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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Alex Chin - Part 2: The Magna Carta series (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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*** ALEX CHIN & SEASONS PLAYING CARDS ***

This article continues my series of reviews on Alex Chin and his brand, Seasons Playing Cards. Established in 2011, Seasons is described as "a global lifestyle brand dedicated to the art of card collecting." Alex runs a one-man design studio called Shung Shung, and considers himself a visual communications professional who specializes in interactive package design. He especially pours out his passion into custom playing cards, and is considered an important contributor to the industry, and an innovator. He's also used his superb digital skills to produce Portfolio52, a free online collection tool, and to build an amazing website for his own brand.

Alex has already won numerous awards for his playing cards, which include several stunning series, such as Seasons, Magna Carta, and Apothecary, each of which contains several high quality and artistic decks. His decks have especially been praised for their attention to detail, their luxurious look, their rich elegance, and the innovations they employ especially in the area of packaging. In my previous article (link) I introduced Alex and his Seasons Playing Card company, and looked at the four decks that make up his Seasons series. In this second article, I'll cover the decks that make up his stunning Magna Carta Series.

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*** THE MAGNA CARTA SERIES ***

The Magna Carta series of decks was created to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Alex considers this document to be the foundation of liberty and human rights in many parts of the world, and thus something worthy of being honoured with this tribute.

Overview

Besides a special limited edition, there are two main decks in the series, representing the two factions from this historical era: Royals and Rebels.

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Tuck boxes

Of course, both tuck boxes feature all kinds of luxury, since this is what Alex is particularly good at. Striped vertical lines run up and down the front and back of the box, while the opposite corners have lavish decorations in gold foil, to finish an absolutely stunning look.

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There's full interior printing as well, featuring handwriting from the event.

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Even the tuck box flap gets special treatment!

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Interactive packaging

The tuck cases are especially clever, and do a good job of displaying Alex's skill in interactive packaging. They all have a peek of each suit in the front and back, and can be paired perfectly together to create any suit you choose. Brilliant!

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But that's not all. The sides of the three different decks in this series (Rebels, Royals, and the limited edition King John) can be combined to create a wonderful polyptych mural that celebrates the actual signing of the Magna Carta.

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Card backs

Both the Rebels deck and Royals deck have card backs with narrow and precise borders, with a white, gold, and black colour scheme. The Rebels deck is white, and the various lines on the card backs create regions that symbolize various barons uniting against the king. The wording on the ribbon on this deck's card-back is the Latin "Legem Terrae", meaning "Law of the Land".

The Royals deck is black, and represents the King and his empire, with the crowned lion representing the three lion crest of the Angevin Empire. The ribbon on this deck's card-back says "Magna Carta".

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The ribbons on both decks are on different parts of the card, and unite to create a perfect circle, which represents both temporary unity, and the King's seal. Clever huh?! I'm amazed at how much thought Alex has put into all these elements of his design, to reflect different elements of the theme.

The simple colours of the card-backs allow the swirling lines and patterns to have all the emphasis, and also look beautiful when fanned or spread.

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Rebels deck

The court cards feature a style and portraits that represent people from the time of the Magna Carta, and were inspired by existing illustrations Alex found of people from that time period.

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This gives the characters a look that is immediately distinguished from standard looking court cards, and resulting in a fresh look that is still very much within the bounds of traditional courts.

Ornate borders in gold add a lavish touch of detail and sophistication.

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Royals deck

The courts from the Royal deck have the same colour scheme of white, gold, and black, with the occasional well-chosen addition of modest amounts of red and blue-purple, which creates a very royal look.

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The colours of the court cards also look absolutely stunning, with the gold colours complemented by reds, blue-purples, and blacks, to give a very royal look, totally in keeping with the theme. Seeing these cards on a black background creates a whole different look of luxury and style.

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Aces

The four different suits suggest different family factions, and are featured on the Aces in exquisite detail. The cross on King John's coat is on the Ace of Spades, the Angevin Empire's lion face is on the Ace of Clubs, the crest symbol of Robert Fitzwalter is on the Ace of Diamonds, and the fleur de lis for Louis VIII is on the Ace of Hearts.

