This month we dive head first into Card Games. There is a wide variety of options within this category. Unlike the board games of last month which can have heftier price tags for some of the more in depth games, even really good Card Games typically have a more moderate entry price. With a lower price point and a wide selection of styles it is no wonder Card Games are among the most popular game genre.
Much like board games there are a handful of card games that everyone is familiar with; Poker, Solitaire, games of their ilk. Even Go Fish and Old Maid fall into the collection that is Card Games. As you are soon to discover though this category has much more to offer than the card games of days gone by.
There are in all three basic genres that fall under the umbrella of Card Games. There are Non-Collectible Card Games, Living Card Games or LCG’s, and Collectible Card Games or CCG’s. I will get to each in turn and go over the high and low points of each. By the end of this you should be ready to dip your toe into the pool of Card Games without fear of going under.
Let’s start our whirlwind tour of Card Games with the first one I mentioned Non-Collectible Card Games. What this means is that you buy the cards once and you have what you need to play. There may be expansions that can broaden the spectrum of your play. For the most part however you have a fully playable game, start to finish, with one purchase. These types of Card Games have a wide range in prices. The more basic games run under $20 while some of the more involved games can be upwards of $60. It is rare to find a game in this category that wanders much higher. This genre is well suited to those who want a casual game that needs little investment. Depending on the game you can find something for everyone, from the most basic gaming novice to the hardcore gamer aficionado. There are some fast play games in this genre such as Fluxx, Chez Geek, and Munchkin. There are also some more in depth games ie: Dominion, Accension, and Thunderstone. This category can sometimes wander over into the world of LCG’s as well. So with no further ado let’s get you up to speed on LCG’s.
There is one main factor that sets LCG’s apart from Non-Collectible Card Games. That is that these games have a base set you can buy, and while the game is playable in this state the real fun comes from boosters that advance the storyline. For example there is a LCG for Lord of the Rings. The base set makes you part of the fellowship on the journey to Mordor. You could play just that fraction of the story or you can get the boosters and continue along into the wilds with Frodo. The base game is usually towards the higher end of the cost range (~$40), but the boosters are comparatively inexpensive(~$15). Another selling point is that depending on which boosters you pick up you can completely customize your experience. Lord of the Rings is only one of many that fall into the realm. You can also check out Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder Adventure Card Games, and many others.
Now we get to the juggernaut of the Card Game genre, Collectible Card Games. CCG’s are the unstoppable force of the card game world because they are so innocuous. They have by far the lowest entry point of any of the Card Game subtypes. For $15 you can usually get a starter deck and jump into play with that one small purchase. Booster packs are typically under $5 which makes it a great price point for kids and players on a budget. Much like the trading cards of old, it never stops there. Decks are customized, artwork admired, trading occurs. Much like the slogan of one popular CCG “You Gotta Catch Them All”. CCG’s are among the most social of card games. This is where organized play shines. You can have a mass of people assemble for tournaments, trading. Even just casual play can get people out in droves.
A quick note on Organized Play since it relates so heavily to CCG’s. Gone are the days of dark basements or lonely library shelves. OP are events set up and sponsored, usually on a weekly or monthly basis, by local stores and activity groups. You can meet other people playing the game you have invested time and money in. Could you just invite friends over to play? Sure! But these events give you an opportunity to up your game. You can test your gaming metal against others. Learn tips and techniques to better adapt your game. To find organized play opportunities near you just go onto the website of whatever game you are playing. Many have links to local stores, libraries, and halls that host the events.
I have played a fair amount of card games from each of the subsets and it is very hard to say which I would consider my favorite. If I had to say though, I would have to go with LCG’s. There is something about the storyline aspect and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing a chapter and breaking open the next booster. You never know what you’ll find as the story unfurls before you. That could be the reader and writer in me though. Try a few out from each category to see what lights the gaming spark in you. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Came for Rise of the Runelords is quite addictive, and I can wait until Piazo releases the follow up Skull & Shackles.
In honor of the newest release of Dungeons & Dragons, next month I’m going to give you a crash course into the world of Role-Playing Games. That’s right Jack Chick be damned you’re going to get a chance to peek behind the looking glass into this most dreaded realm. Honestly, it’s not that frightening so come on back next month for the Intro to Role-Playing. I promise you’ll make it out, although you might find yourself in desperate need of some polyhedral dice.
And don’t forget to check out www.boardgamegeek.com. They have information on card games as well as board games. They have more information on games then I could ever compile. Everything from how many players a game works best for to detailed Q&A’s from fellow players that can help even the most convoluted rules come into focus. That site is an indispensible tool for gamers of all skill levels.
For now the question you all knew would be coming. What are some of your favorite card games? Do you have a card game memory that stands out in your mind?
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