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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Review: Transformation decks (Wild, Busy Bears, Newtropolis) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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Playing Cards for an Anniversary Celebration

In this review series, I'm featuring a number of decks I recently received as part of my first ever order from PlayingCardDecks.com (which I'll mostly refer to as PCD in this article). And because PlayingCardDecks is currently celebrating their first anniversary, from 24 - 30 April you can get 20% off everything on their website using the coupon code "YEAR1" or "HAPPY20" at check out. They have 10,000s of decks in stock, with over 1500 different decks as part of their range. In my reviews so far I've covered many decks that were highly suited for card games and magic, and colourful and creative decks for the cardist or collector. In the current set of reviews I'm focusing more on some novelty decks and unusual titles, ones which will especially appeal to collectors, but also some of the cheaper decks that PCD has available.

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*** TRANSFORMATION DECKS ***

A transformation deck takes artistic decks to a whole new level. This is a unique deck of playing cards where the pips have been incorporated into a larger artistic image. For example, the five pips on a Five of Hearts might be transformed into five faces that are part of a larger image picturing five people, or they might be five balloon held by a child, or they might be five fish in a pond, or leaves on a tree. Decks where the pips aren't in the expected position/colours are sometimes referred to as semi-transformation decks. Many collectors love these decks, and I count myself among them; they are easily among my favourites, due to the incredible creativity and ingenuity that is required. I'm a huge fan of transformation decks, and have posted a lengthy pictorial article on the subject here.

These kinds of decks enjoyed huge popularity in the 19th century, and also in the late 20th century. Some of the popular decks from that era include several decks by artist Peter Wood, including Teddy Bear (1994) and 2000 Pips (1999). These decks are now rare items prized by collectors, so I was thrilled to discover that together with Newt's Playing Cards, Peter Wood has produced several more semi-transformation decks in recent years, and even better - PCD stocks them!

Wild deck

The Wild deck immediately introduces us to the subject matter, with a tuck box cover that features an animal crew that includes a giraffe, tiger, and parrot. The tuck box opens up to show a bamboo structure covered with leaves, and small details like a ladybug can be found on the flaps.

The text on the box invites us to enjoy the deck as follows: "Can you find the hidden Pips (Heat, Club, Diamond, & Spade) that are transformed into each card?" This deck is subtitled "Hidden Seek-N-Find Animals", or "Wild Animal Hidden Image Playing Cards", due to the hidden images that await discovery inside. There's also a bonus challenge that the deck allows us to discover, as mentioned on the box cover: "Have more fun with the `Where's Woody' Snails that are hidden throughout the deck."

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The face cards all have beautiful illustrations of wild animals from around the world, and each card features a different animal with unique artwork. All your favourites are included, including large animals like polar bears, tigers, and whales, dangerous animals like snakes and crocodiles, curiosities like kangaroos and puffins, birds like peacocks and toucans, as well as tiny insects and butterflies.

This deck comes along with two special challenges and hidden treasures. Firstly, each card has pips hidden throughout the artwork. For example, the 7 of Diamonds has 7 Diamond pips cleverly incorporated into the artwork, while the 10 of Spades has 10 Spade pips hidden. Unlike a normal transformation deck, where the pips are deliberately obviously, in this deck these are somewhat hidden and disguised, and it's part of the challenge to find them.

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The second challenge that this deck offers is that the deck has tiny snails (Woody) hidden throughout the deck, and your mission is also to find as many as you can. As an example, see the snail crawling on top of the 5 of Clubs.

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The court cards and aces aren't given any special treatment, but with this deck I really don't mind, because every single card in the deck has been given the honour normally ascribed only to royalty, and has been given a large picture of its own!

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The card backs feature the delightful group of animal friends pictured on the tuck box.

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This deck is truly a delight for animal lovers, especially because the artwork is the real focus of every card, enclosed in a rectangular frame with white borders that helps emphasize the picture.

At the same time the indices are all very standard, so when holding a hand of cards you can still clearly see the suit and value of each card, making this a very playable deck at the same time.

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The artist, Peter Wood, is an independent artist from the UK, who has created several transformation decks in the 1990s. This deck is one of three that he created specifically for Newt's Playing Cards. One of the card mentions a copyright date of 2003, so if that's when this deck was produced, it's not surprising that it doesn't have the quality Bicycle air cushion finish that we've come to expect from decks in the modern crowd-funding era. These cards have a smooth finish, and while their quality doesn't match that of USPCC playing cards, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they still fanned quite evenly.

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Busy Bears deck

The next semi-transformational deck is another Peter Wood design, namely the Busy Bears deck which was published in 2007.

This is another "Seek-N-Find" deck, with the box cover proclaiming: "Can you find all the pips (hearts, diamonds, spades & clubs)?"

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Peter Wood had previously published a Teddy Bear deck in 1994, which was inspired in part by the teddy-bear collection of his wife, and showed teddy bears in unusual or unexpected situations, interacting with the pips. This deck is different in that the pips are disguised and hidden, just as with the previous deck, and the aim is to find them in the artwork, where they have been cleverly incorporated.

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All the cards picture a "Busy Bear", wearing different types of uniforms and in different work settings and occupations. Examples include the Busy Bear pictured as a firefighter, truck driver, farmer, housewife, dentist, zoo keeper, doctor, forest ranger, librarian, and many more. Each occupation is stated on the card.

