Note: submitted by
The particularly important details and music artist names are in bold text
. Licensed music track names are in italics
The year is 1973, five years after the events of the Mafia III, and 22 years since Vito Scaletta’s seen or heard from his old friend Joe Barbaro. The canon ending of Mafia III with this Mafia IV story is Vito taking over the city after Lincoln skipped town, however Cassandra and Burke are left alive and loyal to both Vito and Lincoln still. Burke was able to survive his liver cancer by getting a black market liver transplant in Mexico, like he did in his ending, except with Vito running the city. On Vito and Lincoln’s behalf, Burke and Cassandra agree to stay behind in New Bordeaux and keep the city locked down, incase Leo Galante and the Commission try anything.
The beginning cutscene is Vito answering his telephone after getting up in the morning in his new penthouse, on the top floor of the New Bordeaux casino he finished that was once Sal Marcano's, and grabbing a cup of coffee. It's Alma with some urgent news. Lincoln Clay came down to the cigar warehouse to visit her after 5 years of silence, and he has big news.
Joe is alive in Empire Bay and has been this entire time. However, as punishment for his actions, he's become Leo Galante's personal driver against his will and is forbidden from contacting Vito ever again, or else him and Vito will be killed. Alma then tells Vito to meet Lincoln at the airport to learn more, as he's already there awaiting Vito's arrival. When they're away from anyone who could listen in on their conversation, Lincoln tells Vito he has a friend named John Donovan he's going to introduce him to, hiding in the outskirts of Empire Bay, ready to help Vito and Lincoln with their new mission
Vito gets dressed in one of his signature trench coats with a suit and tie, ready to rain down hell on the Vinci crime family and their allies, and finally be reunited with his lifelong friend he previously thought was dead, Joe Barbaro.
Here is my idea for the kill list, all related to the Commission in Empire Bay and their allies.
- Leo Galante - Top target on the list, Vinci family consigliere who's in with the Commission and the man you thought put Joe in the ground for the past 22 years. Bury this wrinkly old cocksucker.
- Johnny Galante - Vinci family capo and younger relative of Leo's mentioned in Cassandra's ending, possibly Leo's cousin even. John Donovan knows that the two are close, and that Johnny's a valuable asset to Leo's organization. Kill him both to hurt Leo's earn and influence, and to hit him straight in the heart by taking away his family and everyone he loves
- Michele Galante Jr. - Another Vinci family capo, and Leo Galante’s youngest brother. Killing Leo’s little brother will both take away one of his most reliable allies, and leave him stricken with grief and enraged, and more prone to making mistakes.
- Nunzio Galante - Leo’s seasoned older brother by 3 years, and yet another Vinci family capo. He knows enough about smuggling that he worked out an ingenious plan for smuggling military grade weapons into the city. He pays off corrupt officials at Empire Bay International Airport, to allow guns to be loaded inside the walls and floors of planes, unknown to everyone onboard save for the palms the Galantes and Frank Vinci have greased to cooperate and keep quiet. The time has come to put this crafty old bastard in the ground.
- Don Frank Vinci - Frank Vinci is the boss of the Vinci crime family, the family Leo's been a consigliere of for decades, and a lifelong friend of his. Kill Frank, and Leo loses more ground than he could ever imagine, and will be forced to deal with both the loss of his boss, and the loss of his lifelong childhood friend.
- Don Ennio Salieri - Longtime close friend of both Frank Vinci and Leo Galante, Don of the Salieri crime family, and a third party Frank and Leo call in to crush Vito's uprising, when it becomes too big of an issue for Vinci alone to handle. Salieri was eventually able to grease enough palms while behind bars to have his life sentence overturned, and he got released from prison on good behavior in 1953, after he served 15 years of his sentence. He’s since relocated to his main operations to Empire Bay, having already had connections and men present there while he was in prison, backed by the Commission and the Vinci crime family. He's seasoned, but he’s nothing Mr. Scaletta can't handle. Give this tired old fuck the gangland ending he's had coming.
- Isaac - Isaac is the personal assistant to an influential loan shark named Bruno Levine, who handles the money of the Commission, including the Vinci crime family and the Salieri crime family. He does anything from serve his boss coffee, to count incoming and outgoing money for Bruno. Because of his duties, he's aware of Bruno's location at all times. You’ll need to get to Isaac to get information on his boss out of him, and dispose of him afterwards if you want to get to Bruno.
- Bruno Levine - Bruno is a Jewish-American loan shark who kicks up all of his earn to both Frank Vinci and Ennio Salieri, and the Commission in Empire Bay. Killing him kills a lot of earn for the Commission, and they loses a valuable asset. In addition to getting rid of him being practical, to add insult to injury, he gave your father that loan. It's about time to put this asshole out of business.
- Mr. Chu & Mr. Chu Jr. - This old man has been leading the Empire Bay Triads with an iron fist since before you were even born. The bastard has a son too, who eventually went on to become his underboss. The Empire Bay Triads became a close ally of the Vinci crime family, the Salieri crime family, and the Commission shortly after Vito killed Don Carlo Falcone in 1951, forming a lucrative partnership with the Commission. Mr. Chu and his eldest son are valuable assets for Leo Galante who give him extra reach. Melt their iron fists and show these two pricks just who they fucked with.
- Eddie Scarpa - This cocksucker used to be Carlo Falcone's underboss for as long as you could remember. After you whacked Falcone in the fall of 1951, he decided to throw in with Vinci to save his own skin. He took over the smuggling and dock union extortion that fat fuck Derek Pappalardo used to run. You know all too well how to deal with this sorry fuckin' rat.
