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Reviewer EndersGame
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Introducing Ben Jones

Ben Jones is the man behind Elephant Playing Cards, which has produced numerous popular decks of playing cards, including the innovative Prism series and the creative Pipmen series. Currently Elephant Playing Cards is launching their new flagship deck on Kickstarter - which is appropriately called Elephant Playing Cards, and indeed features elephants as the central motif on the artwork throughout the deck.

But of all the decks created by Elephant Playing Cards, my favourite would have to be his Pipmen decks. "Pipmen" is a term Ben Jones has coined for the stickmen-like characters that inhabit the world of these playing cards. In this series of reviews, I'm covering all of the decks from Elephant Playing Cards, so let's go check out some of the amazing decks that Ben has created, and see what they look like!



Now we get to what I consider the highlight of the Ben Jones designs - the remarkable Pipmen decks!

Ben Jones has run several successful Kickstarters for his Pipmen decks of playing cards, like the ones shown here below:



The Pipmen Black Edition and Pipmen Red Edition were the first of the Pipmen decks. These two decks are identical, except for the fact that they have different card backs, different Jokers, and different tuck boxes.

The tuck boxes are covered with Pipmen, engaged in a range of activities, many of which reprise what you'll find on the cards themselves.


The tuck boxes have full interior printing, and everywhere you look, there are Pipmen!


The card backs for the two decks are not exactly the same, although both feature Pipmen engaged in all kinds of activities.

I especially love the circle-of-life concept found in the very center of the card backs, which depicts human life from birth onwards - this is ingenious!


Now on to my favourite part, and what this deck is really all about: the artwork on the card faces. Here's some sample cards from these decks featuring Pipmen:


On each card, Ben's Pipmen characters are engaged with the artwork in different, unique, and sometimes even amusing ways.


Isn't that stunning? At the same time the cards have been designed to make sure they are very playable, particularly with the very clear indices.


I love the fact that this deck completely functional, so there's no difficulty whatsoever in using it for a card game. At the same time there's lots of detail to explore and enjoy during down moments in game-play while waiting for one's opponent. The level of detail is fantastic, and there's so many clever elements that have been incorporated.

Now not all the cards are plain red and black, although these colours do dominate. But here's some examples of more colourful cards.


The court cards are also interesting, since each of them pictures a reversible scene. I especially admire the clever reversible artwork for the Queen of Hearts, which depicts lovers in two different poses.


Here's a look at some more cards:


Here's an uncut sheet that illustrates what the entire deck looks like.


The Jokers are one other point of difference between the Red and Black decks. Each deck has two different Jokers, and these are unique to each deck.

Seen here are the two Jokers from the Red Edition.


The Pipmen decks are certainly a unique choice for playing card games with, being functional, beautiful, and memorable.


And the cards themselves are also high quality. They've been printed by Legends Playing Card Company in their Diamond finish, which is both durable and very good handling-wise. This really is the complete package!


The Pipmen Shadow Edition has similar artwork to the Red and Black Editions, but enters the world of shadows.

The tuck box has shiny UV gloss ink, a silver foil numbered seal, and full interior printing with the Pipmen theme.


Most importantly, instead of white faced and white backed cards, the faces and backs are now black, effectively reversing the colours.


Naturally this creates a whole new look and feel for the deck, even though the artwork may appear familiar!


The red is retained, while the use of white for the traditionally black pips ensures that there is no confusion between the suits, which remain very distinct and clear.


Here are two of the court cards, the first representing Nobility and Chivalry, the second representing The Hunter.


I'm particularly fond of how the uncut sheet for this version of the deck looks, with the inky black background creating a stunning backdrop for the creative designs in red and white!


All the Pipmen decks have different Jokers, and that's the case here as well. In fact, courtesy of a stretch goal, the Pipmen Shadow deck actually included an extra card, and thus has three Jokers.

Look closely at the Pipmen on the card on the right, and you'll be rewarded by seeing some unusual members of the Pipmen family who have joined the tribe.


