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Subject: The CCG "Market" rss

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Davido
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As we say here, Magic: The Gathering is the "900 lb. Gorilla" that sets the standard. Other hugely successful CCGs tend to be licenses or tie-ins (e.g. Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, World of Warcraft CCG, and various Star Wars, Star Trek etc.)

That said, my favorite CCGs tend to be character/narrative driven (and alas, defunct): Deadlands: Doomtown, Firestorm, Legend of the Burning Sands, Netrunner, and the not-so-defunct Vampire the Eternal Struggle.

The combination of Pro/Tournament scene plus Teen market drives the Magic juggernaut. I respect Magic as the first of its kind and a truly innovative Game System, but honestly, to me Magic comes across as an over-produced, but ultimately uninteresting D&D Dungeon-

Q: why are these things here, what are there motivations?
A: Because they are, because they can
(e.g. the 'back story' of dueling wizards using Mana to pull stuff out of their hats to clobber each other is the ultimate in pasted on themes-the mana/creature color tie-in is also pretty flimsy, albeit a decent mechanic in itself).
OTOH, there appear to be many, many others who enjoy the game for what it is and care less about backstory and theme.
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Joshua Kenney
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My CCG of choice, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, does a few things that I think not only differentiate it from Magic and Magic clones, but make it a stronger game.

-Tough choices. Every single decision in this game is tough, and it seems to be the fundamental driving theme of the game. For example, the attack phase is divided into three different challenges: Military, Political, and Intrigue. Losing these challenges as a defender means you get a certain punishment. If you lose a Military challenge, you must choose and kill a character you control.

The first time I played this game that choice blew my mind. I needed everyone I had, so do I kill the small guy with the great power, or the big expensive army? Even committing to a challenge can be a tough choice, because you kneel (tap) to participate, leaving you open for retaliation. That's just the tip of the iceberg for this one, but it gives you a good indication of the sorts of decisions you have to make.

-Brutality and lethality. When I teach this game to people, I always make sure to tell them, "Don't get too attached to your characters. They will die." Characters are extremely fragile, but they're often extremely potent. Which brings me to:

-Little to no useless cards.

-Limited collectiblity. This is a recent change and could stand some tweaking, but it's a step in the right direction. AGoT has moved from the random starter/booster model to a fixed core set/"chapter pack" model. You buy a core set that comes with 4 premade decks in the four main Houses (colors), and then every month a new 50 card chapter pack comes out containing a fixed distribution of cards. You decide your level of involvement, and for a lot less than a normal CCG. For $30/month (enough to get a "play set" of the 1 per pack cards), you can get ALL the cards in an expansion. Or you can pay $10 and still get ALL of them, just not multiples. Or you can decide you don't need that pack at all and skip it.

No more Mr. Suitcase, no more boxes of useless commons.

-Incredible support. I've played the game since it launched, and FFG has always done a great job of supporting its players with tournaments and prizes. They also do a great job of listening to and directly communicating with the players via forums.
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I think that there is a limit to the number of collectible games that the gamer market can profitably support at any time. Far too many CCGs died, justly or unjustly, due to lack of player base. If you can't find an opponent, you won't play it, and you won't keep buying it. This led to the CCG crashes in 1996 and 2003. There were simply too many collectible games competing for limited gamer attention and dollars. Culling was necessary.

If a collectible game isn't widely played, it dies. If it isn't fun, it dies. The collectible games that survive are the ones that are widely played and enjoyably fun. If a new collectible game cannot take advantage of a void in the collectible game market, or poach enough attention away from an existing competitor, then it will not survive regardless of design merits.

The exception to this are games connected to a hot property, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Yu-Gi-Oh, or HeroClix. These kinds of products can stand on the support of fans alone, even if they never read the rulesheet.

Magic is the 900lb gorilla because it was the first. It had a flying start at building a player base. A constant stream of new cards (and I can't stress the importance of playtesting here), and the active international tournament scene, have kept it alive. No collectible game has the market penetration and player base that Magic does, and that gives it the perennial edge.
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The two-player "fighting" model of CCG initiated and typified by MtG (and reused and developed by such games as Pokémon Trading Card Game and Vs. System) is not the only type of CCG.
Shadowfist is also a fighting game but is at its best multiplayer.
Another whole genre of CCGs are the "story-telling" games.
I am somewhat surprised that nobody has produced a railway CCG.
The big problem with bringing out a new CCG is that shops have been burnt too often with unsold stock when the possible initial popularity drops like a stone.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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cerulean wrote:
I think that there is a limit to the number of collectible games that the gamer market can profitably support at any time.


