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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: The White Rabbit & Gorilla Deck (Albino Dragon) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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*** INTRODUCING ALBINO DRAGON ***

Bringing your favourite films, TV shows, and books onto playing cards

It's not easy to get a license to produce games or cards that use names and property of popular products or intellectual properites - most of us realize that this is going to be expensive and difficult. But Erik Dahlman is an expert at this. Under the label Albino Dragon, he creates licensed playing cards from TV Shows, Movies, Video Games, and Books. Examples of some of his successes include big names like The Goonies, The Princess Bride, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Call of Cthulu, The Wizard of Oz, and many more.

And does having one of your favourite intellectual properties on a product really make a difference? You betcha, because you immediately have a large target market that is going to interested in what you've made. But paying for the right to make your own deck of playing cards using the intellectual property of a popular show or book is just the start of the process. From there you need to come up with some great illustrations and graphic design that will do justice to the material. Fortunately, Albino Dragon also knows how to make great decks of playing cards. In this review, I'll cover a small selection of the large range of playing cards they have available.

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*** BOOKS ***


ALICE IN WONDERLAND

The White Rabbit deck was inspired by the well-known Lewis Carroll works, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

This deck was made after the success of the Call of Cthulu playing cards project, which was a collaboration between Albino Dragon's Erik with artist Shane Tyree. When Shane was 7, he bought a collection of Lewis Carroll's works, which included the classic John Tenniel woodcut illustrations. This made him fall in love with the traditional line art that heavily features cross hatching and stippling. Tenniel's illustrations are now in the public domain, and have influenced the imagery of most versions of Alice in Wonderland ever since. The White Rabbit deck is an Alice in Wonderland themed homage to that artwork.

The gorgeous and colourful tuck box features the famous white rabbit under the banner "We're all mad here".

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For the most part this deck features black and white line style drawings, which includes the card-backs, where the white rabbit is a central figure. He also makes an appearance on the Ace of Spades.

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Court cards

The central character Alice is represented by the Queen of Spades, while the companion King of Spades is The Mad Hatter.

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Of course, Wonderland is not complete without meeting the King and Queen of Hearts!

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One notable feature of the court cards that is very evident here is the unusual location of the pips, and how the cards are mirrored in a non-conventional way.

Here's two other charming figures, the March Hare (Jack of Spades) and the Dodo (King of Diamonds).

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The artist has also incorporated an enormous amount of small detail besides the illustrations of the characters themselves, as you can see from this close-up from parts of the Queen of Spades. It's only a pity that this detail can be somewhat hard to appreciate on the printed cards, given the smaller size of a single playing card.

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Other characters on the court cards include the Gryphon, Duchess, Mock Turtle, Lory, Frog Footman, and Knave of Hearts.

Other cards

The pips on the number cards are also very charming, because of how they are customized to incorporate elements from the story, with the Spades featuring the white rabbit and the Diamonds featuring the dodo.

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The pips for the Clubs feature the Mad Hatter's hat, while the Hearts feature the King and Queen of Hearts' crown. The number cards also have delightful borders and small illustrations add touches of thematic flavour.

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The custom Jokers include the contradictory Caterpillar and the grinning Cheshire Cat.

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Two extra cards are included in the deck: a double-backer gaff card, and a title card listing all the names of the characters featured on the court cards.

The amount of detail and the black and white means that this deck isn't the most practical for actual use, since distinguishing the card identity isn't as easy as it could be, but they are very pretty to look at, and do work fine to use if you want to.


*** HUMOUR ***


GORILLA DECK

Anyone with a mild sense of humour who is familiar with the classic Bicycle Riderback design, and enjoys the idea of a spoof, will love the Gorilla deck.

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Harambe is a famous Western lowland gorilla whose home was in the Cincinnati Zoo, until he needed to be put down at the age of 17 to protect a the life of a toddler who climbed into his enclosure. With clever and humorous artwork by David Edgerly, the Gorilla deck is in part a homage to Harambe, and also adds a tongue-in-cheek splash of fun to the classic Bicycle rider-back deck.

The fun starts with the card-backs, where winged angelic beings on bicycles have been replaced by an overweight gorilla on a tricycle.

The Ace of Spades also makes a clear statement of humorous intent, with an amusing gorilla face, and the requisite accompaniment of bananas.

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Court cards

The court cards show gorillas in a variety of states of agitation and aggression, and even confusion and bewilderment!

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The gorillas for each suit are also unified by a similar colour scheme, i.e. all the club court cards have blue gorillas, while the diamonds have pink gorillas.

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Other cards

As for the number cards, these are given character by a water-mark style background image featuring our gorilla friends with a variety of facial expressions.

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Even the Joker gets in on the action by hopping on a tricycle.

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This uncut sheet gives an overview of the entire deck.

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The one-way nature of the number cards and the very prominent watermark can get somewhat in the way of functionality, depending on what game you're playing. But we just loved this deck for its humor value, and it's one of the best spoofs of a classic Bicycle deck I've ever seen.

It's definitely a great spoof, and a wonderful item that will make people smile.

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*** OTHER DECKS ***

The decks featured in this article are by no means a complete list of the entire Albino Dragon inventory - the half a dozen titles I've covered only reflects the decks I own personally. You can see their full range here, which includes some of the decks pictured below.

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*** CONCLUSIONS ***


WHAT DO I THINK?

