by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame
In the world of sports there are big name teams and big name athletes. Practically everyone has heard of superstars like Roger Federer, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods, or championship winning teams which have created a lasting legacy like football's New England Patriots and baseball's New York Yankees. But there are often hard-working athletes achieving great success under the shadow of these giants.
Much the same is true in the world of playing cards. Most readers will be familiar with big name printers like the United States Playing Card Company, and their European counterpart and owner, Cartamundi. But there are many smaller and lesser known manufacturers who are achieving high levels of success in the shadow of these industry giants, and whose names any creator or collector should also know about.
Examples of such smaller but successful players in the industry include Experts Playing Cards, Legends Playing Cards, and other playing card manufacturers based in Taiwan and China. Especially for creators and designers looking to produce their own deck of playing cards, many printing card companies like these are alternative manufacturers you should be aware of, given that they also can produce high quality products.
In this article I'd like to take a look at another of these lesser known companies, Shenzhen Wangjing Printing Company (WJPC), which has been making an increasing contribution to the playing card industry in recent years.
Shenzhen Wangjing Printing Company (WJPC)I personally first became aware of WJPC a few years ago when one of my favourite creators, Elephant Playing Cards, switched to using WJPC for the manufacture of some of their decks. When another respected creator, Guru Playing Cards, also used WJPC to print one of their projects, I was forced to sit up and take careful notice. Since then WJPC has produced numerous projects for other designers as well, and it was time to find out more about them.
WJPC is based in Shenzhen City, which is located in Guangdong Province, China. It has been around since 2006, which is when it was founded by entrepreneur Jack Yang. Jack's vision for producing quality playing cards began with a chance meeting with professional poker players, and he quickly began making this a reality after establishing the company. By 2009 the company had expanded beyond playing cards to tarot and oracle cards, flash cards, and game cards. Around this time they were also producing accessories like their own packaging and printing their own instructional booklets, and had begun doing business with overseas customers.
In order to meet the growing demand and to increase the quality of their output, they added a six-colour Heidelberg printer to their factory equipment in 2012. Expansion continued in 2019, with a new manufacturing plant established under the name Dongguan Wangjing Poker Company, which was fully equipped with a wide range of modern equipment. You'll also find some of their products under the name Acelion, which represents their own high-end brand.
WJPC's current facilities have around 18,000 square meters of floor space, and is staffed by a team of over 300 skilled workers. So we're not talking about a rinky-dinky backyard operation here, but a significantly sized manufacturing business. In terms of equipment, they now have two Heidelberg printers, as well as automatic varnishing, die-cut and packaging machines, and some of the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
They now consider themselves to be a professional manufacturer of numerous types of cards. So while custom poker-sized playing cards represent part of the product range that they cater to, they have expertise in a wider range of other printed products, including cards used for games, flash cards, advertising cards used for promotions, and more. Many creators of custom tarot decks have turned to WJPC for producing their products too, due to the specialized requirements of their projects for foils and other features that achieve a luxury look.
Aside from a solid customer base in China itself, WJPC now serves a global audience, with customers located around the world, including a significant number in North America. According to figures I found on their website, their annual sales top US$20 million, and 80% of their total revenue is generated by export products. See this promo video to get an idea of their factory and equipment.
I personally have several WJPC decks that I've used and play-tested, so I had some idea of what kind of quality to expect. But since the company offers free samples to creators planning to use their services, I got in touch with them, told them I was writing an article about them, and that I was interested to see some samples of the kind of work they can do, besides a vanilla deck of playing cards. So let's pull out a few decks from my own collection, and from the sample cards they sent me, and get some impressions of what they can do.
Bharata V2 Playing Cards (2018)The Bharata V2 Playing Cards were produced by Guru Playing Cards in 2018, in a limited print run of around 500 decks. It was a successor to the first edition produced in 2017, which was a luxury gilded version geared more to collectors, whereas V2 was intended more for actual use in card games, while still remaining beautiful.
Bharata is the original name of India, and this deck was conceived as a tribute to the childhood stories of kings and queens that have become part of the art forms and history of Indian culture. The tuck case immediately introduces this cultural heritage with vibrant and colourful patterns set on a black background, with the border and lettering in silver foil, and embossed surfaces, while the inside has full interior printing with a silver foil pattern.