I personally think that number is one, and it's called Magic. Basically, every other CCG ceases within a few years (even those put out by WotC) because it's a brutal business model. It calls for constant expenditure on the part of the customer, and in return customers demand the absolute best in product quality and a broad network of other players. The only other games that do well for a while are those buoyed by the popularity of their license, which fades below critical mass within a few years. That's not to say that many good games haven't been released as CCGs and subsequently crushed, and I'm happy that the LCG model is emerging as I think it'll make more good games more affordable, accessible, and stably profitable.
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Santiago wrote:
I personally think that number is one, and it's called Magic. Basically, every other CCG ceases within a few years (even those put out by WotC) because it's a brutal business model. It calls for constant expenditure on the part of the customer, and in return customers demand the absolute best in product quality and a broad network of other players. The only other games that do well for a while are those buoyed by the popularity of their license, which fades below critical mass within a few years. That's not to say that many good games haven't been released as CCGs and subsequently crushed, and I'm happy that the LCG model is emerging as I think it'll make more good games more affordable, accessible, and stably profitable.

The number is certainly more than one. Legend of the Five Rings, for example, has been around for more than a few years, and doesn't profit from a hip license.
 
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jkenney23 wrote:
My CCG of choice, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, does a few things that I think not only differentiate it from Magic and Magic clones, but make it a stronger game.

-Tough choices. Every single decision in this game is tough, and it seems to be the fundamental driving theme of the game. For example, the attack phase is divided into three different challenges: Military, Political, and Intrigue. Losing these challenges as a defender means you get a certain punishment. If you lose a Military challenge, you must choose and kill a character you control.

The first time I played this game that choice blew my mind. I needed everyone I had, so do I kill the small guy with the great power, or the big expensive army? Even committing to a challenge can be a tough choice, because you kneel (tap) to participate, leaving you open for retaliation. That's just the tip of the iceberg for this one, but it gives you a good indication of the sorts of decisions you have to make.

-Brutality and lethality. When I teach this game to people, I always make sure to tell them, "Don't get too attached to your characters. They will die." Characters are extremely fragile, but they're often extremely potent. Which brings me to:

-Little to no useless cards.

-Limited collectiblity. This is a recent change and could stand some tweaking, but it's a step in the right direction. AGoT has moved from the random starter/booster model to a fixed core set/"chapter pack" model. You buy a core set that comes with 4 premade decks in the four main Houses (colors), and then every month a new 50 card chapter pack comes out containing a fixed distribution of cards. You decide your level of involvement, and for a lot less than a normal CCG. For $30/month (enough to get a "play set" of the 1 per pack cards), you can get ALL the cards in an expansion. Or you can pay $10 and still get ALL of them, just not multiples. Or you can decide you don't need that pack at all and skip it.

No more Mr. Suitcase, no more boxes of useless commons.

-Incredible support. I've played the game since it launched, and FFG has always done a great job of supporting its players with tournaments and prizes. They also do a great job of listening to and directly communicating with the players via forums.


Great game, but this aspect as of late has been less than stellar. Better communication and a little more understanding about their player's concerns could have helped avoided the massive downturn in interest the switch to LCG created among their former core customer.

That said, the game itself is very good and probably my favorite CCG design ever.
 
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Because I have a wide range of interests, I've been caught up with a number of different CCG's with various lifespans.

Legend of the Five Rings was produced locally, and was the rage in Southern California.

Based on my enjoyment of L5R, I got onboard both Deadlands: Doomtown and 7th Sea Collectible Card Game.

I've enjoyed Wing Commander and Warhammer 40,000 Collectible Card Game because of the strong science fiction themes.

Having playtested Avalon Hill's Wrasslin', I tried, and enjoyed WCW Nitro Trading Card Game. That game mechanic was imported to the Harry Potter Trading Card Game, which I also enjoy immensely.

As a sports fan, I've collected MLB Showdown, NFL Showdown, NASCAR Racing Challenge, and Football Champions.

My love of the original Illuminati game drew me to Illuminati: New World Order.

