EMPIRE Bloodlines Playing Cards

This is Grand… It is Epic… The Empire returns; or shall I say “The Empire Strikes Back”?

Intro: EMPIRE playing cards

A year has passed from the impressively successful funding of the Empire playing cards via Kickstarter. Throughout the duration of the project the artist’s moto was: “Empire playing cards – Built to Conquer”. This was exactly what they did… Numbers don’t lie: The project was funded by an impressive 330%. It was for a limited edition run (just over 3,000 Empire decks). A few short weeks after the production and delivery of the decks to backers, you could find the Empire decks on eBay selling for $80-90, IF you were lucky to find a deck in the first place!

The Empire playing cards were a true masterpiece. Fully customized, bold, commanding, featuring an obsessively intricate and empowering design and incorporating truly artistic fine details. They were printed by the United States Playing Card Co. on Q1 stock, with Air-Cushion finish.

The Artist

All of the above facts are, surely, really impressive… However they are only matching the caliber of the artist, Lee McKenzie. In the unlikely case that someone is not familiar with his name, Lee used to design playing cards for Ellusionist from 2008-2013. His work speaks for itself: Arcane, Infinity, Artifice and Fathom were some of the decks that feature his work. All of those decks have been greatly received by fans, magicians and collectors alike.

In 2013, Lee decided to take the big leap forward. He formed his own company, Kings and Crooks, and he put all of his endless passion and talent in his own deck. The result… well, you have just read about in the previous paragraphs. Epic!

EMPIRE Bloodlines playing cards

During the aforementioned successful Kickstarter campaign, Lee announced that the Empire deck would be the first of a series. A lot of people – including myself – have asked the question: “How can you follow up such a high standards project?”

Well, the artist provided us all with his answer yesterday, by launching his new project, Empire Bloodlines Playing Cards. Simply put, it is his way of showing everybody that something (already) awesome can become even better!!!

Empire Bloodlines will come in two editions: Royal Blue and Emerald Green. The new decks share the same bold and impressive theme with the original Empire deck, but the design has been altered to be even more impressive than the original. Like their predecessor, Empire Bloodline edition decks are fully customized and will also be printed by USPCC.

You can get a feel for the design in the following images:

Empire Bloodlines Playing Cards, Cards Design, by Lee McKenzie, in Royal BlueEmpire Bloodlines Playing Cards, Cards Design, by Lee McKenzie, in Emerald Green







Empire Bloodlines are (strangely) not considered to be limited edition decks. Their final production number will be determined after the Kickstarter campaign is over, hence the needs are covered. On a relevant question on Kickstarter site, Lee predicts around 2,500 decks, split between the 2 colors. In my opinion, such numbers make the decks “limited editions” anyway…

Apart from the decks there is another item on this campaign which is worth mentioning: The Warrior Card Armour. In last year’s campaign the Card Armour was one of the stretched goals, but was never materialized. This year, however, it is available in many Pledge tiers from the beginning of the project. It is a stunning, metallic card guard, cleverly shaped in the form of a Spaniard’s helmet. It matches perfectly the theme of the Empire decks. So many backers were waiting for it since the last campaign that the relevant Early Bird tier was covered in a matter of hours! It is indeed a beautiful deck accessory and a “must-have” for any playing card enthusiast.

Warrior Card Armour, by Lee McKenzie, Empire Playing Cards

Warrior Card Armour, by Lee McKenzie, Empire Playing Cards

As I mentioned earlier, the Empire Bloodlines project was launched via Kickstarter yesterday and by now it is almost 75%, with 36 more days to go… It is safe to predict that it will surely surpass the 300% mark of the original Empire project and – if you ask me – it well deserves it!


Personally, I am a huge fan of Lee’s work. His Ellusionist projects are still among my favorite decks, but Empire currently holds a prominent spot in my personal display case, along with legendary decks like Jerry’s Nugget, Gold Arcane, White Centurions, etc. Lee puts “everything he’s got” in his work and it really shows… He is passionate about what he is doing and, also, extremely cool and nice with his backers.

I am also a big fan of the Empire’s theme. It is epic, bold and makes a statement on its own.

So, YES… The Empire Bloodlines is a project definitely worth checking out. For me, the value in a deck of playing cards does not only come from just the artwork and “how good it looks”. It is also directly proportional to the caliber of the artist behind it… And Empire series has both elements in abundance.

Tell us what you think. Share your thoughts and comments below…

Check out the Empire Bloodlines introductory video:

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EMPIRE Bloodlines Playing Cards — 6 Comments

  1. its just EPIC!!!!
    i definitely want that in my collecion.
    keep on going with your desings! The very detailed and individual look is just great!
    props from me :D

    • Hello Robert,
      I couldn’t agree more… Epic design, matching the deck’s theme! I surely hope that the rest of the decks in the Empire series will be as stunning as Bloodlines! Definitely a “must have”!

      Many thanks for sharing your opinion…

  2. Thanks for the review.

    I have purchased the original Empire deck and I like it a lot. Definitely will check out this new project. Looks awesome.

    • I totally agree with you. “Empire” was a beautiful deck and “Bloodlines” look as if they will be even better.
      Thanks for your comment!

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