I'm thinking Vito and Joe work with Lincoln Clay and John Donovan to split up Empire Bay and distribute territory to three other factions not unlike what Lincoln did with New Bordeaux. This time though, this is a much larger city in a much, much different part of the United States. The empire building mechanics would be a lot smoother, more robust, and streamlined compared to Mafia III. They would work similarly a more modernized version of how the game Scarface: The World Is Yours
handled it's empire building and management mechanics, minus the whole switching to other characters lower on the ladder to do your bidding. This would be ideal for a story rich organized crime game in my opinion. Here are my ideas for those factions, all close allies of the up and coming Scaletta crime family. The Cuban mob led by Alma Diaz.
Vito goes way back with Alma, and she does not hesitate to answer him and Lincoln's calls to save Joe's life and royally fuck both Leo Galante and the Vinci family. Conti crime family, led by Enzo Conti.
This Conti crime family formed sometime in late 1968, months after Lincoln helped Enzo flee New Bordeaux and drop off of Sal Marcano's radar. It turns out he fled north to Empire Bay and finally formed his own family, having more than enough years of experience in the underworld to handle the job. Lincoln's tight with him and manages to recruit him to Vito and Joe's cause. The Yakuza, based out of Empire Bay's Japantown.
Longtime sworn enemies of the Empire Bay Triads, with bad blood going back decades. They would greatly enjoy seeing Mr. Chu and his son's heads mounted on pikes, along with whacking everyone who's ever supported their organization. You don't know them well, and they're known to be very unpredictable and ruthless. Use these traits to your advantage when taking on the Commission of Empire Bay and their friends. I should mention as expected, this entire 1973 section where you play as Vito is much shorter than Mafia III. Vito's takeover is shown much more quickly over time than Lincoln's, and there's time skips during it, to keep it short and sweet, and to show onscreen only what's important. There is also no option for your underbosses to betray you, as to reduce confusion and keep the story consistently the same each playthrough, like the first two Mafia games. However, unlike Mafia III, after all of these tasks are completed and every single assassination target on Vito’s kill list is dealt with, the game does not end. In fact, it's not even anywhere near close to being over yet. Vito's 1973 section was merely the beginning act. It was really a lead up to an entirely new Mafia story, centering around a newcomer to the American mob.
Fast forward two years following Vito’s rampage that led to him taking over Empire Bay and the Commission, in the year 1975 him and Joe now rule Empire Bay, with Vito as the Don of the Scaletta Crime Family, and Joe working as his loyal underboss. You play the rest of the game as a young up and coming soldato named Louis in his 20’s, who’s a rising star in Vito’s organization. Do right by Mr. Scaletta and Mr. Barbaro, understand kid?
My basic idea for the character and his backstory is that he's a young Italian-Canadian mobster from Toronto, Ontario, or whatever Mafia's equivalent of it could be called. Let's call him Louis DeAngelo
. (No relation to Tommy Angelo)
His family hails from Tuscany in Italy and moved to Toronto, Ontario in 1939, shortly after World War II broke out in Europe. Louis DeAngelo was born in July 1952 in Toronto, and was raised in Toronto's Little Italy. Louis fled south to Empire Bay when the feds started cracking down on his old family and put his boss in prison, and he ended up finding a new home with the Scaletta crime family. The first few missions playing as Louis DeAngelo involve shooting your away out of an arrest by a Toronto Police Service SWAT team in Toronto in December 1974, seeing the rest of the members of your old crime family either get arrested or shot in front of you as you make your escape. You spend the next two missions fleeing Ontario through Quebec and upstate New York, before finally arriving in Empire Bay in early 1975, late January to be exact. Winter is in full force with snow everywhere, Louis' arrival to Empire Bay for the first time in his life mirroring Vito's return to Empire Bay in 1945 30 years earlier, except under far different much more dire circumstances. Louis' older brother and his father, both capos in his old crime family in Toronto, are shown to be arrested by the TPS SWAT team in his first mission, the same one that attempted to gun him down when he resisted arrested. Louis knows someone had to have ratted out his old crime family, and he wants to find out who someday. The thing is though, he doesn't just want to kill them. He wants to get out of them why they did it before he kills them. More than anything else, he just wants to find out why his crime family was betrayed and served up to the feds on a silver platter, having most of his biological family sent to prison in the process. He’s out to uncover the mystery of why his family fell apart, and he’s more than willing to help people like Don Vito Scaletta and his underboss Joe Barbaro to eventually get the answers he seeks. I came up with the idea for this character because I figured that playing as a fugitive from the law made sense for the mob life, and I'm surprised we haven't had a fugitive protagonist in the Mafia series yet.
In the 1975 chapters while playing as Louis, the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon’s resignation, and the official end to the Vietnam War are both discussed on the in-game radio during news segments. In the last 1979 chapter, the beginning of the Soviet-Afghan War is also the subject of a news segment on the radio.
The story eventually transitions into the 1980's as years pass, with the scenery, cars, and music changing accordingly, and historical events of the time discussed in the game. By the time the game ends, it's 1992, and significant historical events from the past few years at the time that are covered on the radio in-game include anything from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the 1992 L.A. riots. The rise of the internet and home computers are briefly touched upon during news segments on the in-game radio during the early 1990's section of the story, but not greatly delved into given their relative infancy in that time period. During this entire 1975-1992 stretch of the story, Vito is no longer playable, and Don Scaletta takes a backseat in the story as a main supporting character, similar to Don Salieri throughout Mafia: Definitive Edition. You now play as the Italian-Canadian Scaletta family soldato Louis DeAngelo, who is later promoted to being a capo in 1985.