My wargaming background led me to Echelons of Fire, Echelons of Fury, Echelons of Fury Pacific, and The Last Crusade.

Usually when a game goes OOP, the market value of the cards drop like stones. Except in rare cases, like Doomtown, cards can then be acquired very cheap. However, on the positive, the play environment freezes, and a player doesn't have work too hard (or spend much money) to keep up with new releases, new cards, and new play strategies.

The problem with OOP CCG's is that people DO want new cards on a somewhat regular basis, to keep the gameplay fresh, and to discover new strategies or innovative deck designs. That's why many players abandon a game when it goes OOP.
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Santiago wrote:
cerulean wrote:
I think that there is a limit to the number of collectible games that the gamer market can profitably support at any time.


I personally think that number is one, and it's called Magic. Basically, every other CCG ceases within a few years (even those put out by WotC) because it's a brutal business model. It calls for constant expenditure on the part of the customer, and in return customers demand the absolute best in product quality and a broad network of other players. The only other games that do well for a while are those buoyed by the popularity of their license, which fades below critical mass within a few years. That's not to say that many good games haven't been released as CCGs and subsequently crushed, and I'm happy that the LCG model is emerging as I think it'll make more good games more affordable, accessible, and stably profitable.


The decipher ccg's: star trek ccg, star wars ccg, and lord of the rings tcg, had active tournament scenes for many many years (10+ years). Even now, there are independent organizations still running tournaments for all 3 games.
 
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Competing against 900 pound gorillas is never easy, whatever the industry. And in the entertainment industry (which includes gaming), we all know that there's not a single formula for success. People are looking for comfort in their entertainment, and CCGs are not different. With Magic, you have the advantage of:

-Thousands of cards
-Easy availability
-Millions of players
-Regular releases
-High and low stakes tournaments
-Very high quality

If you want to come on the market with something new that will divert attention, you start on a very uphill race. If you want to get customers, you'd better lure them with something solid. Because otherwise, they will stay with the comfort that they have with Magic. Just like how the MMO industry is all about World of Warcraft vs everybody else. Players who risk at trying something different will quickly figure that well, it's different.

First, you can forget about gameplay. It's not the main lure. I've played a lot of CCGs in my life, and the most immersing gameplays do not make a popular game. Mechanics of CCGs are difficult to explore outside of the power/defense/life points stigma. So games have to be different, but not too much so that it's not too alien to the "core gamers"

And second, which is the sad part, you need a killer license. People won't buy stuff without a known brand, unless they are very informed gamers. So that's why the market is flooded with superheroes, movies, or children marketing juggernaut themes.

I like my CCG like my entertainment: diverse, creative, enjoyable, thought-provoking. Ok, the new Batman might have been ok, but it's no way one of the best movies I've seen in my life. And I'd rather watch 25 movies about a wide range of topics than watching 25 formulaic superhero movies. To each one its taste, and in CCGs like everything else, you can't buy success, especially if the competition has a near monopoly on people's minds.

In conclusion, here's a list of the CCGs I played and or collected, in memory of the good times!

Magic: The Gathering, Deadlands: Doomtown, Legend of the Five Rings, Shadowrun: The Trading Card Game, Star Wars Customizable Card Game, X-Files, Star Trek: The Card Game, Young Jedi CCG, Simpsons Trading Card Game, Spellfire, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Middle-earth, Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt
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Eric Boivin
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Chili Con Carne wrote:

What if cards would be used horizontally, could people accept this, or would this just create an immediate hurdle because it is unnatural and just doesnt feel right because no other CCG does this?


Hum, there are a few in fact. I know many games which used some cards horizontally for locations, like Star Wars CCG, Guardians, Shadowrun or Middle-Earth.
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Quote:
I am curious to what is a "story telling" CCG, could you show me an example. It sounds fresh, and very exciting, unique and fun.

Well, for one simple example: Simpsons Trading Card Game.
Star Trek: Customizable Card Game (first edition) was another example (even if the game was a typical Decipher example of all that can be bad in a CCG - the near-invincible deck relies on ultra-rare cards (the Enterprise and its bridge crew).
I think Cthulu and one of the LotR games were of similar natures.

High Stakes Drifter is another, very different, type of CCG - definitely multiplayer and Poker-themed. However it was abandoned even before the first expansion That was the last straw for me in my dealings with Wizkids.
 