There's one final thing to mention: decks with black bordered cards are notoriously known for being susceptible to chipping, and wear showing up quickly and noticeably. The nice thing about the Diamond finish from Legends Playing Cards is that it is substantially more durable than a regular deck produced by United States Playing Cards. As a result, you won't see signs of wear nearly as quickly as you'd expect - this is a much longer lasting card stock and finish, and is ideal for a black deck like this.


The Pipmen Collectors Edition is currently nearing the completion of production, and is a special version of the Pipmen decks that features a complete deck of cards with all the original Pipmen designs, packaged in a classy black tuck-box that is finished with gold foil.


It was released at the same time as the Pipmen World deck, and was intended to be a more luxurious version of the original Pipmen decks. The elegance is immediately obvious from the beautiful tuck box, which has embossing and gold foil accents, with an all new graphic design.

The two most popular Jokers of the series so far were used for this decks, while the card backs feature an all new design.


All the other cards in the deck feature the same designs as the other Pipmen decks.


As this uncut sheet shows, the Pipmen cards are a real treat to study and enjoy, and will be appreciated by card players and collectors alike.



What do I think?

Innovative Prisms: Ben Jones isn't afraid to be on the cutting edge of technology, as is clearly the case with his Prism series, which were the first ever decks to employ a new UV gloss print to both sides of the cards, thereby adding a tactile and visual element that is simply not possible with standard printing. Combining this with a "prism" theme of rainbow colours, and an inspired graphic design that takes full advantage of this effect, and you end up with a very creative and beautiful looking custom deck, that has elements of beauty hitherto impossible. Of the people I've shown the above decks to, the Prism Night deck is a common favourite. Laymen are typically blown away by the impact of the gloss and colours of the cards, and many people who have looked at my Prism Night deck consider it the best custom deck they've ever seen, which is high praise indeed. I love it too, and it's just a pleasure to admire the cards and angle them in the light, watching the changing visuals produced by the gloss layer. I can't recommend these highly enough.

Unique Pipmen: As much as I appreciate the innovative looks of the Prism decks, as far as artwork goes I especially love the creativity behind the Pipmen concept. The detailed artwork on each card can be admired and enjoyed, and is sure to create some real talking points! I love how the stickmen/pipmen interact with everything, and even while playing card games the detail is fun to look at and appreciate during moments of down-time - the whole concept is very creative. Ben has done some very imaginative and brilliant work here, and I can't say enough about how amazing each card looks. This also gives these decks a very unique feel, making them stand apart from other custom playing cards. Certainly the world of custom playing cards has seen a lot of different ideas, but the idea of Pipmen is something that most people have never seen before.

Pipmen World: While the artwork on the individual cards of the Pipmen decks is already fantastic, what really takes this to the next level is how these individual cards combine to make a single larger picture in the Pipmen World decks. This is an outstanding idea, and it definitely has the feel of being a single whole, without feeling like being a cobbled-together collection of disconnected pieces. It's proven to be a fun exercise to assemble the cards to make that single image, especially if you've never seen the deck before and don't know what the overall image looks like. You can use the Pipmen World deck as a fun puzzle challenge: we've enjoyed giving it to friends, and watching them solve it. It's not as easy as it sounds, and typically takes around 20 minutes! Combining individual Pipmen cards with a complete puzzle is something that makes this deck an instant attention-getter, and you'll have people around you clamouring to see it.

Functional design: Even while Ben Jones' Prism and Pipmen decks are very creative works of art, it would be a shame to consign them to pure collector's items, especially since they are very usable. I've seen amazing artwork on decks of cards before, but it was purely cosmetic, and the decks themselves weren't functional because the artwork interfered with the clarity of the symbols. Fortunately, that's not the case with the decks from Elephant Playing Cards. The indices of each card clearly state what the card is, with the number and suit, so playability is always a factor in the design. As a result, the Prism decks and the Pipmen decks are actually decks you can use!

