Trading Card Games For Dummies

Trading Card Games For Dummies
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Trading Card
by John Kaufeld and Jeremy Smith
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Trading Card
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Trading Card
by John Kaufeld and Jeremy Smith
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Trading Card Games For Dummies®
Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
Copyright © 2006 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published simultaneously in Canada
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written
permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the
Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 646-8600.
Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Legal Department, Wiley Publishing,
Inc., 10475 Crosspoint Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46256, (317) 572-3447, fax (317) 572-4355, or online at
Trademarks: Wiley, the Wiley Publishing logo, For Dummies, the Dummies Man logo, A Reference for the
Rest of Us!, The Dummies Way, Dummies Daily, The Fun and Easy Way,, and related trade
dress are trademarks or registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United
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mentioned in this book.
For general information on our other products and services, please contact our Customer Care
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2005927726
ISBN-13: 978-0-471-75416-9
ISBN-10: 0-471-75416-1
Manufactured in the United States of America
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About the Authors
John Kaufeld has been running independent game stores since 1998. He is an
officer of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA,, a
national trade group for manufacturers, designers, distributors, and retailers
of everything in the “adventure games” product category. He currently works
with GAMA as the Press Liaison for the Origins International Game Expo
( John Kaufeld has also written numerous books
in the For Dummies series.
Jeremy Smith is an associate editor at InQuest Gamer magazine, one of the
premier publications in the hobby gaming industry. He has written for the
magazine since 1996 and has been on its staff since 2001, when he moved
from Rhode Island to New York to take on the immense task of playing games
for a living. His chief task of compiling and editing the magazine’s price guide
harkens back to his card-trading days at the University of Rochester in
upstate New York, where he’d spend a weekend turning a handful of junk
rares into a new car. Or something close to that, anyway.
The writing part probably sprung out of his lifelong love for words, starting
back in Minnesota from age two, reading words off the TV while watching The
Electric Company. This continued later on when he represented Rhode Island
at the National Spelling Bee in 1987 and 1988 and then worked as an editor for
the university newspaper in Rochester.
Jeremy’s previous interests in playing Dungeons & Dragons and collecting
sports cards (go Red Sox and Patriots!) during the ’80s and early ’90s led to
his entry into the trading card game arena, starting when he bought his first
packs of Magic: The Gathering back in 1994 and told the dealer, “Hi! I’d like to
pick up a new addiction!” How prophetic, indeed.
In addition to his daily routine of charting card prices, building decks, and
occasionally getting some real work done at InQuest Gamer, Jeremy also
moonlights as a certified judge for Wizards of the Coast’s sanctioned Magic
tournament program. This has given him experience in everything from running a tournament of more than 100 players by himself to training and mentoring new judges to making darned sure that the players all have a good
time and come back for more. It has also taken him to exciting places like
Amsterdam, New Orleans, and Kansas City to judge at major tournaments.
Well, at least Kansas City had some great steaks.
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John Kaufeld: To Jenny, because I loved you the first moment we met, and
every day is like meeting again.
To Critter, Pooz, and The Mighty S-PAL (Sir Poops-a-Lot), for the smiles, the
hugs, and the loving way you say “Daddy, is the book done yet?”
To my friends and compatriots at John Wiley and Sons, for the opportunity of
a lifetime.
Thank you, one and all.
Jeremy Smith: To my parents, Marilyn and Michael Smith, and my grandparents, Helen and Julius Langman and Edith and Jack Smith, for all of their love
and support, especially while seeing me turn a hobby that often took up way
too much time into a great gig at InQuest Gamer and now into this fine For
Dummies venture. Also, to my brothers, Adam and Joel, for always being
there to sit down and play games with, and for putting up with me for, well,
ever. Oh yeah, and that love and support thing too. And finally, to my great
little nephew, Matthew, because he’s amazing!
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Authors’ Acknowledgments
John Kaufeld: My humble and sincere thanks go to Acquisitions Editor
Melody Layne (and Andy Cummings, “the boss”) for giving me a new book
when they probably should have run screaming from the building. Major
kudos also go to Paul Levesque, the book’s Project Editor, for enduring the
task set before him (namely, working with me).
Thank yous also go out to Andy Hollandbeck and Anthony Gallela, Copy
Editor and Technical Editor, respectively. Without them, this book would look
like . . . well . . . never mind what it would’ve looked like. Some things are
better left unknown.
Jeremy Smith: Countless people have contributed to my experiences in the
gaming world over the years, and a few merit special acknowledgement. First,
to Richard Garfield and Peter Adkison, for bringing such an amazing game
genre to life and turning it into a worldwide phenomenon. Without you guys,
this book simply wouldn’t exist. And neither would the old-school trading
card game for which I’ll always have a soft spot, Netrunner.
Many thanks are also in order to InQuest Gamer magazine and Wizard
Entertainment for giving me the opportunity to actually make a living and
feed my gaming obsession all at the same time. Special props to Mike Searle,
Brent Fishbaugh, Thorin McGee, and Matt Cabral for working with me every
day and for, ahem, discussing everything from the best Magic card of all time
to the most fetching leading lady in gaming.
On the organized play side, thanks to all the judges and staff in the Wizards of
the Coast DCI judge program, especially Andy Heckt, John Carter, and
Sheldon Menery, for their tireless work in helping me and tons of other
judges progress as ambassadors for Magic and the gaming world.
Finally, a big thank you to everyone at Wiley Publishing, especially Melody
Layne, for giving me the opportunity to work on this book and for seeing me
through the whole process, and Paul Levesque and Andy Hollandbeck, for
their editing help and insights.
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Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form
located at
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and
Media Development
Composition Services
Senior Project Editor: Paul Levesque
Acquisitions Editor: Melody Layne
Copy Editor: Andy Hollandbeck
Project Coordinator: Maridee Ennis
Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers,
Joyce Haughey, Barbara Moore
Technical Editor: Anthony Gallela
Proofreaders: Leeann Harney, Jessica Kramer,
Dwight Ramsey
Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron
Indexer: TECHBOOKS Production Services
Media Development Manager:
Laura VanWinkle
Media Development Supervisor:
Richard Graves
Editorial Assistant: Amanda Foxworth
Cartoons: Rich Tennant
Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies
Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher
Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher
Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director
Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director
Publishing for Consumer Dummies
Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher
Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director
Composition Services
Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services
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Contents at a Glance
Introduction .................................................................1
Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing
You’ve Played Before ....................................................9
Chapter 1: Mixing Chess, Baseball Cards, and Green Army Men ...............................11
Chapter 2: Looking under the Hood: What Makes Collectible Games Tick?.............21
Chapter 3: Getting into the Right Game for You ...........................................................33
Part II: Introducing the Big Six....................................39
Chapter 4: Beginning Where It All Started — with Magic: The Gathering.................41
Chapter 5: Battling for Superhero Supremacy with the Vs. System...........................63
Chapter 6: Thrills, Skills, and Strategy for Everybody with Pokémon ......................81
Chapter 7: Defending Your Honor in Legend of the Five Rings ..................................99
Chapter 8: Dueling with Monsters and Magic in Yu-Gi-Oh! .......................................123
Chapter 9: Fighting for Truth, Justice, and
Superhero Supremacy with HeroClix ........................................................................141
Part III: Shuffling through the Rest of the Decks.........155
Chapter 10: Bringing Comic Books, Manga, and Anime to Life ................................157
Chapter 11: Playing TV Shows and Movies on Your Tabletop..................................171
Chapter 12: Living Your Dreams in Fantasy and Science Fiction Games ................183
Chapter 13: Exploring History and Literature with Cards and Dice ........................199
Chapter 14: Playing by Age: Games for Kids to Grown-ups ......................................211
Part IV: Diving Deeper into the Hobby........................221
Chapter 15: Rising Above the Tabletop in Paint and Plastic ....................................223
Chapter 16: Collecting, Trading, Storing, and Transporting Your Goodies ............243
Chapter 17: Challenging Your Skills in Tournaments.................................................255
Chapter 18: Turning Collectibles into Profitables with eBay....................................265
Chapter 19: Volunteering for Fun, Frolic, and Freebies .............................................279
Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................285
Chapter 20: Ten Tips for Buying, Selling, and Trading ..............................................287
Chapter 21: Ten Short Games to Play between Rounds ............................................299
Chapter 22: Ten Great Gifts for the Game Player You Adore ....................................315
Index .......................................................................327
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Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................1
About This Book...............................................................................................2
Conventions Used in This Book .....................................................................2
What You’re Not to Read.................................................................................3
Foolish Assumptions .......................................................................................3
How This Book Is Organized...........................................................................4
Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing You Played Before ....................4
Part II: Introducing the Big Six ..............................................................5
Part III: Shuffling through the Rest of the Decks ................................5
Part IV: Diving Deeper into the Hobby ................................................6
Part V: The Part of Tens.........................................................................6
Icons Used in This Book..................................................................................6
Where to Go from Here....................................................................................7
Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing
You’ve Played Before .....................................................9
Chapter 1: Mixing Chess, Baseball Cards, and Green Army Men . . .11
Imagine Playing Chess with a Rook, Two Queens,
Some Baseball Cards, and a Toy Tank .....................................................12
Meeting the Many Games That Await You ..................................................14
Shuffling through the Genre’s History and Highlights...............................16
Challenging Your Skills in Casual Play, Tournaments, and Tours ............18
Chapter 2: Looking under the Hood: What Makes
Collectible Games Tick? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
Recognizing the Basic Types of Cards.........................................................22
Making Sense of Base Sets and Expansions................................................24
Assembling, Sorting, and Enjoying Your Collection ..................................25
Analyzing Strengths, Weaknesses, Economy, and Combinations ............27
Getting in Touch with Your Inner Timmy, Johnny, and Spike...................29
Attack of the Killer Cheese Turtle: The Many Paths to a Win ..................30
Chapter 3: Getting into the Right Game for You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33
Starting with the Obvious Questions ..........................................................34
Getting Personal .............................................................................................35
Switching to a Brave New World ..................................................................37
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Part II: Introducing the Big Six ....................................39
Chapter 4: Beginning Where It All Started —
with Magic: The Gathering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41
The Magic Started Here.................................................................................42
Deciphering the Mysteries of the Cards......................................................42
Taking the Game for a Quick Spin ................................................................49
Looking through the Recent (And Not-So-Recent) Releases ....................52
Building a Strong Basic Deck ........................................................................57
Adding Combos for Power and Protection .................................................60
Resources for Expanding Your Skills ...........................................................61
Chapter 5: Battling for Superhero Supremacy
with the Vs. System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63
Bringing Comics to Cards..............................................................................64
Reading the Cards ..........................................................................................64
Characters: The heart and soul of Vs. ...............................................64
Equipment: The gear that shifts games.............................................67
Locations: Home-field advantage .......................................................68
Plot Twists: Retelling the story...........................................................69
Trying a Sample Game...................................................................................70
Building up your forces .......................................................................71
Duking it out..........................................................................................71
Healing up your team...........................................................................73
Strolling through the Stacks .........................................................................73
Building a Basic Deck ....................................................................................75
Mixing and Matching for Killer Decks..........................................................79
Chapter 6: Thrills, Skills, and Strategy
for Everybody with Pokémon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81
Once upon a Time, a Yellow Mouse Appeared on a TV Show . . . ............82
Sorting Out the Cards ....................................................................................83
The price of victory: Energy ...............................................................83
Your battling brigade: Pokémon .........................................................84
Tricks of the trade: Trainers ...............................................................86
It’s Not a Cartoon, but It Plays Like the One on TV ...................................87
Kicking off the game.............................................................................88
Bringing pokémon to life .....................................................................89
Time to battle!.......................................................................................90
Exploring the Many Pokémon Sets ..............................................................91
Assembling Your First Deck ..........................................................................94
Plugging into the Online Poké-munity .........................................................97
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Chapter 7: Defending Your Honor in Legend of the Five Rings . . . . . .99
Spinning a Legendary Story........................................................................100
Seeking an Understanding of the Cards ....................................................101
Strongholds: Home sweet home.......................................................102
Personalities: Your main forces ........................................................103
Holdings: The rich get richer ............................................................105
The fate deck: What’s happenin’ now! .............................................106
Witnessing a Most Honorable Challenge ..................................................110
Reviewing the Game’s Releases..................................................................113
Building a Basic Deck ..................................................................................114
The dynasty deck: Marshaling the troops ......................................115
The fate deck: Taking action .............................................................118
Exploring New Combinations of Strength and Defense...........................119
Connecting with Your Fellow Adherents...................................................121
Chapter 8: Dueling with Monsters and Magic in Yu-Gi-Oh! . . . . . . .123
Watching the Show, Learning the Game ....................................................124
Looking through the Cards .........................................................................124
Monsters: Your chief offense and defense ......................................124
Spells: The magic that makes you mightier ....................................127
Traps: Your sneaky surprises ...........................................................129
En Garde! Watching a Typical Duel ............................................................130
Sifting among Set after Set of Cards...........................................................132
Creating a Starting Deck..............................................................................134
Combining Cards for Better Wins ..............................................................137
Finding, Meeting, and Challenging Other Duelists...................................138
Chapter 9: Fighting for Truth, Justice, and
Superhero Supremacy with HeroClix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141
Bringing Superheroes to Life in 3-D ...........................................................142
Clicking through the Dial.............................................................................142
Replaying That Cool Battle in Issue #1......................................................145
Close combat actions: Duking it out ................................................146
Ranged combat actions: Ready, aim, fire!........................................147
The endgame: Victory and defeat ....................................................148
Finding Your Favorite Figures.....................................................................148
Marvel’s fantastic forces ...................................................................149
DC’s daring heroes and villains ........................................................150
Assembling a Basic Team............................................................................150
Mixing and Matching with Figures, Tokens, and Cards...........................152
Extra! Extra! Secret Superhero Lair Discovered! ......................................153
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Part III: Shuffling through the Rest of the Decks .........155
Chapter 10: Bringing Comic Books, Manga, and Anime to Life . . . .157
Case Closed...................................................................................................158
Digimon .........................................................................................................159
Dragon Booster ............................................................................................161
Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Z .............................................................163
Duel Masters .................................................................................................165
Fullmetal Alchemist .....................................................................................166
Inuyasha ........................................................................................................168
Chapter 11: Playing TV Shows and Movies on Your Tabletop . . . . . .171
Codename: Kids Next Door.........................................................................172
GI Joe .............................................................................................................173
Lord of the Rings ..........................................................................................174
MLB Showdown............................................................................................176
Star Wars .......................................................................................................177
Star Trek ........................................................................................................179
WWE Raw Deal..............................................................................................181
Chapter 12: Living Your Dreams in Fantasy
and Science Fiction Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .183
Clout Fantasy ................................................................................................184
Dark Millenium .............................................................................................186
Final Twilight ................................................................................................186
Hecatomb ......................................................................................................188
Horus Heresy ................................................................................................189
Neopets .........................................................................................................190
Spycraft .........................................................................................................192
Warlord: Saga of the Storm .........................................................................195
Chapter 13: Exploring History and Literature
with Cards and Dice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .199
Call of Cthulhu ..............................................................................................201
A Game of Thrones ......................................................................................204
Illuminati: New World Order (INWO).........................................................206
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (V:TES)......................................................208
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Chapter 14: Playing by Age: Games for Kids to Grown-ups . . . . . . . .211
Asking a Few Opening Questions ...............................................................212
Beginning with the Basics for Kids ............................................................213
Revving Up the Story for Tweens...............................................................214
Mixing Complexity and Depth (And Just Plain Fun)
for Teens and Adults ................................................................................216
Scaring Your Kids to Death (Or Not) .........................................................218
Part IV: Diving Deeper into the Hobby ........................221
Chapter 15: Rising Above the Tabletop in Paint and Plastic . . . . . . .223
A Miniature History .....................................................................................224
Elements of a Collectible Miniatures Game ..............................................224
Putting Your Team on a Board....................................................................226
Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures......................................................226
Star Wars Miniatures..........................................................................228
Navia Dratp .........................................................................................229
Lord of the Rings ................................................................................231
Playing on Any Handy Flat Surface ............................................................234
Mage Knight ........................................................................................234
MechWarrior .......................................................................................236
Sailing Your Fleet through Water and Space.............................................238
Pirates ..................................................................................................239
Chapter 16: Collecting, Trading, Storing,
and Transporting Your Goodies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .243
Playing with Possibilities by Collecting More Stuff .................................244
Swapping for the Things You Want or Need but Can’t Afford ................245
Face-to-face options ...........................................................................245
Going the online route .......................................................................246
Storing Your Cards in Sleeves, Binders, and Boxes .................................249
Deck protectors ..................................................................................250
Deck boxes ..........................................................................................250
Three-ring and specialty binders .....................................................251
Assembling Mobile Homes for the Miniatures in Your Life ....................252
Chapter 17: Challenging Your Skills in Tournaments . . . . . . . . . . . . .255
Playing at Home............................................................................................256
Starring in Local Events ..............................................................................256
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Playing by Style ............................................................................................260
Moving Up to Regionals and Nationals .....................................................261
Going Pro for Fame and Fortune ................................................................263
Chapter 18: Turning Collectibles into Profitables with eBay . . . . . .265
Picking, Pondering, and Pricing .................................................................266
Searching the system .........................................................................267
Crafting a title .....................................................................................269
Setting your price and auction length .............................................270
Grading and Describing Your Goods .........................................................272
Packing and Shipping for Safe Arrival .......................................................275
Chapter 19: Volunteering for Fun, Frolic, and Freebies . . . . . . . . . . .279
Describing the Ultimate Volunteer.............................................................280
Starting Locally, Finishing Globally............................................................281
Getting Involved at a New Level.................................................................283
Part V: The Part of Tens .............................................285
Chapter 20: Ten Tips for Buying, Selling, and Trading . . . . . . . . . . . .287
Keep Your Stuff Organized ..........................................................................288
Start Slowly and Carefully ...........................................................................289
Research What You Own and Want............................................................290
Check the Item’s Condition.........................................................................291
Decide What It’s Worth to You ...................................................................292
Don’t Impulsively Snag the First One You Find ........................................294
Patient Negotiation Makes Better Deals....................................................294
When You Find a Bargain, Jump on It ........................................................295
You Can Always Say No ...............................................................................297
Building Your Trading Assets .....................................................................298
Chapter 21: Ten Short Games to Play between Rounds . . . . . . . . . . .299
Bang!: Western Fun, Complete with Meatballs .........................................300
Category 5: Beware the Sixth Card in a Row ............................................301
Coloretto: Collecting Colors and Thinking Fast .......................................302
Continuo: Great for Younger Kids and Non-Gaming Friends ..................303
Easy Come, Easy Go: Sharpening Your Dice Probability Skills...............305
For Sale: A Real Estate Game with Attention Deficit Disorder ...............306
Fluxx 3.0: Because Pre-written Rules Limit Your Options.......................308
Light Speed: Flip, Place, Blast, and Repeat ...............................................309
Loco: Fun, Fast Strategy That Sharpens Your Mind.................................310
Set: An Erudite Pastime for the Thinking Player......................................312
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Chapter 22: Ten Great Gifts for the Game Player You Adore . . . . . . .315
Expanding the Collection with Booster Packs .........................................316
Adding More (And Cooler) Card Sleeves ..................................................317
Organizing the World with Pages and Binders .........................................318
Traveling with a Tournament Bag ..............................................................319
Building Storage Space with Boxes of All Kinds.......................................321
Counting Life, Actions, or Whatever with Tokens and Markers ............322
Rolling Along with New Dice.......................................................................323
Subscribing to a Favorite Game Magazine ...............................................323
Giving a Big Convention Trip......................................................................324
Giving a Gift Certificate Means Never Saying “You Don’t Play
That Game Anymore?” .............................................................................325
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Trading Card Games For Dummies
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Page 1
hen Magic: The Gathering first arrived on the market, nobody really
knew what to think. Up to that point, the roles of collector and player
seemed pretty well defined. Sports enthusiasts collected sports cards, game
lovers played card games (and lots of other games, too), and mildly eccentric
people like me collected games. People, businesses, and governments enjoyed
simple peace and prosperity. All seemed well and good with the world.
Magic changed all that. (To be fair, natural disasters and climate change
accounted for some things, but the Magic explosion covered most everything else.)
Overnight, thundering herds of Magic fans raced to their local game stores,
plunked down cash and credit cards, and bought every pack of cards they
could find. Nobody could get enough of the product — distributors and
stores sold out as soon as shipments arrived. That scarcity both created and
drove a huge secondary market for single cards from the game. People who
never sold a thing in their lives suddenly created healthy small businesses
by purchasing whole boxes of Magic packs, opening them, and reselling the
cards inside. One friend of mine made as much from selling Magic cards
during the game’s first year as he did in his full-time computer geek job.
What made this crazy game so special that it rocked an entire industry?
Two words cover most of the answer: collectability and customization.
Magic delivered a whole new type of game experience. By making the cards
collectible, players didn’t automatically own everything they needed. Powerful
cards rose in value, both in game play and in money. The customization aspects
put players completely in charge of their gaming worlds. Winning the game
meant a combination of collecting the right cards, assembling them into a
unique playing deck, sending that deck into battle, and then duking it out for
victory. Losing turned into a post-race tuning session where you analyzed
what worked and what didn’t and endlessly fiddled with your deck to prepare
it for next game.
Today, the trading card game market includes hundreds of games for all age
ranges and interests. Along the way, Magic inspired new types of games, like collectible miniatures games, collectible chip games, and constructible miniatures
games. It spawned tournaments and other competitions, and even full-fledged
professional tours.
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Page 2
Trading Card Games For Dummies
With so many products on the market and so many things happening in the
collectible game world, new players (and the people they know) often feel
overwhelmed at first. That’s where Trading Card Games For Dummies enters
the picture.
Think of Trading Card Games For Dummies as a cross between a tour guide,
a how-to book, and a treatise on the joys of playing games with your friends.
In one way or another, the book touches on all of these things and more, giving
you everything you need to know to start enjoying (or at least making sense of)
the wild world of collectible games.
About This Book
In its five parts, this book introduces the world of trading card games and collectible miniatures games, tours the most popular games on the market, and
explains the basic strategies for collectible games in general. It also gets into
the tournament, trading, and eBay sides of the trading card game industry
(each of which could almost support a book by themselves).
Trading Card Games For Dummies walks with you through this fun and crazy
landscape, helping you find your way, pointing out the pitfalls, and generally
injecting fun into the journey. After all, if games aren’t fun, then what’s the
point of playing?
Because players see trading card games and collectible miniatures games as
two faces of the same card (so to speak), both types of games get attention in
these pages. This book also covers new types of collectible games that don’t
easily fit into a current category.
Conventions Used in This Book
To make things easier to find and understand, Trading Card Games For Dummies
displays some of its information with special formatting that makes it stand
out from the regular text and automatically draws your eye in its direction.
Here’s what to look for:
⻬ The names of various games and the titles of expansion sets look like
this: Navia Dratp, Wars, and Pokémon
⻬ Individual card and figure names appear like this: Harried Editor,
Venture, and Podo
⻬ Internet addresses look like this:
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The book also relies on italic type when emphasizing particular words in
normal text, just like this. (Sadly, the production department took away my
random typeface font, so you won’t see anything in “ransom note” style —
at least not soon.)
What You’re Not to Read
Nobody needs to know everything in this book, but almost everybody can
benefit from some of it. Rather than spend the next few days of your life in
unending devotion to every page in here, try skipping through the chapters
a bit to find exactly the information that you need.
If you just want an overview of various games, skip the sections on each
game’s strategic details. Nothing sends people into unconsciousness faster
than a deep, meaningful discussion of land selection in Magic: The Gathering
or a comparison and contrast of the Invulnerability and Impervious super
powers in HeroClix. Just leave those sections alone and focus on high-level
descriptions and set names.
If your world begins and ends with deck boxes and card decks, then avoid
the chapters about collectible miniatures games. If plastic only raises your
blood pressure, it’s simply the healthy thing to do.
Beyond that, feel free to read, skip, ignore, highlight, and generally ingest
everything in this book. That’s why it’s here — for you!
Foolish Assumptions
Everybody makes them, but nobody thinks that his assumptions might lean
toward the foolish side — well, nobody but me. I spent a lot of time thinking
about you, dear reader, while preparing this book. I needed a good picture
of you (actually, the several “yous” in my imagination) so I could pick and
choose what information to include in the book. Here’s what I came up with:
⻬ You recently started playing some sort of collectible game yourself
and find yourself wanting to know more about this peculiar form of
⻬ You dearly love one particular collectible game, but you feel like branching out a bit into something new and different yet still in the collectible
game world.
⻬ Your friend, relative, or child recently dove into the world of trading card
games, and you want to know what sort of whirlpool she’s swimming in.
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Trading Card Games For Dummies
⻬ Your first forays into learning about trading card games left you feeling
confused, befuddled, and a bit out of place, like a vegetarian taking a seat
at a hog roast.
⻬ Everybody you talk to tries to convince you that their game is the only
one to play, regardless of your actual interests, and you just want some
unbiased information so you can make up your own mind.
If any of those descriptions sound like you, then Trading Card Games For
Dummies stands ready to answer your questions, calm your fears, and generally ease your angst. Even if you don’t find yourself in that list, there’s still
plenty to love in this book. (And if all else fails, it makes a great gift.)
How This Book Is Organized
If you ever traveled somewhere new, you know the value of a roadmap.
(Or, if you’re a guy, you know the value of blindly plugging along in faith
that your destination should turn up at any moment.) For those of you
who enjoy roadmaps (guys included), this book organizes information into
a series of parts. Each part focuses on a section of the trading card and
collectible game market, whether it looks at details of particular games or
takes a broader approach to scanning the horizons of an entire segment.
The following sections map out this book’s parts, giving you a preview of what
to expect in each one. Use them to find a good starting point in the book or
take them as signs that the content you want really exists in here somewhere.
Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing
You’ve Played Before
This part introduces the world of trading card and collectible games. And what
a world it is! Whether you like science fiction, fantasy, anime, superheroes, or
horror, a trading card game centered on your favorite topic awaits you somewhere out there!
The chapters in this part cover the basics of collectible games . They introduce
the concepts behind gameplay and collecting. Plus, they dig into the idea of
customizing your playing deck or army — one of the biggest things that sets
trading card and collectible games apart from all of the other games on the
planet. The part closes with a chapter that guides you to the best game for
your personality, your playing style, and your interests.
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Part II: Introducing the Big Six
Every game developer thinks his game can change the world. They imagine millions upon millions of people simultaneously whipping out their wallets and
buying every booster ever made and then playing in huge tournaments that
span the world. Of course, reality looks a lot different than that. Of the hundreds of collectible games that hit the market, very few survive the impact.
This part looks at the six big guns in the industry — the games that didn’t
just survive in their niche, but achieved amazing success in sales, popularity,
and tournament play. If you want to try your hand at a national tournament
or perhaps play for cash and prizes on a pro tour, then build your skills in
these games. They represent the “best of class” games in the trading card
game market. If you play these games, you can always find some competition.
Each chapter in this part focuses on a single game, serving as a primer on the
game’s background, story, playing style, card sets, and basic feel. The chapters walk you through a lot of information in a short time, giving you both the
broad overview and some hands-on depth for games like Magic, Pokémon,
Yu-Gi-Oh!, and others. That combination helps you taste the flavor of the
game so you can decide if it tempts your interest enough to tease the cash
from your wallet.
Part III: Shuffling through
the Rest of the Decks
Where do the standout games like the ones in Part II come from? They don’t
just spring fully formed into a world event, like some kind of two-dimensional
Athena leaping straight from a designer’s head into national awareness and
tournament play. No, they start like all trading card games do, jostling for
position and players among the hundreds of new games released each year.
Part III turns its attention to the mass of second-tier titles — new trading card
games that just appeared on the market, as well as older games with dedicated
but smaller audiences. Despite their “supporting player” status, these games
promise lots of great playing time. They also make very good places to learn
more about the whole trading card game world, thanks to their low prices.
This part starts with several chapters devoted to games in various genres.
Chapters cover games that draw their roots from comics, anime, manga, TV
shows, movies, and even literature. Because games target audiences of different ages as well as interests, the final chapter in the part classifies games by
age range.
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Trading Card Games For Dummies
Part IV: Diving Deeper into the Hobby
Most everybody begins a trading card game hobby the same way: Picking a
game, learning to play, and enjoying rounds with your friends. At some point,
you start to itch for something more. Maybe you want to face new opponents
to continue honing your skills. Perhaps you need to track down some elusive
card that completes a new deck design. Or possibly, a friend told you about an
action-filled summer game convention, so now you want to attend one yourself.
Whatever the motivation, you find yourself seeking more from your games.
When that feeling hits, flip to Part V, the repository of knowledge for growing
you into a more well-rounded gamer.
The chapters in this part look at several completely different facets of the
game hobby. The part opens with a deeper look at the basics of collecting
and trading, while another chapter offers a lot of very valuable information
about navigating the world of eBay as both a buyer and seller of tradeable
gaming goodies. Other chapters educate you about the tournament scenes
and terminology, covering everything from the Swiss-style tournaments at
your local game store to the highest levels of both Swiss and elimination
events, as well as the joys, commitments, and rewards of volunteering to
promote your favorite game.
Part V: The Part of Tens
Like all of its siblings in the For Dummies series, Trading Card Games For
Dummies closes with the classic Part of Tens. These chapters keep things
short, simple, light, and informative — just the way you like it.
Part V includes a quick recap of the best buying, selling, and trading ideas in the
book, plus a bunch of ideas for fast-playing games to keep yourself and your
fellow players amused during those long waits between rounds at tournaments.
The book closes with the kind of information that every player wishes her parents and friends had — namely, a list of great gift ideas for the game player.
Icons Used in This Book
Almost every game covered in this book uses its own shorthand to communicate information like a card’s power, defense, function, and even collectability.
Whether a game uses colors, pictures, special graphics, or cool holographic
text, the result is the same: the communication of a lot of facts to you, the
player, in a very short amount of time.
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Trading Card Games For Dummies knows a good thing when it sees it, so this
book employs the same communications concept through the use of its own
special icons. You find the icons scattered in the white space throughout the
chapters. Each icon marks something especially interesting, valuable, or even
worrisome. Icons act like little signposts along the game information highway
(except these never have bullet holes in them).
Here’s a preview of the icons, along with a quick explanation of what each
one means:
The Tip icon appears more often in the book than any of the others. It delivers shortcuts, points out important stuff, provides ideas, and generally makes
your game-playing experience a lot more fun.
When you see the Remember icon, slow down your reading for a moment and
take a second look at the text. Remember icons draw your attention to stuff
that makes a big difference in your games. Whether the text clarifies some
peculiar rule (and goodness knows these games include some doozies) or
highlights a particular game’s unusual twist, it’s definitely worth your time.
This perennially friendly icon points out the particularly geeky stuff included
in the book for the folks who love that sort of detail. Feel free to either dive in
or skip over the text next to a Technical Stuff icon, depending on how much
detail you really want on a topic. Text behind a Tech Stuff icon usually requires
a strong understanding of the game, because it peers into the truly arcane
inner workings of your favorite games.
The name says it all. Warning icons communicate basic but important ideas
that protect you from some sort of horrid problem in your game (like building
an illegal deck or losing before you even get to play a card). Pay attention to
this information and read it carefully because the victory you save could be
your own!
Every book in the For Dummies line uses the same icons, so look for some old
friends as you wander through other titles with the familiar black and yellow
cover. It’s just one of the things that makes our books more fun, more useful,
and more valuable to you, the reader! (Note to the Marketing Department:
You owe me.)
Where to Go from Here
Ready to dive into the realms of trading card games and collectible miniatures
games? With an entire book of information and guidance in hand, the prospect
might look a bit overwhelming right now. But don’t worry: Trading Card Games
For Dummies goes with you one step at a time, at the pace you set.
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Trading Card Games For Dummies
Where you go from here depends on what you already know and what you
want to know better. Here are a few possible starting points to whet your
game-playing appetite:
⻬ If you face a gift-giving crisis and you picked up this book in a last-minute
hope of finding some quick answers, go straight to Chapters 22 in the
Part of Tens (Part V). And remember: In an emergency, you can always
give someone a copy of this book.
⻬ If you don’t play any trading card games right now but you want to
change that, then begin at the beginning. Start with a trip through the
chapters in Part I. They build a good foundation of terms, concepts, and
occasional humor that gets you ready to join the fun in whichever game
piques your interest. With the basics under your belt, head to Part III to
explore the games by genre and age range.
⻬ If someone in your immediate circle of family or friends plays a trading
card game, and you just want to understand him and what he does a
little better, you should open with the quick overview of trading card
games in Chapter 1 and then proceed to the more detailed information
about your friend’s or relative’s game of choice.
⻬ To find out more about one of the many trading card games or collectible
miniatures games out there, head straight to the appropriate chapters of
Parts II, III, and IV.
If you don’t really know where to start, just open the book, pick a spot, and
start reading. From there, follow your impulses and intuition. No matter
where you want to go in the trading card game world, you can get there
(or at least most of the way) somewhere in these pages. Enjoy the trip!
And look for me each summer at the big Origins International Game Expo
in Columbus, Ohio. (I’m the one with more cards than hair!)
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Part I
Playing a Game
Like Nothing
You’ve Played
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In this part . . .
he first time you visit a new place, half the fun is figuring
out where everything is, how to get there, and when the
restaurants close. (They invariably close just before you can
get there from the hotel.) The other half of the fun involves
the joy of exploration, of discovery, of seeking out new life
and new civilizations . . . sorry, I got a little carried away.
Anyway, people enjoy seeing new places and trying new
things because of the sense of freshness and uncertainty.
You don’t know what you’ll see next or what you’ll find
around the corner, and that’s just plain fun!
This part takes you on that type of journey. You explore
the strange (sometimes really strange) world of trading
card games and collectible miniatures games. This part
maps out the big concepts that make the games work,
explains some of the language surrounding the games, and
generally outfits you for the journey ahead.
If you never tried a collectible game before, definitely
start here. This part gets you going in an easy, comfortable way!
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Chapter 1
Mixing Chess, Baseball Cards,
and Green Army Men
In This Chapter
䊳 Wrapping your mind around a really different game
䊳 Getting familiar with the basics
䊳 Peering through the industry’s history
䊳 Trying your hand (and your deck) in tournament play
emember creating amazing stories with the toys you had at hand when
you were young — like when the little people from your playset worked
with the toy tanks to rescue the block family from a Fate Worse Than Death at
the hands (well, claws) of the giant rampaging dinosaur? Or when you made
up a game about driving across the country because you had a bunch of toy
cars, some dice, and a huge United States wall map? (Granted, I couldn’t
exactly explain how it worked, but my dad played it with me anyway.)
Regardless of the details, you took a bunch of parts that didn’t naturally
match and turned them into a fun and functional activity. A few rules (that
frequently changed during play) and a lot of imagination held the whole thing
Collectible games take a strangely similar approach to those childhood
games you imagined into life. They borrow concepts and bits of gameplay
from classic games played with a traditional deck of cards, from exotic board
games, from historical miniatures games, and more. Collectible games mix
those parts into an entirely new kind of game — games that feature compelling play as well as reveal the amazing creativity of their designers.
This chapter takes you on a whirlwind tour of the collectible game world,
outfitting you with a basic framework to decorate with your newfound knowledge. It gives some history, explains a bit of the overall background, and
touches on the world of competitive play. In short, it’s your pocket guide to
the world(s) of collectible games. Enjoy!
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Imagine Playing Chess with a Rook,
Two Queens, Some Baseball Cards,
and a Toy Tank
The first time a friend of mine explained the concept of a collectible card
game to me (in a very animated and excited way, I might add), I thought he
was nuts. Visions of my failed flirtation with baseball cards passed before my
eyes. “You mean that you keep buying pack after pack of cards, and you
might never get them all?” His look told me that I clearly missed the point.
After he calmed down enough to finally play the game with me, I got the
point — and I got hooked.
There’s something strangely fun about playing collectible games. First, the
whole “collectability” aspect makes buying that next pack of cards all the
more thrilling. Beyond that, the challenge of analyzing the cards, learning
their abilities, and assembling them into winning combinations gives you a
mental charge unlike any other kind of game out there. It’s a blast!
The vast majority of collectible games share a few basic elements that identify them as part of the genre. The way each game interprets and presents its
rules and methods of play varies like a politician on the campaign trail, but the
heart remains the same (the heart of the game, that is, not the politician —
but enough about that).
In no particular order, here’s what makes collectible games unique, set apart
from the mainstream, noncollectible games of the world:
⻬ Players collect game cards by either purchasing starters or booster
packs. Starters include a basic deck of cards, along with the rules and
anything else you need to start playing. From there, players get more
cards by purchasing booster packs (much like baseball card packs, but
without the gum) and by trading cards with other enthusiasts.
⻬ Before sitting down to play a game, you need to build a deck from your
card collection. Unlike a traditional card game that uses exactly the
same card every time you play (such as Uno or a standard deck of playing cards), you pick the cards that go into your playing deck, and your
opponent does the same thing with her deck.
⻬ The players in a collectible game get to both follow and build a story with
their game. The mixture of cards in a player’s deck usually follows a
piece of the overarching fiction behind the game — a snippet of the
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Fullmetal Alchemist storyline is revealed in Figure 1-1 — but a deck presents new twists and turns on its own. It lets the player enjoy the game’s
back story while carving his own niche inside it.
⻬ Rather than play with identical situations and combinations from the
game’s movie, TV show, anime series, or whatever, collectible games
encourage players to create their own decks or teams and to interpret the
story in their own ways. This builds the personal buy-in from the players
because now they’re part of the story: “Do you remember the episode
when Major Ronaldi unexpectedly helped Don Alejandro escape during
the fake peasant uprising? That’s what inspired this deck. I call it
Enemies, Friends, and a Cast of Peasants.”
⻬ To build a successful deck, the player needs to consider both attack and
defense options. How the deck responds to threats and opportunities
means a lot more over time than simply packing the deck with highvalue cards and attempting to browbeat your opponent into submission.
⻬ The other key to creating the best collectible game decks involves balancing the way your cards interact with each other. Like thin lines spun
together into a near-unbreakable cord, individual cards can’t do much
on their own, but their collective power grows immensely when boosted
by others. Finding those interactions (like the ones shown in Figure 1-1),
understanding how they work, and building your decks around them
make the difference between average decks and tournament winners.
⻬ Building bigger and better decks requires a bigger and better collection of
game items. The bigger your collection, the more flexibility you bring to
deck building. This truism doesn’t apply equally to all games, though.
Through clever design or alternate rules, some games and tournaments
level the playing field (at least with regard to card collections), specifically to encourage new players and to help them build experience. After
all, getting beaten every time you play eventually takes all the fun out of
the game.
Whether you pick a game based on back-story, gameplay, a favorite movie,
or just because somebody taught you how to play and you feel like staying
with it, the elements that I describe in the previous list appear (in one way or
another) in the game. When mixed correctly, these elements give the game
fascination and staying power. If they get out of alignment because the designer
focused on one thing at the expense of the others, then a potentially great
game dies. But such is life, eh?
Because so many games (both good and bad) don’t succeed, all those extra
booster packs and starter decks find ready, waiting homes run by eager convention vendors. You can almost always find the cards you want at a price
you’re willing to pay (and which has no relationship to the normal retail
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Figure 1-1:
Rockbell is
one piece of
the mosaic
that is
Whether you pick a game based on back story, gameplay, or a favorite movie,
price, either) in the exhibit halls of the major summer conventions.
Meeting the Many Games
That Await You
First, a confession: The title of this book misled you just a little bit. (You can
blame the marketing people for this one — and the peculiar relationship
between how publishers name books and how those names translate into
bookstore shelving patterns.) Although the book’s title clearly focuses on
trading card games, the book actually covers a lot more of the collectible
games hobby than just cards.
Since its beginnings in 1993, the collectible games market absolutely
exploded, both in size and type of game. Even though trading card games
launched the industry’s ship, a whole variety of collectible games keep the
vessel going at full steam today.
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Here’s a quick introduction to the broad categories of collectible games on
the market today:
⻬ TCG (trading card game): It all started with trading card games. These
games mix the playability of a pack of playing cards with the collectability of sports cards. You typically join the game by purchasing a starter
set and then expanding your collection with booster packs. These games
also go by the abbreviation CCG, short for collectible card game.
⻬ CMG (collectible miniatures game): For years, nobody could mistake a
trading card game for your standard miniatures game — the whole flat
versus three-dimensional thing gave away the difference immediately.
On top of that, when you bought pieces for a miniatures game, you knew
exactly what you were getting in the box. All of that changed when the
folks at WizKids Games came up with the idea of a collectible game using
prepainted miniatures instead of cards. The figures came randomly
packed in starters and boosters, just like trading card games, but now
you got a whole new kind of playing experience out of the box. To keep
up with their compatriots at the trading card game companies, some
CMG firms call their games TMGs (for tradeable miniatures games).
⻬ CSG (constructible strategy game): After their success with collectible
miniatures games, the folks at WizKids started looking for other cool
new collectible game concepts. In a leap of logic that defies rational
explanation, they came up with the idea of pirate ships that you assemble from plastic parts like a very simple model kit (see Figure 1-2). In
true do-it-yourself form, they coined the term constructible strategy game
to properly identify their new do-it-yourself product.
Figure 1-2:
your fleet
and sail it to
victory with
games like
Pirates of
the Spanish
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⻬ CTG (collectible throwing game): Nothing inspires a person quite like
someone else’s success. Given the roaring sales of all things collectible,
a group of former Wizards of the Coast employees threw their hats (and
their game) into the ring with the creation of the first collectible throwing game. Will it create a new genre of collectible game like collectible
miniatures did for WizKids? Only time will tell.
As you probably noticed by now, game companies apply the words trading,
tradeable, and collectible almost interchangeably — and so do many people
who play the games. That means you might hear one person describe a given
game as a CCG while someone else calls the exact same game a TCG, and then
they start arguing about who’s right. That’s what happens in an industry
filled with intensely creative people: Getting them to go in one direction (or
in this case, agree on just one term) is like herding cats.
If you get caught near one of those it isn’t a TCG, it’s a CCG arguments, just
smile, nod, and stay quiet. It will end eventually. (Don’t try feigning death,
though, because that doesn’t even slow down the people who argue over
such things. They merely assume that you closed your eyes and laid down so
you could focus on their thoughts, so they keep talking.)
Game designers continue innovating in hopes of finding The Next Big Thing,
so don’t feel too surprised if yet another new type of collectible game hits the
market by the time you read this. (But to be honest, after collectible cards,
miniatures, mini-kits, dice, and poker chips, I can’t imagine what might join
the frenzy next. Maybe a collectible pen game?)
To get some guidance on picking the right type of game for you, go over to
Chapter 3. For more about collectible miniatures games (CMGs) and constructible strategy games (CSGs) in general, flip ahead to Part IV. Discussions
about trading card games and that odd collectible throwing game mostly live
in Parts II and III.
Shuffling through the Genre’s
History and Highlights
The world of collectible games didn’t spring fully grown from someone’s
head, although you can easily argue that the whole thing did involve magic of
one kind or another. (Granted, that explanation makes a horrible pun, but
such are the risks you take in this job. Good luck, soldier!)
Back in 1993, the folks at Wizards of the Coast, a small game company in
Washington State, connected with game designer and graduate student
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Chapter 1: Mixing Chess, Baseball Cards, and Green Army Men
Richard Garfield through a mutual friend. Wizards wanted to publish a game,
and Garfield invented an amazingly cool thing called Roborally (which, incidentally, you can still purchase today). Unfortunately, Roborally required a lot
of special counters and die-cut boards, which Wizards didn’t have enough
money to pay for right then.
The company challenged Garfield to create something simple that it could
afford to publish in the short term and that would ultimately bankroll
Roborally — some kind of card game, perhaps (cards didn’t cost much to
make). Around this time, Garfield finished his PhD in combinatorial mathematics. Humorously, he took a position as a math professor in Washington
State because, although he loved designing games, he didn’t think it would
provide a steady income. (You can already see where this is going.)
Garfield came through with a little card game about wizards casting spells at
each other. To make a long story short, that game turned into Magic: The
Nobody really knew what to make of the game when it arrived on the scene.
Was it a fantasy trading card series? The cards featured gorgeous artwork,
but they also sported numbers and text for a game of some kind. But how do
you play a game when you don’t have all of the cards?
By the next year, people figured out the concept, and Magic exploded. The
company’s initial order for 600,000 cards quickly gave way to a second order
for 1.8 million cards, plus a third for 7.6 million more. Magic truly made industry magic.
All of that success didn’t go unnoticed in the game community. Over the next
few years, dozens of companies released hundreds of trading card games. If a
concept stood still long enough, somebody made a collectible game out of it.
Unfortunately, many of the trees that gave their lives for all of that cardstock
died in vain; most of these games died shortly after release. (Don’t feel sad,
though, because many of the games deserved to die. They, um, lacked quality.)
In 1999, lightning struck the collectible game market again in the form of an
electric yellow rat with a weirdly shaped tail. Pokémon, a phenomenon in
Japan, hit the shores of the United States like a hurricane of mini-monsters.
If kids breathed, they wanted — no, needed — Pokémon cards. Wizards of
the Coast, which published the game in the United States, had another hit on
its hands.
After Pokémon quieted down a bit, the industry got a touch of déjà vu when it
turned its eyes to yet another upstart company from Washington State. This
little company, called WizKids Games, came up with an interesting twist on
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the collectible trading card game concept: Do away with the cards and play
with little plastic guys instead.
This company’s new game, Mage Knight, took players into a world filled with
sword and sorcery, along with a hefty dose of steam and magic-driven technology. Mage Knight gave collectible game players a whole new kind of game
to try. And try it they did! Mage Knight booster packs sold like wildfire, establishing collectible miniatures as a new genre in the collectible game market.
WizKids took its concept one step further when it introduced Pirates of the
Spanish Main, the first constructible miniatures game. The game pieces came
flat, like credit cards with die-cut outlines sliced through them. Players punch
out the pieces, assemble their sailing ships, and play a game on any handy flat
surface. (Sorry, despite the nautical theme, the pieces still don’t work in water.)
Given what happened in the industry since 1993, who knows where it might
go next — or what you could start collecting any day now?
Challenging Your Skills in Casual Play,
Tournaments, and Tours
Most people begin playing collectible games at home among friends. Casual
play like this forms the backbone of every collectible game on the market.
A few words about rarity and collectability
To enhance collectability (which, in marketspeak, means “talking you into purchasing that
entire booster display box”), game companies
use a system of increasingly rare and hard-tofind cards. They make the most valuable and
powerful cards really hard to find, while letting
you swim in the mundane versions.
Every collectible game booster pack includes a
mixture of common, uncommon, and rare items.
Although you know how many cards or figures
the booster contains at each rarity level, you
don’t know the precise items in the package (or
at least you shouldn’t know) before opening it.
The item’s rarity level affects how much the item
is worth, both in gameplay and in cold, hard
cash. Sometimes a particularly useful but more
mundane card might command a little bit of
money, but most of the time, everybody wants —
and pays for — the rarest items.
In the last few years, many games took rarity to
a whole new level with super-rare and limitededition figures and cards. Players both love and
loathe these changes, depending on whom you
ask. But one thing’s certain: They keep buying
those boosters.
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Playing for fun gives you a chance to build your skills, try new cards, and just
enjoy yourself.
After playing against your friends for a while, you usually get an itch to inflict —
sorry, try — your deck designs and game-playing skills on someone else.
When that feeling hits you, fire up your Web browser and point it to the tournament locator at your game company’s Web site.
Almost every collectible game company out there supports some kind of
organized tournament system. After you sign up as a player (each company’s
Web site explains how that works), you can participate in all kinds of tournaments and special game events.
The world of tournament play begins with games at your friendly local store.
These games give you a chance to meet more players, trade for better cards,
and generally test your skills in a new environment. After each tournament,
the judge (a volunteer with the game company) records the results online
and notes that you participated. This makes you eligible for tournament prizes,
plus the occasional shipment of free goodies straight from the manufacturer.
But local tournaments barely scratch the surface of organized play. After you
get out of the local store, you find yourself taking part in regional and national
tournaments, each of which might draw hundreds of competitors. This level of
play usually happens at local and regional game conventions. A few national
events also happen during Origins, GenCon, and Wizard World — the big
summer game conventions. Most of the big events are “opens,” meaning they
don’t require any kind of lower-level qualifying victory to get in and play.
However, if you win a qualifier that leads up to one of these tournaments, you
get to skip the first day or two of the Big Event and dive straight into the
heart of the competition.
Of course, the pinnacle of the pyramid for game players involves the Pro
Tour, in which people play their games for the thrill of victory, plus delightful
sums of money. Due to their rarified competitive environment, the Pro Tours
demand that you wade through a rigorous schedule of qualifying events.
When you join that elite “pro” club, though, all sorts of opportunities open to
you. I watched a 20-something Pro Tour player sign cards and give gameplay
hints to journalists during a major trade show a few years ago. The game
company flew him to the trade show, paid for his stay, and treated him like
royalty. Now there’s something worth aspiring to!
To find out more about conventions and the Pro Tour, flip ahead to Chapter 19.
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Chapter 2
Looking under the Hood:
What Makes Collectible
Games Tick?
In This Chapter
䊳 Figuring out what the cards do
䊳 Understanding how card companies sell their cards
䊳 Creating your card collection
䊳 Finding combinations and taking stock
䊳 Meeting the archetypes
䊳 Uncovering the ways to win
f you only know games that use a traditional deck of cards or classic card
games like Mille Bornes, Rook, or Uno, a collectible game introduces a lot
of foreign concepts, starting with the idea that each player brings his own
deck filled with just the cards that he wants to play. To a Spades or Hearts
player, that sounds suspiciously like a stacked deck!
As you shuffle through a stack of cards or watch a game in progress for the
first time, many of the basics look very confusing. What do the cards symbolize? Why do some cards stay on the table while others seem to bounce in and
out of play almost immediately? And why do the cards wear little plastic coats?
Is this a case of “So many questions, so little time?” Not necessarily. If you’ve
never played a trading card game before and are feeling a bit lost right now,
all you really need to do is invest a few minutes with the information in this
chapter. It gives you some perspective of the different types of cards, introduces you to the way that collectible games begin and grow through new
sets, and offers some basic tips for protecting your cards from wear and tear.
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(In case you wondered, that’s where the little plastic raincoats come into
play.) The chapter also includes some thoughts about personal playing
styles, tips for identifying great card combinations, and some guidance about
determining how much each card contributes to your playing deck versus
how much space it takes. Enjoy yourself!
Recognizing the Basic Types of Cards
Although the artwork changes and the numbers move all over the place,
some basic concepts stay true across all (or at least almost all) trading card
games — and that includes the type of cards in the set. Regardless of the
theme, back story, complexity, or target age range, all games are populated
with characters that do stuff, have places where the action happens, use tons
of props, and spin out a variety of plot complications.
Those needs translate into a basic group of card types. Understanding these
basic types helps you pick up new games very quickly. If you’ve got the general idea of how these types of cards work together, you only need to figure
out how the details in your new game govern the cards. Game mechanics, the
core rules of the game that define its look and feel (stuff like how cards come
into play, timing, and resources), vary wildly depending on the game, but the
basics — ah, the basics — usually remain the same.
Of course, as soon as I write something like the basics always stay the same,
somebody out there comes out with a game that breaks all of the industry
norms. But that’s a good thing; games like that keep other designers on their
toes and ensure that the trading card game world stays new and vibrant. If you
think that sounds like “positive media spin,” you’re probably right. Designers
sometimes go overboard in their quest for new and different mechanics. Instead
of elegant innovation, they end up with a horrid, confusing, and unplayable
kluge of unrelated elements — and all in the name of new. But I digress. . . .
The following bullets outline the common card types you find in trading card
games. Although the names change for every game, the concepts still hold true:
⻬ Most of the action in a game begins and ends with the characters. (See
Figure 2-1.) These cards represent the people, aliens, ships, cars, armies,
or mobs that rampage through your game’s world. Most of the cards in
your decks come from this group because, when you get right down to
it, every story depends on strong characters.
⻬ Any time you get people involved in something, they need equipment of
one kind or another to make their tasks easier. These cards usually add
new abilities to your characters or strengthen their existing skills. These
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cards include high-tech spy gadgets, planes, cars, and weapons of all
shapes, sizes, and eras.
⻬ Locations set the stage for your characters, giving them places to control, fight over, and generally hang out. Depending on the game, locations might or might not take center stage in the gameplay. Some games
treat locations like resource generators, while others cast them in a very
central role by making them part of the victory conditions. Locations
usually come into play and stay there — at least until another group of
cards blows them away.
⻬ Not every well-laid plan goes, well, according to plan. That’s where interrupt cards come into play. These plot complications can alter the course
of a battle, deliver extra resources, shuffle characters around, and generally wreak havoc with your opponent’s strategies. This type of card usually comes into play at any point in the game, does its thing, and then
vanishes into the discard pile.
⻬ Effects alter the game in larger ways and last over many turns. They
come into the game during your turn just like characters and equipment,
but they function more like interrupts. They stay on the table indefinitely, often forming a support base for your deck’s key strategies.
Figure 2-1:
The Sinner’s
Body card
Elric, a
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Some games start with the basic card types and then add rules that change
how the cards work in the game. In the Vs. game from Upper Deck, for instance,
you can play any card in the deck face-down into your resource row. Of course,
if you put the right type of card in there — namely a Plot Twist (the Vs. game
version of the “interrupt” card) or a Location — you can gain an extra benefit
during the game.
Making Sense of Base Sets
and Expansions
During a business trip several years ago, I snuck away to a local game store
for a round of my favorite card game, the now-defunct Star Wars Customizable
Card Game from Decipher. Although I brought one of my best Light Side rebel
decks, my Dark Side opponent absolutely crushed me, thanks specifically to
some cards from a newly released starter set.
New card releases add much of the spice and competitiveness to trading card
games. They give you a reason to continue collecting cards, plus they keep
you looking for new combinations. The “killer combo” from the last set might
not work anymore, but suddenly one of the cards from a couple of sets ago —
the one that you couldn’t imagine ever using in a deck — suddenly takes on
new value. Each expansion usually increases the game’s complexity with new
gameplay mechanics, and it rewards long-time players who invest time and
energy investigating the depths of each card’s text.
Every collectible game starts with a base set. The game’s first release
includes both starter decks and booster packs. Some games (notably Magic:
The Gathering and a few other well-established ones) take that a step further
by adding a basic starter set, several advanced decks called preconstructed
decks (or precons for short), and a variety of other specialized products for
tournament play. Preconstructed decks are decks that have been built by
experts to guarantee an interesting game. They’re a great way to start enjoying the game fast without having to spend a lot of energy on building a really
good deck before you know whether you’re going to want to really invest in
the game. As your game play becomes more sophisticated, you’ll probably
want to modify even preconstructed decks to make them even more powerful.
New games, on the other hand, tend to stay with just starters and boosters.
The game company typically gives players about four months to play with
the current set before it releases the first expansion. Most often, these new
releases contain only booster packs rather than both starters and boosters.
Sure, some games break this rule, but the vast majority adhere to it. Why
would they do it that way? Mainly because it costs a lot less money to print
booster packs alone than to print both boosters and starters. (At least that’s
the most plausible explanation.)
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Chapter 2: Looking under the Hood: What Makes Collectible Games Tick?
The exotic world of limited-edition cards
Unlike the normal cards in any particular set,
limited-edition cards make their appearance in
a variety of ways. Booster sets might include
chase cards — extremely rare cards that are so
named because collectors “chase” them —
that get inserted into only a handful of packs.
What makes the cards special? Well, you might
find cards printed on special material (such as
the clear plastic cards in Fullmetal Alchemist).
Other chase cards may carry the same name
and title as a regular card, but alternate artwork
or a different layout gives the card a special
look — and sometimes a serious price tag on
the secondary market, too.
attending some kind of special event sponsored
by the game company. To latch onto these cool
cards, attend one of the summer conventions,
win a tournament, play a game against a company staffer (usually at one of the big summer
conventions — yet another reason to attend), or
just join the fun in a prerelease tournament.
Many companies offer league play through your
local store, which makes another easy way to
get limited-edition cards. Although the winners
always get a cool item, everybody who plays in
a regular league traditionally goes home with
something. That makes leagues a great place to
start your limited-edition card collection!
The best limited-edition cards don’t come in
booster packs at all. Instead, you get them free by
Shortly after a collectible game hits the market, the manufacturer puts out a
release schedule so the players know when the next batch of cards is set to
come out. This primes players with excitement about both the game itself
and the prospect of things to come. A consistent three- to four-month release
schedule keeps the excitement high and the players consistently buying, so
most game companies use that schedule.
Assembling, Sorting, and
Enjoying Your Collection
Although it might surprise you, sitting down to actually play a trading card
game is only half the fun of this hobby. The other half revolves around collecting, trading, studying, and generally fiddling with your cards. In their own
way, the “between games” aspects of a trading card game form a world unto
People get involved in trading card games for all sorts of reasons — it spans a
broad continuum of activities. Some folks only collect the cards — they never
actually play the game. Maybe they want a complete set of every single card
ever made for the game, or perhaps they just like owning cards that depict
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their favorite characters from the game’s universe. Whatever the reason, they
buy, sell, and trade cards with abandon, but disdain actually using the cards
for anything other than pieces of art.
Other people avidly enjoy the competitive play side of these games. They
spend lots of time poring over the cards, studying the card text and the game
rules, and endlessly sorting and re-sorting their cards (at least that’s what I
did). The buying, trading, and collecting portions of the game represent a
means to an end. As they acquire more cards, they expand the possibilities of
their playing decks and grow stronger in the game.
Regardless of what drives your particular interest in the games, you need to
take good care of your cards. That’s where the collecting, sorting, and protecting aspects of the collectible game hobby get important.
The trek into the trading card game hobby starts with collecting the cards,
figures, chips, or whatever your game uses for playing pieces. You probably
began your collection with a starter set, a few boosters, and perhaps a handful of spare stuff donated by someone you met at your Friendly Local Game
Store. At first, your stuff fit into whatever handy storage device you found at
home — often a lidded plastic container from the kitchen. Although that’s
enough to get you started, if you plan on getting serious about your game,
you really need to look at more serious ways of storing your cards.
Although it sounds strange to the uninitiated, long-time players often simply
give new people a bunch of game materials for free. It happens quite a lot,
really. Serious players end up with a lot of duplicate gamepieces. Rather than
store and transport all of that stuff, they usually give it away to interested
new players. It’s a win-win situation. The new people appreciate the gift
because it jump-starts their new collection; the advanced player likes giving
stuff away because it encourages the new person to get deeper into the game,
reinforces the sense of community among the players, and (most importantly) frees up storage space so the advanced player can go get new stuff.
In addition to keeping your cards safe from harm, your storage system
needs to organize the cards into some sort of useful order — usually by card
number, although you might choose to sort everything according to card
type. Randomly throwing cards into a mundane, generic box not only risks
damaging the cards, but it also makes the task of finding a particular card just
about impossible. Whether you plan to admire or analyze your cards, a good
storage system puts those cards at your fingertips while keeping your fingertips (and all of that nasty skin oil) off the cards.
Here’s a quick look at the most common tools for storing and organizing your
fledgling game collection:
⻬ Card boxes: Begin with a couple of basic white card boxes. They cost
very little, they last pretty well, and they never go out of style. You buy
card boxes according to the number of cards that fit into them. I’m fond
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of the 300- and 660-card sizes because they always seem to hold the
right amount of stuff without overdoing it. As your collection grows, you
can either purchase spares of your favorite size or shift into larger
boxes. These boxes work great for constructible miniatures games as
well — and do a passable job holding prepainted miniatures, too.
⻬ Portfolio binder: The clear plastic pages in a portfolio binder keep your
cards away from harm while letting you easily read them. Because the
pages are built into the binder, a portfolio can take some abuse without
losing any parts. These come with either four- or nine-pocket pages,
depending on how many cards you want to hold in a single binder.
⻬ Three-ring binders with nine-pocket pages: Serious players live and die
by their three-ring binders. Some people practically keep office supply
stores in business with the number of binders they buy. To turn these
innocent office staples into powerful card-organizing tools, add ninepocket pages from one of the protection-product companies, like BCW
( and UltraPro (
Most local games stores stock card storage supplies.
For far more information than most people ever need on the topic of card
protection, flip to Chapter 18. It gets into the nitty-gritty details of binders,
deck boxes, and storage systems. Plus, it introduces the single most important weapon in your card-protection arsenal: deck protectors!
Analyzing Strengths, Weaknesses,
Economy, and Combinations
Although you need solid gameplay skills to win at these games, you also need to
invest time figuring out what the cards do and how they interact with each
other. Discerning each card’s basic strengths and weaknesses marks the first
step toward developing deck-building strategies in the game. As your playing
ability in the game grows, you discover how to look beyond the basic stats to
see cards in terms of how they relate to the ebb and flow of the game. This kind
of skill comes in time, but it starts with a solid knowledge of your game’s basics.
Your first step toward evaluating the in-game power of the cards in your collection begins not by fiddling with the cards, but rather by diving into the
game’s rule book. Knowing how the game plays gives you a framework for figuring out each card’s real power. If you don’t understand the game, you can’t
judge the cards.
Keep the rule book handy during your first few games. When questions come
up in the game, grab the book and find the answer. Never worry about referring to the rules as you play. Checking the rules when in doubt is a good habit
to get into, regardless of whether you play at home with your friends or competitively in your local store or at game conventions.
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With the rules firmly in mind, start looking through your cards. At this point
in the process, pay attention to the basic stats on each card — stuff like the
numbers that indicate one card’s strength relative to another — rather than
the game text. When learning a new game, the stats make the most sense at
first. They’re numbers, so they generally speak for themselves. High numbers
usually mean strength; low numbers traditionally mean weakness. It’s pretty
Game text, on the other hand, deals with how the cards interact with each
other. If you’ve played only one or two games thus far, you’re still learning the
basic mechanics; things like which phase comes next and how many cards
you draw on a turn dominate your thoughts. After you internalize the game’s
basic concepts, each card’s game text will make a lot more sense.
As you look at card statistics, remember that each card in a well-designed game
includes a balance between its raw power and its cost. If you find a card with a
high strength and defense, then it probably costs a lot of resources to bring that
card into the game. Something with a very low resource cost probably can’t
fight its way out of a paper bag. When you see a card that seems to break this
rule — one with a high power and a low resource cost, for instance — the card’s
game text usually keeps things in balance by reducing the card’s value in some
other way.
By the time you feel confident with the game mechanics and understand the
card statistics, you naturally start discovering how each card’s game text
affects the game. Most cards derive their true power from both their game
text and from the game text of other cards played in combination with them.
Grasping how a card’s stats and game text interact leads you to that nirvana
of game moments when you can gauge a card’s economy. Economy in this
case doesn’t have anything to do with money (although very economic cards
often command a good price on the singles market). Instead, think of it more
as the card’s flexibility during the game. A card that hits hard, defends well,
and throws a curve at your opponent through its game text brings quite a lot
of value to your playing deck. That’s a very economic card. It packs a lot of
punch into a single package.
Look for card economy as you build decks. Advanced players sometimes use
the term min-maxing to describe the process of finding the most valuable
cards for their strategy and matching them with the best helper cards. They
minimize the number of cards necessary to make their strategy work, while
maximizing the offensive and defensive power of the deck.
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Chapter 2: Looking under the Hood: What Makes Collectible Games Tick?
