Friday, 22 August 2014

Trading card games.... Crack would be cheaper, less addictive and less impactful on your life!

A lot of my gaming time over the years has been taken up with collectable/trading card games. I have quite a lot of them and I thought instead of doing individual reviews for them, as that would be very time consuming and boring for those who’s preference is not having their wallet savaged on a quarterly basis, I would instead have a little waffle about my experience and opinion on them. This is more of a ramble so apologise if it seems unpolished!
A selection of my cardboard crack! for illustrative purposes!
At the beginning of my gaming life I, like many, forayed into the world of Trading Card Games (TCGs) initially by the purchase of a starter set, in my case of Digimon the TCG. I bought the set for the franchise and not the game but soon had a game or two and enjoyed the gameplay and followed my friend into the murky world of the Pokémon TCG soon after, spending much of my teenage earnings on cards that to this day take up space in my house. We also picked up some Marvel Overpower sets but to this day I have never played a single game.
I gave up on TCGs after a relatively short time until some years ago the same friend with whom played Pokémon handed me five starter decks of Magic the Gathering cards he had recently come into possession of, and not having any interest hadn’t even de-shrink-wrapped them.
I had, over the years of being a comic book collector and comic shop regular, had some knowledge of this Magic beast being a popular game and even had a few cards knocking around that often popped up in promotional packs with comics/magazines. With this knowledge I thought ‘what could be the harm in giving it a whirl?’............ Thus began the accumulation and addiction to which I still occasionally relapse into!

Magic the Gathering, for those two and a half people who do not know, is the granddaddy of what you would call a TCG these days. Designed by Richard Garfield and first released in 1993 to much fan fair Magic the Gathering quickly spawned many imitators and would be rivals but would hold fast and be one of the most popular and most played TCGs up to and including now as you read this. I had dabbled with what I later found out to be one or two derivatives of the MTG formula but now I was playing with Genesis and I was quickly hooked. I still state that my friend needs to suffer some form of recompense for passing me those five packs of cards. Supply with intent is easily punishable!

I set about inducting others into the cult of cardboard and quickly had a sizeable group of fellow addicts and my addiction flowed into other TCGs, amassing a formidable assortment of games, many of which never got past the first purchase of starter box and a couple of boosters (I always had to buy at least two boosters to go along with any starter) but some became regular purchase games such as Pokémon, my partner being the bigger collector as is proven by the thousands of cards she owns, the VS. System both DC and Marvel varieties, Duel Masters, now rebranded as Kaijudo, WCW Nitro, My Little Pony (really, I’m serious, it’s a good game but don’t take it to the pub for an afternoon game over a pint, you’ll draw the wrong sort of looks, especially if you a a large hairy man such as I!) Star Trek CCG, and I will also include the Pocket model TCG system in this list as it still is a TCG despite featuring small models.

A Couple of years ago I began to purchase board games, starting with an old copy of Heroquest and moving up to Descent and Talisman before discovering Euro games. Soon the budget for both collections began to clash. I was often faced with a choice of a new board game that I liked the look of or a new wave of MTG cards and this was when the realization of my addiction came into focus. I realized what most TCGs, MTG, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh etc, did and why my money seemed to disappear at regular intervals.
Every three months there is a new wave of cards released. These cards more often than not totally overpower the majority of the prior releases cards or relegate them to a lesser standard so you buy new and tweak your deck to use the new hotness, if you have any competitive players in your group or you wish to play at a higher level than your kitchen table you also find yourself looking at buying singles from dealers to build yourself a competition quality deck which can cost a fortune dependant on which cards you need for any given theme. This is where they have you! You throw money at each new release without question, the majority of which you’ll never even play with if you buy boosters, and build/tweak your deck, play with it for a few months then the next release drops. Rinse and repeat. When faced with this realisation I made the difficult decision to cut TCGs for the most part and concentrate on more complete games. Deck builders, board games etc.

I have friends whose ONLY gaming choice is a TCG/CCG (trying to get them to play anything else can be difficult) and the monetary output to keep the decks viable is enough to make a politicians accountant short of breath!

That being said, and as I previously mentioned, I often relapse into my MTG. Usually when I see some really nice new artwork, Which is one of the greatest thing about MTG, the artwork on most of the cards is absolutely amazing! Or when I have an itch and dare to have a quick game, which turns into a few which then devolves into a wallet assaulting dash to town for a booster fix!

TCGs and CCGs will always be a thorn in my wallet as with many other sufferers, especially if I see a groovy starter set, and I don’t think I will ever be rid of the addiction, but that being said, the games are good enough to keep me coming back and not regretting it either! They represent a gaming dichotomy to which I am hopelessly entwined and more than likely will be for the rest of my gaming life but I say to thee “MEH, Worth it!”