Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday Ten: CCGs That Didn't Make it

When most people think of Collectible Card Games (CCGs), they immediately think of Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon or maybe some of the more niche games, such as Legend of the Five Rings or the Universal Fighting System. Hundreds of CCGs have been published since the early 90's, and hundreds have died off. Today I'll highlight some of those CCGs that for one reason or another, just didn't have much staying power.

10) Ani-Mayhem (1996) - 3 Sets

The first anime-based CCG in the wake of Magic's release, Ani-Mayhem mixed Tenchi Muyo, Bubblegum Crisis, Oh! My Goddess, Ranma 1/2 and even an entire expansion devoted to Dragonball Z, all in one very large, very complicated play area. Ani-Mayhem involved playing locations from your deck to create the gameboard, then disasters that would help or hinder your team of characters. The complicated rules wound up dooming Ani-Mayhem, but it led the way with regards to mixing different licensed properties into one game. 

Ani-Mayhem also coincided with Toonami taking off, which introduced a whole generation of Americans to anime for the first time. That was where I first started watching Gundam Wing....and G Gundam....but at least Wing is awesome! 

9) Tomb Raider (1999) - 3 Sets + Quest Decks 

Take a quick guess why this game found a successful niche upon first release. Go ahead. I'll wait. 

Boobs. The answer is boobs. 

Well, that's not entirely true, sure an entire game highlighting Lara Croft in things like her....Oceanographer outfit....was a way to get noticed, but amazingly, the Tomb Raider CCG had some really cool gameplay. In order to emulate the feeling of exploring a lost temple, or a forgotten palace, you would place down location cards and then move your character through the ever-expanding tomb. At the same time, your opponent is doing the same thing, and there were ways to make things worse for your opponent so that you'd be the Raider to win the race to the artifact. 

With 3 major sets (Base Game, Slippery When Wet and Big Guns) and then a whole series of separate Quest decks that were ideal for solo play, the Tomb Raider CCG performed well,, just as an actual game. Rules for interacting with opponents were slim, and never really amounted to much, but as a game to play by yourself? Tomb Raider is still one of the best solo-play card games. 

I think there's a joke to be made about the best way to enjoy Lara Croft is by enjoying yourself, but I'm too classy to make it. 

8) Dr. Who (1996) - 1 Base Set

Unlike the previous two games, I never played the Dr. Who CCG. I did not become a fan until after....there was this one episode....I can't remember it for some reason. I even watched "Secret Diaries of a Call Girl" without realizing Billie Piper's pedigree of "most useless companion". The Dr. Who CCG was published in 1996, which makes it just under a decade from the Dr. Who revival taking off, and to say this was a blatant cash-grab during the initial CCG goldrush would be an understatement. 

The game is widely credited as being one of the worst CCGs of all time with rules that make no sense. For example, when attacking, the attacker can pick the defender's character to block or the defender can choose a block if the attacker declines. That's very gentlemanly but also very stupid. 
While I try very hard to be positive and upbeat, the 1996 Dr. Who CCG has no redeeming value. Even the artwork is horrible! 

Just look away. The Dr. Who CCG can only cause you harm when you look at it. Which would make it the perfect thing for a Weeping Angel to be holding wouldn't it? You can't look at these horrible cards and the moment you turn away in disgust, you're dead. 

7) 7th Sea (1998) - 2 sets, many small expansions and fan-made sets

I absolutely love AEG's stable of CCGs that they published in the late 90's/early 2000's. 7th Sea is a masterclass in pairing game mechanics and theme into a cohesive whole. Each player starts with a captain, and a ship, as you can see from the pairings above. Moving around the table means moving from sea to sea, each of which has its own perils based off the cards you to play to mess with your opponent or bolster your own crew. Combat includes ship to ship bombardments and boarding actions, with different characters having different abilities for each set of combat. 

7th Sea got lost in the shuffle of AEG's other properties, a few which we'll get to after the page break. Just as with those other 'dead' CCGs from AEG, there is a HUGE fan following behind 7th Sea pumping out official fan sets to keep the game going. Check out the devotion over at

6) VS. System (2004) - 1 base set, 18 expansion sets

Can you tell already what makes the Vs. System CCG awesome? 

Why yes, Batman can punch out Mr. Fantastic. Expansions would alternate between Marvel and DC properties, reaching the point in 2008, the end of the original game, when expansions would include cards for X-Factor in Marvel and The Doom Patrol for DC. It's an insane cross-over of epic proportions with really good mechanics involving placing cards facedown to act your resources then to recruit heroes/villians and gadgets to your case.  After winning tons of awards at GenCon, Origins and even InQuest Gamer's Game of the Year (2005), Vs. System was killed by licensing agreements running out in...2008. Something major happened that year which altered all sorts of existing Marvel license deals, I think it was the realization of good movies being the greatest cash cow in the history of comics. 