Getting in Touch with Your Inner
Timmy, Johnny, and Spike
Everybody loves winning a game — nobody denies that. But opinions vary
wildly when you get to the details of how to win. A lot of the reasoning behind
how you view winning a game comes from deep in your psyche. In fact, it
starts with a much simpler question: Why do you play this game?
Several years ago, the folks at a company called Wizards of the Coast pondered this very question. They wondered why some collectible games
exploded in popularity while others fizzled from the start, and why players
stuck with one game over another. These thoughts and questions led them to
the ultimate issue of what motivates people to play trading card games.
After many years of study, they identified three basic types of players.
Although they originally thought of these people strictly as aficionados of
Magic: The Gathering, these three profiles really represent archetypes of players in the industry. Every player out there either falls squarely into one of
these three categories or splits his time between two of them.
For reasons now lost in the mists of history, the people on the Wizards team
named each archetype. Rather than coming up with impressive Latin-sounding
names like the Road Runner animators did at the beginning of their cartoons,
they tacked a simple nickname onto each type — a name that captured the
essence of that particular player type for them. Thus were born the trading
card industry’s three classic players: Johnny, Timmy, and Spike.
Here’s a look at what makes each archetype tick:
⻬ Johnny tells stories through his decks. He loves trading card games
because they let him show off his style and creativity. Inventiveness
counts highly for him. Rather than copy other people’s ideas, he tests
the cards that others might shun. By putting together unwieldy combinations of cards, he sometimes creates something powerful that nobody
else has found. If he wins one in every ten games, he feels pleased with
his accomplishment.
⻬ Timmy likes power — big power. He likes winning by fielding the most
amazingly awesome and imposingly powerful thing you ever saw in your
whole freaking life! (Ahem . . . sorry, I got carried away there). He wants
a big, crushing win, complete with pyrotechnics and a screaming electric
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guitar solo. But at the same time, he’s happy if his deck beats you about
three times out of ten. Yet at the same time, Timmy loves the social
aspect of playing these games. He mostly enjoys hanging out with his
friends, and occasionally absolutely crushing them to dust with his deck.
⻬ For Spike, the serious tournament player, winning is everything. If Spike
doesn’t win, he might as well not play. Precisely how he wins doesn’t
really matter — winning itself is the goal. Spike spends a lot of time minmaxing his deck until it runs like a machine — an unbeatable little
thrashing machine of victory. Storyline, combinations, and power cards
mean nothing to him unless they help him win the game. If Spike doesn’t
come out on top in 90 percent of his games, he gets unhappy.
As for me, I tend toward the “Johnny” profile, using a weird combination of
cards that nobody normally uses but that come together into something
amazingly neat every now and then. One of my most-loved Star Wars decks
(which my friends still taunt me about years later) involved a whopping
seven-card combination that created a portable vacuum that sucked characters into the lair of the trash compactor monster from the original Star Wars
movie. Although the combination rarely worked, the sheer joy of hearing my
opponent exclaim “You made a portable Dianoga?!” on those rare occasions
when I got all of the cards onto the table made the losses completely worthwhile. Yup, I’m a total Johnny.
Attack of the Killer Cheese Turtle:
The Many Paths to a Win
Because of how collectible card games work — particularly how the cards
interact with each other — several basic strategies have emerged over the
years. You see these general strategies in every card game on the market.
Although the details of how the strategy works depend a lot on the game
itself, you can easily see the broad brushstrokes of a particular strategy
every time you play against it.
The following bullets outline the six basic strategies awaiting you, along with
the player archetype that most often runs this type of deck:
⻬ All-out attack (Spike): These decks want to burn your world to the
ground. They focus on fast attacks and lots of damage, followed up with
still more attacks causing even greater damage. Your opponent wants
you to subconsciously flinch every time a card hits the table because
the card might inflict even more damage to you. You get the idea.
⻬ Defense and denial (Johnny, or Spike on a bad day): You can sum up
denial decks in a single word: “No.” Does your opponent want to play a
character? No. Does he want to put out a resource card? Denied. Was
that an immediate play card that just popped out of his hand? Deleted!
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These decks shut down your opponent’s actions while quietly motoring
toward victory in their own way. Beware your opponent’s reaction to
this deck type, though, because many people really, really, really dislike
playing against denial decks.
⻬ Balance (all): If you want a “normal” trading card game experience, then
here’s the place to start. These decks carry attack and defense cards in
proportions that the designer actually recommends. They don’t stretch
any game rules or gameplay elements to the breaking point, and yet they
still win their fair share of games. Balanced decks bring simple peace
and harmony to the world around them. (Perhaps one will run for
President some day.)
⻬ Big combination (Johnny and Timmy): In this style of play, the deck
builder brings out either a single all-powerful card that gets backup from
an array of smaller cards, or he attempts to finesse the victory through an
elegant combination of far, far too many cards. Both Johnny and Timmy
love combinations for their own reasons, although I think the honors go to
Johnny for “combinations above and beyond the call of sanity.”
⻬ Cheese (Timmy and Spike): The stuff from the dairy counter makes my
mouth water and my willpower melt, but when it comes in the form of a
trading card game strategy, these decks just make you want to spit. A
cheese deck (called cheese because they’re cheesy — they’re so silly they
make other players groan in good-natured agony) relies on some innocent
little card which, when used as the designers envisioned, accomplishes
some relatively mundane task. So far, so good (but you can probably tell
that this story doesn’t end on a happy note). A cheese deck takes that
innocent little card, adds some unexpected combination plays, and turbocharges the little card in ways that Man Was Not Meant To Know.
Suddenly, the mischievous squirrel that dropped nuts on your head turns
into a 500-foot-tall Atomic Squirrel-O-Tron of Doom — and he’s mad.
⻬ Turtle (Johnny and Spike): Turtles don’t move very fast. In fact, they
stroll along at a rate that makes all sorts of thick, gooey liquids look like
racehorses. In deck building, a turtle deck plays much the same way as it
inflicts all sorts of delays on its opponent. The turtle’s goal involves preventing the opponent from accomplishing too awfully much in the early
portion of the game, which gives the turtle time to get its act together.
When the turtle finishes her preparations, however, watch out — she’s on
the warpath!
Don’t be surprised if some of these deck types bring out weird reactions from
your opponent. Everybody sees the world from his or her own perspective,
which may or may not match yours. A lot of the reaction depends on what
player archetype (Johnny, Timmy, or Spike, mentioned earlier in the chapter)
your opponent follows. The hard-core tournament player respects someone
who beats him, regardless of what type of strategy did the beating. If you play
an all-out attack deck that doesn’t respect the game’s story against someone
who’s actually in it more for the story than for the win, your opponent might
not take that well.
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Chapter 3
Getting into the Right
Game for You
In This Chapter
䊳 Asking some basic questions
䊳 Ferreting out your desires by digging deeper
䊳 Trying something completely different
ooking through the shelves of a collectible game display these days feels
like finding yourself in the middle of a gigantic buffet immediately after
discovering that food exists. Everywhere you turn, colorful packages beckon
to you. Anime games, sports games, historical games, movie games, and
more — choices, choices, and more choices! How can you possibly find a
game that’s right for you among the cacophony of competing pastimes?
Truth be told, winnowing down the possibilities takes less time than
you think — but you do need to ask yourself some questions you probably
never thought you’d be asking yourself. When I jumped into trading card
games for the first time, I never expected things like the age of the game and
the number of expansions to affect my decision, yet those factors — and
other obscure details like them — can make or break your game choices.
This chapter walks through the game-selection process with you. It helps you
ask the right questions and ultimately pick the best match for your personal
style of play. It considers the physical type of game (cards, miniatures, and
so on), the depth and longevity of the game, and even things like organized
play programs and the possibility of exploring some out-of-print games.
Regardless of your age and your interests, you can find help right here.
Parents, guardians, and caregivers can use the information in this chapter
to help guide young hearts and minds toward a fun and appropriate game.
Remember to give children plenty of latitude, but at the same time help them
find something that’s age-appropriate. And remember: It’s totally okay if they
simply want to get some cards or other gamepieces and make up their own
game with them. Whether they ultimately get interested in the game itself or
not, support their creativity and let them play!
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Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing You’ve Played Before
Starting with the Obvious Questions
No matter what you do, it always pays to begin at the beginning. This sounds
like obvious advice (even to me, and I’m not that deep of a thinker), but it’s
easy to overlook the most obvious things sometimes — particularly in the
heat of excitement as you dive into a new game. Asking the obvious questions as you pick your game means that you start the selection process with
the best and most personalized information possible.
When evaluating your game options, think through the following questions
first. Don’t put a lot of thought and effort into these, though, because they’re
just the basic questions. (The more complicated ones come later, so save
your big thoughts for them.) Here goes:
⻬ What do you really enjoy about a game? When you get ready for a
game, what really pumps you up about playing? Do you long for the
competition? Do you want to test your latest clever deck design on some
unsuspecting opponent? Maybe you just like getting together with your
friends for an evening of fun. Some games support a broad variety of
drives (you can play for fun or for competition, for instance — Pokémon
is a good example of a game that can be casual or highly competitive),
but others lend themselves more to one style of play than another. If you
get into a serious tournament-driven game when you really enjoy a more
casual approach, then you won’t enjoy the game for very long. Ask some
folks in your Friendly Local Game Store for insights about how people
play the various games on your short list of possibilities. The insight
you glean could save you both time and money.
⻬ What games do your friends play? If all of your friends really get into
one particular game, like Magic: The Gathering, but you want to play
Legend of the Five Rings, then get ready to butt heads with your buddies.
It’s possible to lead a game lover into a new game from his or her current
one, but it takes a lot of time and energy. Unless you utterly loathe the
game, try sticking to a game that your friends also enjoy. And if you do
detest their game, jump-start the chances of a transition by picking up
some demonstration decks from a local game store. If the store owner
helps you convert your friends to a new game, reward him with your
business. (After all, he did save your friendship!)
⻬ Which games do the local stores support? This one goes hand in hand
with the previous question. If none of your local stores support the game
of your dreams with tournaments (or sometimes even with a product for
sale), then how can you get serious about a game? In this case, talk to
the local retailer about picking up the game. Commit to buying product
from him. Ask whether any of his suppliers offer a returnability deal to
encourage him to give new games a try. Offer to volunteer as a judge or
demonstration person for the game to promote it at the store. Don’t just
stand there looking dejected — do something!
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Chapter 3: Getting into the Right Game for You
⻬ How much depth do you like in a game? Some players love the intricate twists and turns of a game that has more depth than several ocean
trenches. Others prefer a pastime with all the strategic challenge of an
afternoon sunning on the beach. This has nothing to do with the number
of cards or pieces in each set (that’s in the next section of this chapter).
Rather, the depth refers to how much thought it takes to create, tune,
and play a solid deck. The more effort the design and planning process
requires, the more depth in the game. Choose wisely because nobody
knows how much thinking you enjoy better than you do.
Part III, “Shuffling through the Rest of the Decks,” provides an overview of
most of the games on the market and is arranged, for your convenience, by
game categories that should make it easy for you to begin narrowing down
your choices. If one of those really speaks to you, then give the game a go!
If none of them strikes your fancy quite yet, don’t get frustrated; just keep
looking. The game of your heart awaits you out there somewhere. You’ll find it.
If one or two games look really interesting, invest $20 or so in each one to
give it a try. Also, try asking an established player or two to loan you a deck
so you can try the game at a level beyond the normal “demonstration” game.
Every gamer wants new people to start playing his game, so that approach
works very well most of the time.
Getting Personal
Sometimes you just can’t quite find what you want. You’ve worked through all
of the basic questions and talked to your friends — you’ve even asked your
Friendly Local Game Store owner what she recommends. Despite all of that,
you just can’t make up your mind.
Taking your time to find a game is completely okay — really it is. You just want
to find the right game for you, and you’re willing to wait for it. (And considering the amount of money that most people spend on trading card games,
patience makes a really wise approach.) It’s far better to take your time and
connect with one game rather than throw a lot money away by repeatedly
diving headlong into game after game. (Not that I ever did that . . . more than
once . . . over time . . . like several years and many, many games. Goodness no.
Of course not. But enough about me — let’s get back to your game hunt.)
If you’re still stumped for a game that meets your needs, then you need to
look beyond the skin-deep issues and dive into some personal questions
about your style of play.
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Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing You’ve Played Before
To help you narrow the search a bit, try answering the following questions:
⻬ Do you want to play with miniatures or with cards? Some people
absolutely love the snap of deck protector–covered cards in their
hands. Others prefer to lord over an army of warriors arrayed on a
grand (albeit small) 3-D battlefield. Whichever way you want to go
and whatever genre you want to enjoy, lots of game options await you.
Remember that these games require vastly different storage requirements, though. Don’t get into a miniatures game unless your house
includes space for both you and your collection.
⻬ Are you an early adopter or a late bloomer? When a game first hits
the market, the players who dive in early get the best rewards (namely,
seeing the game in its first stage and contributing input to the game
manufacturer on its future), but they also face the greatest uncertainty
(after all, most new games never make it to “old game” status). Still, there’s
something cool about joining the leading edge of the wave into a newly
released game. If you love riding that wave, then scour magazines like
InQuest Gamer and Scrye for the latest news on soon-to-be-released games.
When you find a likely prospect, watch the game company’s Web site for
information about prerelease tournaments. There’s nothing like really
playing the game first!
⻬ Do you want to collect lots of things or just a few? This goes hand in hand
with the preceding question about diving into a game as it starts or waiting
until it matures a bit. With a new game, there’s only so much to collect
because very few things exist yet. An established game comes complete
with plenty of different sets and lots of special limited-edition items —
it’s a collector’s dream (or nightmare, depending on the perspective)!
Because collecting makes up such an important part of playing any of
these games, be sure to spend some time considering how much you
enjoy that aspect of the game.
⻬ Does organized play pique your interest? Most game companies offer
some sort of formal tournament system that offers competition, prizes,
and a shot at attending higher-level tournaments around the country
(and sometimes around the world). Organized play starts at local game
stores and clubs with regularly scheduled tournaments. Those typically
tie into state or regional championships, which lead to national events.
The big summer conventions almost always include tournaments with
special prize packages or other honors for the players. If the thought of
owning rare tournament prizes and earning the glory of a high-stakes
win excites you, then look for companies that sponsor active organized
play programs. Your local game store can help you find them.
If you still can’t decide what game to play, then you’re thinking about this way
too hard. In that case, go with your first instinct and start playing something.
You’ll have fun — trust me!
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Chapter 3: Getting into the Right Game for You
It’s not dead yet — the joy of out-of-print games
Like the old song says, “Everything old is new
again.” That saying fits the world of trading card
games perfectly. With new games coming out
all year long, not every game on the market survives into old age. A great many die quickly and
quietly after just a few releases. Many of these
really aren’t bad games, either. Maybe they just
hit the market at an inopportune time or they
included mechanics that didn’t mesh well with
the current buying audience. But whatever the
reason that the game died, its untimely demise
could turn into a boon for you.
$10 for a starter deck, the same amount of money
might get you a whole display of starters! If you
shop carefully, you might even pick up someone’s entire collection for very little money,
giving you everything you need for a long, happy
time as a player.
You can usually find good closeout deals at the
big summer conventions. Look for companies
that specialize in old trading card games.
You can’t miss their booths — just keep an eye
out for the ones with the big stacks of booster
After a game drops off the mainstream radar, the
price of cards drops quickly. Instead of paying
Switching to a Brave New World
Long-time collectible game players know the joy of playing their favorite
games, but what happens when boredom creeps in and the game’s challenge fades away? Turn your attention elsewhere and try something new
and different!
It sounds easy, but diving into a new game isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve
spent a lot of time focused on your current game. You figured out the strategies, you developed combinations, and you collected and traded your way to
a strong bench of cards. You’ve spent hours honing your skills and deducing
the playing styles of your regular competition. Switching to a new game
means turning your back on a lot of that work and starting from scratch.
Are you ready for that sort of change? Well, the fact that you’re reading this
probably means that you are — and that’s completely okay. Some players live
and breathe their favorite game for years and years (Magic: The Gathering
players in particular fall into that category), and that’s great for them. Others
devote a couple of years to competitive play and then disconnect from the
game because of rule changes, new play styles, or simple boredom. As for
me, I prefer the unexplored territory of a newly released game, so I tend to
switch more often than some players. It just depends on your taste.
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Part I: Playing a Game Like Nothing You’ve Played Before
If you’re considering switching to a new game, take the time to really look at
what’s on the market. Don’t limit yourself exclusively to the type of game you
always played in the past. If you focused on trading card games for a long
time, take a miniatures game for a spin. Get out of your comfort zone and
check out the newest concepts. You might run across something that truly
captures your imagination!
The summer game conventions make a perfect time to sample and select new
games. Companies preview and release a lot of new games during Origins and
Gen Con — the two major summer conventions. Origins is put on by GAMA
(the Game Manufacturer’s Association), and it happens in late June or early
July each year in Columbus, Ohio. You can get more information at the conference Web site ( Gen Con is short for Geneva
Convention because it originated in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but now there
are two shows — one in Indianapolis, Indiana, in August and one in Anaheim,
California, in November. Get more info at the Gen Con Web site (www.gencon.
com). Picking up something at one of the shows gives you an advantage over
the competition at home, plus it marks you as a trendsetting “alpha gamer”
among your local crowd — and that brings social rewards by itself.
Why not give a new game a try? You never know what’s out there until you see
for yourself. Talk to your local game store, check in with industry sources,
and ask other players at the online discussion boards. You might discover
the next really hot game!
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Part II
the Big Six
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In this part . . .
hey’re everywhere you look: In college sports, it’s the
Big Ten. In accounting, it’s the Big Four (at least this
month). In car manufacturing, it’s the Big Three (plus the
Fairly Large Four and the Bigger-Than-You-Think Two). But
in the world of collectible games, it’s definitely the Big Six.
Lots of games glow brightly and then quickly grow dark in
the gaming market, but a few just keep going and going.
This part looks at the current group of top games in the
industry. Some earned their place by virtue of the size of
the player base, while others got there because of their
ability to keep attracting new players over the long haul.
Whatever the reason, these games make great introductions to all facets of the collectible game hobby.
Each chapter in this part looks at one game in depth,
starting with a run through the game’s history and its
back-story. From there, it delves into card types, deckbuilding, basic strategy, and available expansions —
enough information for you to understand how the game
works, figure out if you might enjoy it, and know what to
ask for in the stores.
After diving into one of these chapters, see if you can find
a local store that gives demonstrations or holds tournaments and open game times. That’s the best way to get
started in whichever game grabs your interest.
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Chapter 4
Beginning Where It
All Started — with
Magic: The Gathering
In This Chapter
䊳 A whole new type of game, straight from the mind of a math professor
䊳 Magic’s colossal creatures and stupendous spells
䊳 Hand-to-hand dueling — across the table
䊳 Magic’s many sets and settings, from Arabia to Ravnica
䊳 Constructing a killer deck
䊳 Beefing up the forces and widening your wizardry
䊳 Taking Magic to the Net and beyond
t’s hard to beat an original, and when it comes to Magic: The Gathering,
that certainly rings true — at least in the world of trading card games.
Magic is the oldest game of its kind, and it’s still the most popular more than
a dozen years after it first took the gaming world by storm back in 1993.
When a math professor named Richard Garfield first designed the game, he had
no idea it would catch on with millions of gamers, both at the casual and tournament levels. A simple-to-learn yet strategically deep game, it has exploded
from the original set of 300 cards to a vast array of 7,000 (and growing) cards,
with billions of copies printed worldwide.
What has caused Magic to last so long and to build its legions of fans worldwide? Well, it roped in the role player types who can’t get enough of wizards,
dragons, elves, and other fantasy characters. Hard-core gamers loved it for
its ever-changing strategy. And collectors loved it for the cool artwork, shiny
foils, and the chance to find the next Microsoft among the penny-stock cards.
But most of all, it’s just danged fun.
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Part II: Introducing the Big Six
The Magic Started Here
When Garfield originally envisioned Magic, he thought that it would basically
be a game that people would play in their basements, with each player using
the small number of cards they’d snagged in a starter deck and a few boosters.
It didn’t take long for that theory to be proven dead wrong, as players were
buying cards by the box and case from the very first print run. Publisher
Wizards of the Coast’s original run of cards was meant to last several months
but sold out in just a few weeks.
This explosion of popularity — coupled with the hoarding nature of card buyers
generally — greatly affected the game itself. Without an advanced network of
play testers for the original game, a good number of super-powerful — or
“broken” in Magic lingo — cards made their way into the early sets. Rare
cards that were meant to show up once in every few players’ decks suddenly
appeared with alarming frequency as multiple copies in the same deck.
Fortunately, the times changed quickly to make the game fairer, more balanced, and more enjoyable to all players. Rules restricting all cards to just
four copies in any single deck soon made for a more level playing field, and
the super-powerful cards were restricted to one copy or simply banned from
play. Over the years, Magic’s subsequent designers have built in more rigorous
testing schemes as well, and the DCI — the Duelists’ Convocation International,
Magic’s organized play administration — keeps a close eye on making sure
that overly strong cards don’t ruin tournament play.
Nowadays, you’ve got all sorts of great play formats for Magic, with new ones
coming out all the time. And not only can you still play in your basement, but
you can also take a deck to any local game store and, odds are, you’ll find
someone who’s ready to duel with you. Of course, it might help a bit if you
find out how to play the game first!
Deciphering the Mysteries of the Cards
In Magic, you represent a great wizard, called a planeswalker, who reaches
into his vast library to summon forth creatures and cast spells in order to
attack and defeat an opposing wizard by reducing his or her life total from
20 to 0 before he or she does it to you. The core game mechanics of Magic
revolve around the idea of harnessing mana, or magical energy, from lands
and other sources in order to power these spells and creatures. The longer a
game progresses, the more resources a wizard can use and the more powerful everything he or she summons forth becomes.
Cards in Magic exist in one of five different colors: white, blue, black, red, and
green. The five colors form a pentagon in that order on the back of all Magic
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Chapter 4: Beginning Where It All Started — with Magic: The Gathering
cards, illustrating which of the colors are “friendly” with each other and which
are “enemies.” Each color (no surprise here) has its own theme, as I describe
in the following list:
⻬ White represents law and order as well as healing. But the “good guys”
aren’t the only ones marked as white; you’re just as likely to see mindless legions of soldiers and dictatorial rulers on white cards as you are
to see angels and medics. White is friendly to green and blue and an
enemy of black and red.
⻬ Blue is the color of artifice and trickery. You’ll find lots of wizards and lots
of funky spells here. Air and water creatures mostly find their homes here,
too. Blue is friendly to white and black and an enemy of red and green.
⻬ Black is the self-serving color as well as the color of death. Creatures here
are out to further their own goals first and foremost. Similar to white, you
won’t find just the “bad guys” here either. Sure, there are plenty of evil
black demons, zombies, and sorcerers here, but you’ll also find mercenaries with a bent for independence and free thought. Black is friendly
to blue and red and an enemy of green and white.
⻬ Red is the most aggressive of the five colors, focusing on speedy and
chaotic creatures and fiery spells. Goblins, ogres, and many other
Chaotic species are red, as both their lack of brains and their eager
willingness to attack play up to the color’s theme. Red is friendly to
black and green and an enemy of white and blue.
⻬ Green is the color of life and nature. Elves and faeries abound here, as
do larger beasts. It’s the best color at generating mana in multiples as
well as at diversifying into other colors of mana. Green is friendly to red
and white and an enemy of blue and black.
I’d like that rare, please
Early Magic cards had no physical way to distinguish among rarities; instead, you had to
either find a checklist somewhere or crack tons
of packs and piece together the info. After 1998,
though, it became a lot easier:
⻬ Cards with a black expansion symbol are
common, appearing 11 times per 15-card
booster pack and about 32 times per 75-card
tournament pack.
⻬ Silver symbols denote uncommon cards,
which come 3 per booster and about 10 times
per tournament pack.
⻬ Gold symbols show that a card is rare; it
appears just once per booster or three per
tournament pack, with the remainder of
tournament packs taken up by basic lands.
Additionally, every card since 1999 has had a parallel foil version of it that is much rarer than the
regular version. Promotional versions of select
cards have also been given out as tournament
prizes, as league participation incentives, and
as compensation to organized play judges and
staff. These usually have a foil treatment and
sometimes have cool alternate art as well.
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Some decks utilize cards of just one of these colors, while others may combine
all five of them. Additionally, Magic cards are broken down into the following
six major categories:
⻬ Land cards are the resources that you use to generate mana — the units
of magical energy that you’ll be using to unleash your creatures and cast
your spells. The most common lands — called basic lands — each produce one color of mana, and they’re the only cards in the game that you
can have an unlimited number of in your deck. Forest, shown in Figure 4-1,
produces green mana. The other basic lands are Plains, which produces
white mana; Island, which makes blue; Swamp, which generates black;
and Mountain, which creates red.
Basic lands have the simplest layouts of any Magic cards. On the top left
is the card’s name, and in the bottom text box is simply the symbol for the
type of mana it produces; Forest’s tree symbol indicates that it produces
green mana. (Other lands, called nonbasic lands, have other effects that
appear in that box instead.) On Forest’s left side, below the picture, is
the card type (Land) preceded by its supertype (Basic) and followed by
its subtype (Forest). These denote that the card can key off other cards
that mention basic lands or Forests. On the right side is Forest’s expansion symbol — the number 9 inside a hand of cards — which shows that
this particular version is from the Ninth Edition base set; most every Magic
set has a unique identifying symbol like this one. And at the bottom of
the card are the card artist’s name, copyright info, and collector’s number;
these have no bearing on gameplay but help out collectors.
⻬ Creature cards are the backbone of most decks because they’re the
forces that you summon forth to battle for you. Goblin Brigand, shown
in Figure 4-2, is a typical creature you might run across when you crack a
Ninth Edition booster pack. Most of its layout mirrors that of a land card,
with a couple of important differences. Creatures, as well as all other
nonland cards, have a mana cost in the top-right corner; this shows how
much and what type of mana you need to pay for it. In the case of Goblin
Brigand, you need two mana; the fireball symbol indicates that you specifically need one red mana, and the circled 1 denotes that you can pay for
the second with any color of mana.
In addition to the Goblin Brigand’s type, shown below the picture, and
its ability, explained in its text box — it must attack during every turn if
it can — its card has two numbers in the bottom-right corner. The first
number is its power, which shows how strong its attacks are. The second
number is the Brigand’s toughness, which shows how well it holds up
to opposing attacks. If a creature’s toughness ever becomes 0, it dies
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Chapter 4: Beginning Where It All Started — with Magic: The Gathering
Figure 4-1:
Forest cards
harness the
powers of
life and
nature to
green mana
in Magic.
Figure 4-2:
is a typical
grunt for
a red
Magic army.
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⻬ Artifact cards represent the relics created by the mages throughout
Magic’s history. Instead of having a color (like creatures and other nonland cards), they’re colorless; this means that a) you can pay for their
costs with any color of mana and b) they’re not affected by any other
cards that only affect cards of a particular color. Rod of Ruin, shown in
Figure 4-3, is a typical artifact. Its mana cost of 4 means that you can pay
any combination of four mana to play it. In the text box, you’ll see that
its ability has an activation cost of 3, meaning that you need to pay any
combination of three mana in order to use its ability of dealing one damage
point. But there’s more to that cost; next to that 3 is the tap symbol, a
bent arrow. This means that you also must tap the Rod of Ruin — turn it
sideways from its normal straight-up (untapped) position — in order to
use the ability. This shows that you’ve exhausted your ability to use the
Rod of Ruin again for the remainder of a given turn.
Many other cards include the tap symbol as well; basic lands don’t have it,
but you do need to tap them in order to generate mana of the appropriate
color. Also, artifact creatures (as the name implies) share the characteristics of both creature and artifact cards; you can pay for their costs with
any color of mana, but they also attack just like any other creature.
⻬ Enchantment cards represent the mystical forces that often have broad
continuous effects on the game while they’re in play. Many of these are
played straight to the board — I go over this layout soon — while other
ones with the subtype aura are played on another card in play and affect
just that card. Flight, seen in Figure 4-4, is an aura enchantment that gives
a creature the ability to fly — a way to make its attacks harder to defend
against. It costs a single blue mana to play, represented by the drop of
water in the top-right corner. Aura enchantment cards like Flight remain
on the enchanted creature while that creature stays in play, but are placed
into your graveyard (your discard pile) if the creature leaves play.
⻬ Instant cards involve a type of spell that can have a surprise effect on
the game, and you can play them at basically any point in the game.
Unlike the previous four card types — which stay in play until destroyed
and which are collectively known as permanents — instant cards are
played, resolved, and then put into the graveyard, the game’s discard
pile. Giant Growth, shown in Figure 4-5, is a common instant card that
costs a single green mana to play. Its effect pumps up the creature that
you target with it by increasing both the target’s power and toughness
by 3 each (+3/+3). This makes it much fiercer in combat.
⻬ Sorcery cards, the last main card type, work in much the same way as
instant cards, except you can play them only during certain phases of
the game. Coercion, seen in Figure 4-6, is a black sorcery card that costs
a single black mana plus two mana of any type. It’s a particularly nasty
card; it lets you not only peek at your opponent’s hand — the place
where he holds his cards before playing them — but it also lets you
force him or her to discard one card that you choose.
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Chapter 4: Beginning Where It All Started — with Magic: The Gathering
Figure 4-3:
Rod of Ruin
is an artifact
that can
be used to
damage both
and players.
Figure 4-4:
makes its
harder to
when it
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Part II: Introducing the Big Six
Figure 4-5:
Growth is
a nice way
to surprise
your opponent during
Figure 4-6:
Coercion is
a good way
to strip an
opponent of
his or her
most potent
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Taking the Game for a Quick Spin
Before you go through the phases and steps of a typical Magic turn, you
need to understand the layout of the board. The game has these six main
⻬ Your hand is where you hold your cards during a game. You start the
game with seven cards in your hand and must discard down to that
number at the end of any turn if you’re holding more cards than
that. Only you can see your hand, and only your opponents can
see their hands — unless you have a cool spell like Coercion to get
around that!
⻬ The library is the deck from which you draw more cards during each
turn. Normally, you draw a single card each time around, but many
spells and abilities allow you to draw more.
⻬ The in-play zone is where all of the action happens. It’s the zone to
which you play your permanents, and where your creatures do battle
with your opponent’s creatures. It’s shared between both players.
⻬ The graveyard is your discard pile. Each player has his or her own graveyard, and it’s where you place resolved spells and destroyed permanents.
It’s not totally out of play, though, because numerous cards let you resurrect cards from your graveyard.
⻬ The removed-from-game zone, however, is way out of play. Certain
cards place other cards here because such cards might have abilities
deemed too strong if they sent them to the graveyard instead. Of course,
there are even a few cards, called wishes, that break this rule and allow
you to bring back cards from here, too.
Many cards in Magic break the rules of the game. When this happens,
follow Magic’s Golden Rule: When a card contradicts the rules, follow
the text on the card first.
⻬ Finally, the stack is an imaginary zone onto which both players place
cards that they’re playing. This gives each player the chance to respond
to the playing of the card by playing other spells or abilities. When a
player responds, he or she places the new spell on top of the stack.
When everyone’s done responding, you resolve the stack from the top
down, so the last spell played resolves first. Instant spells and most
abilities of permanents can be added to the stack at pretty much any
time. Some cards can counter spells on the stack, which moves them
straight from the stack to the graveyard without ever allowing them
to resolve.
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A few early cards used something called the phased-out zone, which acted like
the removed-from-game zone, except cards shifted between it and the in-play
zone every other turn and tracked their prior status when moving, rather than
resetting like newly played cards. Also, some other early cards used the ante
zone, where each player put the top card of his or her deck before starting
play. Whoever won the game got to claim the ante cards. This was stopped
after a few sets because Wizards of the Coast, the publishers behind Magic,
didn’t want the game to be seen as a form of gambling.
To win a game of Magic, you must achieve one of two chief goals: either be
the first to reduce your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0, or force him or her
to attempt to draw a card from his or her library when there are no cards left
in it. A few cards allow for other alternate win conditions, but these are the
two most often seen. The game ends immediately when any of these win conditions are achieved.
At the beginning of the game, using whatever means you agree upon, you randomly choose a player who can then either play first — and skip drawing a
card on his or her first turn — or play second and draw all cards normally.
Each player shuffles his or her deck and then draws a hand of seven cards.
A player who doesn’t like his or her hand may mulligan by shuffling it back
into the library and drawing a hand with one fewer card, repeating until he
or she is happy with the drawn hand.
A turn in a game of Magic is made up of the following five different phases:
⻬ Beginning phase: This is split up into the untap, upkeep, and draw steps.
During the untap step, the first thing you do on each turn, you untap
your cards — turn any tapped (horizontal) cards so they’re facing vertically. During upkeep, you’ll often have nothing to do, but some cards
have effects or costs that are triggered later in the game. Finally, during
the draw step, you draw a single card for the turn; remember, the first
player skips this step on the first turn. Instant spells and most cards’
abilities can be played during the upkeep and draw steps if you want,
but not during untap.
⻬ First main phase: This is the first chance you have to play a land card,
which you can do once per turn. You can also play other permanents
and sorcery cards now if you have enough mana to play them and if the
stack is empty of other spells and abilities. Also, you may play land cards,
other permanents and sorcery cards only on your own turn, not on your
opponents’ turns; remember, instants and abilities of permanents are
the only ones that can be played at other times.
Land cards, enchantment cards, artifact cards, and creature cards are
collectively called permanents because they stay in play until they are
destroyed. Instant and sorcery cards are not permanents.
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⻬ Combat phase: Here’s where much of the action happens. If you have one
or more creatures in the in-play zone, you may have any number of them
attack your opponent. When you declare your attacker(s), tap them —
turn them horizontal — to show that they’re attacking. A creature must
have been in play under your control continuously since the beginning
of your turn in order to attack. Your opponent may then choose whether
he or she wants to declare any of his or her creatures as blockers for your
attackers. This stops attacking creatures from dealing damage directly
to the defending player for that turn.
You don’t need to tap a creature in order to block with it; it’s simply
assigned and can block right away after being played without having to
wait a turn. A lone blocker may block only a single attacker, but more than
one creature may team up to block a single attacker as well. After attackers and blockers are declared, each creature assigns damage equal to its
power to the creature(s) with which it’s in combat. Unblocked attackers
assign such damage directly to the opponent. After this is done, you
resolve combat damage in the following manner:
• Any creature that is dealt damage equal to or greater than its
toughness is destroyed. Place it in the graveyard. Any excess
damage is ignored.
• Any creature that takes less damage than its toughness survives.
Nothing else happens right now, but be careful — the damage
stays on the creature until the end of the turn, so further sources
of damage can destroy the creature before then!
• Any damage that’s assigned directly to the opponent is subtracted
from that player’s life total. So, if your opponent is at 20 life and
you’ve successfully broken through with your 2/2 Goblin Raider,
your opponent will now be at 18 life.
Instant spells and abilities may be played in between each of these
combat steps, including between the assignment and the resolution of
combat damage. This allows you to prevent damage or to save a creature
by playing a spell such as Giant Growth in order to raise its toughness
higher than the amount of damage assigned to it.
⻬ Second main phase: This works in exactly the same way as the first main
phase. If you’ve already played your land for the turn, you may not play
one now. Often, you’ll want to save your new creatures during the first
main phase and play them now; this keeps your opponent in the dark until
the last possible moment and might cause him or her to make blocks and
other decisions that aren’t as good as they could be.
⻬ End phase: Some cards have abilities that are triggered by the end of
a turn. Also, you remove all damage from creatures, clear any other
effects — like Giant Growth — that last until the end of a turn, and discard down to seven cards if you’ve got more than that in your hand.
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And that’s all there is to it! After you end your turn, your opponent’s turn
begins immediately with his or her untap step, and then the game proceeds
in the order I just described until one player wins. In a multiplayer game, the
next turn starts with the player to the left of the one who just finished his or
her turn.
Looking through the Recent (And
Not-So-Recent) Releases
Magic: The Gathering has had nine editions of its base set — with generally 300
to 400 cards per set — released to date since the first one came out in 1993.
Each edition of the basic set is made up by Wizards of the Coast, combining
different cards from the many sets before them. Magic has also had about
40 expansions of anywhere from about 80 to nearly 400 cards per expansion.
The base sets have mainly included the core cards needed to get new players
into the game as well as “staple” cards that are used in many different decks,
while the expansions involve more complex cards and introduce new abilities
and concepts with each new release. Here’s a rundown of Magic’s many sets:
⻬ Limited Edition: Broken down into two printings, an error-filled one
called Alpha and a larger, corrected one called Beta, this was the original
base set, encompassing about 300 cards. The set included many of Magic’s
iconic creatures like Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, and Shivan Dragon,
as well as super-powerful cards like Black Lotus, an artifact card that
costs nothing to play but could be sacrificed (destroyed intentionally
by its controller) to produce three mana of any color. Many cards from
these sets are worth tens or hundreds of dollars; the Black Lotus alone
can go for a couple thousand!
The Unlimited Edition followed up on these several months later, replacing the black borders of Alpha and Beta with white ones but leaving the
card pool the same.
These sets also introduced basic creature abilities like flying, a way for
creatures to evade blockers, and first strike, a way for creatures to deal
combat damage first before opposing creatures ever got to assign it.
(When a creature with first strike is blocking or blocked by a creature
without it, you’ll assign its damage first. If the other creature is destroyed
by this damage, it never gets to assign its damage back to the first-striker.)
⻬ Arabian Nights: The first Magic expansion, this set is based on the tales
of Shahrazad, the storyteller in the famed Book of One Thousand and
One Nights. The set includes numerous djinns (better known as genies)
and efreets, which sport devastating stats for their costs but come with
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a harsh drawback of some kind, and Ali from Cairo, who keeps you from
going below 1 life while he is in play. Arabian Nights also features the first
lands to have other effects besides producing mana.
⻬ Antiquities: This set’s theme is artifacts; nearly every card in the expansion is an artifact or mentions artifacts somewhere in its text. Notable
cards include Candelabra of Tawnos, an artifact card that lets you untap
multiple lands at once, and Mishra’s Workshop, a land card that taps for
three mana that can be used only to play artifacts. The Revised Edition of
the base set hit soon after, stripping out some of Unlimited Edition’s most
broken and confusing cards and replacing them with reprints of cards
from the first two expansions.
⻬ Legends: The largest expansion at the time it was published, this set
boasts a whopping 310 cards based around legendary creatures, of
which only one copy of a single name can be in play at a given time. All
such creatures were also the game’s first multicolored cards, which had
gold borders and required mana of more than one specific color to be
paid. Nowadays, the set is better known for Mana Drain, an instant card
that counters a spell and then gives you the mana spent on it for your
next turn.
⻬ The Dark: This set’s focus is on creatures of the night, like The Fallen, a
zombie-like monster that directly damages opponents every turn, and
Elves of Deep Shadow, green 1/1 creatures that can be tapped to give
you an extra black mana, but at the cost of dealing one damage to you.
⻬ Fallen Empires: Overall, this is a fairly weak set, but it has some gems,
like Hymn to Tourach, which picks off two random cards from your
opponent’s hand — destroying them for in-play — for just two black
mana, and Order of the Ebon Hand, a 2/1 for two black mana that can
gain first strike or pump up its power at will. (Fallen Empires had a
larger-than-normal print run, and the abundance of the cards led to the
set being devalued in the eyes of not just collectors, but players as well.)
⻬ Ice Age Block: The first set in the block format, which includes multiple
sets under a similar theme, Ice Age was also the first set since Alpha that
was designed to be played on its own. The next set, Homelands, is pretty
weak and wasn’t really developed with the snow world focus of Ice Age.
But the following one, Alliances, did a better job of playing off some of
Ice Age’s mechanics. Together they formed the Ice Age Block, which can
be played as its own format. Hot cards in the block include Necropotence,
a black enchantment card that allows you to spend life to draw cards, and
Force of Will, a free counterspell. The block also introduced cumulative
upkeep, a way to make spells cheaper when first played but more expensive to maintain later on.
The Fourth Edition of the base set also came out around this time,
reprinting cards up through The Dark.
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⻬ Mirage Block: This block is made up of Mirage, Visions, and Weatherlight.
The first two sets focus on an African theme while the third begins the
Weatherlight Saga, an ongoing storyline that extends through many
expansions over the next few years. New mechanics include flanking,
which makes creatures more powerful when blocked, and phasing,
which makes creatures cheaper at the cost of having them only be in
play every other turn. Hot cards include Mirage’s Hammer of Bogardan,
a sorcery card that deals three damage directly to any target and also
returns itself from your graveyard to your hand each turn, and Visions’
Vampiric Tutor, an instant card that lets you search out any card from
your deck at the cost of just one black mana and two life points.
The Fifth Edition was released during this period as well, with a huge
card base of more than 400 cards.
⻬ Tempest Block (a.k.a. Rath cycle): Comprising Tempest, Stronghold, and
Exodus, the block brings buyback, one of the most powerful mechanics
ever created, to the game; buyback allows you to pay an extra cost when
playing a spell in order to have it return to your hand for reuse. Shadow,
a way to make creatures harder to block, is also a featured mechanic.
Notable cards include Tempest’s Cursed Scroll, a one-mana artifact card
that can repeatedly nail any target for two damage a turn, and Stronghold’s
Sliver Queen, the game’s first five-color creature.
⻬ Urza Block: Made up of Urza’s Saga, Urza’s Legacy, and Urza’s Destiny, this
block has a load of artifact cards as well as some of the most powerful
cards ever printed to date. Tolarian Academy, a land that taps for one
blue mana for each artifact its controller has, soon dominated tournaments and had to be banned, as did several other cards from the block.
These overpowered cards led to further improvements in Magic’s development processes and led to fewer banishments later on. The block also
introduces cycling, which lets you pitch a card for two mana and draw
another card, and echo, which makes some permanents cheaper but
requires their mana costs to be paid twice.
Sixth Edition was released during this block, too, bringing a number of
sweeping changes to the Magic rules in order to clean up a lot of confusing issues that had cropped up over the years.
⻬ Masques Block: Featuring Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, and Prophecy,
the central mechanic here involves the rebel and mercenary factions,
who can recruit other creatures of their type from the library directly
into play. Spellshapers, who let you pay a mana cost and discard a
card to produce an effect, also figure prominently here. (One notable
Spellshaper was Waterfront Bouncer, who could return a creature to
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a player’s hand if you spent a colorless mana and a blue mana and discarded a card for his ability.)
⻬ Invasion Block: Regarded by many as one of the most popular blocks to
date, the Invasion, Planeshift, and Apocalypse sets took the idea of multicolored cards to a whole new level, with about half the block being gold
cards and many others featuring cross-breeds that had mana costs of
one color but activation costs of another. A favorite of the Invasion Block
crowd was Apocalypse’s Vindicate, a sorcery card that destroyed any
permanent for just one colorless, one white, and one black mana.)
A neat subset here is the split cards, which can be played as either of
two spells of different colors. The block also includes kicker, which lets
you pay extra mana for an extra effect when playing a spell, and domain,
which lets spells get more powerful if you have several different basic
land types in play.
The Seventh Edition also made an appearance at the tail end of this block.
⻬ Odyssey Block: Odyssey, Torment, and Judgment’s main focus is on the
graveyard. Flashback allows you to play spells a second time from the
graveyard, while threshold cards get more powerful if you have seven
or more cards in your graveyard. Also, madness spells can be played
while they are being discarded from your hand. A famous creature here
is Odyssey’s Psychatog, a 1/2 for three mana that can grow to monstrous
proportions simply by discarding cards or removing them from the
game. Also, Torment is notable for having many more black cards and
fewer green and white cards than the other colors, while Judgment balances this out in the opposite direction.
⻬ Onslaught Block: The main theme of Onslaught, Legions, and Scourge
is that of the “tribes,” Magic’s creature types. Goblins, elves, wizards,
soldiers, and zombies are some of the most prominent. The block also
brings back cycling with some new twists, as well as the funky morph
mechanic, which lets you play any creature with the ability face-down
as a 2/2, where it can later be flipped face-up. The block’s most powerful
creature was Exalted Angel, who cost six mana for a 4/5 flyer that gained
you life when she dealt damage and who could also be played as a morph
face-down and then turned face-up for just four mana. Legions is notable
for being the only set composed entirely of creatures, while Scourge
brings a bunch of dragon-related cards to the game and also introduces
storm, a mechanic that copies a spell each time another spell is played in
a given turn.
Eighth Edition came out after this block, boasting an updated, more easily
readable card face noticeably different from that of previous sets.
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Cards in Eighth Edition went through the greatest changes in their layout,
but there have been other changes over the years that might confuse
new players who pick up copies of old cards. These changes include
things like a change in the tap symbol (it used to be an off-kilter T ) and
the use of terms like both Interrupt and Instant. (Without going into too
much detail, the interrupt and instant mechanics were combined into
the current instant mechanic.) If you pick up any of these old cards and
are confused over the symbols or terms, check the Web sites listed at
the end of this chapter for explanations or head to your Friendly Local
Game Store for help.
⻬ Mirrodin Block: Mirrodin, Darksteel, and Fifth Dawn make up this artifactbased block, with about half the block’s cards being artifacts and many
more playing off of them. Many new mechanics debut here, including
affinity, which makes cards cheaper for each artifact you control; equipment, artifacts that work like auras but stick around after an equipped
creature is destroyed; and sunburst, which strengthens artifacts if you
pay several different colors of mana to play them. The block’s most powerful equipment was Skullclamp, which gave a creature +1/–1 and drew
you two cards when the creature was put into a graveyard.
⻬ Kamigawa Block: Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa, and
Saviors of Kamigawa make up this Japanese-themed block, complete with
ninjas and samurai! Spirits and dragons abound here, as do a special
type of spirit magic known as arcane. Legends return here in a big way,
and flip cards, which turn from one form into another when a certain
goal has been achieved, debut here too. One neat flip card was Saviors’
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. He started out as a 1/1 flyer, but flipped
into an Enchantment card called Erayo’s Essence after four spells were
played in a given turn; Erayo’s Essence then countered the first spell an
opponent played each turn after that.
Ninth Edition, the current base set, was released after this block.
⻬ Ravnica Block: Like Invasion Block, this newest block focuses on multicolor cards but breaks them down into 10 two-color guilds. The first set,
Ravnica, contains the Boros (red/white), Dimir (blue/black), Golgari
(black/green), and Selesnya (green/white) guilds, each with its own signature mechanics. Guildpact and Dissension are scheduled to release
in 2006, with the former containing the Gruul Clans (red/green), Izzet
(blue/red), and Orzhov Syndicate (white/black), and the latter having
the Azorius Senate (white/blue), Cult of Rakdos (black/red), and Simic
Combine (green/blue). The Boros got a very strong instant in Ravnica
with Lightning Helix, which dealt 3 damage to any target and gained
you 3 life for a cost of just one red mana and one white mana.
Also, an update set for the old Ice Age Block, called Coldsnap, will release
in the summer of 2006 and will feature many of that block’s themes.
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Additionally, a number of independent sets have been released over the
years. The humor sets Unglued and Unhinged brought players a whole slew
of fun and goofy cards that feature jokes that had cropped up among the
Magic crowd. Portal, Portal: Second Age, and the Asian-themed Portal: Three
Kingdoms were designed for beginners. Also, numerous boxed gift sets containing special decks are made available each year, as are a series of world
champion decks.
Building a Strong Basic Deck
The previous sections show you how the game works and give you a look at
the vast number of cards that Magic has to offer. When you have all of that
under your belt, it’s time to build a deck. To construct a deck, you must use at
least 60 cards, with no more than four of any specific card besides basic lands.
To make it easy for you to track down the cards I use here — assuming, of
course, that you actually want to build this particular deck for yourself — I
stick with Ninth Edition common and uncommon cards.
Your creature base looks like this:
⻬ 4 copies of Llanowar Elves
⻬ 4 copies of Kird Ape
⻬ 4 copies of Grizzly Bears
⻬ 4 copies of Goblin Brigand
⻬ 4 copies of Viashino Sandstalker
⻬ 2 copies of Hunted Wumpus
This deck follows a common principle used in Magic deck construction — the
mana curve. This means that in order to be able to use as much of your mana
as possible each turn, you want to play with a greater number of cheap creatures and spells than more expensive ones.
Two creatures here fall into the one-drop slot. Llanowar Elves are 1/1s for a
single green mana who can tap for a green mana, letting you play more expensive stuff more quickly than you’d normally be able to. Kird Ape is also a 1/1,
but it costs a red mana. His big bonus comes if you control a forest — an easy
task in this deck — where he becomes a 2/3 and can rule the board in the
early game.
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The two-drops are the Goblin Brigand, who I’m sure you’ve come to love by
now, and Grizzly Bears, a vanilla 2/2 for one green mana and one other. At the
three-slot are four copies of Viashino Sandstalker, a 4/2 lizard-like creature
for two red mana and one other. (You can have a gander at him in Figure 4-7.)
Viashino Sandstalker has haste, which lets him attack during the turn he hits
play instead of waiting a turn, but in return, he pops himself back to your hand
at the end of each turn.
Figure 4-7:
haste ability
lets him
during the
turn he’s
The last creature is the Hunted Wumpus, a huge 6/6 beast for just one green
mana and three others. This is a really cheap cost for such a large body, but
it comes with a drawback; your opponent gets to put a creature from his or
her hand into play when you play the Hunted Wumpus. Usually, though, it’ll
be smaller than the Wumpus, and life will be good (at least for your hand!).
On the spell side of the deck, you have these cards:
⻬ 4 copies of Shock
⻬ 4 copies of Volcanic Hammer
⻬ 4 copies of Giant Growth
⻬ 2 copies of Blaze
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If you read the previous sections, you’ve become well acquainted with Giant
Growth by now, so I talk a bit about the other spells. Shock, Volcanic Hammer,
and Blaze are all known as direct-damage spells; they can deal damage directly
to a creature or player without requiring you to attack with creatures. They’re
just as good at removing pesky attackers or blockers as they are at lowering
your opponent’s life total.
Shock’s an instant card that deals two damage at a cost of just a single red
mana, and the Hammer is a sorcery card that hits for three damage for one
red mana and one other. Blaze, seen in Figure 4-8, is a special kind of spell
commonly called an X-spell. The X in its mana cost means that you can
choose any number when playing it and then pay that much mana plus one
red in order to deal that much damage to any target. It’s a great way to take
out huge creatures or to finish off your opponent at the end of a game.
In addition to the spells, you need these basic lands to power them:
⻬ 11 copies of Forest
⻬ 13 copies of Mountain
You have just a couple more Mountains here because you have more red
cards than green in the deck, and only the Viashino Sandstalkers require
more than one mana of a particular color.
Figure 4-8:
As the Blaze
card says,
fire never
dies alone.
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Generally, you want to stick to these proportions of creatures, lands, and
spells when building any new deck. This ensures that you have enough mana
to play your spells and also maintains a balance between on-board threats
and surprise cards.
The most common decks contain cards of only two colors because limiting
yourself like this diversifies the different abilities you can use more than a
single-color deck does but enables you to draw the right color mana more
often than a multicolored deck does. It’s often tempting to try and squeeze in
as many cool new cards as possible when building a deck, but you’re better
off putting them into separate decks; sticking to the 60-card minimum gives
you the greatest possible chance of drawing a given card at a given time.
Adding Combos for Power and Protection
As you get more experienced at building decks, you’ll be able to stray from
the previous guidelines more often and can also incorporate more rare and
complex cards into your deck. Besides Ninth Edition, cards from the Kamigawa
and Ravnica blocks are a good place to start because they’re readily available.
Also, along with Ninth Edition, these two sets make up the popular Standard
tournament format. This will make it easier to find a game at your local store.
For the deck I outline in the preceding section, Ninth Edition sports some cool
rares that can enhance it, such as Karplusan Forest, a “painland” that can
either tap for a colorless mana with no drawback or tap for either a red or a
green mana and deal one damage to you. Another cool rare here is the red
enchantment card Furnace of Rath, which doubles the damage that creatures and spells deal. Rathi Dragon is a huge 5/5 flyer for just four mana, but
it requires you to sacrifice two Mountains when you play it, and Relentless
Assault is a four-mana sorcery card that untaps your creatures and gives you
an extra attack each turn.
On the green side, the gigantic 8/8 Force of Nature costs you just six mana and
has trample, a powerful ability that lets some of its combat damage spill over
onto your opponent when it’s blocked. However, in return for its comparatively
cheap cost, you have to pay four green mana each upkeep to maintain it.
Also, Might of Oaks is an instant card that gives a creature an enormous
+7/+7 bonus for just a green mana and three other mana.
Kamigawa and Ravnica allow for a host of other cards to be included, and
with Ravnica’s gold theme, it allows you to branch out more easily into
decks with three or more colors. Ravnica has plenty of cards that allow
you to smooth out your mana base and to play the spells you want to
when you need to play them.
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If you plan on playing in tournaments, you’ll want to construct a sideboard for
your deck. You use this 15-card side deck to switch cards between it and your
main deck between games of a tournament match. Most matches run in a
best-of-three format, so you’ll be using your sideboard a lot. Common strategies for building a sideboard include using cards that hurt a specific color;
Flashfires is one such sorcery card that destroys all Plains in play. You might
also want to pack cards that deal with certain weaknesses in the main deck.
For example, Viridian Shaman is a 2/2 creature that destroys an opponent’s
artifact card when it comes into play, something that nothing in the previous
main deck can do. The number of different strategies and builds you can play
with is literally endless!
For something completely different, a fun alternative to constructed deck play
is called a booster draft. An even number of players — four, six, or eight works
best — sit in a circle, each with three unopened booster packs. Each player
opens his or her first pack, picks a card from it, and then passes it to the left.
You take a card from the pack that was just passed to you and then pass it
again and repeat until all the cards have been taken. With the second booster,
you repeat this process, passing to the right instead, and then back to the left
with the third pack. From the 45 cards you’ve taken, you’ll take about half and
add roughly 16 to 18 basic land cards to make a 40-card minimum deck — a
special minimum used only for booster draft games — and then play as you
would any other game of Magic!
Resources for Expanding Your Skills
Magic’s timing was pretty lucky. Back in 1993, the Internet was just starting to
catch on across the world, especially on college campuses, where many players lived. The growth of strategy and information networks about the game
paralleled the growth of the online community as a whole, with newsgroups
and Web sites devoted to the game springing up over the years. Here’s a look
at a few of the best Magic resources:
⻬ Located at,
Wizards of the Coast’s official Magic Web site has loads of strategy and
general-interest columns as well as tournament coverage, the complete
Magic rules, and loads of other game info.
⻬ Magic Online: If you don’t have a nearby game store or just have a
hankering for a game at 3:00 in the morning, you can hop onto Magic
Online and get in a match with anyone across the world. You can
download a copy — which is only available for PCs right now — from
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⻬ Star City Games and Brainburst: Located at
and, these sites have a large number of feature
writers, including many who’ve won a load of money on Magic’s pro tours.
You can also find a huge number of single cards for sale at these two sites,
as well as deck lists and card search functions.
⻬ InQuest Gamer and Scrye magazines: The two largest and best-known
trading card game magazines have loads of Magic strategy and deckbuilding articles. InQuest Gamer has a humorous and irreverent tone to
many of its articles, while Scrye toes a more conservative line, so you
should be able to figure out which suits your tastes better. Each one
also has an extensive price guide and news on the trading card game
market. InQuest Gamer also has more strategy tips and news at
⻬ Magic Rarities: Located at,
this site sports information on rare and unique Magic cards, as well as
information on authorized, unauthorized, and semi-authorized sets produced by fans.
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Chapter 5
Battling for Superhero Supremacy
with the Vs. System
In This Chapter
䊳 Comic relief: From graphic novels to gameplay
䊳 An X-ray view at Vs. cards
䊳 Bringing POW! BANG! BOOM! to life
䊳 From Origins to Avengers: A look at the Vs. sets
䊳 Forming your first team
䊳 Powering up your favorite heroes
ver wanted to run faster than a speeding bullet and leap tall buildings in
a single bound? Fancy yourself as a do-gooder who’s bound to save the
world, or the supervillain bent on destroying it? Don’t break out that shiny
spandex get-up quite yet — you won’t actually be doing any of that high-flyin’
stuff for real. But what you will do with the Vs. System is take all of that superhero action and bring it to your dining room table in an exciting new way.
Upper Deck’s trading card game, currently made up of the Marvel and DC
comic universes, encompasses the characters, locations, battles, and superpowers that have shown up in those worlds over their many years. Want to
pit Spider-Man against The Joker? Wolverine vs. Lex Luthor? Or even team up
Doctor Doom and Daredevil to take on all comers? It’s all possible in Vs.
The game’s been around for just two years, but it already has eight sets and
more than 1,000 cards — most of which are easily accessible — from which
to build your teams, with new ones releasing every three months. How about
a peek inside, along with some tips on making your own decks?
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Bringing Comics to Cards
For any good game based on a licensed property, it’s important to stay true
to the feel of that property. The cards in Vs. do a good job of that, taking the
classic characters and translating their powers into meaningful game abilities. Places like Genosha, Latveria, and Korugar bring their own flavor to the
game, as do the many storylines that enrich the comic realms.
But it’s really the battles between the heroes and villains that take center
stage. Not only do characters slug it out in one-on-one combat, but they also
can team up with each other and boost each other’s abilities to take on foes.
And while characters that frequently join forces get some abilities unique to
those team-ups, the trading card game format lets you bring together unlikely
allies — even those that cross over the Marvel/DC boundaries.
In Vs., you represent a mastermind who recruits characters to fight against
your opponent’s forces. Each player starts out with 50 endurance points,
which symbolize how strong you and your team are. Each turn, you build up
more and more resources to help you bring more powerful fighters and gear
to the table. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to activate the powers of Location cards
under your control and play ingenious Plot Twist cards to throw a wrench
into your opponent’s plans. By attacking the characters your opponent has
recruited — and later on attacking him or her directly — you can whittle
away at your adversary’s endurance points. The first person to knock an
opponent’s endurance down to 0 points at the end of a turn wins the game!
Reading the Cards
Vs. has four main card types — the standard Characters, Equipment, Locations,
and Plot Twists types you find in many trading card games — and each one
has its own unique set of identifiers and statistics. Of these four card types,
Characters are the meat and potatoes of a combat-based game such as this
one, so I start with those.
Characters: The heart and soul of Vs.
At the top of a Character card are a name and a version. The name tells you who
appears on the card and also determines the uniqueness of that character —
normally, only one character of a given name can be in play at a given time.
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Some characters have a diamond symbol and an identity after the name; this
denotes characters who have been more than one individual in their persona
at different times, such as Green Lantern and Spider-Woman. No matter how
many different identities a character might have, though, you’re still only
allowed to have the one character in play at a given time.
The version gives you a more specific read into the personality of the character; Ororo Munroe is Storm’s version in Figure 5-1, but she has other versions
as well, including Weather Witch. Some cards have the version army; these are
interchangeable grunts and are not unique.
Figure 5-1:
Storm is a
key member
of the
and she’s
pretty good
in Vs., too.
On the top-left corner of a Character card is a number displaying that card’s
recruit cost. The higher this number, the more expensive it is to bring out and
the more powerful it generally is. Storm has a cost of 4, so she’s somewhere in
the middle of the pack. Below the recruit cost is a character’s team affiliation —
X-Men in Storm’s case — which plays a part when she’s got other X-Men on
her side or when other cards key off of having X-Men somewhere in a given
game. Some character cards don’t have a team, but most do.
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Team affiliation in the Vs. System is key to many successful strategies, but
there are also cards that can effectively shut down a whole team during play.
Be careful when building decks that you do not fall prey to this counter tactic.
Some lucky characters have the benefit of flight and/or range. The winged
icon symbolizes flight; crosshairs denote range. I get to those soon in more
depth, but in a nutshell, they allow the character to attack more characters
than he or she would otherwise be able to. Storm’s got some major talent
here — she’s got both!
On the bottom-left corner of any Character card, you see two stats: attack
(ATK) on top and defense (DEF) on the bottom. The ATK — 7 for Storm —
shows how powerful the character is in combat; the higher the number, the
more damage he or she will be able to inflict. The DEF — 6 in Storm’s case —
shows how much force a character can absorb before getting stunned; again,
the higher the number, the stronger that character is.
At the bottom of the card are three letters followed by three numbers; these
are the expansion code and set number of the card. They appear on every
card in the game and show what Vs. set they came from. Rare cards have gold
lettering, uncommons go for a silver look, and common cards stick with white.
This text has no effect on gameplay.
Finally, below the illustration of your hero or supervillain, you find the card’s
text box — probably the part of the card you’ll be most interested in. Most
cards have special abilities that appear here — Storm, for example, allows you
to pay two of your endurance points to remove flight from opposing characters
for a turn. (Being able to pay for certain perks is called — drumroll, please — a
payment power.) Many different keywords can appear here as well; they denote
abilities that are common among many different characters and have specific
definitions within the game.
Rather than the red background seen on most Characters, some Characters
have a black background and the keywords concealed or concealed — optional
in their text boxes. This means that they come into play in a player’s hidden
zone (for concealed) or give you the choice of whether to have them come
into play as either visible or hidden (for concealed — optional). I discuss
zones in a bit, but all this means is that a character who is hidden can’t be
attacked by opposing characters but can attack normally. Generally, characters can’t change from hidden to visible or vice versa unless they have an
ability or are affected by a card that lets them do that.
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Equipment: The gear that shifts games
Equipment cards have a gray background and are the vehicles, weapons, and
other accessories that boost characters: They can make characters stronger,
give characters more targets to attack, or grant other abilities that characters
don’t otherwise have. Equipment is played on a character that’s in play
already, and most characters can have only one piece of equipment on them
at a time.
Escrima Sticks, shown in Figure 5-2, has a recruit cost of 1 in its top-left corner,
just like a Character card has, and the word Equipment down the left side to
remind you of the card’s type. Its text gives +1 to both ATK and DEF for the
character to which it’s attached. The transferable keyword means that once a
turn at a specified time, you have the option to move your Escrima Sticks to
another character under your control.
Figure 5-2:
pumps up
your characters and
can move
to where
it’s needed
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Locations: Home-field advantage
Third on the list of card types is Locations, which can be anything from the
home bases of heroes and villains to famous buildings where they congregate
to other significant places in the comic universe. Locations are denoted by a
green background and often give a benefit to members of a specific team or
subset of characters. Like characters, they’re also unique, so you can have
only one of a given name in play at a time.
Mojoverse, the Location card shown in Figure 5-3, has a threshold cost of 1 in
its upper-left corner and a reminder-type line on the left side. I touch on the
play differences between threshold and recruit costs in a bit, but ultimately
the higher the cost, the stronger the location’s powers. Mojoverse grants a
continuous bonus to any attackers in play that have no team affiliation, plus
you can activate it — turn it sideways from its normal ready position — to
remove all team affiliations from any of your characters.
In addition to activating Locations, you can also activate many Characters for
their abilities. Besides being ready or exhausted, Character cards have an
additional position — stunned. Stunned characters have been temporarily
defeated in battle — but not knocked out — and are turned face-down to
show this. Stunned characters remain exhausted until they are readied.
Figure 5-3:
something to
cheer about.
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Plot Twists: Retelling the story
The last card type — Plot Twist — signifies a change in the game’s storyline.
Plot Twist cards have a blue background and are generally played as a surprise maneuver to affect combat or to grant other abilities or effects.
