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EndersGame
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* * * MORE LEGENDARY PLAYING CARDS * * *

In a previous review, I've already introduced you to Legends Playing Card Company (LPCC), which is a publisher of very high quality playing cards. Along with the United States Playing Card Company, they have to be considered as one of the industry leaders in producing custom playing cards, and the decks of playing cards they produce arguably even surpasses the quality of their more well-known and larger rival. The human legend behind these legendary playing cards is Lawrence Sullivan, an American magician based in Hong Kong, who after a successful career as a magician went on to establish the Legends Playing Card Company in 2013.

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Applying his own pursuit for perfectionism to playing cards meant that success was rarely in doubt for Lawrence. The home grown "Legends #852" deck was an instant hit, and from there Legends went on to produce custom decks of playing cards for high end clients looking for a top quality product. Lawrence conceived the Legends Playing Card Company as his answer to the frustration experienced with many "premium" brands of playing cards, many of which were poorly cut and sub-par quality. He's committed to quality in design, details, paper, finish, and manufacturing, using a proven factory in Taiwan to bring his vision to reality. As a result, the playing cards available from the Legends website features decks that are nothing short of spectacular quality.

The four main finishes that prospective clients of LPCC can select from are Diamond finish, Classic finish, Elite finish, and Emerald finish. Legends also works closely with Expert Playing Card Company (EPCC). The two companies even share use of the same factory in Taiwan, with EPCC offering the same finishes as the first three just mentioned but under different names: Master finish (=Diamond), Classic finish (=Classic), and Damask finish (=Elite).

In my earlier review, I especially covered decks featuring the Diamond finish and the Classic, since these account for a large percentage of the decks produced by Legends. But Legends has continued to improve their formula and to experiment with new products, and so their other two finishes, Elite Finish and Emerald finish, are emerging as strong alternative finishes for creators of custom playing cards to opt for. In this series of reviews, I am covering numerous decks from all finishes, in order to compare them with one another.

Maybe you don't really care about different finishes; you just want to know what the cards look like! No problem, then these reviews are still for you as well! Basically what I focus on doing is reviewing several new decks of playing cards, show you what they look like, with some commentary, and then at the end come with some concluding and summarizing comments. It's especially these final concluding comments that this particular installment is about.

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* * * FOUR FINISHES * * *

If you're not familiar with the kinds of playing cards produced by Legends Playing Card Company, it's helpful to know that their decks of playing cards typically come in one of four main finishes, and here are links to the separate review articles that are part of this series. Each feature article contains reviews on at least two different decks of playing cards featuring that finish. So if you're in the hunt for a nice deck of custom playing cards, this is also a great way to get an overview of the kinds of decks available, and to check out the pictures to see if there's something that catches your eye.

CLASSIC FINISH DECKS

Featured in this installment first of all is the exquisite in-house luxury deck from Legends, namely the glittering Knowledge Playing Cards, with its gold foil card-backs and classic Peter Gurney court card designs.

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Also using the Classic Finish is the LUXX Greille Playing Cards, which has stunning silver foil on both the tuck box and card-backs, and is a beautiful luxury design from JP Playing Cards, available in copper and silver.

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To see more pictures and read more information about these specific decks, see my separate review article here:

Pictorial Review: Legends PCC - Classic finish decks

ELITE FINISH DECKS

The first deck featured in this section is Mankin Chan's Cultura Playing Cards, which is a charming deck in which each suit represents a different culture, including Italy, USA, Netherlands, and China, with appropriate artwork on all the cards (including the number cards), such as the USA themed Clubs shown here.

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Next up is the art-themed Leonardo Playing Cards, which has composites of Leonardo Da Vinci's beautiful work on the faces of the cards, with an absolutely exquisite tuck box to suite.

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Finally, we round off this section with a look at the the LUXX Palme Playing Cards, a deck which has a classic style, and has borderless card-backs with a Paisley design matching the tuck-boxes, and creates what some have called one of the best fans in the history of playing cards.

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To see more pictures and read more information about these specific decks, see my separate review article here:

Pictorial Review: Legends PCC - Elite finish decks

DIAMOND FINISH DECKS

A number of decks with Diamond Finish have been covered in a previous article, so on this occasion the section dealing with playing cards featuring this finish occupies a brief section at the end of another article, following the overview about the Classic Finish decks.

I can, however, recommend a number of decks featuring this finish, starting with several of Legends in-house decks: Legends #202 Egyptian Edition, Legends #098 Persian Edition, and Legends Digital Petroglyphs.In addition, I've covered the following as well: Aquila, Don Quixote Volume 1, Memento, and Jones Playing Cards.

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To see more pictures and read more information about these specific decks, see my separate review article here:

Pictorial Review: Legends PCC - Classic ......sh decks

EMERALD FINISH DECKS

Here we first of all take a look at one of the newest decks printed by Legends, namely Hong Kong Playing Cards, an unusual deck that features illustrations of Hong Kong cuisine, culture, and landmarks. This deck was produced as a result of a contest involving The Savannah College of Art and Design, where designers were given a three day challenge to create a deck of playing cards that embodies the culture and/or history of Hong Kong.