The Vs, System is also a dead CCG, but a living card game at the moment. You no longer need to buy booster packs and the new system is a bit different from the original. Now you can buy two-player box sets based off of certain themes, like say Captain America: Civil War or A-Force, that are perfectly playable right out of the box. Alas, the DC license didn't make it back with the revival, so the original game is the only way to experience Superman losing to ADAM-X THE EXTREME 


5) Middle-Earth (1995-1999) 

A successful CCG that hopped onto the wave brought about by Magic, Middle-Earth was one of the most complicated CCGs of the time. Note that, with a lifespan of 1995-1999, this game pre-dates the Lord of the Rings movies. Based entirely on the books themselves, the Middle-Earth CCG has players taking on the role of different Istari to muster their forces to suppress the growing influence of the shadow of Mordor. Half your deck supports your own adventuring party as they go complete quests, and the other half is hazards to stop your opponent, with say, a giant spider. 

Despite the incredibly dense text on each and every card, Middle-Earth was a hit that only died because of the loss of the license. Middle-Earth lives on in the Lord of the Rings card game but we will never see a game so focused on the specifics of the world as Tolkein saw it himself.. If you can find a complete set on eBay, and you really like the books, give this game a shot. 

4) Mythos (1996 - 1998) - 3 Base sets, 3 expansions 

Quick! Guess what Mythos is based off of? 

The H.P. Lovecraft inspired card game casts players as investigators that had complete 'stories' without going completely insane. Winner of the 1996 Origins Award for Best New Card Game, Mythos is widely held as the best RPG to CCG, capturing the feel of a game of Call of Cthulu in a format designed for shorter sessions then your usual tabletop RPG but retaining the same feel of exploration, horror and inability to stand against the unknown horrors in the darkness. 

The third base set, Dreamlands, introduced a whole new dimension to make investigators go mad, while the final set, New Aeons, updated the setting for the mid-90's X-Files crowd. These days you can't throw a rock without finding a card game based off of the Cthulu mythos thanks to all of Lovecraft's work entering the public domain. The original Mythos CCG stands out as the first attempt at capturing existential, unexplained dread in the form a card game. 

The Mythos CCG was also the first time I learned about the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Flashforward today, and every book my library has on or by Lovecraft is checked out in my name. 

3) Legend of the Burning Sands (1998) - 1 base set, 3 expansions

Set in the same world as Legend of the Five Rings and with a similar playstyle, Legend of the Burning Sands is all about control of the water in a fantasy middle east. Playing as factions that range from assassins, Indian traders, nomads, djinns and the Roman Legion, There was a day/night cycle with different cards being only usable during the day or after the sun came down and desert heat went with it. One of the coolest parts of Legend of the Burning Sands was that your stater box was also your faction's stronghold. On the backside of the start box was the printed rules and artwork for the stronghold. Legend of the Burning Sands did not catch on as Legend of the Five Rings did, with the samurai CCG pre-dating and outlasting it's Arabic countrpart. 

While the CCG may not have last long, AEG also published a tabletop roleplaying game version of Legend of the Burning Sands as an expansion to their Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game. The Legend of the Burning Sands RPG was printed in 2008 and is still receiving fan-made updates to this day. 

2) WWE Raw Deal (2000 - 2008) - 3 base sets, 17 expansions

This game was great! 

It combined my love of CCGs with my love of wrestling with mechanics that tried to capture the feel of an actual match. There was a 10 card deck for "pre-match" cards, then your deck during the game doubled as your life counter. As you did damage, you took cards from the top of your opponents deck and your resource cards to were your own damage dealing cards. The damage you did was equal to the fortitude granted by the card. Decks were filled with reversals, special actions that represented say, a manager tripping your opponent,etc. You'd have one Superstar card representing your wrestler, as you can on Regal's finisher, there's an emblem so that only he can use that card. 

I still have some of my Raw Deal cards in a binder. I love my foil Los Guerreros tag team card, and Taijari, his ability is that all kicks do +1 damage. Which makes sense. Eddie's ability was that his first high-risk move each turn could not be reversed.  

Raw Deal has lived on in the form of "Virtual Sets" created by the rabid fan base for the game. They even have had world championships each year since the game officially ended production. That's dedication, and now I know I have to hunt down some of the new cards. 

1) Warlord: Saga of the Storm 

If I could bring one game back to life, it would be Warlord: Saga of the Storm. 

This game was AMAZING. You'd start with your warlord, then two level 2 characters in your 2nd row, then 3 level 1 characters in your first row. Just saying that, you see where this game is going don't you? When using spells or equipping items, you have to add the row your character is in to ther e level. So Slayer there, in row 3, could cast up to 8th level spells. Oh, and that attack of +3 looks a little weird huh?That's +3 to the value rolled on your d20. 

Warlord: Saga of the Storm was played WITH A 20 SIDED DIE. 

6 separate factions, all with their own strategies and each with a warlord that specialized in something, as each character had a class. Slayer is a Wizard, so he can use items and actions for wizards. Some characters had multiple classes, some had none. One faction, Mercenaries, could be used in every deck otherwise you were limited to characters just from your own faction. 

I could go on and on about this game. My wife STILL has her Toth (Wizard from the Nothrogg faction....think Orks but make them military geniuses) deck to this day, hoping that maybe, just maybe, Warlord will return. 

Excuse me while I go pour one out for my homie. 

No comments:

Post a Comment