The faces are nicely customized throughout, but the court cards have a special charm, with a lush oval border, and enchanting characters depicted as part of the Indian royalty. The artwork here is by top Indian illustrator Ishan Trivedi, these illustrations are based on Indian folk art forms such as Kishangarh and miniature paintings. The Jokers continue this style, and feature two beautifully costumed characters with a full one-way design.
Plump pips on the number cards help make good use of the entire card space, and match the overall feel of the deck. The exquisite and colourful design of the card backs is particularly delightful, and includes patterned flowers and swan-like figures.
The cards have an embossed linen style "air cushion" finish. Out of the box they fanned and spread evenly and smoothly, and even after extensive usage in card games the cards still spread reasonably okay, without the severe clumping I've seen from lower quality playing cards. The super smooth edges give the impression of a laser cut, and while faros aren't impossible, they aren't easy and there doesn't seem to be a single direction that favours them. However I did learn from the creator that he didn't specify a traditional or modern cut when placing this order, so this is likely not WJPC's fault.
The cards are quite stiff and hold their shape well, and while the quality doesn't match that of industry leaders like USPCC, it is higher than a deck produced by companies like MPC or NPCC. Reviews from others who have the Bharata V2 deck were also positive, with many people pleasantly surprised at how well the deck handled, especially in comparison to low expectations from those who had been somewhat disappointed with some previous WJPC produced decks.
Zoo 52 Playing Cards (2019)This pair of decks offer a homage to those with an affection for dogs and cats, and should delight anyone who enjoys an amusing and loving tribute, with extra charm provided by some novel tuck boxes.
The pair consists of 52 Zoo (Playful Paws) and 52 Zoo (Woof & Whiskers).
The immediate appeal of both decks lies in the cute tuck box for each. These have cardboard ears that fold up, to complete the look of the friendly cat and dog on the front of the box. It is also textured with a tactile feel that gives the impression of canvas, or the kind of card-stock on which an artist might do watercolor painting.
The card backs both have a one-way design with a clever mosaic-style collage created entirely of cats and dogs respectively. But it's the court cards that are the real center piece of both decks, with charming hand-painted images in water-colour, depicting scenes with our beloved furry friends. In contrast, the number cards are rather ordinary, and I'd have liked to have seen some more customization there. Even so it's still a charming deck that will especially appeal to cat lovers and dog lovers.
Like the Bharata V2 deck, the card-stock used for this is WJPC's 310gsm German black core paper, with an air cushion style embossing pattern (which they refer to as "linen air texture), and their "butter varnishing" finish. This seems to be their most commonly used and most durable stock, and the best option for creators.
WJPC already seemed to be upping their game at this point. Elephant Playing Cards had used WJPC for some previous projects too, including their Cyberpunk and their Elephant decks, and there were some quality issues in both cases. Those problems seemed to have been ironed out with the arrival of the Zoo52 project, and I have no complaints about the look and feel of the cards. While they seem to be more clumpy than the Bharata V2 deck after extensive usage, they do faro much better, and overall they hold up well, and seem to be of decent quality.
The Photography Deck (2020)The Photography Deck: Camera Cheat Sheet Playing Cards was a hugely successful project that was crowdfunded with the help of Kickstarter. It generated more than $360,000 in funding, which at the time was the fifth top playing card Kickstarter project of all time. Even now it still ranks in the ten top projects of all-time (based on funds raised), but has the added distinction among the select few playing card projects with over 10,000 backers.
This deck was created by the brand Travel9to5, which specializes in travel, film, and photography, and the man behind it is creator and adventurer Eric Bohring. He had the clever idea of incorporating tips and tricks for photography on all the cards. This element gave this deck an appeal that went far beyond your average custom deck, since it had a strong crossover appeal with photography enthusiasts. It received a lot of positive press in photography websites and blogs, and people love how the deck effectively doubles as a camera reference sheet with rules and techniques about photography.