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Jokers

The Jokers feature an authentic and attractive recreation of the face and back of King John's seal.

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The Rebels deck includes an extra Joker with a King of Clubs reveal, along with an ad card. The Royals deck adds to the two Jokers two full art cards which show the mural as a complete and beautiful picture.

King John deck (Gilded)

To add to the luxury, a special King John deck was also made available in a limited printing of only 500 copies, which has all kinds of extra features. It represents the Magna Carta's origin by telling the story of the taxation crisis that prompted the rebellion, as represented by the Rebel Baron's gold. Here's this deck's unique tuck box, featuring the exquisite Ace of Spades completely decked out in gold:

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Since gold is the central idea of this deck, not only is the tuck deck decorated with lavish amounts of gold foil, but the edges of the cards are gilded with gold, for a look of supreme luxury!

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A matching silver gilded version of this deck was also released.

Awards

It's not hard to see why these decks have been the subject of so much praise, especially the packaging! The innovation here was that the packaging could display multiple different images, depending on the position and direction it was facing. These multiple display options, and particularly the use and incorporation of side-displays as part of this, will appeal to collectors, and helped it win the award for packaging design.

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In winning the A'Design Award, the inspiration and concept of this deck was described as follows: "The design focused on a growing world through information revealed by the user's interaction with the project, starting from packaging and ending with product. Packaging takes a micro look at the event with pleated linen embossing - textured after knight uniforms of the time, partial reveals of family crests, and the 1215 Magna Carta itself. A larger story is formed with illustrations based on real people and Jokers that feature authentic illustrations of the King's seal inside."

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They really are stunning decks, and worthy of all the accolades they have received. The Magna Carta series is definitely something fit for Royalty!

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*** CONCLUSIONS ***

What do I think?

Packaging: It's obvious from the moment that you look at one of the packages of these decks that Alex isn't an amateur. There's good reason he's won design awards for his creative packaging, and he knows how to make decks incredibly stylish right from the outset. These decks have all the luxury you can expect: not just the embossing and gold/silver foil accents that we often come to expect of high end decks nowadays, but also a very elegant style, with innovative wrap-around artwork that is stylish and beautiful.

Innovative: Alex likes pushing boundaries, and doing things different. Not only has he really done something special with his wrap-around packaging concept, but he's shown innovation in other ways as well - a colour changing deck, for example, which adds a whole new element to a tactile experience; and the two piece design of the 2017 NPCCD deck. He's a guy who likes to create, and experiment, and that immediately makes his decks very unusual and unique.

Artistic: I appreciate quality artwork, and the artistic designs of these decks are terrific. That begins with the tuck cases, but is especially evident on the card backs and the court cards, which are very stylish and stunning to look at. Everything feels beautifully balanced, and the colour scheme works well to enhance these delightful visual aesthetics.

Elegant: Everything about these decks screams elegance and class. The packaging. The artwork. The colours. The design. Alex really has what it takes to produce an absolutely classy product in every way. Even his website is stunning, and an outstanding example of elegant design!

Luxurious: I own quite a number of decks of playing cards, but these are easily among the most luxurious in my collection. Everything contributes to an experience of complete class and luxury, with refined and beautiful artwork, goil foil accents, and high quality tuck cases.

Thoughtful: I also really appreciate the depth of real thought that lies behind Alex's designs. For example, the Apothecary deck explores the theme of curiosity, and highlights the importance of exploring our curiosity, a sentiment that is largely becoming lost in our digital age, and yet which is an essential element that serves as the engine of achievement. Also the 52 Plus Joker deck explores the paper making process in all aspects of its design. This kind of thoughtful and philosophical underpinning behind Alex's designs gives them extra significance.

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Series: Unlike many creators of custom playing cards, the different editions and versions Alex offers aren't merely different colours of the same thing, but genuinely represent a well thought out series that shows a consistent style. The Seasons series is a particularly good example of this, with a theme that returns and is worked out through several different decks that are individual and unique, and yet clearly linked.

