Being a limited edition with a smaller print run, it's also no surprise to discover a numbered seal.
The impressive foil look extends to the inside of the tuck box as well, with a full interior printing of the design that matches the Bicycle Edition, but now decked out with shiny red foil.
Meanwhile the cards are arguably more playable and usable, given the white faces and borders on the their front and back.
It doesn't make quite as stark an impression as the same artwork on the Bicycle Edition cards, but the white background is definitely more practical, and won't reveal the nicks and chips of use as quickly.
The pairs of Jokers in both decks depict the hero Hercules himself, while two additional gaff cards (a double backer, and a split king/queen of hearts) fill out the deck to 56 cards in total. And as we've come to expect from most decks fulfilled by Gamblers Warehouse, it's your typical high quality printed by USPCC.
Once again Gambler's Warehouse continues to produce attractive and high quality playing cards. They have a lot of experience in the custom playing card industry, and collaborate with designers by offering fulfilment as well as production of custom decks. Decks like the ones featured in this article are fine examples of the creative and attractive work they are producing.
Besides producing playing cards, Gambler's Warehouse also sells them at their online retail outlet, Playingcards.net. Here you'll find a wide range of hundreds of quality decks for sale, all of which include free US shipping in the price.
Of the playing cards covered in this review, the Hercules decks are easily my favourite. I'm especially partial to the striking looks of the face cards in the Bicycle Edition of this deck, which really stand out against the jet black backdrop. The tuck box of the Limited Edition is definitely the most impressive of the two, given the abundance of foil, and these cards are also highly attractive despite the white background. I'm no hero myself, but with the Hercules decks in my pocket, I can console myself that a hero is always close at hand.
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)
- Limited Edition Grid Blackout deck ($24.00)
- Bicycle Syndicate deck ($15.95)
- Bicycle Edition Hercules deck ($14.95)
- Limited Edition Hercules deck ($14.95)
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