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andyholt wrote:
Quote:
I am curious to what is a "story telling" CCG, could you show me an example. It sounds fresh, and very exciting, unique and fun.

Well, for one simple example: Simpsons Trading Card Game.
Star Trek: Customizable Card Game (first edition) was another example (even if the game was a typical Decipher example of all that can be bad in a CCG - the near-invincible deck relies on ultra-rare cards (the Enterprise and its bridge crew).
I think Cthulu and one of the LotR games were of similar natures.

High Stakes Drifter is another, very different, type of CCG - definitely multiplayer and Poker-themed. However it was abandoned even before the first expansion That was the last straw for me in my dealings with Wizkids.


In terms of "story telling" star trek first edition is probably the best. The game is a complete simulation: you can explore different quadrants of the galaxy, invade outposts and away teams, establish first contact with new alien races, assimilate entire homeworlds with the borg, travel back or forward in time, go to individual rooms within a space station, play games within the game, interact with holograms on a holodeck, infiltrate other affiliations, etc.

You can basically do ANYTHING within the star trek world, creating your own story, similar to a RPG. However, there is one problem with all of this: in order for the game to work there is a massive amount of complex rules to keep the game working. The rule complexity was necessary in order to add all of the options, but it also makes it nearly impossible for new players. Story telling options are present within some ccg's, but like many rpg's, they require a very large ruleset, errata, and have rules conflicts.
 
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milhouse46 wrote:
Chili Con Carne wrote:

What if cards would be used horizontally, could people accept this, or would this just create an immediate hurdle because it is unnatural and just doesnt feel right because no other CCG does this?


Hum, there are a few in fact. I know many games which used some cards horizontally for locations, like Star Wars CCG, Guardians, Shadowrun or Middle-Earth.


Illuminati: New World Order, XXXenophile, and Sim City: The Card Game also used horizontal orientation for certain cards.
 
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7th Sea Collectible Card Game used horizontal cards to indicate locations, but they never changed from game to game.

7th Sea also wins the "shhhh don't call it tapping" award by calling their turn-your-card-sideways mechanic tacking.
 
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Slightly off topic, but storytelling for Deadlands: Doomtown.
Two outfits
Sweetrock: bankers and townspeople-they got the bucks and they're gonna buy up the town and run the others off (or kill 'em)

Blackjacks: framed leader (Black Jack) rounds up thugs and hillbillys gone west and aims to thwart Sweetrock's mechanications

Game play reflects the basic premise. Sweetrock has the bucks to build up lots of deeds/properties/strikes which make more money to get more properties and to hire the goons to defend/go after the others. Use actions to manipulate the situation.

Blackjacks-become wanted, take the money and run-build up weapons and abilities and influence. Attempt to sucker Sweetrock into shootouts (playing mandatory call outs on the yellow cowards).

EVERY faction (about 10) has a similar backstory and abilities and cards to achieve victory in a way that suits them.

So in a nutshell, in a story telling CCG, the 'play of the cards' constructs a coherent narrative or episode that is logically consistent and compelling.
 
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Chili Con Carne wrote:
What would the players (you) ask from a new CCG offering, and what would be the least a CCG would have to offer. What things do you think the Juggernaut MTG misses and/or needs improving on.

Obviously, MTG needs to improve the mana system. I don't say that merely because I've gotten mana screwed before, but because every new design that comes out has figured this out and offers a better system. Spoils, Call of Cthulhu and Duel Masters all use regular cards as resources. Maple Story actually has card text for each card, for use when they come into play as resources. And the last two are WotC games: they know that the resource system can be improved. But they aren't going to make waves, and potentially kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

I also prefer the storytelling interaction of games like Mythos, but I'm not sure they do well in the market. Straight-up combat is easier to understand, and model, than something open ended.

Chili Con Carne wrote:
Would you mind if a CCG would be less straightforward then battle till your 20 HP drops, or is that the key to succes. Haveing a "simple" premise, but offer a lot of choices, tactics, strategy etc?

I prefer games to have multiple paths to victory. (I will point out that Magic does have a few: milling, and some specific card conditions, come to mind.) It's why I prefer Navia Dratp to Chess: it gives you more flexibility, if you are weak in one area, to concentrate on another. But, as I said above, I'm not sure I speak for the majority of either gamers, or CCGers in specific...

