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Collectible Card Game

Entry updated 21 August 2021. Tagged: Game, Theme.

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Term used to describe a form of Card Game in which the cards are both collectible in the manner of trading cards (see Collectibles) and usable as a game. Individual cards typically come with their own rules for play, any potential conflicts being resolved by a set of "meta rules" which apply to the game as a whole. Such games are generally sold as starter sets or basic "decks", which contain the core rules and an initial set, or deck of cards, and expansion sets, which include selections of cards from specific groups (for example, weapons, characters, new methods of or geographical themes) which may also extend or develop existing rules and game states. Players buy these subsequent cards in packs, usually without the knowledge of what they contain beyond a certain amount of "common", "uncommon" and "rare" cards. Many cards are printed in limited numbers and included at random within expansions, encouraging collectors and players to buy multiple copies of a particular set. It is not necessary to own all the cards available at any one time; merely to have enough to be able to assemble a custom-built deck of cards. Cards with a higher rarity are often more effective, enable special abilities not otherwise available, or simply become known for their extreme paucity. The Black Lotus card from Magic: The Gathering (1986) designed by Richard Garfield is one of the most famous examples. As a result, Collectible Card Games (CCGs) are often criticized for endorsing a mode of play whereby the player with the most money has the strongest cards. This is particularly true when combined with the business model of many CCGs, whereby cards cannot be played in tournaments if they are of a certain age or release, and meaning that players have to update their decks on a regular basis.

CCGs contain multiple, complex strategies of play, although a round is usually designed to last about thirty minutes. CCG games usually take place between two players, who play consecutive turns against each other. In most CCGs, players assemble ("build") their own decks of cards. There are usually rough guidelines for the composition of each deck; it must contain x amount of y cards, and the deck must have at least z cards, but otherwise the player assembles a customized deck from the cards they own. These are often extremely specialized (for example, a "burn" deck might focus on eliminating the other player very quickly by causing a lot of damage, and a "zoo" deck might be comprised primarily of animal cards), and many players enjoy the act of assembling interesting or powerful decks as much as the actual game.

CCGs have also introduced several key terms that have become popular in both card and Board Games. "Tapping" is an action that draws on the ability of a card and temporarily "exhausts" it; an exhausted card is "tapped out" and turned sideways to symbolize that it has been used, though at a later point in the game it can be refreshed either automatically or via another activity in the game. These gameplay dynamics, first introduced via Magic: The Gathering, are now generic elements of modern card games.

"Living Card Game" (LCG) is a related term initially coined by Fantasy Flight Games to define a specific group of Collectible Card Games. LCGs have fixed cards within each set. An initial large box or starter deck of cards is usually released, followed by regular expansions containing a smaller amount of cards, again often thematically linked. For example in Android: Netrunner (2012) designed by Richard Garfield, expansions usually contain new Corporation or Runner decks. It is not necessary to own all the expansions in order to play the game, although the basic set usually provides fairly simple gameplay in comparison to later releases.

Sf examples of Collectible Card Games include the Cyberpunk-influenced Netrunner (1996) and its successor Android: Netrunner (see Cyberpunk), Mythos (1996) (see Call of Cthulhu) and Yu-Gi-Oh! (1999), based on the Manga series of the same name. [EMS/NT]


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