After Pinochle I learned Rook (which was played in both my dad's and mom's families); after Rook, Euchre (which always seemed the sickly Eustace to the robust Lucy and Edmund of Pinochle and Rook); and from there, the collectible card games that bled my allowance dry in my adolescence.
Collectible card games are card games that are not played with a fixed deck. That is, each player brings to the table a deck that he has built himself before the game begins. The cards for these decks are mostly acquired through starter decks (sample decks designed by the game designer that are functional, but not ideal) and booster packs, which are like baseball or any other kind of trading cards, except that the cards are also functional (part of a game). As you can imagine, this method of deck building can be problematic--but more on this later.
|The goal in Redemption is |
saving "lost souls"
|I played this lame game far longer |
than I should have
I found a card store near my house, and I convinced the owner of the store to let me trade in some of my Overpower cards for two starter decks of the Star Wars CCG. I loved Star Wars, and this game looked fun. It was more advanced than the other games I had played, but the benefit of the cards being Star Wars related made me an eager learner. I started playing this game with a friend, but he made up the rules (which seemed always tipped in his favor), so I didn't play often. (He also hoodwinked me out of a rare, $45 card, trading me a bunch of junk cards that were "worth more" than my Luke Skywalker card. I was naive and trusting--what can I say?)
Fast forward a few years to when I started making friends at church. I discovered that my friend owned some Magic: The Gathering cards, and like a good Christian, I converted him to the Christian card game, Redemption. He caught the Redemption bug (plague?), and we were quickly in a buying war to try to get the best cards (the downfall of CCGs for the consumer; the boon of CCGs to the manufacturer). We played often: at each other's houses, at church, at social events--wherever we could find a flat surface and twenty or so minutes. As I mentioned before, the rules were so poorly written, the cards so unclear, and even the game's goals shrouded in such obscurity that playing probably led us farther away from biblical principles than not playing would have. Our friendship nearly ended at the conclusion of each game.
|What? You've never heard of |
This is a representative snapshot of the CCGs I've played. I've also dabbled in Shadowfist, Marvel Vs., Young Jedi, Star Trek, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pokemon, Mortal Kombat, Lord of the Rings, etc. Yes, I wasted lots of allowance during my adolescent years. Thankfully, through shrewd selling on eBay, I think I recouped the majority of the funds invested.
There is much to like about CCGs. First of all, I like that CCGs are customizable, that is, you can make a deck that centers around whatever strategy you choose, and there are probably cards that fit that strategy. The options are limitless. I like the immersive experience of these games, and I also like the practical end of collecting. I collected Spider-man trading cards before this, and while they're cool to look at, they now remain in a binder; there's not much I can do with them. Collecting a CCG is different. The cards you collect have actual value (what collectors/other players will pay for them) and practical value (the function they perform in the game).
Of course, the main problem of CCGs is investment. If you want to really have a chance in playing a CCG, you have to buy the cards. Booster packs were typically nine cards and divided in a 1:3:5 ratio, representing rare, uncommon, and common cards, respectively. You can technically play with a deck that includes only a few rare cards, but if you want to win, the best cards are almost all rares. (The rule of thumb in the Star Wars CCG was that if you knew a character's name before playing the card game [e.g., Luke, Chewbacca, Han, Leia, Lando], he was rare.) This means you can either buy up boxes of booster packs (when I played, in the days before Amazon, about $60 a piece) and hopefully draw what you need or you can buy individually the cards you want, which is even more pricey. CCGs strongly favor the player who spends more money, which puts his opponents at a disadvantage.
This leads to the second problem: finding people to play. Playing a CCG is not a matter of simply borrowing your friend's cards. Even if your friend is gracious enough to let you use his extra deck (which is not always the case), chances are you won't know how to use it properly. Decks are best played by those who design them. The designer knows which cards to wait for and which to play immediately. Knowing a deck is the first step to proper playing. So you either have to use someone else's deck (which puts you at a disadvantage) or buy into the game (which, unless you have heaps and heaps of cash, also puts you at a disadvantage). And when someone knows he is at a disadvantage from the get-go, he is unlikely to buy in.
I remember my dad saying that one of my friends' parents joked to him, "You've gotta stop Jon from introducing [NAME] to all these card games--it's hard to keep up!" I'm sure this was more truthful than I cared to realize at the time.
Why talk about CCGs? For that, you'll have to wait for my next post.