Quality: From the decks I've seen from Seasons, the quality of the cards themselves is excellent, and they handle well. Seasons states that "Our Aristocrat stock and New Magic Finish give a guaranteed performance and handling over other standard decks". They give great performance, as you'd expect from decks produced by US Playing Card Company. It has slightly thinner cards than the Casino Bee stock used by USPCC, but the Bicycle stock used has the performance coating used in the higher end decks, making it even better quality than a standard Bicycle rider-back deck.

Outstanding: With the large number of custom playing cards constantly appearing on the market, you really need to do something different to stand out from the rest of the pack. But Alex of Seasons Playing Cards has achieved exactly that. These are truly outstanding pieces of work!

Expertise: You only need to visit the Seasons website to see that Alex really knows what he is doing. He is a skilled graphic designer, and whether he applies his talents to designing a website or a deck of playing cards, the result of his passion and expertise is clearly evident.

Portfolio52: As a creator of playing cards, Alex knows all too well the need for collectors to manage their collection, and his own passion for this has led to the creation of the Portfolio52.com database, the world's largest database for card collectors. It's an outstanding resource - and free to use. If you collect playing cards, then you absolutely can't afford to miss this wonderful tool. And do look out for the National Playing Card Collecting Day decks that have been launched on his website and portfolio52.com on October 17th each year!

Future projects: Alex is by no means done with designing playing cards, but is continuing to build his brand. The last couple of months are a good indication of how much of a contribution he is making to the custom playing card industry. The Apothecary series is currently being completed with the launch of its two follow-up decks (Seronda Sentiments and Verana Virtues) in November. In October the next National Playing Card Collection Day deck was launched in support of Portfolio. Alex also had the honour of being the designer of this year's 52 Plus Joker deck. Clearly the future is bright for this creative and talented designer, and if you're a collector of playing cards, you should definitely keep a close eye on his work, and follow what he creates next!

Where to get them? Some of the decks featured in this review series are now sold out, and you'll have to head to the secondary market to try to acquire them. But many of the decks are still available directly from Alex at his Seasons website here. Some of the National Playing Card Collection Day decks are still available at the official website here. And to get notified of the upcoming Apothecary Kickstarter when it launches in early November, stay tuned to Alex's social media here.

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Recommendation

It's not hard to tell that I've very impressed with the calibre of Alex Chin's work, especially his creativity and ability to explore new territory in the world of custom playing cards. Certainly his decks of playing cards are superbly artistic and beautiful - but such praise can apply to a lot of custom playing cards in the current market. What makes him stand out above the pack, however, is his willingness to innovate in areas such as interactive packaging, and his superb skills in graphic design, with precise and perfect attention to the details that matter. It's these skills and expertise that enable him to take things to the next level when it comes to adding the small touches of luxury that make all the difference, such as exquisite gold embossing and gilding. It's hard to imagine his playing cards being any better than what they are, because it's evident that Alex has carefully given consideration to every last detail.

Alex's expertise and familiarity with the digital world also means that the images and design of his web site is absolutely second-to-none. Alex has also drawn on these abilities to give back to the playing card community with the creation of Portfolio52, an excellent free database for card collectors, and for that alone he deserves our applause and support.

If you like what you see, then consider heading to his website and seeing what he has on offer. The playing card industry needs important contributors like Alex, and he needs every encouragement to continue the fine contributions he has already made, with the hope that the future will continue to bring more good things from Alex Chin and Seasons Playing Cards.

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Want to learn more?
Seasons Playing Cards: www.seasonsplayingcards.com
National Card Collection Day: www.nationalcardcollectionday.com
Portfolio52: www.portfolio52.com

Follow Seasons Playing Cards on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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Here are direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Seasons series: Verana deck, Inverno deck, Primavera deck, Seronda deck (Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall)
- Magna Carta series: Rebels deck, Royals deck (White, Black)
- Apothecary series: Inverno Insights deck, Primavera Ponderings deck (Winter, Spring)
- NPCCD 2016: National Playing Card Collection Day 2016 deck (Green, Pink)
- NPCCD 2017: National Playing Card Collection Day 2017 deck
- Kickstarter: Stay in touch with Alex's social media for news about the launch of his latest Apothecary decks in early November.

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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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