A few different versions of the deck were offered, and beside the main deck there was also a limited edition with green card backs, plus a blue-backed waterproof PVC deck. The standard version had black card backs which incorporate two cameras on tripods, as well as various iconography familiar from the world of photography.
Each suit cleverly focuses on a different aspect of photography: camera basics (Spades), composition (Hearts), technical (Clubs), and shooting styles (Diamonds). And it's not just the court cards that get the luxury treatment, but each and every card in the deck is filled with information and graphics about the principles and techniques of photography. It really is a photographer's dream come true, especially for amateurs looking to sharpen their skills.
All the things you'd expect are included, from important concepts like negative space, leading lines, rule of thirds, as well as technical details such as exposure, aperture, shutter speed, focal length, depth of field, and much more. I've dabbled in photography in the past, so I really appreciated the content, as well as the way in which it had been implemented and designed.
Photography websites seemed to be unanimous in their applause for the brilliance of the concept, and also spoke very highly of how the cards felt and looked. Like the two previous decks, these also use WJPC's 310gsm German black core paper with their "butter varnishing" finish, and overall have an embossed feel and satisfactory handling that you'd expect as a bare minimum for quality playing cards.
Compared with the above two decks, this one comes the closest to the looks and handling that I'd expect from a USPCC printed deck. The cards do everything right: they have the right stiffness, spring nicely, hold their shape, faro well, and generally handle pleasantly. After moderate use there's still some clumping, but less than the earlier decks, and less than what you typically get from the Taiwan printed decks of manufacturers like EPCC and LPCC.
WJPC 15th Anniversary Fluorescent Playing Cards (2021)To commemorate the company's 15th anniversary in 2021, the company released a special deck of playing cards that employed fluorescent or UV light sensitive ink. I was fortunate to see these WJPC 15th Anniversary Fluorescent Playing Cards in person.
The tuck box has embossing and silver foil, with a logo on one side, and a circular pattern on the reverse side that matches the design of the card backs. Concentric circles in different colours with coloured tips in opposite corners immediately give a cardistry vibe. Before even pulling the cards out of the box I knew that this would be a deck well suited for card flourishing.
The card faces largely have a traditional design, which is chiefly noticeable with the court cards. But there are two main changes that have been made to make this deck excel when put through its paces in the hands of an experienced cardist. Firstly, the colours have been reduced to a binary colour scheme, with a dark blue paired alongside an aqua blue. Secondly, there's a triangle of colour in the middle of the long edge of the cards, which accentuates the beauty of fans and spreads. I'm not sure why the creator opted not to make this a symmetrical two-way feature, unless the goal was to make it a one-way deck for card magic, but when it comes to visual aesthetics it means the deck looks best in fans and spreads when the cards are all facing the same way.
But it gets better. This deck uses what the company describes as "fluorescent ink" on both sides of the cards, which card enthusiasts commonly refer to as UV ink. Strictly speaking it isn't the ink that is UV, but it is reactive to UV light, so to be technically correct it should be described as UV blacklight reactive ink. The idea is that this ink is completely invisible, unless it is viewed with a special UV blacklight source. My copy of the deck even came along with a mini UV torch, so that I could enjoy this feature.
And sure enough, once you view the deck with the benefit of a UV flashlight, it really "shines". Not only do the colours of the card backs really come to life, but on the faces of the cards a star pattern emerged out of nowhere and began to beam. This video will give you some idea of what it looks like, but quite honestly in the hands of a true cardist it looks even more amazing, especially when you start to do flourishes like a Cascade.
This particular deck is advertised as using card-stock that is 300gsm German black core paper, so the cards are slightly thinner than the decks with 310gsm paper covered above. The difference in looks, feel, or handling is barely noticeable, however. I can best compare it to the difference between crushed stock and non-crushed stock: the 300gsm stock feels a little softer and more pleasant, whereas the 310gsm stock feels a little stiffer and perhaps more durable. Both perform quite satisfactorily in my opinion.
Love is a Smoke Playing Cards (2021)Another example of a more exotic deck that showcases the special features that WJPC is capable of is Love is a Smoke Playing Cards, which features artwork created by Giordano Loddo. Giordano Loddo is a digital art director and UI designer who lives in Italy, and whose graphic design work and illustrations can be seen over on Behance.
