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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Randy Butterfield - The Bowl-a-rama series & Grinders series (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Randy Butterfield & Midnight Cards

Randy Butterfield has designed over 40 different decks of playing cards, including several that are selling through large retailers. He also has his own website, Midnight Cards, where he sells some of his decks.

By day, Randy is a senior designer at Motive Marketing, and creates things for the wine and spirits industry, such as gift packs and displays. By night, he burns the midnight oil designing playing cards, hence the name of his company: Midnight Cards. With a background that includes a Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design, and practical experience in a print shop, he has all the qualities needed to design high quality playing cards. Midnight Cards began in 2012, and since then, he has produced some real gems.

In this series of reviews, I'm reviewing some of Randy Butterfield's creations, so you can decide if some of his decks of playing cards are for you.

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THE BOWL-A-RAMA SERIES

Bowl-a-rama Red & Black decks

Are you already getting a sense of Randy's versatility? First the Ornate series, then Faberge eggs, then fantasy dragons ... and now 10 pin bowling? And they aren't just thematic variations, but each has a completely different look - and that's the case here as well, as we leave the world of fantasy and dragons behind, and head for the local bowling alley.

The Bowl-a-rama decks are another series of clever playing cards from Randy. Produced under his label Midnight Cards, this combines two most unlikely allies: playing cards and 10-pin bowling! Randy grew up bowling in leagues with his three brothers, and it is this experience that he brought to the designing table with this deck.

Several editions of the Bowl-a-rama deck were produced, the two main ones being Red (entitled "Bowling the Midnight Oil" , which is a nod to Randy's own habits as a midnight owl) and Black (entitled "Four Butterfields of the Apocalypse", which is a nod to Randy and his three brothers ). To my knowledge, only 1000 of each was produced.

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The artwork uses the cool retro vibe of the '50s and '60s, including a Bowl-a-rama logo inspired by bowling alley signs.

Perhaps my favorite thing about these decks are the Numbers Cards. They ingeniously emulate the look of an overhead view of a Bowling Pins setup, with the pips arranged in different scoring leaves! Isn't that a brilliant idea? This makes them extremely unique and thematic!

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The court cards for the Bowl-A-Rama Decks are various characters dressed up in their favorite Bowling attire, all with a name emblazoned on their shirts.

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As is typical for most decks of playing cards, the Ace of Spades is decorated more than most, in this case with some appropriate ten-pin imagery.

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Another noteworthy element is that each Number Card has a unique Team Name towards the top. Examples include: "Wrecking Balls", "Lane Violation", "Spare Change", "Gutter Humiliation", "Split Happens", and "Les Miserabowl". In the world of bowling, players often come up with creative and clever team names.

Most of the team names Randy chose are found in actual Bowling Alleys around the world, while about a quarter of them are names he made up or reference his personal life somehow. There's also wisdom about this on the inside of the tuck box: "You can tell a lot about a team from their name".

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Bowl-a-rama Cosmic Lane deck

And for those looking for an even more exotic touch of theme, you'll be pleased to know that night bowling is also available!

Here's the Bowl-a-rama Cosmic Lane deck, which features cards that glow in the dark. Yes, really!

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This deck was inspired from the unique experience of Cosmic Bowling, with a hefty dose of an '80s vibe.

The card faces of this deck are printed in a special Glow-in-the-Dark Ink overlay. Compare how lighting alters how it looks, with the "Lights Off" and "Lights On" shots below:

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THE GRINDERS SERIES

Grinders Copper & Blue decks

From the bowling alley, we now head to the black-jack table - or whatever your favourite card game might be. After our game of cosmic bowling, the night is still young, right?

The Grinders decks (available in Copper and Blue) immediately capture your immediate attention with tuck boxes that look both gritty as well as classy.

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These decks are designed to capture the feel of a grinder, who is a professional casino worker. As such, Randy's aim was to make them feel workmanlike, but while retaining some elements of grandeur and opulence. You can get the feel of this deck by picturing a classy looking worker in a tuxedo, working at the tables in a casino!

The card backs have an intricate design with subtle references to casino games like Poker and Roulette (notice the circular design!). Shown here is the Copper deck.

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The Blue deck has a similar design, but of course a different colour scheme. This means you can have a choice of red or blue - or of course get the pair!

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Due to the aim of making this a very functional deck, that doesn't depart too far from the ordinary, the face cards are fairly standard in appearance.

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While the court cards have a classical design - certainly the most "traditional" we've seen from Randy so far! - they still feature some beautiful artwork, as is evident from the close-up detail shown here from the Jack of Spades and Jack of Hearts.

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The Jokers are particularly special and noteworthy. They illustrate a poker player about to play his cards. One of them has a Queen of Hearts reveal, which magicians will especially appreciate and find useful.

