Sorry guys, this post has nothing to do with Yu Gi Oh. You can go home now. We’re talking about real collectible card games.
In my heart (of the cards) of hearts, I’m a table top gamer. I’m into movies and video games and anime and all that shit, and I love it all, but my true love is table top gaming. The only reason why I don’t have a blog about it and instead blog about anime is because it’s hard to get a decent gaming group together on a regular basis when you’re all thirtysomethings (give or take) that have conflicting work schedules. It’s kinda hard to blog about something you rarely get to do anymore.
Recently I’ve been feeling the urge to get back into collectible card gaming. The whole opening packs of cards to see if you get the chase rare card you want fulfills that Christmas Day feeling of “what in the hell am I gonna get this year it better be fucking good” while satiating whatever obsessive-compulsive tendencies I have by having me want to collect entire playsets of shit.
I’ve been doing the collectible card thing off and on since their inception. I bought into Magic when it first hit comic and game stores way back in the day. I didn’t buy into it too heavily, since it cut into my considerably limited comic and RPG book funds, but I had fun with it. My high school lunch time gaming group was the first at our school to get into the game. The teachers had no idea what we were playing, since the game had no reputation yet, so they never bothered us. What few kids who bothered to look in thought we were messing around with Tarot cards or some other weird occult shit, and half the time we were willing to play along with their assumption.
Unfortunately, I lost interest in Magic pretty quickly. Some of the guys I gamed with got into it way more than I did, and at the time Magic suffered from Mr. Suitcase syndrome: meaning that the dude with the most money, and therefore the most cards, almost always won. He had the power rares and could pull off the awesome combos while those of us who didn’t sink their cash into the game as much were fucked. This came to a head when six of us got together for a bit all-nighter multiplayer team game. The three guys who spent the most money insisted on being on the same team, which left the other three dudes (myself included) to essentially be their punching bags so that they could flex their collectible penis muscle.
I never bought a single Magic card after that. I’m very aware of the fact that the game is considerably more balanced and doesn’t quite suffer from the same “I have more cards so I always win” problem, but I’ve been turned off from the game ever since.
Despite my experiences with Magic, I was still interested in collectible card games in general. I tried out a few, including the godawful Spellfire game TSR let loose on the gaming public. It wasn’t until the Illuminati: New World Order game came out that I found another game that was worth really getting into. It was about conspiracy theories, a subject very dear to my geeky heart. It was designed to not be rare-intensive in terms of the cards you needed. The rares were just cooler cards that did very specific things, with the commons and uncommons being more all-purpose cards. My gaming group (No longer the high school lunch crowd but the core group of people who still make up my gaming group today) loved the “screw you” style of the game and loved the theme as well. Everyone had a faction that they could “relate” with, myself digging on The Discordian Society. We absolutely loved the game.
Then they only made one expansion and ended the game way too soon. My group slowly lost interest in the game and it became more of a “hey, you remember that awesome Illuminati game” memory than something we actually did.
By the way, the card pictured above was made a good six years or so before 9/11. A bunch of nutjob conspiracy theorists seized on it and tried to claim it had something to do with Steve Jackson Games prophesizing the event and other whacked out theories. Yeah, they’re called nutjobs for a reason.
I took a break from CCGs after we got out of Illuminati. It was during that time that anime started to get a bit more popular over here, and with that came Pokemon. By this time, I was in college and well past the age of Pokemon’s target demographic, but I didn’t give a damn about that. I dug the cartoon and deliberately woke up early enough on weekday mornings to watch it before I ran off to school. I also bought into the card game right as it was starting to become popular. The local comic store that I bought my manga from started selling the card game and I jumped on it.
I played with a couple of friends (One of whom was one of my Illuminati friends.). I remember one of them was a big fan of Grass Pokemon and had a deck based around poison attacks and the like. I played a Normal/Water deck that consisted of Poliwag/Poliwhirl/Poliwrath, Staryu/Starmie, Jigglypuff/Wigglytuff, Lickitung, and Clefairy. Yeah, I played a deck where the “toughest” Pokemon was an evolved tadpole. It was basically a “control” deck, where I tried to deny the other player attacks while I slowly whittled away their health.
It wasn’t a great deck, but I do remember one particular game where I was playing against someone with a Charizard. I had Lickitung out. Licki has a lot of hit points, more so than most Pokemon, but his attack was pretty weak. The catch is that Licki could paralyze his opponent on a lucky coin flip. I managed to get enough consecutive coin flips to successfully paralyze Charizard, one of the most powerful Pokemon in the game damage-wise, long enough to kill him without him ever getting an attack off. Then the dude pulled out some other Pokemon and kicked my ass, but that was a beautiful streak of luck.
Pokemon’s a good little card game. Nothing spectacular, but the gameplay itself is solid. But like most things, the game was a bit of a fad amongst my friends. I ended up trading in a lot of my rares for manga when we lost interest in the game, but I still have that deck with all of the cutesy Pokemon.
A couple of years after the Pokemon fad, a friend of mine introduced me to Legend of the Five Rings. I was familiar with the table top RPG, having played it for a while, but I hadn’t looked into the CCG that the RPG was based upon. But we’ll get to that later. L5R is a post all of its own. I’ll just say this: Why L5R isn’t more popular with anime fans is beyond me. It’s more anime-like than most card games based upon anime series. We’ll get into that in part two.