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An interesting touch with this deck is the inclusion of indices on all four corners of the cards.

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Once again the court cards don't receive any special treatment - because every single card in the deck has received special treatment!

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It comes with a few "Wild" cards (Circus Clown and Couch Potato) and a couple of ad cards.

This deck has been produced in China, and while the cards are standard poker sized and have clear indices, making them ideal for use in card games, they have a shiny finish with minimal embossing, and so the card quality doesn't compare favourably with a Bicycle style deck. However these cards are best enjoyed by collectors, who will appreciate looking through the card and enjoying the creative artwork. This deck will especially appeal to fans of teddy bears, and to anyone who appreciates the cleverness and effort that has gone into producing the beautiful pictures on each and every card.

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Newtropolis deck

The Newtropolis deck is the most recent addition to this collection of transformation decks from Peter Wood. It was produced in 2014, and is subtitled "Newtropolis & The Fantastic Fur".

The box cover introduces us to a super hero bear, while the back of the box tells us what this deck is about: "Newtropolis and The Fantastic Fur features super heroes & villain bears who have a vast range of special powers! Drawn by UK artist Peter Wood." Each deck has an individually numbered seal, and includes full interior printing with a stylish honeycomb pattern.

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It's soon obvious that this is a deck of Heroes versus Villains, featuring features that have a diverse range of unique super powers. The Spades suit represents the Villains, while the Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds all represent the Heroes. The card backs feature a two-way design, with Heroes on one side and Villains on the other.

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What inspired this deck are the comic book superheroes that Peter Wood enjoyed in his childhood. He also loves teddy bears, and so the stage was set to combine these two loves in a deck full of superhero and villain teddy bears.

Here are two of the Heroes, with Brain Bear being a central figure to the deck.

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Newtropolis is the main city of Hugobia (The Land Of Bears) and the ad copy describes its inhabitants and storyline as follows:

"Newtropolis is the home of a host of powerful and very special teddy bears who have a vast range of special powers. Some are gained from unique circumstances, some from accidents and some from years of dedication to their craft. These 'Super' bears are joined by their desire to rid Hugobia of all evil and wrong. They are divided into 3 main 'factions': The Diamonds, Hearts & Clubs. They are all connected in their battle with evil via Brain (Ace of Clubs) who has the mental ability to contact anyone at any time and read their minds whilst planting his own thoughts within his subjects heads.

All is not well in Newtropolis! Although the 'good' bears in Hugobia derive much of their energy from the honey combs pure honey, there is a mutant strain of this food that was infected many years ago - some say deliberately. For those bears that eat from this source it eats away at their more positive traits and has created the villain 'Spades', which are the sworn enemies of Newtropolis. They also have a wide range of bears with special powers of their own.

And so the battle for Newtropolis begins. Heroes versus Villains. Good versus evil. One lovable hug at a time...but who will win?
"

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Some of these are parodies of famous comic book heroes and villains, and you'll enjoy browsing the deck and trying to figure out the original characters that inspired these playing cards. Others have been produced straight from his own imagination.

Here are some of the villains:

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Once again this deck is part of the "Seek and Find" series of semi-transformational decks, in which the goal is to find the hidden pips (hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades) on each card.

This deck also includes an extra challenge, because the hexagon - the symbol of Newtropolis - has also been hidden throughout the deck, and it can be fun to try to find all the places where it occurs.

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In addition to the expected 52 playing cards, there are two Jokers (The Dealer and The Jester) as well as two bonus Jokers.

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I love the vibrant and colourful borders on each of the cards, and also that each card has a text book explaining the character's super powers.

Like the Busy Bears deck, this was produced in China, with an inferior quality to a USPCC deck. The cards don't fan as well as a Bicycle style deck, and don't seem as durable. However for a collector, they should do just fine.

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Recommendation

So is PlayingCardDecks.com something for you? I won't repeat the more detailed conclusions I included in my initial article. But I can say that if you're looking a high quality deck of playing cards, PCD is definitely a terrific online retailer to check out, based on my own very positive experience. And getting 20% off with their anniversary sale that is running from 24-30 April (use the coupon code "YEAR1" or "HAPPY20"), now is a great time to discover this site. Happy first anniversary Will Roya!

There's a great range of creative and high quality playing cards, the decks featured above being good examples, and I'm pleased to recommend them. Whether you're looking for decks suitable for card games, card magic, or card flourishing, you're sure to find something that fits the bill at PCD. If you're like me, you'll appreciate having a quality deck of playing cards in your hands, and I'm happy to report that the playing cards I've been able to showcase here have not disappointed.

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Want to learn more? Check out PlayingCardDecks.com
- Online Store: playingcarddecks.com (use code "YEAR1" or "HAPPY20" to get a 20% discount site-wide during the first anniversary sale 24th to 30th April 2018)
- Related links: Blog, Kickstarter projects, Loyalty Rewards Program, Pip Box Club
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Novelty decks: Disruption ($13.99), Christmas ($11.99), Views ($17.99)
- Transformation decks: Wild ($9.99), Busy Bears ($9.99), Newtropolis ($8.99)
- Unusual decks: Coca-Cola Clear Plastic ($7.99), $100 Bill - Foil ($7.99)
- Cheap decks (under $5): Texas Star ($4.99), Stargazer ($4.99)

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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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