Like Location cards, Plot Twist cards have a threshold cost and a remindertype line. Their text boxes explain what to do when you play them. The Plot
Twists themselves are usually just one-shot effects, but some, like Blood
in the Dark (see Figure 5-4), have additional ongoing effects and show the
keyword ongoing. Such ongoing effects are denoted by a clock icon on the
left side and take effect only if the Plot Twist remains in play after you’ve
played it.
Figure 5-4:
Blood in
the Dark
the stealth
that made
Blood in the Dark’s first effect allows one of your characters to attack a hidden
character, while its ongoing effect allows you to pay two endurance points to
give that ability to all of your characters. That Batman’s a wily one!
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Trying a Sample Game
After you’ve gotten a handle on what everything looks like and does, it’s time
to show the steps of a typical turn. But first, I need to go over the board setup.
The game’s made up of the following six zones:
⻬ Deck: This is the stack of cards from which you draw all of your cards.
Each player has one, and no one may look through it unless a card
specifically allows them to.
⻬ Hand: This is where you hold the cards you’ve drawn. Only you can see
these cards unless a card lets another player look.
⻬ KO’d Pile: Each player has a pile in which he places characters that are
knocked out in combat, along with any other discarded cards.
⻬ Chain: This is where both players place cards from their hands before
the cards come into play or take effect. Players can add new cards and
abilities on top of the chain whenever cards allow them to, with the top
card resolving as soon as no one adds to it.
⻬ Removed from Game: Surprise! You put cards that are removed from
the game here. Remember to return these — along with any cards that
change controllers — to their original owners at the end of the game.
⻬ In-Play: All the action takes place here. Hidden characters go on the left
and visible characters go on the right, with an empty column between
the two areas.
The visible area comprises these three rows:
⻬ Front row: Your main fighters go here. Only front-row characters and
characters with range may attack.
⻬ Support row: Your defensive and specialty characters generally go here
because they’re less vulnerable here to being attacked right away. If a
support-row character has a non-stunned character in front of it, it’s considered to be protected and can’t be attacked except by characters with
flight. Characters with range are often better off here because they can
still attack. (Don’t worry too much about this non-stunned business — I
get to that shortly, but it basically means that the character is ready to
defend you from all comers.)
⻬ Resource row: You play cards face-down here to power your other cards.
Location and Plot Twist cards can be flipped face-up from here if you have
at least as many resources as their threshold costs, so you generally want
to play them (rather than Character cards) here.
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The hidden area is arranged in the same way as the visible area, except it has
no Resource row.
If you’ve played other trading card games before, you’ve probably rotated turns
between players. In Vs., though, players share a turn, with both players completing each phase of the turn before proceeding to the next one. The person
who goes first in each phase of a given turn has the initiative, which is determined randomly at the start of the game and passes back and forth at the
end of each turn.
Now that you understand the game layout, you can start the turn. After you
shuffle your deck, draw four cards. If you don’t like them — maybe you’ve
drawn all expensive characters, or no characters at all — you can mulligan
once per game by placing those four cards on the bottom of your deck and
drawing four new ones.
Building up your forces
At the start of each turn, both players draw two cards; this is in addition to
the four that you drew to open the game. After this comes the Build phase,
which is made up of the following three steps:
⻬ Resource step: First, you play a card from your hand face-down into your
Resource row. The more resources you have in play, the more powerful
cards you’ll be able to throw down.
⻬ Recruit step: Next, you can recruit characters and equipment into either
your Front or Support row. Each resource provides one resource point
that you’ll be able to spend each turn to play characters and equipment.
For example, if you have three resources in play, you can play a character with a recruit cost of 3. You could also play a character with a recruit
cost of 2 and another with a cost of 1.
⻬ Formation step: Now you can rearrange your characters as you see fit,
based on the rules for attacking to and from the different rows.
Duking it out
Now for the fun part — character combat! After you’re done with the Build
phase, the Combat phase begins. Both players can first play Plot Twist cards or
fire up the powers of Location cards, and the player with the initiative chooses
one of his or her ready characters to become an attacker and exhausts it.
Then, that same player chooses an opposing character to attack; you can
attack only characters that are face-up (not stunned).
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Each player may now play additional Plot Twist cards and call up more powers
from Location cards as part of resolving the attack. Remember those attack
and defense stats we talked about? Here’s where they come into play. If the
attacker’s ATK is greater than or equal to the defender’s DEF, the defender
becomes stunned. If the defender’s ATK is greater than or equal to the
attacker’s DEF, the attacker becomes stunned. Exhaust those characters if
they’re not already exhausted and then turn them face-down.
If you’ve got an extra copy of a character in your hand, you don’t have to just
let it sit there. During the attack, you may discard any extras to give a +1
bonus to the matching character’s ATK and DEF for each card discarded.
This is called powering up that character.
When a character becomes stunned, its controller takes a stun endurance loss
equal to that stunned character’s recruit cost. Also, if the attacker’s ATK is
greater than the defender’s DEF, the defender takes a breakthrough endurance
loss equal to the difference; this doesn’t apply to the attacker if by chance
he or she loses. A defender can prevent a breakthrough endurance loss by
exhausting a ready Support-row character of the same team affiliation that’s
adjacent — directly behind or next to it — to reinforce the defender.
After you’re done with the first attack, you may repeat this step until you
have no more ready characters or just choose to stop.
If a defender is too big for one character to defeat alone, you can team-attack
that character by declaring two or more characters of the same team affiliation
as attackers simultaneously. You add up their ATKs and compare them to the
defender’s DEF to see whether he or she gets stunned; the opponent compares
the defender’s ATK to just one attacker’s DEF. Unlike regular attacks, team
attacks never cause breakthrough endurance loss.
Marvel vs. DC
If you’re a fan of the Marvel and DC universes,
you’ll love the fact that you can play Vs. with all
of the major characters — and many of the minor
ones, too! If you’re new to the comic scene, Vs.
paints a great picture of how rich the comic
worlds are. Speaking of painting pictures, the artwork on the cards is created mainly by famous
Marvel and DC artists, from Adam Kubert’s cool
Iceman to Ariel Olivetti’s demonic Ra’s al Ghul
to the incomparable Alex Ross’s Aquaman.
Wanna pit the two universes against each other?
Easy enough — with more than 30 different
teams available, you can play your DC Teen
Titans deck against your Marvel-fan friend’s
Masters of Evil, or your Arkham Inmates against
his or her Spider-Friends. Of course, the compatibility of each set allows you to team up
unlikely candidates; good guys can pair up with
evil, and Marvel and DC teams can work just
fine together, too!
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If your opponent has no unstunned characters left in play, you may directly
attack him or her. The attacker simply deals endurance loss to that player
equal to its ATK; this is considered a breakthrough.
Healing up your team
Now that you’re done with combat, you’ve got a few more important things
to take care of in the Recovery phase:
⻬ If a player is at 0 or less endurance, the other player wins the game. If both
players are at 0 or less, the one with the higher endurance total wins.
⻬ If both players are still above 0 endurance, each player may recover
a stunned character by turning it’s card face-up, leaving it exhausted.
All other stunned characters are put into their owner’s KO’d pile.
Then, both players ready all exhausted characters and locations for
use on the next turn.
⻬ Now, change initiative to the other player and begin the next turn!
Games generally take at least six or seven turns before one player wins,
though some slower decks that rely more on controlling the action than on
rapid attacks can make a game last a lot longer. Expect an average game to
take about 15 to 20 minutes after you have a feel for how the game flows.
If it seems like things are going slowly at the beginning of a particular game,
don’t worry — cards get exponentially better at each cost increase, so the
big guns usually end the game quickly when they hit the table.
Strolling through the Stacks
With eight sets having been released to date, there’s an awful lot to sift
through. Each of the sets not only introduces new characters and teams,
but each also sports new mechanics and abilities that add to the game.
Here are the nuts and bolts of each of the expansions so far:
⻬ Marvel Origins: The first Vs. set, Origins hit stores in the spring of 2004.
It featured five main teams: X-Men, Brotherhood, Doom, Fantastic Four,
and Sentinels, with a few from the Negative Zone and Skrull teams.
Famous characters include Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Dr. Doom.
⻬ DC Origins: Debuting a few months after Marvel, this set contained
Batman’s Gotham Knights, Robin’s Teen Titans, The Joker’s Arkham
Inmates, and Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins. It also marked the first
cards with boost, which lets you pay a card’s optional extra cost to
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make it more powerful, and loyalty, which are cards that are cheaper
than normal but can be recruited only if you control a character on the
same team as that card.
⻬ Marvel Web of Spider-Man: The Spider-Friends and Sinister Syndicate
first showed up here, as did a few characters from the Origins teams.
Notable in the set were Spider-Man, Dr. Octopus, and Green Goblin, as
was the inclusion of evasion, which allows a character to avoid being
attacked by stunning itself for a turn.
⻬ DC Superman, Man of Steel: Besides Team Superman, Orion’s New
Gods, Lex Luthor’s Revenge Squad, and Darkseid’s Elite debuted here.
Cosmic, a temporary way of granting a strong bonus to a card, and invulnerability, which gives characters the ability to ignore stun endurance
loss, first popped up here as well.
⻬ Marvel Knights: This set featured the new teams of Marvel Knights,
X-Statix, Crime Lords, and Underworld, with key characters including
Daredevil, Elektra, Punisher, Kingpin, and Mephisto. This was the
first set to include concealed characters and also contained the first
characters with loyalty to two teams.
⻬ DC Green Lantern Corps: In addition to the Green Lantern Corps itself,
teams here were Emerald Enemies, Anti-Matter, and Manhunter. The first
concealed — optional characters showed up, too, and the willpower and
construct keywords also debuted. The last two did nothing on their own,
but the set had many cards that keyed off cards that contained one of
these keywords in their text boxes. Many flavors of Lanterns showed up,
as did Lantern-gone-bad Sinestro.
⻬ Marvel The Avengers: Squadron Supreme, Thunderbolts, Masters of Evil,
and Kang Council joined The Avengers in this expansion. Captain America
and Iron Man were key here, but the 11 nonunique versions of Kang
caught many players’ eyes. The set also showcased leaders, who gave
bonuses to adjacent characters, and reservists, who could be recruited
from the Resource row, as well as the team-up keyword for characters.
⻬ DC Justice League of America: Besides the JLA, the Justice League
International, Injustice Gang, and Secret Society started here, bringing
Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and many new dual-team versions of
older characters with them. It also featured allies, who gained powers
when other friendly characters powered up.
For a look at some of the great artwork for these cards, check out the galleries in those sections of Upper Deck Entertainment’s Web site devoted
to DC’s Vs. System ( and
Marvel’s Vs. System (
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Building a Basic Deck
Now that you’ve got the rules down, how about putting together a deck? With
more than 1,000 different cards out there, you have quite a bit to choose
from. To keep things from becoming too intimidating, I limit the card pool
to cards from the latest Marvel expansion, The Avengers. I leave out the rare
cards for now, too; that should make it easy to find these cards if you want
to build this deck for yourself.
For most decks, it’s a good idea to follow some basic guidelines:
⻬ Character cards should take up about 30 to 40 of the 60 cards in the deck.
While 60 is the minimum number of cards for a constructed deck, it’s a
good idea to stick to that number in order to maximize your chances of
drawing a specific card when you need it. Remember, too, that you can
have up to only four copies of any card in your deck.
⻬ The rest of your deck — about 20 to 30 cards — should be made up
of Plot Twist and Location cards with only very efficient equipment.
Reservist characters can replace some of these as well because you’ll
be able to replace them with a card from your hand when you recruit
them from your Resource row.
⻬ Try shooting for a larger number of cheaper cards rather than more
expensive ones. The exact counts will vary depending on the teams
you go with, but generally, you want a few 0- to 1-cost cards, with most
of the rest of your deck falling into the 2-to-4-cost range. Anything more
expensive than that should be kept to no more than a few cards.
To make things easy to grasp, I show you how to build a deck from a single
team here, The Avengers. (Many decks run two teams along with Plot Twists
that allow them to count as the same team; few run more than two teams.)
This team has some great interactions among its members. Additionally, many
of them are reservists, so you can be sure that you can play your characters
when you need to.
The cheaper end of your character base looks something like this:
⻬ 3 copies of Hank Pym <> Ant-Man, Diminutive Hero
⻬ 4 copies of Rick Jones, A Hero’s Best Friend
⻬ 4 copies of Dane Whitman <> Black Knight, Heroic Paladin
⻬ 4 copies of Falcon, Sam Wilson
⻬ 2 copies of Wasp, Janet Van Dyne-Pym
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At the one-cost slot, Ant-Man and Rick come out very quickly on your first
turn; Hank can come in concealed, but he gets up to 4 ATK while visible and
team-attacking. Rick’s even trickier — not only can he come in concealed or
as a reservist, but he can also be played for free if you discard an Avengers
character card. This isn’t too big a cost because you’re drawing two cards
each turn.
Stepping up to the two-cost cards, Black Knight lets you pay a resource point
and replace a reservist in your Resource row to give him a +3 bonus to ATK and
DEF for a turn. Wasp has concealed — optional — and also is a leader who
keeps adjacent characters from becoming stunned.
Falcon is one of your most important characters; besides being a reservist
and getting a +2 ATK/+2 DEF bonus while adjacent to a leader character, he
can also be played with a boost of 1 (for a total recruit cost of 3) to search
your deck for a leader card and put it into your hand. This allows the deck
to run just a single copy of some of the more expensive leaders to keep you
from drawing too many unplayable cards at the same time early on.
You have the following midrange characters:
⻬ 4 copies of Black Panther, T’challa
⻬ 4 copies of Captain America, Steve Rogers
⻬ 4 copies of Quicksilver, Mutant Avenger
⻬ 2 copies of Carol Danvers <> Warbird, Galactic Adventurer
⻬ 4 copies of Hawkeye, Clinton Barton
⻬ 1 copy of Iron Man, Tony Stark
Black Panther comes in as a 4 ATK/3 DEF for 3, but gets +1 ATK/+1 DEF for each
reservist you reveal when he hits play. Captain America is a leader who gives
adjacent team attackers +1 ATK. Quicksilver is a reservist who readies whenever your team attackers stun a defender, while Warbird, seen in Figure 5-5,
is also a reservist who can bounce a stunned defender with cost 5 or less to
its owner’s hand.
Hawkeye is a reservist as well, but it’s his power that’s really cool: He can activate to stun any number of characters with total cost 2 or less. This enables
you to get a leg up from anywhere in the play area and also gives you a path
to attack your opponent directly. Finally, Iron Man gives flight, range, and +1
ATK/+1 DEF to adjacent Avengers, and his leader keyword lets you search him
out with Falcon.
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Figure 5-5:
ability is
handy in
gaining an
Now for the heavy hitters:
⻬ 2 copies of Scarlet Witch, Mistress of Chaos Magic
⻬ 1 copy of She-Hulk, Gamma Bombshell
⻬ 1 copy of Vision, Synthetic Humanoid
⻬ 1 copy of Wonder Man, Simon Williams
⻬ 1 copy of Hank Pym <> Goliath, Giant Genius
Scarlet Witch is a 9 ATK/9 DEF for 5 — about par for the course — but she
can also stop opposing character powers if you discard an Avenger during
combat. She-Hulk’s a reservist who can gain invulnerability if you replace
one of your reservists, while Vision can come in concealed and also can
negate a non-ongoing Plot Twist card if you pay an endurance point while
attacking or defending with it.
Even better, Wonder Man’s a reservist who lets you stun a character outside
of combat! He lets you reveal up to five face-down resources when he hits
play and then stun a character with a cost less than the total of the revealed
numbers. Lastly, Goliath is 16 ATK/15 DEF for 7 — a pretty hefty size — but
he also lets you discard him to reinforce an Avengers’ defender you control.
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You need the following Locations in your deck to house the Avengers:
⻬ 3 copies of Playroom
⻬ 3 copies of Pym Laboratories
Playroom, shown in Figure 5-6, lets you get around much of the nobreakthrough drawback of team attackers by dealing a loss of 4 endurance
to your opponent whenever your team attackers stun a defender. And Pym
Laboratories not only allows you to attack hidden characters, but it also lets
you recover an Avenger by revealing resource-row reservists.
Figure 5-6:
gives your
team attackers a great
extra boost.
Filling out your deck are a dozen Plot Twists:
⻬ 4 copies of Call Down the Lightning
⻬ 4 copies of Legendary Battles
⻬ 4 copies of Repulsor Ray
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Chapter 5: Battling for Superhero Supremacy with the Vs. System
As you can see in Figure 5-7, for just a threshold of 1 and replacing a reservist
resource — meaning you can play it pretty much any time you attack — Call
Down the Lightning gives one of your attackers +3 ATK/+3 DEF. Legendary
Battles gives your team attackers +1 ATK and prevents them from being
stunned. And Repulsor Ray gives an attacker +2 ATK and stops your opponent from using any possible payment powers listed as part of a character’s
special abilities.
Figure 5-7:
pump up an
Play Call
Down the
Mixing and Matching for Killer Decks
Of course, the deck I outline in this chapter allows for just a small subset of
cards in Vs. to be used. Even within The Avengers set, you can add a number
of great rares to the deck. Jarvis, Honorary Avenger is a tiny 1 ATK/1 DEF,
but he lets you search out an Avenger any time he defends, and then he
comes back for more the next turn. On the opposite end of the spectrum,
Hulk is a gigantic 17 ATK/17 DEF for 7 plus a discard of an Avengers leader;
however, you can keep him from being stunned by paying 7 endurance. Even
better, he gets bigger when you do this!
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The Plot Twist cards are even more impressive. Avengers Assemble! lets you
search out an Avenger from your deck and give that character — or any that
shares a name with it — a +1 ATK/+1 DEF counter if you recruit it on that turn.
And Earth’s Mightiest Heroes provides the largest single one-shot bonus yet
in the game — a whopping +7 ATK to an attacker in exchange for not playing
any other Plot Twist cards that turn.
Plenty of other options exist, and I could write a whole book about them.
If you’ve got the dough — usually between $60 and $80 — a good bet is
simply to buy a box (24 booster packs) of whatever set you like and make
a deck out of what you find. Each pack contains a foil version of one of the
cards in the set, too!
Also, the next Vs. set hits stores in early 2006 and will focus on the X-Men.
And if you really want your deck to look cool, more than 100 promotional
versions of cards have been released as tournament prizes or as inserts with
action figures and comics. They contain alternate or extended artwork and
have a red serial number at the bottom. Sweet!
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Chapter 6
Thrills, Skills, and Strategy for
Everybody with Pokémon
In This Chapter
䊳 Dragons and turtles and mice, oh my!
䊳 A peek at Pikachu and the game’s other cards
䊳 Putting yourself inside a trainer’s head
䊳 A trip through Pokémon’s expansions
䊳 Bringing your monsters to battle!
䊳 Catchin’ ’em all for your deck
䊳 Surfing the Poké-Web
e’ve all watched cartoons — from Scooby-Doo to The Simpsons — and
we all recognize that they’ve perhaps taken over more than their fair
share of our lives. But none hit quite as hard as Pokémon did when it came to
taking over the minds — and tabletops — of kids everywhere. Originally created in Japan, the battling-monster ’toon made its way stateside in the late
’90s, along with a series of Nintendo video games. Soon after, the trading card
game version of the hot property came our way.
But this was no ordinary game. The allure of building up a stable of the game’s
“pocket monsters” — pokémon for short — training them, and then facing
them off against friends’ monsters proved to be incredibly strong for tons of
kids (so much so that a number of schools banned the cards because they’d
become such a distraction).
The term pokémon can be singular (representing a single monster) or plural.
Keep this in mind as you read this chapter.
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Over the years, the game has settled back into the realm of popularity seen
by most other trading card games, but don’t for moment think that it’s on its
last legs. It’s still chugging along with new sets — coming up on 30! — a full
seven years after hitting American shores. And despite the success among
youngsters, it’s actually got quite a bit of strategic depth and, hey, it’s a lot
of fun too!
Once upon a Time, a Yellow Mouse
Appeared on a TV Show . . .
Mice are nice. Well, not those cheese-eating real ones you send your cat after,
of course, but Mickey, Mighty, and Pikachu have all been popular enough to
take their places in eternal pop culture. If you’re saying, “Pika-who?” right now,
I’m talking about the little yellow mouse that’s the center of the Pokémon
Along with his trainer, Ash Ketchum, this spunky rodent has duked it out in
countless matches with other pokémon over the years. Along the way, loads
of other monsters have made their way onto the scene, from the fire-breathing
dragon Charizard to the water-shooting turtle Squirtle to the smart-mouthed
cat Meowth.
The real power behind the Pokémon trading card game — and what caused it
to become such a smash hit — is the fact that its gameplay closely mirrors
what happens in the cartoon. Just as in the show, you recruit an army of
your favorite monsters, use various forms of energy to power them up, make
use of cool training techniques, and then pit them against other people’s
monsters. Along the way, you’re rotating your forces so you can ensure that
you get good match-ups while giving your weakened monsters a chance to
It’s a good idea to make it clear to the kiddoes — and maybe even to some
adults out there as well — that although Pokémon, like many other trading
card games, is based on battling, you need to keep the fighting to the game
itself. Just as the cartoon is just a TV show, the game is just that — a game.
Even if Little Timmy finds himself losing due to extremely bad luck, he should
remember that it’s better to keep his cool than to upend the card table and
scatter everyone’s pieces to the four winds. Other folks will want to play with
him more often if he chills out.
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Sorting Out the Cards
In a trading card game, you assemble a deck of the best cards you can get a
hold of in order to take on other players. But before you can do that, you
gotta know what the cards do. In Pokémon, three types of cards make up the
game: Energy cards, Pokémon cards, and Trainer cards. Each type plays a
separate, unique part in the game, and you need all three of them in your
deck in order to win.
The price of victory: Energy
You’ll find six main types of Energy cards in Pokémon. They’re your basic
resources that you use to power your attacks and pay other costs. Energy
cards simply say Energy in big letters at the top and have a large symbol
showing what types of energy they produce, as shown in Figure 6-1. You play
one of the following six Energy cards by attaching them underneath their corresponding Pokémon cards:
Figure 6-1:
power to
up your
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⻬ Fighting: The Fighting energy type represents pokémon like Hitmonchan
and Machop — guys who like to punch and kick in their attacks. It’s also
the energy type for many rock- and ground-type monsters like Onix and
⻬ Fire: The energy type natural to the fierce dragon Charizard, Fire is also
the type associated with fiery horse Rapidash, legendary fox Ninetales,
and fire elemental Magmar.
⻬ Grass: Seed pokémon Bulbasaur and poison bee Beedrill are two of the
many pokémon who make use of Grass energy.
⻬ Lightning: This is the power source for Pikachu and its evolutionary
form Raichu, as well as electric bird Zapdos.
⻬ Psychic: The mind-controlling Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam make use
of this energy type, as do the tricky Mr. Mime and Mewtwo.
⻬ Water: Squirtle is in his element with this energy type, as are the tadpole Poliwag, sea lion Dewgong, and vicious sea serpent Gyarados.
Sure, you can figure out that Squirtle’s name comes from “squirting turtle”
or that Charizard comes from “char lizard.” But did you know that Fighting
pokémon Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee were named after martial arts expert
actors Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee?
A number of other energy types appear in the game, but the only other one
you’ll see on a regular basis right away is the colorless energy type. It turns
out that some kinds of attacks, rather than requiring a specific type of energy
to pay their cost, allow any type of energy to be used. In exchange for the
easier energy type costs, attacks that only need colorless energy generally
cost more total energy to power them.
Your battling brigade: Pokémon
Pokémon cards — the cards that show the monsters themselves — are the
lifeblood of the game. They give you a vast array of choices when deciding
what powers and attacks suit your needs the best, plus they add a lot of personality to the game. Each pokémon has a set of traits and stats that make it
different from all the other ones in the game. All that info can be confusing if
you don’t have a guide to what everything means, but hey, that’s what you’re
here for!
Onix, shown in Figure 6-2, is a basic pokémon — that means you can play him
straight onto the board without requiring any other specific pokémon to be
in play first. Many other pokémon, on the other hand, say Stage 1 or Stage 2
just below the picture; this means that they’re evolution pokémon — you need
to have the pokémon specified next to the stage number in play before you
can play the Stage 1 or 2 pokémon.
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Figure 6-2:
Onix, a
has two
Up in the top-right corner, Onix shows two important stats. The 80 HP means
that it has 80 hit points, which show how tough the pokémon is. Many monsters have just 40 or 50 HP to start, so this is one tough cookie here — not
surprising, considering that Onix is made of stone! The symbol next to the
hit points is the Fighting energy symbol. This symbol shows what class of
pokémon the card belongs to and usually matches up with the type of energy
you need to spend on the card’s attacks.
Looking down to the main text box, Onix has two lines in bold: Horn Rush
and Granite Head. These are the names of its attacks — what it uses to battle
with other pokémon. To the left are energy symbols showing how much energy
you need to pay for each attack. A single energy of any type is enough to pay
for the Horn Rush attack, while Granite Head needs a Fighting Energy card as
well as another card of any type.
Many attacks have additional text that you follow when announcing the
attack. Horn Rush’s coin flip means that it’ll work only half the time, so you
want to use it only if you can’t pay for Granite Head. Granite Head, on the
other hand, has a bonus: It reduces by 10 any damage dealt to Onix by
attacks on the opponent’s next turn. You can use only one attack on each
turn, so choose wisely!
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To the right of the attack names are numbers: 10 for Horn Rush and 20 for
Granite Head. This is the amount of damage that each attack deals to an
opposing pokémon when they duel. The higher the number, the stronger the
attack. Whenever the total amount of damage visited on an opposing pokémon
is equal to or greater than its hit points (HP), it’s knocked out and removed
from play.
At the bottom of the Onix card, you can see its Weakness and Resistance
fields. Each field can have one or more energy symbols beneath it. If a pokémon has weakness to a certain energy type, it takes double the damage from
attacks by pokémon of that type. If it has resistance to a type, that means
that it takes 30 less damage than it normally would. Onix is weak to water
pokémon and has no resistance whatever to any kind of pokémon — a combination that balances out the fact that it has a higher HP than most basic
Finally, at the bottom-right is the pokémon’s Retreat Cost. If you need to duck
your pokémon out of harm’s way — retreat it — before it gets knocked out,
this is the number of Energy cards you have to discard from the pokémon in
order to do so.
Some pokémon have a Poké-Power listed above their attacks. You can play a
Poké-Power during your turn when a power’s text tells you that you can, and
you can activate as many Poké-Powers as possible each turn, unlike attacks.
Tricks of the trade: Trainers
The human trainers from the show also play a big part in the trading card
game. While they don’t directly fight with each other, they’re represented by
Trainer cards that give orders to your pokémon to perform actions, increase
your knowledge by drawing cards or searching them out of your deck, or any
of a number of other cool effects. They give you ways to surprise your opponent
with plays that aren’t in front of you on the table. Trainer cards also encompass gadgets, techniques, and other tools you can use to help out your deck.
Trainer cards simply say Trainer at the top and have a simple action you perform with it, like healing a damaged pokémon (see Figure 6-3) or switching
the places of two pokémon on the board. You simply play them and then do
what they say.
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Figure 6-3:
Potion can
save your
from being
knocked out.
It’s Not a Cartoon, but It Plays
Like the One on TV
It’s great to know what the cards do, but playing the game is what we’re here
for, right? Not to worry; I get into that right now. Every turn in a game of
Pokémon brings something different, from new cards you’ll draw from your
deck to attacks and counterattacks with pokémon to surprise trainer moves.
But each turn also has a structure and rules that guide it, forcing you to decide
the best courses of action to take.
Just like the cards themselves, the format of the game’s play takes its inspiration
from the TV show. By drawing a new card each turn, you represent everincreasing knowledge of your pokémon and how to train them. The attacks
play much like in the show, too, symbolizing the back-and-forth nature of
what happens when you drop two pokémon into an arena against each other.
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You’ve got the following different ways to defeat your opponent in a
Pokémon game:
⻬ Going after prize cards: Each player lays out six face-down prize cards
from the top of his or her deck at the beginning of the game. If you collect all of your prize cards first — taking one into your hand each time
you knock out an opposing pokémon — you win the game.
⻬ Emptying an opponent’s deck: A second path to victory is much slower,
but can be just as deadly if you’ve set up your deck to ward off fast attacks.
If a player can’t draw a card at the beginning of his or her turn due to an
empty deck, the opponent wins.
⻬ The “Crush the Opposition” approach: Finally, if you manage to
knock out all of your opponent’s pokémon, that seals the deal for
your victory, too!
Kicking off the game
At the beginning of the game, use a coin, die, Magic 8-Ball, or any other
random method to determine who goes first. Each player has a deck of
exactly 60 cards from which to draw, plus a discard pile next to it — this is
where used cards and knocked-out pokémon end up. Shuffle your deck and
then draw a hand of seven cards from it. If you have no basic pokémon in
your hand, reveal your hand to your opponent, shuffle it back into your deck
and then draw a new hand of seven cards. This reshuffling and drawing of a
new hand is called a mulligan, and your opponent gets to draw an extra card
if you’re forced to do this. If neither player gets a basic pokémon initially,
each player takes a mulligan, but no one gets an extra card.
Now, you each choose a basic pokémon from your hand and place it facedown in front of you as your active pokémon — the one that’ll be doing the
attacking and defending. Next, put down up to five more basic pokémon
(face-down) between you and the active pokémon. This is your bench —
the reserve pokémon that you use to replace your active pokémon when
it’s knocked out or retreated. (Keep in mind that the bench can only hold
up to five pokémon at any point in the game.)
So far, so good. Now the fun part — the prizes! Take the top six cards of your
deck and place them off to the side, face-down. These become your prize
cards, and you get one whenever an opposing pokémon gets knocked out.
You can’t look at them until you win them, and remember, when you get all
six, you win!
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After you’ve done this, flip over all your pokémon on the board. Now you’re
ready to start battling!
Bringing pokémon to life
First, the easy part — draw a card at the beginning of your turn. If you’re the
first player in a game, skip your first card draw, but draw future cards normally.
This gives the second player a chance to pull even with the first player.
Now you’ve got a bunch of choices. With the exception of attaching Energy
cards and retreating your active pokémon, you can do each of the following
as many times in a turn as you like — with some restrictions — and in any
order you’d like:
⻬ Take any number of basic pokémon from your hand and place them
face-up on your bench. Remember, you can only have up to five pokémon there.
⻬ Evolve your active pokémon or any of the ones on your bench.
Remember those Stage 1 and 2 pokémon? They’ll tell you from whom
they evolve. If you’ve got a match, just put the new one on top of the old
one. Basic pokémon evolve into Stage 1s; Stage 1s evolve into Stage 2s.
You can evolve a specific monster only once per turn, and you can’t do it
on the turn in which you put it into play from your hand or on the first
turn of the game.
⻬ Attach an Energy card to one of your pokémon. You can attach a card
only once per turn.
⻬ Play a Trainer card. Just announce them, do what they say, and place
them in your discard pile. Some Trainer cards say Supporter or Stadium
on them; you can play only one of each type per turn.
⻬ Use a Poké-Power. Both active pokémon and benched pokémon can use
a Poké-Power if they have one associated with them. If they do, you’ll
find it listed on their cards above their attacks — and remember, they
don’t count against your attack for the turn.
⻬ Retreat a pokémon. If you feel that your active pokémon is in danger of
being knocked out or if you’ve just got a better bench monster that’s
ready to battle, pay the retreat cost by discarding the listed number of
energy cards and then switch the places of the two pokémon. All remaining cards and any accumulated damage on those two monsters stay
where they are, except for the energy you had to discard. You can only
do this once per turn.
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Time to battle!
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for — the attack! This is the last thing
you do on your turn, so make sure you’re done with everything else first.
Figure out which of your active pokémon’s attacks you want to use and then
check its attached energy to make sure you can pay for it. (Unlike with
retreating, you don’t have to discard these energy cards unless the attack
says that you have to.) Check the weakness or resistance of your opponent’s
active pokémon — the defending pokémon — and then let it fly! Calculate
how much damage your attack inflicts on the defending pokémon and then
put a damage counter on that pokémon for every 10 units of damage it has
sustained. (These counters stay on the pokémon until it’s knocked out or
healed.) Follow any other instructions of the attack now, too.
Now, if any pokémon has damage on it greater than or equal to its hit points,
it’s knocked out. Whoever controls it puts it into his or her discard pile and
replaces it with a pokémon from the bench. Remember — if your opponent
can’t do this, you win! When you knock out an opposing pokémon, take a
prize card into your hand. Now your turn’s done.
Each player continues in this manner, alternating turns. When one player
reaches any of the victory conditions — gaining all six prize cards, emptying
an opponent’s deck, or vanquishing all opposing pokémon on the table — the
game is over and that player wins the game!
Many attacks have extra effects in addition to their damage. The most common
ones you’ll see are called special conditions. Each one has a specific effect on
the pokémon until the condition is removed or the pokémon evolves. These
conditions are as follows:
⻬ Sleeping pokémon can’t attack or retreat. If an attack puts your pokémon
to sleep, turn it sideways to show this and then flip a coin at the end of
each player’s turn. If it comes up heads, the pokémon wakes up and can
act normally again, but if it’s tails, you have to wait another turn to try
and wake it up.
⻬ Burned pokémon are susceptible to extra damage. Mark a burned
pokémon with a burn counter. Flip a coin after each player’s turn.
If you flip tails, put two damage counters on the pokémon, disregarding
weakness and resistance.
⻬ Confused pokémon can attack only half the time they normally could.
Flip a coin when it tries to attack. When you flip heads, it attacks normally,
but if tails comes up, put three damage counters on it. (Be sure to turn it
with its head facing you to show that it’s confused. You can still retreat it
normally, and if you do, it loses all of its special conditions.)
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⻬ Paralyzed pokémon can’t attack or retreat and are turned sideways
to show this. If your pokémon was asleep, you’d have to flip heads to get
your pokémon back in action. Not so with paralyzed pokémon; all you
have to do to get them back in the game is wait until the end of your
next turn and then recover it.
⻬ Poisoned pokémon get a damage counter on them after each player’s
turn. Mark a poisoned pokémon with a poison counter.
The asleep, confused, and paralyzed conditions override each other, so
only the latest one applies. Other conditions don’t interfere with these.
Exploring the Many Pokémon Sets
One great thing about Pokémon’s huge popularity is that it gave its producer,
Wizards of the Coast — and later Nintendo and Pokémon USA — a great reason
to keep pumping out new sets of cards, not to mention tons of marketing dough
to support it. Seven years after the game’s U.S. release, about 30 sets and
3,000 cards are available. Obviously, I can’t list them all here — they’d be
enough for a book of their own — but the following sections let you have a
look at some of the more notable cards and sets the game has seen.
⻬ The Base Set: Printed in First and Unlimited Editions — the former of
which is much rarer and more expensive than the latter — these 102card sets showcased the debut of most of Pokémon’s most famous and
popular monsters. Pikachu, Charizard, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur showed
up here first, as did Professor Oak, a trainer whose ability to let you
draw seven cards for a new hand was considered the most powerful in
the early days of the game. Mechanically, the cards were pretty basic as
far as attacks and powers went because players were just learning the
game at the time. Many of these cards would be reprinted in later sets
like Base Set 2 and Legendary Collection to give newer players a chance
to grab them more easily. Keep in mind that organized tournaments
using the Unlimited format allow every card from the base set onward.
Like nearly every other trading card game, Pokémon cards come in several different rareness categories within the booster packs and starter
deck in which they’re sold. Common cards, which come about nine to
a booster pack, show a small black circle in the bottom-right corner.
Uncommons, which are three to a pack, have a black diamond, and
rares — just one per pack — have a black star. Sometimes rares are
replaced with ultra-rare holographic cards. Most of these have a black
star as well and have a distinctive foil picture. A few ultra-rares, like the
pokémon-EX, have a white star and are really hard to find!
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⻬ Jungle: The second set, Jungle, introduces more of Pokémon’s original
151 monsters, with a focus on grass pokémon, such as Scyther, Vileplume,
and Butterfree. Its 64 cards contain 63 pokémon and just one trainer,
Poké Ball, which lets you fetch any pokémon from your deck if you win
a coin flip.
⻬ Fossil: A 62-card set, Fossil has a bent toward Fighting and Water pokémon, like kicker Hitmonlee and legendary bird Articuno. It fills out the
original set of monsters, except for the evasive psychic pokémon Mew,
which later became available as a promo.
⻬ Southern Islands: With just 18 cards, Southern Islands is available only
as a boxed set. Mew debuted here, as did new-generation Egg pokémon
Togepi and the bouncing blue Marill.
⻬ Team Rocket: Named after the bad guys in the cartoon, Team Rocket
has “dark” versions of many of the original pokémon. These “dark” versions have stronger attacks than their counterparts but are easier to
knock out due to their lower HP. The set also features the game’s first
ultra-rare, the secret Dark Raichu, who didn’t appear on any official
checklists for the set.
⻬ Gym Heroes and Gym Challenge: Packing versions of pokémon that
were trained by specific people from the cartoon, the “gym” pokémon
are strong but generally have expensive attacks. Each of the following
six main energy types has its own trainer:
• Blaine stokes the flames of fire monsters Moltres, Ninetales, and
• Brock rocks with fighting pokémon Rhydon, Onix, and Mankey.
• Erika cultivates the grass pokémon Victreebel, Exeggcute, and
• Lt. Surge charges up lightning monsters Electabuzz and Pikachu.
• Misty swims with water pokémon Psyduck, Poliwrath, and
• Sabrina minds the psychic monsters Mewtwo, Jynx, and Mr. Mime.
Team Rocket, Giovanni, and Koga also receive a few pokémon of their
own, and colorless monsters like Dratini and Snorlax are spread out
among the trainers.
⻬ Neo Genesis, Neo Discovery, Neo Revelation, and Neo Destiny: Neo
sets were the first to focus on the new generation of pokémon created
after the first 151. Powerful new pokémon, like the volcanic Typhlosion
and the silver bird Lugia, whose multicolored 90-HP attack was so powerful that it required a discard of three of its Energy cards, showed that
monsters didn’t need a whole lot of previous name recognition to
become player favorites.
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The Neo sets also debuted the Metal and Darkness energy types, which
had pokémon of their own, like the armored bird Skarmory and the sinister, thieving crow Murkrow. While these are new energy types, the
Energy cards don’t count as basic energy, so you can have only four of
each of these new energy types per deck. New here too were baby pokémon, who have low HP totals but can be attacked only if the opponent
wins a coin flip. They count as basic pokémon, too, so you can play
them as if they were basic.
⻬ Expedition, Aquapolis, and Skyridge: Featuring new versions of most
of the previous pokémon, Expedition, Aquapolis, and Skyridge were the
first cards to utilize a scannable pattern along the edge of the card, which
can be used in tandem with the Pokémon video games. These were also
the last sets printed by Wizards of the Coast before the game’s license
reverted to Nintendo.
⻬ EX Ruby & Sapphire: Nintendo’s first set on its own, Ruby & Sapphire
introduced pokémon-EX. Still around in new sets, they’re all huge and
possess strong attacks, but have a special drawback: If a pokémon-EX
gets knocked out, the opponent gets to take two prize cards instead of
one! Yet another generation of pokémon — the Ruby & Sapphire monsters
from the video game line — debuted here as well. Organized tournaments
using the RS-on Modified format only allow cards from this set onward.
⻬ EX Sandstorm: New pokémon-EX abound in Sandstorm EX, many of
whom have huge HP stats but also have two different types of weakness.
Also, Fossil Trainer cards first showed up here; they act like basic pokémon and can be evolved into other pokémon.
⻬ EX Team Magma vs. Team Aqua: Focusing on the battles between
Team Magma and Team Aqua pokémon, this set had the first dualenergy–type monsters — meaning that their attacks count as both types.
These critters are pretty nice if an opposing pokémon has weakness to
either type; resistance to either will count against the pokémon under
attack. Pokémon on the same team also work better if more than one
member of the same team are in play.
⻬ EX Hidden Legends: In addition to the new Stadium Trainer cards —
only one of which can be in play at a time — Hidden Legends also features a special pokémon called Castform that gets more powerful if the
right stadium is in play. Organized tournaments using the HL-on Modified
(Hidden Legends onward) format allow only cards from this set onward.
⻬ EX FireRed & LeafGreen: No new rules here, but the set’s notable for
having EX versions of faves like Charizard, Blastoise, and Venusaur.
Charizard EX, like its other incarnations, remains one of the most
expensive and sought-after cards in the game.
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⻬ EX Team Rocket Returns: More dual-type pokémon show up in Team
Rocket Returns, but with a sinister twist: They’re all combinations of
darkness and another type. The “star,” or “shining,” pokémon started
here too. They’re pretty strong — and even stronger when you’ve fallen
behind — but are limited to just one total copy per deck due to their
⻬ EX Deoxys: Focusing on the powerful pokémon Deoxys and Rayquaza,
the set has new “star” pokémon who work well against pokémon-EX.
⻬ EX Emerald: Containing new EX versions of Deoxys and Rayquaza — as
well as perennial favorite Raichu — Emerald also has sweet-looking new
versions of the basic Energy cards.
⻬ EX Unseen Forces: The 28 different Unown cards — animated versions
of letters and punctuation marks — in the Unseen Forces set each have
the power to shuffle themselves into your deck and exchange places
with any other Unown there, as well as unique powers of their own.
Nintendo USA releases new sets for Pokémon about four times a year;
EX Delta Species was the last one, hitting shelves in the fall of 2005.
Additionally, numerous cards have been released for promotional
purposes. These are generally denoted with a “promo” star symbol
on the card.
Assembling Your First Deck
Building a deck for the first time can be a bit intimidating, but there are some
easy guidelines to follow when you’re starting out that should give you a
good idea of what goes into a decent deck. In order to ensure that you draw
the right ratio of pokémon, trainers, and energy, a good rule to stick by is to
aim for the following:
⻬ 25–30 Pokémon: Of these, you want about four basic pokémon of a
given name for every two Stage 1 evolution versions of that card.
Most Stage 2s are hard to get, so don’t worry about those yet, but you
don’t normally want more than one copy of a specific Stage 2 in a deck.
⻬ 10–15 Trainers: These can be a mix of energy searchers, ways to retrieve
cards from your discard pile, or any other effect that you think helps
your deck.
⻬ 20–25 Energy cards: Usually, these will just be basic energy, but more
advanced decks (or decks playing with Darkness or Metal pokémon) use
other types as well.
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The deck must hold exactly 60 cards, with no more than four of any card
except basic energy cards. Also, you generally want to use two energy
types. Using one leaves you too prone to resistance, while using more
than two opens you up to not being able to draw the right Energy cards
when you need them.
Because the last couple of sets — EX Emerald and EX Unseen Forces — should
be the easiest for you to grab hold of right now, I give you a look at a deck
that uses only commons and uncommons from those sets. I use Fire and
Water pokémon here just because I like them, but you can pair up any two
types just fine.
Packing extra punch
The deck I put together in this chapter stays away
from rare, ultra-rare, promo, super-duper-rare,
way-crazy-hard-to-get, ludicrously-amazinglyscarce, and any other cards that’ll cost you more
than a quarter or so at your Friendly Local Game
Store. But if you want to beef up a deck like this,
you’ll want some of those.
The most straightforward changes you can make
here are to add Stage 2 and/or EX versions of
cards that evolve from the pokémon in the deck.
EX Emerald has Camerupt EX, which not only
can’t be Asleep or Paralyzed, but can also either
deal 30 damage and Burn a pokémon for two
Energy cards with its Searing Flame attack, or
hit for up to an enormous 100 damage for just
three Energy cards with Eruption. Remember,
though, that your opponent will take two prize
cards if he or she manages to deal 120 points of
damage to it and knock it out, so be careful when
you play it to make sure it hangs around.
Unseen Forces, meanwhile, has Typhlosion,
which evolves from Quilava. Its Poké-Power adds
10 damage to each active pokémon between
each turn, while its Flickering Flames attack hits
for 20 and puts the opposing pokémon to Sleep
for just one Energy card. But its big strength is
its Rage attack, which needs just three Energy
cards to dish out 50 damage plus 10 for each
damage counter on Typhlosion. It can hold
plenty of them too, with a hit point stat of 110.
On the water side, Luvdisc and Corsola don’t
get any more evolutions, but EX Emerald gives
Marshtomp a nice Stage 2 evolution in Swampert.
Its Water Cyclone Poké-Power allows you to
move Water energy — as many times as you
want on your turn — from your active pokémon to
your benched pokémon. Its Spinning Tail deals
10 damage directly to each opposing pokémon,
while Swampert’s three-energy Aqua Sonic
attack hits for 60 damage and doesn’t get neutralized by resistance.
You can also toy with any of the many previous
versions of the above cards or try plugging in
some more of the game’s numerous EX and
“star” pokémon if you’re feeling bold. Also, try
experimenting with special Energy cards like
Double Rainbow Energy, which can be attached
only to an evolved pokémon; it reduces your
pokémon’s attack damage by 10, but provides
two energy of any type on just one card.
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For your Fire pokémon, a good base is as follows:
⻬ 4 copies of Numel (EX Emerald)
⻬ 2 copies of Camerupt (EX Emerald)
⻬ 4 copies of Cyndaquil (EX Unseen Forces)
⻬ 2 copies of Quilava (EX Unseen Forces)
Numel’s got a cheap card-drawing attack for just one energy, while its
evolved version, Camerupt, can Burn opposing pokémon and also hit for
extra damage against pokémon-EX. Meanwhile, Cyndaquil can Paralyze a
pokémon or hit cheaply for 30 damage. Its Stage 1 evolution, Quilava, stops
half of the defending pokémon’s attacks and can also hit for 40 damage for
three Energy cards.
Your Water pokémon should be these cards:
⻬ 4 copies of Luvdisc (EX Emerald)
⻬ 4 copies of Mudkip (EX Emerald)
⻬ 2 copies of Marshtomp (EX Emerald)
⻬ 4 copies of Corsola (EX Unseen Forces)
Luvdisc’s Call for Friend attack is great in your deck, taking a basic pokémon
from your deck and putting it straight onto your bench. It can also hit for
20 damage and Confuse the enemy. For just a single energy, Mudkip can
hit for 10 damage, plus an extra 10 damage half the time; its evolution,
Marshtomp, can either make opposition Asleep or nail it for a whopping
50 damage for just three Energy cards. And Corsola can search out any
pokémon from your deck and put it into your hand; alternately, it can
directly hit two opposing benched pokémon for 10 damage each!
For Trainer cards, go with these:
⻬ 2 Lanette’s Net Search (EX Emerald)
⻬ 4 Professor Birch (EX Emerald)
⻬ 4 Mary’s Request (EX Unseen Forces)
All of these are supporter cards, which are limited to one per turn, but because
they each net you tons of cards, that’s all you should need. Lanette’s Net Search
fetches up to three basic pokémon from your deck and puts them into your
hand, while Professor Birch lets you draw cards until you have six in your
hand — make sure to wait until your hand is empty or close to it so you can
get the maximum benefits from the Prof. And Mary’s Request, which normally draws you only one card, always draws you three cards in this deck
because you get the extras if you don’t have any Stage 2 pokémon in play.
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Finally, your Energy cards should be as follows:
⻬ 12 Fire Energy
⻬ 12 Water Energy
You’re close enough between the two energy types as far as number of pokémon in the deck (and their attacks) that an even balance ensures that you
draw enough Energy cards when you need them.
Plugging into the Online Poké-munity
If you can easily access the Internet, it’s a snap to find more specific information
about the Pokémon trading card game. Here are a few Web sites you’ll want to
check out:
⻬ At the official Nintendo Web site for the game,
you can find news, press releases, tournament rules, and loads of other
breaking developments in the game. It also has full card lists and text for
every Nintendo-made Pokémon card, as well as a searchable card database
and strategy tips.
⻬ The official Pokémon USA site, this covers the
broader Pokémon world, complete with a “Pokédex” so you can look up
info on your favorite pokémon, info about the TV show, and a ton more.
⻬ One of the game’s oldest and most active Web sites
holds a wealth of strategy articles, from beginner to top tournament
player level. It also has info on the game’s Japanese cards, price lists,
news bites, and a handy Card of the Day feature, plus related pages for
the many Pokémon video games.
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Legend of the Five Rings
In This Chapter
䊳 Knowing your strongholds from your senseis
䊳 Charging into battle
䊳 Touring the game’s vast history
䊳 Assembling a fearsome force
䊳 Putting your gold to work
䊳 Journeying to fellow players’ distant realms
ho doesn’t enjoy a good story? Every good movie, TV drama, or book
tells an interesting one, and the best leave you wanting to turn each
page or watch each episode all the way through. Trading card games, though,
have mostly followed a different path. Most decent ones have survived on
solid play mechanics rather than leading fans along a game-focused plot line.
Legend of the Five Rings (commonly known as L5R) has bucked that trend.
Since its inception in 1995, L5R has gone through several different story arcs,
intertwining the results of tournaments and other events with the development
of new card sets. Those players whose clans were good enough to dominate
on the play field were able to crown their leaders as emperors of Rokugan,
the feudal-era Japanese-themed empire in which the game is set. Those who
fell were relegated to lesser fates.
That’s not to say that L5R is a bad game that rests on a storyline crutch.
Quite the contrary — it’s not only one of the most intriguing and complex
games out there, but it has also managed to grab enough adherents for it to
be one of just a handful of trading card games to be continuously published
for at least a decade. It’s even survived changing ownership from the Five
Rings Publishing Group to Wizards of the Coast and then to its current publisher, Alderac Entertainment Group. You can’t do that with just any old game.
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Spinning a Legendary Story
The depth of the world of Legend of the Five Rings is vast, with not just tens
or hundreds, but thousands of different characters, monsters, weapons, and
more. Eight major clans — along with two other factions — constantly fight
for control of Rokugan, with each of them relying on a different set of tactics,
values, and fighting principles. Alliances form and then crumble just as
quickly as they were assembled.
Whole books could be written about each clan — wait, scratch that. Numerous
L5R novels have been written, and the roleplaying game version of L5R has
already had tons of books written for it, giving each clan hundreds of pages
of background. Here’s a quick look at each clan, so you can get a sense of
who these folks are and what they stand for:
⻬ Crab: Warriors to the end, they ignore politics, preferring to focus strictly
on the battlefield. They fiercely defend Rokugan against the evil forces of
the Shadowlands. In addition to their samurai, who are a major part of
nearly every faction, berserkers are prevalent here.
⻬ Crane: The perfectionists. Everything must conform to stringent standards, from their artistry to their fighting forms. Courtiers are a common
group seen in the Crane.
⻬ Dragon: Monks and shugenja — the wizards of Rokugan — are a big part
of this mysterious clan. They favor enlightenment, honor, and truth and
generally separate themselves from the politics of other clans.
⻬ Lion: Master tacticians, the Lions are the strongest military force in
the land.
⻬ Mantis: Outcasts from the Crab clan, the Mantis are now the rulers of
the high seas.
⻬ Phoenix: These people are all about magic and avoid violence in favor
of sorcery. You’ll see lots of shugenja in this clan.
⻬ Scorpion: Deadly and devious, they’re the underhanded side of
Rokugani politics. Courtiers show up here, but often as a back door
to controlling the empire. Honor’s not what you’d call one of their
strong suits.
⻬ Unicorn: Seasoned world travelers, they best know the ways of other
cultures. They’ve got a strong mounted cavalry.
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In addition to these eight great clans, L5R features the following two other
major factions:
⻬ Ratling: A race of humanoid rats, these tribal beings have formed their
warriors into fierce hunting packs.
⻬ Shadowlands Horde: The evil demons of the L5R world, they’re the ones
against whom the clans fight to protect the land of Rokugan. Honor has
no meaning to them, and as you see in the next section, they play by different rules in the game itself.
You’ll also see a number of unaligned creatures in L5R, such as the great elemental dragons. Also, in different storylines, you’ll see the ebb and flow of
different clan alliances. With such a great depth of clans, it should come as
no surprise that there’s a lot to see in the game itself as well.
Seeking an Understanding
of the Cards
One of the cool elements of the game is the different ways you can win,
each of which utilizes vastly different tactics. Good players must be able to
defend against and defeat all of these strategies. The different victories are
as follows:
⻬ You can achieve a military victory by destroying all provinces controlled
by your opponent (or opponents — the game plays just as well, if not
better, in multiplayer mode) or by dishonoring them so much that their
family honor falls below –19 units. Each player normally starts with four
provinces in play, so this takes a lot of power to achieve.
⻬ If you start a turn with 40 or more family honor units, you gain an honor
victory. Shadowlands players, having no sense of the word honor, can’t
achieve this and can’t gain or lose honor. They also can’t force other
players to lose honor unconditionally.
⻬ If you’re able to assemble each of the five elemental rings and put them
into play — each of which has a complex task required to play it — you
win the game via an enlightenment victory, having mastered each element
of air, earth, fire, water, and the void.
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When you thumb through a starter deck of Legend of the Five Rings cards —
at a whopping 84 cards, one of the biggest decks you’ll see in the trading card
game genre — you’ll see a ton of stats all over the place, not to mention loads
of colorful borders. It can be pretty daunting, even with the rule book you
find in any Lotus Edition deck. In order to help you keep things straight, the
next few sections give you a quick guide to each of the game’s card types.
Strongholds: Home sweet home
Your stronghold card shows the temple or other edifice that represents your
home base. It sets the starting stats for your deck and has one or more special abilities as well. Strongholds start the gameplay and can’t be destroyed.
You’ll see these three numbers along the right side of each stronghold, right
below the clan symbol:
⻬ The topmost number shows the province strength, which is 7 on the Lion
Clan’s Shiro no Yojin, seen in Figure 7-1. This represents how tough a
province is to overthrow and, like the other stats in L5R, can later be
⻬ The middle number shows the stronghold’s gold production — 3 for
Shiro no Yojin. This shows how much gold a stronghold card can
give you to spend on other cards.
⻬ The bottom number is your starting family honor — 6 for Shiro no Yojin.
The higher your starting family honor, the easier it is to play personalities
and the closer you are to achieving an honor victory.
Two other card types that start in play — should you choose to include them
with your deck — are winds and senseis. Winds represent the political leanings
of your deck and involve the Imperial Favor, a game element that provides
additional abilities whenever you’re able to possess it. Senseis represent the
master teachers for your deck’s personalities and provide more abilities as
well as altering some starting stats.
In L5R, you play with two separate decks — a dynasty deck and a fate deck.
Dynasty cards have black backs and represent the personalities that make
up your armies as well as the holdings you control, which provide gold and
other services for you. More advanced dynasty decks also use event cards
and region cards, which provide additional game effects.
Fate decks have green backs and are made up mostly of the action cards that
you play to advance the game and the followers who make your personalities
more formidable. You’ll also see items (including special weapons), magical
spells, and the elemental rings in this deck.
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Figure 7-1:
Shiro no
Yojin is one
of the fierce
Lion Clan’s
home bases.
The dynasty deck provides more resources for your side of the table throughout the game, while the fate deck replenishes your hand with tricks that you
can use to swing the game in your favor.
Personalities: Your main forces
As the core of your dynasty deck, the range of personality cards you’ll
encounter in L5R is quite broad, spanning everything from warriors to ninjas
to evil spirits. Each card also has a hefty bunch of keywords and stats associated with it that you’ll definitely need to know how to use. I describe these in
the following list:
⻬ On the top left of a personality card is the card’s force (often abbreviated
F). This shows how strong the card is in battle. Hida Kosedo, shown in
Figure 7-2, has a force of 3.
⻬ On the right is the card’s chi (often abbreviated C), which indicates how
spiritually focused a personality is. It’s mainly used in dueling directly
with other personalities. If a character’s chi ever reaches 0, that personality is destroyed. Hida Kosedo’s chi is 2.
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Figure 7-2:
Hida Kosedo
is one of the
Crab Clan’s
typical hardfighting
⻬ In the center of the card are three numbers. On the left is the card’s honor
requirement. You must have at least that much family honor at the time
you play the card in order to play the card at all. Hida Kosedo’s honor
requirement is 0, so he can be played early in the game.
⻬ Next to the honor requirement is the card’s gold cost. You must be able
to pay at least that much gold to bring the card into play. Hida Kosedo
costs 6.
⻬ On the right is the personality’s personal honor. This shows how much
family honor you can gain for playing the personality and what followers
can be attached. Hida Kosedo is a fairly cheap guy to play, so any rewards
for playing him are going to be pretty slim as well — in fact, he’s only
been given a personal honor of 1.
⻬ The text box below these numbers shows any additional abilities that the
personality has. Any words in boldface are called keywords; many of these
denote specific abilities, while others simply allow for other cards to key
off of them — gain further bonuses or penalties because both cards are
in play. Hida Kosedo is a Crab Clan samurai, so he is affected by any card
that affects Crab Clan members and/or samurai.
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Legend of the Five Rings cards have a few symbols and codes that don’t affect
gameplay directly, but have relevance outside the game. On the bottom corners of most cards, you’ll see one or two Japanese symbols, commonly called
“bugs.” These represent the storylines in which a given card can be played.
On Hida Kosedo, the one on the bottom right means that he can be played in
Lotus Edition tournaments — the current storyline — while the bottom-left
one means he’s also legal for Diamond Edition tournaments — the previous
story arc. Other previous editions include Gold and Jade.
In the middle of the card’s bottom border is a series of letters representing
what expansion a card comes from. “CoB” on Hida Kosedo means that he’s
from the Code of Bushido set. The cards you see in the starting deck I outline
later in this chapter all come from the Lotus Edition set, so they’ll have an
“LE” in this space.
The Lotus Edition set is simply the cornerstone for Lotus Edition tournaments,
if you’re confused by the duplicate names. Any card with a Lotus bug can be
played in Lotus Edition tournaments.
To the right of the expansion markings are the card’s artist and copyright
info, then two numbers separated by a symbol. The first number is the
card’s serial number in a set and the second is that set’s size. Common cards
have a circle in the middle, while uncommons have a diamond, and rares
have a five-pointed star. Fixed starter deck cards have a star inside a circle.
Also, each rare in every set from the past few years can be found in a shiny
foil version, too! Finally, cards from special promotions show an inverted
Holdings: The rich get richer
Your stronghold gives you a starting amount of gold, but it’s pretty small in
the grand scheme of things. Another key part of your dynasty deck, holdings
enable you to increase your wealth so you can pay to recruit personalities
and other cards to your army. In the middle of a holding card, you’ll find its
gold cost. Rice Paddy, shown in Figure 7-3, has a cost of 2. In the card’s topright corner, it shows the amount of gold that you’ll most often get from that
holding. You produce gold from a holding by bowing it — turning it sideways
from its straightened position — to show that it has been used for the turn
and can’t normally be used until it straightens again.
Rice Paddy also has a nice defensive ability. Instead of producing gold for a
turn, you can bow and destroy it to hold off an opposing attacker.
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Figure 7-3:
Rice Paddy’s
a basic but
L5R holding.
Your other dynasty deck cards have simpler layouts. Event cards are simply
played, usually for free, and have a one-time game effect. And you can attach
up to one region card per province to give it additional abilities.
The fate deck: What’s happenin’ now!
Action cards, like event cards, are one-shot effects, but they’re part of your
fate deck, so you normally have more control over them because you play
them from your hand. Most actions are free, but some have gold costs, which
are found in the center of the card. Additionally, actions, as well as all of your
other fate deck cards, have another number in a black circle at the bottom of
the card. This is the card’s focus value, which helps determine the outcome of
duels between two personalities.
Destiny Has No Secrets, seen in Figure 7-4, has a gold cost of 0 and a focus
value of 1. Its chief purpose, though, is to give you a cheap way to pump a
personality’s force and chi by 2 each.
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Figure 7-4:
Destiny Has
No Secrets
hidden info
for personality power.
L5R uses four different types of action cards, which are differentiated by when
you can play them. I get to the phases of the game soon, but here’s a quick
rundown of the action types:
⻬ Limited actions can be played only during your own action phase.
⻬ Open actions can be played during anyone’s action phase or battle
action segment.
⻬ Battle actions can be played during any battle action segment.
⻬ Reactions can be played in response to any other game state that triggers that particular action.
Going down the mental list of cards that make up your fate deck, you come to
followers, a group of folks who work like personalities, but who — surprise,
surprise — can’t be used independently. Instead, they must be attached to
existing personalities in play. They increase the force of the personality’s unit
without affecting the personality himself.
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Why L5R players love their clans —
and their game — so deeply
At the core of Legend of the Five Rings is a single
concept — honor. The idea doesn’t simply
involve the cards in the game, though; it extends
throughout its players as well. They’ll fiercely —
almost religiously — defend the game and their
chosen clan, going so far as to wear traditional
Japanese garb in their clan colors when playing in tournaments or attending conventions.
The fact that the players influence the storyline
of the game — which in turn influences future
cards, which subsequently changes later tournaments — gives players a tie to the game that
most other trading card games don’t have. They
feel a personal bond created by the simple fact
that they, and not just the designers of the
game, can directly lead their clan to victory,
both in the real world and in the legendary
world of Rokugan.
Players have been known to want their clan to
succeed so strongly that they’ve offered ridiculously large bounties to tournament champions
in return for imposing storyline changes of their
desire. At one famous Gen Con occasion, the
president of L5R publisher Alderac Entertainment
Group offered a bounty of everything L5R-related
in his office — including the original artwork for
the five Imperial Edition elemental rings — to
see his clan achieve its goal, while another
player countered that offer with more than
$10,000 worth of L5R cards and memorabilia!
Followers have the same stats as personalities, plus a focus value. They can
attach to any personality whose personal honor is greater than or equal to the
follower’s honor requirement. So Figure 7-5’s Ashigaru Archers, who have an
honor requirement of 1, can be attached to Hida Kosedo, who has a personal
honor of 1. Just remember that you need to pay their gold cost of 2 as well.
It’s true that the Ashigaru Archers don’t provide you with any additional
honor, but they do have a couple of neat abilities. The first one allows you to
draw another card into your hand after you play this one, and the second
allows you to directly attack an opposing force. More on that in a bit.
Item cards — yet another possible component of your fate deck — represent
the weapons, artifacts, and other things that you can use to strengthen
your personalities. Crippled Bone Blade, a Ratling-based weapon shown in
Figure 7-6, gives a +2F/+1C bonus to an equipped personality, but at a steep
honor cost to any human who uses it. It also turns any Ratling into a samurai,
which can certainly benefit the Ratling when playing cards that help out
Spell cards, which are playable only by shugenja, also show up in some fate
decks, as do the elemental rings, which have unique game effects and also
enable you to achieve an enlightenment victory if you get all five into play at
the same time. (For more on the different kinds of victories out there, see the
“Seeking an Understanding of the Cards” section, earlier in the chapter.)
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Figure 7-5:
can strike
from afar.
Figure 7-6:
Bone Blade
is an easy
bonus for
Ratlings, but
not so easy
for humans.
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Witnessing a Most Honorable Challenge
The field of play in Legend of the Five Rings has the following different areas:
⻬ On your left is your dynasty deck, with the dynasty discard pile next to it.
Cards that are destroyed from play are put into this discard pile sideways,
while ones that you’ve discarded go in straight up. In front of these are
your stronghold, plus your sensei and wind if you’ve decided to play them.
⻬ Directly in front of you are your provinces. Normally, you start with
four province spaces, and each one holds one dynasty card. Provinces
generally get refilled immediately whenever they’re empty. If one gets
destroyed, remove it so you can close any gaps that might occur when
you remove a province from the row and discard all cards that were in
the destroyed province.