The deck was produced in a limited release of just 500 by Velata Playing Cards. The man behind the Velata brand is Riccardo Conturbia, former founder of Passione Playing Cards.
The tuck box design introduces us to an image that will recur throughout the deck, chiefly on the card backs. It features a stark design with pursed lips, from which smoke is emerging, with a single green eye depicted in the center of the smoke. The tuck box adds a heart and the phrase "Love is a Smoke" to this image.
Judging by the fact that all of the court card characters have a cigarette in hand, it appears to be a homage of some kind to smoking. (Kids, this doesn't mean that smoking is a good idea.) It's a fully custom deck, and the court cards especially don't disappoint, with bright colours, and a garish style that brings you back to the smoke filled days of the 1960s and 1970s.
But let's get to the design of the card backs, because these see the use of holographic foil, which gives the smoke and the borders an eye-catching iridescent look when held up to the light. The central eye proves to be a nice focal point for spins and twirls, and the cards really do look glamorous when used for card flourishing, courtesy of the creative and shiny holographic back design.
But that's not all. The edges of the deck also have holographic foil! I'm not sure if this has been applied through a traditional gilding process, or in some other way. But it sure looks absolutely exquisite, and complements the card backs beautifully. While this does immediately make faroing more difficult, this is obviously a deck that is intended to be enjoyed for its luxury looks first of all, rather than be put through the paces of extreme card flourishing. So I haven't given this deck heavy usage, because it's designed to be enjoyed slowly and carefully rather than for cardistry.
Even so it seems to handle reasonably well, and the cards fan and spread smoothly and pleasantly out of the box. Like the 15th anniversary deck, the cards use 300gsm paper stock, so they are slightly more flexible than the 310gsm decks, and they spring rather nicely.
Tarot and Oracle CardsWhile WJPC has a lot of experience with playing cards, and that's also where the company's roots lie, they have now expanded to cater for the production of a whole range of other closely related printed products and accessories. These include tarot and oracle cards, educational flash cards, and playing cards for board games and card games. In addition, they also produce a wide range of custom boxes for decks of cards and games, as well as print instructional booklets to accompany custom decks and games.
But it's especially with some of their tarot and oracle decks that they have the opportunity to showcase some of their best work and highest technological achievements. Tarot decks and oracle decks typically don't have the exacting requirements of playing cards that are used intensively for cardistry or card magic. As a result, it is possible to focus more on extra features and luxury touches, without needing to worry that these won't be able to withstand the intense workout that a cardist or magician typically puts a worker deck through.
Standard tarot cards are 70mm x 120mm (2.75" x 4.75") in size, which is longer and narrower than poker-sized playing cards, but this different sized canvas presents tarot artists with different opportunities in design. Around a dozen different card stocks can be used, ranging from 270gsm to 400gsm, as well as PVC plastic. But it's especially the printing and finishing options that really give opportunity to add luxury and bling. These include holographic printing, various levels of gloss, gold or silver gilded edging, gold foil stamping, and more. And to complete the presentation, customers can select from various packaging options produced in-house by WJPC.
The number of different options can be somewhat dizzying, but the results speak for themselves. The cards I sampled included The Runic Odyssey (New Edition) by Hievaya, which is a stunning oracle deck, with relatively thick stock with a smooth feel (described by the creator as "velvet lamination"), and a matte black look. Both sides of the cards use lavish gold foil for the letters and artwork, and it looks absolutely exquisite. The edges of the cards are finished with matte teal. Someone needs to get the artist who produced this to make a custom deck of poker-sized playing cards with a similar look and feel! This particular project comes with other extras like a 262 page guidebook, a hinged neck box, a faux suede pouch, and a certificate of authenticity, all of which were produced by WJPC as well.
Hievaya's Runic Odyssey (Original Edition) is also rather lovely, and features a similar style and design on beige cards. While it doesn't have quite the same impact as the gold on black, the gold foil still is a visual delight. It looks particularly amazing on the cards which depict the different lunar phases, because this gives the gold foil an opportunity to shine - literally . The edges of this deck are gilded with gold, and because of the extra thickness of the cards, the gilding can be more easily admired when examining an individual card than a single card from a poker-sized deck, and I suspect it will be longer lasting too. And it's not just the ordinary smooth gold foil most of us are familiar with from a gilded deck, but has a sprinkled effect which looks even more impressive.