However, unlike Don Salieri, Don Scaletta has much more integrity, and has more genuine loyalty for his men and his associates. If you've beaten Mafia 1 or Mafia: Definitive Edition, you'll know this is something Salieri lacked in the end.
The game will include a number of hit music from the 70’s that played on the radio back then, such as Bobby Womack
’s Across 110th Street
and Tony Christie
’s (Is This the Way to) Amarillo
, The Grateful Dead
's Casey Jones
and at least a few songs by the then new American rock band Cheap Trick
, as well as popular songs from the 1960’s people still listened to at the time, such as Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
’ Wooly Bully
, King Crimson
’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, Zager and Evans
' In the Year 2525
, The Zombies
' Time of the Season
, and Nancy Sinatra
’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
. When you progress through the game, especially after you switch to playing as Louis DeAngelo for the rest of the story, years change, and the music changes. Different songs start playing on the radio, such as Sylvester
's You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), Randy Crawford
's Street Life
, and The Village People
, Cheryl Lynn
's Got to Be Real
, Gloria Gaynor
's I Will Survive
, and the Bee Gees
' Stayin' Alive
start playing in the 1979 portion of the game. After you've completed the 1975 section of the game, Foghat
's Slow Ride
starts playing on the radio. Starting in the 1977 section of the game, Cheap Trick
's I Want You to Want Me
start playing on the radio. In the 1980's portion of the game, Thomas Dolby
's songs Hyperactive!
and She Blinded Me with Science
, in addition to Night Ranger
's Sister Christian
also start playing on the radio. If Hangar 13 can afford the licenses, I also think a few Michael Jackson
songs should definitely be on the radio during the 1980's portion of the story, given the immense popularity and regular radio airtime those two had in that decade. If this ended up being possible, I imagine that Michael Jackson
's Smooth Criminal
, Beat It
, and Billie Jean
being on the radio in the 80's sections would be a must, Smooth Criminal especially because of how well it suits the series. Madonna
's Lucky Star
, Burning Up
, Like a Virgin
, and Borderline
would also be perfect for the 80's portion of the game to me. Also mentioned by NPCs and civilians in the game are topical events of the time period, such as the release of the groundbreaking 1973 horror film The Exorcist
at the end of Vito's playable portion of the game.
Other music of the 1980's segment when playing as Louis DeAngelo for the remainder of the game includes hits of the era such as Joe Jackson
's Steppin' Out
, The Buggles
' Video Killed The Radio Star
, Corey Hart
's Sunglasses at Night, Laura Branigan
's Self Control
, The Weather Girls
' It's Raining Men
’s Take On Me
, Men at Work
's Down Under
, Kim Wilde
's Kids in America
, The Gap Band
's You Dropped a Bomb on Me
, Culture Club
’s Karma Chameleon
, Twisted Sister
's I Wanna Rock
and We're Not Gonna Take It
, Bon Jovi
's Wanted Dead or Alive
and Bad Medicine
's Working for the Weekend
, Dead or Alive
's You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)
and That's the Way (I Like It)
’s I Think We’re Alone Now
, Daryl Hall & John Oates
's Japanese Boy
, Mötley Crüe
's Dr. Feelgood
, Girls, Girls, Girls
and Kickstart My Heart
, Billy Joel
's We Didn't Start the Fire
, Huey Lewis And The News
' Hip To Be Square
, Bill Medley
's (I've Had) The Time of My Life
, The Police
's Every Breath You Take
's Magic's Wand
, Tears For Fears
' Everybody Wants To Rule The World
's Somebody's Watching Me
's Baby Love
's 99 Red Balloons
, Earth, Wind, and Fire
's Let's Groove
, Billy Idol
's Eyes Without a Face
and White Wedding
, Rick James
’ Give It To Me Baby
's Everything She Wants
, George Michael
's Careless Whisper
's Hold the Line
's Heart of Glass
, and Mai Tai
. Note that not every single year and moment of the 17 year 1975-1992 section playing as Louis DeAngelo is playable or chronicled. My idea is it would be handled similarly to how the time skips in Mafia 1/Mafia: Definitive Edition were handled. Time skips of two or more years, or in this case, even longer such as 4 years sometimes, the game skipping from 1979 to 1983. This is to keep the game and story length ideal, and not risk it getting boring or repetitive, or going on for too long. Repetition was a big problem in Mafia III even if I still thought it was a superb game, so I think it'd be best to learn from that for the next big entry. The games story will skip ahead and show onscreen only what's significant, similar to the first Mafia game and it's remake, as well as certain aspects of Mafia II. Louis starts his section as a 22 year old fugitive soldato who got picked up by another crew south of the Canadian border, and in the epilogue of the game in 1992, is promoted to the consigliere of the Scaletta crime family at the age of 40, being set to take over the family once Vito and Joe become too old to run the day to day on a regular basis. The years chronicled in the main gameplay segments are as follows: 1973 1975 1977 1979 1983 1985 1986 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992
Much more of the rural areas and countryside outside of Empire Bay are included than what was available in Mafia II. The way rural environments are handled for this hypothetical Mafia IV is akin to how Mafia: Definitive Edition and Mafia III handled their rural environments outside the main cities, except much larger in scale, given the increased power of the current new consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. This region is based off of upstate New York and the surrounding areas across multiple states in the Northeastern US, and includes forests, fields, mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches, and small towns. Also included are other cities and towns, based off of other large cities in New York like Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester, where other story missions, business activities, and side missions take place, along with smaller notable places like Ithaca, Binghamton, and Utica. The entire states of New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio are also included, including places based off of all of their major cities and most of their notable towns in between. Large portions of Pennsylvania are included as well, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. Large portions of the eastern half of the Canadian province of Ontario are included as well, including cities based off of Toronto, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls. There's even a small portion of Quebec included, including Montreal and the surrounding countryside of the province outside that city, including a few small towns in southern Quebec. The player must pass a quick border patrol check when crossing the US-Canada border in a car or other ground vehicle.