You might want to look at Infinite Armies: this is a CCG where you basically build your own background. It does have some disadvantages, in my eyes: it seems to have a single path to victory, for one. But it's interesting on several levels of game design, and even technical design (it uses an interactive pdf to make your deck).
 
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Chili Con Carne wrote:
Hello fellow "geeks",
Simply put, because I would love to hear thoughts about this. Is this so, in your opinion, if so why, if not why not?

And what can another CCG "competitor" do, to the detail, to make a different kind of CCG that will have the following, or could have the following that Magic for example has?


Well Crack the Gathering started small and took off because of the new concept, but like all games it has become bogged down under rules and keywords and expansions. It was a pity that happened. I used to play this game alot back in the 3rd edition era,but then it turned into cold war build up and you have to keep buying expansions to keep up with the jones' so I quit and sold all the cards.

So that is what the problem I see with Magic. It expanded too fast and then the new rules or keywords were not playtested enough so when a card came out it was declared broken and therefore banned or restricted from tourney play and most if not all people I know who played causal used tourney rules.

Ok, the first few times I might understand ,but now with set after set coming out with their schedule they should slow down to stop the amount of cards that are immediately not worth the paper they are printed on.

I am afraid to see what will happen to my only CCG that I play now Vampire: The Eternal Struggle for they have sped up their release schedule as well therefore more cards might become banned, but then they only have 11 cards that are banned from tourney play since 1994.

The other idea I think that Magic can do is move away from dueling structure. I have read about other forms of the game like 2-headed giant, colour wheel, General with Lts. and I find them much better to play when I did play. I like the socializing with other people then just staring across the table to another person who hates you for ruining his perfect combo.
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didaskalos wrote:
j-train1 wrote:
I used to play this game alot back in the 3rd edition era,but then it turned into cold war build up and you have to keep buying expansions to keep up with the jones' so I quit and sold all the cards.

This is my problem with CCGs and even the new LCGs. I've recently thought about getting into A Game of Thrones LCG but noticed I'm already several packs behind. Therefore, do I buy all the packs or just start with a Core Set and whatever pack happens to be released next? Do older packs rotate out for tournament play?

I guess what I'd really like to see is a Core Set followed by a large yearly expansion, all cards remaining legal permanently. I'd gladly pay $50-$75 per year for a system like that.

Actually, I rather like having different limited formats. My personal preference would be to rotate which cards are legal on a monthly basis: that keeps anyone from getting too attached to a single deck, and it means that those cards you bought two years ago will probably rotate back in within the next six months. Having a playset of thousands of cards sounds like fun, but I find it seems static: you don't design new decks as often as you try to figure out if new cards will fit in your old decks.
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Quote:
but then they only have 11 cards that are banned from tourney play since 1994

And in Shadowfist ALL cards are tournament legal ... admittedly this has been achieved by being prepared to errata any broken cards that do get through playtesting. I think that less than a dozen cards have received errata for this reason.
Spending about 8 months on playtesting each set (and with lots of playtesters) helps also.
 
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j-train1 wrote:
Well Crack the Gathering started small and took off because of the new concept, but like all games it has become bogged down under rules and keywords and expansions. It was a pity that happened. I used to play this game alot back in the 3rd edition era,but then it turned into cold war build up and you have to keep buying expansions to keep up with the jones' so I quit and sold all the cards.


The idea behind constant format rotations is, aside from selling cards continuously, to make the game more accessible to new players. If you're just starting, you only need to buy and understand cards from the last two years to play in Standard. You can ignore all the older stuff until you decide to get into other formats. If there were no rotations, new players would never start because they'd need to understand scores of keywords on over ten thousand cards and have to compete against people with ridiculously broken decks depending on ten-year-old cards that will rightly never be reprinted.

They did acquire a lot of inelegant rules baggage in the early era, but cleaned the bulk of it up in the great Sixth Edition rules change of eight or nine years ago. Fundamental gameplay issues, such as the existence of land as opposed to the more elegant all-cards-can-be-used-as-resources of successor games, unfortunately can't be changed without invalidating huge swaths of the game's history.

j-train1 wrote:
So that is what the problem I see with Magic. It expanded too fast and then the new rules or keywords were not playtested enough so when a card came out it was declared broken and therefore banned or restricted from tourney play and most if not all people I know who played causal used tourney rules.