Several sample cards from other tarot decks also impressed me with their luxury looks. Because these kinds of decks can employ thicker cards, adding touches like gold foil on the front and backs is very effective, especially when these technical possibilities are taken advantage of by a skilled and creative designer. Some of the cards used holographic foils, and when applied the faces of the cards and to the edges, the results looked genuinely amazing. I would love to see more custom playing cards that utilize these kinds of options, and perhaps there are designers of custom poker-sized decks that can even learn a thing or two from the amazing cards that some tarot designers are putting out nowadays. There's no doubt in my mind that these are high end playing cards that are visually stunning.
Main Stock & Finish OptionsAs mentioned earlier, WJPC caters to a much wider market than merely poker-sized cards, and the clients they print for produce tarot decks, flash cards, card games, and more. All of these markets have different requirements, in terms of playing card size and the type of card-stock. Even things like durability and handling can become less important depending on how the cards will be used. But since most of my readers are interested in poker-sized decks, I'm primarily interested in how suitable WJPC playing cards are for card games, card magic, card flourishing, and for collecting; and my focus will be on how their cards live up to the specific needs of those communities.
WJPC offers a fairly wide range of card stocks for custom poker-sized decks: A-grade blue core (270, 280, or 300 gsm) paper and imported black core paper (Imported from Germany - 300, 310, or 330gsm, France - 300gsm, Italy - 280, or 290, or 305gsm). The range of options seems a little dizzying at first. So which should you use?
In the world of playing cards, you'll often find mention of "black core paper". Since playing cards are typically made from layers of paper, this is a reference to the central layer of adhesive which binds the two outer layers together. This needs to be opaque, so that you can't see straight through the cards and discern the printing on the other side. For quality playing cards, you typically want to avoid gray core and blue core paper, which may be fine for other uses, but are significantly inferior to black core paper. Black core paper is often sourced from countries like Germany, and not only does it ensure that the cards are opaque, but also has a good stiffness and durability, so that the cards will stay in shape after shuffling, and not remain permanently bent after light handling.
The WJPC-printed poker-sized decks in my own collection nearly all use German black core paper, with the 300 or 310 gsm thickness. This is fairly comparable to the thickness and handling performance we've come to expect from manufacturers like USPCC. The 310gsm stock doesn't feel as thin and flexible as USPCC's thin-crush stock, but is a reasonable equivalent in thickness and feel to a standard Bicycle deck. Comparing the 310gsm stock to a standard Bicycle deck and the 300gsm stock to crushed stock will give you some idea of how the two compare in terms of handling. Unlike some cheaper playing cards I've seen, the cards hold their shape quite well even after heavy shuffling and handling, so there's a healthy balance between stiffness and flexibility. I'm told that for cardistry style decks, the 305gsm Italian black core paper is a good choice, but I haven't personally had the chance to try a deck with that card-stock.
Experienced handlers are also fussy about the embossing pattern and finish used on their playing cards. All the custom poker-sized decks from WJPC that I've used have a standard air-cushion style finish for ideal handling.
WJPC also offers several options for the actual finish (or varnish) that is applied to the cards afterwards. Applying a finish to playing cards is standard practice in the playing card world today, and along with the embossing pattern in the paper stock, it ensures good handling and durability. The "butter finish" is what WJPC typically uses for most of their cards, and it is available either as a glossy varnish for ordinary playing cards, or as a semi-matte varnish for higher end playing cards like those used for casino games, cardistry, and card magic.
So how does it hold up? In terms of durability, the cards seem to hold up quite well. One difference one quickly notices is that some WJPC cards won't spread or fan evenly over the long term, and the deck will look quite clumpy, although this seems to be less of an issue with their more recent decks. That could make them less suitable for cardistry, however, and even some card magic. But that is typical of playing cards in the second tier of playing card manufacturers, other than those printed by the big two (USPCC and Cartamundi), so it is hard to fault them for that. There were apparently some issues with the finish and printing of the Elephant and Cyberpunk decks that WJPC printed several years ago, but that seems to be from their earlier days, and I haven't come across reports of similar problems with any recent projects.