Wildlife is present in the game, mostly to add to the background, scenery, and immersion in rural environments on the map. These are all animals native to the Northeastern US, ranging from white tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, Canada lynxes, rabbits, hares, groundhogs, gophers, beavers, raccoons, opossums, bats, chipmunks, red and gray squirrels, mice, and rats to more formidable and potentially dangerous animals that may sometimes attack the player, such as grey wolves, black bears, mountain lions, and moose. These last four animals are known to spawn in the mountainous regions, especially in New York, Ohio, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Ontario, including the rural regions based off of the Catskills and the Adirondack mountains. Dogs are present in the cities, towns, and settlements where humans live and keep them as pets, being walked and sometimes found in people's yards. Some are used as guard dogs by enemies and are aggressive towards the player on sight. Domestic cats are also present in the background of residential areas, and both Louis and Vito own them as pets throughout the game in their safe houses, as well as other onscreen characters we see the homes of throughout the game.
Aircraft make their first usable appearance in the Mafia series too, from airplanes to helicopters. Vito cannot use planes or helicopters in his playable 1973 portion of the game, as he does not know how to pilot, being a paratrooper in World War II who never actually flew any of the planes himself.
Aircraft are unlocked to use when Louis DeAngelo gets his pilot’s certificate offscreen in 1977, and at the end of a chapter set that year, Louis has to fly Vito in a helicopter to a penthouse in Downtown Empire Bay acting as a family safe house, equipped with a helipad. Louis frequently serves as a personal driver and pilot for both Vito and Joe afterwards, having done a lot in his time serving the family to earn their trust and respect.
Melee weapons also make a return from Mafia: Definitive Edition, with even more variety this time. In their respective sections of the game, Vito and Louis may use anything from baseball bats, pipes, shovels, brass knuckles, golf clubs, police batons, switchblades, kitchen knives, bowie knives, ice picks, 2x4s, claw hammers, crowbars, tire irons, chain links, machetes, meat cleavers, pickaxes, hatchets, sledgehammers, to fire axes. This amount of melee weapons is so no matter what environment the player finds themselves in during a mission or any other game activity, there is usually a weapon of some sort nearby. If the player has obtained piano wire, you may also strangle an enemy to death with it from behind as a stealth kill, this being a classic assassination method infamous for being used by the Italian Mafia. Rope can also be found and used for similar strangulation stealth kills, appearing in the gameplay environments where piano wire can’t be found. There is a wide variety of new guns and explosives to use in this concept for Mafia IV, going with the new weapons of the time the game takes place that criminals quickly got their hands on. This includes the SPAS-12 combat shotgun, the Beretta 92 pistol, the AK-74 assault rifle, the mini uzi, the MAC-10 submachine gun, both suppressed and unsuppressed variants, the Beretta 92 pistol, the Taurus raging bull revolver, Glock handguns, the TEC-9 machine pistol, illegally modified to be full auto, the Ruger Mini-14 full auto variant, and even Vietnam war era flamethrowers, which I think is only natural given that as of Mafia III, we already have RPGs and grenade launchers. Late in the game from the 1989 section and onwards, the Benelli M3 combat shotgun becomes available. The Milkor MGL grenade launcher becomes available beginning in the 1983 portion of the game. Attached grenade launchers are also available for the AK-47, AK-74, and M16 assault rifles.
Free ride makes a return in Mafia IV, with the player having the options to change the weather, time period, and an option to play as Louis, Vito, Joe, or Lincoln. Naturally, a multitude of new free ride missions are available as well.
I previously posted a much earlier and less detailed draft of this on the old Mafia3
subreddit 3 years ago back in 2017 as an idea for a hypothetical Mafia 3 expansion where you play as Vito, but have since updated and revamped it to a possible Mafia IV plot, and fixed any plot holes I noticed and made it much more fleshed out and in depth, and focus on more than just Vito in the end. You may view my original here if you so desire, to compare. https://www.reddit.com/Mafia3/comments/6sldhp/spoiler_mafia_iii_vito_dlc_basic_plot_idea/
Feel free to give me constructive criticism on this, as I encourage this discourse and believe it is integral to growing and improving, to build upon or improve these ideas I've come up with, or say whether or not you think something like this should happen in the future. Thank you for reading!
My favourite decks from the past year
Playing cards make the ideal gift, particularly the many beautiful custom decks available nowadays. Almost everyone can use a deck of cards at some point, so they have an instant and universal appeal, especially if a deck has some customized artwork and is packaged in an appealing tuck box.
In this list I want to focus on some of my favourite decks that have come out in the past year 2020. This year has been a challenging year for many of us in light of the coronavirus that has swept across the world. But in the middle of all this darkness, there have also been some bright spots, which include the brand new crop of custom decks that have appeared in the marketplace.
The suggestions I'm making are very much a matter of personal choice, and other playing card enthusiasts might make other choices. I haven't seen each and every deck that hit the market in the past year, and there are undoubtedly plenty of other worthy decks that qualify for a list like this. I've also not included any decks that have haven't yet been produced, even if they have been crowdfunded. This list strictly covers decks that you should be able to obtain from online retailers and resellers. I've also not included so-called "hype decks" that sell out almost immediately at the publisher level (e.g. Fontaines), but only those that enter retail channels and are more widely and readily available.
I've also included links to where you find them at PlayingCardDecks
so that you can see images of the tuck boxes and cards for each item, and because they're the retailer I personally buy playing cards from the most. But you should be able to find these decks at most online retailers.
Several series of playing cards have become brands of their own, and achieved nearly cult status from collectors. This past year has seen some great additions to the line-ups from popular series that include big names like Jerry's Nuggets, Cherry Casino, and NOC.
● Jerry's Nugget Aqua Playing Cards
- Jerry's Nuggets are a modern icon in the world of playing cards, due to the cult status of this deck, which was praised by cardists around the world. It was originally printed in the early 1970s, and was so much in demand in recent decades that copies fetched over $500 in the secondary market. A very successful reprinting of the original blue and red decks happened in 2019, and in the past year we've seen multiple reprints in different colours. Among my favourites in this series are the bright colours like orange, yellow, and green, which have all appeared in the past year. But there's also something for those who prefer a more muted look, such as steel and black. For more in this series, see Jerry's Nugget decks
● Cherry Casino Tropicana Teal Playing Cards
- The Cherry Casino decks capture a retro vibe, and are a throwback to the old fruit machines from gambling halls, with their distinctive cherry artwork. For me the real appeal of this series lies in the gorgeous card backs, which have a metallic sheen making them feel instantly different from all other decks. The face cards are all quite standard, so that makes them ideal for card games or card magic. Multiple new colours continue to appear in this series, such as Flamingo Quartz Pink
, and most recently McCarran Silver
. For more in this series, see Cherry Casino decks
● NOC 3000X2 Purple Playing Cards
- The acronym NOC originally stood for Nothing Only Colour, and in line with this the initial decks in this series were all very minimalist. Many people like to collect and use the NOC decks, and over time the series has evolved somewhat. The most recent releases show some new splashes of creativity, and with the NOC 3000X2 deck we travel into the future, past the year 3000. Vibrant purples and pinks inhabit the landscape of the cards, for a very modern and flashy look that is particularly well suited to cardistry. This particular deck is also available in a matching pink
version. For more in this series, see NOC decks
There are several big brands that you can count on for quality, and this year was no exception, with big companies like Theory11, Ellusionist, and Art of Play all continuing to contribute wonderful playing cards to the market.
● James Bond 007 Playing Cards
- When it comes to glamorous tuck boxes, it doesn't get much better than the luxury of playing card producer Theory11. This wonderful deck is a tribute to agent 007, James Bond. I collect most of the Theory11 decks, and this one is particularly terrific, with a supreme tuck box, and Bond-inspired paraphernalia on the court cards and on the card back. Close observers will find many Bond gadgets and more. Theory11 have put out several stylish releases in the past year, another one being the Hollywood Roosevelt deck
. For more, see Theory11 decks
● Shadow Masters Legacy v2 Playing Cards
- One of the companies at the forefront of the custom playing cards movement was Ellusionist and their Black Tiger deck
continues to be a modern icon. While they've since been overshadowed by the many custom decks produced in the crowd-funding era over the past decade, they continue to produce some memorable decks from time to time that are worth picking up. The Shadow Masters Legacy v2 is a black deck in the classic Ellusionist style, and represents the kind of thing that made them great to begin with. A jet black background is the chief feature of this deck, and the red and white used for the artwork and pips stands out beautifully against the inky black. This deck compares favourably with any other deck from the modern era. For more, see Ellusionist decks
● Yellow Wheel Playing Cards
- The brand Art of Play is the home of influential cardists Dan and Dave Buck. Their Red & Blue Wheel decks
are among my all-time favourite decks, with gorgeous metallic inks as part of a split-pip design. The Yellow Wheel deck is their latest entry in the Wheel series, that retains the original card backs but now in yellow. But the highlight is the card faces, with the split pips employing a stunning metallic silver that complements the cards beautifully. This is a completely custom deck that is certain to impress anyone who sees it. Art of Play produces many new decks each year, and their Henry & Sally deck
is a fun novelty release also worth checking out. For more, see Art of Play decks
They are a very select group, but there are some notable designers in the playing card industry who have developed a real name for themselves, have generated a large following of loyal fans, and continue to produce high quality custom decks on a regular basis.
● Italia Radiosa Playing Cards
- Italian designer Giovanni Meroni
is the man behind Thirdway Industries
, and his playing cards are in high demand from collectors around the world. His signature style is immediately recognizable in each of his decks, and this one is no exception. Along with its companion Italia Segreta
, it's themed around the wonders and secrets of Italy. The unique court cards are the real highlight, showcasing Giovanni's usual creativity and style. The number cards are also fully custom. These are the kinds of decks that will hold their value well in years to come. If you want even more vibrant colours, check out Modern Idols
, from the same creator. For more, see Giovanni Meroni decks
● Postage Paid Playing Cards
- Behind the brand Kings Wild Project
is Jackson Robinson
, who is one of the few professional designers that actually makes a living out of designing playing cards. This deck was inspired by the idea of playing cards functioning as postcards, each with its own stamp and post paid stamp. All 50 US states are represented on different cards, and everything about this deck is fully customized. This deck was produced in only limited numbers, so it will be out of stock in most places. But if you're quick, you can still grab Jackson Robinson's General Admission deck
, which applies a similar concept to tickets, with each card representing a vintage ticket stub from the early 20th century. For more, see Jackson Robinson decks
● Kodiak Playing Cards
- From popular designer Jody Eklund
and his Black Ink Playing Cards Company
, comes this delightful deck of playing cards that is geared to the poker player and collector. The cards have a very classic look, but offer a fresh take on the designs of the court cards and pips. Jody is highly respected for his approach to graphic design, and these cards will prove an excellent choice if you like playing card games, and want to bring something stylish and attractive to the table. For more, see Jody Eklund decks
Most magicians can perform their magic with any deck, but typically they prefer to do card magic with a deck where novelty and customization are minimal, so as not to distract from their magic. These decks are well suited to performing magic, and contain bonus gaff cards or other secrets that enable them to produce miracles not possible with ordinary decks.
● Card College Playing Cards
- These decks are a tribute to the most outstanding modern teacher of the fundamentals of card magic, Roberto Giobbi. Mr Giobbi is the author of Card College
, a series of best-selling books which are the modern gold standard for learning card magic. Available in red and blue, these decks are simple and practical for the working magician, and as a bonus each contains two double backer gaff cards. If you want more luxury, check out the stunning Luxury 3 Deck Set
, which has even more stylish cards, individually numbered tuck boxes with unique origami style features, packaged in an attractive acrylic box - the ideal collectible or gift for magicians.
● Remedies Royal Blue Playing Cards
- The Remedies decks come from popular creators Daniel Madison and Daniel Schneider, and this is a successor to the Remedies Scarlet Red deck. Many collectors love the Black Roses brand of playing cards, and collect whatever they produce. This blue Remedies deck has a classic and minimalist look with bold blue card backs, and is very functional and practical. The inclusion of a special Angle Zero gaff makes it ideal for magicians.
● DMC Elites Red v5 Playing Cards
- Of all the marked decks I own, the DMC Elites is easily my first choice whenever I want a marked deck with cards that can be easily read from a distance, due to the clever and yet almost invisible marking system it uses. This deck has previously been released in several different colours, and now incorporates Tamariz's Mnemonica stack. All you need is the deck, but there is a terrific Passport
book available separately, which will give you some great ideas for routines you can pull off with this great marked deck. For more, see Marked decks
Card flourishing has really boomed in recent years, and especially shines when cardists use a deck that has colourful and striking patterns optimized for cardistry, that enhance the visual aesthetics of cards in motion, as these decks show.
● Neon Orange Cardistry Playing Cards
- This deck represents Bicycle's attempt to meet a demand for a relatively low-cost deck geared towards card flourishing. The card backs have a geometric design, and the faces are all identical and completely non-standard, showcasing the latest evolution in playing cards optimized entirely for cardistry. Bright colours ensure that the cards look visually appealing in fans, spreads, and flourishing moves. Alongside this vibrant orange deck is its blue companion, the Neon Blue Aurora deck
● Autumn Circle Cardistry Playing Cards
- Tally Ho is a classic brand that USPCC has been producing for a long time. The circle back design of the typical Tally Ho deck has become iconic, and is especially appreciated by those who enjoy card flourishing. Each year the folks at Bicycle produce some in-house decks for special occasions, and the Autumn Circle Back deck is a lovely result. The colours capture the warmth and glow of autumn leaves and the mood of harvest time, while the pattern on the card backs is perfect for cardistry.
● ArrowDynamix Cardistry Playing Cards
- Given the high volume of cardistry decks appearing all the time, it can be difficult to come up with something completely original, but this minimalist deck has accomplished exactly that. Each card features a giant vertical arrow on the card backs, and a giant horizontal arrow on the faces. With carefully choreographed sequences and moves, you can create truly unique patterns and effects that you simply can't achieve with any other cardistry deck.
Do you love animals, or do you have an animal lover in your life? There are a lot of wonderful custom decks that are tributes to our four legged friends, or depict some of our favourite creatures.
● Woof and Whiskers Dog Playing Cards
- The real appeal of this deck is the cute tuck box, which has cardboard ears that fold up, to complete the look of the friendly dog on the front of the box. I would have liked to see some more customization with the number cards, but it's still a very charming deck, with delightful custom artwork on the court cards and aces. This is one of two Zoo 52 decks, so if you like the Dog deck, you'll also want to pick up the Playful Paws Cat deck
, which is equally cute.
● Aviary Playing Cards
- There are a lot of independent creators that produce Bicycle branded playing cards with the help of industry giant USPCC, but this big name producer also releases its own in-house decks. This is my favourite of their four newest releases that hit the market at the end of 2020, and is a very classy looking deck with artwork inspired by a traditional look, but with adjustments to give it a custom feel, and the presence of several birds carefully positioned throughout the deck. Of the four new releases from Bicycle, the Sea King deck
is also proving to be very popular.
● King of Tigers Playing Cards
- If you're looking for a deck with bling, this is it. The card backs have a borderless tiger skin pattern, which has been printed with some of the latest technology that makes use of foil for a truly eye-catching look. The tuck box is even more glamorous. While the court cards are clearly inspired by traditional courts, the Jokers bring back the tiger theme strongly, and the tiger skin look recurs throughout the deck.
