Summary: Alice in a steampunk Wonderland! (Gold deck)
The Alice of Wonderland decks (available in Gold and Silver) were inspired by the classic Lewis Carroll book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as well as the Steampunk genre. With artwork by Juan Solorzano, this project was originally crowdfunded in 2013, and finally brought to life in 2015. These are two companion decks - Gold and Silver - which can be purchased separately.
Ever since his childhood, Juan was fascinated by fairy tales, and it is this childhood love and passion that helped fuel the artistic vision he had for this project. This is not just another Alice in Wonderland deck, because that's been done several times already. Instead, Juan wanted to continue the story-telling beyond the classic book, by continuing the adventures of Alice further than the original story. In his imagined world, Alice is now a young lady who has earned the title "Alice of Wonderland".
Besides extending the original story, a steampunk Wonderland theme is now the background setting. Here's how Juan explains it: "The original Wonderland story was written and set in the late 1800's Victorian era. The genre of Steampunk derives from that same era so it ties in nicely with the Wonderland theme. However, my deck of Wonderland playing cards is part of a larger picture, one that tells the story of the continuing adventures of Alice. In this more mature setting, Alice is now a young lady and the world she remembers from Wonderland has changed, everything is now Steampunk - but still Wonderland. The 4 main kingdoms of Hearts, Clubs, Spades, and Diamonds, rule Wonderland. "
To evoke this setting, the card backs have gold borders, with yellow and brown being the prominent colours. Hints of the Steampunk theme are evident in the presence of the 1800s style hat and machine-like cogs, while several silhouettes of white rabbits allude to the Wonderland theme. All the Aces are over-sized and have a watermark style background that harks back to the Steampunk theme, for example by incorporating cog shapes.
The card faces employ a yellowed/brown vintage style background, to bring us back to the historical era they depict, and the slightly darker edges give a bordered look that makes them look very classy. The court cards are particularly delightful, with a very non-conventional colour scheme that employs a soft palette of light pinks, greens and browns. This matches the vintage feel well, and complements the original designs used for the characters. Each suit emphasizes a different shade of green-brown, and depicts characters of a different ethnic background, which helps give each suit its own internal unity.
An unusual feature of these cards is that they only have pips in the indices, and not the usual larger pips besides the characters themselves - although the pips of each suit have also been cleverly incorporated into the artwork of each character multiple times. And if you look carefully, you'll also see a couple of smiley faces disguised in the artwork! The pips are quite custom, and are filled with artwork that harks back to the Steampunk Wonderland setting. Aside from these touches, the number cards are unadorned, and very functional.
For the Jokers, this deck takes advantage of the fact that many decks include extra cards. As a result, the Alice of Wonderland playing cards come with three Jokers, so you can take your pick which to use. Included are Jokers featuring the Cheshire Cat, Alice herself, and the White Rabbit. These are individually labelled with character names along the sides of the cards, and unlike the court cards, depict the entire character in a one-way design.
Artist Juan Solorzano certainly has done a fine job of bringing his imagined Steampunk Wonderland to life, and his characters are lively and memorable. My only concern is with the card quality. The original plan was for these decks to be printed by USPCC, but there seems to have been some major issues with the fulfilment of the project, and I'm almost certain that the published decks were printed by another publisher, perhaps NPCC. The quality doesn't match usual USPCC standards, and while there is some air-cushion style embossing, it's a smoother and inferior finish that doesn't spread or fan as smoothly as one would like. Somewhat surprisingly, the Silver deck handles noticeably better than the Gold deck, perhaps because there is less ink on the cards.
The artwork is nice, but due to the card quality being what it is, I'd recommend these decks more as a novelty item rather than for serious use, although they should be fine for playing card games. - BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame