Friday, October 21, 2011

Living Card Games

Instead of a particular game, I'll go through a game concept this time. One of the newer innovations of Fantasy Flight Games is the Living Card Game concept. The LCG is a twist in the usual collectible card game concept: instead of selling cards in random content packs, LCG cards come in fixed packages. Usually there's a starter set with all the mandatory cards, tokens etc that are always needed, and some starter decks to get players going. A typical pack includes as many copies of each card as is the number of copies allowed in one deck. Basically it throws out the collectible nature of CCGs and replaces it with traditional style (mini) expansions.

Since I'm not a big fan of CCGs anymore, I find the LCG to be an excellent alternative. There is no card rarity, which means the price of cards will remain low. Since players know what cards will be in a particular pack of cards, they can only buy the ones that have useful cards. The concept allows anyone to create whatever deck they desire without dishing out enormous amounts of money for rare cards. This makes deck-building much smoother as there is no longer a need to agonize over not being able to use a card because it's too hard to get. While players will still spend quite a lot of money if they want to build really good decks, no money ever goes to waste, and there is always a clear upper limit. Once a player possesses all the expansions, there's no need to buy more.

Since it's a deck construction game, useless cards will still pile up. The downside is of course that since the same cards are easily available for anyone, there is not much of a trading element, which means players are stuck with the cards they don't need. I guess some trading is possible between players of different decks, as no one's going to need all the cards from a given pack. Unless making multiple decks of course. Another downside of the format is that there are less different cards than in collectible card games. Because every pack is guaranteed to have exactly the same cards, and multiple copies of each, the number of different cards per pack is quite small. While the developers could push out packs more quickly, there will be a saturation point.

Overall, I think the LCG is a smart design. It appeals to the board gaming audience much more than CCGs do, but nevertheless it retains the fun of deck-building and endless customization. While the card sets are quite small at first, they'll expand over time. It's also important that there is a basic set that on its own provides a fun gameplay experience, for gamers who don't want to bother with deck construction but like the mechanics of the game. It's also good that it's easier for players to control how much money they're spending for the game. This appeals to people who find the CCG business model distasteful.

I started out with this concept post so I can more easily discuss my current favorite LCG next time...

No comments:

Post a Comment