Collectible card game
||This article may contain original research. (January 2009)|
A collectible card game (CCG), also called a trading card game (TCG) or customizable card game, is a game played using specially designed sets of playing cards. While trading cards have been around for longer, CCGs combine the appeal of collecting with strategic gameplay.
Each CCG system has a fundamental set of rules that describes the players' objectives, the categories of cards used in the game, and the basic rules by which the cards interact. Each card will have additional text explaining that specific card's effect on the game. They also generally represent some specific element derived from the game's genre, setting, or source material. The cards are illustrated and named for these source elements, and the card's game function may relate to the subject. For example, Magic: The Gathering is based on the fantasy genre, so many of the cards represent creatures and magical spells from that setting. In the game, a dragon is illustrated as a reptilian beast, may have the flying ability, and has formidable game statistics compared to smaller creatures.
The bulk of CCGs are designed around a resource system by which the pace of each game is controlled. Frequently, the cards which constitute a player's deck are considered a resource, with the frequency of cards moving from the deck to the play area or player's hand being tightly controlled. Relative card strength is often balanced by the number or type of basic resources needed in order to play the card, and pacing after that may be determined by the flow of cards moving in and out of play. Resources may be specific cards themselves, or represented by other means (e.g., tokens in various resource pools, symbols on cards, etc.).
Players select which cards will compose their deck from the available pool of cards; unlike traditional card games such as poker or crazy eights where the deck's content is limited and pre-determined. This allows a CCG player to strategically customize their deck to take advantage of favorable card interactions, combinations and statistics. While a player's deck can theoretically be of any size, a deck of approximately sixty cards is considered the optimal size, for reasons of playability, and has been adopted by most CCGs as an arbitrary 'standard' deck size.
Some games, such as Magic: the Gathering, limit how many copies of a particular card can be included in a deck; such limits force players to think creatively when choosing cards and deciding on a playing strategy.
During a game, players usually take turns playing cards and performing game-related actions. The order and titles of these steps vary between different game systems, but the following are typical:
- untap step— Make all in-play cards ready for the upcoming turn.
- Draw card(s) - Necessary in order to circulate cards in players' hands.
- 1st main phase - Use the cards in hand to interact with the game.
- combat phase— The primary method for victory in most games (combat is a very popular theme).
∘ 2nd main phase:Use the cards in hand to interact with the game.
- Discard card(s) - Discard to a maximum hand size.
- Field card(s) - May prove to be positive or negative effects for players.
Internet play 
In addition to actual physical card games, collectible card games have also been developed that are played over the Internet and LAN lines. Instead of receiving physical cards, a player establishes a virtual collection that exists only as a set of data stored on a server. Such cards can be purchased (using real money) or traded within this environment. Titles include online versions of games that originated as physical CCGs (e.g., Magic: The Gathering Online), as well as games that exist solely online (e.g., Draconian Wars: Hyperborea Edition and Sword Girls Online). The first online CCGs were Sanctum and Chron X, both developed in 1997. Sanctum was taken offline in 2010, though it may return on a new server; Chron X still exists, producing new expansions over a decade later. Chron X was developed by Genetic Anomalies, Inc, which later developed other online collectible card-style games based on licensed content.
In some cases, new elements are added to the CCG — the online card games Sanctum and Star Chamber include game boards as well as animations and sound effects for some of their cards. The NOKs, on the other hand, offer talking figures and action-arcade game play. In a different case, The Eye of Judgement, a CCG that has been combined with a PlayStation 3 game, bringing innovation with the CyberCode matrix technology. It allows real cards bought in stores to be scanned with the PlayStation Eye and brought into the game with 3D creatures, animations, spell animations, etc. as representations. In a similar fashion, Chaotic, Bella Sara, and MapleStory allow online players to enter a unique alpha-numeric code found on each physical card. These codes allow access to online cards or other online features.
A related concept is that of software programs which allow players to play CCGs over the Internet, but without relying on a central server or database. When utilizing such software, players don't need to purchase any (real or virtual) cards, and are instead free to create any deck they like using the cards supported by the client software. In some cases, these programs have limited rule enforcement engines, while others rely completely on players to interpret the complex interactions between the cards. Some of these software packages actually support the play of more than one virtual card game; for example, Magic Workstation was originally designed to play Magic, but can technically support additional games as well.
The systems for online play that support the greatest variety of games are LackeyCCG and Gccg. Offerings include many copyrighted games whose manufacturers are no longer publishing the game, most notably Decipher's Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Precedence’s Babylon 5 Collectible Card Game.
In addition, there are several small, online TCGs run completely free by the card game creators and volunteer staff. These games at their most basic include a number of decks created for members to collect and trade. These cards are earned through games and contests at the TCG, collecting all cards in a deck (mastering), or completing a certain number of trades. Members typically visit each other's websites where they house their card collections, and propose trades to each other through forums or e-mail.
Specific game cards are most often produced in various degrees of scarcity, generally denoted as common (C), uncommon (U), and rare (R). Some games use alternate or additional designations for the relative rarity levels, such as super-, ultra-, mythic- or exclusive rares. Special cards may also only be available through promotions, events, purchase of related material, or redemption programs. The idea of rarity borrows somewhat from other types of collectible cards, such as baseball cards, but in CCGs, the level of rarity also denotes the significance of a card's effect in the game, i.e., in general the more powerful a card is in terms of the game, the greater its rarity. A powerful card whose effects were underestimated by the game's designers may increase in rarity due to those effects; in later editions of the game, such a card's level of rarity might increase to reduce its availability to players. Such a card might even be removed entirely from the next edition, to further limit its availability and its effect on gameplay.
Most collectible card games are distributed as sealed packs containing a subset of the available cards, much like trading cards. Some of the most common distribution methods are:
- Starter set — This is an introductory product which contains enough cards for two players and includes instructional information on playing the game. In order to speed the learning process, the card content is typically fixed and designed around a theme, so that the new players can start playing right away.
- Tournament or starter deck - This contains enough game cards (usually 40 or more) for one player. It usually contains a random selection of cards, but with some basic elements so that it may be playable from the start.
- Theme deck — Most CCGs are designed with opposing factions, themes, or strategies. A theme deck is composed primarily of cards that will work well together and is typically non-random.
- Booster packs — This method of distribution is most similar to trading cards as the packs contain a random selection of roughly 4 to 15 cards.
A patent was granted to Wizards of the Coast in 1997 for "a novel method of game play and game components that in one embodiment are in the form of trading cards" that includes claims covering games whose rules include many of Magic's elements in combination, including concepts such as changing orientation of a game component to indicate use (referred to in the Magic and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle rules as "tapping") and constructing a deck by selecting cards from a larger pool. The patent has aroused criticism from some observers, who believe some of its claims to be invalid.
In 2003, the patent was an element of a larger legal dispute between Wizards of the Coast and Nintendo, regarding trade secrets related to Nintendo's Pokémon Trading Card Game. The legal action was settled out of court, and its terms were not disclosed.
See also