⻬ On your right are your fate deck and your fate discard pile.
⻬ In front of your provinces is your home. This is where you place cards
that you control.
⻬ You can hold up to eight cards in your hand. If this maximum hand size
is exceeded at certain given times during a game, you must discard
down to that number.
Additionally, the orientation of cards on the board is important. Follow
these tips:
⻬ Cards can be face-up or face-down.
⻬ Cards can also be bowed (turned sideways) or unbowed (vertical).
You’ll generally bow a card after using abilities or attacking in order to
show that you’ve used it that turn and can’t use it again until you’ve
straightened it.
⻬ Personalities are always either honorable or dishonored. If they’re honorable, they’re oriented so you can read them right-side-up. If they’re
dishonored, though, rotate them 180 degrees so their names face away
from you. Dishonored personalities cause honor losses to their controllers
equal to their personal honors, and they must be restored to honorable
status before any success of theirs once again gains any honor for their
At the beginning of a game of L5R, each player reveals his or her stronghold,
wind, and/or sensei. The player with the highest starting family honor —
remember, it’s the bottom box on the right side of the stronghold — gets to
play first. Each player fills each of his or her provinces with a face-down card
from the top of his or her dynasty deck and draws a starting hand of five cards
from his or her fate deck.
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After this, each turn of the game has a specific order of phases, some of
which are further broken down into segments, as follows:
⻬ Straighten phase: This is the shortest phase, and you simply straighten
all bowed cards that you control, as well as your stronghold if it’s bowed.
⻬ Events phase: First, turn any face-down cards face-up in provinces you
control, from left to right. Resolve any event cards that get turned up this
way and then move on to the next province. If any region cards are turned
up, attach them to the province if possible; discard them if you can’t.
⻬ Action phase: During your action phase, you may play any limited or
open actions, while during another player’s action phase, you may only
play open actions. Additionally, there are several other special actions
that you can take besides ones on cards you control:
• You may attach as many followers, items, and spells to your personalities as you can afford.
• You may bow any cards attached to two or more personalities that
you control.
• You may lobby for the Imperial Favor by bowing one of your personalities if you have a higher family honor than your opponent.
This comes into use with numerous cards and abilities that involve
discarding the Imperial Favor as a cost to play them.
⻬ Attack phase: As with any good combat-based trading card game, this is
where most of the fun is! As the name implies, your forces get to duke it
out with your opponent’s forces in this phase. Not all decks attack often,
but ones based around military victories need to attack if they want to win.
This phase has several segments:
• Declaration segment: Simply state that you are attacking your opponent or a specific opponent in a multiplayer game. Battlefields are
now created at each of the defending provinces.
• Infantry maneuvers segment: Choose any number of units — personalities along with anything attached to them — led by unbowed
personalities to attack any number of opposing provinces. The
opponent then does the same with his or her units to defend
those provinces.
• Cavalry maneuvers segment: This is the same as the previous segment, except that getting to go after the infantry gives units with
the cavalry trait the ability to see where infantry units are assigned
before they’re deployed.
• Battle action segment: This segment takes place for each battlefield.
Either player, starting with the defender, may play battle actions or
open actions now. These actions must directly involve the contested
battlefield and can only be taken by players who are directly participating in the current battle.
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• Resolution segment: Here’s where the battle comes to a head.
Now you’ll finally figure out who wins and who loses each battle.
If a battlefield is undefended, compare the total force of all units —
the combined force of all unbowed cards in the attacking army —
to the province’s strength (remember, it’s the top number on the
defender’s stronghold). If the army’s force is has higher number,
destroy the province and all cards attached to it.
If both sides have armies there, compare the total forces of each
side’s army. If the defender’s total force is higher, destroy all attacking units; the defender gains family honor equal to twice the number
of cards destroyed this way. If the attacker’s total force is higher, do
the same for the attacker, and if it’s also higher than the defender’s
total force plus the province strength, destroy the province as well.
Finally, if both sides have equal total force, destroy all units on
both sides at the battlefield; each side then gains honor equal to
the number of opposing cards destroyed this way.
After this, return home any remaining attacking units, bowed.
Leave any remaining defending units where they are.
⻬ Dynasty phase: Now’s your chance to play the personalities and holdings that have been hanging out in your provinces since the events
phase. Simply pay the gold cost for any that you wish to play. If you have
a personality from your faction, you’ve got a couple of handy options.
You may either reduce the personality’s gold cost by 2 when paying for
it, or you may pay the full price and gain family honor equal to that personality’s personal honor. You may do the latter only once per turn, but
it can definitely speed you toward an honor victory! After doing this, you
may discard any face-up cards in your provinces and then refill them.
⻬ End phase: Draw a fate card. Then choose and discard cards down to
your maximum hand size if you’re above it. Now the other player begins
his or her turn, continuing until one player achieves victory!
Numerous other special abilities and actions can take place in a game of Legend
of the Five Rings. One of the most common and important ones is dueling.
This is how individual personalities can battle each other, and it represents
what would happen in Rokugan when one’s honor is challenged or insulted.
Duels are initiated by actions or other card abilities.
To duel, each player involved places the top three cards of his or her fate deck
into a focus pool that the opponent can’t see and then may add one card from
his or her hand. The challenged personality may focus, by placing a card from
the focus pool face-down, or strike to end the focus period. The challenger
may then focus or strike. When someone strikes, each controller reveals all of
his or her focused cards and adds them to the chi of his or her dueling personality. The one with the higher total chi score wins, and the losing personality
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is destroyed. If there’s a tie, both personalities are destroyed. To close out
the duel, discard all revealed cards and put the rest on the bottom of the fate
Reviewing the Game’s Releases
Legend of the Five Rings has had more than 30 releases since its inception
more than a decade ago. Rather than just being separate sets, though, most
sets from the same era have been woven together thematically in a series of
distinct story arcs. The following list describes the various sets:
⻬ The Clan Wars: The first story arc started with the first base set,
Imperial Edition, in 1995 and culminated two years later at the Gen
Con gaming convention’s Day of Thunder tournament. It contained
the Imperial, Emerald, and Obsidian editions of about 300 cards each,
and the Shadowlands, Forbidden Knowledge, Anvil of Despair, Crimson &
Jade, and Time of the Void expansions of about 150 cards each. Several
now-defunct clans, such as the snakelike Naga and the monks of the
Brotherhood of Shinsei, appeared here but are no longer in current
sets. While these — and most other early cards for that matter — are
no longer allowed in most tournament formats, this has meant that
many early cards can be found for bargain-basement prices if you only
want to play with them casually!
⻬ Scorpion Clan Coup: Seizing upon the sneaky, underhanded politics
of the Scorpion, this prequel to the Clan Wars focused on the clan’s
attempt — ultimately unsuccessful — to take over the Rokugani throne.
The Scorpion Clan Coup’s three sets — Scroll 1, Scroll 2, and Scroll 3 —
were the first to utilize the rapid-fire Rolling Thunder distribution method,
which released small sets of 50 or so cards each month rather than a larger
set every three or four months. This proved to be too fast for many players
and, combined with numerous collation problems — players received
many duplicates even within small numbers of booster packs — the
Rolling Thunder system was eventually abandoned.
⻬ The Hidden Emperor: Centered on a story about a mysterious ninja
alliance determined to overtake the empire, the Hidden Emperor story arc
is set just after Clan Wars and spans nearly three real-world years’ worth
of expansions until the summer of 2000. It encompassed the six Rolling
Thunder–released Hidden Emperor episode sets, the Jade and Pearl editions, and the Honor Bound, Ambition’s Debt, Fire & Shadow, and Soul of
the Empire expansions. The Heroes of Rokugan boxed set also came out
during this period and, because it was available only to L5R’s Imperial
Assembly fan club members, contained many of the game’s most expensive and highly sought-after cards, even though it had just 27 cards in it.
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⻬ The Four Winds: The focus of this storyline was the succession to the
Rokugani throne of the emperor Toturi III’s children and the battles
among them. Kicked off by Heroes of Rokugan and The Spirit Wars —
which also contained the old Spirit faction — The Four Winds contained
Gold Edition plus A Perfect Cut, An Oni’s Fury, Dark Allies, Broken Blades,
The Fall of Otosan Uchi, Heaven & Earth, and Winds of Change expansions.
The alternate-history 1,000 Years of Darkness boxed set, which plotted
out what would have happened if the Shadowlands had triumphed
during the Clan Wars story arc, was also made available to fan club
members during this time.
⻬ The Bloodspeaker Saga: This started with Diamond Edition and told
the story of the sorcerer Iuchiban. It contained the last few Four Winds
sets as well as the Reign of Blood, The Hidden City, Wrath of the Emperor,
Web of Lies, Enemy of My Enemy, and Code of Bushido sets.
⻬ Lotus Edition: Still a work in progress, this set began in the fall of
2005 with the Lotus Edition set. It was originally designed before that
summer’s world championships at Gen Con with two outcomes in mind.
If the Shadowlands had won, the set would have been called Dark Lotus
Edition, future sets would have been affected similarly, and the enlightenment win condition would have been eliminated. Because the Crane
Clan won, we got plain old Lotus Edition along with its follow-up expansion, Path of Honor. More Lotus Edition–related sets will follow in 2006
and 2007. Additionally, Imperial Assembly members were able to buy the
limited-edition Dawn of the Empire boxed set, which harkened back to
Rokugan’s early days.
Building a Basic Deck
Legend of the Five Rings has a ton of stuff going on in it, so in an effort to keep
you from getting too overwhelmed, I show you what a basic deck should look
like. Starter decks are playable straight out of the box, but because they have
both fixed and random sections, you’re going to get a number of off-clan
(cards from a different clan than your stronghold) and other suboptimal cards
in any given deck. In the following sections, you take a look at a Lion Clan deck
because its focus on small, speedy personalities is a pretty easy concept to
grasp. You’ll want to save more complex strategies — especially those of the
Shadowlands, who play by different rules than the other factions — until after
you’ve gotten at least a few games under your belt.
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When building a deck, you want to stick as closely to 40 cards as possible in
each of your two decks. You can play with up to three copies of most cards,
but just one of any card that has the unique trait.
Your main objective with this Lion Clan deck is to bust out as many personalities as you can, swarming opposing forces and overwhelming them so you
can defeat opposing provinces and achieve a military victory. To start with,
you’ll be playing with the stronghold Shiro no Yojin (refer to Figure 7-1), with
its province strength of 7, gold production of 3, and a starting family honor of
6. More important, though, is its ability to produce 2 more gold when paying
for your followers and items. Plus, it lets you immediately attach either the
followers or the items from your hand to any of your samurai when you bring
the samurai into play, also at a cost of 2 less than their printed gold costs.
You also make use of the wind card Right Hand of the Emperor, which allows
you to discard the Imperial Favor to move a unit you control to a contested
battlefield. It’s got another great ability as well: It allows you once per turn to
put nonpersonality cards in your provinces on the bottom of your deck and
refill those provinces. This lets you cycle in more personalities over the course
of the game and enables you to increase your army’s size more quickly.
The dynasty deck: Marshaling the troops
For this example, you limit your dynasty deck to just holdings and personalities; you don’t need any events slowing you down when you could be beefing
up your forces! For holdings, you have the following:
⻬ 3 copies of Barley Farm
⻬ 3 copies of Copper Mine
⻬ 2 copies of Crystal Mine
⻬ 2 copies of Gifts and Favors
⻬ 2 copies of Large Farm
⻬ 3 copies of Secluded Waystation
Most holdings that cost 2 gold to play will also produce 2 gold and will have
an additional ability that fits a particular deck type. Barley Farm produces
2 gold, but it’s split up among two separate abilities, so you can use the gold
when paying for two separate costs; normally, any extra gold produced by an
ability would otherwise be lost and unable to be used on other costs.
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Copper Mine, shown in Figure 7-7, also produces 2 gold, but it can also generate 3 gold for a Lion player, so it’s an automatic “three-of” in this deck — you’ll
definitely want three of them. Secluded Waystation is the other three-copy
holding. It starts off producing 2 gold, but that number increases by 1 each
time you use it.
Figure 7-7:
ability is a
boon to any
Lion Clan
Crystal Mine doesn’t produce any gold by itself, but it lets you bow it and
another gold-producing holding to produce 6 gold, a nice boost over the average of 4. Large Farm has no special abilities but gives you 2 gold for a cost of
just 1. And Gifts and Favors has a unique ability; it gives you 2 gold for a cost
of 2, but if you’ve played no gold-producing holdings on a given turn, you may
bow your stronghold to search your dynasty deck and face-down provinces
for a copy of it and then put it directly into play, bowed.
Now that you’ve got all these ways to make gold, you’re gonna need cards to
spend them on. Fortunately, you’ve got these 25 personality cards in your
dynasty deck to do just that:
⻬ 3 copies of Akodo Anshiro
⻬ 3 copies of Akodo Ieshige
⻬ 3 copies of Akodo Natsu
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⻬ 3 copies of Ikoma Kosaku
⻬ 1 copy of Ikoma Otemi (Experienced 2)
⻬ 3 copies of Matsu Agoro
⻬ 3 copies of Matsu Hyun
⻬ 3 copies of Matsu Miyahara
⻬ 3 copies of Matsu Takenao
Akodo Anshiro is a 2F/3C — 2 force and 3 chi — for 7 gold and has both the
duelist and tactician traits. Being a duelist allows him to focus first in a duel,
while being a tactician — a common trait among your army and among Lions
in general — offers a couple of great abilities. First, tacticians are the only
personalities that can play tactical actions. Even better, you can raise a tactician’s force value as many times as you want to per turn by discarding a card
from your hand and adding its focus value to the tactician’s force.
Akodo Ieshige gives you 3F/4C for 7 gold, plus he gains 1 force each time an
opponent plays an action during a battle. Akodo Natsu is 1F/3C for 7 gold and
lets you draw a card any time you play a special type of battlefield-affecting
action card called a terrain. And Ikoma Kosaku is a 3F/4C tactician for 8 gold
who can make your personalities cheaper to play.
The Matsu family provides you with most of your minor personalities. Matsu
Agoro is a 2F/2C samurai for 4 gold with the fear ability, which bows all opposing followers in one unit sharing the same battlefield with him if they have a
force less than or equal to his fear value of 3. Matsu Hyun is a 2F/3C samurai
for 4 gold and can bow at any time to straighten any of your tacticians.
Matsu Miyahara starts out at just 1F/3C for 5 gold, but she gets +1F for each
Lion Clan samurai in her army and can become quite menacing. And Matsu
Takenao, a 4F/4C samurai for 7 gold, can reduce his chi by 2 to increase
another personality’s force by 2 while attacking for the rest of the game.
Finally, your big gun is the unique Ikoma Otemi. His Experienced 2 trait
allows you to play him on top of another copy of his Non-Experienced
(or an Experienced 1) version, or overlay him, but in this case, he simply
provides you with a huge body to send into battle. In addition to being a
large 8F/5C samurai for 11 gold, he has the cavalry and tactician traits.
Ikoma Otemi also lets you discard your hand during the battle action segment to draw either five cards or a number of cards equal to the number of
units in his army, whichever is greater.
In case you’re wondering, the reason that these personalities all have similar
first names is that the Japanese (and Rokugani) place their family name first.
The personalities are actually all members of the Akodo, Ikoma, and Matsu
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The fate deck: Taking action
Now that you’ve stocked your dynasty deck, it’s time to check out the fate
deck. First off is the deck’s one unique item, the Lion Clan sword Daitan. For
6 gold, it gives its equipped personality a +4F bonus and raises his or her chi
to 5 if it was lower than that. Daitan can also bow during a battle to create a
2F/1C Lion Clan personality token with a personal honor of 2. This token acts
just like a regular personality, except it gets removed from the game if it ever
leaves play.
Next up are your followers, which allow your personalities to become
stronger in battle:
⻬ 3 copies of Ashigaru Archers
⻬ 3 copies of Ashigaru Spearmen
⻬ 3 copies of Disciplined Infantry
⻬ 3 copies of Lion’s Pride
⻬ 3 copies of Omoidasu
The Ashigaru Archers let you replace them immediately after playing them —
a neat trick to have in your arsenal. They also have a battle action that lets you
bow them to target an opposing follower — or personality with no followers —
with a ranged attack of 2. This means that the target is destroyed if its force
is 2 or less. The Ashigaru Spearmen are similar, except they have a force
bonus of 1 instead of the Ashigaru Archers’ 0 and have a ranged attack of
1 instead of 2.
Disciplined Infantry cards provide a +2F bonus, plus they get an additional
+1F if you control a special type of action card called a formation. Lion’s Pride
can attach only to a tactician, but it gives a whopping force bonus of 4 for
just 5 gold, an outstanding deal. And Omoidasu would normally cost 4 gold
for its 2 force bonus, but it’s 1 gold cheaper to attach to Lion personalities.
After the attached personality wins a duel or battle or destroys a province,
you can also bow Omoidasu to either gain 2 honor or give the personality a
permanent +1F bonus.
Filling out the majority (and remainder) of your fate deck are the following
⻬ 3 copies of Battlefield of Shallow Graves
⻬ 3 copies of Heart of Rokugan
⻬ 3 copies of Outmaneuvered by Tactics
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⻬ 3 copies of Overwhelmed
⻬ 3 copies of Peasant Vengeance
⻬ 3 copies of Rain of Death
⻬ 3 copies of Refugees
⻬ 3 copies of Three-Stone River
Battlefield of Shallow Graves is a terrain that enables you to halve the force
of enemy personalities in a battle, while Heart of Rokugan lets you boost your
human followers — all of your followers in this particular deck — by +1F while
knocking down all nonhuman followers by –1F.
Outmaneuvered by Tactics gives your tacticians yet another bonus — it’s
a tactical action, so only tacticians can play it — that gives you two 2F/1C
tokens during a battle. Overwhelmed gives your opponent a tough decision
during combat; either he or she moves two units home or destroys his or her
highest-force personality. And Peasant Vengeance destroys an opposing personality with no followers or items.
Rain of Death is a formation that requires you to control two tacticians, but
it’s worth it. First, it gives two ranged 3 attacks to one of your tacticians. And
second, it lets you destroy one of your tacticians to destroy two opposing
cards with no unbowed cards attached.
Refugees gives you a convenient way during battle to send home a personality with no followers. Finally, Three-Stone River is a terrain with a nifty trick.
During a battle, it reduces the force of each personality to the force of its
highest-force followers, or to 1 if it’s got no followers. This works out great
for you because you’ll often have some decent followers, but will neutralize
follower-light decks.
Exploring New Combinations
of Strength and Defense
All of the cards that I describe in the previous section should be easy for you
to get a hold of because none of them are rare and they’re all available in the
Lotus Edition base set. A number of them can be found in the Lotus Edition
Lion Clan starter deck, and you should be able to pick up the rest in booster
packs or at your local game store.
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Of course, adding some rare cards and cards from other expansions gives
you the ability to do even more with your deck. With a Lion Clan deck, such
as the previous one, you could consider adding some other potent Lion personalities, like the Code of Bushido expansion’s Akodo Shigetoshi, who lets
you draw an extra card each time you attach a follower to him, or Ikoma
Chikao, who makes each of your Lion Clan personalities cheaper to play
and attaches a free 1F follower token to any new Lion that you play.
Akodo Bakin, shown in Figure 7-8, is another powerful rare Lion from Code of
Bushido. He gives you a 3F/2C samurai tactician for 7 gold and has a personal
honor of 3, and his tactical battle action’s a doozie. He lets you bow three
Lion personalities at a battlefield to directly destroy an entire opposing unit
before even resolving the battle.
Figure 7-8:
battle action
can take
over any
Lotus Edition adds some rare cards of its own that can be useful in such a
deck as well. Akodo Kobi lets you bring a personality into play for free from
one of your provinces for the duration of one battle. And Matsu Taniko lets
you draw a card each time you resolve one of your tactical actions.
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And that’s just part of the Lion Clan from the last two sets. Multiply that by
10 factions and throw in the 600-plus cards just from those two sets and the
hundreds of cards from the last few sets and you’ll get an idea of how many
different ways you can build a Lotus Edition deck. And if you go all the way
back to Imperial Edition, there are so many ways to put together a deck that
it’s impossible to count them!
Connecting with Your Fellow Adherents
With such a dedicated player and fan base, it should be no surprise that
there are tons of places to find information and broaden your knowledge
about Legend of the Five Rings. Here are a few ways to expand your enlightenment about the game:
⻬ While casual play is fun and lets you play with any cards you want to,
tournaments are a great way to find tons of other players. Not only do
they offer some cool prizes, like promotional cards, artwork, and even
collector’s-edition swords, but many of them also allow you to directly
influence the game’s storyline. Special tournaments called Kotei serve to
determine regional champions and qualifiers who go on to face off at the
annual L5R world championships at Gen Con in Indianapolis each summer.
⻬ Alderac Entertainment Group’s official L5R Web site (http://l5r. is also a great place to find out information regarding
upcoming tournaments and clan lore. Additionally, you can often see
sneak peeks at new sets and can find cool stuff like L5R computer
⻬ If you need to research specific cards for deck building, check out www. It lets you search by clan, card type, edition, and
numerous other criteria and hosts every card in the game. You’ll find
stats on every card as well as images of many of them.
⻬ Also, is a fun fan site. It has storyline background
info, checklists for every L5R set, and even a page of “Easter eggs” hidden
in card artwork and elsewhere in the game.
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Chapter 8
Dueling with Monsters and
Magic in Yu-Gi-Oh!
In This Chapter
䊳 Yu-Gi-Oh! Yeah! Why people love the game so much
䊳 Distinguishing each of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s card types
䊳 Charging into battle
䊳 Poring through the many Yu-Gi-Oh! sets
䊳 Assembling your first forces
䊳 Tricking out a killer deck
䊳 Tracking down other duelists
ou’d never think just by looking at him that a spiky-haired kid would be
able to tame powerful dragons and mighty warriors. But that’s exactly
what Yugi Mutou does as the main character of the wildly popular Yu-Gi-Oh!
And like the show, the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game gives you an opportunity
to slide into Yugi’s shoes and play the part of the mastermind who aims to be
the best duelist in the land, taking on all comers.
Sure, you’re not playing a superhero, a wizard, or even a multitalented sports
all-star, but what you don’t have in raw abilities in Yu-Gi-Oh!, you make up
for by sporting a keen mind for sending armies into battle and using your
resources to defeat your foes. In this chapter, you see exactly what has made
the game such a smashing success for the past few years — and likely for
years to come.
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Watching the Show, Learning the Game
More than any other trading card game property, Yu-Gi-Oh! sports a direct tie
with the show itself. Not only do Yugi, Kaiba, Pegasus, and the other characters face off against monsters and spells, they use gaming cards to do it! This
has made the game very accessible to those who watch the show because
parts of the show actually illustrate — dramatically, of course — what can
happen in a typical game.
For lots of fans, the card game simply gives them a way to collect their
favorite monsters from the show. We’re going to dig a bit deeper here,
though, and give you the ins and outs of what a real game of Yu-Gi-Oh! actually feels like. Not only are you going to see how to summon huge forces and
cast magical spells, but you’ll also get a glimpse into how to dig through the
thousands of existing cards to assemble your own unique decks.
In a Yu-Gi-Oh! game, you play the part of a duelist who controls these magical
cards. Each player starts the game — known in Yu-Gi-Oh! as a duel — with
8,000 life points. The first one to successfully reduce the opponent to 0 life
points wins the duel, and the first player to win two games out of three wins
the match! (You can also win if your opponent can’t draw a card when he or
she is required to, or through the effects of some specific cards in the game.)
Looking through the Cards
You encounter three main types of cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! — Monsters, Spells, and
Traps. Each type has specific, distinct rules and stats that dictate its use in
the game.
Monsters: Your chief offense and defense
When you’re duking it out with your opponent in a duel, you’re going to need
a lot of monsters at your disposal. They’re the ones who attack your opponent and prevent most of the damage from incoming attacks. Many of them
also have some really cool special abilities. There are a lot of numbers and
symbols on a Monster card, so here’s how to read one:
⻬ Attributes: In addition to its name at the top, each card has a circular
emblem on the right. This is the card’s attribute, which represents the
basic force guiding the card. There are six attributes in the game: Earth,
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Water, Fire, Wind, Light, and Dark. On its own, the attribute doesn’t do
anything, but many cards have abilities that affect other cards of a certain
attribute. Dark Blade, shown here in Figure 8-1, has Dark as its attribute.
Figure 8-1:
Dark Blade
knows just
one thing —
battling —
but he
knows it
⻬ Type: The type of monster you have is displayed in the box directly below
the monster’s picture. (Refer to Figure 8-1 to see Dark Blade’s type.) The
type shows what sort of being the monster is and, like attributes, is used
to key off other cards’ effects. There are 20 different card types, from
gigantic dragons to insidious insects to animated rocks and machines.
⻬ Level: Going back up to the top right of the card, you’ll discover a series
of star icons just below the attribute. These represent the card’s level —
in Dark Blade’s case, it’s 4. The stronger a monster’s abilities are, the
higher its level will normally be. More powerful monsters require you to
pay certain extra costs when you play them; I get to that in a little bit.
⻬ Stats: In the bottom-right corner of a monster card are that card’s attack
(ATK) and defense (DEF) stats. The higher the stats, the more powerful
that monster is in combat and the tougher it is to defeat. Dark Blade’s
ATK is 1,800 and his DEF is 1,500; these are decent numbers for a level-4
warrior when compared with others in the game.
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⻬ Text: It turns out that Dark Blade has no other abilities and for that
reason is called a normal monster; the text below his picture is simply
there for flavor. (The clue that Dark Blade is a normal monster lies in
the yellow background in this text box.) Some monsters, like Command
Knight, seen in Figure 8-2, have game-related text. In addition to being
protected from attacks when another monster is on your side, Command
Knight boosts the ATK of your other monsters, making them fiercer in
battle. Monsters with special abilities like this are called effect monsters,
and their text boxes have orange backgrounds.
Figure 8-2:
Knight is
hard to hit
and also
pumps up
your other
Yu-Gi-Oh! has two other chief types of monsters — fusion and ritual
monsters — that appear less frequently than the previously mentioned
normal and effect monsters. Fusion monsters use a card called Polymerization to combine two other monsters in play into one bigger one.
While you lose a net of one monster this way, you’re able to pick the
fusion monster directly out of a special pile called the fusion deck rather
than having to wait for it to come up randomly in your regular deck.
Fusion monster cards all have a purple background.
Ritual monsters cards have a blue background. They work similarly to
fusion monsters, except that ritual monsters go in your regular deck.
Instead of using Polymerization, each one has its own unique ritual
spell card and requires that you have another specific monster that you
must lose from play when you play the ritual monster.
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Certain special kinds of monsters called token monsters don’t have
cards; rather, they’re put into play through effects of other cards and are
represented by tokens. They simply get removed from the game when
they leave play.
⻬ Identifying numbers: In addition to all of these stats and symbols, a
couple of other numbers appear on monster cards, as well as all other
Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. On the right side of the card are some letters and numbers. The ones that appear before the hyphen denote the set from which
the card comes; each set has its own unique identifier. On the right is
the card’s serial number, which identifies the card within that set.
⻬ Video game tie-ins: Finally, on the bottom left of the card is a string of
eight numbers. They don’t affect the trading card game, but you can
enter these numbers into many Yu-Gi-Oh! video games to unlock special
Many Yu-Gi-Oh! cards have some degree of shininess to them. Generally, the
more foil you see, the rarer the card is. Common cards have no foil, while rare
cards, which appear about once per nine-card booster pack, have a foiled
name. Super-rare cards have a plain name but a foil picture, while ultra-rare
cards have both a gold foil name and a foil picture. Secret rare cards have a
funky striped effect to their foil pictures, while ultimate rares are even cooler,
with a three-dimensional relief effect.
These rarities have no direct effect on gameplay, but some of the rarer cards
appear only once per booster box — or even less frequently — making them
very tough to get your hands on. Cards with the “first edition” designation
come from the beginning of a set’s print run and are even harder to find.
Consequently, some of them go for a ton of money — ultimate rares regularly
go for more than $50!
Spells: The magic that makes you mightier
Sometimes you need to do more than tussle with monsters if you want to
make any headway against your opponent. Spells are a crucial part of doing
that because many of them have surprise effects that you can’t achieve with
monsters alone.
Before the Magician’s Force expansion, Spell cards were known as Magic
cards. If you have any of these, play them as if they say “Spell card” on them.
Spell cards, with their light green backgrounds, have a simpler layout than
Monster cards. Many of them have just the card’s name on top and their ability in the text box. You simply play these Normal spell cards, do what they
say, and then discard them. Heavy Storm, shown in Figure 8-3, is one such
spell; it destroys all spells and traps and then goes away.
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Figure 8-3:
Storm is an
answer to
spells and
A few subtypes of Spell cards have slightly different rules that apply to them,
though. Here’s the rundown:
⻬ Continuous spell cards stay on the board after you use them. They affect
the field of play until they’re removed. These have an infinity symbol in
the top-right corner.
⻬ Equip spell cards grant abilities or change the attack and/or defense stats
of creatures that they equip. They stay in play until they or the equipped
monster are removed from play, and they’re denoted by a cross symbol.
⻬ Field spell cards modify the entire board and often have powerful
effects. Only one total can be played, even between both players; any
new one introduced into play destroys a previously played one. Field
spell cards have a four-pointed star symbol.
⻬ Quick-Play spell cards can be played at any time on your turn, unlike
others that are normally limited to certain phases of the turn. They have
a lightning-bolt symbol.
⻬ Ritual spell cards allow you to bring a ritual monster into play; they
sport a flaming torch symbol.
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Traps: Your sneaky surprises
Trap cards perform many of the same tasks that Spell cards do, except
they’re governed by slightly different timing rules. (They come with a purple
background, which makes them stand out easily from the other card types.)
Watch for these trap cards:
⻬ Normal traps are simply set (played face-down on the field) and then can
be activated (turned face-up) at any time after the start of the next turn.
They’re then discarded from play.
⻬ Counter traps nullify the summoning of monsters or the effects of other
spells or traps; they have an arrow symbol in the top-right corner. Magic
Jammer, shown in Figure 8-4, is one such trap that counters a spell and
destroys it. Counter traps also go away after they’re used.
⻬ Continuous traps stay around after activation and, like continuous spells,
affect the field until they’re removed from play. They are marked with an
infinity symbol in the top-right corner.
Figure 8-4:
stops spells
right in their
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En Garde! Watching a Typical Duel
Before getting into gameplay, you need to know a few basics about the field
of play:
⻬ Your deck is the pile from which you draw cards. It must contain at least
40 cards. It’s kept face-down and normally can’t be seen face-up by
either player. In tournaments, you can also have a side deck that gives
you cards that can be switched in and out between duels, plus a fusion
deck to hold your fusion monsters.
⻬ The graveyard is where all destroyed monsters and used spells and traps
go. These cards are kept face-up in one pile and may be examined at
any time.
⻬ Your monster zone holds — surprise! — your monsters in play. It has a
limit of five monsters, meaning that you can’t play any new ones if the
zone’s full.
⻬ Similarly, your spell and trap zone holds up to five total of those card
types. A single-card field zone holds a field spell.
You can have just one field card total in play between both players.
Each turn of the game has a specific order in which you can perform game
actions, such as playing cards, attacking, or activating effects. When the
game starts, you first shuffle your deck and draw five cards. Then, flip a coin
or roll a die to randomly determine who plays first. After that, the game proceeds in turn order. Here’s how a typical turn looks:
⻬ Draw phase: At the beginning of your turn, draw a card from your deck.
(Keep in mind that if you can’t draw a card, you lose the game.)
⻬ Standby phase: Some cards have a cost to maintain them while in play
or have some other specified action. This is normally when you pay that
cost or take that action.
⻬ Main phase 1: This is the phase when you get to play your cards to the
field. Each card type is played in certain ways:
• Monster cards: You may normal summon a Monster card by playing it from your hand face-up and oriented vertically in attack position, or set the card by placing it face-down and horizontal in
defense position. You are limited to one normal summon per turn.
If you have a monster of level 5 or 6, you must perform a tribute
summon by placing one of your monsters already in play into your
graveyard. Monsters of level 7 or higher require a tribute of two
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You can also flip summon a face-down monster by turning it face-up
and vertical. You may do this only once per turn per monster, but
you can flip summon as many monsters as you have available, and
it doesn’t affect your normal summon count for the turn.
Additionally, you may also summon a fusion or ritual monster or
put a monster into play if a card in play says you can. This also
doesn’t count against your normal summons limit. These, as well
as similar non-normal summons, are collectively known as special
• Spell and Trap cards: You may play as many Spell and Trap cards
as you have spaces for on the field — up to your five total. Spells
may be activated (played face-up) or set (played face-down), while
traps must always be set. Activated spells immediately generate
their effects.
⻬ Battle phase: Ah, the moment of truth! When it’s your turn, you may
attack an opponent’s monster — except that the player who plays first
must skip the battle phase on his or her first turn. In preparing for an
attack, both you and your opponent may first play any Quick-Play spells
and/or traps you have at the ready; you then announce which of your
attack-position monsters is attacking and which opposing one it’s targeting. After playing any additional Quick-Plays, calculate the damage each
monster does to the other according to the following rules:
• If the defending monster is in attack position, you’ll compare the
attacker’s ATK to that of the defender. If the attacker’s ATK is
greater than the defender’s, destroy the defender — put it into the
graveyard — and subtract the difference from the opposing
duelist’s life total. (Remember, each player starts with a life total of
8,000.) If the ATK numbers are equal, destroy both monsters. If the
defender’s ATK is higher, destroy the attacker and deduct the difference from your life total.
• If the defending monster is in defense position, flip it face-up and
then compare the attacker’s ATK to the defender’s DEF. If the
attacker is higher, destroy the defending monster but don’t subtract the difference from the opponent’s life total. If they’re equal,
nothing happens. If the defender is higher, the attacker sticks
around, but you take damage equal to the difference between your
monster’s ATK and your opponent’s monster’s DEF — where
“taking damage” means deducting the difference from your life
total. (Ouch!)
• If there are no opposing monsters to attack, you may attack the
opponent directly. Simply attack with a monster and then subtract
its ATK from your opponent’s life total.
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You may attack once per turn with each monster. Again, if at any time
you’ve reduced your opponent to 0 or fewer life points, you win!
⻬ Main phase 2: You may perform any of the same actions that you could
do in main phase 1. You’re still restricted to one normal summon total
per turn, as well as one change of position — from attack to defense —
per monster per turn.
⻬ End phase: Finally, you end your turn. Discard from your hand until
you’re holding six cards and then pass the turn to your opponent. He or
she now begins the turn in the draw phase. Repeat all of the previous
phases each turn until one player wins!
Sifting among Set after Set of Cards
Yu-Gi-Oh! has been on American store shelves for about four years now, but
Upper Deck — the official licensee of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the United States — continues to put out expansions for the game at a blistering pace unseen in any
other trading card game. Because Konami — the game’s original producer —
released the game in Japan several years earlier than the stateside version,
we’ve been playing catch-up, with most of the early American sets encompassing two of Konami’s Japanese ones in order to eventually bring them up
to similar release schedules.
We’ve reached that point now, but in the meantime, about 20 sets totaling
thousands of cards have come down the pike. Additionally, numerous preconstructed decks, promotional card inserts, tournament prize cards, and
other nonstandard releases have appeared. Here’s a quick look at the major
sets so far:
⻬ Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon kicked off the English-language
translation of Yu-Gi-Oh! with strong spellcaster Dark Magician, several
huge dragons, and many overpowered Spell and Trap cards, like
Raigeki, which destroys all of your opponent’s monsters while leaving
your own untouched. It also contains Exodia the Forbidden One, plus
one card each for his arms and legs; getting all five of these into your
hand at the same time wins you the game.
⻬ Metal Raiders followed up with the attacker-destroying trap Mirror
Force and secret rare Gate Guardian, who has a whopping 3,750 ATK
and 3,400 DEF.
⻬ Magic Ruler, the third set, explores the alternate Toon World with the
wacky Toon Mermaid, Toon Summoned Skull, and Manga Ryu-Ran, as
well as Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon, the alternate version of chief dragon
Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
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⻬ Pharaoh’s Servant features Jinzo, a machine that stops all traps from
working, and Buster Blader, a warrior who gets pumped up if you have
lots of dragons on the board.
⻬ Labyrinth of Nightmare contains United We Stand, an Equip spell that
boosts monsters to obscene stats, and Destiny Board, a new alternatewin trap card that scores you the game if you get each of its four spirit
messages into play at the same time.
⻬ Legacy of Darkness’s secret rare fiend/spirit Yata-Garasu owned tournaments for a long time with its ability to force an opponent to skip his
or her next draw phase each time it dealt damage to the opponent.
⻬ Pharaonic Guardian’s trap Ring of Destruction destroys any face-up
monster on the board while dealing damage equal to its ATK to both
⻬ Magician’s Force contains numerous big-ticket cards, including the
popular Dark Magician Girl, a level-6 2,000 ATK/1,700 DEF spellcaster
who gets a boost from each Dark Magician you have in play or in your
⻬ Dark Crisis brought forth Exodia Necross, who requires all five Exodia
parts in your graveyard for its power to be unleashed but is also indestructible and grows in ATK each turn.
⻬ Invasion of Chaos contains the secret rare Chaos Emperor Dragon,
who can rid the board and both players’ hands of all cards if you pay
1,000 life points, and ultra-rare Black Luster Soldier, who can either pick
off one opposing monster each turn or attack an extra time each turn if
he defeats an opposing monster in battle.
⻬ Ancient Sanctuary’s Enemy Controller lets you either change the
battle position of an opposing monster or tribute one of your own monsters to steal an opposing one for a turn.
⻬ Soul of the Duelist features several different levels of Horus the Black
Flame Dragon; the level-8 one — the biggest of the bunch — negates
and destroys all Spell cards on the field.
⻬ Dark Beginning 1 (followed several months later by Dark Beginning 2)
reprinted many popular earlier cards, giving newer players a chance to
grab powerful ones at a cheaper price.
⻬ Rise of Destiny features The Creator, a huge thunder monster who lets
you discard a card each turn to special summon a monster from your
⻬ Flaming Eternity showcases Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys, a winged
beast who can come back each turn after being destroyed by a card
effect and then destroy all spells and traps on the field.
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⻬ Dark Revelation 1 is Yu-Gi-Oh!’s second reprint set, focusing on dark,
light, and earth monsters. Dark Revelation 2 has followed in its wake.
⻬ The Lost Millennium’s Ancient Gear Golem can deal damage through
defense-position monsters as if they were in attack position, negating
any opposing spells and traps during the attack. Reshef the Dark Being,
meanwhile, has the brutal ability to gain control of an opposing monster
each turn.
⻬ Cybernetic Revolution’s Cyber End Dragon requires the tribute of
three Cyber Dragon monsters, but in return brings to the field a 4,000
ATK/2,800 DEF behemoth that can plow straight through defenseposition monsters and deal tons of damage.
Additionally, several tournament prize kits have been released to game stores
for use in local leagues over the last few years, each set containing 15 to 30
cards. Also, many Yu-Gi-Oh! video games contain special promotional cards
that aren’t available elsewhere. And some big tournaments, such as the
Shonen Jump championships, award super-duper rare cards to winners. The
first one, Cyber-Stein, went to a player who bested several hundred opponents; it later sold for several thousand dollars!
Creating a Starting Deck
In tandem with a number of its sets, Upper Deck has released preconstructed
structure decks to enable new players to start playing Yu-Gi-Oh! without having
to accumulate tons of rare cards through booster packs. They generally run
$10 to $15 and contain a playable 40-card deck, usually themed around a certain monster or type of monster.
While these decks are able to be cracked open and played right from the get-go,
they’re also meant to expose players to a number of new cards. As such, they
contain lots of different cards, rather than a more focused build containing
three copies — the maximum number you can legally play of a given card —
of the most powerful cards.
In this section, you take a look at how to bring more power cheaply to the
recent Warrior’s Triumph structure deck, which contains all of the cards I
mention earlier in the “Looking through the Cards” section. As the name
implies, it’s centered on warrior-type monsters and can pack quite a punch.
Also, most of these have the earth attribute. (Not sure what all this talk of
attributes and types means? Then flip back to the aforementioned “Looking
through the Cards” section.)
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Nearly all the monsters in this deck are level 4 or lower, meaning they can be
normal summoned without requiring a tribute. If you want to add speed to
the deck — play more monsters more quickly and swarm your opponent
with them before he can set up his defenses — remove the three higher-level
monsters — Gilford the Legend, Swift Gaia the Fierce Knight, and Gearfried
the Swordmaster — in order to make room for cheaper monsters and more
ways to increase their damage-dealing capabilities.
You also want to keep the remaining monsters as independent of one another
and of other cards as possible and then bump up the strongest ones to three
copies each. After doing that, you can tweak the number of Spell and Trap
cards in your deck to fit better with the monsters you have left.
A focused build of the deck can look like this:
⻬ 3 copies of Command Knight
⻬ 3 copies of Dark Blade
⻬ 3 copies of D.D. Warrior Lady
⻬ 3 copies of Exiled Force
⻬ 3 copies of Marauding Captain
⻬ 3 copies of Mataza the Zapper
⻬ 3 copies of Obnoxious Celtic Guard
⻬ 3 copies of Warrior Lady of the Wasteland
Dark Blade provides you with your biggest natural attacker, beating out the
deck’s Gearfried the Iron Knight because, unlike Gearfried, it doesn’t destroy
any equipment on it. D.D. Warrior Lady and Exiled Force enable you to
directly destroy opposing monsters no matter how big they are, which will
come in handy when clearing the way so that your attacker can deal as much
damage as quickly as possible.
Obnoxious Celtic Guard battles well with bigger monsters; equip him and
he’ll be able to take down even the fiercest of opponents. Mataza also holds
equipment well; he can attack twice per turn, doubling the equipment’s
damage potential, and can’t be stolen while he’s face-up.
Warrior Lady of the Wasteland and Marauding Captain give you ways to
bring additional monsters into play for free, helping you swarm your opponent
before he or she can set up defenses. Marauding Captain also keeps your warriors from being targeted by attacks. Finally, D.D. Warrior Lady, seen in Figure
8-5, lets you remove an opponent’s monster after damage calculation.
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Figure 8-5:
D. D.
Lady lets
you neutralize even
the biggest
of your
⻬ 3 copies of Fusion Sword Murasame Blade
⻬ 2 copies of Giant Trunade
⻬ 1 copy of Heavy Storm
⻬ 3 copies of Lightning Blade
⻬ 1 copy of Lightning Vortex
⻬ 1 copy of Mystical Space Typhoon
⻬ 2 copies of Reinforcement of the Army
⻬ 1 copy of Snatch Steal
Fusion Sword and Lightning Blade each provide a huge 800-point ATK boost
to whomever they equip; additionally, Fusion Sword can’t be destroyed by
spell destruction, and Lightning Blade decreases the ATK of water monsters
by 500. And to help you find more warriors, Reinforcement of the Army
grabs any of yours from your deck and puts it into your hand.
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This deck also includes some general utility spells: Giant Trunade bounces
all spells and traps on the field to their owners’ hands. Heavy Storm nukes
all spells and traps on the table, while Lightning Vortex destroys all opposing face-up monsters in exchange for a discard of one measly card. Mystical
Space Typhoon picks off one specific spell or trap card, and Snatch Steal
gives you permanent control of an enemy monster.
Heavy Storm, Lightning Vortex, Mystical Space Typhoon, and Snatch Steal
pack quite a punch, which is why you’re limited to just one copy per deck if
you want to play in the most popular format, Advanced.
⻬ 1 copy of Call of the Haunted
⻬ 1 copy of Magic Jammer
The restricted Call of the Haunted — restricted in that you can play with one
copy in your deck — special summons any of your monsters from your graveyard straight into play. Magic Jammer gives you a way to negate and destroy
a spell card.
Combining Cards for Better Wins
With thousands of cards to choose from, the possibilities are endless as far as
extending a deck such as the one I discuss in the previous sections. For a warrior deck, like that one, you have a few recent options like Dark Beginning 2’s
ultra-rare Blade Knight, who starts as a level-4 1,660 ATK/1,000 DEF monster,
but who gets a 400-point ATK pump if you have fewer than two cards in your
hand — enough to clear out just about any other level-4 monster!
Dark Beginning 2 also provides Dream Clown, who directly destroys a monster simply by flipping Dream Clown from attack position to defense position. Also, if you think you’re going to face a lot of spells and traps, go for the
warrior Princess of Tsurugi. She flips to deal 500 damage to your opponent
for each spell and trap your opponent controls.
Another cool addition to the deck comes from the recent 2005 holiday tin collector’s edition set. Gilford the Lightning, shown in Figure 8-6, is a level-8
2,800 ATK/1,400 DEF who lets you tribute summon him by tributing three
monsters. Some bargain? You betcha — when you summon him this way, he
destroys all of your opponent’s monsters!
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Figure 8-6:
Gilford the
down your
whole team!
Additionally, most of the restricted spells are worth taking a look at for this
or any other Yu-Gi-Oh! deck. They’re restricted for a reason — their gamebreaking powers — so if you don’t mind shelling out some dough for the
more expensive rare ones, you’ll have a bigger arsenal of weapons at your
disposal, too. I show you where to find the restricted list shortly.
Finding, Meeting, and Challenging
Other Duelists
Finding other people to play Yu-Gi-Oh! with shouldn’t be too hard as long as
you don’t live in the middle of nowhere. In addition to tournaments at the
summer game conventions, many hobby game shops run tournaments once
or more per week, some with exclusive card prizes, others with cash or store
credit prizes. To find a list of stores and tournaments in your area, check out
Upper Deck’s official Yu-Gi-Oh! Web site at
You can also find a lot of other game resources at that site, including the
tournament restricted and banned lists, a calendar of special events such as
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sneak preview tournaments for new sets, and other game news. More info can
also be found at Upper Deck’s tournament play site,
For further info on the game, check out these independent Web sites, too:
⻬ This site has a huge amount of set info, strategy tips, deck
lists, and loads of other goodies. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, it also has sections for numerous other trading card games, including Pokémon and Duel Masters.
⻬ This is another great source of info that has a
searchable card database and card inventory tool.
Additionally, if you’re into playing online games, check out the digital version
of the game at It gives you a chance to play with
opponents anywhere in the world!
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Chapter 9
Fighting for Truth, Justice,
and Superhero Supremacy
with HeroClix
In This Chapter
䊳 Adding a new dimension to collectible gaming
䊳 Putting the “Clix” into HeroClix
䊳 The flying fists and furious footwork of HeroClix
䊳 Looking through the many superhero sets
䊳 Summoning your characters to battle
䊳 Giving your forces an added POW! BANG! BOOM!
䊳 Expanding your games
rading card games are great. They’re fun, they’re portable, and you’ve got
zillions of different ways to play them. What gaming cards don’t do well,
though, is tussle with each other. Instead of throwing each other through a
plate glass window or into a brick wall, cards just kinda lay there on the
table, where even a stiff breeze can blow them away.
Not that I’m advocating violence, of course, but most games in this genre are
based around some kind of battle, whether it’s slaying enemy beasts with a
sword, shooting outlaws with a Colt .45, or simply getting opposing pets to
faint. And where cards fall short in physically acting out the brouhahas,
miniatures take that task and go nuts with it.
Enter HeroClix. WizKids’ game of miniature battling superheroes has brought
the epic fights from the comic world onto tabletops in basements and game
shops everywhere. Instead of limiting themselves to shuffling up a few decks,
players are able to realistically show exactly how their favorite heroes and
villains duke it out with each other. Best of all, it’s easy to understand and as
addictive as anything.
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Bringing Superheroes to Life in 3-D
If you’ve got a favorite superhero, odds are he or she has shown up in HeroClix.
Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Spider-Man — heck, just about all
superheroes with “man,” “woman,” “boy,” or “girl” in their name — have all
made it into the game.
Of course, the bad guys and gals are there, too, with The Joker, Dr. Doom,
Scarlet Witch, and Magneto showing their evil faces (or lack thereof!). Even
obscure characters like Nimrod, Beta Ray Bill, and Kilowog have graced
HeroClix at one point or another.
With HeroClix, WizKids has taken these many characters — more than 1,000
different figures to date — and turned them into realistic, movable fighting
machines. Characters with super strength or mind control in the comics have
had such powers translated very elegantly into stats that represent those
abilities in the game. Stronger figures last longer and hit harder, and flying
heroes can zoom around the game board.
And if you’ve ever seen those old tabletop war games with hundreds of miniature figures, don’t worry; there’s no gigantic rule book to pore through, no
reams of graph paper to spread out. Even the painting has already been done,
so you can instantly break out your figs and start playing. Of course, you first
need to know how to play, right?
Clicking through the Dial
Although the cool detailed modeling work on a HeroClix figure brings the
character to life, the base of the fig is where the meat and potatoes of the
game lay. It’s where you find all of the piece’s stats and special abilities, as
well as the clicking dial that gives the game its name.
Around the edge of the base is a series of numbers and symbols. For example, starting on the rear side of Batman’s figure, shown in Figure 9-1, is the
name of the figure followed by his team symbol. The yellow Batman symbol
denotes that, shockingly, he’s a member of the Batman Ally team. Team affiliation plays a part in a more advanced version of the game — a version I leave
unexplored for the time being — in which the symbol grants a special ability
to any team member. (What kind of special ability? Well, one that definitely
allows that character to hit harder in combat, for starters.)
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Figure 9-1:
If you
not to tell
anyone that
Batman is
really Bruce
Wayne, I’ll
keep mum
as well.
Next to the team symbol is Batman’s point value of 47. In the grand scheme of
things, that places this version of Bats in the midrange; the higher the number,
the more powerful a figure generally is. A figure’s point value also figures in at
the end of the game when determining the winner; the higher the value, the
more a character counts toward its vanquisher’s victory. To the right of that
number is a set symbol of an I in an oval, which denotes that this Batman version is from the DC Icons expansion for the game. Finally, next to that is his collector’s number, #001.
Around the edge of the figure is a blue circle. This means that you’ve got an
experienced version of Batman here — one who’s more powerful than the
yellow-circled rookie version, but less powerful than the red-circled veteran
version. Unique figures are special versions that come in only one form per
expansion or as a special limited-edition version. Regular-issue figures have a
silver circle, whereas limited-edition (LE) ones have a bronze circle. You can
have only one copy on your team of any unique character in terms of name,
set symbol, and collector’s number.
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You might also come across figures that have gold or purple rings around
their edges. The gold circles are reserved for ultra-rare figures, which have
been included in the last few expansions at a rate of one per 96- or 97-figure
set. The purple rings appear on limited-run versions of regular silver-ringed
uniques that have been given away as prizes at prerelease tournaments for
HeroClix expansions.
The really interesting part of the base, though, is the window in the front. By
twisting the combat dial on the bottom of the figure, you can rotate the numbers
that show up through this window. The higher the number for any stat, the
better. What do they all stand for? I describe them for you in the following list:
⻬ On the top left is the speed value, usually denoted by a boot-in-motion
icon. This shows how many spaces on the game map a figure can move
each turn. Batman’s starting speed is 8, which is pretty decent. Some figures have a wing icon, which means that they can fly. Flying characters
can either hover near the ground, where they can transport other characters, or, if they’re in an outdoor location, they can soar, avoiding any
terrain in their way. Also, some characters have a dolphin icon, meaning
that they can move through water as if they were running.
⻬ Below the speed value is the attack value, which has a punching fist icon
next to it. This shows how likely the character is to connect when he
attacks in hand-to-hand combat. Batman’s is 10, which is okay, but nothing special compared to many other figures.
⻬ On the bottom left is the defense value, which has a shield icon next to
it. This describes how hard it is to hit a character when he or she is
attacked. Batman’s 16 is pretty high; he’s pretty fast on his feet!
⻬ On the bottom right is the damage value, denoted by a starburst icon.
This indicates how hard the character hits. Batman’s 2 damage can
knock a character out twice as fast as someone with 1.
⻬ Finally, above the damage value is the only stat that remains constant,
the range value. This has one or more lightning bolt icons and shows
how far a character’s ranged attack — a thrown or fired weapon, for
example — can reach. The number of bolts shows how many targets can
be range-attacked at once. Batman’s range is 6, and he’s limited to one
target here.
You’ll also see different colors in the spaces that show through the dial.
These represent many of the different powers that show up in the game, and
they do everything from making figures move faster to making them invulnerable to giving them stronger attacks to other special abilities. Batman’s
orange box — you’ll have to trust me on that one, given that all the figures in
this book are in black and white — in the speed area shows that he has the
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leap/climb ability, which lets him move around more easily and scale high
walls, as well as attack soaring flyers. In the defense section, he has a maroon
box, which means he has will power, a way to avoid damage. And his damage
box is black, meaning he has outwit; this counters a single opposing power or
can keep a flyer from soaring.
Most characters start out with certain abilities and stats that change over
time as they take more and more clicks of damage. Sometimes this means
that they’re getting weaker, but other times it means that their adrenaline’s
really kicking in and they get even stronger!
Also, some figures have colored bases rather than the black ones that most
figures have. If two different figures with the same set symbol also have the
same-colored base, they’re arch enemies. This counts when you figure out a
game’s winner and in other capacities.
Replaying That Cool Battle in Issue #1
Before you start a HeroClix game, you need to choose a maximum team point
total. Increments should always be in multiples of 100, and the value should
be the same for both players — unless you want to handicap a more experienced player. Also make sure to grab a pair of six-sided dice — they’re included
in a starter set if you don’t have any handy — because you’ll need them to
resolve battles and to perform some other actions.
Also, you’ll need to decide on a battlefield on which to play. After you randomly determine who goes first, the player who goes first chooses a map — a
couple are included in a starter set, and you can buy more in other packs or
make more yourself — and then the other player selects an edge of the map
on which to place his or her team. Maps include buildings, trees, and other
forms of terrain. While most spaces are clear, some have hindering terrain,
which obstructs a character’s movement, or blocking terrain, which stops
movement and also blocks any line of fire in an attack. The first player then
chooses an edge on which to start. After you place your characters, you’re
ready to start the game!
Many games out there have long, involved turns with tons of different steps.
HeroClix isn’t one of them. Instead, each turn simply has a number of actions
a player can make; this number is equal to the maximum total number of
points allowed for a team that you’re playing with divided by 100. So if you
and your friends agree to play with 200-point maximum teams, you each get
two actions per turn. Teams with 300 points max get three, and so on.
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When your figure takes action, you put an action token beside that character —
use a small object like a coin or glass bead as a marker. That character may rest
on the next turn — removing the action token in the process — or it can soldier
on and use an action on the next turn, earning a second action token and one
click of pushing damage to show that the character is exhausted or overexerted.
A single character may take only one action per turn, and a character with two
tokens may take only free actions, which I go over shortly.
Actions may be used to move a character, to use one of his or her powers, or
to initiate an attack against another character or characters. Some powers also
grant additional free actions that have special restrictions on what they can be
used for, but they don’t count toward your action total for the turn. To use a
power action, you simply announce that you’re using a character’s power and
follow the power’s instructions set in the rules. A handy power reference card
is included in all starter sets, but you need to grab one from each of the latest
Marvel and DC sets (and the Indy set) in order to have a full list.
To move a character, you simply move it any number of spaces on the board
up to its speed value. It can move vertically, horizontally, or diagonally and
may pass through a space containing another figure on your team, but not
one with an enemy on it. The move must end on an empty space. Also, if the
character moves away from a grid square that’s next to an enemy figure, he or
she has to break away by rolling a die. If you roll less than 4, the character is
stuck where he or she is; on a 4 or higher, the character may move normally.
Close combat actions: Duking it out
The heart of the HeroClix game, of course, is the battle between the players’
teams. All of the other actions and choices in the game involve setting up
your characters in the most advantageous positions possible when they’re
ready to fight with the opposing characters.
When your figure is adjacent to an enemy figure, you can use a close combat
action to initiate a battle with that figure. To determine whether you hit or
miss, simply roll both of your dice and add the total to the attacker’s attack
value. If it’s less than the defender’s defense value, you swing and miss, but if
it’s greater than or equal to the defender’s defense value, you hit! When you
hit, twist the defender’s combat dial a number of clicks equal to the
attacker’s damage value.
So if you use Batman to attack the villainous Harley Quinn, shown in Figure 9-2,
you’ll be facing off his attack value of 10 against her defense value of 15. If you
roll a 6 or higher, you hit for Batman’s damage value of 2 and click Harley twice.
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Figure 9-2:
Quinn’s a
jester you
might like
to court
for your
If you roll a 2, it’s called a critical miss, and the attack automatically fails; in
fact, it fails so badly due to your character’s obvious incompetence that he or
she takes a click of damage instead! If you roll a 12, though, it’s called a critical hit and the defender takes an extra click of damage.
If you roll any doubles besides a 2, the defender suffers knockback, which
means that the attack’s force was great enough to throw him or her into another
space. Move the defender directly away from the attacker a number of spaces
equal to the damage taken. If the character hits a wall or other terrain during
knockback, he or she stops there and takes an additional click of damage.
When a character’s dial shows three KO symbols, that character is knocked
out. Remove the figure from the battlefield; he or she will count toward victory for the player who defeated the character.
Ranged combat actions: Ready, aim, fire!
Even if your figure is not right next to an opposing figure, you can still often
attack opposing figures by using a ranged combat action. If you can draw a
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straight line between the two characters, if the distance in squares between
the two characters is less than or equal to the potential attacker’s range
value, and if the line of sight between the two figures isn’t blocked by other
characters or by blocking terrain, you may use the attacker’s ranged combat
Ranged combat works basically the same way as close combat, except that
you can split up your ranged attacks among a number of targets equal to the
number of lightning bolt icons next to your figure’s range value. To resolve
combat, you roll your dice once and compare your values to each of the
defenders the same way you did in close combat. Because the defenders
might have different defense values, you might miss some but hit others.
The endgame: Victory and defeat
There are a few different ways to determine when a game of HeroClix is over.
Most commonly, you finish when one team’s characters have all been
knocked out. You can also play for a predetermined amount of time or
number of rounds. Whenever you’ve reached the agreed-upon end, you’ll
tally up each side’s victory points to determine who wins the game.
To determine your victory point total, add the point values for all figures that
you’ve knocked out of the game to the point values for all figures you have
left standing at the end. If you’ve knocked out a character’s arch enemy with
that character, double the KO’d character’s point total. The player with the
higher victory point total wins! If there’s a tie, the player whose own team has
the lowest point value wins.
Finding Your Favorite Figures
Since its first set back in 2002, WizKids has released nearly 20 expansions
for HeroClix. Most sets contain about 96 figures, split up among rookie/
experienced/veteran versions of about 28 different characters plus about a
dozen uniques per set. Each set also has 8 to 20 special limited-edition figures
that are secret identities of superheroes and supervillains in the set. In the
following sections, I discuss where you can find some of your faves.
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Marvel’s fantastic forces
There’s the chocolate/vanilla divide, the National League/American League
divide, the Coke/Pepsi divide, the Beatles/Rolling Stones divide, and the
Marvel/DC divide. Here’s what you have on the Marvel side of the fence:
⻬ Infinity Challenge: The first HeroClix set, Challenge contains many of
the classic favorite characters, including Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine,
Captain America, and Elektra. Other members of the Avengers, X-Men,
Brotherhood, and Sinister Syndicate make up most of the set.
⻬ Clobberin’ Time: This Fantastic Four–themed set has team members
Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Thing, as well as a
super-powerful Nightcrawler figure, still one of the most coveted and
expensive pieces (point-wise) in the game.
⻬ Xplosion: The X-Men are the name of the game here, with Storm,
Psylocke, Colossus, Gambit, and others showing up here. Hulk also
showed up again in this expansion.
⻬ Critical Mass: This set dug a bit deeper into the Marvel universe, with
lesser-known characters like Calypso, Terrax, and Dormammu entering
the scene. The symbiant Spider-Man-wannabe Venom and a strong,
unique Silver Surfer figure were highlights of the set.
⻬ Universe: The first HeroClix reprint set gives new players easier access
to older figures from the first couple of sets while streamlining some
overly weak and overly powerful figures. New versions of several characters like Hobgoblin and Sabretooth appear in the set’s starters.
⻬ Ultimates: Characters from Marvel’s Ultimates storyline appeared here,
including Iron Man, Baron Zemo, Carnage, and Thor. Peter Parker also
showed up as a secret-identity limited-edition version of Spider-Man.
⻬ Mutant Mayhem: Notable for containing the huge ultra-rare figure
Giant-Man, Mayhem also includes a strong, unique Loki and a promo
version of Polaris.
⻬ Fantastic Forces: Updated versions of the Fantastic Four are the marquee figures in this set, as is a set of three versions of Nightcrawler that
are more balanced than Clobberin’ Time’s original version.
⻬ Armor Wars: This Iron Man–centered set also includes Titanium Man,
Iron Monger, Crimson Dynamo, and yet another unique version of
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DC’s daring heroes and villains
Where there’s Marvel, DC can’t be far behind:
⻬ Hypertime: DC’s first launch into the HeroClix realm marked the first
appearances of popular characters like Batman, Robin, Catwoman,
Superman, The Flash, and The Joker. Other Justice League members
like Aquaman and Hawkman show up here, too.
⻬ Cosmic Justice: Justice brings Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and
Lex Luthor to the game, as well as a cool alternate vampire version of
⻬ Unleashed: New versions of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman
are the hot figures here, with some more obscure characters like
Metallo, Kilowog, and Magog also proving to be worthy figures.
⻬ Legacy: Focused on DC’s Kingdom Come comics, Legacy contains versions of Hawkman, Robin, The Flash, and Green Lantern from that
story arc, with the last two figures among the most sought-after in the
game. Ra’s al-Ghul, Sinestro, and an ultra-rare version of Steel are other
notable figures here.
⻬ Icons: This isn’t a reprint set, but it contains new versions of many figures who already appeared in the game and were due for updates or
alternates. Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and The Flash all made
waves here, as did Brainiac and the promo Dark Knight Detective
Additionally, in 2003, WizKids released an Indy HeroClix base set made up of
characters from numerous lines of independent comics. It contained some
well-known Indy faves like Hellboy, Witchblade, Judge Dredd, and Shi. It
was also the only release to have a separate subset of figures exclusively
available in Europe; several Euro-only characters from the 2000 A.D. storyline, including Stix and Nemesis, showed up here. Later on, the City of Heroes
and City of Villains computer games included several promotional figures.
And as convention exclusives, WizKids sold limited numbers of a few gigantic
special-release figures, including Galactus and Dark Phoenix.
Assembling a Basic Team
With HeroClix’s mixing-and-matching ability, it’s possible to create pretty
much any team of characters that you’d like to, as long as their point totals
fit within the limits that you’ve agreed upon with whomever you’re playing.
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A popular point total is 300 because it allows for reasonably quick games —
they should take less than an hour — while still allowing each player to have
a decent number of choices on each turn with the three actions per turn.
You can mix HeroClix figures on a team from more than one set — or even
across the Marvel/DC divide — but to give you a simple idea of what a
sample team can look like, I show you a sample team that uses figures from
the Batman Ally and Teen Titans teams from DC’s Icons expansion. I also
leave out the uniques and limited editions because you’d have to buy a good
number of boosters right off the bat or fork over at least $15 or $20 to get a
specific unique, plus the LEs are available only through special means. I use
just five figures here, so you’ll be able to put this team together for just a
few bucks!
