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EndersGame
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INTRODUCING DESIGNER STEVE MINTY

Steve Minty is a traditionally educated illustrator and designer, who previously did branding and design for major sport stars and celebrities. He's even done scenic painting for theatre productions. But like many artists, his soul longed to be set free from these well-trodden pathways, and he was eager to find other opportunities to develop his creativity. So now he's doing freelance work of his own choosing, and making his own designs or projects. He's interested in a whole range of things, including photography (he's a creative and skilled amateur photographer) ... and playing cards.

I've seen some beautiful cards, but his decks stood out as being among the very best and most creative. He has produced several artistic decks of playing cards, including the Muertos series (inspired by the Mexican `Day of the Dead'), the Olympia series (inspired by Greek mythology), and the Anubis and Osiris decks (inspired by ancient Egypt), and is currently working on a deck inspired by Japanese culture called the HANA deck - it is currently in the process of being funded on Kickstarter (here), and is already funded by more than 200%.

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THE HANA PLAYING CARDS (2017)

This is Steve Minty's current project, two beautiful decks that were inspired by classical Japanese culture, and capture something of its unique elegance. Steve has tried to incorporate aspects of textile, art, and social structures into the design.

For this project, he spent time over three years doing research that included studying books on topics like Japanese society, samurai armor, and he even attended some museum exhibits for this purpose. He even travelled to Japan to do research, as well as look for insights and inspiration! In his own words, "This deck is more art centric than the decks I have done previously. It draws upon the history of playing cards in Japan as well as the art that makes them special.. Aspects of Feudal Japan, Hana Fuda, Kimonos, Ikebana, Ukiyo-e among others are incorporated into the decks."

This project is currently on Kickstarter and funding ends very soon on 18 March, so if this appeals to you, you can't wait too long - although it is already more than 200% funded.

The HANA deck comes in two colours/styles:
- a Gold themed red deck
- a Silver themed blue deck

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The deck contains a cast of characters from a range of occupations and classes, such as an Artisan, Farmer, Merchant, Samurai, Ronin, and on the feminine side of things, a Geisha, and an Onna Bugeisha.

Here is the Merchant (Jack of Diamonds) from both decks. If you look carefully, you'll see very small differences in detail (e.g. glasses).

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The card-backs of the Gold deck and the Silver deck are different, with one featuring the sun and the other the moon.

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HANA Silver

To give an idea of what the Silver deck is like, here are some of its beautiful court cards, clearly Japanese inspired: the Queen of Hearts (Geisha), and the Queen of Clubs (Onna Bugeisha).

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The number cards are basically the same as those from the Gold deck, but using a different colour scheme, and equally beautiful.

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Here's two more court cards, the Jack of Clubs (Farmer), and the King of Diamonds (Samurai)

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HANA Gold

As an example of beautiful court cards from the Gold deck, here's the Geisha (Queen of Hearts) and the Onna Bugeisha (Queen of Clubs) from the Gold deck.

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The Aces from the Gold deck feature intricate Japanese-themed artwork, and I think they look especially exquisite and terrific.

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The intricate borders are used on all the cards, including the number cards, as seen here.

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Because of the high level of funding, all the cards will be printed with Gold and Silver metallic inks; the tuck-boxes will be embossed and foiled, and seals will be printed on gold foil. In other words - luxury all round!

CONCLUSION

I'm extremely impressed with this project for several reasons:

I love the artwork: Everything about these cards is stunning, from the back designs to the artwork on each card. They really do look beautiful. In fact, they are probably the most beautiful decks of playing cards that I own. I have other decks that are truly unique (like the Pipmen decks by Ben Jones), and classy (like the Omnia/Dedalo decks by Giovanni Meroni), but in my mind the Steve Minty decks have to take the prize for being the most beautiful. I own four of his other decks, and these look just as amazing. I just love the way all the aesthetics come together in a wonderful package.

I love the themes: One things I love about all Steve Minty's decks is how has worked with different cultures and ideas (and even done some research in the process), and how he's found ways to reflect this in the themes. As a result, each deck has its own very distinct flavour, in reflecting either classical Japan, ancient Egypt, mythological Greece, or traditional Mexico. Going back to ancient times also gives you a sense that these playing cards are steeped in a long and rich tradition, and make one feel some connection with the past.

I love the variety: Even though there is superficial similarity between some his decks (e.g. both the Anubis deck and the Muertos Night decks rely on a black and gold colour scheme), all his decks have a unique flavour. This isn't just a reflection of Steve's creativity, but more importantly it reflects the fact that he has been drawing on the unique elements of different cultures, and this comes to fruition with decks that look quite different from each other. These Japanese themed decks offer nice variety from previous decks he's created.

I love the style: They just have a luxurious look and feel about them. The style and class is immediately evident just from looking at the box. Three of the four Steve Minty decks that I have have gold foil printing on the tuck boxes, and come with a gold seal. From the moment you first set your eyes on these deck boxes, they look stunning, especially when held up to the light. I was just blown away by them when I first saw them, because they look even more amazing in real life than they do on photos! This positive impression remains when you look through the cards. So his decks are typically very stylish and have a great deal of character and class.

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I love the quality: Although one of the primary points of attraction with these cards is their visual appeal, they are made from good quality card stock, and handle and shuffle well. People who enjoy playing card games will appreciate the quality of the card-stock and printing. His most recent decks were printed by Expert Playing Card Company, and seem to be of an even higher quality than the earlier decks printed by US Playing Cards. I have given them to an accomplished magician to get his thoughts, and he said the cards handled amazingly well, very smooth, and he just loved them. The sense of quality and luxury begins with the tuck boxes, where there are tiny details on everything (even the flaps), and the cards on the inside match this high standard.

I love the playability: Despite the wonderful aesthetics, the numbers and suits are still clear enough that you can actually use them in a game, without the artwork getting in the way of game-play and functionality. While decks like these have value for collectors, in the end I don't own cards to look at them, but to play games with them, and these do that job nicely, while at the same time giving players something beautiful to look at during moments of down-time. My only concern is whether the red and black suits of the HANA Gold deck court cards need to be differentiated more clearly, but perhaps you'd quickly grow to recognize the difference in the shades of red used for this.

I love the service: When I received something from Steve, the decks were shipped very promptly, and in a package that included a box with soft padding inside, a business card and a Steve Minty sticker. So even the packing materials used shows top quality service and thoughtful attention to detail.

I own a lot of different decks of playing cards, but the Steve Minty decks are easily among the most beautiful decks I own, and arguably they are my most prized decks of playing cards. If you think they look good in the pictures you see here, just wait till you see them first-hand - they look even better. So if you'd like to add some delightful decks like these to your own collection, you're in luck: if you're interested in the Japanese themed HANA deck, you can check out the Kickstarter for these decks here, or if you are interested in getting some of the other decks, head over to Steve Minty's own website here.

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The HANA Playing Cards Kickstarter project ends on Saturday, March 18, 2017.
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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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