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One of my favourites, however, is the Porcelain Playing Cards, which takes its inspiration from two main sources: traditional Chinese blue and white ceramics, and the twelve animals of Chinese astrology. This deck has some striking custom art-work that includes the pips and the court cards, which is accented with UV spot printing that adds an impressive visual gloss as well as an element of touch to all the card-backs and the tuck box.

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To see more pictures and read more information about these specific decks, see my separate review article here:

Pictorial Review: Legends PCC - Emerald finish decks


* * * CONCLUSIONS * * *

VERDICT ON THE FINISHES

Legends PCC offers four types of finishes, and a closer look at these different finishes is warranted, in order to compare them closely, and also give helpful information for any creator looking to decide which finish to use. To begin with, I should mention that the word "finish" doesn't technically refer to the coating applied to a card at the end of the printing process, but to the texture of the card's surface, and the style and depth of embossing. All these different "finishes" are coated in a similar fashion, but the real element that distinguishes them is the nature of the embossing, which creates an "air cushion" to make the cards slide optimally, and affects how the cards feel in your hands. Embossing can be done to different depths and with different patterns. The four "finishes" used by Legends PCC are different combinations of paper stock and embossing; this paper-stock is sourced and pre-embossed by overseas suppliers, and which one you choose can have quite an impact on how a deck feels and handles. I have close contact with a very passionate card flourisher and amateur magician, who has a lot of experience with cardistry, card manipulation, and sleight of hand, and I gave him a number of different Legends decks to experiment with, to help me come to a more informed and balanced perspective. What follows is largely based on his reflections and observations, which come only after he had spent a lot of time with some of the decks mentioned above:

Classic Finish: Of the different finishes offered by Legends, the Classic Finish is the most similar to the card stock of a typical USPCC Bicycle deck. It is quite a soft stock, and handles very nicely out of the box because of this, not requiring much breaking in to wear it in. The cards are embossed, and the finish allows them to slide very easily and evenly over each other for fans and other flourishes, as well as making it easy to shuffle. The cards also have some form of coating on them which helps with spreads and fans. While this can leave the fingers feeling almost greasy after extensive use, a coating like this is essential for the kind of smooth handling that this finish allows. Overall the feel is softer and more papery than some of the other finishes, like the Diamond Finish.

Elite Finish: The Elite Finish is very similar to the Classic Finish, with a very similar and perhaps slightly increased softness, which allows easy riffle shuffling and springs. What sets it apart from the Classic Finish, however, is a different embossing pattern. The Elite Finish has a much wider embossing pattern, composed more of lines rather than dimples, which is intended to be deeper and softer. This results in the cards feeling quite smooth on the surface rather than feeling slightly bumpy as a typical playing card might. While the cards fan and spread nicely and evenly, it isn’t quite as smooth as with the Classic finish due to the embossing pattern. Whether you prefer the Classic or Elite Finish will largely be a matter of preference, but the Classic Finish does seem to be the most popular of the two.

Diamond Finish: The Diamond Finish can correctly be considered one of the most durable of all the different finishes offered by Legends, being quite a stiff stock. The cards are thinner than normal, but despite this are surprisingly more durable and stiff than a typical USPCC type deck. This combination of elements means that the cards are very snappy, and when sprung from one hand to another they create a pleasant sound due to this snap. The cards are embossed with an air cushion style texture, but individually they feel very smooth, almost like plastic, which is also noticed in their snap. The cards can feel quite slippery, but they fan and spread very easily and evenly. This finish does take some getting used to, as it is quite different due to its stiffness and smoothness. But it rewards the newcomer willing to experiment with it, and the more one uses it, the more one comes to appreciate it. The Diamond Finish definitely results in a very durable and long lasting deck, which also packets great for various cuts. These cards do require some wearing in due to their stiffness, but it is well worth it!

Emerald Finish: The Emerald Finish is the stiffest of all the different finishes, having a thin but stiff paper-stock similar to the Diamond Finish. This stiffness is very helpful for springs, giving it a nice snap that produces a very nice and audible sound, much like the Diamond Finish does. These cards do not feel quite as much like plastic as the Diamond finish does, and the embossing pattern can be felt more easily on the cards. They packet very nicely for various cuts. This is a long lasting durable finish, but is easier to get used to than the Diamond Finish. They do however require some wearing in due to their stiffness. Depending on the printing process used, they don't always have the Diamond Cut that is standard for the other three finishes, because decks with this finished are typically produced in a factory in China rather than Taiwan (although I've been informed that the Diamond Cut is also becoming a feature for the Emerald Finish produced in Legends' China factory as well).

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VERDICT ON LEGENDS PLAYING CARD COMPANY

An industry leader: When most people think about quality playing cards, one of the first names that comes to mind is US Playing Card Company. But the decks from Legends Playing Card Company (and their friendly partner Expert Playing Card Company) deserve to be considered at least as good, if not better. They have a card-stock that is more durable, and a beautiful crisp cut that has amazingly clean edges, far superior to a typical USPCC deck. In a previous review I have already covered at length many of the elements that contribute to the high quality of a Legends deck of cards, as well as reviewed some beautiful examples of their work. My further experience with their products has only confirmed my opinion that they rightly deserve to be considered an industry leader in the world of playing cards. It's no surprise that many designers of custom playing cards choose Legends as their printer of choice in order to produce their dream projects.