So, without further ado, here are the members of a good 300-point team:
⻬ Batman (starter set version): For 47 points, Batman starts out with his
movement-enhancing leap/climb and ability-countering outwit powers
and also avoids pushing damage with his will power. He loses some of
these after taking damage, but after he takes four clicks of damage, he
gains incapacitate, an attack that puts an action token on an opposing
character instead of dealing it damage.
⻬ Robin (starter set version): The cheapest team member, at 22 points,
Robin also starts out with leap/climb as well as a speed of 7, attack of 8,
range of 4, defense of 16, and damage of 2. He also has a nifty smoke
cloud attack power that can set up hindering terrain around him for a
turn, plus energy shield/deflection on defense, which boosts his defense
value by 2 against ranged combat attacks.
⻬ Beast Boy (veteran version): The most expensive character on the
team, at 86 points, Beast Boy has starting stats of 10 speed — he’s a
quick one! — attack of 9, defense of 16, and a strong damage of 3. If you
want to use an action for his charge power, you trade off half of that
speed, but you get a free close combat action to attack with him. Later
on, this becomes plasticity, which makes it easier for him to break away
and harder for enemies to do so. He also has a nasty quake attack that
reduces his damage to 2 for the turn, but hits everyone for knockback;
after taking some damage, this becomes blades/claws/fangs, which lets
him destroy blocking terrain and walls. And there’s more! On defense, he
starts with invulnerability, which reduces damage to him by 2, then gets
toughness, which reduces it by 1. Toward the end of his click dial, this
becomes super senses, which lets him evade attacks. Finally, he also gets
exploit weakness near the end, too; this lets his attacks ignore damagereducing powers.
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⻬ Starfire (experienced version): Costing 77 points, Starfire also has a
slick 10 speed to start, plus an attack of 8, range of 10, defense of 15, and
a whopping 4 damage. Her running shot’s similar to Beast Boy’s charge
power, except she can use it for a ranged attack instead of close combat.
She also has toughness on defense.
⻬ Raven (experienced version): Raven’s 68 points get a starting speed of
10, attack of 8, range of 8, defense of 16, and damage of 2. Her phasing/
teleport power lets her ignore terrain when moving and lets her automatically break away from enemies, and, like Batman, she also has incapacitate as an attack. On defense, she has barrier, which is like Robin’s smoke
cloud except it creates blocking terrain; the barrier attack goes away
after three clicks of damage, but after the fourth click, she gets regeneration, which heals some of her damage. Additionally, she’s got probability
control, which lets you reroll a die each time the power’s used or forces
an opponent to do so; this becomes support, which heals an adjacent
character on your team.
In addition to all these cool powers, everyone here has a team ability.
Batman and Robin are on the Batman Ally team; this lets them treat any lines
of fire directed at them through hindering terrain as if they went through
blocking terrain. The other three are on the Titans team, which lets them deal
one click of pushing damage to one of the team members in order to heal an
adjacent Titans figure of one click of damage.
Mixing and Matching with Figures,
Tokens, and Cards
If you want to spend a bit more money or crack open a bunch of boosters,
you can add plenty of other figures to your team. The DC Icons set has some
cool unique figs like Titans team members Terra, who has a nasty force blast
power that throws an enemy back so they can no longer harm you, and
Cyborg, whose pulse wave attack can nail several characters anywhere
within six squares on the battlefield. Plenty of other characters from all of the
other expansions can fit well with this team, and the possibilities for building
any number of other teams are endless.
Additionally, you can use other enhancements that aren’t figures but still
affect the game significantly. Battlefield conditions are cards that change the
rules that apply to figures on a battlefield; for example, the Madness battlefield condition switches critical hits and critical misses with each other, plus
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it diminishes the support power’s healing from a critical hit. You can play with
one such card on any given team.
Feats, on the other hand, are cards that affect just a single character. They
have point totals, so you can factor into your team point total how many you
want to include rather than being limited to one. For instance, the Submerged
feat costs 5 points and allows a swimming figure that’s occupying water terrain to have that water block all lines of fire to it.
You can also use objects, which add more features to the battlefield itself, and
bystander tokens, which act like figures except they’re just two-dimensional.
They have combat values, but are knocked out if they ever take damage.
Extra! Extra! Secret Superhero
Lair Discovered!
HeroClix has one of the biggest followings of players and collectors among
any tradeable miniatures or trading card game. In fact, many comic book fans
collect the figures simply because they like the characters and don’t even
bother to play the game. Yep, they’re missing out!
WizKids runs many tournaments of all sizes throughout the course of each
year. Game conventions usually have a variety of HeroClix tourneys, with the
big summer conventions having both the largest tourneys (with the biggest
prizes) and the most demo and learning games. Many local game shops,
though, run small tournaments with limited-edition figures as prizes; these
are great ways to get your foot in the door. Shops also run a series of events
called New Guy Nights (don’t worry, gals can play too!), in which experienced
players can bring friends to stores and teach them the game, and then both
players receive exclusive promotional figures, too!
There’s also a wealth of info to be found for the game. Here are a few of the
most comprehensive places you should check out if you want to expand your
HeroClix knowledge:
⻬ WizKids’ official site for the game is located at — surprise! — www.hero You can find everything here from figure galleries of all of
your favorite characters to special scenarios that have unique win conditions to tournament info and strategy tips.
⻬ HCRealms’ site — — has fan forums where you can
discuss your latest team build with other players or debate whether
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Spider-Man would beat Superman in a fight. You can also catalog your
HeroClix collection here or use the site’s handy search function to look
up figures by a number of different criteria.
⻬ InQuest Gamer and Scrye magazines both publish monthly strategies,
scenarios, and feature articles on new HeroClix sets. You can also
find price guides on figures here, as well as info on market trends.
InQuest Gamer even has HeroClix strategy tips and news at www.
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Part III
Shuffling through
the Rest of
the Decks
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In this part . . .
ou can’t run a thrilling horse race without a full field
of jockeys and animals in the action. If only the best
pair of horses ran head-to-head, where’s the excitement?
The race doesn’t get interesting until you fill out the field
with long-shot ponies to mix things up with the favorites!
Why do the other horses add excitement? Because one of
those ponies might pull ahead of the leaders and ultimately take the prize. The tension and uncertainty make
the race exciting for everybody.
Trading card games work a lot like horse racing, at least
from a sales and popularity perspective. Most of the
games look fun and fascinating when they start the race,
but you never really know which one will ultimately win
the popularity prize. The one you picked as a “sure thing”
might go lame in the middle of the back turn, while the
game that looked dead on arrival sails to victory. Who can
plumb the mysteries of the marketplace? (Certainly not
me, or I wouldn’t have scads of Young Jedi cards stored in
my closet.)
The games in this part represent the rest of the field —
the proverbial contenders that run alongside the Big Six
discussed in Part II. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and offer a wide variety of play possibilities. Some
appeal to anime aficionados, others to science fiction folk,
and still others to manga mavens and literature lovers.
Look for a hook that interests you — anime, literature, or
whatever — and see what you can find. Don’t be surprised
if you discover new games that didn’t make it into this book
or that some of the games in here now live in the discount
bin of your local game store. It happens. Such is life in the
world of trading card games: Today’s top dog turns into
tomorrow’s card-house construction material. (I’d close
with a proverb like “The rise and fall of card games are like
the ebb and flow of life,” but that’s too philosophical for a
part like this. Instead, just go have fun with the games.)
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Chapter 10
Bringing Comic Books, Manga,
and Anime to Life
In This Chapter
䊳 Solve the mystery with Case Closed
䊳 Battle with digital creatures in Digimon
䊳 Save the world from war in Dragon Booster
䊳 Collect your goodies in Dragon Ball Z and GT
䊳 Discover the ways of giant monster fighting in Duel Masters
䊳 Help undo a great wrong (or make a great wrong of your own) in Fullmetal Alchemist
䊳 Go back in time and reassemble a mystical jewel in Inuyasha
hich came first: the TV show, the comic book, or the game? Look back
to the late 1990s for a moment. Did Pokémon explode in popularity
back then because kids played the game and then fell in love with the TV
show or because they watched the TV show and flocked to the game? The
world may never know. Either way, kids bought a lot of Pokémon cards — and
a huge group of players still buy plenty today.
Over the years, Japan’s longstanding love of anime (a style of animated TV
show) and manga (an illustrated novel format) produced hundreds — if not
thousands — of popular stories. At some point, those stories migrated from
the screen or the printed page into the world of collectible card games.
Players could read and watch their favorite storylines unfold and then grab
their decks and play things out their own way.
The two-pronged combination of entertainment and a card game became a
powerful and profitable business model. The model works so well, in fact,
that some of today’s anime shows are little more than 30-minute tutorials on
how to play the show’s associated card game.
This chapter guides you through the ever-growing selection of anime and mangainspired trading card games on the market. It introduces each game, tells a little
of the game’s back story, and briefly describes the game’s play style. It also
points you to more information about the game on the manufacturer’s Web site.
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If you find a game for your favorite show (or if one of these just looks fascinating), visit the game’s Web site and look for demonstration information.
Most of the sites offer a retail and a tournament locator so you can find both
places in your area that support the game and new opponents to challenge.
Case Closed
Score Entertainment, Inc.
When the going gets tough for Police Inspector Meguire, he turns to 17-yearold super-detective Jimmy Kudo for help. (See Figure 10-1.) Jimmy’s talent for
uncovering clues and unmasking villains helps the Inspector successfully
unravel case after case. But as Jimmy follows yet another trail toward a mysterious crime organization, the criminals strike back with a bizarre poison
that shrinks Jimmy to the size of an 8-year-old elementary school student but
leaves his memories and deductive abilities untouched.
To protect his family from danger (and to move the plot along), Jimmy
changes his name to Conan Edogawa. With the help of the friendly inventor
Dr. Agasa (who knows Jimmy’s secret identity), Conan moves in with a private detective’s family, forms a kid’s detective club, and continues solving
mysteries, all the while still searching for the mysterious crime organization
and an antidote to the poison they fed him. Dr. Agasa’s many gadgets (like the
power-boost sneakers, solar-powered skateboard, and voice-changing bow
tie) help Conan overcome the limitations of his tiny size and provide fodder
for comedic mishaps along the way. Thus far, the show’s continuing saga fills
over 300 episodes, making Case Closed the longest-running anime series ever.
Score Entertainment distilled the show’s basic concepts (and plentiful artwork) into the Case Closed trading card game. To capture the feeling of the
series, the players try to help their detectives solve mysteries while simultaneously mobilizing criminals to prevent their opponents from doing the same
thing. The game works well in one-on-one play, but also includes two sets of
multiplayer rules for either an “everybody for themselves” style of cutthroat
play or the more cooperative “detective agency” version.
A normal Case Closed deck consists of three separate smaller decks: the Case
Deck, Main Deck, and Problem Deck. Each smaller deck covers one section of
an average episode, including the mysteries to solve, the heroes and villains
involved in the plot, the wonderful devices Conan uses, and the many complications that happen along the way. The total deck size always runs between
65 and 100 cards, depending on how you want to assemble your Case Deck
and Main Deck. (The Problem Deck always holds exactly 20 cards, so you
really can’t do much with that other than shove 20 cards into it. For more on
decks in general, check out Chapter 1.)
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Figure 10-1:
Jimmy Kudo
is on the
The game’s premiere set was released in mid-2005. It features a semi-random
80-card starter set — semi-random in that it comes with 20 fixed cards and 60
randomly assorted cards. Each booster pack adds another 10 cards to your
collection. Overall, the first set includes a little over 200 cards. The game’s
first expansion, titled Crime and Punishment, introduces new gameplay elements and a little over 120 new cards.
Score Entertainment, Inc. — the entity behind Case Closed — supports tournaments at retail stores and game conventions with a mixture of promotional
cards and other goodies. The game’s Web site includes tips and rules for the
game, information on convention tournament events, and a local store and
tournament locator.
Bandai America, Inc.
Are you one of the DigiDestined?
When a group of summer campers unexpectedly opens a door to the Digital
World, they start the adventure of a lifetime. First, they meet and befriend the
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tiny digital monsters (the Digimon) who inhabit the land. Soon, powerful synergies develop as the Digimon and the kids get to know each other and discover their mutual strengths.
With the Digimon as their guides, the group explores the weird and wonderful
DigiWorld, uncovering mysteries, fighting evil, and generally having a great
time together. The kids and their associated Digimon learn the power of
Digivolving, which turns the little Digimon into powerful fighting machines.
Along the way, the kids find that they, the DigiDestined, have special powers
to help their Digimon friends in their battles against evil.
The Digimon Collectible Card Game lets two players at a time create, cast, and
play out their own Digimon battles. Rather than delve into the deeper plots
and subterfuges that drive the DigiWorld in the show, the game focuses exclusively on the climactic battles that determine the world’s fate. As the Digimon
challenge each other in the game, the players earn Data Points. Get enough
points and you win!
Each player assembles a deck of at least 50 cards, although you can use
more if you want. You can include up to three copies of most cards in a deck,
although you can use only one copy of any card with the term GigaPower in
its effect text. The effect text is the text found on the lower half of the card
that describes the effect the card has on the game’s storyline.
Digimon themselves fill up most of the deck. They come in four versions:
Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, and Mega. During the game, you can play a
Rookie Digimon from your hand to the Digivolve row of the playmat, where
Digimon do battle in this game. From there, the Digimon can either face
combat in the Attack Row or stay in the Digivolve row until you replace it
with a Champion-level Digimon. Likewise, Ultimate-level Digimon can replace
Champions, and Megas take the place of Ultimates.
The other cards in your deck grant your Digimon more power or protection, help them Digivolve, or throw some other curve into the game. The
DigiDestined (the kids who wandered into the DigiWorld and teamed up with
the Digimon at the beginning of the story) give the Digimon attack or defense
bonuses. Digivice cards help your monsters grow more powerful by changing
them into different creatures. Some of the Digivice cards let a Rookie Digimon
Digivolve straight into the super-powered Mega version!
Still, it’s the Digi-Modify cards that really make the game wild. These cards
throw some kind of radical change into the play. The effect happens immediately but doesn’t last. These cards might do anything from making an opponent
discard a card to letting you draw a bunch of extras. Sometimes you must discard a Digimon (called offlining in the game) before the effect takes place.
The game comes in three sets. The Eternal Courage release jumpstarted Digimon
with two preset starters plus booster packs. The Hybrid Warriors expanded the
original set with booster packs full of new Digimon and associated goodies. A
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new starter set, called Royal Knights, takes the game into new territory, both
in strategy and in looks, thanks to its gold-stamped Royal Knights Digimon.
If the game captures your interest, point your browser to the Digimon game
Web site. You can connect with other DigiDestined players, preview new
cards, swap tips and deck designs in the online community area, and generally revel in the DigiWorld.
For organized play information, visit http://bandai.herofactorygames.
com. Bandai provides great prize support in the way of special cards for
those who participate in tournament play, so you can definitely improve
upon your decks in one of your area’s tournaments.
Dragon Booster
Score Entertainment, Inc.
Ten thousand years ago, the reptiles known as Star Dragons lived and worked
in peace with humans, but the arrangement couldn’t last. Over time, humans
bred the Star Dragons into more specialized subspecies and treated them
more like machines than equal partners in the world. As the subspecies grew
more distant from the original Star Dragon line, the dragons changed color to
match their working environment — and changed temperament, too.
Eventually, a terrible war broke out between the dragons and the humans. To
prove that unity was still possible, the last pure Star Dragon partnered with a
human Dragon Booster. After many battles, they brought peace to the land
and restored the multicolored dragon lines to their original gold state.
Fast-forwarding to current time, we find that the humans forgot all about the
problems with monocolored dragons (like the big war and all) and started
their breeding programs again. Now they use specialized dragons for everything from work to commerce to entertainment — and particularly for dragon
Racing crews breed their animals for speed, agility, strength, and ferocity. The
teams also mill various colors of rare draconium metal into racing gear to
enhance the racing dragons’ power, although nobody remembers why the
metal affects the dragons like it does. Mystery, subterfuge, death, and opportunity hang in equal doses over the races, drawing both the powerful and
those seeking power.
Score’s Dragon Booster trading card game dives into this high-stakes world of
dragon racing. Players pick a dragon and rider team and then add gear, crew,
maneuvers, and event cards. (See Figure 10-2.) As the cards hit the table, the
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race begins! You can win by accumulating 30 points in the race or by running
your opponents out of cards. Although it plays well for two, the game
includes rules for massive multiplayer events.
Figure 10-2:
Race our
own dragon
with Dragon
Each player in Dragon Booster uses two decks: the Dragon Deck and the Race
Deck. The Dragon Deck contains your combined dragon and rider cards plus
the gear you plan to use and the crew you brought along. In a twist, this
deck starts the game face-up and unshuffled. During each turn, you can rifle
through this deck and pull out whatever card you need. It puts a really wild
spin on the game!
The Race Deck holds events and maneuvers. You treat the Race Deck like a
normal deck of cards in a game — you shuffle it, keep it face-down, and draw
cards from the top into your hand.
A turn in Dragon Booster starts with time to prepare your team by attaching
(or magging, as they call it) new gear to the dragon or recruiting a crew member.
Because you get only one card from the Dragon Deck each turn, you must weigh
your options carefully. After that, the players draw two cards from their individual race decks and play Events or Maneuvers to give their dragons more power
or to slow down the opponent. In the final stage of the turn, the dragons make
the battle personal with a head-to-head attack (as modified by the Gear, Crew,
Events, and Maneuvers cards, of course) against any foe at the table. The player
with the most points wins.
The game’s original base set launched in early 2005, and the first expansion
set (known as Release the Dragon) releases in early 2006. Check the game’s
Web site for more details, as well as for the tournament schedule and a
members-only discussion list.
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Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Z and
Score Entertainment, Inc.
The story of Dragon Ball Z follows Goku, a mysteriously powerful Earth warrior who becomes the first Super Saiyan in ten centuries. Goku, shown in
Figure 10-3, doesn’t know much about his own background until the Saiyans
arrive on the scene, wanting to know why our planet still exists. Someone
sent Goku to Earth as a baby, intending him to grow up and destroy the
planet. Thanks to a solid smack to the head as a child, Goku lost all of his
flatten-the-Earth “instructions” and became a power for truth, beauty, innocence, and good.
Figure 10-3:
Goku uses
his powers
for good
in Dragon
Ball GT.
Through more than 10 feature movies and 15 multiepisode television sagas,
Goku and his cohorts protect the Earth while battling evil in all forms. Whether
it’s defeating Garlic Junior and his Spice Boys (Vinegar, Mustard, Spice, and
Salt), battling the feared Majin Buu, or outwitting the sneaky Captain Ginyu and
his metamorphosis beam, Goku and his team always come out on top.
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With 11 expansions to its name, the Dragon Ball Z trading card game outlived
many competitors. Now in its new incarnation, the Dragon Ball GT trading
card game, the classic game continues forward into new territory while staying compatible with the classic Dragon Ball Z.
Both versions of the game focus on the part of Dragon Ball Z that keeps viewers coming back: the action-packed brawls! These are two-player games. To
win a match of Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball GT, you must take your opponent
down in two out of three games, either by emptying his life deck or by controlling all seven of the legendary Dragon Balls.
Deck building starts by selecting a Main Personality. You might choose one of
the mighty Z Warriors or perhaps one of their evil archenemies. Whoever you
pick, that character represents you in the battle. With your alter ego in place,
you create a 60-card “life deck” of Ally Personalities, Mastery Cards, Combat
Cards, Support Cards, and (of course) Dragon Ball Cards.
Like many other TCGs, the Dragon Ball Z games set some limits to your deck
building. Among other things, you can include only one Main Personality in
your deck, and none of your Ally cards can share the same name as another
Ally or that deck’s Main Personality. The same thing goes for Dragon Balls,
too — you can add only one copy of each Dragon Ball and one type of Dragon
Ball to your deck. Other cards with the same title can appear up to three
times in a deck.
Each turn in a Dragon Ball Z game starts by drawing three cards from your
life deck. From there, the fighters prepare to brawl by powering up, playing
Support cards, or using other card effects. All of this just sets the stage for
the third part of the turn: combat! You attack your opponent either by using
your Main Personality or by playing a Combat Card, but your opponent might
try to refocus the attack with an attack of her own, to block the attack, or to
otherwise negate the damage. When the attack ends, you resolve any effects
that are triggered following a “successful” attack.
If you capture all of the Dragon Balls or run your opponent out of cards, you
take the victory — at least for that game! From there, shuffle your cards and
go at it again. Whoever wins two out of three games takes the victory for the
If Dragon Ball Z sounds interesting, join the game by picking up the Dragon
Ball GT starter and some boosters. Score developed the newer GT game to
expand the possibilities of the original game while also providing an easy
point of entry for new players. After all, when you start playing a game, you
don’t want to hear that the card your opponent just crushed you with came
from a set that’s long out of print. That’s just not fun (and no, I’m not still
bitter about the last time it happened to me).
The Web sites for each game include downloadable rules, card indexes, a
message board, and information on organized play opportunities in your
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area. You can also occasionally vote in polls, get information on upcoming
major events, and read about the top players out there. If you get good at the
game, your name might grace the Web site sometime!
Duel Masters,,en
Wizards of the Coast
What happens when you combine a card game full of passion, patience, and
discipline with a touch of magic and a special martial art called Kaijudo? You
get the world of Duel Masters!
To most people, Shobu Kirifuda seems like a normal kid, just one among the
many who love playing the Duel Masters trading card game and practicing at
the Junior Duelist Center. But as the son of the legendary duelist Shori
Kirifuda, Shobu brings special skills to the game. He’s one of the rare group of
players who know that Duel Masters is more than just a game — that the monsters on the cards really exist!
Duelists train hard to find out more about Kaijudo, the ancient art of fighting
with giant monsters. Through their skills and their driving passion to win,
Shobu and his fellow top-level duelists tap into the creatures’ alternate universe and actually bring the monsters to life. This adds a new and deadly
dimension to their games, but it just makes Shobu and his fellows want to
learn and win all the more.
The real-life Duel Masters trading card game works just like the game in the
show, but without the martial arts and “bringing monsters to life” parts, of
course. It’s a head-to-head duel, pitting you and your opponent in a battle of
giant monsters and powerful spells.
Well, maybe I should qualify this “head-to-head” business. Duel Masters is a
great game for one-on-one play, but you can also create big multiplayer battles
either in a free-for-all format or with teams. The basic rules include all of the
multiplayer variants as well, so flip to the back of the rule book to learn more.
A Duel Masters deck starts with at least 40 cards. You can include up to four
copies of any particular card in the deck. Your deck consists of monsters,
evolved monsters, and spells. Monsters handle most of the work by attacking
your opponent while fending off incoming blasts. Spells add power to your
monsters, grant you bonuses, destroy opposing monsters, and many other
fascinating things. The evolved monsters first appeared in an expansion set.
To play one of these, you need the unevolved basic version of the related
monster in play. The evolved monsters let you “turn up the volume” on an
existing monster by increasing the stats and adding new game text.
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Every card in the deck serves a dual function. First, of course, it’s either a
monster, evolved monster, or spell. But you can also play the cards into your
Mana Zone on the table. That’s the resource area you use when paying for
monsters and spells. You can add only one card per turn to your Mana Zone,
and after a card goes there, you can’t get it back out (unless another card lets
you do it).
During each turn, you reset the cards in your Mana Zone, draw a card (yes,
just one), and place one card into your Mana Zone. After that, the mayhem
begins as you summon creatures, cast spells, and begin your attacks.
Mana represents one of the key elements in the game. You need Mana to cast
spells, summon monsters, and sometimes to trigger special card effects. Your
Mana Zone grows slowly as the game goes on because you can add only a
single card to it during each turn. Worse yet, because the cards for your
Mana Zone come from your hand, every card you place there is a card that
you can’t play in the game. Keep that in mind as you build decks. Make sure
you include enough duplicates of important cards that you can afford to bury
one or two in your Mana Zone.
You can get going with Duel Masters by picking up a base starter set and
some boosters. In addition to the original release, Duel Masters currently
includes six calm, relaxed expansions: Stomp-a-Trons of Invincible Wrath,
Thundercharge of Ultra Destruction, Evo-Crushinators of Doom, Survivors of the
Megapocalypse, Shadowclash of the Blinding Light, and Rampage of the Super
Warriors. If you want to include the monster “evolution” concept in your
deck, make sure you get some boosters or theme decks from the EvoCrushinators set — that’s where the Evolution mechanic got its start.
To get into the full swing of the game, head to the Duel Masters Web site. It
includes lots of detailed card notes, an exhaustive list of events and tournaments, and the most up-to-date rules, rulings, and strategy articles. You can also
plug into the online Duel Master community through the site’s discussion area.
Good luck, duelist!
Fullmetal Alchemist
JoyRide Entertainment
If you saw Edward and Alphonse Elric wandering down the road in some
country village, you might stop and stare. Then again, the sight of a walking,
talking, intelligent suit of armor ambling alongside a young man with two
normal limbs and two shiny metal ones might encourage you, in the subtlest
of ways, to mind your own business.
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The adult-oriented Fullmetal Alchemist series follows the exploits of Edward
and Alphonse Elric, two brothers on a hunt for the most mysterious and powerful of artifacts — the Philosopher’s Stone — so they can use its power to
undo the damage they unwittingly did while trying to raise their mother from
the dead.
Of course, any artifact worth “legendary” status draws hunters driven by
more personal goals. In this case, Edward’s masters in the military want to
turn the stone’s power to destruction, making their armies unstoppable and
their control complete. Not to be outdone, a group of Homunculi (magically
created beings), led by the raven-haired Lust (hey, I warned you that this was
an adult-oriented series), want the stone for their own use. Who will find it
first? And what will happen when the stone’s power is released?
Find out for yourself in the Fullmetal Alchemist trading card game, the first
release from the folks at JoyRide Entertainment. In the game, your leader and
his followers (this game is for two or more players) attempt to defeat the
opposition at several locations, racking up clue points that lead you to the
Philosopher’s Stone. When you get enough points or you defeat all of your
opponent’s forces, you claim the victory!
A Fullmetal Alchemist deck consists of three pieces: the Leader Stack, the
Location Deck, and the Main Deck. The Leader Stack holds increasingly powerful versions of your deck’s main character — the leader of your team. As
you pass certain milestones in a game, you reveal a new, more powerful
leader card. This simulates your leader gaining experience in the field and
growing more skillful. You can include cards for only one leader, such as
Edward Elric, Roy Mustang, or Father Cornello.
The name of the Location Deck tells you its purpose in life. The goal of the
game involves searching for clues to the location of the Philosopher’s Stone,
so you need places to search. Each player brings at least nine location cards
to the game. Each location requires certain abilities to uncover clues (a high
Alchemy or Strength, for instance), so include locations that fit the skills of
your deck’s leader and support cards.
Most of your cards go in the Main Deck. This includes your Allies,
Attachments, and Event Cards. Allies work with your Leader, adding their
skills to your search party. Attachments play onto a Leader or Ally card to
temporarily boost that character’s abilities or give it some other benefit. If
the character card loses the Attachment, the bonus goes away. Event cards
cover the gamut of plot complications and momentary bursts of heroism,
greed, and inspiration.
Many of the cards include special text that tells both what the card does and
when you can play it. Certain cards work only during certain moments in
your turn. Pay close attention to the event timing as the game goes on. You
don’t want to miss a chance to get an advantage over your opponent!
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Thus far, the game’s manufacturer released the initial base set of starters and
boosters and announced plans for the first booster expansion. Watch the Web
site for more news about future plans, as well as a local store finder, tournament
locator, full game rules, frequently asked questions document, and lots more.
Score Entertainment, Inc.
Like many anime tales, the story behind Inuyasha begins simply enough. On
her birthday, a pretty teenage girl named Kagome is attacked by a giant,
demonic centipede, which sends her back in time to Japan’s feudal era. (I
wish I had a nickel for every time an oversized insect cast me into feudal
Japan!) There, while the giant centipede crushes a nearby village, our pretty
teenage girl discovers that her body carries a magical crystal inside it, a gem
coveted by the supernatural population who know that this gem can guarantee eternal life and power.
In the midst of being pursued by demons, Kagome meets a young, pointyeared boy who is pinned to a tree by an arrow. (OK, I guess we can tell you
that Young Pointy Ears is in fact the titular hero, Inuyasha, shown in Figure
10-4.) After a fight with the demonic centipede, she removes the arrow and
frees the boy, who we later discover is half human and half demon, and who
wants the magical crystal just as much as the next demon. The half-demon
boy manages to kill the centipede and the crystal is recovered. Unfortunately
(or maybe fortunately), the crystal breaks and scatters its shards to the four
winds. The girl and the half-demon join forces and set out to find the shards,
rebuild the jewel, and then change the world in a positive way. (Yes, I made
that last bit up. Sorry.)
Okay — still with me? If so, then you can find a lot to like in the Inuyasha trading card game. In this two-player game, you set out to either collect the ten
shards of the Shikon jewel or to run your opponent’s deck down until he has
no cards left. Either way, you take home the victory.
You start by building a deck centered around either heroes or villains,
depending on whom you enjoy in the show or which cards live in your collection. These characters join together to fight the opposition and search for the
lost crystal shards. In addition to the characters, your deck also usually
includes some Locations for the characters to visit (and fight at), Items for
your characters to use, and Events that throw a little twist into just about
every aspect of the game.
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Figure 10-4:
shards of
the Shikon
On a turn, you draw three cards into your hand and then play up to two cards
to the table. The cards might bring new characters into play, add equipment
to a current character, or give the characters a new location to search. Next,
your characters fight each other in grand battles. Here’s where the Event
cards usually come into play. As your characters attack, Event cards can help
your side, hinder your opponent, or prevent other cards from taking effect.
The game is wildest during the battles — that’s when all the action happens.
Every time one of your characters defeats one of your opponent’s characters,
you steal a jewel shard. When you collect all ten of them, the game ends —
and just in time for your victory celebration, too!
Currently, Inuyasha comes in a base set with a starter and boosters, plus several
booster-only expansions: Kijin, Yokai, Feudal, and Kassen. Some of the sets introduce new mechanics to the game, such as the Power Up concept in the Kassen
release. Your Friendly Local Game Store can tell you more about the specific
cards and point you to the right combination of starters and boosters.
Visit the game’s Web site for a downloadable demonstration deck, extensive
card library, and the rest of the goodies you know and love, like organized
play information and a store locator.
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Chapter 11
Playing TV Shows and Movies
on Your Tabletop
In This Chapter
䊳 Meddling with some kids
䊳 Fighting for freedom with GI Joe
䊳 Seeking and destroying the One Ring
䊳 Peanuts! Popcorn! Baseball card game!
䊳 Playing with Luke, Leia, and Darth
䊳 Going where no card game has gone before
䊳 Wrestling with victory
here’s something magical about spending time with your friends. You
really get to know them and understand them. You find out what drives
them. You figure out where they came from and begin to unravel the mysteries of their past. Of course, if you spend too much time with them, then the
rest of the family can’t watch what they want to, but the way I figure it, that’s
why digital video recorders exist.
You spend hours — and sometimes years — following your favorite group of
TV or movie characters. Now, thanks to the wonders of trading card games,
you can join the fun yourself. You can fiddle with the plots, reorganize the
characters, and adjust the endings. Do all that and more with movie- and TVbased trading card games.
This chapter explores some of the best-known and most popular mediabased games. From shows on Cartoon Network to the high drama of TV
wrestling, card-game designers try to distill the flavor and excitement of
those shows into their games. Media-based games cover a very broad range
of ages and complexities as well, with offerings aimed at kids through adults.
Regardless of your media passion, come in and play!
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Codename: Kids Next Door
Wizards of the Coast
Take a handful of animated ten-year-olds, a group of silly villains, and some
slapstick humor, throw it into the Cartoon Network generator, and you end
up with Codename: Kids Next Door. Where else can you play a game in which
you battle evil minds like Stickybeard, the candy pirate, or Grandma Stuffum,
whose only goal is to make every child round and plump?
In an attempt to fight the evil in their lives, five kids band together in
Treehouse Headquarters, taking the codenames Numbuh One through
Numbuh Five. Numbuh One, the team’s fearless leader, often finds himself the
main target of villainous adults. But never fear — the plucky kids always
manage to save themselves from those evil plots!
Like real kids, some of the complications in the Kids’ lives come from people
their own size. Take the Delightful Children From Down The Lane, for instance.
These clean, polite kiddoes wreak havoc with the denizens of the Treehouse
Headquarters. Between “friends” like the Delightful Children and the goofy
adults who populate the rest of their world, the Kids Next Door keep busy
week after week (and game after game).
Codename: Kids Next Door is a straight-up kid’s game aimed at ages five and
up. Starters and booster packs include colorful cards packed with characters,
settings, gadgets, and scenes from the show.
Players can use two different rule sets: Basic or Advanced. The Basic game
plays much like the old War card game; each player turns over the top card of
her deck, and the highest Battle number wins the card. If both cards turn up
the same color, the first player to hit the Panic Button in the middle of the
playmat wins the card. Win five cards and you win the game.
The Advanced game is a little more, well, advanced. This is a good first game
for little trading card game players to grow into, provided they’re reasonably
small when they begin the hobby. In the advanced game, players have a
choice between Battle and Build; either they Battle the other player’s card or
they use the card they draw to help Build the strength of their Treehouse.
Building the strength of your Treehouse can help you power up other cards
for a battle later. The player who wins five Battle cards wins the game.
Codename: Kids Next Door cards are sold in a two-player starter set that contains two 20-card decks. The starter box also includes a Panic Button, playmat, advanced rules, and stickers so players can customize their cards — or,
if they prefer, their school notebooks. Each booster pack contains seven
cards and stickers.
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The current Codename: Kids Next Door release contains 120 cards and 15
unique sticker sheets. To play Codename: Kids Next Door by the Advanced
rules, players create decks that contain no fewer than 20 cards. The only current deck design rule is that players can place no more than three of the
same card into the deck at one time. Each deck can contain a combination of
kids, villains, characters, tech cards, and actions.
Although cards fall into different categories, such as kids and villains, the current rules give no guidelines for using those categories. With action cards like
Freeze!, Flying Kick, and Clear Shot, perhaps Wizards of the Coast plans to
release advanced-Advanced rules that incorporate card names and perhaps
card colors (blue, green, purple, red, and orange). It would be cool to see
what the blue tech S.K.Y.C.L.A.W. card could do with a blue Blast ’Em action
card attached.
The game also lets kids put a very personal twist into their stories, thanks to
those stickers that come in every card pack. Players can put the stickers
onto their scene cards to give them power in the game. It’s a neat touch that
connects the kids to the cards and gets the kids thinking about basic strategy
at the same time.
A visit to the Web site offers a somewhat abbreviated online tutorial, answers
to a couple of questions about the game, online puzzles, and most importantly, downloadable Instant Message icons and wallpaper for your computer
screen. Fight tyranny and injustice and get a cool new IM icon, too. The
gaming world doesn’t get much better than this when you’re small.
GI Joe
Wizards of the Coast
Cheer for the red, white, and blue and keep those flags flying! The GI Joe card
game glows with patriotic pride. Whether your deck features the heroic GI Joe
team or the archenemy Cobra, the side with the last soldier alive wins the game.
Enemies from long past, GI Joe and Cobra fight to control the world and its
future. Each time players meet across the table, the scene enacts itself one
more time. Under Duke, their brave and loyal leader, the GI Joe soldiers bring
all their special skills to bear in the fight to keep freedom alive. Cobra members, on the other hand, exist to destroy all that is right and good in the
world. Which one will win? It’s up to the individual players, the cards they
draw, and how skillfully they wield them.
To control the world and its fate, both players first deploy troops onto the
playmat. In the base card set, every card functions as a soldier. The number
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of troops a player deploys is determined by a set supply point value. Individual
supply costs appear on every card, and the second player gets two more
supply points to use as compensation for going second, which is a very nice
touch to the game.
After the cards are deployed onto the table, it’s time to engage in one-on-one
combat. The One-on-One combat phase pits one soldier against another,
using that soldier’s power and perhaps a little Boost from a comrade. If the
player deploys his cards well, the One-on-One phase can take a huge toll on
his opponent’s numbers. A good soldier combined with an excellent Boost
from another card can mean the difference between a fallen soldier and a
defeated foe.
Finally, both sides take part in a Firefight. The number of a player’s cards left
on the table determines the number of ammunition cards available to that
player. Ammunition cards used alone or in combination can take out one or
more enemies per turn.
In order to put together a winning deck, you need to consider the special abilities and strengths of various GI Joe and Cobra cards, in addition to supply
cost. Various cards might sport text that aids a specific soldier in One-on-One
combat or Firefight phases, or a card might give additional help when used as
a Boost. While the Base GI Joe set contains 117 soldiers, with the release of
the 78-card Armored Strike expansion, the game includes vehicles such as
submersibles, motorcycles, and jeeps. The starter package contains two
30-card decks, and a regulation deck contains 50 cards, which gives plenty of
room for duplicate cards and strategy in the deck design.
To gain a good understanding of the game, visit the Wizards of the Coast Web
site and view the excellent online tutorial. After watching the tutorial a
couple of times, I was ready to find another player and begin deck building
myself, not to mention digging out that tiny American flag I remember storing
after the last Fourth of July. Yo, Joe!
Lord of the Rings
Once upon a time in Middle Earth, there was a ring and a quest. Or perhaps
there was a queen and a rest? No, that was another tale, and it actually centered around a princess and her rest. Anyway, the Lord of the Rings trading
card game takes the beloved story off the movie screen (which took it off the
books’ pages) and places it firmly in front of you on the tabletop.
While most trading card games ask you to create a deck of one affiliation or
the other, Lord of the Rings decks contain both Fellowship cards and Shadow
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cards. Thus, a player plays both sides of the conflict throughout the game.
During his Fellowship phase, he represents the side of goodness and right,
while during his opponent’s Fellowship phase, he counters with Shadow
cards. This creates immediate conflict for both players.
Because the goal of the game involves sending the Ringbearer to the end of
the adventure path, both players place a ring card of some type into their
decks. Apart from the ring card, a Lord of the Rings deck requires at least
60 cards, split evenly between Fellowship and Shadow cards (characters,
events, and so on for each faction). The deck also needs nine adventure
cards, which create the journey.
In addition to deck cards, players use tokens to mark wounds on characters,
to show exertion when a character performs beyond his normal ability, and
to create the Twilight Pool. An interesting game mechanic, the Twilight Pool
piles tokens in the middle of the table as a player’s Fellowship phase unfolds.
He uses Twilight tokens to play certain cards and perform actions, and those
tokens in turn represent the amount of notice the Shadow realm takes in the
player’s actions. These Twilight Pool tokens, in turn, become the currency an
opponent uses to block a player’s Fellowship phase movements.
Players win Lord of the Rings in three ways. The first way to win is by keeping
your Ringbearer alive long enough for him to reach the end of the adventure
path. You can also kill your opponent’s Ringbearer or corrupt your opponent’s Ringbearer so that he turns to the Shadow.
Lord of the Rings contains a host of expansions that follow the movies’ flow.
Expansions began with movie content and now include characters from
Tolkien’s trilogy who didn’t actually end up appearing in the movies, such as
Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. In order of release, along with number of cards
per expansion, Lord of the Rings consists of: Fellowship of the Ring (365); Mines
of Moria (122); Realms of the Elf-Lords (122); The Two Towers (365); Battle of
Helm’s Deep (128); Ents of Fangorn (128); Return of the King (365); Siege of
Gondor (122); Reflections (compilation set of earlier releases plus some new
cards) (64); Mount Doom (122); Shadows (266); Black Rider (194); Bloodlines
(194); and the Expanded Middle Earth Draft Box (18), a self-contained box
designed for tournament play.
With the advent of the Bloodlines expansion, Decipher introduced two alternate Ringbearers in Sam and Gandalf. This gives poor Frodo a rest and allows
players to create new winning strategies. Even a Hobbit needs a break every
now and then.
Try the game for yourself at the Lord of the Rings trading card game Web site
( If Lord of the Rings at all interests you,
download the rules, download and print a full set of sample cards, and play a
few hands. Decipher also offers online play with virtual cards, where players
can meet opponents from all over the world. The Web site also offers message
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boards, card lists, and projected release dates for new expansions. Become a
hero: Save the Fellowship and destroy the Ring.
MLB Showdown
Wizards of the Coast
What do baseball fans do in the long months between seasons? True fans
think about the upcoming season, talk about the seasons past, deride those
they consider less than competent at the game, and exalt their heroes. In
short, they experience baseball all year long, regardless of whether someone
stands on that hallowed mound.
To get in on this trading-card-game take on baseball, you become the team
manager. You design the team. You create the batting order. You are in charge.
(Ooooooh! Can’t you just smell the hot dogs and hear the crack of the bat?)
MLB Showdown makes playing America’s Favorite Pastime, anytime, easy.
Each year, Wizards of the Coast releases a new starter deck and booster
packs, updated with current player statistics. Starters contain two 15-card
decks, and each booster pack holds 11 cards. To play with up-to-date stats —
not a requirement for those who enjoy the flow of the game more than its
numbers — a player needs the current year’s card release. Players build
decks that feature their favorite players, or they attempt to assemble the best
team possible to throw the strikes, field the plays, and run the bases inning
after inning.
Each player’s deck contains batters, pitchers, and strategy cards. A 20-sided
die simulates the randomness of the pitchers and batters, and the beginning
game rules are printed right on the MLB game mat that comes in the starter
box. Booster cards give you more batters, pitchers, and strategy cards to
play with, and each year sees a new Base Set edition along with a new Basic
Set of booster cards. In addition, Wizards of the Coast releases a Trading
Deadline expansion and a Pennant Run expansion for each year. Each expansion set usually contains about 150 cards.
Your deck needs a good combination of batters, pitchers, and strategy to win.
Strategy cards like Rattled, which scores against your opponent’s pitcher, or
Mind Games, which lets you take any card from your discard pile back into
your hand, help you tweak your game to go beyond hits, runs, and outs.
Check out the Web site’s demo, one of the best I’ve seen for conveying the
flavor of a trading card game in a short period. Watching the online demo is
like having someone teach you the game. Also visit the Web site for complete
advanced rules, a scorecard, tournament rules, and card lists.
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Star Wars
Wizards of the Coast
Not so long ago, in a galaxy very close to ours, Wizards of the Coast designed
a card game based on the classic epic struggle between good and evil set
“Long ago.” (Several years ago, another company, Decipher, did very much
the same thing. Decipher called it the Star Wars Customizable Card Game —
see the sidebar later in this chapter for the lowdown.) With Wizards of the
Coast’s Star Wars card game, players relive the glories of the Empire — or of
the Rebellion — and endeavor to change the course of science fiction history,
at least for the length of time it takes to play a game.
The Star Wars trading card game debuted in 2002. Since that time, it’s seen
many expansion sets as Wizards of the Coast duplicates the Star Wars universe in card format. A starter set comes with two 30-card decks. Unlike many
trading card games, the Wizards’ Star Wars game uses dice and counters in
addition to the trading cards themselves. At its first release, Star Wars offered
three rule versions: basic rules printed on the playmat, more advanced rules
in the starter box that show players how to select cards, and the full rules,
which incorporate Battle and Mission cards. Tournament play uses the full
rule set and requires a Dark Side or Light Side deck of at least 60 cards.
Wizards of the Coast redesigned the rule book with the release of the
Revenge of the Sith expansion set. Revenge of the Sith was the latest in a long
line of expansions, and by that point, the rules needed more than just
another tweaking; they required a complete overhaul. To their credit, Wizards
of the Coast took the time to refine the rule set for Star Wars, just as it did
with Magic: The Gathering when the game needed it.
With ten expansions, players have lots of room for creativity in the Star Wars
universe. They can build decks to suit any style of play. Mix genres and battle
with both podracers and Ewoks. Create a Jedi deck that takes no prisoners,
or a deck heavy on mechanical content, such as droids and walkers. Players
have plenty of card possibilities for almost any type of deck they’d like to try.
While you don’t need all the cards from all the expansions to play — heck,
you don’t really even require all the cards from one expansion to build a good
deck — players might want to invest in an expansion or two as they become
more involved with the game. Each expansion after Attack of the Clones
includes one or more new game mechanics that tweak gameplay, increase the
power of some cards, and decrease the power levels of others. See Table 11-1
for a peek into what the various expansions can do.
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Table 11-1
Star Wars Expansion Sets and Their Strengths
Set Name
Number of Cards
in Set
New Game Mechanics
Attack of the Clones
Introductory set establishing
Sith Rising
Stun, Overload
A New Hope
Accuracy, Intercept, and
Battle of Yavin
Jedi Guardians
Overkill, Reserves
The Empire Strikes Back
Armor, Enhance
Rogues and Scoundrels
Bounty, Upkeep, Neutral Cards
The Phantom Menace
Return of the Jedi
Hidden Cost
Revenge of the Sith
With all these options, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of what
each card can do. Combining cards and using each card’s special text allow a
player to build strategy into her deck. Star Wars allows players to stack cards,
which means that different versions of unique characters (such as Darth Vader
or Obi-Wan Kenobi) can stack one on top of the other and play together as a
unit. Four Darth Vader cards are much more powerful than one.
Each Star Wars game plays in three different venues: Battles occur in space,
on the ground, and character to character. Defeat an opponent in two of the
three venues to win the game. Card speed is crucial; the fastest card goes
first in battle, and all ties fall to the Dark Side.
A player builds cards into her space, ground, and character areas, and the
number of build points required varies. Light Side players roll for build points
each turn, and both players use the number rolled, from one to seven. Players
spend those points to move cards from their hands to the table, building the
strategy they hope will help them win the game, if the dice play along.
Sometimes cards require an investment of the Force to play them. Many
Battle cards require Force, as do the Jedi character cards. Each turn played
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gains four Force points; players can accumulate Force points until they need
them for a Battle or Jedi card. After all, what would a Star Wars game be without the Force? Giving players ready access to Force points that they use at
their own discretion creates a more lifelike utilization of the Star Wars power
than if they had to draw Force cards from their decks.
A visit to the Star Wars Web site gives players full card lists for every expansion, a downloadable version of the revised rule book, tournament lists, and
a host of articles discussing various aspects of the game. It’s definitely worth
a visit, especially if you want tips on building your own designer decks. May
the Force be with you as you embark on the Star Wars journey.
Star Trek
Once in a while, you want to boldly go where no one’s gone before.
Sometimes you’d like to stay there, too, but that doesn’t help you find opponents for card games. Fans of Star Trek and all its kin often gravitate to this
game; it has its die-hard fans, its world champions, and its collectors.
Now in its second edition, Star Trek uses your favorite characters and situations from the television shows and movies to re-create the well-loved
worlds. Ferengi, Federation, Borg, and more battle it out right there on the
tabletop. May the best, er, most well-constructed race win!
If you know somebody who played the Star Trek game in its first edition,
some of the new second-edition cards are playable with the old first-edition
set. The reverse, alas, does not apply. Those of us still holding onto firstedition cards can’t use them with the new release sets. Sad, but true.
You can find several Star Trek expansion sets floating in retail space. True to
Decipher’s history, however, not all of the expansions are true all-new card
releases. Sets with titles like Reflections or Anthology are clues that they’re
compilation sets — groups of cards from several different expansions packaged together with 60 or so new cards. Take a look at Table 11-2 for the current list of sets.
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Table 11-2
Set Name
Star Trek Releases and Game Mechanics
of Cards
New Game Mechanic
or Character Set
Second Edition
The current starting point for present Star Trek gamesters.
Maquis Faction; Kathless
Call to Arms
Gamma, Delta Quadrants; Borg;
Necessary Evil
Strategy cards for existing
Fractured Time
Events and characters that cross
boundaries of time
Reflections 2.0
61 new foil cards plus a compilation of cards from earlier sets
Strange New Worlds
Ferengi become full affiliation;
Adversaries Anthology
Compilation set like Reflections 2.0
To Boldly Go
Replicate; Starfleet affiliation
Although experienced players might turn up their noses at the compilation
sets, these sets do provide an easy, inexpensive way for new players to
amass the best cards from earlier sets that might be out of print or difficult to
obtain. Plus, sets like Reflections 2.0 contain a host of foil cards that make a
cool-looking deck. Players who use several foil cards in a tournament deck
might even hear a few oohs from others they meet during the day.
Star Trek decks require at least 60 cards, compiled from three different card
types. The deck needs five different missions, no more and no less. These are
the missions you need to complete as you play; some missions are spacebased, while others take place on a planet. A deck also needs at least 20
dilemma cards, which provide problems for your characters to solve as they
complete missions. Finally, the deck contains at least 35 other cards — ships,
personnel of various affiliations, event cards, equipment, and interrupts.
These cards add strategy to a deck and provide characters who complete
missions and interact with equipment and other personnel.
Most players create an affiliation deck of some kind; they play a Ferengi deck
or they concentrate on Starfleet. Some players experiment with specialty
decks; a deck might contain all androids or contain cards specifically combined
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to crush an opponent. Because Star Trek, in all its manifestations (TV, films,
and books), allures fans through its fantastic characters and in-depth storylines, players of the Star Trek trading card game delight in telling those stories through their decks.
For those interested in Star Trek, the Web site offers a “try before you buy”
feature. Download the complete updated rule book as well as a starter deck
of cards you can print, cut out, and use to try the game. Those who enjoy
playing with others all over the world can also play the game online through
the Decipher Web site. The Star Trek software and the online account that
you need to play online are both free, but you pay a fee to “purchase” the virtual cards you use in the game.
WWE Raw Deal
Comic Images
What do you do when wrestling isn’t on cable TV? How do you fill those
empty hours before weekends and prime time? Those who love wrestling and
all its antics thrill to WWE Raw Deal. It brings the excitement and personalities out of the ring and into your pocket — or onto your table, after you take
the deck out of your pocket and begin to play.
Take a Superstar (The Rock, Kurt Angle, or Dude Love), build a deck of 60
cards around the Superstar, and get ready to enter the ring. Available card
types include Actions, Maneuvers, Reversals, and Hybrids. Players use
Reversals to cancel an opponent’s Action or Maneuver. Hybrid cards are a
mixture of two different types.
Many expansions fill the WWE Raw Deal lineup. Some, like the Survivor
expansion sets, refine older cards from early releases. Other expansions
release new Superstars in addition to unique and cool Actions, Maneuvers,
and Reversals. Once in a while, Raw Deal releases limited-edition Superstar
tins with that Superstar’s starter set and a couple of foils thrown in for good
Anybody can play Raw Deal, but the game makes more sense at the start with
a good working knowledge of television entertainment wrestling, its personalities, and the terms used in the ring. Cards such as Airplane Spin, Atomic
Facebuster, and Shooting Star Press carry more weight with mental images.
Of course, you always have the option of using Raw Deal as the entryway to a
new hobby. Then a player can pick up the terminology from the television
after finding out how to play the game.
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Some games are like Elvis: Dead but still popular
What do you do with a dead card game? Some
people make 1-inch buttons from the images.
Others use them to build card houses (complete
with the little slits that hold the cards together)
or to host a “how fast can you destroy a stack of
cards” party, or they use favorite images to
create a decoupage picture. A whole lot of
folks, however, ignore the fact that the publishers declare the game dead, and they keep
playing. And playing. They continue to hold
unofficial tournaments, trade cards, and tell
gaming stories.
Not all trading card games engender this kind
of loyalty; players reserve such passion for the
truly exceptional or the amazingly unique.
Games like Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Score
Entertainment, Decipher’s Star Wars, and the
ever-popular Monty Python and the Holy Grail
from Kenzer & Company continue to draw a
following — or at least a fond sigh — whenever
they appear.
Campy Buffy the Vampire Slayer existed in three
releases before the license faded into obscurity.
Exploring the supernatural and engaging in battles encompass much of the game; Slayers and
Vampires wander through the streets of
Sunnydale trying to defeat one another with
actions such as “butt-kicking,” truly a Buffyesque mechanic.
The Decipher Star Wars Customizable Card
Game enjoyed a huge following, spawning world
tournaments, gorgeous trophies, dedicated
fans, and a great card game. Then Decipher’s
Star Wars license expired and this game, too,
faded into near-obscurity. Although cards are
no longer available, Star Wars still enjoys a
devoted, albeit small, following. Players organize tournaments, trade, and talk about deck
design, which is quite a commendation for a
game that’s been out of print for several years.
Cards are still available on the used market, or
through formerly avid players who amassed
huge collections while they played. Decipher’s
Star Wars game plays very differently than its
namesake published by Wizards of the Coast.
Hilarious might be the best word to describe
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Cards are difficult to find, but they’re so funny that you don’t
need to play the game itself to enjoy them. The
rules direct players to speak in authentic movie
accents, and a player can play a Song card on
his opponent, which requires the opponent to
stand and sing the card’s song. Song cards
include delightful little ditties such as “Brave Sir
Robin” and the “Knights of the Round Table
Song.” The card set also includes a Make Yer
Own option, that is, blank cards for Make Yer
Own Knight, Item, Castle, or Adversary. Monty
Python is truly a customizable game.
One of Raw Deal’s unique features is an advanced play option called Tag Team.
Tag Team play requires four to ten players or more who each design a Superstar
deck. The players divide into two teams, and each team’s Superstars and
Abilities have to be able to work together (the Raw Deal Web site gives a nice,
detailed rundown of allowable combinations). Pinning or Counting Out one
member of the opposing team means that your team wins the game.
See the Web site for card lists and starter box contents for each expansion.
Also look for rules and articles about various aspects of the game, tournament venues, world ranking lists, and more. Raw Deal takes you into the
heart of the wrestling entertainment world and lets you control your favorite
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Chapter 12
Living Your Dreams in Fantasy
and Science Fiction Games
In This Chapter
䊳 Tossing your way to victory with Clout Fantasy
䊳 Entering the world of Warhammer 40K
䊳 Dancing with magic in the Final Twilight
䊳 Building better monstrous, soul-sucking demons in Hecatomb
䊳 Contesting those cute, cuddly Neopets
䊳 Reliving your favorite Hong Kong movies through Shadowfist
䊳 Entering global espionage with Spycraft
䊳 Playing cards with a die, courtesy of Warlord
hat do fantasy and science fiction games have in common? Their reality is based somewhere outside the world we know. That’s about all
they share, and this chapter proves it. Here, you find games that go everywhere from the dark, war-filled world of the future to a land where even the
pets have little pets.
If the not-quite-real enchants you, you’ll love some of these games. With a
good fantasy or science fiction trading card game, you can battle centaurs
against elves or ogres, send your super-spy into the mission prepared to
knock out every enemy spy he encounters, or play a magic user who defends
the defenseless — at the same time he watches his own back for a misguided
mage-killer out to get him. Players who have the time and inclination could
actually do all three.
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Like the best of novels, these games take the player away from reality for
awhile, letting him command troops of Northrogs (those things that might
have been ogres in an earlier time) in Warlord: Saga of the Storm. Or perhaps
playing the one chosen to bring about the end of the world in Hecatomb
sounds more intriguing. The choice is yours. Dive head-first into the fantasy.
Clout Fantasy or
Hidden City Games
Your army, a group of fierce goblins, gather round to determine who to send
into the fray next. Peeking through the bushes, the Rat Maze Warrior spies a
Deep-Woods Hunter, an elf known for his ability to strike fiercely. Rat Maze
Warrior volunteers to take the Hunter by surprise and attack him, in hopes
of taking the elf out and weakening the elvish forces. The goblin warrior takes
leave of his cronies and flies through the air in the doomed elf’s direction.
If the idea of sitting still for hours on end and playing cards on a tabletop
leaves you cold, Clout Fantasy might fit your idea of the perfect collectible
game. Rather than decks of cards, the game uses custom-printed poker chips
that feature characters, actions, and places. Players toss the discs onto a flat
surface and let the chips fall where they may.
One of the most unique collectible games to come along in the past few years,
Clout Fantasy draws on both strategy skill and throwing skill. A player’s strategy can destroy any opponent’s army, but if he can’t toss his army’s chips
where they need to go, his well-planned game won’t work. Each army is easily
identified by chip color; elves are green (of course), centaurs are purple, goblins are orange, and the undead, a happy little bunch of discs, are black.
Within each army, chips fit into one of four types: troops, bases, actions, and
relics. Armies require troops to fight and a base to rally around and to provide support. Action chips, such as Elven Flare or Inflict Pain, allow armies
to inflict damage. Relics, the fourth kind of chip, help an army’s strategy.
Possible relics might include protective gear or a particular type of weapon.
The game made a much-anticipated appearance in August 2005. In the introductory release, each of the four army sets consists of 50 chips. A fifth army,
dragons, appears on gold chips and is available only in booster packs, making
them much harder to collect. The dragon faction contains only 25 chips,
making the entire first release total 225 chips. See Figure 12-1 for an example
of the Clout Fantasy concept.
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Figure 12-1:
and zombies
go head-tohead in
the Clout
Clout Fantasy calls the pieces you play with your stack. A stack equals no
more than 15 chips, so a fully functional playing army easily fits into a small
drawstring bag or even a deep jeans pocket. With no dice to keep track of and
no unwieldy playing mat to tote (the game can even be played outdoors or on
the living room floor), Clout Fantasy features amazing portability for players
who like to travel light and meet for pick-up games. Because each player
chooses a specific army to play, there’s no contest over whose-chips-mightbe-whose when the game is over. If one player takes the purple army, because
centaurs always were her favorites, and her opponent plays the green elves,
at the end of the game, each player’s pieces are obvious — a bonus not all
earlier collectible games share.
Players as young as six tested Clout Fantasy during development and before
its public release. Due to its strategy component, though, the game seems to
work best with ages 8 through 45+. Each player selects the best chip for each
throw, making the chip stack work more like a hand of cards than a deck.
A visit to the Web site provides printable rules, a peek at the artwork on the
chips themselves (which, considering the tiny space available, is truly stunning on some chips), and information on tournament play. Also look here for
a link to the Ultra-Pro site. Ultra-Pro manufactures gaming accessories, such
as card sleeves, and they designed a line of plastic pages to organize and
keep Clout Fantasy chips safe. Best of all, the chips stay in the pages where
you put them; they don’t fall out. Nice. Of course, a dice bag works too.
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Dark Millenium
Sabertooth Games
Enter a world of the far future, where war never ends. Rather than fighting for
a country, or even a world, this time the entire galaxy’s fate rests in your hands.
Based on the Games Workshop miniatures game Warhammer 40,000 (affectionately called Warhammer 40K by its fans), Dark Millenium takes the story of
impending total annihilation from the miniatures table to the card table.
This game is also known as Warhammer 40K, The Card Game, Part III. The
game released in October 2005. While most companies simply create expansion set upon expansion set to tell a game’s story, Sabertooth actually ended
the story of its earlier Part II game, Horus Heresy (see this chapter for
details), and began a new chapter under the name Dark Millenium. Dark
Millenium’s 365 base-set cards are completely compatible with Horus Heresy;
players can use Horus Heresy decks, pure Dark Millenium decks, or any combination of the two.
By creating Dark Millenium, Sabertooth managed to do a few good things for
Horus Heresy players. First, any and all players know exactly where the story
begins: Horus is dead; long live Horus. Second, releasing a new game with a
concentrated storyline allows new players to get into the game near the
beginning without feeling like they lost years of play value and back story. To
new players, Dark Millenium feels like a new game. To experienced players,
Dark Millenium feels like the next chapter. And, to top it all off, Dark Millenium
provides a forum for complete battle range for the first time in Warhammer
40K card game history. Battles can take place in space or on planets as players
fight for the future of the universe. Earlier games focused on planet warfare;
Dark Millenium expands the playing field.
Dark Millenium’s first release contains four factions: Armies of the Imperium,
Forces of Chaos, Eldar, and Orcs. Sabertooth plans to expand armies in future
releases; for example, if the game includes Eldar, sooner or later you will see
the advent of Dark Eldar. Visit the Sabertooth Web site for more information,
some neat screen saver downloads, and storyline information and card lists.
Final Twilight
Neo Productions Unlimited LLC
A young well-trained magic user named Mark roams the streets at night helping the helpless and defending the innocent in New Metropolis. Kerra, an
orphaned sorcerer’s daughter trained to hunt and fight mages, finds herself
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in New Metropolis as part of the search for rogue sorcerers. Charles, an evil
sorcerer who prizes control above all else, comes to the city seeking to
advance his power and enhance his practice of the black arts. These three
personalities form the basis for the drama that grips Final Twilight. One character fights evil, another is evil, and the third might make the wrong choice.
Although it sounds like a lark in the moonlight, Neo Productions Unlimited suggests Final Twilight for an “older audience” due to its language, violence, and
adult themes. This game definitely isn’t for kids. The online novel that provides
the back story contains quite a bit of harsh language and street violence.
Final Twilight’s first release, Trinity (released in Spring of 2004) offers three
preconstructed starter decks, one for each character. In addition, the Trinity
Premiere Expansion 1 booster packs are preset and character-based; you purchase the booster pack that matches your starter deck. Trinity Premiere
Expansion 2, however, contains an assortment of cards that enhance existing
decks for all players.
Gameplay follows the characters from location to location as they attack
Major Characters (Charles, Kerra, Mark) or Minor Characters (such as
Police) and use Attachments (weapons, shields, and so on) and Spells
against one another. Characters can rely on the hidden power of Relics, and
they react to Events. The game’s goal is to reduce an opponent’s character’s
life force to zero.
One of Final Twilight’s most unique aspects is how it tracks a character’s life
points and resources. Some cards require spending Moren to activate them.
Moren, a game term for energy or power, also functions as a character’s life
total. When a player activates a card that requires Moren points to play, that
character willingly reduces his own life total to cast the spell or complete the
action. Other cards require spending Money to activate; each player begins
the game with 15 life points and $20. Unlike the life points, which end the
game when they reach zero, a player who runs out of Money simply can’t
play any more cards that require cash.
With preset starters and boosters, it would seem that one of each is all a
player would need. Branching into another character requires a second
starter and booster, but Final Twilight doesn’t have the nearly endless collectability of some games. The game’s Web site contains an active player message board, the Trinity novel that provides the game’s storyline, and extra
location cards to print and add to an active deck.
The Web site offers demo cards to download and print, and the demo card
packet contains 9 cards in each of two factions for a game that requires 54
cards per deck to play. (I’m not sure about their math skills at Neo
Productions Unlimited.) Players can also download updated Final Twilight
rules if they play the full game; the downloadable rules contain no abbreviated walkthrough for the demo cards, though.
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For players who discover they love the game, Neo Productions Unlimited
offers a design-your-own-cards service that launched in September 2005.
Players can design the cards of their dreams and order them through the
Divergence Web site, Got an
idea for a spell that would rock the Final Twilight world? Design it through
Divergence and then energize your deck with a few copies.
Wizards of the Coast
Once again, the Endbringers gather as nighttime falls, knowing that this time,
one of them will succeed in the ultimate goal: complete annihilation of Earth.
They lust for power — for it is through power that they achieve their desire —
power that comes from reaping souls and taking those souls’ energy as their
own. Only one Endbringer emerges from the struggle a victor; the rest meet
their doom as their opponents strip souls from them.
Looking at the elements here — reaping souls, destruction of the earth, lust
for power, demonic deities (oh, did I forget that part?) — this isn’t a game
you want to hand over to your favorite seven-year-old. Actually, the game is
marked as appropriate for ages 15 and up. Fifteen might even be a little low,
depending on the teen.