Wizards hasn't had to ban any new cards from Block or Standard since Mirrodin block, which was five years ago. They recently banned a few support cards from Extended, but less for power level concerns and more because they enabled some decks that were grossly unfun to play against and encouraged large amounts of shuffling, which slowed down tournament games so they were hitting time limits. In general, they do a fantastic job of maintaining a healthy play environment.

j-train1 wrote:
Ok, the first few times I might understand ,but now with set after set coming out with their schedule they should slow down to stop the amount of cards that are immediately not worth the paper they are printed on.


They actually have slowed down due to player complaints. Starting with the Alara block late last year, they've cut the total set size by about 20% compared to previous years, and are relying more on reprints rather than repeatedly reinventing the wheel for basic functionality.

j-train1 wrote:
I am afraid to see what will happen to my only CCG that I play now Vampire: The Eternal Struggle for they have sped up their release schedule as well therefore more cards might become banned, but then they only have 11 cards that are banned from tourney play since 1994.


The very low level of banned cards in VtES is because they're not shy about issuing functional errata that completely changes what cards do (such as Fame, which went from a benefit you want to play on your vampires to a detriment you want to play on your opponent's vampires). This is fine if you have a small, dedicated audience that tracks the game closely and is aware of these changes (as is the case with VtES). As much as I'd like them to do likewise with Magic cards that are problematic, I understand that they want cards to play as closely as possible to how they're written in order to minimize confusion amongst a much wider, less dedicated player base.

j-train1 wrote:
The other idea I think that Magic can do is move away from dueling structure. I have read about other forms of the game like 2-headed giant, colour wheel, General with Lts. and I find them much better to play when I did play. I like the socializing with other people then just staring across the table to another person who hates you for ruining his perfect combo.


I attribute large amounts of Magic's success precisely to the fact that it's a fast two-player game, and thus ideally suited to pick-up matches. VtES is a great game, but to enjoy it properly, you need five people and two hours, which greatly limits its general appeal. (In addition, it means you're competing against cheaper board games for the traditional hardcore board game crowd, as opposed to tapping into a more casual gamer market.) Multiplayer Magic may appeal more to the typical BGG crowd, but focusing on that would be a financial catastrophe for the game.
 
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Santiago wrote:

I attribute large amounts of Magic's success precisely to the fact that it's a fast two-player game, and thus ideally suited to pick-up matches. .......... Multiplayer Magic may appeal more to the typical BGG crowd, but focusing on that would be a financial catastrophe for the game.


A fast 2 player game is just that. I would something with more meat to it that lasts more then 3 turns and you lose. The only other CCG game I know that took even less time to play at times was Yu-gi-Oh,but then that was aimed at the 8-12 years old. So it isn't a surprise that those same kids moved to magic for a quick fix.

I just would like to see more to a strategy then I play card A along with card B and win by turn 3 for I read about the infinity combos in Magic. That to me isn't a fun game.

Yes, I agree that changing to a Multiplayer aspect would cause Wizards to go under ,but could they at least start to make some effort to support that kind of tourney to make players think in more then the "3 card I win" strategy.
 
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j-train1 wrote:
Santiago wrote:

I attribute large amounts of Magic's success precisely to the fact that it's a fast two-player game, and thus ideally suited to pick-up matches. .......... Multiplayer Magic may appeal more to the typical BGG crowd, but focusing on that would be a financial catastrophe for the game.


A fast 2 player game is just that. I would something with more meat to it that lasts more then 3 turns and you lose. The only other CCG game I know that took even less time to play at times was Yu-gi-Oh,but then that was aimed at the 8-12 years old. So it isn't a surprise that those same kids moved to magic for a quick fix.

I just would like to see more to a strategy then I play card A along with card B and win by turn 3 for I read about the infinity combos in Magic. That to me isn't a fun game.

Yes, I agree that changing to a Multiplayer aspect would cause Wizards to go under ,but could they at least start to make some effort to support that kind of tourney to make players think in more then the "3 card I win" strategy.


Most tournaments I've been to have supported the Two-Headed Giant format (four players on two teams, if the name isn't transparent enough). And they've been printing cards recently that are okay in regular play but are best in multiplayer. I think they're coming around.
 
