In the wild west of the ’90s, dozens upon dozens of collectible trading-card games sprung up in the wake of Magic: The Gathering’s success. Most of those are long gone now, having failed to convince gamers that buying expensive booster packs is a wise use of time, money, and effort. Today, the best gaming publishers are trying a different tactic. How about a card game that has the strategic depth of Magic, without the enormous investment?
Enter Living Card Games (LCGs), or Two-Player Card Games (2PCGs). They’re the same thing, but Fantasy Flight Games has a trademark on the former. With 2PCGs, you can buy a single boxed set and play with two players immediately. Purchasing a couple copies of the boxed set will give you the maximum number of cards in the set. Players don’t need to buy anything until an expansion comes out, and you can either play the pre-built decks out of the box, or design your own decks.
Just because this is collectible gaming on the budget, you don’t get short shrift with licenses, card design, art, or any of that stuff. These are fantastic, well designed games that happen to be complete with a couple purchases. Fans of any of the selections in my previous article on Deck-building Games could easily jump across and try any of these.
Star Wars: The Card Game (Fantasy Flight Games)
We’re right in the midst of Star Wars mania, and what better way to celebrate than to try the official Star Wars: The Card Game? Long-time gamers will recognize this as the latest of many different Star Wars card games, but Fantasy Flight is very good at what they do, and this is a fast, fun take on a terrific license.
The game is split down the middle between Dark Side and Light Side, and on each side is a variety of factions that span the Star Wars universe: the Rebel Alliance, the Jedi, and Smugglers & Spies on the Light Side; and the Imperial Navy, the Sith, and Scum & Villainy on the Dark Side.
Decks must be built with a number of Objective cards, which represent the goals of the deck. Each objective requires five fixed cards, called an Objective Set, which go into your Command Deck. Among these fixed cards include Unit cards, which represent characters and ships; Enhancement cards, which include equipment, skills, locations and upgrades, and Event cards, that resemble epic situations or highlights of the game. Finally, there are Fate cards, which offer plot twists and unexpected surprises.
Gameplay goes like this. Each player draws four Objective cards and chooses three, then draws six cards from the Command Deck. These objectives provide the initial resources of the game used to play Unit and Enhancement cards, which are then used to battle the opponent.
The win conditions are a bit asymmetrical, as the Light Side has to destroy three Dark Side objectives to win the game, but a special Death Star timer counts up turns toward a Dark Side victory if the Light Side can’t get it together in time.
There have been several expansions released for the game thus far. If you’re wondering, there isn’t a The Force Awakens expansion yet. But the Kylo Ren playmat coming soon implies that there will be.
Doomtown: Reloaded (Alderac Entertainment)
Doomtown is one of those aforementioned trading-card games that was once sold in random booster packs and booster boxes, just like Magic: The Gathering. It went dormant for a while, and has just recently resurfaced as a 2PCG with streamlined rules and all-new card sets.
Doomtown: Reloaded is a supernatural western themed game with a strong poker component. The game is won when one player has more of one resource, called Control, than the other player has the other resource, called Influence. Control is gained through owning properties and influence is gained by having “dudes” or characters in play.
The four main outfits in the base game are The Law Dogs, who represent the sheriffs; The Sloane Gang, a group of outlaws; The Morgan Cattle Company, representing the businesses, and The Fourth Ring, a strange and creepy circus.
Players start with an Outfit card that represents the home for the particular affiliation you’ve chosen. This card sets up the rules for you, including a special ability unique to your gang, how much money you can spend on starting dudes, and how much money you generate each turn.
Then, a player plays Deeds, Dudes, Goods, Spells, and Actions and attempts to win shootouts with the opponent, which are resolved like poker hands. Every card has a poker suit and rank, so when you’re finished with the preconstructed decks and want to try out deck-building, poker is definitely something to have in mind.
Epic Card Game (White Wizard Games)
The most Magic-esque game on our list, Epic Card Game is a fast fantasy-themed battle game from the makers of Star Realms. Epic takes the streamlined approach of a digital-only game like Hearthstone and translates it into a paper game.
The rules are deceptively simple. There are only two card types: Events and Champions. Champions represent heroes and monsters that the player has chosen to fight on his side, and events represents the flow of battle. Players start with 30 health. Each player generates 1 gold on their turn, then they draw a card (except for the first turn), then play cards from their hand. Some cards are free, and some cost the 1 gold for the turn. A player can also activate special powers from champions in play, and there are also a few specific times where a player can play events on the opponent’s turn.
Then, the battle begins, and attacking champions deal damage to defending champions or to the player, depending on whether the attack is blocked. The last player standing wins. The interesting thing about this game is that it can be played with random decks, or can be tuned in a constructed deck fashion. Either way, it’s an epic battle every time.
What are some of your favorite collectible card games? Let us know in the section below!
Image Credits: Star Wars Card Game/Fantasy Flight Games; Doomtown: Reloaded/Alderac; Epic Card Game/White Wizard Games
Feature Image Credit: Epic Card Game/White Wizard Games