You gotta give the folks at Wizards of the Coast credit, though. Hecatomb is
unique. For one thing, it’s a multi-player game. Two or more players can compete simultaneously for the 20-soul total that results in world destruction.
Also, the cards are clear plastic. Although shuffling them can be a bit of a
trick, their transparency gives them clear edges. Players stack cards one
upon the other, turning them so the edges show through the top.
Stacking cards creates Abominations, which then attack the opponent’s
Abomination stacks with the goal of soul reapage. Only Minion cards (beasts,
demons, cultists, and the like) can be stacked. Players use Fate, Relic, and
God cards to altar . . . um . . . alter gameplay and increase strategy.
Each deck contains at least 40 cards of usually two Dooms (factions to you and
me.) Possible Dooms include Corruption, the gray cards; Deceit, which are blue;
Destruction, red cards; and Greed, which are — what else? — green. Players
gain advantages by stacking minions of the same Doom one upon another.
Hecatomb’s base set was released in October 2005 with randomized starter
sets of 40 cards. With a random starter deck, the new player can open the
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box, begin playing, and actually provide some competition because the cards
aren’t static box to box. Due to randomization, though, not all card types
appear in all starters. My starter, for example, contained no Gods, which provide key strategy to the game.
A peek at the Web site offers views of the card art, organized tournament
system, and stories (which aren’t for kids either, due to some adult references and the topics at hand). You can also take a quaint little quiz called
What is Your Doom? It assigns quiz participants to the Doom of Corruption,
Deceit, Destruction, or Greed depending on the submitted answers.
Horus Heresy
Sabertooth Games
Enter the world of the far future, where war never ends. Wait . . . I said that
earlier. First, Sabertooth brought us Warhammer 40K, the collectible card
game. Horus Heresy is Warhammer 40,000, The Card Game, Part II. Horus
Heresy tells the Warhammer 40K story of the Horus rebellion, up to the death
of Horus. From that point on, the story becomes a card game under the name
Dark Millenium (see its section, earlier in the chapter, for more details).
This game focuses on the time of the Horus Heresy. Warmaster Horus betrays
the trust of the Emperor of Mankind, turning against him and becoming his
enemy. Horus focuses his energies and his troops on the annihilation of the
Imperium forces and the destruction of life as the future knows it. Civil war
ensues as families and troops split their affections, siding with the Loyalists
or the Traitors. In an incredibly bloody conflict, units, troops and commanders find themselves part of the carnage as the game progresses.
Released in 2003, Horus Heresy has much storyline and many cards behind
it. It is mostly compatible with Warhammer 40K, the miniatures game, and
completely compatible with Dark Millenium, the later release. Horus Heresy
brought a new focus and updated rules to the gaming universe. Players fight
to take planets with one of two factions, the Imperium forces or Warmaster
Horus’s army.
The game has several booster expansions under its belt; players begin with a
Traitor (Horus) or Loyalist (Imperium) starter deck and customize it with
boosters from the original Horus Heresy release or any of its expansions. With
options to play only light side or dark side decks, players can concentrate on
deck design and strategy.
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Horus Heresy’s Web site offers tournament information, card lists, rules, very
swanky downloadable binder covers, a deck list to use during tournaments,
explanations of play, background stories, and more. Whew! Players could
occupy themselves on the site for quite awhile.
Wizards of the Coast
Once upon a time, there was a Web site. The developers called the site
Neopets and stocked it with all kinds of things kids would like — games, coloring pages, and little furries to love and care for. This site became very popular with young humans, who enjoyed leaving notes on message boards,
caring for virtual pets, and playing games of Neoskill.
Deep in the world of Neopia, the Neopets live and work and play. They keep
their own little petpets (yes, Neopets’ pets are actually called petpets), converse with fairies, and generally have a good time in their realm. Now they
also star in their own Neopets magazine and the Neopets trading card game.
Neopets have arrived.
As you probably can surmise, Neopets is a game for the youngsters among us.
Card art is kid-friendly and colorful; card stats are easy to read, understand,
and apply. In the game, Neopets fall into several types: a Neopet can be of
water, air, fire, light, dark, or earth. Players use supporting cards to help their
Neopets. Some cards are type-based, while others are neutral and can be
used to help (or hinder) any Neopet.
Players create their decks from a starter set plus the several available expansions. Tournament decks require 50 cards per deck; 10 of those cards are
Neopets, while the other 40 function as “the deck” and contain heroes, villains, equipment (such as Rocket Boots), petpets (like Hasee), items, and the
popular Something Has Happened cards. Heroes and villains function as extra
strategy cards to help a player win the game, while Something Has Happened
game text alters the flow of the game.
With deck in hand, players enter their Neopets in contests for strength,
agility, magic, and intelligence. Each Neopet, and all supporting cards, displays values for each of the four contest areas. Win a contest and place an
Item or Equipment card in your Bank. The first player to bank 21 point’s
worth of stuff wins the game.
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Interested players can visit the Web site to see a nice online game demo, card
lists, and quickstart rules, as well as the regular rule set. They can also read
up on strategy ideas, discover the value of including villains in their decks,
and find out about upcoming booster sets.
Z-Man Games
Engage in a game of Shadowfist and you join an epic struggle that combines
physical and spiritual realms. The battle of Shadowfist is a battle for important Feng Shui sites, which are areas that contain strong concentrations of
chi, or life energy. This is a secret war; few know of it, and those who know
don’t often tell. Added to the mystery is that in the world of Shadowfist, the
war exists throughout the ribbon of time, making it possible for characters to
find themselves in the first century, today, or the near future.
Shadowfist debuted in 1995, making it one of the longest-running customizable
card games available today. In an industry where card games appear and then all
too many disappear into obscurity, Shadowfist shows staying power. Designed
for a more mature audience, Shadowfist brings the Hong Kong–movie genre to
life on the tabletop. Warlords, spies, treachery, combat — Shadowfist has it all.
Z-Man Games celebrated the coveted tenth anniversary by releasing a new
expansion set called Seven Masters vs. The Underworld, which won an Origins
award for the best customizable card game expansion released during 2005.
Each player needs at least a 60-card starter deck to enter the game; boosters
are available to enhance strategy and play. While Shadowfist has seen many
expansions in the past ten years, several (including the 1970s Boom Chaka
Laka theme cards, sigh) are out of print.
Players must control six Feng Shui sites to win the game. Another option is to
burn for victory — while not controlled and standing, the sites still belong to
the burner and count as victory points. The winning player has to control or
burn for victory the last remaining Feng Shui site, which finishes the race to
get six sites and ends the game.
Visit the Web site to find out more about the storyline or the game. The
Shadowfist Web site is masterful at creating online atmosphere; visitors get a
feel for the game and its world without ever picking up a card. Stories that
explain the cards, card lists, tournament information, game rules, and fan fiction are all available at the Shadowfist Web site.
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Alderac Entertainment Group
Spycraft began its life as a roleplaying game, but unfortunately, not all people
who play games enjoy the roleplay genre. It was never very successful.
Because of its scenarios and many options, however, Spycraft was the perfect
story to expand into the trading card game market and was met much more
favorably by the gaming public. Excitement ran high when news of the pending card game trickled throughout game industry sources. Even people who’d
never played Spycraft knew about the game. Store owners and players alike
waited — well, rather impatiently, to tell the truth — for the game’s first
Spycraft brings the world of global espionage to the tabletop. Former government agents band together to complete missions and attempt to “retire”
other factions’ spies. Figure 12-2 shows an example of a Action card. Worldclass agents who function as Leaders gather a group of highly trusted and
capable spies, called Agents, about them. Headquarters outfits Agents with
various Gear cards: vehicles, weapons, or highly specialized training. With a
spy-enabled SUV and a weapon, even the lowest agent could take over the
world. Of course, outfitting an agent like that might cost ya . . .
Gear Action cards provide conflict, distraction, and sometimes destruction.
Adding a few to the deck helps a player’s odds of winning. They also provide
payment fodder so that cards more useful at the moment might move into
active play. As players fight to take missions, each mission comes with its
own Victory Points. Amass 20 Victory Points or permanently “retire” an
opponent’s highest- (fourth-) level Leader Agent to win the game.
Spycraft’s original card set, Operation: Nightfall, was released in 2004 with 344
cards. Starter sets come with 84 cards in one of five factions: The Banshee Net,
Bloodvine Syndicate, The Krypt, Nine Tiger Dynasty, and Shadow Patriots.
Faction cards are color-coded, which helps to identify them — especially in the
booster packs. Each starter deck comes with a full set of Mission cards. (In
addition, the Web site offers all Mission cards in downloadable format so you
can print and use the entire Mission deck from the site if you like.) Spycraft has
at least three expansions already out, with more planned in the near future.
Spycraft also comes packaged in a Shadow Academy Learn-to-Play box. A very
nice presentation, the two-player box contains 144 preset and preshuffled
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cards (two decks plus a missions deck), counters, and Shadow Academy
Learn-to-Play rules (along with complete rules). Because the cards are preset
and prearranged, all the players need to do is follow the multipage demonstration in the rulebook. The Learn-to-Play rules walk the new player through
the first complete turn while using actual cards and a real hand, a very nice
touch. Perhaps best of all, the Shadow Academy box provides lots of space to
store a new player’s future card collection.
Figure 12-2:
Hassle your
opponent by
him of his
Gear with
the Security
Check card.
For more information about Spycraft, or to download rules, look at tournament information, or investigate the storylines of the Spycraft role-playing
game, visit the Web site. You can also download two demo decks and try the
game yourself (look in the Resources part of the Card Game section of the
site). If you like the game, look for the player-designed color tokens that you
can print and use to mark an agent wounded, exposed, and so on. A set of
black-and-white tokens come with the starter sets, but the printable set is
very useful on its own.
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Sabertooth Games
WarCry is the paper incarnation of the popular and long-lasting Warhammer
Fantasy miniatures game. Note that Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K
are two different miniatures games. Although WarCry draws from the vast
Warhammer universe, it has the freedom to create its own characters and
events as well. This makes for a game that has a life of its own, and doesn’t
seem too tightly tied to a static storyline.
The Grand Alliance, made up of Elves, Dwarves, and the Empire, faces off
against The Hordes of Darkness — Dark Elves, Orcs, Goblins, and Chaos. The
world they know is broken by war, and someone will become the victor.
Whether The Grand Alliance or The Hordes of Darkness clutch that honor
changes with each hand played. Magic changes the way the world works, of
course, so wizards and other magic users play an important part in WarCry.
Various expansion sets introduce war machines, vampires, witch hunters,
and more.
WarCry appeals to the fantasy lover. Some of the cards showcase stunning
artwork, and the card backgrounds are color-coded to ease players’ ability to
design an Alliance army or a Darkness deck. Downloadable introductory
gameplay rules fit onto one sheet of paper, so following the flow of the game
looks simple rather than intimidating. While the cards’ art definitely qualifies
as fantasy-style artwork, everything is relatively teen-friendly.
One of the neat twists to WarCry is that players actually help finish the scenario stories that become part of the game lore. Sabertooth keeps track of
tournament wins and losses when the company begins a new story line, and
whichever faction wins overall through tournament play determines the outcome of the story. Very cool.
Players use 60-card decks, which they enhance with various booster cards;
WarCry is a game that develops through its booster releases, so a cursory
booster collection is almost a must if players wish to remain current with the
game. When WarCry first appeared, for example, it contained no magic cards.
The designers wanted to keep the card set to 180 cards, which was impossible with the inclusion of spells and spell-casters. Thus, the first expansion
included magic cards and magic rules within its scope.
WarCry first appeared in early 2003, so in trading card game terms, it’s still a
relatively new game. The Web site contains a lot of story and card material,
though, so it feels like a game that players have enjoyed for many years. Part
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of that is due to the well-developed Warhammer Fantasy storyline, but much
of it is because of the storyline creation fostered through the Web site. The
player who arrives with decks designed to play through the current plotline
is more personally involved than the one who shows up to play yet another
round of a favorite game.
Drop into the WarCry Web site for rules, stories, gorgeous card art samples,
message boards, and — of course — tournament information and location
assistance. Players can even submit card ideas if they think the current sets
require a bit of tweaking. One very nice feature of the WarCry Web site: It
offers downloadable easy-start rules along with two downloadable starter
decks (light and dark, totaling 30 cards each) as well as a downloadable
booster deck to flesh out the printable starter decks. Look for them in the
Misc. section of the Downloads area.
Warlord: Saga of the Storm
Alderac Entertainment Group
The hundred-year restraining order comes to an end. The Elves attack again,
with a vengeance, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. On the other
side of the lands, in an area long given to isolationism and peaceful trade,
the savage Northrogs attack and overtake the city, taking advantage of its
detachment from the rest of society. Thus the Storm begins as the remaining
humans band together to become the Free Kingdoms. They pledge to fight
any and all Warlords they meet in the struggle to maintain their freedom.
Thus begins the tale of Warlord: Saga of the Storm. Each battle takes place
between two of five factions: the Free Kingdoms, the Northrog, the Deverenians,
the Dwarves (see Figure 12-3), or the Elves. Every player is the ruler of a kingdom, fighting to keep an upper hand and defeat the enemy. When a player’s
Warlord dies, that player loses the game.
Each player approaches a Warlord game with a deck of at least 50 cards. Most
players begin with a legion’s starter deck and then add booster cards to alter
strategic impact. Choices abound for possible starter decks; several expansions included new starters decks in addition to booster packs.
Each expansion set introduces new game mechanics — stronger supporting
cards or new Warlords, for example. Table 12-1 shows the various expansions
and the important mechanics available through that set.
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Figure 12-3:
This Dwarf
wields a
shield for
Table 12-1
Expansion Set
Warlord: Saga of the Storm Expansion Sets
of Cards
New Game Mechanic
Assassin’s Strike
Guild Masters that allow faction mixing
Good and Evil
New monsters, new Action cards
Tooth and Claw
Astral and Ethereal monsters
Nest of Vipers
Magic Resistance, Rituals
Black Knives
Second Edition Basic Set
Build Fortresses, Urban Fighting, and
City Siege
Call to Arms: Power
Wizards and Spells, Rogue Weapons
Call to Arms: Glory
Cards for Fighters and Clerics
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Expansion Set
of Cards
New Game Mechanic
Betrayal, dual-front wars
Support for less popular factions
Southern Kingdoms
Monks, Southside of Every Faction
Campaign Edition
New starter decks
Sneak Attack
Immediate attacks
Attacks during discard
Death’s Bargain
Card Regeneration
Hero’s Gambit
Enhances character positioning
For a game that was released in 2001, Warlord: Saga of the Storm has seen
quite a number of expansion sets. Some sets are marked as good for beginners, such as the original Saga of the Storm sets, Black Knives starters, and
the two-player Learn-to-Play Battle Box. The Learn-to-Play Battle Box includes
two 50-card starters — a Northrog deck and a Free Kingdoms deck — a playmat that illustrates card placement, and a really well-done rule book. The rule
book spends several pages telling a pull-you-in storyline that makes you want
to grab the cards, place them into position on the mat, and go after those cutthroat Northrogs! Well, at least it did for me.
In addition, the Learn-to-Play Battle Box gives new players lots of room to
store their cards in cardboard channels designed for them. A nice, inexpensive deck-storage option for the beginner, the Learn-to-Play Battle Box solves
the problem of cards littering the floor or falling off the table . . . stuff that
never happens at my house. One thing the Battle Box does not do: It doesn’t
give you the entire rule set. It gives you enough rules to get you started, but
for additional rules needed for tournament play, players should check a regular starter deck or the Web site. Tournament rules and regular rules are
downloadable from the site.
Also check the site for Warlord fiction, event news, card lists, and artwork. A
couple of incredibly cool things in the Resources section that you won’t want
to miss are printable maps of the Accordlands, where the fighting takes place,
and special decks designed by the Alderac Entertainment staff — including
notes on how to win with the deck and how to modify it. Players can also
download six desktop images for their computers to make their computer
screens Warlord-friendly.
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A Warhammer by any other name
Three of the card games in this chapter were
taken from one miniatures game. Dark Millenium, Horus Heresy, and WarCry, developed by
Sabertooth Games, all base their stories on a
miniatures game called Warhammer. Lest you
think two companies share storylines freely and
without argument, Sabertooth Games is actually a division of Games Workshop. To be more
accurate, Games Workshop (nicknamed GW)
owns 85 percent of Sabertooth.
To understand the pull (which is huge) of Games
Workshop and Warhammer, you have to start
the story in the United Kingdom. GW began by
publishing a gaming magazine and importing
American games to sell in its Games Workshop
stores. It also sold little plastic miniatures. In the
early 1990s, GW decided to concentrate on the
miniatures and drop everything else.
Unlike the collectible miniatures games by
WizKids and Sabertooth (HeroClix and Lord of
the Rings Miniatures), the GW miniatures have
to be constructed piece-by-piece. Players need
to construct enough minis so that they have a
decent army — often 100 figures strong. Then
they need to be painstakingly painted so they all
match. This means hours upon hours of sanding, gluing, painting, and re-repainting. Often,
they don’t turn out quite right the first or second
time, so players repaint the little guys until they
get just the look they want. It is, after all, your
army we’re talking about here. It’s not quite your
life, but, well, it’s close.
Who has the time for all this work? Exactly!
Young adults (with or without very patient significant others) and teens. Dark Millenium, Horus
Heresy, and WarCry all evolved from miniatures
games designed to sell to teenage boys in the
U.K. By the time a guy hits age 16, Games
Workshop U.K. considers him to be moving out
of the game market.
And what a market it is. Mention “game” to
anyone in or from the United Kingdom, and the
listener is likely to say, “Oh! You play GW?”
GW means Game Store in the U.K. After visiting
a couple GW stores in their native country, I can
tell you — Games Workshop stores are gorgeous, and their staffs are lively and excited
about what they do. When GW brought
Warhammer to the United States, it brought that
excitement with it. Warhammer is very popular
and is played by lots of people.
Everyone, however, doesn’t have the free time
to sand, glue, and paint over and over. Releasing
the Warhammer games in trading card game
format allowed a whole new section of the
game-loving public to involve themselves in the
Warhammer world. Now they can play
Warhammer and Fantasy, too, without getting
glue on their fingers or paint on the table.
Now you know.
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Chapter 13
Exploring History and Literature
with Cards and Dice
In This Chapter
䊳 Watching history’s heroes duke it out in Anachronism
䊳 Will you answer the Call of Cthulhu?
䊳 Playing with nobility in A Game of Thrones
䊳 Conspiring your way to victory in Illuminati: New World Order
䊳 Taking over the night (and the world) in Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
here’s something about history that just begs for someone to take notes.
There’s something about literature that feels so, so, well, old. And there’s
something about both topics that inspires the hearts, minds, and Marketing
Departments of countless companies across the globe. Time after time, they
release games that attempt to capture (in 2-D form) the glory and majesty of
everything from the London of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the Rome of Julius
Caesar — that’s the historical man in this case, not Shakespeare’s dramatic play.
Very few historical or literature-based card games survive their first brush
with reality. Despite that, the games listed in this chapter did make the cut
because they earned it with fun gameplay. Some, like Anachronism, take only
a few seconds to learn. Others, such as Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, demand
much more of your time and energy. (They might even make your significant
other a bit jealous.)
If you want to mix a little culture with your cards, feel free to check out the
games below — but do keep in mind that some sections of history don’t
make very good reading for the kids, which is why you need to step lightly
through the “mature content” minefield. Don’t worry, though; this book gives
you some great overviews along with plenty of tips on what to avoid. Enjoy
your cultured journey of a lifetime!
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TriKing Games/The History Channel
What if, for no adequately explained reason, the greatest warriors in all of history, from Joan of Arc to Crazy Horse, — complete with their gear, sidekicks,
and other legendary accoutrement — suddenly dropped out of the sky and
found themselves standing together in an arena? Well, in addition to wondering what the heck just happened, no doubt they’d challenge each other in
order to prove who was the greatest fighter of them all. Yeah!
Apart from the need to invent an animé-style explanation of the time rift —
maybe a demonic centipede bit the warriors and sent them back in time . . .
no, the Inuyasha trading card game already claimed that plot complication —
Anachronism delivers some new interpretations of the trading card game
At first glance, Anachronism looks just like a classic trading card game. To get
going in the game, you purchase either one of the premade starter sets or
one of several warrior packs. The warrior packs contain a fixed assortment of
cards, so all of the “Spartacus” packs give you exactly the same cards. You
might purchase multiple copies of the same warrior packs in order to get
spares of that warrior’s support cards, but most of the time you only need a
single copy of each warrior pack. That keeps the game’s cost low because the
company releases only 16 to 18 warrior packs in each set.
When you break out your cards and start playing, Anachronism takes on a
whole different feeling — very different from a traditional trading card game.
First, the cards themselves feel much thicker than regular cardstock, and
every card features gorgeous foil artwork. The thickness doesn’t affect the
play (you never need to shuffle the cards, and they still fit in regular card
sleeves just fine) because your warrior “stack” only contains five cards: a
single warrior, plus four support cards. A game only takes about five minutes,
so you can always squeeze multiple rounds of play into a single session.
Next, there’s the battlefield. Instead of tossing your cards around on a table,
you play the game on a board with a large 4x4 grid. This makes the gameplay
less like cards and more like miniatures, similar to one of the “clix” games I
discuss in Chapter 15. Anachronism simulates an arena duel between two
individuals, and the limited board size ensures that nobody tries to win by
running away. (Imagine a top-down view of two people in a room for a pretty
good idea of what the Anachronism board looks like during a game.)
You start a game by rolling two dice to determine who goes first. Whoever
rolls the lower number places his warrior somewhere on the starting row.
Then, the high roller places her warrior somewhere on the opposite starting
row. Instead of shuffling the remaining cards, the players look at the four
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support cards and place them in order face-down behind the starting area.
This step forms a key part of the game’s strategy because you play the support cards in the order in which you put them onto the table. No swapping
card positions!
At the beginning of each turn, the players simultaneously flip over the leftmost face-down support card. The support card determines who goes first on
this turn, plus it provides a special ability or game-altering rule of some kind.
From there, the battle looks like a traditional miniatures game. You move
your warrior card in the grid, trying to get close enough to your opponent
that you can attack. Pay close attention to where your card faces (which way
it points) because the warriors can attack only in certain directions. If your
opponent maneuvers herself into one of your warrior’s blind spots, you can’t
attack until you move!
To win the game, you must either reduce your opponent’s character to zero
life points or have the most life points left at the end of the fifth turn (assuming both characters hang in there that long).
TriKing sponsors tournament events at game stores all over the world. Find
one near you by checking the retail locator on the Web site.
Call of Cthulhu
Fantasy Flight Games, Inc.
In the beginning (well, back in 1906), there was a teen-aged boy named
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, a used Remington typewriter, a stack of paper, and
an imagination fueled by loneliness, illness, science, chemistry, and voracious reading. Over the next 31 years, H. P. Lovecraft wrote everything from
poetry to news stories, plus a small mountain of hand-written correspondence. But his most-remembered works involve the foreboding mysteries surrounding Cthulhu, the monstrous high priest of Great Old Ones, who waits in
his house at the corpse city of R’lyeh, “dead but dreaming” (to both paraphrase and quote Mr. Lovecraft).
If phrases like “monstrous high priest” and “corpse city” didn’t give it away
already, I’ll say this straight out: The Call of Cthulhu trading card game ain’t
for kids — at least not if you want them sleeping in their own beds at night.
The cards feature artwork rich enough to inspire a year’s worth of checking
under the bed and the occasional bout of “something’s drooling in the
closet.” Take a look through the Web site (and some of the art samples in
Figure 13-1) and peruse the cards in a starter deck before making up your
mind and getting your kids into the game. After all, you know your kids (and
their fears) the best.
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Figure 13-1:
Call of
brings H. P.
to life.
The Call of Cthulhu trading card game — its title comes from Lovecraft’s 1926
short story of the same name — throws players into the 1930s as it looks
through the lenses of pulp horror fiction. It’s a world populated by brave
investigators, devoted cultists, curious college professors, and a variety of
hidden horrors, where secrets abound and insanity lurks around the next
corner (and possibly under the basement floor).
The gameplay centers around the Story Deck, a stack of cards that portray the
curious environs and the strange stories in Lovecraft’s world. To win the game,
you need to either win three stories or run your opponent’s deck out of cards.
Playing the game feels a lot like reading the plotline of a Lovecraft-style story.
Fantasy Flight’s game really captures the major components of his fiction, letting you take part in spinning a horrific Cthulhu tale of your own.
Your playable deck contains a mix of Character cards, Support cards, and
Event cards. Most of the cards belong to one of the game’s seven factions,
but a few remain neutral. A card’s faction affects the game in some interesting
ways. Every player also gets three Domain cards. These aren’t really a part of
your playable deck. Think of them like batteries. They represent a limit on
what you can do during a turn. You can attach resources to them to “power
up,” enabling you to purchase more valuable cards later in the game. You’ll
learn more about how to do that in a moment.
Character cards fill the bulk of the deck. They include both the people and the
monsters that populate the stories. Support cards add new abilities to your
characters. They usually attach directly to a Character card instead of standing
alone on the table. Finally, the Event cards throw plot twists into the tales of the
game by temporarily canceling a card’s special abilities, by sending Character
cards to the discard pile, or by changing the requirements of the current story.
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Before playing the game, you and your opponent agree on a set of Story cards
and then build your respective decks. (Knowing the Story cards first helps
you build a deck capable of handling the weird twists that the stories throw
at you by turning them to your advantage.)
During the game, you build up resources and then use them to bring spooky
Characters — like Dead but Dreaming, seen in Figure 13-2 — and other cards
into play. You attempt to win stories by cleverly assigning your characters,
attaching Support cards, and twisting things with Events. In the process, your
characters might get killed or go insane, but that’s what happened to most of
Lovecraft’s creations, too.
Figure 13-2:
Dead but
Dreaming —
not the kind
of person
you’d want
to meet in a
dark alley.
Resources make up one of the more interesting parts of the game. Once
during each turn, you can take a card from your hand and turn it into a
resource by attaching it to one of your three Domain cards. Every card
behind a Domain counts as one resource toward paying for some other card.
But here’s the twist: In order to pay for a card, at least one of the resources
that pays for it must belong to the same faction. That little requirement ensures
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that your decks focus on just one or two factions, which helps maintain the
Lovecraft-themed storyline of groups working together when their purposes
align for a moment.
The game spans a number of starter and booster sets, along with several
booster-only expansions. Check the game’s Web site for the most up-to-date
information on the current base set. The site also contains a searchable tournament database and discussion areas for swapping deck designs (and the
occasional tale of terror) with fellow players.
A Game of Thrones
Fantasy Flight Games, Inc.
How do you even begin capturing the depth and breadth of a massive series
like George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy A Song of Fire and Ice in a collectible
card game? I sure don’t know. Apparently, the folks at Fantasy Flight Games
figured it out because A Game of Thrones doesn’t just show you the world of
the Seven Kingdoms, it puts you squarely into the action.
Five great Houses fight for control of the Iron Throne. In the world, summer is
fast fading into winter — and winter will last for four decades. Threats abound
outside the Seven Kingdoms, with the most serious coming from an army of
the dead preparing for a bitter attack in the coming cold. But treachery and
conflict already divide from within as Eddard of the House Stark and Cersi of
the House Lannister (shown in Figure 13-3) challenge each other for the right
to govern the lands. This isn’t some light and fluffy fantasy world. It reminds
you more of an unblinking documentary that shows everything, no matter
how grim or cruel it might look.
This world of tension, danger, power, and blood forms the background to
A Game of Thrones. The book series focuses on power, so winning the card
game takes power as well. You get power in the game by winning challenges
against your opponent’s House. After you collect 15 power points (or 20
power points if you use one of the Alliance cards from the starter deck), you
defeat your opponent and win the game.
Your deck in A Game of Thrones is divided into the Plot deck and the House
deck. The Plot deck always contains exactly seven Plot cards — no more, no
less. The House deck holds everything else in the game, including Characters,
Locations, and Events. Each player also needs at least 15 counters to track
power during the game.
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Figure 13-3:
The leaders
of the
Stark and
come in two
of the
Each turn begins with the players selecting a Plot card. You don’t randomly
grab a card for this step — you pick up your Plot deck and decide which of
your Plot cards works best in the current situation, just as the characters in
the story adjust their plots and ploys to meet the needs of the moment. Both
players reveal their Plot cards at the same time.
Plot cards really set the foundation for your plans in a round. The card’s
Initiative number determines which player gets to choose who goes first. Its
Income value sets the base amount of gold you receive in a round. The Claim
value comes into play during the Challenges phase and shows how much
damage the winner of the challenge inflicts on the loser. Finally, each card
also includes rules text, which comes into play for this round only. Picking
the right Plot card really can make or break your turn, so choose wisely.
After playing the Plot card, the players draw two cards from their decks (if
you run out of cards, you draw nothing, but the game continues) and begin
the Marshalling phase. Here, you use the gold provided by your Plot card and
your Locations, Characters, and Attachments (plus any Events that come into
play) to play cards from your hand. After you finish, the Challenge and
Dominance phases of the turn begin.
In the Challenge phase, your House may conduct one Military, one Intrigue,
and one Power challenge against your opponent. A Military challenge
attempts to kill the opponent’s characters. Losing an Intrigue challenge
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makes the opponent discard cards from his hand. A Power challenge tries
taking power directly from your opponent’s House, which brings you closer to
victory. You announce the type of Challenge and the target of your Challenge
and then assign your attacking characters. Your opponent responds by picking
some defenders, if he wishes. After resolving the challenge, you inflict damage
or win power according to the Claim value of your Plot card for this round.
After both players resolve their challenges, the Dominance phase happens.
The players total up the Strength value of all the unused characters on the
table, and the player with the most remaining strength automatically gets one
power point. Granted, it adds insult to injury if your characters dropped like
flies during the challenges, but nobody said that power struggles were fair.
A Game of Thrones already offers multiple base sets plus quite a number of
expansions. You might need to look harder for the older sets, but that’s half
the fun of collecting the cards. Check the game’s Web site for details about
both the current card sets and the variety of past releases.
The site also covers the normal things as well — a retail store locator, discussion groups, strategy articles, and the obligatory designer log. You can also
find out how to support the game by becoming a local volunteer in your area.
If you love the game, volunteering makes a great way to help things grow and
find new opponents!
Illuminati: New World Order (INWO)
Steve Jackson Games, Inc.
Do you love a good conspiracy? Does the mere whiff of secrecy and sedition
set your brain spinning with possibilities? Have you ever seen an orbital mind
control laser? (No, of course not — or at least nobody remembers. They selectively erase our brains to keep us in the dark!)
Rumors of the Illuminati — a secret, world-ruling cabal — circulated for the
last century or more in obscure books and whispered stories. Most of the
conspiracy tales point back a couple hundred years to a Bavarian man named
Adam Weishaupt, who started a group he called the Illuminati. Of course, in
true conspiracy form, many people think that Weishaupt was merely a frontman directed by yet another secretive group to obscure their activities. Then
again, some say the Illuminati is actually a branch of Freemasonry. And what
about the people who believe that Illuminati started the rumors about the
Freemasons starting the Illuminati? (Heck, this little chunk of text might
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appear on a Web site someday as “proof” of some bizarre link between my
publisher and those men in black standing outside my window right now.)
You can turn the tables on the whole conspiracy-theory realm when you take
over the world in Illuminati: New World Order, known to its devotees as INWO.
INWO is based on an old stand-alone Illuminati card game also by Steve
Jackson Games. The vitality of the brand is a testament to the popularity of
the game. Each player in the game takes the role of a single Illuminati group,
from the Adepts of Hermes (representing the Illuminati’s mystical side) to the
Servants of Cthulhu (which we hope doesn’t exist in real life). Each group has
its own special abilities, victory conditions, and differing amounts (and
types) of power in the world.
During the game, your Illuminati faction extends its power by taking over
some of the seemingly “normal” groups out there. After gaining control, they
direct those groups to take over other groups, and so on, until the world
belongs to you! For instance, the Illuminati sect called The Gnomes of Zurich
loves corporations and banking, so they get a bonus for controlling powerful
groups of those types. In a game, the Gnomes might control the Liquor
Companies, which (thanks to their wads of cash) control Big Media, which
then controls Comic Books and Science Fiction readers. See? The gameplay
even sounds like a conspiracy theory! Figure 13-4 shows a favorite from one
game, in which the Libertarians directed the United Nations, who gave orders
to the Eco-Guerillas, who then manipulated Al Gore into taking over Canada!
Sometimes, the game makes you want to laugh like an evil genius.
Although INWO counts as a trading card game because it comes in starters
and boosters (available that way directly from Steve Jackson Games and at a
select number of game stores), INWO doesn’t act like a typical trading card
game. For instance, all of the players draw cards from a pair of shared decks
instead of bringing their own finely-tuned decks. You might trade cards with
your friends but mainly just to get cards that you don’t already own or just to
pick up a few spares of your favorites.
Instead of collecting the cards by opening multiple booster packs, I highly
recommend buying INWO: The One With Everything, a set that contains one
of, well, everything in INWO. Best of all, it comes in a neat box that actually
holds everything and looks different than all of the other card boxes in your
life, so you know where to find it.
The company released several INWO products, including a base set (with the
obligatory starter and booster), the unusual complete boxed set mentioned
above, a booster-only set called Assassins, and the SubGenius expansion
(which plays by itself or with INWO). You can also buy blanks that match the
game’s artwork so that you can add your own insights to the ever-growing
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Figure 13-4:
As the
their power,
(and entertaining)
combinations often
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (V:TES)
White Wolf Publishing, Inc.
Vampires are real. They live among us, walk among us, and enjoy our
company — in the same sense that we enjoy hanging around a buffet table.
But feeding doesn’t dominate vampires the way that fictional stories make it
appear. Instead, the politics, conspiracies, and power struggles of their world
consume them. (After all, when you’re immortal, what’s more fun than a nice
game of “world domination” spread across the centuries, with other vampires
as the pieces?)
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Like the Call of Cthulhu trading card game (mentioned earlier in this chapter),
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (V:TES for short) targets an older demographic
in their late teens and early 20s. It’s rich in story, plot, blood, complexity, and
innuendo . . . definitely not for the little ones. White Wolf, the game’s creator,
takes inspiration from sources of Vampire lore everywhere, from Bram Stoker
to Anne Rice.
In V:TES, you play the part of a so-called “Methuselah,” one of the ancient vampires. Your history goes back so far that the younger vampires consider you
mere legend, like bedtime stories told to the “newly-embraced” — the term
vampires use to describe the making of a new vampire. But you are real — very
real — and your machinations run deep in the worlds of vampires and men,
like strong, dark, deadly ocean currents.
Those young ones walk proud and tall in their ignorance and imagined power.
Well, let them. Pride blinds, but a blind pawn still fights, especially when it
thinks that it’s a king. And that suits my purposes very nicely indeed . . .
When V:TES was first published, it was released by Wizards of the Coast as
Jyhad. You may see cards available for the game with Jyhad printed on the
backs of the cards rather than Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. This is okay! You
can play with these cards mixed in your deck with V:TES cards. Many longtime players do.”Your goal in the game involves increasing your power by
destroying the influence held by your rivals. To do this, you influence young
vampires to do your bidding. A pool of counters (known as a Blood Pool) represents each player’s influence. When your supply of counters runs out, you
have no influence left — it’s time to return to your lair and ponder your
stealthy return during the next hundred years of schemes and conspiracies.
You play V:TES with two decks: the Crypt and the Library. The Crypt deck
holds the vampires you hope to control during the game. The Library contains everything else, including Master cards, Minion cards, and Event cards.
During the course of the game, you expend your influence to recruit a group
of minions — younger vampires — who follow your instructions. Most of the
action in the game happens between these minions as they fight to preserve
and expand your power. You assign them to a task by turning the cards sideways (“tapping” them, in the game player’s lingo).
It’s also possible for the Methuselahs to attack each other by doing a “bleed”
and assigning a minion to the task. Successfully bleeding one of your opponents gives you possession of the marker called the Edge, which grants you
some limited extra powers each turn.
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Of all the games on the market, V:TES deserves awards for both longevity and
complexity. It’s one of very few games that date from about the same time as
Magic: The Gathering, yet is still played and supported actively today. It also
contains more icons, arcane terms, and specialized actions than any four or
five normal games. Learning V:TES takes time and effort. Getting really good
at it demands huge amounts of time to understand the game’s back story and
meta-game strategies. If you want a game that you can sink your teeth into
and take a good bite out of, give V:TES a try.
The game’s Web site offers all of the information you anticipate from a company like White Wolf, including a massive card FAQ, information on each
release (some of which went out of print years ago), a retail locator, and tournament details. You can even walk through a simple demonstration game
online to see the cards in action before spending your hard-earned money.
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Chapter 14
Playing by Age: Games for Kids
to Grown-ups
In This Chapter
䊳 Opening with a few questions
䊳 Starting the kids with something appropriate
䊳 Teasing tweens with story and power
䊳 Deepening the complexity for older players
䊳 Brushing against the darkly weird side of gaming
efore I had children of my own, I never truly appreciated the humor
behind Garrison Keillor’s famous quote about Lake Wobegon, namely
that “all the children are above average.” Now that three kids of a variety of
ages inhabit my world, that line gets funnier every single day. Of course my
children are above average. Whose aren’t?
Of course, picking games for such amazing children puts me in a dilemma
sometimes. Do I go by their ages, their interests, their reading levels, or some
mystical divination method like asking them what sounds cool? Questions
like these nip at the heels of many parents out there — and that’s why I
included this chapter in the book.
The following pages take you on a quick walk through the happy task of picking a new collectible game. Whether you want a hobby for yourself, a pastime
for the kids, or something that you and yours can do together, the information below helps you find a game that’s the right match.
Before buying anything, definitely work through the questions in the chapter’s
first section. Every time I ignore a bad answer to one of those questions, I
end up as the proud owner of a Truly Dead Collectible Game (such as the old
Tomb Raider CCG or the utterly forgettable James Bond 007 game). Don’t let
this happen to you or your pocketbook!
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Asking a Few Opening Questions
When picking out a game for you or your child, enlist the local game store’s
help. Ask them plenty of questions — after all, they’re your handy-dandy
game experts. They know (or at least should know) their product lines. It’s in
their best interest to help you connect with the right game and, hopefully,
continue connecting your credit card with their store.
As you stand at the counter, looking over box after box of collectible games,
it’s hard to come up with a good starting point. At moments like this, it pays
to go back to the basics. Ask the following basic questions about the games
that catch your eye on the store’s shelves:
⻬ What’s the manufacturer’s suggested age range for the game? Most
companies do a good job describing the age requirements for their
games. Combine that information with what you know about yourself or
your kids to make the best match.
⻬ Am I looking for a game with media tie-ins? Given our media-saturated
world, a large number of children’s games grow out of television shows.
If you or your child love a particular show, use that as a starting point to
get yourself off the couch or to redirect your child’s interest and attention in new directions. Research the game market (and cruise through
this book) to see what shows have matching card games.
⻬ Is there local support for any of these games? Which games do people
in your city actually play? In some cases, there’s a big difference
between games that the local stores carry versus games that the stores
support with demonstrations, tournaments, and other events. If a store
sells a game but doesn’t support it, then the game might not last long
enough to make it a worthwhile purchase.
Look for games with an active local player base. The more people who
play the game, the more potential partners you have for trading and playing. At the same time, ask about the player base’s age level — particularly
if you want a new hobby of your own. One of my friends fell in love with
Yu-Gi-Oh! but got the shock of his life at the first tournament he attended;
none of the players were more than a third of his age.
⻬ What style of play does my child prefer? Some games leave players
working independently, while others pit players in lots of direct my-movecounters-your-move action. You know your kid’s temperament, so make
sure that the game you get matches that style of playing. Not everybody
enjoys an in-your-face game experience. Regardless of the game’s theme
and popularity, if the actual play experience feels uncomfortable to you
or your child, then it just won’t work.
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Whenever possible, get a demonstration of the game. Nothing beats actually
holding the cards and walking through the game steps when selecting something new. When shopping for a child’s game, take your little one along and
involve her in the demonstration. That time lets you see firsthand how your
child reacts to the game. You can observe the difference between smiles, giggles, pouts, and boredom. Try the game, watch your child, and listen to your
gut instincts.
Beginning with the Basics for Kids
Buying games for your kids takes more than just nipping down to the local
store and picking up whatever looks new and inviting. Sure, you might find an
okay game that way, but you’ll probably miss one that better matches your
child’s interests and developmental level and gets better support from the
local player community.
Among games aimed primarily at children aged 10 and under, both Pokémon
and Yu-Gi-Oh! still rule. Pokémon (shown in Figure 14-1) appeals a little more
to the younger side of that crowd, while Yu-Gi-Oh! leans more toward the
higher age segment. Both games rely heavily on their matching TV shows to
keep interest alive and recruit new players. But as long as those shows keep
drawing an audience, you can bet that the card games will find new players.
You can read more about Pokémon in Chapter 6. Chapter 8 covers Yu-Gi-Oh!
in depth.
DuelMasters reaches kids through its larger-than-life approach to everything
from card power (something with 13,000 power points just has to be powerful) to set titles (the Epic Dragons of Hyperchaos set still earns my love
for finding a way to combine a classical term like epic with the Internetgeneration prefix hyper). Look carefully for local interest with this game,
though, because it’s most popular only in a few pockets around the country.
Kid’s games also make a fertile ground for bargain-basement game testing. If
you aren’t sure whether your kids will really enjoy a collectible game, look for
a child-oriented trading card game that’s on the way out. You can pick up
starter sets — and even entire booster displays — of dead or dying games for
pennies on the dollar. The summer conventions make great places to grab
deals on these games. Look for booths that specialize in out-of-print card
games (or, to be kind, “games suffering from waning popularity”).
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Figure 14-1:
With their
bright colors
and simple
appeal to
Revving Up the Story for Tweens
Tweens — named for the “in-between” nature of life from ages 10 to 14 —
want more from a game than a mere connection to a TV show. They revel in
having more control over their games, more power, more strategy, and more
story. Although some young players go straight from the games of their youth
into “adult” games like Magic: The Gathering, many prefer some intermediary
steps before diving headlong into the world of high competition.
For this age range, look for games that offer new strategic depth. For instance,
Anachronism gives players control over a classic figure from history or legend
in an arena-style duel. The strategy comes from Hero and Support cards each
player chooses, the order of the Support cards, the combinations that the
Support cards form, and the way each player invests her action points during
the turn. Yet for all of its depth and action, the game still plays in just five to
ten minutes — the perfect length to fit into a busy tween’s life.
Media tie-in games like Dragon Ball GT and Zatch Bell work well at this age
range. Both games feature lots of heroic-size action along with the occasional
tongue-in-cheek moment. Zatch Bell’s innovative “spell book” mechanic particularly grabs tweens because it gives them so much control over their plans
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for the game. It’s one thing to pick a group of cards that you think will work
well together, but it’s altogether different when you can pick your deck’s precise order. Whichever anime series your young adult enjoys, look for a matching game in your local store.
Tween tastes change direction like a leaf in a tornado, so don’t invest heavily
in any particular title until yours settles into it over a long period of time.
When your tween decides to move on toward something new, work with her
to pick a good match.
During these years, kids also start seriously growing into collectible miniatures games and constructible strategy games. HeroClix, Pirates of the Spanish
Main, and Race Day appeal to tweens’ need for strategy while simultaneously
feeding the “little kid” side of their personality by letting them play with “toys”
in a socially acceptable way. There’s something enchanting about collecting
little models that turn into a real, honest-to-goodness game.
Truly off-the-wall entries, like the chip-tossing game Clout Fantasy, also appeal
to tween tastes. By combining elements of both luck and skill into a single
concept — tossing your pieces into play — Clout Fantasy levels the playing
field among kids of all developmental levels. The children with the best strategy skills might not land their carefully selected chips exactly where they
hoped. Conversely, a keen eye and steady hand make up for some questionable strategic choices. One thing’s for sure: Clout Fantasy’s concept looks
innovative enough to keep the game going for a while.
Should you worry if your kids
dive into “adult” games?
In a word, no. If your child understands the
cards and the way that the game works and you
do not feel that the game’s content is inappropriate, then why not let him play?
Don’t worry if your child skips directly into adultlevel strategy games. The same goes for kids that
go in the opposite direction by hanging onto the
games they played when they were “young.”
Kids mature at wildly different rates — that’s the
way of such things. The important thing is to keep
them engaged and playing.
As a parent — and this goes double for all of
us dads out there — collectible games give
you a natural way to maintain connection and
communication with your child during these
years. Indulging in a game together gives you
the time to enjoy each other’s company. It also
provides a low-stress opportunity to simply be
available to your child. Many times, just “being
there” counts for a lot when the confusion and
change of the tween time sneak up and ambush
your kid. More than once, my children used their
“after game” time to share their thoughts and
concerns about life.
Rather than worry too much about a particular
game, revel in the fact that your children play
games — and that you get to play with them.
That’s a topic worthy of your time!
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Mixing Complexity and Depth (And Just
Plain Fun) for Teens and Adults
If you ask two game enthusiasts to name their favorite game, you’ll probably
get 10 answers back — and most of them start with “it depends.” With so
many games to choose from and so many people to play with, older players
usually develop a number of “favorite” games. Even so, they tend to follow
one game deeply, while playing several others for fun.
At the adult level, games take on an entirely new amount of complexity. The
rule books get thicker, and the accompanying rule clarification documents
eventually dwarf them! The games feature more cards, more combinations,
and more core strategies, along with a dash of edgier themes or artwork
thrown in for good measure. Flexibility of play and depth of strategy are king
among these titles.
Along with the depth and flexibility come significantly greater time and money
demands. To stay competitive in these high-end games requires a more-thancomplete set of new cards from every new release, plus the time to read the
cards, digest their capabilities, build new decks, and play-test them until
you’re drooling all over the deck protectors. Sure, you can play at a “casual”
level, but these games really shine when you kick your skills into high gear.
The top players can earn their way into reward-rich national and international
tournaments or even start playing their favorite games professionally — with
the chance to make real money at the same time!
At the top of this class, you find the granddaddy of all trading card games,
Magic: The Gathering (see Chapter 4). Magic boasts one of the largest number
of card releases, the most active player base, and one of the richest professional tournament series in gaming. Through an ongoing lineup of local tournaments, Magic also cultivates new players by giving them some protection
against the top competitors while they build experience (and their associated
card collections). If you want to get serious about a game, you can’t go wrong
with Magic.
If superheroes capture your interest more than the fantasy creatures inhabiting Magic, take the popular Marvel and DC Vs. System games for a spin (see
Chapter 5). The Vs. System gives you as much strategy and fast-paced play as
Magic but lets comic-book enthusiasts play with the characters they know and
love. Like Magic, the Vs. System offers a rewarding professional tour system,
plus lots of local and regional events, leading up to the nationals each summer.
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Anime series that appeal to an older demographic often get their own games,
just like the kid’s series do. The Fullmetal Alchemist show, for instance, plays
during Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” segment of the evening. It appeals
primarily to older teens and adults. The show’s game picks up many of its onscreen themes and visuals and translates them into cards. Because the game
aims at an older audience, the game’s creators can indulge in an occasional
“revealing moment,” such as displaying some of the sexy Psiren’s, um, attributes in a hard-to-find alternate artwork chase card (shown in Figure 14-2).
Figure 14-2:
some series
target older
can reveal
more in
their card
Companies that make and market miniatures games also want to draw the
attention (and the money) of older players, but they do it mostly by appealing to the players’ interests, such as science fiction. Whether the game relies
on a serious combat and strategy approach (like the MechWarrior miniatures
game) or a cheeky wink-wink-nod-nod funkiness (as with the constructible
strategy game Rocketmen), older players still thrive on the strategy that
drives these games.
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Part III: Shuffling through the Rest of the Decks
Scaring Your Kids to Death (Or Not)
Some games look fascinating. Others look intriguing. Still others look unusual
enough to make you want to give them a try. And then there are games that
look like an inviting field of rusty razor blades just begging you to come out
for a nice barefoot walk.
Very few games descend into that last category, but some appear from time
to time. Luckily, they never last long in the marketplace, and they rarely draw
more than cursory attention. In fact, I almost hesitate mentioning any in here
for fear that I’ll accidentally drum up your interest for them despite trying to
warn you away.
Games landing in this area typically fall into the horror genre, although it’s
not a universal truth. Fantasy Flight’s Call of Cthulhu (Figure 14-3; see Chapter
13 for more info about it) unquestionably thrives on horror, but it’s a solid
game with a good literary underpinning. Granted, some of the card art might
keep you up nights or inspire you to sleep with the lights on (both in your
bedroom and in the closet . . . and in the hall . . . and pretty much everywhere
else, too), but the game experience still includes solid play value. At its heart,
it’s a solid game.
Figure 14-3:
its eerie
Call of
doesn’t use
art for shock
value, but to
build the
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Play value really separates the releases that count on mere shock and schlock
from the games that use horror as an integral part of the story. After all, does
the world really need any more occult-overtoned death-and-destruction games
aimed at sullen teenagers? (Personally, I don’t think so, but nobody asks me
for insight on these things.)
Seriously, if you’re buying for your children, please invest some time to learn
about the game. You don’t need to know all of the gory details and combo
strategies, but you do need know enough to make an informed decision.
Understanding the basics about a game also cuts down the possibility of
knee-jerk reactions to an odd card or game term that happens to float out of
the game and into your world, particularly if the game comes from the horror
genre. Having some game knowledge also communicates to your kids that
you care, that you’re interested, and that they aren’t getting away with something behind your back.
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Part IV
Diving Deeper
into the Hobby
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In this part . . .
s a kid, I rode my bike everywhere. Some summers, I
felt like I lived on that bicycle. But despite my enduring appreciation for my two-wheeled transport, I never
felt the urge to take it for a spin on a velodrome track, to
careen up and down the hills of a BMX course, or to enter
myself in a long-distance race. (Inspired by a movie, I briefly
toyed with the idea of becoming a bike messenger . . . but I
With any hobby, there’s a difference between dabbling
and really diving in deep. I dabbled with my bike; one of
my friends became a semi-professional racer. In the end,
we both enjoyed what we did with our bikes, even though
we took radically different paths with them.
Collectible gaming works the same way. You can dabble
in this game or that and have a great time. You can also go
headlong into a game with the goal of winning a national
championship — or even hitting a pro tour! Choose
whichever route you want to take and then take it.
Collectible games truly let you set your own course!
That’s why I put this part into the book. It explains the
kinds of things you can do in collectible gaming if you
want to get more involved. Whether you decide to join the
tournament scene, assemble a massive collection of
gaming goodies, create a part-time (or even full-time)
card-selling business, or begin organizing and running
tournaments, there’s a corner of the hobby that fits you
perfectly. Go forth and find it!
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Chapter 15
Rising Above the Tabletop
in Paint and Plastic
In This Chapter
䊳 A look at how this crazy thing started
䊳 Figuring out what makes a collectible miniatures game so much fun
䊳 Playing your game on a board
䊳 Commanding the troops over any battlefield, anywhere
䊳 Sailing through dark oceans of adventure with build-it-yourself pieces
here’s something exotic and enticing about miniatures games. Moving
them around the terrain, seeing them poised to strike — the whole effect
leaves you feeling like a general issuing orders to a miniature army. (Okay,
maybe it’s a somewhat geeky power thing, but I digress.)
After collectible miniatures games exploded onto the scene in 1999, they
grew steadily until they established themselves as a true stand-alone segment of games. With their unique playing style and cool-looking 3-D pieces,
these games mix the best components of traditional miniatures games with
the addictive qualities that drive collectible card games. The result keeps
even the most die-hard game player happy (and collecting, too).
This chapter helps you dive into the world of collectible miniatures games. It
opens with a quick history of the game segment, touching on where it came
from and whom your significant other can blame for your endless boxes of
figures. From there, I look at a number of popular games in this genre, giving
you a quick overview of each system.
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A Miniature History
Once upon a time, back when the world was so new and all, a man named
Jordan Weisman sat down to play a miniatures game with one of his young
sons. Jordan knew a lot about miniatures games because his company, FASA
Corporation, published several of them.
On this particular day, frustration — rather than fun — reigned at the table.
Although Jordan and Son really did want to play, the game’s imposing rules
and hours of preparation time (spent assembling and painting the game
pieces themselves) put off the younger Weisman. Although he found the
miniatures game concept interesting, he wished for a simpler game that he
and his dad could just sit down and play. Couldn’t somebody else put the figures together and paint everything?
His son’s frustration got Jordan thinking. What would it take to make a game
like his son described? It would play fast and simply, straight out of the box.
The pieces would come pre-assembled and painted. Instead of page after
page of tracking sheets, each piece would somehow carry its own statistics.
Borrowing a page from the world of trading card games, the pieces would
come in randomly packed starters and boosters. The starter set would
include the basic rules, plus a chart of the pieces’ special abilities. Like a traditional miniatures game, this new concept would work on any flat surface,
with measurements made in inches.
From that primordial idea stew, Jordan developed Mage Knight, the first collectible miniatures game. The gaming community wholeheartedly embraced
Mage Knight (and purchased it in large quantities). With that victory under
his belt, he expanded the concept to all kinds of new genres, including superheroes, giant combat robots, and even major league baseball.
Of course, that kind of success automatically whets the competitive appetites
in other companies. Within a few years, several firms developed and released
their own twists on the collectible miniatures game concept. Today, prepainted collectible miniatures games solidly form their own unique niche
within the collectible game world.
Elements of a Collectible
Miniatures Game
All collectible miniatures games follow the same basic pattern, although
(thanks to the world of patent law) each manufacturer puts its own unique spin
on the details. Sure, each game’s storyline and setting vary wildly, but if you
scrape the surface just a bit, it’s easy to see the industry’s shared heritage.
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At their heart, then, all collectible miniatures games share these basic design
⻬ Ready to play, straight from the box: More than anything else, this marks
the biggest break between traditional miniatures games and collectible
ones. Traditional games focus on deep, complex rule sets and revel in the
hobby aspects of preparing the game pieces for battle. Collectible games
move the player straight into what many folks feel is the fun part — playing the game — as quickly as possible. To do this, they sacrifice much of
the depth and flexibility of the traditional games, substituting ease of play
and consistency instead.
⻬ Prepainted pieces: To gain that “ready-to-play” aspect, collectible game
pieces arrive prepainted. Sure, the paint jobs don’t look mind-bogglingly
beautiful, but hey — they’re painted, and you didn’t have to do it. If you
really want beautifully rendered shading (or if your favorite figure’s
cross-eyed stare drives you nuts), you can always retouch the pieces
⻬ Self-contained statistics: Traditional miniatures games track game
statistics with an endless array of tables, charts, and sundry pieces of
paper. Collectible games accomplish the same thing with innovations like
WizKids’ combat dial or the stat cards in the Wizards of the Coast games.
By attaching the play statistics to each individual gamepiece, collectible
games keep the players focused on the action rather than the rulebooks.
⻬ Played on either a board or a tabletop: Most classic miniatures games
play on a plain tabletop, using rulers to measure distance, to figure
ranges, to determine the areas of different combat effects, and generally
to drive the entire game. While some collectible games (notably Mage
Knight, MechWarrior, and the popular Pirates games, all from WizKids)
follow this tradition of free-form tabletop play, other games simplified
the measuring system by moving the play area to a board. Some games,
such as Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game,
use a square grid map, while others go for a bit more flexibility by using
a hexagonal grid, like the Lord of the Rings Tradeable Miniatures Game,
by Sabertooth Games.
⻬ Collectability makes some pieces hard to find: The whole collectability
aspect remains the biggest difference between traditional and collectible
miniatures games. In a classic miniatures game, everybody automatically
gets access to the same pool of pieces. If you want 12 of a particular
piece, you just purchase and paint them. To accomplish the same thing
with a collectible game, you either buy a lot of boosters and hope for the
best, trade with your friends, or turn to secondary markets like eBay or
the singles rack at your friendly local game store or convention exhibit
hall. Although this sometimes leads to a syndrome in which “he who
spends the most on his army wins the most games,” players inevitably
find new ways to prove themselves by combining cheap, readily-available
pieces in new and unexpected ways.
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Although collectible miniatures games broke new ground in the industry, as
times goes on, these games look back over their collective shoulder at the
traditional miniatures world to find new interpretations of classic ideas. For
instance, most of the top collectible games offer some non-collectible pieces
available for individual purchase.
These special pieces are usually huge (sometimes 10 to 15 times the size of a
regular gamepiece), making them impossible to put into a booster box. They
also typically focus on one particular aspect of the game’s story line. The Star
Wars Miniatures Game, for instance, offers a massive AT-AT walker as a separate piece for people who want to re-create the battle on the ice planet of
Hoth — or who simply want to cruise around the battlefield in a towering
vehicle of mechanized destruction.
Putting Your Team on a Board
For someone coming to miniatures games from the much larger world of board
games, playing a miniatures game with a board of some kind eases the transition. The board also simplifies measuring distances during gameplay because
you really can’t argue over how close two figures are when you simply need to
count the spaces that separate them.
The following sections explore the most popular of the board-based collectible miniatures games. Although each game uses some unique playing
styles, features, and storylines, they all share the underlying mechanic of
either a square grid or hexagonal marked playing surface.
Can you play these games without the board for a more challenging and realistic scenario? Sure! If you want a different challenge, put away the board and
get out your ruler. That’s the beauty of collectible games: Ultimately, you get
to play them in any way that you want!
Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures
Wizards of the Coast
Dungeons & Dragons captivates players today the way it did when it first
appeared over 30 years ago. Bands of heroes, thieves, clerics, and more fight
monsters, save captured characters, heal from wounds (hopefully), and collect their gold for a well-run adventure. Then the band gathers again the next
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weekend to continue the skirmish or to embark upon a new adventure.
Adventure after adventure, those little statistics on paper come to life as the
thief gains skill at his craft, the hero adds to her strength, and that little
magic-user they picked up in November turns out to be a fair spell-wielder
after all.
Game players who always wanted to roleplay get their wish with D&D
Miniatures. It takes the swash-buckling, gold-grabbing fantasy world of
Dungeons & Dragons and places it squarely into the palm of the player’s
hand . . . in plastic.
Unlike most of the noncollectible miniatures games on the market, which
sometimes require over 100 figures to create a passable army, D&D Miniatures
creates its army, called a warband, in the same way players gather together to
play the role-playing game. The numbers aren’t large — a two-player starter
set comes with twelve pieces, and players spend 100 points or less to assemble a warband. Each miniature also comes with a statistics card. One side of
the card looks like a trading card and lists that character’s type (Magical
Beast, Dwarf), cost to play, ability level, speed, armor class, hit points, and
special abilities. The other side of the stat card gives you all the information
you need to develop a character sheet (a list of the vital details about any
character, for instance strengths) for that miniature and use it in a regular
Dungeons & Dragons game. Clever, eh?
In addition to stat cards and the miniatures themselves, a D&D Miniatures
starter also comes with a 20-sided die, counters, a rulebook, and a battle grid,
which is a play mat with nothing but 1-inch squares blocked out on a gray
background. The set includes several 5-x-8-inch tile pieces for each player to
put on top of the battle grid as terrain. Handily, the 1-inch squares on both
the battle grid and the movable tile pieces are the perfect size for roleplaying
as well, so miniatures players who also play the D&D roleplaying game can
use the grid and tiles in their other games, as well as with the miniatures.
While the miniature figures in Dungeons & Dragons have types, such as Dwarf,
Elf, and Dragon, they also have alignment — that quality that determines how
dependably good, or how dependably evil, the character might be. Alignment
is actually the roleplaying term; in keeping with the trading card game customs, every D&D miniature belongs to one of four factions: Lawful Good,
Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good, or Chaotic Evil. Players choose a faction and then
build an army around that faction.
D&D Miniatures appeared in 2003; since then, expansion sets (along with
their important additions to the game) include the following:
⻬ Aberrations: Unnatural monsters
⻬ Angelfire: Angels and demons
⻬ Archfiends: Evil characters
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⻬ Deathknell: Dead and the undead
⻬ Dragoneye: Dragons
⻬ Giants of Legend Huge Pack: Large figures
⻬ Harbinger: Basic figures
⻬ Underdark: Dungeon dwellers and monsters
In addition, players can purchase the D&D Miniatures Handbook, a hardbound book that contains the rules in depth.
While the D&D Miniatures Web site might look like your ordinary Internet site,
it contains a huge amount of information and is worth some serious exploration. You can find an online demo, expansion set lists, and tournament
information — including a tournament locator. Use the online Warband
Generator to help assemble a Warband for your next skirmish. While you’re
there, take a look at the printable maps and terrain tiles — there are even
some foldable paper models to use during the game. (You can find the
models in the list of 2004 D&D Miniatures articles archives.)
Star Wars Miniatures
Wizards of the Coast
Once again, the two factions face off: the well-armored Imperial Stormtroopers
battle the ragged but determined Rebel Alliance. While it looks as though the
troopers will win this round, the Rebels have Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi on
their side, an expert in using the Force. As we all know from watching the Star
Wars movies again and again, the Force changes everything.
These miniatures take the Star Wars universe off the screen and out of the
fans’ heads and place it on the tabletop in solid plastic. Players can recreate
their favorite scenarios using the characters they love, or combine figures in a
way never portrayed on the Hollywood set. They’re also molded in a size that
makes them perfect character representations for the Star Wars Roleplaying
Game. The figures provide a physical entity in front of the roleplayer to match
the pencil-and-paper character.
Star Wars is designed for two, three, or four players who gather around a
tabletop battle grid with a handful of figures that create their army, called a
squad. A squad can cost up to 100 points to build, and it must consist of figures from one of the two factions, The Galactic Empire or The Rebel Alliance.
(Star Wars also contains figures that fall into an independent Fringe faction.
Its members can fight for either side.) A starter box comes with 10 figures;
each figure has a statistics (stat) card that lists its cost, faction, individual
fighting statistics, and special abilities. Some figures, such as the Elite
Snowtrooper, have no special abilities. They’re simply straight fighters.
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In addition to the figures and cards, a starter box also contains terrain tiles,
dice, tabletop battle grid, and a rulebook. Star Wars offers a very welldesigned rulebook, with plenty of illustrations to show exactly how the figures move and attack on the battle grid. The battle grid goes on the tabletop
to function as a playing mat; one side of the grid is plain with 1-inch squares,
while the other side features a printed map. Players use the map side for a
scenario with preset terrain, or they can use the terrain tiles on the map’s
blank side to design their own play spaces.
Star Wars expansion sets contain both starters and boosters for each set.
Boosters, which help round out the player’s set and provide options for
increased strategy, include seven figures with stat cards. The first four Star
Wars releases were Rebel Storm in 2004, Clone Strike, Revenge of the Sith, and
Universe. Each set contained 60 figures; quite tiny for a trading card game, but
a respectable number for a closed universe like Star Wars. Rebel Storm, the
introductory set, saw a quick sellout and is now currently out of production.
A visit to the Web site reveals an online demo and figure lists for each release
set. Also take a peek in the article archives to find lots of scenarios to print
off and run, as well as an article called Holiday Tiles. Holiday Tiles gives
you two new Tatooine terrain tiles for use in scenarios. May the Force be
with you.
Navia Dratp
Long ago, in the time after the last Ice Age, a group of sorcerers banded
together into the Seven Elder Councilmen to search for the last of the Navia,
mystically-empowered humans who have the power to summon a chaotic
god into the world and thus plunge the world into unending suffering. The
Elder Councilmen strive to locate the strongest of the Navia, for only she can
summon the god and assist the Councilmen’s goal of complete control. As
the story unfolds, the Elder Councilmen (being sorcerers, after all) engineer
events so that one after another, the Navia surface. Along with them come
their Maseitai, guardian dragon-like creatures who guard each Navia and do
her (spoken or unspoken) bidding.