I also found that in the case of a deck with borderless backs, after heavy usage the ink on the borders did start to eventually wear slightly, even somewhat making its way onto the faces of the cards. This wasn't a problem at all for decks with standard white borders, and it also depends on the ink colour (in this instance, the culprit was red, which is apparently more prone to this issue). It's not a big issue, but might be a reason to stay away from a borderless design, although this will really only be a concern for decks that are going to see heavy usage for cardistry or card magic. For the rest the colours and printing looks consistent, and stands up well.
Cut: Cut is also important to serious playing card connoisseurs, because it has an impact on the ability to do faro shuffles. WJPC uses integrated slitter cutting machines to do this job. So unlike the inferior quality decks that some printers manufacture and cut with lasers, and are thus impossible to faro shuffle, WJPC playing cards faro shuffle reasonably well, although perhaps not quite to the same standard as what you might be used to from a USPCC printed deck.
MOQ: I have also asked the WJPC about the minimum order quantity (MOQ), and was told that while 200 decks is officially the smallest batch that they typically print, it is recommended to order at least 500 decks. In reality the total cost for 500 decks isn't much more than it is for 200 decks, since a significant amount of the cost is a result of set-up costs and processing, rather than materials. But the sales team will typically work with customers to try to find the most competitive option.
Several well known creators have made use of WJPC as their printer for fulfilling their playing card projects. So rather than just limit myself to my personal impressions from handling several decks in my own collection, and seeing some additional sample cards from other decks, I decided to approach these creators to see what I could learn about their experiences with WJPC, and what they would recommend.
The creators I consulted primarily have a target audience for casual users in the mass market, rather than cardists or magicians, who have far more exacting standards and requirements for playing cards. They acknowledged that experienced handlers in cardistry and sleight of hand card magic have the expertise to observe miniscule differences in quality and handling, that primarily are noticeable when executing complex flourishing moves or difficult sleight of hand manoeuvrers. But aside from that particular subset of consumers, there was real satisfaction with the quality of the playing cards, both in terms of looks, feel, and handling. According to these creators, WJPC playing cards exceed the quality of the "average" deck of playing cards that most people are familiar with, and a laymen typically considers the performance to be very good, especially if they've not previously had experience with embossed "air cushion" style card stock that shuffles smoothly, and is as durable as these decks tend to be. Feedback from their customers has been consistently positive about the quality in that respect.
One creator had some less than satisfactory experiences when WJPC decks were first entering the crowdfunding marketplace, and there were some instances where the printing wasn't up to snuff, and where the finish was poor. In one case, WJPC reprinted an entire production run free of charge in order to rectify this, and in another instance a different creator reported that WJPC patiently listened to his concerns about one aspect of a print run, and also redid things with WJPC footing the bill. But these issues were only the case for one or two early decks, and since that time these creators have only had positive experiences, expressed complete satisfaction with the product, and indicated their intention to keep using WJPC for mass production going forwards. One creator also mentioned a concern he'd experienced with the tuck box sometimes being 1-2mm too wide on the short side of the deck, which can cause cards to wear or the box to become damaged during shipping.
They also had very positive things to say about WJPC's customer service, as one creator put it: "Their client relation process is fantastic - it is super easy to produce with them. They are quick, accurate and respectful in all communications - super important and surprisingly rare!" In comparison, the response times this same creator had with USPCC and Cartamundi was very disappointing. My own experience in communicating with one of WJPC's representatives has been similar. Even though I'm not one of their customers, I have bombarded them with questions about different things, and have always received prompt, polite, patient, helpful responses, and even transparent and openness about the potential drawbacks of particular printing options.