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Grinders White Gold deck

As a companion to the Blue and Copper poker pair, a limited edition White Gold deck was also created, with only 500 printed.

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This is a more luxurious edition that features gold holographic foil with black, and a UV spot varnish overlay on the card-backs.

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CONCLUSIONS

Versatility: One thing is for sure: Randy Butterfield is a very versatile designer! He has designed classy looking luxury decks, fantasy decks inspired by dragons, playful decks inspired by bowling, lush decks inspired by Russian jewels and Ancient Rome, baroque styled decks with intricate detail - it's just mind boggling how varied some of these decks are! And yet they're all from the same guy! I don't know what his wife feeds him, but whatever it is, it sure is working! Often a designer has a very distinct style that is evident in all his decks, but with Randy that's not immediately obvious, because he is able to produce a range of impressive and unique styles, almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing. But maybe that's what happens after midnight?

Diversity: This is related to the previous point, and it reflects something of the breadth of his designs so far. With his versatile talents, Randy has used his abilities to create diverse decks, and over time has crafted an incredible range of different decks. He has an established and proven record in the playing card industry, with a large number of different designs to prove it. So accompanying his versatile skills, is an impressive range of completed projects. My favourite is probably the Draconian deck, simply because of the stunning borderless card backs.

Thematic: Randy has tackled a wide range of different themes in his projects: Dragons. Ten Pin Bowling. Ancient Rome. Russian jewels. This certainly doesn't reflect someone beating the same drum over and over, but shows a willingness to take on subject material with a wide range of themes. What I especially appreciate is how thematic these different projects are. In each case Randy has clearly done a lot of thinking to figure out ways to make every aspect of the deck fit his theme, which is evident from the designs of the tuck box, card-backs, and of course the faces of the cards themselves.

Success: It's one thing to come up with a good design, and have good quality cards, but it's altogether another thing to actually find people who are going to serve as willing partners to help make these become a reality, and to find buyers for your ideas. Randy isn't just someone who has good ideas, but he's found ways to turn them into products, and he has developed the skills and experience to market what he makes. Randy shared with me the print quantities of all the decks he's made so far, and I did the math and added them up: by my count, it is around 93,000 decks of cards! By the end of the year that number should easily have reached over 100,000 decks, which is a tenth of a million! Staggering!

Quality: Randy has chosen to publish many of his own decks with Legends Playing Card Company, with their Classic finish. Legends is based out of Hong Kong, and along with Expert Playing Cards (which uses the same factory) is the main competition to the US Playing Card Company that produces Bicycle decks. Personally, I've found that the quality of the Legends decks is even higher than those of the Bicycle decks, especially the incredibly clean cut of the cards. For more details about the quality of their decks, see my review here. Randy has opted for their Classic finish rather than their Diamond finish, simply because it feels less plastic-like, and my own experience with the Legends decks also favours this finish as the best. So the card quality of these decks rivals that of any Bicycle deck, and arguably even exceeds it.

Night owl: The man from Midnight Cards often does his best work shortly before and after midnight. I'm not going to be the one to start suggesting that he turns into a werewolf, but clearly he has found a way to make his creative juices really work well at this time of the day, and turn it into a productive and also relaxing endeavour. It's a great name for a playing card company, and it really says something about Randy's creative process, and about the way he's managed to incorporate his hobby into a lifestyle that includes a day job and a family.

Where do you get them? I'm very pleased to come across Randy's work. If you're interested in picking up some of his playing cards for yourself, the first place you should look is his Midnight Cards webshop, which is probably the best way to support his efforts directly. Right now he has some terrific deals available, including the Grinders decks for around $10 each, the Rome Antony & Caesar decks for around $11 each, the Imperial Gold deck for around $15, and perhaps the best deal of all, all three Bowl-a-rama decks (including the Cosmic Lanes edition!) for only $14.95 as a set of three, which is cheaper than what the Cosmic Lanes edition alone costs at many other places. For some of his other decks, another place you can look is over at Rare Playing Cards, and the publisher Legends.

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Recommendation

I'm very impressed with the versatile designs produced by a man who has found a way to burn the midnight oil as an ideal way to unwind from his normal work, while unleashing his creativity at the same time, and simultaneously producing something beautiful for fans of playing cards to enjoy. Randy's designs are very diverse, and there's bound to be something you'll like among his decks of playing cards. I'm very pleased with the decks that I own, and find that they really make a game of Cribbage or other traditional card game just that much more special. Randy was also very courteous in answering all the questions I posed to him when making this review, and he's been a real pleasure to communicate with, and seems like a terrific guy to deal with. I can only recommend his designs highly!

Want to learn more? Midnight Cards: http://midnight-cards.myshopify.com

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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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