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[rambling]

Magic will not be overcome unless an up-and-coming CCG hybrid "goes one better". The perfect CCG with broad appeal would at least need the following qualities:

- allow two-player or multi-player
- reward careful deckbuilding
- allow for a win against Mr. Suitcase
- have some collectible features
- put you in the moment, via a storyline
- multiple winning conditions

The expansion dynamic is especially problematic:
- expansions must add something to the game that makes it feel more complete than before (similar to when new novels are added to a series which respectfully elaborate on what's come before and don't end on a cliffhanger)
- avoid overpowering/outdating the cards from previous releases
- not overburden or complicate the game with lots of additional rules

Sounds great from players' perspective, but an obvious problem for the designer is, who would willingly spend $ to collect all cards and become Mr Suitcase under these conditions, for so little gameplay reward?

I think the only answer is to create a universe its players will be so totally in love with, they want to carry on to explore the next phase of its evolution (e.g. the expansion itself tells the next chapter of an ongoing story, and perhaps you need all cards in that expansion to fully 'read' it, or at least to fully 'get' it; or even better, it comes to light only through the gameplay where at least one player is Mr. Suitcase). Hmm, is there a CCG based on the Lost television series?.

But this requirement means you can't actually use a known property (e.g. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lost, etc.) since those phases are already being explored through another medium. You don't need the Star Wars CCG to find out what happens to Anakin. The card game's world must be primarily explored through the card game's medium. That's a nearly impossible challenge to hook and garner a dedicated audience into. How do you make them care? You can't build characterization like a book, or throw SF at them like the movies. How do you tell a compelling story in a CCG? And how do you guarantee it's compelling?

Magic being the first CCG, it used its establishment of the model as its hook. It hasn't done much (anything?) in terms of building an engaging storyline to go with it (relying more on the weight of its existing popularity and hitting enough of the other points above) which is perhaps its primary weakness that the next-big-thing CCG can exploit. If Magic's next expansion doesn't relate through its cards the next chapter in an exciting storyline, but the other CCG does ...

[/rambling]
 
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Cecrow wrote:
I think the only answer is to create a universe its players will be so totally in love with, they want to carry on to explore the next phase of its evolution (e.g. the expansion itself tells the next chapter of an ongoing story, and perhaps you need all cards in that expansion to fully 'read' it, or at least to fully 'get' it; or even better, it comes to light only through the gameplay where at least one player is Mr. Suitcase). Hmm, is there a CCG based on the Lost television series?.


The problem with such an approach is that it's a recipe for turning yourself into a niche market over time. If your game tells an ongoing story, then that ongoing story becomes a prerequisite for enjoying the game. Eventually, you have a set of die-hard fans that buy everything you put out, and no one else can be bothered to catch up on the years of backstory. This is not to say that it's not a reasonable business model, but it greatly reduces the appeal of your product to potential new buyers. (In a similar situation, see the massive heaps of metaplot that had accumulated towards the end of the original World of Darkness in White Wolf's RPGs.)

Wizards themselves experimented with ongoing story with the crew of the Weatherlight for a few years, then eventually dropped it in favor of rotating settings with implied story and tie-in novels for those who cared. Of late, they've even cut back on the number of tie-in novels. I'd argue that shallow but rich flavor, as Wizards does with each year's new setting, is the way to go if you want sustained success, in that it allows immersiveness without the burden of history.

Furthermore, there's the issue of story-centric games and how that story fits in with the game. If Lord Battlewar is supposed to overcome the ravening hordes of goblins in the story, how do I reconcile that with Lord Battlewar getting killed by a Goblin Warrior with a Bear's Strength on it in two of my last three games? Alternate history? Does it really feel like I'm telling a story, or just pushing around numbers with some labels that happen to match some story somebody else is telling?

And, there's the constraints placed on the story by the game. You can't kill off any important faction in the story, because then all the players with that faction in their decks will be annoyed when you stop printing cards for them. Thus, such setting-driven stories tend to go nowhere and feature an ever-accumulating cast of diverse factions that stalemate each other indefinitely, which doesn't make for the most compelling of stories, even if you can remember why the Moon Clan hates the Sun Clan due to the Skywar in the Way of the Stars expansion.

The fact is that what most people want is a quick game with cool pictures on the cards, and that's what you'll make the most money selling.
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