Recent years have seen some wonderful novelty decks themed around different kinds of food. These are always a great way to whet your appetite for a card game, or to show off to family or friends, and have proved a real hit with collectors.
● Squeezers V3 Playing Cards
- Good luck getting your hands on decks from this extremely popular series from Organic Playing Cards, because they sell out quickly. These fruit inspired decks have delightful tuck boxes, and this grapefruit themed deck even comes in a tuck box that looks like a juice box, and is actually scented like grapefruit. The cards themselves are quite practical, but add humorous grapefruit themed elements to the court cards, and new bold colours. OPC's 2020 releases also included the watermelon-themed Carvers deck, while their current release sees the brand go in a slightly new direction with the corn-themed Shuckers.
● Noodlers Chicken Playing Cards
- If you like the concept behind the Organic Playing Cards series, you'll probably also enjoy this deck, which has a similarly styled tuck box to the Squeezers decks, but represents a packet of ramen noodles. The orange colour on the card backs and pips has also been inspired by the noodles theme. The artwork on the court cards has a quaint and cute style, with each character depicted in a light hearted style quite different from standard courts, and all holding a bowl of noodles. For a final laugh, the Jokers provide us with the necessary packet of "chicken seasoning" to add to our noodles.
● Citrus Playing Cards
- Created by Flaminko, the Deliciousness series has been somewhat overshadowed by the more successful fruit inspired cards from Organic Playing Cards. But I love the Flaminko decks, because they apply customization to all elements of the cards, including the pips. This novelty deck is well suited for card flourishing, card games, and collectors, and cleverly captures all that is juicy and wonderful about citrus fruit.
Music is another evergreen theme, and there's a solid range of lovely decks for the music lover, whether your taste is classical or more contemporary rock-and-roll.
● Composers Mozart Playing Cards
- This deck is part of a series that also includes other composers like Bach
. These decks are true collector pieces, and make a wonderful tribute to some of the greatest composers of all time. The tuck boxes have a very classical look, and metallic ink enhances the gorgeous card backs. Meanwhile completely custom artwork on the faces emphasizes a vintage and classical feel. They are great for music lovers and collectors, but if classical music isn't your thing, then check out the Rock and Roll deck
● Piano Player Playing Cards
- If the piano is your instrument of choice, this is a deck for you. The creative tuck box is available in two styles, one with two black keys and the other with three black keys, which means you can place two decks alongside each other to create a larger keyboard. Fully custom characters inhabit the court cards, with the keyboard motif returning in the details of the artwork. Small touches like this really make this creative deck a thing of unique beauty.
● Soundboards v3 Midnight Playing Cards
- Remember the old walk-man cassette players? In the 1980s these revolutionary electronic devices were among the first to make your personal music collection portable. The Soundboards deck replicates the look of a classic walk-man, and the Jokers complete the look by bringing the cassette tape look into the box. This Midnight edition has a dark look, so you might also want to consider the red deck
if you prefer a more traditional colour.
Fiction & Film themed Decks
Most of us love a good story, whether it's in the pages of a novel or on our screens. Here are some great custom decks that are loving tributes to some of the best from the worlds of fiction and film.
● Jane Austen Playing Cards
- Fans of the classic novel will appreciate the loving treatment that Jane Austen's famous novels have received in this delightful tribute from the Art of Play label. Each suit represents a different novel, with the court cards featuring the lead characters in the story. The design of the characters is inspired by period costumes and reflects the fashions from the time in which the stories are set. The classy tuck case ensures that everything is nicely packaged and well presented.
● Star Wars Playing Cards
- Theory11 achieved a real coup by acquiring the rights to bring the Star Wars brand to playing cards. They were the perfect company to ensure that the result was a classy deck that did justice to the world of the films. This pair of Light Side and Dark Side decks begins with a top quality and highly attractive tuck case, as we've come to expect from Theory11. The court cards all feature different characters from the movies, and the design is the perfect blend of customization and playability, making this a practical deck you can bring out for your favourite card game, or to give to the Star Wars fan in your life. A similar pair of decks
was produced later in the year in White and Black.
● King Arthur Playing Cards
- The result of a collaboration between Riffle Shuffle and Studio Muti, this pair of red and green decks tell the story of the famous Arthurian legend. For me it's a personal and nostalgic childhood favourite, in light of the adventure and imagination it evokes. But as impressive as these decks are, they pale besides the King Arthur Gold deck
, which has gold metallic ink on the faces, and gold foil on the card backs, for a truly extravagant look. Inside and out, this is a stunning tribute to a timeless classic from the world of fiction.
So I cheated. I already have a section devoted to cardistry, so I figured I'd sneak in a second category, by including some cardistry decks that all have a space theme. These decks all feature colourful visuals that work well for flourishing, but can also be enjoyed by collectors who appreciate their vibrant colours and exuberant designs.
● Solokid Constellation Playing Cards
- This set of twelve decks captures the twelve different star signs. It was produced by Bocopo
, a company well known for producing colourful custom decks that appeal especially to cardists and collectors. These decks are typical Bocopo offerings, with evocative colours that are unique to each different deck, to help capture a different feeling for each and every constellation. If you like vibrant colour, you'll certainly find something to enjoy here.