Wide range: Over the last number of years, Albino Dragon has put together a very respectable range of products, which reflects material from films like The Princess Bride, The Wizard of Oz, The Goonies, Ghostbusters, and Gremlins; TV shows like Breaking Bad; literature like The Name of the Wind, Alice in Wonderland, and Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu; plus other fantasy concepts, like Kingdoms of a New World, Dragon Tome; and parody and fun like the Gorilla deck. That's a very impressive and diverse list!

Licensed products: Does having a licensed product like some of the above really make a difference? If my own experience with the Princess Bride deck is anything to go by, I think it really does. Since my family loves the film, and has watched it several times, playing a card game reached a new level of enjoyment when using the Princess Bride themed playing cards. Inevitably, using the cards brought to mind many of the fun one-liners and characters from the film. As a result, it added an extra layer of enjoyment to the game we were playing. Books, films, and TV shows often have ardent fans, who enjoy immersing themselves in every aspect of their favourite thing, and for such enthusiasts this really can make a deck of playing card something special.

Quality style: Despite the diversity of subject material, I've really come to appreciate the consistent quality that is clearly evident in all the Albino Dragon playing cards. The White Rabbit deck felt somewhat anaemic given its heavy focus on black and white (which admittedly, was a deliberate choice), but aside from that, all the decks feature vibrant colours, and very beautiful images that really do justice to their source material or theme. When you go to the trouble of getting a license to reproduce an intellectual property, you really want to make sure that you produce something of a high standard that does justice to it, and that's certainly what Albino Dragon has been doing. I especially love the style that is evident in all the number cards, which typically have beautiful borders and backgrounds, plus custom pips - evidently this is a distinguishing feature that they strive for with all their decks, and it really does look beautiful.

Completely custom: It's quite common for a deck of playing cards to have custom court cards, along with the Aces and Jokers, but when the number cards are still standard, the entire deck won't have a fresh look. I love the approach that Albino Dragon takes to all their decks, because in virtually every case, the entire deck is completely custom. That's especially evident with the number cards, which feature beautiful custom pips that reflect the theme or story, and additionally have beautiful and lavish backgrounds and ornate borders with intricate details. Every card is a unique work of art, and the entire deck feels like a loving production, no matter which cards are in your hand - not just the court cards.

Albino Dragon name: I was curious to learn more about the meaning or origin of the Albino Dragon name. It turns out that apparently the name doesn't really hold special significance for CEO Erik, but it simply met a lot of the criteria he was looking for in a company name. But it certainly is something memorable, comes with a very recognizable logo, and makes a good connection with the kind of literary and fantastic materials that feature in a lot of the decks and other products.

Card quality: United States Playing Card Company has established themselves in the playing card industry as an industry leader that provides consistent quality. All the Albino Dragon decks are produced by USPCC, and match the exacting standards of a typical Bicycle deck. That means that they have an air cushion style embossed finished, that makes shuffling and handling these cards very smooth. It also means that they are long lasting and durable. While they use the standard cardstock rather than the thicker Bee casino stock, it is hard to fault this choice, and the card quality is excellent.

Ideal gifts: Know someone who is a real fan of one of the books, films, or TV shows that an Albino Dragon deck plays tribute to? It makes an ideal gift, because you already know they'll love it - after all, they already love the material featured in that particular deck of playing cards! And who can't use an extra deck of playing cards, especially one that pays homage to something you already love?!

Future projects: Given the large body of work they have already produced, it will come as no real surprise that their current range is no means the end of innovation for Albino Dragon. They are working on new game titles, revamping some existing decks, and also launching new titles. With their expertise and experience, the future is bright, and I look forward to seeing what decks of playing cards they produce in years to come!

Licensing: Maybe you've thought about making an awesome product based on one of your favourite properties, but the complexities of licensing has scared you off. It's not easy, but it can be rewarding to have something that reflects your favourite show or book. It's almost certain to be familiar, and can be a wonderful hook for people to get interested. Not only does Albino Dragon do a good job of arranging this for themselves, but they also offer their services to help game designers and others do the same. In their words: "We can help you get licenses. We know people. You can contact us at licensing@albinodragon.com to inquire about potential deals we can help broker for you." This may be welcome news to many a designer or publisher. Start by checking their fantastic article Licensing 101 - Getting a license for your game, which has a lot of fantastic tips, and gives a good and informed introduction to this subject area.

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RECOMMENDATION

There's a lot of custom decks of playing cards on the market, and so the field is often crowded and competitive. But there's always going to room for playing cards that feature licensed intellectual properties that are popular from TV and film, because these have an instant appeal, and there's already an established market for them. Typically, this target audience is even going to be much larger than the niche that usually is interested in a deck of custom playing cards, so it wouldn't surprise me if the broad appeal of Albino Dragon decks translates to healthy sales figures. Certainly the massive number of backers who supported the Princess Bride deck would be a strong indication that these are the kinds of playing cards that many will appreciate.

Almost everyone is going to like something that pays tribute to their favourite film or TV show. With new and beautiful playing cards like these constantly emerging from Albino Dragon headquarters, this is a dragon's hoard worth discovering, sharing, and keeping an eye on!

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Want to learn more? Albino Dragon: www.albinodragon.com

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
- Princess Bride
- Wizard of Oz
- White Rabbit
- Gorilla Deck
- Kingdoms of a New World
- Dragon Tome

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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

====>Click here to see all my pictorial reviews of decks of playing cards <====
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"Instead of attempting to learn a great number of tricks, concentrate upon a few good tricks and master them so that their technique and their presentation is so excellent that those who see them will want to see them again." -Expert Card Technique
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