The story behind Nat Iwata’s work and his new deck: Steampunk Pirates


Nat Iwata is a talented designer of playing cards. He begun in Kickstarter with a cool Steampunk Alphabet book, and he decided to enter in the playing cards design business with his Bicycle Steampunk Cthulhu project. After that success, he created the Bicycle Elves and Orcs deck and now he is going to release a new deck: Bicycle Steampunk Pirates.

I talked to him about the story behind him and his work and this is what he told to me:

“My first success on Kickstarter was actually a book called The Steampunk Alphabet. Due to some unfortunate circumstances I found myself being pushed out into the wild of full-time freelance work for the first time. Although I was apprehensive to some degree I saw it as an opportunity to take a risk and do something that was completely “mine” from start to finish. For years I had worked on art for other people’s visions for games and books, and I wanted to try making something I could call my own.



The book did well and was picked up by a publisher, and in the following months I began to think of what my next project would be. After coming across some card campaigns like those from Albino Dragon, I put together the Steampunk Cthulhu project. Cards seemed to be a wonderful vehicle for the art I was interested in doing, and a product that everyone could relate to. Who doesn’t own playing cards? t had already gained a bit of a following in the Steampunk community, and thought it would be a lot of fun to do a mashup with the Cthulhu mythos. I launched that campaign without much fanfare, before I went to bed one night, and was very surprised to see it had taken off while I slept. I didn’t even have a video posted yet, and the project soon climbed to the #1 spot in the popular games section.



The next 30 days was a whirlwind of emails, updates and more card art. The deck was featured on some wonderful websites, and was shared close to 1,000 times on Facebook. It was a fantastic experience and I learned a TON from the playing card community, who through their input really helped form the deck to be what is now in over 1,200 people’s homes! We made it, changed it, and promoted it together. It really showed me that this was something I loved doing.

The next deck was the Elves & Orcs deck, which was kind of an experiment of sorts. After 2 successful Steampunk projects I wasn’t sure how the response would be to an all out fantasy deck. Well it turns out, there was a fair amount of interest, even getting some features on very popular websites, but it didn’t quite have the reception of Steampunk Cthulhu. I had build up a steampunk loving audience and then changed direction on them a bit, though the project was still successful in the end.




This leads me to my 3rd deck of Bicycle cards, Steampunk Pirates. In returning to my Steampunk roots, I wanted to do another mashup, but also a deck that could compliment the Steampunk Cthulhu one. Steampunk Pirates seemed to be the answer. I have a history of “Steampunking” things (the alphabet, Cthulhu), plus it’s nautical, old world, and a place where I could work Cthulhu into the art with ease. This deck will use the same basic design themes as it’s predecessor, with color changes and all new illustrations. From the tuck box design, you can tell they go together.




For me, the last year of my life has really been eye opening and Kickstarter has played a big role. I realized that it’s possible to make a product, directly shaped by community feedback in realtime. Crowd sourced funding has offered individuals and small companies a freedom to dream and pursue those dreams like nothing else has ever done. I was pretty daunted by the thought of printing a Bicycle deck, not to mention all the fulfillment, but people have been so helpful and encouraging all a long the way. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of my backers and sites like this one that have cheered me on during the course of these campaigns. Thank you all.”



I wish Nat the very best in this new amazing project. The campaign will be released soon and I will post about it in that moment.