● Stargazer New Moon Playing Cards
- Several different decks have now appeared in the Stargazer series
, but the recent New Moon deck is probably my favourite. The circular moon that appears on all the card backs makes it an ideal deck for card flourishing moves like spins and twirls. The face cards have some truly vibrant colours, and capture well the feel of a night sky bursting with colour and life.
● Sirius B v3 Playing Cards
- I fell in love with the style of the original Sirius B deck, so this third edition was always going to win me over. The court cards consist of a blur of colours that look like paints mixed together, and this style has also been applied to the pips. The colours are the real appeal here, and the signature design of the card backs also looks very nice in card flourishes.
I personally adore transformation cards, and consider them to be one of the most fascinating and memorable types of playing cards there is. The idea is that you take the pips and incorporate them into a larger picture that forms a unique work of art, for each and every card in the deck.
● Cotta's Almanac #1 Reproduction Playing Cards
- This historic deck was first created in 1805 by J.C. Cotta, and was the very first of its kind. Themed on the "Joan of Arc" play by Schiller, the beauty and creativity of these cards will still win over collectors today. Lovingly produced in a high quality modern edition, this recreation is the first of the entire series of Cotta transformation decks that is being reproduced by PCD.
● 5th Kingdom Playing Cards
- This deck is possibly my favourite original release from PCD in the past year. It is an outstanding example of the creativity and originality of a semi-transformation deck, where the pips have been cleverly incorporated into the artwork. Each suit represents a different culture, turning each individual card into a work of art that can be admired and enjoyed.
● Pack of Dogs V2 Playing Cards
- This transformation deck is the work of John Littleboy, who has produced a number of such decks in his inimitable style, including Pack of Dogs, Kitten Club, Mermaid Queen, and Bag of Bones. The number cards are my favourites, and in this deck each of these represents a larger art piece with a dog. Each suit has a progressive image, so they don't feel totally unique from each other. It's more like a series of consecutive snapshots, and you can use flip animation to tell the story. Littleboy's Kitten Club V2 deck
applies a similar concept to cats.
PlayingCardDecks doesn't just sell playing cards, but Will Roya also uses his wealth of experience to team up with designers and graphic artists to produce high quality custom decks under the PCD label. Here are some great custom decks that were published in-house over the course of 2020.
● Astronaut Playing Cards
- This novelty deck is a delightful creation that will please anyone who has an interest in space and space travel, in light of its unique theme. The Kings are all depicted as astronauts, while the Queens and Jacks represent space travellers. The card backs have a futuristic look with neon lights, and this look carries over to the number cards, which are highly customized with unique red and blue pips.
● Beekeeper Playing Cards
- There are plenty of bee themed playing cards already on the market, but the artwork style gives this one a truly unique feel. Two decks were produced, one with light card backs and the other with dark card backs. This is a great novelty deck for the collector, because there's especially some delightful creativity to be found with the bee-inspired pips, and the detailed custom artwork on the court cards.
● Testament Classic Playing Cards
- This is a Biblical themed deck created by artist Ben Green. It's intended as an art deck, with the images on the cards depicting Biblical characters from well-known narratives. Representing a dual love for playing cards and a love for Bible-inspired art, this deck will especially appeal to the collector.
I'm a sucker for highly unusual decks with a high degree of novelty, and even though these are not ones I'd typically use for playing card games, they have very unique features that make them stand out from your average custom deck.
● Starry Night Puzzle Playing Cards
- Fancy a deck that doubles as a jigsaw puzzle? This clever deck takes its inspiration from Vincent Van Gogh's famous painting, The Starry Night. The artwork on the card faces is all taken from the painting, and all the cards can be pieced together to make a single giant picture, thus effectively functioning as a large puzzle. Yet each card has clear indices so it's still something you can use for card games too. Definitely unique and out of the ordinary, this set of playing cards is a perfect choice for fans of classic art and paintings.
● Falcon Razors Deluxe Throwing Playing Cards
- Rick Smith Jr has made multiple world records in throwing playing cards. His baseball background holds him in good stead, but anybody can learn to throw playing cards if you use the techniques Rick teaches. These throwing cards were a collaboration with legendary flourisher De'vo, and were featured in one of this year's viral videos from Dude Perfect, which featured Rick and his amazing card throwing. The cards are slightly thicker than standard Bicycle stock, to ensure extra durability and performance for card throwing.
● AQUA Invisible Plastic Playing Cards
- If you're looking for something completely different, this might hit the mark. This is a ground-breaking deck that is the closest thing to being invisible. All the cards are made out of completely transparent plastic, after which a high gloss transparent printing is applied to selected areas of the cards to produce the designs and pips. So each card is effectively completely transparent, and yet you can see its unique artwork and determine its value and suit. The handling is surprisingly better than you'd expect for a completely plastic deck, and it's certainly something unique.
Other Gift Ideas
Do you want to let your gift recipient make their own decision about what to get, or are you not quite sure what to buy? Here are a couple of special gift ideas that might help out, even if it is to give your family or friends a convenient way to enable you to select your own gift!
Firstly, there's a wide range of accessories
available for playing cards, like card clips, card cases, and more. Alternatively, consider a gift card,
which is available in amounts of $10, $25, $50, $100, and $200. There's also the popular Pip Box Club
, which has been around for over two years. Subscribers get a selection of decks and goodies shipped to them each month, and offers great value with each box. Boxing Day Sale
: Right now you can take advantage of a special sale at PlayingCardDecks, and save $10 off any order over $30 by using the code box20. This coupon is valid from Boxing Day until the end of 2020.
Happy shopping, and happy holidays!
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