Navia Dratp (pronounced “drap”) combines a variant of Shogi, Japanese chess,
with gorgeous anime-influenced figures and an unfolding storyline. Two players assemble their forces, consisting of one Navia and seven Maseitai. The
players control the Navia, and the Navia control the Maseitai. In addition, the
game uses nine flat pieces called Gulleds (seven black, two red) which act
somewhat like chess pawns. Each player’s Gyullas, jewel-like pieces in white,
blue, and orange, act as currency in the game.
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All the Navia Dratp figures have the ability to dratp — change actions suddenly and drastically, often resulting in the acquisition of a special power —
during the game. Each figure’s base holds a turnable disk. The game begins
with all figures un-dratped; each figure’s disk shows its moving ability. The
only figure on the 7-x-7 square board at the beginning of the game is each
player’s Navia, surrounded by the Gulled pieces. During a turn, a player can
activate a Maseitai from where the Maseitei stand in a line behind the Navia,
waiting to be summoned. Moving a flat Gulled piece gains currency for a
player; one Gyulla jewel each time a black piece is moved forward, or three
Gyullas for a red one. Capturing a Gulled piece awards the capturer one
Through moving and capturing Gulled pieces, a player builds his cash
stash — which is a good thing, because it costs to Dratp a Maseitai. To Dratp
a Maseitai, the player pays the Gyulla amount written on the figure’s disk and
then flips the disk to show the Dratp side. All of a sudden, that figure’s movement changes — sometimes radically — and it frequently adds a special ability. One figure, for instance, gains the ability to ricochet off the edge of the
board in movement, sending it down the board at an angle.
Each Maseitai comes with an Attribute card, which helps players track each
figure’s movement, Dratp movement, and special abilities. It also keeps players from grabbing a piece from the board during play and turning it upside
down to read the attributes from the bottom, an error that occurred quite
often during my first game. While Navia figures have Attribute cards as well,
they have no real use because all Navia move the same way, and once a Navia
Dratps, the game is over. Players win Navia Dratp in one of three ways: gain
Gyullas and use them to Dratp the Navia; move the Navia all the way across
the board over the border and into the opponent’s Maseitei keep, the closest
line to the opposite player, (called a Line Over or Navia Goal); checkmate an
opponent’s Navia.
Thus far, Navia Dratp consists of the original release, called Unleashed
Darkness, and one expansion, Resurgence. Resurgence packages include one
fully-painted figure in each booster box of three figures. Each player needs a
starter set for Navia Dratp, which contains the modified chess-style board,
one painted Navia, seven Maseitai, nine Gulled, eight Attribute cards, seventeen Gyulla crystals, and the rulebook. Truly exquisitely designed figures, the
Maseitai come uncolored and cast in a dark pewter-like plastic. Two painted
Navia appear as chase figures — the most valuable pieces in the package to a
collector — in the booster sets, and boosters also include new Maseitai figures and pieces cast in colored, metallic-style plastic. Colored figures give
players the option to double Maseitai on a team; normally all the Maseitai figures in the game must be unique.
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Part of the Navia Dratp strategy centers around Maseitai selection for a
player’s Force. Unlike other collectable games, a Navia Force has no point
cap. Players can make their force as strong as they like. However, regardless
of the Force makeup, Navia still require 60 Gyullas to Dratp. Each time an
opponent captures a player’s Maseitai, the opponent gains that Maseitai’s
Dratp cost in Gyullas. Capturing a few high-cost Maseitai could mean a quick
end to the game.
The Navia Dratp Web site contains an explanation of the game rules and a
tournament list under Organized Play. The Calendar on the main site lists
no tournaments, but loads of tournaments appear in the Bandai Organized
Games Tournament lists. In addition, look on the Web site for the unfolding
Navia Dratp story and a full list of pieces in the game, along with the story
text that goes with each figure, a view of the piece, and its movement and
special abilities.
Lord of the Rings
Standing together, their forces gathered, the companies prepare for battle.
Today’s landscape differs a bit from the day before; yesterday the combatants fought over a river, while today’s skirmish takes them to the daunting
walls of a forbidding castle. Anticipating fierce fighting, the group waits with
barely concealed exhilaration at the thought of the fracas ahead. In the dim
morning hours, they watch the enemy assemble his forces across the plain.
Soon, all too soon, today’s victor will arise, as the vanquished slink away
amid wounds and worse.
Lord of the Rings captures the flair and the feeling of the massive movie battles from the movie trilogy. Create either a good or evil army and assemble
the troops on one of the available terrain maps. Each map features hexagonal
spaces to show where individual figures move as they cross the board, and
the hex map spaces correlate with the Combat Hex that forms each figure’s
base. For really big movie-style battles, the individual maps fit together to
form one big playing field.
This is a game of leaders commanding their troops, much like a traditional
historical or fantasy miniatures game that uses many pieces to build a battle
scenario. Each army must have leaders and followers. Heroes lead their minions into battle; the action-point slide on one side of the leader’s base determines the number of followers that hero commands. Leaders are easy to
spot, just like in real life. A Lord of the Rings Leader stands on a dark green
base (referred to as a Combat Hex), while a normal warrior has a light green
Combat Hex.
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Expanding your horizons into noncollectible minis
In the beginning, miniatures games didn’t come
in booster packs. You didn’t hope to pull the right
figure from a sealed box; you simply bought the
figure you wanted straight off the shelf. Granted,
the figure came unassembled and unpainted,
but that was part of the fun. You expected to
spend time making the new figure truly yours by
building, customizing, and painting it to match
the rest of your army.
Non-collectible miniatures games still command a huge portion of the game market.
Whether you want to play in traditional swordand-sorcery fantasy realms, explore the future,
or try your hand at a steampunk or magicmeets-high-tech genre, you can find a miniatures game to meet your dreams.
As I mention elsewhere, you don’t simply crack
open a box and start playing a traditional miniatures game. First, you assemble the figures, and
(depending on the game system) customize
them to your liking by changing out their
weapons and other appendages. From there,
you paint your troops according to whatever
color scheme you pick. Finally, after all of that,
you’re ready to grab that (usually) very large
rulebook that came with the starter set and
learn the game.
For a quick introduction to the traditional miniatures games, take a look at futuristic games like
Battletech (Iron Wind Metals), CAV (Reaper),
Heavy Gear (Dream Pod 9), Rezolution DT
(Aberrant Games), Starship Troopers (Mongoose
Publishing), and Warhammer 40,000 (Games
Workshop). For a more fantasy-driven experience, try the steampunk-style Warmachine
(Privateer Press) or classic fantasy settings like
the Lord of the Rings or Warhammer Fantasy
(both from Games Workshop). If history strikes
your interest, take a look at the World War II
game, Flames of War (Battlefront). Check them
out at your friendly local game store!
If you really want to dive into model collecting and
painting of historical miniatures, give De Bellis
Antiquitatis from Wargames Research Group —
otherwise known as DBA — a shot to stage real
historical battles with amazingly accurate reproductions of period soldiers and horses.
To simulate the strength of heroes compared to their minions (and perhaps
to further strengthen the similarity between Lord of the Rings and traditional
miniatures games), the game uses a lot of dice. It uses handfuls of dice. Some
leaders may get five dice per attack; plus, if an army is sneaky enough to
attack a foe from behind, the player gets to roll extra dice for well-executed
strategy. Personally, I think it’s really because it sounds so impressive when a
handful of dice hit the table for an attack roll. The sound often brings people
from across the room. They want to see what game could be important
enough to require all those dice.
Even though the game is usually played good side against evil, nothing prohibits two good armies from battling or evil fighting evil. Good against evil,
however, maintains the original storyline, so this is the way most players
prefer. Each player’s goal is to reduce an opponent’s army by half (or more)
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of its figures. For example, if each player begins with a dozen figures, the first
player to reduce his opponent’s army to six or fewer figures wins the game.
However, Lord of the Rings also offers a couple other avenues for triumph. If
a player uses Frodo as the Ring-bearer and manages to get Frodo across the
board, she wins the game. Alternatively, an evil army who kills Frodo automatically succeeds as well. Thus, playing Frodo can earn praise or peril.
Normally a Lord of the Rings army costs around 1,000 to 1,500 points per
game, but a game can cost as much or as little as both players agree upon.
Higher point totals enable players to use bigger or more powerful figures —
which, in turn, allow more dice to hit the table — and some of the special figures can get pretty big. Large figures include favorites from the movies such
as the Cave Troll, Treebeard, Balrog, and Sauron himself!
After it’s selected and placed on the terrain map, a player’s army moves as a
unit. During a turn, one player’s figures all do something — they move, attack,
or hold their position. Then the other player responds with his entire army.
After each figure either moves into position, begins an attack, or remains stationary, then the armies move into a combat phase in which groups standing
within combat range resolve their conflicts. Figures move and attack, move
and attack, until half a player’s figures are gone or Frodo is either victorious
or dead.
Figures have five levels shown on the base’s sliders or wheels. White shows
that the figure came in the starter set, while orange indicates a level 1 figure,
red marks level 2, purple marks level 3, and dark blue marks a level 4 figure.
(Grouped with other figures, the dark blue sliders look almost black.) In
addition, each figure base also displays a symbol that marks the figure as
common, uncommon, rare, ultra-rare, or promotional.
After the first set appeared, Sabertooth redesigned the figure bases and
replaced the sliders with small inset wheels to show a figure’s levels. You
might think that the sliders would jiggle out of position during play and cause
an argument in the middle of a game; actually, they’re pretty tightly wedged
into the bases and tend to stay where they’re positioned. The redesign was
due to figure limits — with the sliders, only six or seven positions fit comfortably on the base track; the wheels show nine numerals with ease. The wheels
gave the designers more flexibility. They do make it more difficult to tell the
figure’s rarity from afar, though, because the wheels hide inside the base
more than the sliding handles do.
Since its original release in 2003, Lord of the Rings saw several expansions,
including the original Lord of the Rings Starter and Booster sets, Fellowship of
the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Paths of the Dead. Each set incorporates
new figures, advanced levels, and increased strategy options. Checklists for
all the expansion sets lie tucked away on the Lord of the Rings Web site.
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Also see the Web site for tournament rules and organized play information,
including a list of all the upcoming tournaments along with each event’s
scheduled prizes. This is a nice touch — players know exactly what they’re
competing for before they sign up for a tournament. The Web site also contains an army list form (to keep track of your forces during a game) and hex
grids (so players can build their own maps if they’re so inclined). The site’s
Battle Lore section contains articles on strategy and rules variations that
might intrigue players familiar with the game.
Playing on Any Handy Flat Surface
It doesn’t take much to launch a quick game of miniatures with your friends.
In fact, all you need is your army, a ruler, some dice, and a relatively flat place
to play. It doesn’t even need to be totally flat — in fact, some of the best battles take place on uneven terrain, filled with mock hills and dotted with pretend swamps.
All of the following games give you the freedom to play without a board. You
get to design the landscape for each game based on your team’s strategy.
Gather your forces, grab your terrain, and head into battle — but don’t forget
your ruler!
Mage Knight
Mage Knight brings the world of prepainted elves, fairies, and magic users
into the realm of plastic (See Figure 15-1). Each figure sits on a plastic disc
base that has the figure’s statistics built right into it, so there’s no book to
consult endlessly and no gamemaster to appeal to. (Well, the game does have
tournament directors during tournament play, but they function more as the
judges of the realm than as masters of all they survey.)
Mage Knight revolves around a land of endless conflict and conquest. A dozen
factions populate the Mage Knight lands, each with its own strength and its
own opinion of the other eleven. (Depending on the list you use and the way
you count them, Mage Knight may offer as few as 9 factions or as many as 16.
Count ’em your way and see what you come up with.) Dragons, orcs, and
wraiths duke it out on a battlefield strewn with obstacles, called blocking terrain, as they fight to retain or grasp control of an object, called the objective.
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At the end of 50 minutes of playing time, the player in control of the objective
wins. Wiping out an opponent’s army also wins the game.
While a perfectly usable objective disc comes with each starter set, players
often substitute their own objectives to better suit their scenario. Armies
may find themselves fighting over a plastic jewel, a small treasure box, or a
chocolate coin — or is it only in my games that we battle over chocolate?
(Each December, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company produces chocolate
coins worth fighting over, but I digress.)
Each Mage Knight figure’s base has a combat dial built into it. Together, the
base and the dial function as the informational unit for the figure. Most players call the two parts the base collectively. The figure’s base shows its combat
arc, which is the space the miniature uses to fire at other figures. Most Mage
Knight figures don’t have the ability to fire from their backsides, much like real
life. Thus, a Mage Knight combat arc might allow a figure to shoot only within
the 45 degrees that lie right in front of its face. The base also reveals the
figure’s faction, speed, and range, as well as other levels and abilities. Players
turn the combat dial for each point of damage a figure incurs when attacked;
when the dial shows three skulls, the figure is out of the game.
Figure 15-1:
Elydia is a
healer with
a good
making her
a valuable
addition to
your game.
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Players assemble their armies from the host of figures available. Usually,
players concentrate their army-building efforts on a single faction or one
overriding skill, but players can mix Mage Knight factions freely. Each game
has its own point cost, usually between 200 and 400 points. More than 400
points per army could signify a really long game — one you might want to
attend with pizza money in addition to an assembled army.
One neat facet of the Mage Knight miniatures (besides the combat dial, which
was revolutionary in miniatures games when WizKids developed it) is a
figure’s ability to customize. Some figures come with larger bases measuring
a full 11⁄2 inches across. These bases contain little slots that can hold various
item paddles — small plastic pieces that players punch from item data cards
to equip their warriors. Items give exceptional fighting ability, such as the
Wand of Fencing that gives a figure the ability to parry, or increased sensitivity through an item like the Bracers of the Ranger, which allows Elementals to
feel the vibrations of the trees. (This item-carrying ability also exists within
the world of MechWarrior, also a WizKids game. See the MechWarrior section
in this chapter for more details.)
Mage Knight has been around in its new incarnation since 2003; an earlier,
less-refined Mage Knight appeared in 1999 or so. First-edition figures, for the
most part, are incompatible with Mage Knight 2.0, the Mage Knight of today.
While WizKids released several expansion sets for the earlier game, they
also developed several current expansion sets that are compatible with the
second-edition rule set and feature the redesigned figure base. They include
Mage Knight 2.0 Starters and Boosters, the original 2.0 set; Dark Riders;
Sorcery; Omens; and Nexus.
Mage Knight is currently out of production, but it might come back in any
number of ways. For now, lots of figures remain available, tournaments continue, and the Web site thrives. Visit the Web site to download some nice 3-D
terrain models to print and build for Mage Knight scenarios. The site also
offers a nice set of articles on building terrain, divided into three crafting
skill levels — useful no matter what miniatures game you might play. New or
enthusiastic players with lots of playing time on their hands can look for the
long list of past official tournament scenarios they can download and play.
The year is 3135. Factions of the future battle for supremacy and control.
BattleMechs, the jewels of the battlefield, stand three stories tall and bristle
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with weaponry. Piloted by remarkably trained MechWarriors, humans with
devotion, training, and skill, these battle machines dominate the battlefields
they survey. Supported by infantry units and vehicles, the BattleMechs (or
Mechs) strike terror and awe into the hearts of all who see them. Nearly invincible, they shine in places other units would be destroyed. The MechWarrior
struggle pits Mech against Mech with the planet Terra as prize.
MechWarrior players command an army comprising one or more Mechs,
Vehicles, and Units. Each figure has a point cost; MechWarrior armies usually
total to about 450. While an army doesn’t require a Mech, the large figures
bring a lot of complexity to the game. Besides, they look really cool on the
As you can see in Figure 15-2, each MechWarrior figure sits on a base. The
base provides all the information for the figure — its defense and attack
values, range of attack, and speed and damage levels. If the piece is a Mech,
an additional dial shows the machine’s heat level. Every time a Mech does
something, it generates heat. Moving a Mech gives the heat dial one click, as
does combat. Too many heat clicks and the heat begins to affect the Mech’s
weapons and movement. Once heated, a Mech can cool by venting, which
reverses the clicks on the heat dial, but that requires letting the Mech rest
instead of issuing a movement or combat command.
Players can customize their Mechs with specific pilots and special abilities.
Plastic paddles that punch out of data cards fit into slots in the Mech base.
This alters a Mech’s equipment or gives the Mech specific advantages in
movement or combat. Like almost everything that enhances a figure in a
miniatures game, the paddles cost points to use.
Figure 15-2:
Battle for
control of
planet Terra
with Mechs
Violator and
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Bases also indicate firing range. An arc printed on the base shows the allowable range that a figure can fire; outside that range, firing is impossible. While
a few figures have a firing arc that extends a full 360 degrees, such as the DI
Morgan Assault Tank with its revolving turret, most figures’ arcs fall within
180 degrees or less.
In addition to firing ranges, the figures themselves feature three different
types of weapons for combat: ballistic, energy, and melee (hand-to-hand
combat). Each weapon type comes with its own range; if an enemy stands too
close or too far away, the miniature cannot attack. MechWarrior ranges refer
to one-inch increments, and a ruler comes with each MechWarrior starter set.
MechWarrior has seen several expansions since its first appearance in 2002. In
fact, the original base starter set was replaced with new starters and updated
rules in 2005 with the release of Age of Destruction. At least three booster sets
appeared after Age of Destruction, all featuring the updated rules.
While MechWarrior contains some rather complicated playing rules, WizKids
offers several options outside of regular tournament play that help keep the
game fresh and alive. [email protected] scenarios, downloadable from the Web site,
consist of several non-tournament legal scenarios that MechWarrior players
can enjoy just for fun. WizKids also offers special tournaments that are storyline events. These scenarios follow the MechWarrior tales and current storyline, allowing fans to enact the stories they love.
Also visit the Web site for fiction, Technical Read-Outs (set lists), and past
official scenarios that players can print and use in free play. Printable action
tokens wait for downloading on the site in case you lost yours, and the site
contains official terrain printouts for tournaments (although anyone can use
them). Terrain plays a very important role in MechWarrior, especially with the
Mechs themselves. MechWarrior players commonly put water terrain down
because water cools the mech. They act as a deterrent to tanks and infantry
units (both yours and your enemy’s), but they help to reverse the Mech’s
heat clicks.
Sailing Your Fleet through
Water and Space
The final two games in this chapter form their own little sub-section of collectible miniatures games. Given their innovative nature, it shouldn’t surprise
anyone that both games come from WizKids, the company that started collectible miniatures gaming.
Both Pirates and Rocketmen are constructible miniatures games. Although they
come in booster packs, just like the other games in this realm, these games
arrive preprinted on plastic cards that resemble demented credit card
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blanks. Each card includes a preprinted, die-cut section of your ship (be it
space or sea-going). You need to take a few moments to carefully punch out
the pieces and assemble the ship before playing.
This technique lets you carry a large number of playing pieces in a relatively
small binder, which is a welcomed change from the ever-growing “tub of figures” you get by playing most collectible miniatures games.
If you never tried either of these games, start with a few packs of Pirates. It
introduces the “build-it-yourself” game piece concept very well, and makes a
nice transition to Rocketmen. Enjoy!
Ahoy there, matey! Grab yer gear and climb aboard. We’re off to search for gold
on many an isle. Mind yer guns, though — we’re not the only pirates on the sea.
This beauty here, she’s got guns to spare. Pandora’s her name, and she holds a
treasure box of surprises for ships daring enough to try to gun ’er down.
Build your ships, set your isles, plunk down your gold, and you’re ready to
sail the seas with Pirates, the constructible strategy game (CSG). The beauty
of this miniatures game is that you build your own models from plastic parts
that come pressed into credit-card sized sheets. After a player constructs the
ship, the card blank becomes that ship’s data card as well as its movement
and firing measure. Pandora, for example, is a gorgeous, tightly-built, threemasted ship that can carry seven points’ worth of gold or crew, and she
moves up to the length of the card blank (a Long range movement) with
every turn. Small ships require one or two cards’ worth of plastic to build
them, while large ship parts require three entire cards.
The goal of Pirates is to build a stunning fleet, sail the seas, and bring back
gold to your home island while attacking your opponent’s ships (if you succeed and the ship sinks, you get any gold it might be carrying) and protecting
your own. One game pack is all it takes to get into the game. The game pack
contains two ships, gold or crew pieces, a die, rules, and an island. Players
build their ranks based on a point system; 30 points’ worth of ships and crew
is the usual standard. In the Pirates of the Spanish Main pack I opened last,
I found two Pirate ships: the Pandora, worth 11 points, and the glorious
Revenant, a five-masted ship that costs 15 points to sail. Those two ships
take me to 26 points; I can stop there or look for some inexpensive crew
that might give my ship a nifty special ability or two.
When the game is over, each model can be deconstructed and replaced back
into its card blank for storage. These cards can then go into individual card
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sleeves, be filed into a card box like regular trading cards, or can slide into
individual slots in a binder sheet (my preferred method of storage because
then I can see several ships at a time while glancing through the binder later.)
Some players build their fleet and then keep it intact. They store unconstructed cards in some way, and then use a box of some kind to hold constructed ships. If they already know which ships they want to use, bringing
them preconstructed saves a few moments before the game.
When the assembly instructions say to grasp the sails at the base to push
them into the ship deck during construction, they really mean it. After assembling many ships, I finally snapped a sail on a new model because I held the
sail at its middle rather than its base. Oops.
Pirates debuted in 2004, and each Pirates set is a stand-alone game. Players
can also combine ships from various sets to build fleets. Like most collectible
games, every expansion introduces new mechanics and factions. Pirates of the
Spanish Main included ships from Spain, England, and those sneaky Pirates.
The Crimson Coast set gave us French ships, forts, and terrain and weather
complications printed on the back of island pieces. Pirates of the Revolution
introduces American ships, such as the Freedom and the Bonhomme Richard,
as well as offering new ships for the French, Spanish, and English fleets. In
addition, fire now becomes a hazard on the historical wooden ships. (The
Pirates of the Revolution cards, printed on bright blue card blanks, look patriotic before you even put the ships together. And who wouldn’t want the glory
of sailing on the Bonhomme Richard with John Paul Jones?) Pirates of the
Barbary Coast moves the location of the gold hunt and includes Barbary
If you visit the Web site, you can see the well-done animations that give an
overview of the game. The animations even show, in detail, how to build the
ships reliably so that all the parts are intact when you’re finished, every time.
(The trick — as I’ve learned through personal experience — is to hold the
masts at their bottoms and insert them into the slot at a slight angle.) Also
check out the Web site for complete rules for each expansion set, tournament
rules, and checklists for each set’s ships, crew, and events. Building guides
in the Resources section help navigate the way through the shipbuilding
process, and Tales of the Spanish Main offers fiction for the battle-weary.
Sail on, mates, and go for the gold!
After taking control of Earth, the Legion of Terra and the planet Mars join
forces to form the Axis of Evil, with their sights on conquering or destroying
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everyone else in the galaxy. Without the resistance of a group of Earth Rebels
and the planets Mercury and Venus, who combine and call themselves the
Alliance of Free Planets, the Axis of Evil might have succeeded. Hey, depending on the outcome of the games, they might succeed anyway. But that part’s
up to you.
A refreshing breeze in the gaming world after countless sword-and-sorcery fantasy card and miniatures games, Rocketmen brings campy 1930s style to the
tabletop. (See Figure 15-3.) Aimed at adults and teens as well as kids, the game
features ships, asteroids, space combat, and home bases — everything you’d
want from a game that has its own set of cartoon shorts. Like the movie serials
it resembles, each Rocketmen release is called a season. While the first season,
Axis of Evil, lists Mercury, the Rebels, and Venus as allies against Terra and
Mars, that may change in future seasons in the same way that viewers were
never sure who will stay true in the serial world. Stay tuned, viewers, for next
season, when we find out whether Mercury remains a Free Planet or turns to
help the Axis of Evil.
Like Pirates, Rocketmen is a constructible strategy game (CSG) for two or
more players. Players purchase packs that contain credit-card sized plastic
cards and assemble the game by punching pieces out of the cards and
putting them together. After they’re put together, the ships, crew, and such
can be stored in plastic baggies, plastic boxes, or whatever — or players can
disassemble each ship, which only takes a few seconds apiece, and press
them right back into the cards they came from. Then those cards can be
stored flat in a card box or placed in card sleeves for a bit more protection.
Clever, huh?
Rocketmen cards come in packs. Each pack contains everything one player
needs to play the game: two ships with their base cards or one ship and one
Fighter squadron with bases, crew, a resource card, two ship data cards, an
asteroid, a tiny six-sided die (called a d6 in the tabletop gaming world), and
rules. The Axis of Evil season contains 72 different ships, so there’s plenty
to choose from. Assembly instructions for each ship are helpfully printed
on each card. Each ship contains pegs that hold shields and weapons; the
choice to use all shields, all weapons, or a combination of the two is completely up to each player as she builds her ships.
Ship data cards provide all the information players need for each craft. The
card lists the ship’s faction, its special abilities, its cost, Atomic Engine Power
points (AP), Weapons Rating (WR), and Cargo space. A ship’s movement and
weapon range are printed right on the data card, so the game requires no
extra measuring device. Players also choose from four different ship types:
Fighters, Rocketships, Cruisers, and Space Stations. Each type offers different
strengths and size, and sometimes they differ in cost as well.
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Figure 15-3:
constructible rocket
Players create active fleets that cost 30 points or less. If they like, they can
also assemble an inactive fleet, also costing less than 30 points, and bring the
inactive fleet into play when they can afford it. Fleets can contain only ships
or ships and crew. Outfitting ships with crew members also gives them added
advantages, though crew members cost points to add to a ship. Crew members aren’t necessary for play, and some players like to travel light, but those
who use available crew to their full potential sometimes find their games
quick and lethal to an opponent’s team. A player wins either by destroying
all an opponent’s active ships or by capturing the opponent’s home base.
Look for the rules at the Rocketmen Web site. You can also watch the cartoon
shorts that form the storyline or download them to your computer. For players entranced enough with the shorts that they want to own them on DVD,
WizKids offers a DVD with all the Rocketmen episodes. It also includes special
ship and crew cards unavailable anywhere else, as an added incentive. The
videos are cute; they take you back to the days when a movie cost between a
dime and fifty cents to watch, and you couldn’t wait for the next installment
of Dick Tracy.
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Chapter 16
Collecting, Trading, Storing, and
Transporting Your Goodies
In This Chapter
䊳 Building your strategy by building your collection
䊳 Trading means never saying, “Sorry, I’m out of money”
䊳 Card storage 101
䊳 Moving your miniatures
think it’s a plot — or maybe some kind of cardboard arms race. First, you
start playing a trading card game (or collectible miniatures game — the
process works exactly the same way). Next, you discover that you really
enjoy the game, so you pick up a few boosters. The boosters give you one or
two really cool and powerful cards, so you use them in your deck. Your “big
guns” do some damage, but you see more potential. If only you had a few
other cards to go with them — yeah, some cards to make combinations! So
you head back into the booster pack display at your local store, buying packs
and hoping you pick up what you need.
Yup, it’s definitely a plot. (But at least it’s a fun plot.)
As the names imply, collecting and trading sit at the heart of the games in this
book. Playing the games themselves may give you lots of fun times, but building your card or figure collection adds a whole new dimension to that fun by
opening up new strategies in the game, giving you the ability to experiment
with unusual combinations, and generally increasing your “coolness” factor
among the other players when you whip out a really rare or unusual card.
There’s an art to collecting and trading your game goods — particularly when
it comes to arranging the best deals in your trades. This chapter gets into
some of the details about trading, talks about completing your collections by
purchasing “singles” (individual cards or figures), and gives you ideas and
online contacts for both selling and trading pieces you’ve collected.
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Playing with Possibilities
by Collecting More Stuff
In a trading card game, the designers build cards for various roles. Some cards
make great frontal attack pieces, while others work best after your opponent’s
defenses start breaking down. Still others take a purely supportive role, existing only to enhance other cards and help them do their respective jobs all the
To make all of this magic work and to start seeing the designer’s overall concepts for the game, you need a bunch of cards. In fact, you often need more
than a bunch — you need mass quantities of them. That’s where the collectible in collectible card games comes into play.
By collecting plenty of cards or game pieces, you give yourself access to the
best combinations and the strongest overall decks, plus you gain the opportunity to experiment with new combos to see if you can discover previously
unknown pairings made from the cards in your collection. A strong collection
also gives you solid trading stock to help you swap with other players for the
special cards you desire (but more about that in the next section).
You can add more cards in a number of ways. The quickest and easiest way
to build your collection involves nipping off to your Friendly Local Game
Store and buying more booster packs. Each pack gives you a stack of randomized cards or figures in various rarities. You typically get a single “rare”
item, two or three “uncommon” ones, and a handful of “commons” to round
out the package.
Buying packs works best when you start playing a new game, when a new
expansion comes out for your current game, or when one of your relatives
wants to buy you a gift. It makes life a lot easier when you ask your uncle
for “ten packs of Fullmetal Alchemist game cards” instead of “the level 2
Transmutation version of Alphonse Elric, Seven Feet of Trouble.”
After collecting cards for a while, the list of cards missing from your binders
gets pretty small. At this point, purchasing packs stops making sense unless
you want to build your trading stock or hunt down a super-rare card without
paying the price people want for it on eBay. Instead of packs, look to the
single card areas of your game store.
Almost every store offers a selection of individual cards for purchase. Unlike
booster packs, purchasing a single lets you pick precisely what you want.
The trade-off usually comes in the price; a rare or powerful card commands a
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lot more money than a mundane common one. Instead of paying $3.95 and
getting a pack of cards, you might pay $5, $10, $20, or even more for a single
card that lots of people want. Even at these prices, if that’s the card that your
collection really needs, then buying it as a single might make the most sense.
After all, you’d probably spend a lot more than the card’s cost as a single if
you bought booster pack after booster pack in a vain hope of randomly
pulling one.
Some cards or miniatures don’t come in boosters or starters at all. You can
find these special promotional items new only at tournaments, conventions,
or sometimes through special magazine offers. For more about these unique
items, see the sidebar later in this chapter.
Swapping for the Things You Want
or Need but Can’t Afford
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t find the card or figure
that you want. You chased it through booster packs, pursued it at tournaments, quested for it in convention exhibit halls, and missed it by moments in
the singles case of your favorite game store, but still it eludes your grasp. Now
imagine that one of your friends owns the card you want so very much. How
could you wrangle it from him to make your day — and your collection —
complete? Try offering a trade!
Chapter 22 goes into more depth than you probably want about the mechanics of trading. It starts with tips on why keeping your cards organized saves
you from making the kind of silly mistakes that I periodically do, and takes
you all the way through judging card condition, deciding how much to offer,
and closing the deal. It also provides a few savvy negotiating tips to help you
get the best deal possible. If you’ve never really traded cards before, dive
deeply into the information in that chapter before even thinking about a serious swap that involves your collection’s nicer cards.
Face-to-face options
After you understand the details, try seeking out a trade of your own. Start by
attending a tournament for your favorite game at your Friendly Local Game
Store. No matter the number of players who attend, somebody’s bound to
need one card or another. If you own what they need and you’re willing to
part with it, give the world of trading a spin. (Just make sure you read
Chapter 22 first, okay?)
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The game store itself might trade some of your cards for items from their singles display, but you don’t typically get the best trade that way. Most stores
want the highest-quality cards and figures, and they typically give you half of
the figure’s retail value in credit. You can then spend the credit on another
single card. The store might let you “spend” your credit on unopened booster
packs, but that entirely depends on the store policies. (For the record, most
stores don’t do that, but it never hurts to ask.)
Local, regional, and national game conventions offer plenty of lively trading
action, both with other players and with dealers in the exhibit hall — particularly if you win a special convention promo card at one of the tournaments.
When trading with players that you meet at the show, make sure you keep a
sharp eye on your trading stock and your playing deck at all times. In the
hustle, bustle, and excitement of a convention tournament, it’s easy for someone to accidentally grab the wrong deck of cards or pick up a small binder
mixed into a stack of other books. Nobody takes better care of your gear than
you, so make sure that you watch your stuff!
If you trade with dealers on the show floor, make sure you check with several
companies before making your decision. The laws of supply and demand work
the same at a game convention as they do everywhere else, so don’t take the
first offer you receive (unless it’s so good that you simply can’t pass it up). It’s
not unusual for the value of a card to vary wildly between dealers. Their offers
depend a lot on their current stock, how their sales go, and which day of the
convention it is. When in doubt, exercise your right to say “no,” just like
Chapter 22 says. (You’ll thank me later.)
Going the online route
If you can’t get to a convention or you need something that nobody in the
local tournament scene owns, you might try your hand at online trading
through the discussion boards and Web sites that cover your game. This
type of trade leaves you feeling a bit nervous sometimes, but if you do it
right and take the proper care, online trades can work very, very well.
To find a good spot for online trading, start with the game manufacturer’s
Web site. Almost every game company site includes discussion forums. Go to
the Web site, dive into the forums, and look for a trading folder. Some companies put the trading zone in its own area (like WizKids does in Figure 16-1),
while others create separate trading discussions for each product in their
lines. (See the Sabertooth Games forum in Figure 16-2.) It might take some
looking, but eventually you’ll find the forum area that you want.
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Figure 16-1:
By putting
all of the
makes them
easy to find.
Figure 16-2:
includes a
forum in
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To post in the Web site forums, you usually need to create an account for the
Web site. Luckily, registration costs nothing and takes only a few moments.
If your preteen child wants access to the site, you might need to fill out and
mail (yes, postal mail) a special form to the game company telling them that
it’s okay to allow your child onto their system.
Third-party information sites covering your game frequently offer trading
zones, too. As with the manufacturer sites, you usually need to register
before getting full access to the discussion areas. For example, the wellknown HeroClix information site HCRealms ( offers a
full-featured trading area for all of its members. Most of these third-party
sites offer free memberships, just like the manufacturer sites.
After you get set up with the site and find your way to the trading forums,
browse through the various have/want lists that players have posted there.
As the name implies, these lists catalog what each person has to trade and
wants to receive in trade. You can reply to the person directly through the
discussion area or privately through e-mail or the board’s built-in instantmessaging system.
Getting some special pieces for your collection
Unfortunately, not every card or figure you need
for your collection comes from a booster. Game
companies save some of the coolest items for
special events, convention promotions, and tournament prizes. That doesn’t mean you can’t get
these goodies, but it does mean that acquiring
them could take some extra effort (or money) on
your part.
If you regularly read magazines like InQuest
Gamer and Scrye, you’ve probably run across
some of their “exclusive” figure offers already.
WizKids and other miniatures companies do a lot
of magazine-based promotional offers. To get the
special item from promotions like these, you just
find the order form in the magazine, fill it out,
pack it with a check or credit card number, and
ship it out in the day’s mail. Within 4 to 400 weeks
(more like 4 to 6 usually, but it feels like 400 sometimes), your cool figures arrive in the mail.
These promo items typically cost a few dollars,
but never too much. You can almost always buy
more than one figure with the same order form,
so make a habit of picking up at least one (if not
two or three) spares. They make wonderful
trading stock, especially if you let your trading
buddies know that you bought a few extras so
they don’t pick up one on eBay.
For some of the neatest prizes, play in tournaments at local stores and conventions. The best
players always get a limited-edition card or
figure, but the company usually provides a
“sportsmanship” prize as well. Some events
give “participation awards” so that everybody
goes home with a cool trinket.
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You might also find some good trader lists (and their corollary, the bad trader
lists) lurking among the postings. To help new members make safer trades,
experienced board members compile lists of people they traded with who
gave them good service and a good product. Whenever possible, work with
people listed in the good trader lists. After you start trading, maintain a good
trader list of your own to reward the people you trade with. They’ll do the
same for you!
During your first few online trading experiences, don’t be too surprised if
the other person in the trade asks to receive your figure before shipping his
figure to you. That’s not uncommon when working with a new trader. Because
the people in the forum don’t know you yet, asking you to ship your figure
first establishes that you deserve their trust. After getting several good trader
recommendations from established forum members, you informally graduate
into simultaneous shipping. (You and the other trader ship the figures at the
same time.)
Storing Your Cards in Sleeves,
Binders, and Boxes
Even though the game happened almost 10 years ago, I still remember the
shocked look etched onto my opponent’s face. We had just started playing a
round of Decipher’s now-dead Star Wars Customizable Card Game when I put
my first few cards onto the table. My opponent’s face twisted in disbelief as
he said, “That’s a black-bordered Darth Vader. You shuffled a black-bordered
Darth Vader without using deck protectors!?”
Those last two words practically shot out of his mouth with lethal force. Up
to that point, I never thought much about the condition of my cards. The concept that some of the cards had real monetary value just didn’t sink into my
head. Back then, they were cards in a game — and game cards get progressively trashed the more you play the game. To me, the occasional bend and
shuffle scuff showed my dedication to the game, not my ignorance of cardprotection technology.
These days, the act of putting your cards into protectors of one kind or
another should happen almost automatically — like looking for a recycling
bin after finishing a can of soda. You open a pack of cards, separate out the
valuable ones, and sleeve them immediately. After the cards slide into their
safe little habitat, you breathe a sigh of relief and take the time to read, analyze, and enjoy ownership of your new goodies.
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Players feel so strongly about protecting their cards that the protection business grew into an industry all its own. Companies like BCW, Max Protection,
Rook, and UltraPro make their revenues by helping players keep their cards
and miniatures safe and sound.
When you purchase protectors for your cards, make sure you get the right
size. Game cards come in two basic sizes: big poker-size cards and slim
bridge-size cards (also known as “club” cards). Most trading card games use
poker-size cards, but others (notably Yu-Gi-Oh!) go with the smaller trim size.
If you aren’t sure which size you need, take some of your cards to your local
game store and try them in some deck protectors. The folks at the store can
help you find exactly what your game needs.
Deck protectors
Start defending your card investment with the most basic game accessory
out there: a couple packs of deck protectors. The total cost depends on the
number of cards in your deck, but for most games, a single $10 bill easily
covers the proper quantity of protectors matched with a case to hold everything. Heck, you might even get some change back!
Deck protectors act like simple plastic shields for your cards. As you shuffle,
cut, deal, flip, and do whatever else to your deck, the protectors suck up the
damage that your cards would otherwise sustain. The cards stay pristine and
beautiful in their little plastic cocoons. It’s a thing of beauty!
Nothing lasts forever in this life, not even deck protectors. Most players
need to replace their protectors every 6 to 12 months because the protectors
simply wear out — their seams split; the protector’s clear front gets cloudy
from the scuffing; you decide that you can’t stand the peculiar green protectors you bought on sale. Whatever the reason, it’s time to pick up some new
deck protectors. When that time comes, buy enough protectors to replace
everything in your deck. Mixing new deck protectors with older ones can lead
to problems because the new deck protectors really stand out from the others
on the table. By replacing all of the protectors at once, everything in your
deck looks the same.
Deck boxes
After you encase your cards in sleeves, take your efforts one step further by
storing your decks in a sturdy deck box of some kind. Boxes come in all styles
and capacities, ranging from little boxes that hold a mere handful of cards to
massive cardboard boxes capable of corralling hundreds of cards at once.
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For most games, the simple flip-top deck box — which looks pretty much like
a recipe card box — usually works just fine. If you want something with a
little more permanence and pizzazz, several companies make a basic-style
box in a metal version, which looks like an oversized adhesive bandage container. These boxes hold 60 cards (a very standard deck size for most games)
in plastic sleeves, or up to 100 unsleeved cards. Thanks to their handy size,
these boxes give you a really easy way to protect and guard your deck during
Some companies even found ways to innovate something as small and seemingly simple as the deck box. The big deck protector companies developed
horizontal flip-top boxes for constructible games like Pirates of the Spanish
Main from WizKids. These look like miniature recipe boxes. Their horizontal
design lets you flip easily through your cards, something that the normal vertical boxes really don’t do well.
The folks at Cheese Weasel Logistics (who automatically get extra points for
naming their company that way) really took boxes to a new level with their
Card Coffin line of boxes. These medium-size metal boxes include a plastic
insert that creates three separate card areas, plus a spot at the end of the
box for counters, dice, and such. Their boxes look really nice and they work
If you need to store and organize a lot of cards at once, turn your attention
to the industry’s mainstay product: white cardboard boxes. These boxes
come in many sizes, ranging in capacity from 100 cards all the way up to
5,000 cards. Best of all, they’re very inexpensive. Boxes designed to hold
up to 1,000 cards cost between $0.50 and $1.50, while the giant ones go for
closer to $6.00.
Three-ring and specialty binders
Playing a trading card game sometimes feels a little like doing homework. You
study the cards, memorize scads of rules, and analyze all sorts of what if and
maybe this options as you attempt to find the coolest card combinations. All
of this studying and thinking requires quick and easy access to all of your
game cards — something that you just don’t get from a box.
Many players solve this problem by using a card binder of one kind or another.
Binders display either four or nine cards face-out on a page, making it easy to
scan several cards at a time without handling any of them individually. The
binder pockets are big enough to hold either several copies of the same card or
two cards (back to back for easy reading) in their deck protectors.
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Binders come in two basic types: portfolio and three-ring. A portfolio binder’s
pages come built-in, solidly attached to the binder cover. You can’t change
the number of pages or replace pages when they begin to tear (which happens to all binder pages at one point or another). You can’t put the pages
into a new cover. It’s a one-piece item, so when it’s gone, it’s gone. Portfolio
binders make a great storage home for your trading stock. Because the pages
can’t come out, you never worry about someone opening the binder accidentally and spilling page after page of your precious cards all over the floor.
You purchase a portfolio binder by its size and capacity. A binder with 4-card
pages usually holds 56 cards, while one sized for 9-card pages carries 180
cards. Luckily, they don’t cost much, so replacing one won’t break your bank.
To make a more versatile storage unit, use a classic three-ring binder filled
with loose-leaf 9-card storage pages. All of the major storage companies make
these pages for three-ring binders. As for the binder itself, a quick trip to
your local office supply store gives you more options than you can possibly
Although they cost a little more, I highly recommend binders with D-rings in
them, rather than the traditional O-rings. A D-ring binder holds about 25 percent more pages in the same amount of space as a traditional O-ring binder,
plus it holds the card pages better. The flat-sided ring design seems to deal
better with the weight of trading card storage pages than the normal binders
do. You can find D-ring binders at all of the big office supply stores. Expect to
pay a couple dollars more for them than you would for their O-ring counterparts, but rest easy in the knowledge that they’re worth every penny.
Assembling Mobile Homes for
the Miniatures in Your Life
Considering that they use such tiny game pieces, the folks who play collectible miniatures games face some daunting storage problems. After just a
little bit of collecting, their game pieces demand more and more space until
they sometimes feel as if they should add a new room to their houses or
move to bigger apartments just to keep their miniatures happy.
Don’t worry — you needn’t do anything as radical as that to tame your miniatures collection. Storing collectible miniatures is actually easier than dealing
with trading card games, despite the fact that the miniatures take up significantly more space.
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Start your storage plans simply with a couple of white cardboard card boxes
(discussed earlier in the chapter and available from pretty much every game
store on the face of the planet). Two 1,000-card boxes make a very inexpensive solution for pieces in almost every collectible miniatures game on the
market. You might need something a bit larger for the “giant” pieces in some
of the games, but you can address those on a case-by-case basis.
For a slightly more elegant solution, buy some clear tackle boxes from your
neighborhood sporting goods store. The clear plastic boxes work well for the
smaller games — particularly the boxes with removable dividers. Some players make cubbyholes for each of their figures, while others group related figures together in larger spaces. Try it both ways to see which one works best
for you.
Some companies make big tackle boxes that hold several smaller boxes. Some
game storage companies make them specifically for the purpose of storing
miniatures. All of these designs make amazing tournament cases because you
get enough room to bring several armies for the tournament, plus dice, counters, and plenty of trading stock. The nicest ones include a pull-out handle and
integrated wheels so you can easily move the box from the car to the tournament. (Wheeled boxes truly make your life easier at the big summer game conventions; you never know how much distance you need to cover before
finding the next tournament.)
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Challenging Your Skills
in Tournaments
In This Chapter
䊳 It all starts at home, with you and your cards
䊳 Venturing into the local tournament
䊳 Getting to know the ways you can play
䊳 Trying your hand at bigger tournaments
䊳 Dreaming the dream of professional play
ame players seemingly come in two major types: the ones who play the
game for the joy of it, and the ones who want to win. (Technically, the
“sheer joy of it” side splits into two sub-groups, but that just reopens the
whole Spike, Timmy, and Johnny discussion from in Chapter 2.) Players on
both sides of the fence enjoy competition, but some people simply live for it.
Regardless of your playing style and motivation, there’s a tournament level
just waiting for you. Tournaments give you the opportunity to test your skills
among both friends and strangers, to discover new tricks for your game
by observation, and to find even more people to play with in your betweentournament times. Whether you play at home, at a local game store, or in one
of the bigger regional or national events, tournaments bring a whole new
level of fun to your game.
This chapter introduces and discusses tournament play at all levels, starting
at home and going all the way to the rarified realms of the Pro Tours, where
game players turn their favorite pastime into a profitable part-time (and
sometimes even full-time) job. Dive in — your competition awaits!
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Playing at Home
Most game players start their game-playing habit the same way: they pick up
a starter of something because it either looked interesting or their friends
already play it, and then they take it home and give it a try. Playing your
game at home with your family and friends (or even by yourself so you can
practice the rules) makes a lot of sense. It’s handy, sometimes quiet, and
gives you a comfortable place to make mistakes without suffering the jeers
of the crowd.
To get started at home, just find a comfortable, well-lit spot, haul out your
cards, and play! Begin with the basic version of the rules or with the “practice
game” instructions that almost every starter set includes. The starter decks
often come presorted to go with the practice game instructions. That way,
they can gently introduce you to the mechanics and gameplay elements in
an easy, step-by-step way.
After you feel confident with the basics, you can mix up your starter deck for a
taste of the real thing. Most starters include a booster pack or an “advanced”
card pack that allows you to add more options to your gameplay.
From there, take the time to read the cards in depth, go through the rules
several times, and practice your game. Go to the company’s Web site (listed
in this book in the sections covering each game) and download the most
updated rules and the Frequently Asked Questions document (also known as
the FAQ). Granted, all of this reading may leave you feeling like you’ve got
extra homework after a class, but if you want to become good at the game,
you need to put in the effort. Too many players gain an almost solid understanding of the game and end up using incorrect play patterns. When those
players move on to the next step — playing in their local tournaments —
they get frustrated fast because their deck or their miniatures team gets
ripped to shreds by everybody.
Starring in Local Events
When you feel comfortable with the basics of the game — and you’ve had
the chance to add a few more cards (or figures) to your collection — pack up
your favorite deck and head to a local tournament. These events give you a
great opportunity to connect with players in your area, make new friends,
try deck designs, swap some cards, and generally improve your skills. As an
added bonus, you deepen your knowledge of the game and get a chance at
some free stuff! Life just doesn’t get much better than this.
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The first step toward playing in the local tournament scene involves finding a
venue — the place where your local tournaments happen. Most collectible
game tournaments take place at a Friendly Local Game Store, although some
mass-market stores (particularly Toys ’R Us and Borders) regularly offer
events for particular games. Many libraries have gotten into the act as well,
so look for playing opportunities there.
Start your venue search by visiting the Web site for your favorite game. Almost
every Web site has a tournament locator. Punch in your state or postal code
and then watch as the system lists the nearby venues. Some sites show you all
of the venues within the same state, while others focus on the ones close to
your location. Either way, jot down a list of the venues serving your corner of
the world. Make sure you get the phone number in addition to the address so
you can verify the tournament information before showing up with your stuff.
Some tournaments require a fee to play, but you usually get back something
extra in prizes at those events.
Some game companies require you to register through their Web site for a
player ID number. This number helps them track your progress in their tournaments and gives the company the opportunity to send you things ranging
from unwanted marketing messages to free goodies. If the company supporting your favorite game wants you to register, then do so before the tournament. Write your registration information (usually a username or ID number)
on a handy slip of paper and put it with your game materials. Luggage tags
work really well for this purpose. Just attach the tag to your game bag and
you’re set!
Speaking of your game bag, after you find an interesting local event, it’s time
to prepare for your trip. Start by double-checking the tournament format
(more about that in just a moment) and then building an appropriate deck
or assembling your team of miniatures. Test the deck against your “at home”
opponents to make sure that you feel comfortable with how it plays and that
all of your tricks and plans work the way you think they will.
Although it matters a lot more as you move up into the bigger and more competitive events, spending a lot of time testing and practicing your deck by
playing it repeatedly gives you a distinct edge in tournament play. You don’t
need to read the card text or continually refer to the special abilities card;
you know your deck inside and out. That lets you focus on what tricks and
traps your opponent has up her sleeve rather than worrying about making
sure you use a particular combination properly. I hate to sound like some
demented music teacher, but if you want to win, the secret is practice, practice, practice!
When the big day comes, assemble your stuff into your handy game bag.
Bring your deck or group of miniatures, plus any counters, dice, terrain, and
reference materials you need. Always bring a binder or bin with your trading
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stock (duplicate cards and figures you want to trade to complete or extend
your collection) and your “want list” of cards or figures; you never know
when someone might trade precisely what you need in exchange for exactly
what you own.
Organize everything in a bag or briefcase of some kind — preferably one that
zips completely shut. I use a roomy Star Wars Episode I briefcase with two big
pockets. (I’m such a geek sometimes.) A box with my accessories (dice and
such) goes into the front pocket, along with my deck of cards or my current
miniatures team. The large back pocket holds the trading stock for whatever
game I’m playing that day.
Although the vast majority of tournament players wouldn’t dream of messing
with your things, you never know when a troubled individual lurks in the
group. Your game bag helps you keep your gear safe and sound. After you
finish playing each round in the tournament, count your deck or the figures in
your team to make sure that you picked up everything from the table. Then
stow your gear in the bag. Keep your game bag with you at all times during the
tournament. Don’t let it out of your sight! Also, unless you need something out
of it right then, zip the bag shut. Little steps like these protect you against
those folks who like your stuff better than their own.
When you arrive at the tournament, check in with the tournament director. If
you need to pay a fee of any kind, take care of that as well. Double-check the
plans for the day’s tournament (type of event, special restrictions, and such)
to make sure that your deck or team is legal and correctly constructed. Give
your deck a final check to make sure it’s ready for the event. And, of course,
introduce yourself to the other players, too — after all, half the reason you
came to the tournament was to meet other game enthusiasts!
Don’t worry if some of the players seem to know more about the game than
you do. They might know a lot — or they might just sound like they do. Listen
and learn, ask questions, and expand your knowledge. If someone mentions a
rule or ruling that sounds incorrect to you, ask the tournament director for
verification. It won’t take long to separate the people who really know their
stuff from the people who merely think they do.
When the time comes to play, the tournament director or her staff pairs you
with another player for your first match. If any questions come up during the
game or if you and your opponent disagree on a ruling, ask the tournament
director for help right away — don’t wait! It’s much better to pause the game
and get a ruling than to press on and discover that you lost the game because
of an incorrect rule interpretation.
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A quick guide to tournament formats
When it comes to collectible game tournaments, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
You don’t see old-fashioned “one loss and
you’re gone” elimination-style tournaments very
often in game stores (although you still find
them occasionally at major tournaments held at
the big game conventions).
Instead, you normally find yourself playing in a
Swiss-style event, in which everybody plays
throughout the entire tournament, regardless of
whether they win or lose in a particular round.
The tournament director randomly pairs players
during the first round and records the win and
loss record for each player. Starting at the
second round, the director pairs winners according to their wins and losses. Winners generally
play winners, and the winning-challenged face
off against other winning-challenged individuals.
How long the process keeps going depends on
the number of players. With eight players, for
instance, players usually go through five Swiss
rounds before declaring a winner.
Some higher-level events mix the two formats.
They start with a Swiss format to trim the playing field down to a group of finalists and then
use a traditional elimination tournament to
determine the ultimate winner.
After playing out the match, you and your partner report your score back to
the director or her staff, who then pairs you with another player for the next
round. Most collectible game tournaments use a Swiss format rather than an
elimination format, so you keep playing whether you win or lose. (See the
sidebar for more details about Swiss and elimination tournaments.)
At the end of the tournament (usually after playing four to six games, depending on the number of players who attend), the director ranks the players
according to their win/loss record and awards the day’s prizes. Game companies frequently provide special hard-to-find cards or limited-edition miniatures as prizes. The first- and second-place players typically get prizes. Most
venues provide a “sportsmanship” prize as well to reward good play.
When the tournament ends, players sometimes pair off for another quick
game or they swap strategies and deck-building tips. There’s a lot of camaraderie among collectible game players. Make sure you spend some time getting to know your fellow players. It’s part of the fun!
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Playing by Style
In addition to the whole question of whether a tournament uses a Swiss or
Elimination style of play, collectible games have also introduced other twists
to tournament play. Such variations keep things interesting and challenging
for players at all skill levels.
Constructed events cover most of the events on the average store’s tournament
schedule. In these, you build a deck or a miniatures team from your collection,
bring it to the tournament, and do your best to win. Some tournaments put
restrictions on which cards or pieces you can use in a particular format, so
make sure you ask the tournament director about any special rules for your
particular tourney.
The sealed format puts long-time collectors and new players on even footing.
All of the players purchase a certain number of booster packs at the tournament and then build their decks right there from whatever they pull. Because
you keep whatever you get from your booster packs, sealed tournaments
make a great way to expand your collection.
Draft events make up a subsection of sealed tournaments. In a draft event, players purchase several sealed booster packs. They then sit together in groups of
four or more (depending on the game) and begin the “draft” process. All players open one of their booster packs simultaneously, keep one item from the
pack, and then pass the now-open pack to the player next to them. That player
takes one item from the pack and passes it to the next player. This continues
until the pack runs out of cards. Then the players open new packs and repeat
the process again. Your deck is built from the cards you end up with at the end
of this process. You keep all of the cards that you drafted, even if they came
from someone else’s packs.
Occasionally, game companies put on super-special tournaments in honor of
new game releases or some other momentous occasion. If you hear about
“marquee tournaments,” “storyline tournaments,” “kill and keep scenarios,”
or “prerelease events,” you just ran across one of these special activities.
Here’s a quick overview:
⻬ Prerelease event: In these tournaments, you get to play with the newest
cards before everybody else does — sometimes weeks before!
Prerelease tournaments typically take place in larger cities, with a few
tournaments scattered through each region of the country. By their
nature, prerelease tournaments are always sealed events.
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⻬ Marquee tournament: Marquee events usually celebrate the arrival of a
new expansion for a game. The prize pool for marquees typically
includes special goodies that you can’t win anywhere else. Like prerelease events, marquees traditionally operate as sealed events.
⻬ Storyline tournament: Collectible games naturally tell some kind of
story, thanks to the card selections and the game’s underlying theme.
The storyline tournament just builds on that concept by letting the players take a hand in directing the future of the game. Companies use the
overall outcome of the tournaments to destroy or enhance factions in
the game in future expansions, or to direct the game’s evolution in other
⻬ “Kill and Keep” scenario: The folks at WizKids pioneered this concept
in the collectable gaming world, and still do a great job with it. In a “kill
and keep” scenario, the players pit themselves against each other just
like normal, but they also fight another army run by the judge.
Whenever players kill something in the judge’s army, they keep the
figure or card for their collection. WizKids makes this even more interesting by including super-sized items like dragons and space ships in
their “kill and keep” scenarios.
Game companies typically announce special events like these on their Web
sites. The local retailer usually tells the world about the tournament as well
because they’re so special. Try to play in these events whenever you can.
The fun and the prizes make these events a great time!
Moving Up to Regionals and Nationals
After honing your skills in some local tournaments, you get comfortable
with the game and the rules, and you start establishing yourself as a player.
You learn the intricacies of card combinations (sometimes by getting them
inflicted on you during games), and probably come up with more than a few
tricks of your own. You also find out which Web sites the other players go to
for strategy and deck-building ideas and start going there (and other places),
But at some point, you get used to playing against your regular opponents.
You know what they do, how they react, what they like in their decks, and
how their strategies play out during the game. Rather than innovating and
finding new combinations, you might start building decks and teams that
target the way the local players do things. Slowly, your game enjoyment
sickens, withers, and dies. It’s just not fun anymore.
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Regional and national tournaments help you break out of the “local tournament blues” and experience your favorite game at a whole new level. More
players, more strategies, more challenges — these events give you more of
Because these tournaments bring together such a huge number of game fans,
the companies behind the games frequently send designers and other representatives. Not only can you play the game you love, you get a chance to
meet the people behind the scenes, too. How cool is that?
Due to the event’s size, many regional and national events take place during
game conventions (like the ones in the massive trading card game halls of
Origins, shown in Figure 17-1). In that case, you need a convention badge in
order to play, plus you must purchase a ticket for the event itself. For more
about the fun of the big conventions, check the game company Web sites for
information. They all sponsor special events at the big summer conventions.
Even if you can’t play in one of their regional or national tourneys, the special
convention events make the trip worthwhile.
Figure 17-1:
like the
Game Expo
lots of
Photo courtesy of GAMA.
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Almost every regional and national tournament includes both an “open” and
an “invitational” side. The “open” section takes place on the first day of the
tournament, when anybody who wants to play can join the fun. The top players from the first day of open play advance to the second day.
Meanwhile, the people who won tournaments leading up to this one start
playing on day two. By winning one of the local tournaments, they won an
“invitation” to the big event and got to avoid the crowds on the first day.
Like the big events themselves, the game companies always do a great job
promoting the qualifying tournaments. Watch the company Web site for all of
the details!
So how do you get involved in these awesome events? First, practice your
game. And then practice some more. After that . . . well, you get the idea.
Playing in a high-level tournament demands high-level skills. You build those
skills by playing in all of the local tournaments you can, plus playing extra
games with your friends. The more you play, the better you get. (Sure, it
sounds simple, but sometimes that’s the only way it works.)
Along with that, read the discussion areas for strategies and ideas. Find out
what decks work really well right now. If you have the cards to build them,
give them a try. Can you make the deck better? Keep trying new things — it
makes the practice all the more tolerable.
When you feel ready, grab your gear and head off to the nearest big event.
Make sure it includes an “open” day so you can play! (And don’t ask me why I
know that you should check on this. It’s pretty embarrassing.)
Attend your first big tournament with the goal of learning a lot and having
fun. Wanting to win is fine, but remember that you’re entering a whole new
level of competition. During one of my first national tourney experiences, I got
paired with a really nice fellow for my first game. He didn’t just beat me — he
destroyed me in the first 7 minutes of the 50-minute round. He went on to win
the national championship, so that takes away much of the pain. More importantly, I learned a lot of new strategy during that game, which helped me play a
lot better in my local tournaments. (Plus, I had a year’s worth of questionable
bragging rights for serving as the “first stepping stone on the national champion’s walk of victory.”)
Going Pro for Fame and Fortune
Buried somewhere deep in your subconscious sits a secret hope that someday, somehow, someone might pay you for playing a game. It’s the ultimate
score for game lovers everywhere — the thought that all of those hours
spent building decks and analyzing strategies could turn into cash in your
pocket. Mmm . . . what a sweet thought!
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For a lot of players, it’s more than a thought — it’s a reality of everyday life.
Thanks to the various professional-level events, you get a shot at the ultimate
gamer lifestyle. Travel all over the United States and the world; test your
skills against the best players on the planet; earn the respect of the gaming
community. You get all that and more by competing at this level — if, of
course, you play the right games and you play them really, really well.
Right now, two companies sponsor professional-level tournaments for their
games. Wizards of the Coast puts on its long-running worldwide Pro Tour for
Magic: The Gathering. Upper Deck created the UDE Pro Circuit for its Vs. System
superhero game. Both companies put up a $1 million prize fund for their tours,
making it possible for the top players to bring home thousands of dollars from
every event.
Many other companies put on cash-prize events at major conventions around
the country, but none of them rival the rarified world of the professional-level
tournament series. Check the game companies’ Web sites for news about
cash-prize events for your favorite games!
To get into the professional-level tournaments, you need an invitation.
Average players need not apply! Players vie for invitations at pro event
qualifying tournaments held all over the country. The top players in each
event earn the right to play in the professional series events.
Depending on the game, you might also get into the pro events simply by
playing really, really well in your local and regional tournaments. Wizards
of the Coast, for instance, gives automatic Pro Tour invitations to the top 50
players in the world (assuming the players didn’t qualify for the Pro Tour on
their own).
To learn more about the Upper Deck Pro Circuit, visit http:// For information
about the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour, go to
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Turning Collectibles into
Profitables with eBay
In This Chapter
䊳 Selecting your selling stock
䊳 Telling the world about your stuff
䊳 Boxing and sending the winnings
ouldn’t you love to make some money from your favorite game? Sure,
you can always practice hard, play a lot, and try to make the professional tournaments like the ones mentioned in Chapter 17, but not everybody
can play at that level. (Goodness knows I can’t!) Is there any hope for the rest
of us to squeeze a few bucks from our favorite games?
Ya know, it’s funny you should ask . . .
Thanks to the bizarrely wonderful world of collectible games, you can make
money from your favorite game even if you don’t go pro. In fact, it’s not only
possible, it’s downright probable — and a lot easier than you might think.
Sure, you need to watch out for pitfalls here and there, avoid a few easy-tomake mistakes, and put some effort into the whole project, but if you do
things right, you can make your game into a delightfully positive cash flow
in addition to a great pastime.
This chapter looks at the wild world of buying and selling collectible game
stuff on eBay. It helps you rate what you own, find ways to successfully turn it
into money, and then turn that money into a bigger collection (and possibly
even more money) with careful purchases. Along the way, you find out some
interesting tidbits about buying and selling on eBay and get a quick primer on
how to pack and ship your stuff to ensure safe travel.
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Approach all of this buying and selling with a touch of caution. No matter
how many successful transactions take place, the chance that someone
might try to rip you off constantly looms over you. In more than eight years
of online buying and trading, nothing has gone wrong for me thus far, but that
doesn’t mean that it won’t. Enter into transactions slowly and carefully, and
watch out for yourself. I approach things that way every time I buy or trade
something, and you should as well.
This chapter covers only the barest beginnings of selling on eBay. Other
people out there have written whole books on the subject, so I highly recommend picking up one of those tomes for more detailed information. In particular, take a look at eBay For Dummies, 4th Edition, by Marsha Collier (Wiley).
It’s an amazing book — in fact, that’s how I learned the basics of eBay. Pick
up your copy today!
Picking, Pondering, and Pricing
It would be nice if you could just decide that you want to sell something and
then skip straight to the part where you begin spending the money you got
for it. Alas, things don’t work that way (which just proves that you and I
didn’t create the universe — but I digress). Instead, the online selling process
looks more like a geometry problem in which point A leads to point B via
points C, D, E, and possibly a short detour in the vicinity of point F. And, as if
that weren’t enough by itself, you don’t get to point B at all if nobody buys
your stuff!
To make the most frequent (and profitable) trips between points A and B,
you need to approach your online selling with careful research and a degree
of patience. Before listing anything on eBay — even before writing the first
word of your auction description — you need to figure out what people want,
select the items in your collection that best meet those desires (and that
you’re willing to sell), and then set your price. Then, after all of that, you can
write the description and launch your online sale.