Quality cards: There haven't been any decks from Legends that have left me unsatisfied in terms of the card quality or printing. The printing is consistently crisp and accurate, and the cards are excellent quality. While some of the finishes are different than I was used to from a USPCC printed deck, over time I've come to appreciate that these finishes are by no means inferior. If anything, I'm inclined to think that the LPCC produced decks are consistently of a higher standard than their USPCC equivalents, in terms of the card stock used, the accurate print registration, and the clean cuts. The four different finishes available also means that a range of options is available.

Superb tuck-boxes: Legends is not only known for its superb quality cards, but also the amazing tuck boxes they produce. These typically feature innovative design, and luxurious and classy enhancements like embossing and foil accents. These features are also on display in some of the decks mentioned above. The Knowledge tuck box looks incredibly glamorous, as does the amazing amount of foil on the LUXX Greille. But I'm especially fond of the Leonardo tuck box, which has been created to have the look and feel of old canvas, and the use of UV spot printing to create raised and glossy letters along with silver/gold foil accents creates an incredibly classy look. Certainly Legends knows how to raise the bar when it comes to producing an outstanding tuck box, which is the first point of contact with a new deck of cards, and makes an important impression.

Gold foil stamping: One feature that can really add class to a deck of playing cards is the addition of gold foil to the card backs. Examples of this include the Knowledge deck, and the LUXX Greille. I can't say enough about how amazing this looks. It does impact the handling slightly, because the addition of foil means that there are different parts of the cards that come into contact with each other beyond just the embossed stock. But this isn't something major, and the amazing visual impact more than compensates for this. A true cardist interested only in manipulating cards would probably avoid foil stamped cards due to them handling differently than a normal deck, but for someone wanting a luxurious looking deck, adding foil to the backs really increases the aesthetics of a deck and takes it to the next level.

UV Spot printing: A new technique that publishers are starting to employ in recent years is the use of UV spot printing, which involves a secondary process to apply an extra layer of gloss on selected parts of a card. This creates a glossy sheen in the places where this has been applied, adding a visual shine and a tactile feel. The Porcelain deck uses this process in conjunction with the Emerald finish, and the result is that it has bumps and patterns incorporated into the back design that can actually be felt. They feel very nice and add some sheen on the spots that have these raised areas, creating an attractive look. This does have some effect on the handling, and there is a greater friction between the cards because of these raised surfaces, which makes packeting of cards easier but fans and spreads slightly harder.

Diverse range: Due to the fact that they print such a high volume of decks for a wide variety of customers, Legends is able to offer a diverse range of different decks in their own online store, which you'll find here. In most cases, information about the deck is provided, along with a helpful image gallery that offers some photos of what the cards look like. A sense of this range is also evident in the decks I've reviewed in this article: decks like Cultura, Porcelain, and Hong Kong reflect aspects of different cultures; decks like Leonardo have intimate connections with art; decks like Knowledge and LUXX Greille target visible luxury and shininess, while the LUXX Palme decks are stylish and ideal for a poker game. And that's just a small sample of what Legends has available - there are of course many more.

Printing custom decks: For designers wondering which printer to use in order to produce their custom deck, making a choice of printer can be difficult, and the choices can seem overwhelming. USPCC is the default printer of choice for many creators, simply because they have an established name in the business, as well as the recognizable Bicycle brand. While they do usually produce a quality product, they are certainly not the cheapest option, and the size of a minimum order will be an obstacle for some. Legends PCC offers a welcome and attractive alternative; from what I am aware, their prices are cheaper, and if my correspondence with Lawrence Sullivan and his staff is anything to go by, their commitment to quality is outstanding. Furthermore, I would argue that the quality of a Legends PCC deck surpasses that of a USPCC produced deck, e.g. the clean and crisp edges are an obvious improvement. They are certainly far superior to MPC produced decks. Card collectors typically speak very positively and highly of decks produced by LPCC/EPCC in the Taiwan factory they use, and this is nearly always seen as a major plus for a prospective custom playing card project. You'll just have to make the right decision about which finish to use, since that can create quite a different feel, but they do offer a sample pack which will allow you to try all four finishes.

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RECOMMENDATION

I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Legends Playing Card Company as a printer of choice for creating a project for a custom deck of playing cards, and also for purchasing a range of quality decks. They produces very high quality cards, and the playing cards available on their website include a diverse selection to choose from.

Lawrence Sullivan is a man absolutely committed to the very highest quality possible, and the results speak for themselves. Legendary playing cards indeed!

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Want to learn more?
Legends Playing Card Company: www.legendsplayingcards.com
Playing Card Online Store: www.legendsplayingcards.com/collections/playing-cards

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
Classic Finish: Knowledge Playing Cards, LUXX Greille Playing Cards
Elite Finish: LUXX Palme Playing Cards, Leonardo Playing Cards, Cultura Playing Cards
Emerald Finish: Hong Kong Playing Cards, Porcelain Playing Cards

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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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