Medieval modernism: Besides the Prism and Pipmen decks, the Medieval deck seems like the odd child in the Elephant Playing Cards family. It lacks the innovative UV gloss of the colourful Prism decks, and it doesn't have the same inspired creativity of the Pipmen decks. To be fair, it's hard for any deck to match the level of creativity and innovation of the Prism and Pipmen decks. And the Medieval deck does have a different character also because it was not designed by Ben Jones himself, but by another artist. Even so, it does have many modern touches that make it special, starting with the stylish seal on the tuck box, the sturdy parchment-like looks and feel of the tuck box and cards, and a stylish pen-and-ink line drawing design with obvious influences from heraldry and legendary knights, which all adds up to a package that still makes it very unique and appealing.

Elephant ambassadors: My family has always loved elephants, and elephants are the all-time favourite animal for one of my children, who has been collecting elephant paraphernalia for years. So the Elephant Playing Cards brand was always going to be a hit for us. But that's especially going to be true of the new Elephant Playing Cards deck, that is currently getting funded on Kickstarter. If you're a fan of elephants, or if you like the looks of the EPC brand, this new deck is something you'll want to check out and consider supporting.

Quality printing: All of these decks are printed by Legends Playing Card Company, a proven market leader in playing card manufacturing. While they have a range of finishes, all of them are a quality product that is durable, as well as providing very smooth handling. I've previously done some detailed reviews of decks by Legends Playing Card Company here, and have covered comprehensively the different major finishes they offer in a follow-up review here, and I can only speak highly of their products. Even the tuck boxes are high quality, in most cases using casino-grade tuck paper with embossing and foil accents, and often featuring interior printing as well. Most of these decks use their Diamond quality finish, which features very precise printing, and a cardstock that is more sturdy and durable than normal, with an embossed finish that handles well for shuffling and spreads.

Ongoing projects: Ben Jones is a long way from hanging up his design boots, and has several more designs in the pipeline. He's also making a real effort to bring the designs of Elephant Playing Cards to an international audience that hasn't yet seen it. All this means that we can expect to continue seeing new designs from Ben, and I look forward to seeing the decks that he'll be producing from here on in. His current project for a signature Elephant Playing Cards deck looks terrific, although the style is quite different from what we're used to with Prisms and Pipmen! If his work interests you, then definitely consider staying in touch with his upcoming projects by following him on social media, to get the latest news and updates.

Amazon specials: Ben has just launched a couple of the Pipmen decks on Amazon, in order to expand the reach of his designs to a wider market. This is good news for buyers, because not only does it mean that these decks are readily available in an easy way from a big online retailer, but they are also currently at a very attractive price point as well. Currently you can get the Pipmen Standard deck for under $12 here, and the Pipmen World deck for under $14 here - which are remarkable deals that won't last!



So are the decks from Elephant Playing Cards for you? Clearly these projects are a labour of love for Ben Jones. He's a dedicated publisher, and in the friendly correspondence I've had with him, he's also proven to be a real gentleman. These decks are produced with high quality, and they feature unique, amusing, and creative artwork that has all the marks of creativity and innovation.

Every collector who enjoys playing cards should have at least one Pipmen deck in his collection, and they make gifts for others as well. And every gamer should own at least one set of playing cards, and if you are going to own only one deck, I'd make it a beautiful custom one like these!


Want to learn more?
Elephant Playing Cards:
Kickstarter Projects:

Follow Elephant Playing cards on social media for news of upcoming projects: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
- Prism Playing Cards: Prism Night, Prism Day, Prism Dusk, Prism Spectrum
- Pipmen Playing Cards: Red Edition, Black Edition, Shadow Edition, Collectors Edition
- Pipmen World Playing Cards: Pipmen World, Full Art Edition
- Medieval Playing Cards: Medieval Silver Edition
- Elephant Playing Cards: Kickstarter Project

Direct links for
- $11.97 Pipmen Standard deck: purchase on Amazon
- $13.97 Pipmen World deck: purchase on Amazon

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