The creators I consulted also spoke highly of WJPC's comprehensive and wide range of products and options, and stated how helpful their staff were in suggesting different production methods, inks, etc, while showing a flexibility and willingness to make revisions on the fly. The cost was also a factor: "Their prices are very competitive". Particularly when producing in high volume the savings can be significant. One creator also noted an advantage about their location: "They are in mainland China, which means they are located near logistic support making importing to warehouses simpler." I'm not a creator and have no experience in most of these areas, so I simply pass on these observations from creators without further comment, except to observe that the reports are consistently positive.
People in the card industry have also spoken quite highly about the quality and handling. There was some frustration about inconsistency of the quality of early projects, but real satisfaction with more recent ones. Here are some comments from experienced collectors:
● "I did not expect them to handle as well as they did and I was pleasantly surprised." (on Bharata V2 - source)."
● "A great addition to the WJPC line-up ... it's handling is far superior to other Guru decks ... On the WJPC side, it sets an excellent balance between sturdiness and playability, slipperiness and resilience." (on Bharata V2 - source)
● "This WJPC deck basically handles very closely to a USPCC deck, the only visible difference being the coating that looks (not feels) glossed." (on Circuit - source)
● "I was pleasantly surprised with the handling of the cards. I was really leery about them being printed in China but they actually feel a lot like USPCC." (on Zoo52 - source)
● "The cards handle better than I expected." (on Zoo52 - source)
● "The recently printed WJPC decks that I have look great and handle great." (on Cernunnos and Montenzi No.7 Winter - source)
RecommendationOverall, I've been quite impressed with WJPC's contributions to the playing card industry. There seem to have been some initial teething issues with some of the initial crowdfunding projects they were involved with (e.g. the Cyberpunk deck and Elephant deck from Elephant Playing Cards). But that was mainly pre-2018, when results were inconsistent, and in recent years reports I've seen have been much more positive. Judging by my own experience with some of their decks, they seem to be stepping up their game, and have figured out what kind of quality and standards people in the playing card industry expect.
It's not that difficult to satisfy consumers who have minimal experience with playing cards. For the average person, a WJPC deck will instantly be a step up in quality, and have looks, feel, and handling that easily exceeds what you'd find in a cheap corner store deck. These look and perform quite well, and I'd even consider them a grade higher than the cards you typically get from popular printer MPC. They don't quite match the levels of top tier playing cards printed by USPCC, but the average person won't notice that either.
The quality differences will mostly be obvious to experienced cardists and magicians, who rely on consistent fans and spreads even after significant usage, and are skilled at more technically difficult moves like faro shuffles, where small differences in cut can have a big impact. But the average person will never need or even notice those small differences in quality, and so for the typical collector or card gamer, any differences will go unnoticed for the most part. While a WJPC deck may not satisfy the very high demands and standards required for experienced card flourishers or card magicians, they'll do just fine for everyone else, and offer pleasing results.
But where WJPC really shines is in areas where touches of luxury or detail are needed, such as UV inks, metallic foils, and holographic foils. Designers of custom tarot cards have shown real creativity in this area, because many tarot decks are created with the goal of achieving a supreme look of luxury and beauty. If the tarot cards I've seen are any indication, WJPC has the goods to get this done.
The requirements of a tarot deck are admittedly slightly different than a poker deck. As a result, the usual requirements many of us expect in a deck of custom playing cards, such as embossed card stock, fall to the background. When these qualities become irrelevant, and all the focus can be on artistic design, and luxury touches like foils and special inks, the tarot cards WJPC has produced are absolutely spectacular. Perhaps designers of custom playing cards can learn a thing or two from the creativity and innovation that their fellow artists in the world of tarot are doing with the help of printers like WJPC. The custom playing cards we've seen produced by WJPC are already good, and with artists willing to experiment with the special features that WJPC offers, they can only get better.
Where to get them? You'll find a selected range of WJPC produced decks on PlayingCardDecks.com here.
Want to learn more?
● Visit WJPC: Official website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube
● Visit Acelion: Official website, Facebook, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube
● Visit WJPC's marketplace on Alibaba: Shop #1, Shop #2, Shop #3
Other manufacturers. For similar coverage of other playing card manufacturers, see: USPCC, Cartamundi, LPCC/EPCC, TWPCC, HCPC, NPCC, MPC, Shuffled Ink, USGS, Piatnik
About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known and highly respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.