Please don’t skip the research step and jump straight to listing your game
goodies. If you do that, your stuff won’t sell for as much money — period.
First-time sellers make a lot of common mistakes that result in bargains for
expert shoppers. I learned this the hard way during one of my first eBay
sales, and the lesson cost me a tidy sum of money. To maximize your profits,
take this process one step at a time. It makes a difference. Really!
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Searching the system
Start by searching eBay for the products that you want to sell. Try every variation of the product name and description that you can think of. Use these
ideas as a start and then mix and match from there:
⻬ Manufacturer’s name: AEG, Bandai, WizKids, Wizards of the Coast
⻬ Product’s overall name: Marvel HeroClix, Star Wars Miniatures, Clout
⻬ Names of specific sets: Fantastic Forces, Revenge of the Sith,
Thundercharge of Ultra Destruction
⻬ Product description: rare, limited edition, foil, chase, booster, display
(for a whole box of booster packs)
⻬ Split words: “Hero Clix” instead of “HeroClix,” “Inu Yasha” instead of
⻬ Abbreviations: LOTR for Lord of the Rings, FF for Fantastic Forces, WK
for WizKids, WOTC for Wizards of the Coast, LE for limited edition
⻬ Misspellings and typos: “Whizkids,” “Star Warts,” plus just about any
other misspelling you can imagine, especially those that a computer
spell checker would miss
⻬ Singular forms of plural words: “Wizard of the Coast,” “WizKid,”
“Star War”
Capitalization doesn’t matter to eBay at all. If you get the right letters into
your search, eBay figures out which products you want. Spelling counts, but
not as much. If eBay thinks that you misspelled a word, it proactively suggests a correct spelling based on matches in the system. Pretty cool stuff, eh?
To begin a search on eBay, go through these steps:
1. Pull out a piece of paper and some kind of writing implement.
Take notes on your search results as you go. Write down the search
terms that you use and the results that you receive.
2. Point your Web browser to
The main eBay screen appears.
3. Sign in to the system by clicking the Sign In link at the top of the page
and entering your username and password.
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Although you can search without signing in, you might as well just get it
over with now instead of waiting. Besides, you can’t search completed
auctions without signing into the system. (You learn why that’s important a little later in the chapter. For now, just trust me.)
4. Begin your search by clicking in the search box at the top of the
screen and typing a few words.
Make sure that you write down the search term(s) you use so you can
track which ones give the best results. Use the bullets above to help generate ideas for your searches.
You can find a search box at the top of your My eBay window and at the
top of most eBay screens. If all else fails, just click the My eBay link in
the menu bar at the top of the window.
5. Launch your search by clicking the Search button.
After a few moments (or longer, depending how eBay feels at the
moment), the system displays a big list of auctions matching your
search term(s).
6. Look through the search results.
Did this term do a good job of finding just the game products you want
to sell, or did it catch a lot of irrelevant items?
Write down your thoughts as you work. You want to come out of this
with a solid list of keywords to use in your auction title, plus some
insight into product popularity and pricing. Keep writing notes so you
don’t forget something important!
7. Keep trying new combinations of search terms to see what pops up.
And keep writing your notes!
In addition to searching the active auctions, make sure you look in the completed items list. This very powerful search option displays products only
from auctions that recently closed.
Why do you care about completed auctions? And just what the heck are you
looking for in all of these searches, anyway? First, you want to know what
sold and what didn’t. Second, you want an idea of what the sale prices look
like. Both pieces of information help as you get into the next steps of the selling process: picking what to sell and setting your prices.
To prowl through the completed auctions, follow these steps:
1. Begin your search normally by typing a term or terms into the search
text box and clicking the Search button.
You can find a search box at the top of most eBay screens. If all else fails,
go to the main page.
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2. When the search results come back, scroll down the page a little until
you see the Search Options area on the left side of the screen. Click
the check box next to Completed Listings.
With this check box turned on, eBay shows only finished auctions in
your search listing.
3. With the Completed Listing check box checked, click the Show Items
The system now lists completed items that match your search criteria,
in order from the most recently ended auction onward.
To do a normal search of current auctions, repeat steps 2 and 3, but
uncheck the Completed Listing check box instead of turning it on.
At this point, turn your attention to the notes you wrote during your research
time. Scan through the list of search terms and see which ones appeared
more often than the others. For instance, if the vast majority of auctions used
HeroClix instead of HC, then you want to include HeroClix in your auction title
(assuming, of course, that’s what you plan to sell). Pay close attention to
the way that auctions describe expansion set names, card titles, and card
Crafting a title
You are allowed a mere 55 characters in the title of an eBay auction, so you
need to pack as much information into that space as you can. If you use several of the most popular keywords in the title, your auctions get found by
more people. And the more people who find the auction, the more bids you
get — or at least that’s how it should work, provided your price and item
meets the buyer’s expectations.
When selling collectible game goods, your title should include the following:
⻬ Name of the game
⻬ Name of the set
⻬ Item title
⻬ Collector’s number or other identifier for the individual piece
Of course, packing that much information into 55 characters usually requires
some abbreviations. That’s where the information you gathered during the
research step comes into play. Look at the most common abbreviations used
in auctions for your game and apply them to your auction title.
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Don’t invent your own very cool abbreviation for a game, expansion, or anything else. Creativity is a wonderful thing, but not when it comes to writing
auction descriptions. If you shorten Magic: The Gathering 9th Edition to M9E in
your auction title, nobody will find your auction. If you use Magic 9 instead,
you end up offering cards to people looking for a jersey from one-time Orlando
Magic forward Gerald Wilkins. Granted, you might get some crossover appeal
there, but probably not enough to give your cards a good selling price.
Setting your price and auction length
Now we hit the big question behind every auction: What opening price should
you use? Like everything else in the world (and in your favorite game), the
answer depends on several factors. Thanks to the power of the auction sale
format, you can’t go too far wrong no matter where you put your price,
although if you set your opening price too low, you occasionally sell something for less than your customer was really willing to pay.
Many of the same things that drive the auction price also affect your auction
length. Generally speaking, the longer an auction appears on eBay, the better
closing price you get. But sometimes that strategy backfires — especially in
the world of collectible game merchandise.
When picking a starting price and the auction length, focus on the item’s popularity. Are there many of this item for sale on eBay right now? Do people bid
on the auctions? How much did the buyers pay in the closed auctions? Is the
closing price dropping, staying the same, or increasing of late? After you
uncover this information, you can apply some very simple rules for setting
your opening price and your auction length:
⻬ High-interest, readily available product: Start your auction with a low
opening price. Because lots of people actively want the item, you might
as well save some money on the auction listing fee by starting low and
letting your buyers bid it up. Set your auction length relatively low, probably to either three or five days. Figures and cards from new expansions
fall into this category, as do relatively mundane items that make a big
splash in championship decks or armies. For example, few people bought
or played the Knights Immortal chariot for Mage Knight. But then a
player figured out a devastating way to use the chariot and won the
national championship with that army. Overnight, everybody wanted the
Knights Immortal chariot. Buyer interest remained high for months, as
did the supply of chariots.
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⻬ High interest, rarely available product: These very special items often
come from the big summer game conventions, new release tournaments,
or pre-release events. Because of their unique nature, a large number of
them typically appear on eBay within a couple weeks of the event, but
after that, the items almost never surface again. In fact, you will often
find stacks of promo cards and figures at low prices at conventions later
down the road. In these cases, the item price stays unreasonably high
for the first few days and then starts dropping like a rock. Make sure you
post items like this immediately after the event where you got them.
Because the first few sales command the highest price, you want to get
your item up there soon so someone can throw money at you right away.
Like the auctions mentioned in the previous bullet, the high customer
interest lets you use a low opening bid. However, you want to keep this
auction as short as possible (so you can sell your item before eBay is
flooded with them), so you definitely want a three-day duration on this.
You might even consider running it as a one-day auction, but that’s very
aggressive. Unless the item is really, really popular, the one-day format
might backfire on you because your bidders simply miss the auction.
⻬ Low interest, readily available product: Here, you start the auction
with a medium to low opening bid but let it run for seven days. People
can get the product easily, so you need to entice them with either low
cost and low shipping or by bundling the item with something that falls
into one of the “high interest” categories above. You can sell these
things online, but it takes time and usually requires multiple auction listings. By bundling it with something nicer, you might get a slightly better
price than by selling this one on its own.
⻬ Low interest, rarely available product: This type of product defines the
word niche. These goodies give eBay its reputation as the repository of
the weird, strange, and generally hard-to-find. In the collectible game
arena, these things also provide you with an opportunity to make some
surprising amounts of money. When selling something that falls into this
category, set a high opening bid and a long duration — definitely seven
days. Put your minimum bid just slightly below the amount you think
the item will bring at the auction’s close. You can’t count on other
people to drive up the auction price, so you need to take the situation
into your own hands and make the bidder give you a higher price for
this thing.
Use the Buy It Now option very carefully. On one hand, it lets you sell an item
right away to get the most profit from it. However, if you set the price too low,
you make less than you would have otherwise.
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Buy It Now pricing works really well for things that fall into the “high interest,
rarely available product” category. In that case, set the Buy It Now price
according to similar auctions’ closing amounts. For example, if the last few
auctions for a special limited-edition convention card commanded $50, $49,
$49, and $45, open your auction low (like $9.95), but include a Buy It Now
price of $43 to $46. A buyer who really wants the item usually just pays your
price rather than waiting out an auction, especially when the auction will
probably close in the same vicinity as your Buy It Now price anyway. In these
cases, convenience and speed become your auction’s key benefits over the
Grading and Describing Your Goods
Trading cards with your friends at the Friendly Local Game Store is one thing;
you have the card right there in your hand and everybody involved can see
how perfect (or imperfect) it actually is. Selling online is something different.
Things work very differently when you start selling online.
When you sell things online, only you actually see the item in your auction.
Your customer relies on you to give accurate and complete information about
the item — hopefully with a photograph or two as well. If you do a good job
describing your goods, then your buyer feels confident purchasing from you
because she knows what she’s getting. If you do a poor job with the descriptions, then your items don’t command as strong a price because you left
questions in people’s minds. Worse yet, your customers might complain or
demand a refund because they thought that they were getting a different item
than they received.
Always give more information rather than less. Your online buyer can’t hold
the card. He probably doesn’t know you personally. The buyer must base
his entire purchase decision on the text that you write and the images you
include in your auction description. The more details you provide with your
words and photographs, the fewer misunderstandings you have with customers. (And that’s a good thing — a really good thing.)
Take a look at the following auction descriptions. Both of these represent very
common, real-world examples of auctions that appeared on eBay. Assuming
you play the game in question and you really want this particular card, which
of these descriptions gives you more confidence as a buyer and makes you
want to bid on the card?
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Example of a bad description: “Edward Elric” card for Full Metal
Alchemist game. They gave these away at a convention I went to. In good
shape. Not bent. I ship fast.
Example of a good description: Rare “staff” convention promo “Edward
Elric, Quick Thinker” card from the Fullmetal Alchemist game by Joyride
Studios/RC2 ( This is one of the special “staff” convention promo cards. To get it, you had to find the right staff member in the
company’s convention booth and ask for the card. The card is in mint/near
mint condition, with good corners, nicely centered artwork, and no nicks on
the sides. The card back shows two very faint straight scratches from the
packing process. I put it directly into a deck protector on the convention
floor and then transferred it to a soft sleeve inside a solid top loader at
home. It ships in the soft sleeve and top loader, packed in a small bubble
envelope. Buy more and save money! You can combine shipping on up to 10
cards for a flat fee of $3.00. Click here to see my other CCG/TCG auctions.
Click the Contact the Seller link above to ask me any questions about this
auction. I’m always glad to help!
The first description tells you nothing useful about the card’s condition
(although it’s nice to know that the card isn’t “bent” and that the seller “ships
fast”). The seller forgot to include the full name of the card, plus he misspelled the name of the game by splitting it into two words. The seller comes
across sounding like a bored salesperson who doesn’t know anything about
the game or the card and just wants to make some quick money. This ad
practically screams “run away, customer — take your money elsewhere!
Don’t buy from me!”
In contrast, the second ad takes a very professional and complete approach
to the sale. This ad not only gives you detailed background about the card
(establishing its origin, rarity, and care) but also clearly describes the condition of the card itself. It goes into detail about how the seller has taken care
of the card and how he will pack the card for a safe trip to your doorstep.
(The top loader is a nice touch. It’s a rigid plastic sleeve specially made for
protecting trading cards.) and then invites you to save money by spending
more (which, strange as it seems, really works). There’s no contest here — ad
number two wins this contest hands-down.
At the heart of the second description sits a quick, basic evaluation of the
card’s condition — in this case, “mint/near mint.” Most auctions and traders
use the same basic scale, although each person grades a little differently. The
following condition descriptions give you a good start toward evaluating your
⻬ Mint cards represent absolute perfection in the creation process. Cards
in this class feature centered artwork, perfect colors, and crisp edges.
Only a few cards — even among the ones that come straight from the
pack — ever reach this level of perfection.
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⻬ Near mint/Mint cards come unplayed, straight from a pack. They can
still show some small, simple problem: Artwork that’s off-center just a
bit, thin scratch lines from the pack-making machinery, or some other
glitch brings a card down from Mint to Near Mint. When you open a new
pack of cards, most of the cards you pull rank as Near mint/Mint.
⻬ Near mint cards usually come direct from packs as well, They frequently
show the same problems as the Near mint/Mint grading level, except
these cards often carry two or more of the problems at once.
⻬ Fine cards probably saw playing time in your decks, but definitely in
sleeves. You can see some surface scuffing and minor scratches, and
maybe even a tiny touch of white at the edges.
⻬ Good quality cards earn their keep with a lot of sleeved play. You definitely need sleeves to play these cards; they tend to show how much
they got played.
⻬ Finally, poor quality cards look worse than good quality ones. You might
find a tear or rip on a card, or perhaps a crease. This card fought the
good fight for you, and its condition shows scars from the battle.
In general, it pays to judge your stuff harshly. If you think a card’s condition
sits between Near Mint and Fine, go toward the lower side of the scale. In
your auction text, tell the buyer what you see: I think this looks a little nicer
than Fine, but you’ll probably call it Near Mint or better. If you’re honest, your
customers will love you for things like this. eBay includes a feedback feature,
and buyers pay attention to the kind of feedback you’ve received from past
auctions and take it into consideration before making a purchase. Honesty +
good customer service = good feedback.
Launching your first eBay auction
All of the searching, thinking, writing, and photography doesn’t do any good without actually
launching an auction on eBay. The final few
steps of sending your auction into action take
only a few minutes, particularly if you already
created the auction title and most of the auction
text. eBay’s system walks you through the selling steps very well — after all, they want you to
sell things!
eBay constantly adds new features and capabilities to its auction system, so the precise
steps to listing an auction change every few
months. For the best information, I recommend
going through eBay’s online selling tutorial at
It lists the basic steps and offers a step-by-step
video that takes you from signing up for an eBay
account all the way through listing your first
auction. I highly recommend it!
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If the card or figure shows some wear due to play, tell the buyer about it in
the description. You don’t need to dwell on the bad stuff, but you must play
fair with your customers. Tell them the good and the bad. If you don’t know
whether to mention something in your description or not, think of it this way:
If you were purchasing this same item from someone online, would you
expect the seller to tell you about the flaw?
Make sure you include a nice, clear photo of the item, too. This will ensure
the buyer that she is bidding on exactly the card she’s looking for and also
help her ascertain a little more about the card’s condition. You can refer to
eBay For Dummies for tips on how to best photograph the items you auction.
Packing and Shipping for Safe Arrival
When someone buys and pays for your items, it’s time for the last step in
your online selling process: shipping the order. Although your work on the
auction text got the sale rolling and convinced the buyer to pick up your
stuff, this final step is important, too — it puts the product into your customer’s hands. If you don’t take the time to do this right, your goods might
get damaged in shipment, which leaves you with a frustrated buyer and mangled stuff — truly a mess. To avoid those problems (at least most of the
time), invest some money in your preparations and do a high-quality packing
job on every order.
If you plan to regularly sell items on eBay (or trade them through online discussion boards), you need to assemble a basic set of shipping supplies. The
exact amount you spend depends on how much you plan to sell and trade.
For a good starting setup, expect to spend $30 or so on supplies. Here’s what
to get:
⻬ Top loaders and “penny sleeves”: These keep your trading cards safe
from the bumps and grinds of shipping. Although you can find them
from a lot of companies, I tend to stick with UltraPro #81145 top loaders
and RPSCG-3 soft card sleeves, a soft plastic envelope. The sleeve prevents scratches, while the top loader guards against folds and bends —
and the whole thing fits nicely into the small bubble envelope mailers
mentioned in the next bullet.
Check out Chapter 16 for the low-down on choosing and purchasing supplies for protecting and transporting your cards and miniatures.
⻬ Bubble envelope mailers: If you sell single cards, you absolutely need
these. The #000 size mailers work great with standard top loaders. The
envelopes have about a 4-x-7-inch inside space, which gives the top
loader some room without too much wiggle.
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⻬ One or two 100-foot rolls of bubble wrap: Small bubbles work best for
single miniature game figures, while large bubbles help fill up the extra
space around trading card game booster displays.
⻬ A hand-held tape dispenser with 2-inch-wide packing tape: You can
find almost any price and quality of tape out there, but I prefer using
Scotch 3710 tape. I briefly tried some really cheap shipping tape instead
of my favorite Scotch tape once and found myself using twice as much
with awful results. Now, I use only Scotch (the tape, that is, not the
As you might expect, you can find all of these items for sale on eBay. Buying
your supplies through eBay not only saves you some money, but also gives a
new seller some all-important positive entries for the online feedback system.
Beginning your sales career with something other than zero feedback gives
your buyers more confidence than if you have no feedback at all.
If you ship things with Priority Mail through the U.S. Postal Service, you get
boxes and envelopes for free — and nothing helps your profit margin quite
like free stuff! To order free boxes, envelopes, mailing labels, and other supplies, go to and click the Supplies link on the site’s front
page (as Figure 18-1 shows). From there, select the Priority Mail boxes and
envelopes you need. The Postal Service ships everything directly to your
house at no charge.
Figure 18-1:
The U.S.
offers free
from its
Web site.
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Supporting the place where you play
Everybody loves saving money (me included),
and you can do that with some careful online
shopping. But please don’t get carried away with
the thought of picking up everything you need
online. Those Internet vendors might offer low
prices, but they fall woefully short in one very
important area: They don’t give you a place to
meet people and enjoy your game. When it’s time
to play, you turn to the game space and the
friendly faces at your Friendly Local Game Store.
To put it bluntly, you need to pay where you play.
The tournament space at the local game store
costs the retailer money. If you walk into the
store, play in the tournament, and walk back out
without buying anything, you aren’t doing your
part to support the Friendly Local Game Store.
I’m not telling you to blindly pay full retail price
for everything, but I am saying that you need to
spend part of your gaming dollars locally.
If you support your Friendly Local Game Store
by playing in the sealed booster events and by
purchasing boosters, sleeves, boxes, and such,
then your game store can afford to support you
and your game. You and the local game store
need each other — one can’t survive without
the other. If you enjoy playing at the local store,
then reward them with your money.
Yes — it’s really that important.
The USPS offers boxes and envelopes in a variety of sizes and shapes, but a
few really stand out for shipping game materials. Here’s a quick overview of
the best ones:
⻬ If you sell single cards, pick up the video-sized Priority Mail Box (O1096S), the Small Priority Mail Envelope (EP 14-B), the Priority Mail Flat
Rate Envelope (EP 14-F), and the Priority Mail Tyvek Envelope (EP 14).
Although I rely on the boxes most of the time, the Tyvek envelope provides some flexibility when shipping odd-sized things.
⻬ To send boosters and booster displays, get the large Priority Mail Box
(O-BOX7) or the Priority Mail Flat Rate Box (O-FRB1). Both of these work
really well for larger items.
⻬ For shipping collectible miniatures, start with the mug-sized Priority
Mail Box (O-BOX4), the large Priority Mail Box (O-BOX7), and maybe the
Priority Mail Flat Rate Box (O-FRB1). The large video Priority Mail Box
(O-1096L) also does a good job with these items.
⻬ Regardless of what you sell, add a few of the Priority Mail Address
Labels (LABEL 228) and Priority Mail Sticker Pads (LABEL 107). If you
ever need to use your own box, these labels and stickers make sure it
gets handled correctly as Priority Mail.
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Because it sometimes takes a couple of weeks for the boxes to arrive, you can
also go to your local post office and pick up a few boxes and envelopes —
enough to get started, at least. If you don’t see the box or envelope that you
want, ask the folks at the desk. They sometimes keep extra supplies behind
the counter.
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Chapter 19
Volunteering for Fun,
Frolic, and Freebies
In This Chapter
䊳 The game industry needs you
䊳 Exploring the world of opportunities
䊳 Diving into a product champion program
hey demonstrate games at conventions, help in the manufacturer booths,
and even run the convention itself (usually while wearing the coolest
T-shirts). They show up at the local game stores, running tournaments and
teaching new players. They carry titles like Ambassadors, Bounty Hunters,
Envoys, Flight Crew, Seniors, and Warlords. They work hard, play hard, and
enjoy a camaraderie (and incredible goodies) that mere mortals only hope
for. Who are these amazing people — and, more to the point, how do you
join them?
Welcome to the world of volunteering, game industry–style. From the local
tournament at your favorite game store to the national finals at the big summer
conventions, collectible game companies rely on waves of volunteer product
champions to spread the good word about their games. And if you love your
game and want to share that enthusiasm with others, you might be exactly the
right person for this amazingly fun job.
Regardless of what you play, where you live, and (sometimes) how old you
are, the game industry needs you. This chapter introduces the volunteer possibilities out there, explains how to find product champion opportunities
that interest you, shows you how to prepare and apply for the job ahead,
and maybe brags a little bit about the overall coolness of donating your
time for the games — and the conventions — that you know and love.
The game industry needs you! Dive into the chapter and find out where you
fit. It’s a great adventure filled with fun, friends, and fantastic stuff!
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Describing the Ultimate Volunteer
What makes a great game company volunteer? Is it your amazing skill at playing a particular game? Maybe it’s knowing someone really important inside
the company? Or perhaps spending tons of money collecting all of the cards
in each set to show your unwavering dedication to your game?
Nope — wipe those thoughts from your mind. None of those things really
make a whit of difference toward getting selected as a game company volunteer. It’s much simpler — and, at the same time, harder — than all of that.
First and foremost, you need something that you can’t get from a rule book or
card spoiler list: You need to love interacting with people, particularly people
who never saw or heard of your favorite game before meeting you.
Working as a game company volunteer means people, people, and more
people. If you can smile, help, support, cajole, inspire, and excite people of
all ages, shapes, and sizes (and sometimes odors), then you might have a
future as a product champion. If you don’t enjoy the whole “people” thing,
then please don’t volunteer for your favorite game because, if you somehow
get chosen to help, you’ll probably end up doing more damage to the game
than good.
If you pass the “people” challenge, then so far, so good. That’s definitely the
hardest test for any potential product champion. After all, it’s one thing to
swap stories at the end of a tournament with a bunch of folks who share your
appreciation and competitiveness in a game, but it’s quite another to teach
someone who never touched a trading card game before that moment.
Next, you need solid product knowledge, including a strong understanding of
the rules. Do you know how your game works, from building a deck to winning
a tournament? Can you unravel the mysteries of strange card combinations
that would twist the designer’s mind into a pretzel? When rule changes appear
on the company Web site, do you keep up with them and look for how they
affect your play? Can you describe the overall playing themes from various
sets for your game? If that sounds like you, that’s a good sign.
In addition to having all that product knowledge under your belt, you
absolutely must have good communication skills. You don’t need to wax
eloquent for hours about the choice of one card over another, but if you
can’t explain how your game’s turn sequence works or why this special ability trumps another special ability, then you probably need some practice.
Clear communication makes the difference between a good volunteer and a
great one.
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Volunteers also need a willingness to work hard, even when they don’t feel
like it. Sure, product champions get neat prizes to reward them for their
efforts, but the volunteers who care only about the rewards don’t last very
long when the bumper of their dreams smacks into the brick wall of reality.
Nobody whose one and only reason to volunteer involves getting as many
goodies as he can is going to be asked to volunteer again the following year.
Take conventions, for instance. Working in the manufacturer’s booth at one
of the big summer conventions represents the pinnacle of achievement for
many volunteers. But if you’ve never demonstrated games in a booth before,
you have no idea how much energy the work sucks out of you. Only the folks
who really love their game keep going with a smile during the 100th demonstration of the day.
In addition to everything else, most game companies won’t accept official
volunteers under 18 years old, although some go down to 16 years old
depending on the state. Because most product champions need to sign official volunteer contracts, the company needs people of legal age to do such
things. (Other things like liability and child labor laws affect this as well, but
you knew that already.)
Starting Locally, Finishing Globally
Most everything in our industry starts at the local store level — your Friendly
Local Game Store. That’s where your volunteer career starts, too. Although
you might think this sounds like pretty humble beginnings — away from the
glamour and the crowds of a convention — it’s actually the single most important place a product champion works.
At the local store, you represent both the game company and the games that
company makes. Companies rely on you as the “face” of their games among
the buyers and players in your hometown. Your work in the local store makes
a good impression about the company, shares your passion for the games,
and ultimately helps the retailer sell more product. You do that through
demonstrations, promotions, tournaments, and special events:
⻬ Game demonstrations represent the first step toward getting new players for a game. Here, you quickly hit the highlights of the game, focusing
on the fun without going into depth about the rules and details.
⻬ Tournaments help you build a solid base of players for your game.
These events happen regularly, usually every week or two. They usually
last for two to six hours, depending on the game and the number of players who attend. Tournaments bring your product knowledge into play, as
well as those all-important people skills. As the product champion, you
organize the tournament, but you also judge it.
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⻬ From time to time, game companies run special promotions designed to
increase interest and inspire new players. These usually involve some
combination of demonstrations and tournaments, seasoned with some
really cool goodies from the game company’s prize vault. Most companies only do one or two promotions each year, but that rarity just makes
the events all the more fun.
⻬ Special events let you show your creativity to the local players, the
store owner, and the company you represent. Volunteers usually drive
special events on their own, but you might get some help from the local
players and the game company. A special game event usually centers
around a scenario you developed or heard about from another volunteer, a very rare and powerful game piece that you or the retailer
received from the company, or a particular tournament format that your
players really, really enjoy but rarely get to play.
Although most of these activities focus on the game players and buyers,
product champions also interact quite a lot with the store owners. You provide owners with the latest information about upcoming products and help
them understand what’s happening with the game you represent. The game
company gives you advanced information so you can share it with the retailers. That information helps the retailer plan her product purchases.
When combined with all of your player-oriented activities, the time you
spend working with the store owner completes your circle of effort. You help
the store owner understand what to keep on the shelves, and you educate
and excite the players about buying the game. It’s a pretty cool combination!
As you gain more experience at the local level, opportunities come around to
help at local, regional, and national conventions. Smaller conventions take
place year-round, while the major national ones typically take place during
the summertime, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Conventions range
in size from a few hundred people at the local level up to 15,000 to 25,000 at
the major national ones.
Don’t expect to start working these big events right away. You need time to
develop and polish your skills at home before jumping into the “big time”
work at a convention. When you feel comfortable and confident at the local
venue, then give convention work a try.
Helping at a convention looks a lot like working with a local store, except that
everything feels bigger and busier. Depending on your company’s presence
at the convention, you might split your time between demonstrating the
game to new players and running tournaments, or you may focus on one or
the other. At the really big conventions, volunteers sometimes help run the
booth itself by restocking product and bagging orders in the company’s onsite store.
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As you gain even more experience, the company may tap you as a volunteer
leader. In this capacity, you take responsibility for one section of a large convention — or even the company’s entire presence at a smaller one! You plan
the event schedule, recruit and organize other volunteers, and coordinate with
the convention sponsors to make sure that your game gets well-represented in
front of the players. It’s a big job for sure, but it’s a lot of fun. (After running
several smaller conventions myself, I can vouch for both the delight and the
occasional frustration of working at this level. Even so, I wouldn’t trade those
times and memories for anything. It’s a blast!)
Getting Involved at a New Level
If all of this sounds interesting, then visit your game company’s Web site to
find out precisely what they require of their volunteers. The companies usually list their product champion information under whatever they call their
team, like the WizKids Envoys or the AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group)
Bounty Hunters.
Almost every game company Web site asks you to register with the site
before applying as a volunteer. It only makes sense, particularly considering
that they need a way to contact you and you need access to their special
volunteer-only online areas. When you set up your account on the Web site,
choose your user ID carefully because that’s how other people in the product
champion program will get to know you online. If you’re trying to champion a
game like Magic, you probably don’t really want to volunteer under the
moniker HelloKitty.
When you find the volunteer information, read it carefully. Companies aren’t
shy about telling you precisely what they expect and what they offer in
return. Most game companies expect their volunteers to run at least one or
two tournaments each month. Some add demonstration requirements, too.
Before diving into the volunteer program, take the time to understand the
commitment you’re making.
If your game company wants more than you can give, don’t feel discouraged.
You might not be comfortable teaching others to play your game, but you
could still help set-up and tear down booths at a convention or check badges
at the door. If it doesn’t work out for you to volunteer for a company at all,
you can still volunteer informally with the local game store — and the store
owners typically thank their volunteers with free sodas and sometimes product discounts.
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After doing your research, complete the company’s volunteer application.
Make sure you do a complete and thorough job; this application represents
the first time that the company gets to meet you. A well-done application
shows them your attention to detail and your interest in their program, as
well as your ability to read and follow instructions (which counts for far more
than you can imagine).
Most game companies respond in anywhere from one day to a couple of
weeks, depending on the time of the year. If you send in an application during
the summer convention season, don’t expect anyone from the company to
act on it for a couple of weeks because it’s a really, really busy time.
Don’t be surprised if the company asks you to take a formal test before joining its cadre of volunteers. In the last year or two, several companies instituted tests to ensure that its volunteers know their stuff. After you pass the
test, you don’t usually need to take it again, although you will need to take
more tests in the future as expansion sets and new games hit the market.
Don’t let all of the cool volunteer rewards out there make you lose sight of
the real reason that you joined the volunteer program: to meet new people
and help them get to know your favorite game. If volunteering stops being fun
and starts feeling more like a job, take a break for a while. You can always
come back to volunteering at some future point in time, but for now, take
some time off. Try just playing the game for a while. Nothing reinvigorates the
volunteer soul quite like actually sitting down and enjoying the game that you
love so much. It helps you remember why you started this crazy elevator ride
in the first place.
The wonderful world of volunteer rewards
Sure, being a product champion takes a lot of
work, but it also yields a lot of rewards — both
tangible and intangible. Although the work itself
feels really good, so does the feeling of someone saying “good job” and handing you a box of
booster packs.
Each company handles its volunteer rewards in
a slightly different way. Some companies do it
according to the number of tournaments you
run and the attendance you get at each event
and overall through the month. Others let you
earn points toward purchasing things at the
company’s online store.
If you start helping at conventions, the reward
machine ratchets up a notch. Convention volunteers often bring home the rarest and most special items, ranging from cool foil game cards to
exclusive playing pieces. These ultra-special
items often turn into the centerpieces of your
special events back at the local game store,
which in turn gets the local players excited
about the game and encourages new players to
jump onboard. (It’s all part of the game company’s evil plot to take over the world — but
that’s okay because you’re on the winning side.)
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The Part of Tens
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In this part . . .
h, the Part of Tens. What would a For Dummies book
be without one? (Well, unfinished comes to mind first,
which rapidly brings up not yet paid, so let’s stop the train
of thought right there.)
The chapters in this part cover the odds and ends of the
information in the book. They give you some ideas for
protecting your game cards and pieces while you buy, sell,
and trade, and they offer suggestions of ways to keep
yourself (or your kids) occupied during those many
between-round breaks at major tournaments.
And make sure you point out the gift chapter to your
friends, spouse, parents, or significant others. It’s full of
clever things that every trading card and collectible miniatures gamer needs but never gets enough of to last for the
whole year. (And if you’re on the giving side of the equation, you can always buy your friend a copy of this book!)
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Chapter 20
Ten Tips for Buying,
Selling, and Trading
In This Chapter
䊳 Keeping track of all your stuff
䊳 Taking time to learn
䊳 Knowing what you have (and what you want)
䊳 Condition, condition, condition!
䊳 Trading with an eye for value
䊳 When you find something cool, leave it alone
䊳 Patience, grasshopper!
䊳 Leaping into the bargains
䊳 Repeat after me: “No”
䊳 Send in the fodder!
rading those game cards and miniature figures — the ones you’re willing
to part with, at least — among your friends and fellow players makes collectible games all the more fun. Sure, you get a huge thrill when you pull a
rare card or miniature from a booster pack, but the pride of ownership goes
only so far. After all, somebody else probably wants that item a lot more than
you do, and he might have something you really need in return. If you two can
work out a trade, then all’s the better for you both!
Even if nobody in your area either wants to trade or has what you need, you
can always turn to the online realm to buy and sell those elusive pieces.
Heck, you can even trade online, although you need to proceed very slowly
and carefully there. (Check out Chapter 18 for details about working with the
online world.)
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Whether you swap cards in your friendly local game store or sell your spare
figures online, the tips in this chapter help you make the most of the transaction. Read them carefully and pay close attention to them as you trade. Most
of them come from my own experiences — namely the many mistakes I made
along the way. Live and learn from the error of my ways, without encountering the same problems yourself!
Keep Your Stuff Organized
When you start playing a trading card or collectible miniatures game, keeping
track of your whole collection is easy. After all, you just started, so you don’t
own a lot of stuff. A few binder pages or a couple of small figure boxes pretty
much accounts for everything in your world. You probably created a couple
of decks or a few favorite armies, but you can easily track it all in your head.
In a short amount of time, though, your collection grows to the point that you
start forgetting what you own and (more importantly) where you saw it last.
Cards go into decks, which in turn go into deck boxes. Those missing cards
leave empty spaces in your binders and boxes. Figures find their way into
your traveling cases and then get left on the back seat after a tournament.
And the new stuff you traded for during the last tournament never made it
into your collection at all — it’s in the trunk of the car!
The result of this madness: You lose track of what you own, what you want,
and where the heck it all lives. To overcome this kind of crisis, apply some
good, old-fashioned organization.
Start by gathering everything together in one place. Ferret out the lost and
missing items by searching in card boxes, in car seats and trunks, under the
bed, in the attic — anywhere your stuff might hide. Dig through your tournament bags and look in shoeboxes — you get the idea. After you get everything together, organize it by set. This makes the next step — inventory — a
whole lot easier.
Although you can organize your gaming paraphernalia in any number of
ways, I found that doing it by set gives you the greatest flexibility over time.
When you start collecting a game, sorting by faction or card type works for a
while, but it dissolves into chaos in a matter of months. Additionally, most
tournaments for games like Magic restrict you to using the most recent set(s).
At least start organizing by set — you can always switch to something else if
it simply doesn’t work for you.
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Frankly, I hate inventorying my collectibles. It’s time-consuming and requires
a lot of detail-oriented effort — and neither of those things appeals to me.
Still, I do it for one simple reason: I’m a space cadet and sometimes forget
what I own. With one game that I actively played for a while, I traded for the
same piece at least three times, but didn’t realize it because my collection
lived in several boxes. After I put all of my pieces together, I quickly realized
what had happened. (Thank goodness that figure made good trading stock!)
To successfully inventory your collection, you need checklists (often called
“spoiler lists” on the Web) detailing all of the cards or miniatures in each set.
You can usually download these from the manufacturer’s Web site or from
various fan-based sites. With some games (notably the Wizards of the Coast
Star Wars Collectible Miniatures Game), every booster contains a checklist.
With your list in hand, go through your collection and mark off each item you
own. Leave space for multiples of the same item; your collection will include
duplicates. Check your work carefully as you go because you want as few
mistakes as possible. (You might find it useful to put everything in an Excel
spreadsheet that you keep on your PC or PDA.)
After inventorying everything, store your games by set. What type of case you
use is entirely up to you — I generally go with card boxes for card games and
plastic tackle boxes for my miniatures. Sometimes I just grab a card box for
the minis, too, because I can fit a bunch of card boxes into a single larger box
for easy transport. You can always use a fancy card and figure case, too —
they work great and protect your games very, very well.
Save yourself the hassle of dumping, re-sorting, and re-inventorying everything by keeping your checklists up-to-date. Updating your checklist takes
only a minute, but an out-of-date list might cost you many hours of effort.
Start Slowly and Carefully
Why do parents tell children to keep their hand away from the hot stove?
Because if they don’t, the kids get burned.
Why start slow and easy when jumping into the world of trading your precious cards and figures? Because if you don’t, you get burned.
Without a doubt, everybody who starts trading cards, figures, and other collectible pieces makes mistakes. It’s normal and natural, and it’s bound to
happen to you, too. But if you start slow and easy, you reduce your number
of mistakes by a huge degree.
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Before trading anything, watch and listen to other people as they trade
around you during tournaments or other events. How do they do it? What do
they offer? How do they value their cards? Every group uses its own methods, so get to know how things work with your particular group before joining the fun.
After that, get to know the people who trade most often at your venue. Who
can you trust? (It’s a strange question, but you must ask it — not everybody
has your best interests in mind.) Also take note of trading and negotiating
styles that different people use. One person might come out with their best
offer first, particularly for a piece they really want. Another person always
offers low at first, in hopes of getting a really good deal (at your expense, I
might add), but then warms up as the negotiations go on longer.
Why put all this effort into figuring out how your group works? Because you
want to get the best and fairest deal you can. You don’t want to take advantage of someone (it’s unfair, plus word quickly gets around that people
should beware when they trade with you), but you also don’t want to give
away something for nothing.
Find out whom you can ask advice from in the group, too. Look for someone
who trades frequently and has a good reputation. If someone offers you a
good-sounding trade but you feel unsure about it, ask your backup person
with more knowledge to give his input on the deal. His expertise might save
you from a bad situation or help you cement a solid swap.
Research What You Own and Want
Knowing is half the battle — at least that’s what they used to say in the GI Joe
cartoons. When trading game cards and pieces, this statement definitely
holds true. You need to know every detail about the items you want to trade,
buy, or sell. The more you know, the better the odds of making a good deal —
and that’s the goal.
What should you know about the items you want to buy, sell, and trade?
Here’s a good start:
⻬ Dollar values: These vary wildly depending on the popularity of the
game, your geographic location, and the current trends in deck- and
team-building. Start by looking at completed auctions on eBay; that
gives you a nice, simple barometer. From there, look to the pricing
guides in Scrye and InQuest Gamer magazines. Pay the most attention to
the mid-range pricing in both magazines because that’s the ruler many
people use.
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⻬ Playability: The more playable a particular card is, the more valuable it
is to deck builders. Look at the deck lists on the Internet discussion
boards and at your local tournament scene. Do particular cards show up
quite a lot? As cards rise in popularity, they get harder to find because
people begin hoarding them.
⻬ Rarity: The name says it all on this one. The rare cards and pieces typically carry the highest values, although that’s not always the case.
Occasionally, uncommon cards command a strong price because of
some unique twist to their gameplay.
⻬ Condition: How much does the item’s condition affect its value? More
powerful cards command a higher price, period. The card’s condition
doesn’t affect its playability, of course, only its collectibility.
Of course, not every card follows the rules of logic when it comes to pricing.
A few years ago, one particular card from a licensed game sold (and traded)
for far more than its value in the game simply because of the artwork on the
card. Everybody loved the picture, so everybody wanted the card.
Keep your research current. Item values change by the week — and sometimes by the day! If you plan to do some serious trading over the weekend,
for instance, invest some research time late in the week. Dive into eBay’s
completed auction listings and take notes about the latest prices. Compare
them to the most recent price guides in Scrye and InQuest Gamer.
Check the Item’s Condition
The better an item’s condition, the more you can get for it — and the more
you pay for it, too. But does that really matter to you? I’ve watched people
make amazing offers in order to pick up one rare card in moderate condition.
On the other hand, I often seen mint-condition cards trade hands at extremely
low values. Condition makes up one of the factors in the value equation, and
its importance depends entirely on you.
Do you want the most amazingly pristine card that anyone ever saw, or do
you just want another copy of your favorite card for an amazing deck? Will
you feel satisfied with a figure whose paint job leaves just a little to be
desired, or do you want a showpiece that leaves your friends speechless?
Whatever condition you want, decide early in your trading plans because
that changes the landscape quite a lot.
When trading at your friendly local game store or during a local tournament,
you get the luxury of seeing the card or game piece firsthand. You can touch
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it, examine it in the light, and take a really good, long look at it. That lets you
judge the condition of the item pretty closely. Trading and buying with firsthand knowledge puts you in the best position when it comes to item condition. Because you see it with your own eyes, you can easily make your own
determination of the item’s value.
Buying online is trickier because someone else acts as your surrogate eyes
and hands. You rely on digital photographs and detailed descriptions to know
what you’re getting. In this case, the number and type of questions you ask
depends almost entirely on the asking price (either in trade or in cold, hard
cash) and your personal feelings about the importance of condition:
⻬ If you live and die by condition, then ask all the pointed, detailed questions that you want. Make the owner describe every little defect. Ask for
more photographs. Get all the information you can, especially if the
seller wants a premium price based on the item’s condition. As the
buyer in this transaction, you have a right to know what you’re getting.
⻬ If condition doesn’t drive your every thought (and you just want to
own the card so you can finally create the masterpiece deck you always
dreamed about), then don’t pelt the owner with tons of requests. Just
decide what it’s worth (see the next section for more about that) and
negotiate the trade.
If you disagree with someone about the condition of the item, tell the person.
Explain your reasoning in detail, too. Don’t just slam her with an unsupported
statement like “that’s not mint.” That kind of thing only annoys the current
owner, which in turn might drive up your price to pay for the owner’s frustration with you.
Decide What It’s Worth to You
Smart traders begin every trade or purchase with the same thought in mind:
What’s this item worth to me? After all, when the dust settles and the trading
is complete, if you don’t feel like you got a good value for your cards and figures, then you didn’t make a good trade.
In a perfect world, in which all the cards come in mint unplayed condition
and the eyes on every figure actually include pupils, what would make this
trade worthwhile to you? Do you want a particular amount of money? Do you
want certain cards? Do you really not care because some other factor outweighs the pure business aspects of the trade? Whatever you think about the
value of the item, make sure that you think it through at least once (if not a
few times) before finishing the transaction.
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Determining the value of cards and miniatures depends on a lot of factors.
The following items give you a good start at figuring out how much a particular item might fetch:
⻬ Play value: How well does the card or figure work in the game? If something commands a lot of game-winning power, expect it to command a
higher price in either cash or trade. This applies to both common and
uncommon cards and figures. A particularly powerful or popular card
with an uncommon rarity easily fetches more than a less-powerful rare
⻬ Rarity: For normal cards, rarity affects the price because, by definition,
rare cards aren’t as common as, well, the common ones. The rarest
cards — whether because of power, distribution, alternate image, or
cool foil artwork — command prestigious prices. Condition matters a lot
with these cards, so expect the price of a mint-condition version of an
extremely rare card to climb pretty high.
⻬ Personal taste: This one falls squarely in the category of “it depends.”
Someone who loves a particular superhero or a certain faction of a
miniatures game is probably willing to spend more on his favorite items
than someone who just wants various pieces.
⻬ Current price on eBay: As the world’s interactive marketplace, eBay
offers almost every collectible card and figure available. Look for trends
in the values of closed auctions, such as several cards that sold within
one or two dollars of each other.
⻬ Magazine price guides: Both Scrye and InQuest Gamer publish monthly
price guides that cover all the major trading card and collectible miniatures games on the market. Lots of people use the guides for informal
trading, and many stores refer to them for baseline values. Don’t expect
to get the “high” value from the lists, though. Most traders look to the
median or low values for their information.
⻬ Condition: This one matters more to the people who want to complete
their collections for the sheer joy of collecting rather than the person
who loves playing the game and looking for different combinations. If
you fall into the latter camp, you can sometimes get a deal because the
people in the first camp pass by cards or figures that play perfectly well
but look a little worse for wear. As a general rule, the better the condition, the higher the price.
Do I actually go through this whole list every time I trade something?
Goodness no! But even when I trade a few commons or uncommons, I go
through at least part of the list to make sure that I don’t forget anything
important (like the time I got so excited about a trade that I actually forgot
to complete the trade before the person left the venue — oops).
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Don’t Impulsively Snag
the First One You Find
Although the next tip, “Patient Negotiation Makes Better Deals,” covers some
of the same ground, this tip really stands on its own — especially if you trade
at the big summer game conventions. Don’t jump on the first thing you see
or the first trade somebody offers you. In a realm filled with lots of possible
traders, you want to go slow and steady, taking your time and remembering
that there are plenty of cards and figures available out there.
I made this mistake more than once — actually, more than a few times. I want
a hot card or a certain figure, and someone casually offers it to me or I see it
in a booth during a show. Rather than taking my time and thinking about the
transaction, I impulsively acquire the item. Yippee — it’s mine! Yes, but
almost always at a higher price than if I had controlled my raging collector
Every rule has an exception, and this one is no different. What if you want a
really, really rare card or figure, you know exactly what it’s worth to you, and
somebody’s willing to meet your price? Don’t just stand there — trade with
the person! You did your research, so you can make a good decision. I just
don’t want you to act impulsively and possibly get hurt in the process.
This goes double if you plan to purchase a bunch of boosters or play in any
sealed-deck events soon. The packs always seem to know which cards you
just traded for because you invariably pull them in your new packs. Open
your packs and play in your tournament first, then add your new stuff to the
collection and start trading. (Besides, you might pull exactly the item that
your trading partner really wants, too!)
Patient Negotiation Makes Better Deals
There it is — the exact card you want! It’s the one you spent hours thinking
about and designing decks for; the one you read about in the magazines and
watched other people play in the local tournaments. And now it’s yours —
well, almost yours, provided you can finish this trade.
Before getting yourself into too much of a tizzy, stop and take a deep breath.
You need a level head before negotiating this trade! Calm yourself down. Even
though you really, really want this card, remember that thousands of identical
cards exist out there. The card sitting before you isn’t the first or last of its
kind. And you may or may not leave with it in your deck today.
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Now that you recaptured your calm, approach your trade with quiet
patience. If you bounce all over the place with total excitement, then your
trading partner knows that she has something you really want, so she might
try to get more for it. By trading in a quiet way, you express interest without
showing your feelings (even though they might run rampant inside of you at
that moment).
Next, find out what your trading partner wants in general and if she wants
anything specific for the card you’re interested in getting. If you have what
the person wants and you think it’s a fair deal, offer it. If you don’t have
what she wants but you can offer similar value, put together a fair package.
Remind her that she could use the cards you offer as trading stock to get
something else. You might need to sweeten the trade with an extra card to
get her interested.
If you hit a rough spot negotiating for the card of your dreams, try offering a
package deal. Look for something else the person has for trade and then add
another item to your offer. Sometimes the combined value tips the negotiations in your favor — and you get the card you wanted plus something else
for either your collection or your trading stock.
Finally, remember your ultimate bargaining tool: the word no. If you can’t agree
on a deal that you both feel is fair, politely decline and go on with something
else. If your partner just wanted to see how far you would go, she’ll probably
jump right back into negotiating. If she wasn’t serious about trading in the first
place, she’ll let the negotiation die. Either way, you know more about your partner’s perceptions and whether or not you can complete the trade.
For more about the power of no, see “You Can Always Say No” a little later in
this chapter.
When You Find a Bargain, Jump on It
Sometimes, the skies smile and somebody offers you an incredible bargain —
one of those deal-of-a-lifetime moments. When one of those times happens in
your world, think through the deal quickly and then, if it’s really as good as it
looks, pounce!
The key phrase in that last paragraph is “really as good as it looks” — and I
want you to keep that up front in your mind every time you trade. Like it or
not, some people in this world just don’t play fair. They might claim that
something’s in better condition than it is, or even that a fake is actually the
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real thing. When you trade or purchase pieces for your games, take an extra
moment to double-check the item destined for your collection. Is it in the
right condition? Is this really the one you want? Is it the actual item and not
just a clever fake? An honest seller won’t mind if you inspect the cards she
offers. Protect yourself by giving the goods a close look.
When a good deal wanders by, consider picking it up for your collection or as
trading stock. After all, even if it isn’t precisely what you want or need for
your collection, somebody else can probably use it for his or hers. Offering a
good selection of cards for trade makes other people seek you out, which
often gives you the better side of the deal.
Where can you find bargains like these? You often see them on eBay, particularly among auctions with a “Buy It Now” price, which lets you end the auction early by paying whatever fixed price the seller entered. In these cases,
the seller either didn’t know or didn’t care about the current price, and just
set a value that he wanted. To you, sitting on the other side of the screen, the
price looks like a deal, so you click the button and finish the purchase. This
happens most often during the first couple of weeks after a new set comes
out, although you still find the same thing on older sets, too.
Above all else, fairness should guide your trading, especially when it comes
to “bargain value” trades between an experienced player like you and a
newbie. If the new player offers you a really valuable card for a mid-range
one, point out what he’s doing and make sure that’s what he intended.
Occasionally the other person just really wants your card, but most of the
time the new player simply confused one card with another and thought he
was getting a super deal. Little things like this build other people’s trust in
you as a fair trader, which makes trading easier (and usually more profitable)
for you in the future.
Along the same line, very young kids sometimes play and collect these
games, too. Although they can make their decks work, they might not really
understand what’s going on when it comes to trading. (After all, they’re little!)
If a younger player offers you an over-powered trade, kindly direct him
toward a different trade that involves a less powerful card on his end of the
deal. If the child stays adamant about trading his super-huge card for your
wimpy one, include extra cards in the trade to make up the difference. If you
still can’t change the child’s mind, put off the trade until his parents arrive,
then enlist their help. Mom or Dad can sometimes fix the problem where you
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You Can Always Say No
That’s a pretty strong word in the world of negotiating. But the word’s
strength makes it your best tool during a trade — provided you use it carefully and appropriately.
No can mean a lot of things, depending on the person and the situation. For
instance, no might actually mean
⻬ I don’t feel like trading right now, but I might do it later.
⻬ I don’t think the trade looks fair.
⻬ I’m tired of talking.
⻬ I’m focusing on something else.
⻬ I’m done trading — don’t bother me.
⻬ My ride’s here and I need to leave.
When someone says no to one of your trades, try to find out why. Sometimes
the person just tells you outright, without waiting for you to ask. Other times,
she just utters the sacred word and then stands there, silent as a rock, waiting for you to make the next move.
After getting a no during a trade, always respond with an open-ended question. For instance, try saying, “What card would you like instead of this?” The
other person can’t answer that with another no, so he must share more information with you. After you find out what he wants, you can keep working on
the trade.
Will you face times when you need to say no to someone else? Of course you
will — it’s part of the tapestry of trading. When you say no to a potential trading partner, do it simply. Give the other person information — don’t leave
him hanging. If you’re giving the trade to someone else, let this person know
why. If you don’t think the offer looks fair, let him know. Don’t just pack up
your cards and call it a night.
When trading cards and figures, your best asset — the thing that gets you the
best deals and the most valuable goods — is your reputation. Develop a reputation as a fair trader. It pays off in the end, believe me.
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Building Your Trading Assets
According to ancient wisdom, you can’t be all things to all people. (And
who’d really want to, anyway?) In collectible games, the saying goes a little
differently, but with the same thought: No matter how large your collection,
you won’t own everything your trading partners want.
You can come pretty close, though, by carefully building your trading stock.
This stock comes from booster packs you purchased for sealed events, large
groups of cards you traded for as a package deal, or from a friend who simply
decided to get out of the game. Whatever the source, your trading stock
works like currency in the market, giving you the ability to get the things
you want while pleasing the folks around you.
When picking up cards for trading stock, evaluate them the same way you
look at the cards you add to your collection. Consider their value, usefulness
in game play, condition, and rarity. All of those factors count equally, but
one — condition — breaks the tie among the rest.
If everything else stands the same about a few cards, trade for the ones in the
best condition. Top-quality cards give you plenty of flexibility when working
with other traders. If the other person swoons over perfect-condition cards,
you have just the thing in stock. If she doesn’t care about the condition, you
can still make a great trade — and possibly get something extra — simply
because the card looks so good.
It never hurts to pick up a valuable rare card or two in dinged-up condition,
particularly if you can get them on the inexpensive side. Not everybody lives
and dies by card condition, but all the players want the cards that play the
best. A strong card in medium condition still plays as well as one in mint perfection. Use your knowledge of the game to find the hidden (and slightly
worse for wear) roses among the true thorns.
To build your trading fodder, watch for strong playing pieces whose value
decreased temporarily for some odd reason. Perhaps everybody in the local
group already pulled a copy of some card, so nobody really wants another
one — at least not right now. Give the player something useful and then hold
the new card for a visit to a different venue or to a summer convention.
You might also turn a single high-value figure into a number of medium-value
ones. Individually, your figure outweighs the others, but the lower-value figures give you a lot more trading flexibility. After all, you can only swap your
super-figure once, but you might get three or four trades out of the group you
received for it.
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In This Chapter
䊳 Take a trip to the Wild West
䊳 Go play with the hurricanes
䊳 Carefully collect or recklessly gather
䊳 Match colors and score points
䊳 Roll dice and win valuable prizes
䊳 Buy, sell, trade, and make enough to quit the rat race
䊳 Don’t like the rules right now? You can change them on your turn
䊳 Blast your opponent’s space fleet to dust with a broken rubber band
䊳 Add more points for yourself or reduce an opponent’s score? That’s a tough choice!
䊳 Exercise your mind by thinking a little differently
eally big tournaments make collectible games fun. You get to test your
skills against lots of people with a wide range of skill levels. You get to
learn from the best players out there, put your best strategies to the test, and
make new friends as you do it all.
Sure, really big tournaments feature all that and more, but most of all, they
feature waiting — lots of waiting. You can feel like you spend half of your life
waiting for the next round to start.
To keep the boredom at bay, pack a few of these fast-playing games in your
tournament bag. You can teach these games pretty quickly (particularly
because the people around you already know how to play card games), and
the play itself takes only a few minutes. And, because these games take up
very little space, you can always leave the game set up and then come back
to it later if the round starts before your game ends.
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Each of the following sections includes a game’s basic stats (number of players, time to play, cost, and such), plus a quick overview of the play. Best of
all, you can find all of these games at your friendly local game store!
Bang!: Western Fun, Complete
with Meatballs
4 to 7 players, 30 minutes, $9.95 (Mayfair Games)
Something about westerns — particularly those wonderful Italian “spaghetti
westerns” like Fistful of Dollars — captures the imagination. Take the whole
good guy/bad guy thing, add in some freewheeling gunplay, and toss with the
ever-present lighted stick of dynamite (or bundle of dynamite, if the prop
budget can afford it), and — yee-haw!!! — you’ve got yourself a couple hours
of bandit-hunting, spur-jangling fun. Ah, it’s a magical combination.
Whatever catches your attention in these westerns, the Bang! card game,
from Mayfair Games, captures it in cardstock form, right down to Italian card
names with English “subtitles”. The game’s main goal is simple: Stay alive.
Unfortunately, the game puts you in the middle of a gunfight, and bullets
flying everywhere can really impede your life-oriented goals.
At the start of the game, each player gets a typical Wild West character like
Vulture Sam, Rose Doolan, or Black Jack. Each character endows the player
with a special ability of some kind during the game. The player also gets a
typical Wild West job of Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, or Renegade. There’s only
one Sheriff in town, and only one Renegade as well, but you can add in up
to two Deputies and three Outlaws, depending on the size of the group.
Everybody keeps his or her job private (face-down) except for the Sheriff
(because everybody in town knows the Sheriff).
Your specific goal (apart from just staying alive) depends on your job:
⻬ The Sheriff wants to kill all of the Outlaws.
⻬ The Deputy wants to kill the Outlaws, plus help keep the Sheriff alive.
⻬ The Outlaw wants to kill both the Sheriff and the Deputy.
⻬ The Renegade wants to kill everybody, (Isn’t that just like a Renegade?)
but he’s plotting secretly, ready to take either side.
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Gameplay centers on playing cards from your hand. The game plants its
tongue firmly in its cheek at this point, with hilarious results. To shoot
another player, you play a Bang! card. To dodge the shot, the other player
might use a Barrel (as in “He dove behind a . . .”) or just play Missed. To
restore your health, you play a Beer. Knock out another player temporarily
by locking him in Jail. Need more equipment? Visit the General Store. And,
of course, a western card game wouldn’t be much of a tribute without the
classic Stick of Dynamite.
The combination of characters, jobs, and player order around the table
(because, like any gunfight, you can only shoot the people near you) gives
Bang! great replay value. It’s a very different game every time you sit down
to play, which promises fun for a long time to come.
Category 5: Beware the
Sixth Card in a Row
2 to 10 players, 30 minutes, $9.95 (Pando Games)
Traditional card games like Bridge and Euchre use simple constructs like
going in a preset turn order (usually clockwise), taking a trick each turn, and
using trumps. Category 5 throws all of that out the window, leaving you with a
wild fracas in which four or more tricks might fall in a single round, and you
never quite know where you might fit into a round’s turn order.
Based on the popular German game 6 Nimmt (meaning “six takes”), Pando
reassembled the game for the American market by making some minor variations on the rules and wrapping the whole thing in a hurricane theme.
Category 5 (named for the most potent type of hurricane) consists of a deck
containing 104 numbered cards. In addition to the number, each card includes
one or more hurricane warning flags (in keeping with the deck’s hurricane
theme), plus some hurricane name trivia to keep things interesting and make
the game mildly educational.
Play starts by dealing a hand of 10 cards to each player. The dealer then
turns up four more cards in the center of the table, starting four rows.
Each turn happens simultaneously. Players take one card from their hand and
lay it face-down in front of them. When all players have a card ready, they flip
the cards over at the same time. The player with the lowest numbered card
goes first, with the rest of the players going in ascending numeric order.
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Looking at the four “row” cards on the table, each player in turn tries to place
his card next to the last card in a row that’s the closest number lower than
his card. For example, if the rows start with 11, 17, 21, and 40, a 20 card
would go next to the 17, because that’s the nearest lower number to the card.
That row would now end in a 20 for the next player.
Several situations could happen at this point:
⻬ If you played next to a number that’s lower than your card and your card
is not the sixth one in the row, your part of the turn ends uneventfully.
This is the best possible outcome (which means it’s the one that happens to me the least).
⻬ If you played next to a number that’s lower than your card, but the row
already held five other cards, then you put the five cards into your scoring pile and place your card in the row’s starting position. This means
that you scored points, which you don’t want to do.
⻬ If your card is lower than the final number in each row, then you must
take a row of cards. Pick the row with the fewest hurricane flags on its
cards and place those into your score pile. Put your card into the starting position for that row. (Whining helps at this point, too, but don’t
overdo it.)
After ten rounds of play, count the number of hurricane flags in your score
pile, write the number down on your score sheet, and deal a new hand. When
someone hits 74 points (in honor of the wind speed which separates a hurricane from a tropical storm), the game ends. The player with the lowest point
total wins.
Individual hands play in just a few minutes, so you could complete a whole
game during the breaks for a single tournament. Plus, Category 5 features the
kind of cutthroat competitive style that trading card game players enjoy. Give
it a try!
Coloretto: Collecting Colors
and Thinking Fast
3 to 5 players, 30 minutes, $11.95 (Rio Grande Games)
What can you say about a game with a chameleon on the cards? A lot, if the
game happens to be Coloretto. This intriguing little title comes from Rio
Grande Games and the folks at Amigo in Germany. It mixes strategy and luck
to concoct a truly fascinating playing experience.
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As you might guess from the chameleon artwork, gameplay in Coloretto
focuses on colors. Over the course of the game, you collect cards with various colors, as well as wild cards and simple, plain +2 cards (which simply
add two points to your score at the end of the game). You want to get a
bunch of cards in just three colors, because every additional set of color
cards after that counts negatively against your score. (Think depth instead of
breadth when playing Coloretto to maximize your score.)
The game begins by starting one row of cards in the center of the table for
each player. The first player flips the top card from the color deck and places
that card into one of the rows. From that point on, each player gets a very
simple choice: Draw a card and add it to a row, or take all of the cards in a
row and add them to their score pile.
If the player adds a card to a row, nothing else happens in the turn, and the
next player starts her action. Because each row holds a maximum of three
cards, individual rows fill up pretty quickly. You must pay close attention to
the colors each player has in his or her pile before tossing a card into a row.
Otherwise, you might create a row with only the colors that another player
wants for his collection!
After taking a row, the player adds the cards from that row into the color
piles in front of her, and then sits out the rest of the turn. After all the rows
get taken, players create new rows and the process begins anew. Play continues until someone pulls the end-of-round marker from the top of the draw
deck, at which point everybody takes one of the current rows, and the game
You never know what card might come off the deck next, so luck plays a solid
part in this game. But Coloretto still features plenty of strategy, too. You need
lots of cards to score the biggest points, but should you grab a row that contains fewer than three cards if it has only the right colors for your collection?
Or should you go for big rows that pour scads of cards into your stacks in
hopes of earning the biggest bonuses at the end of the game without racking
up too many minuses? Time will tell in this great little card game!
Continuo: Great for Younger Kids
and Non-Gaming Friends
1 to 8 players, 30 minutes, $9.95 (US Game Systems)
Something about colors just brings out the creative juices in game designers.
I don’t know what inspired Maureen Hiron when she designed Continuo, but
I’m really, really glad that it happened. Continuo (see Figure 21-1) takes a very
simple premise — connecting chains of color together — and builds a very
visual and highly replayable game out of it.
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Figure 21-1:
Color my
world with
Illustrations from the Continuo Card Game reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.,
Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright © 1994 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited.
Continuo contains 42 4” x 4” tiles, each printed with 16 boxes in two or three
colors. You score points by connecting the colors on your tile to the colors in
other tiles on the tabletop. The longer you play, the more the board changes.
Every game comes out very differently thanks to the ever-changing board
To start the game, players shuffle the tiles and stack them all face-down.
Then, the starting player flips over two random tiles and places them sideby-side in the center of the table. The player then flips a third tile and starts
playing the game.
You get one point for each color on your tile that connects with the same
color on the other tile. If a tile contains three blue squares in a line, for
instance, you might want to place the tile next to another tile with blue
squares, lined up so the two sets of squares match and form a connected
road or path. You then count the number of squares on that path and write
down the results on your scorecard.
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Optimally, you want to place a tile so it connects with more than just one
color because you get points for every connection matching your tile. In
some games, a single well-played tile can score over 30 points — and that’s
no small task in this game.
Nothing beats the unique competitive/cooperative playing style that Continuo
creates in a group. After a player draws a tile, everybody at the table goes
into action looking for the tile’s best landing position. Even though your
opponent ultimately gets the points for the play, you get the satisfaction of
knowing that you discovered the best position.
Thanks to its small tiles, Continuo travels very well. The game requires no
reading (and works on basic counting skills), so it’s a great pastime for parents and kids.
For a slightly different challenge, try the game’s other version, Rhombo
Continuo. The basic play stays the same, but instead of squares, this game’s
pieces use the elongated diamond shape known back in geometry class as a
rhombus. It’s a small change, but the new shape puts a whole different spin on
the game’s challenge.
Easy Come, Easy Go: Sharpening
Your Dice Probability Skills
2 to 4 players, 15 minutes, $14.95 (Out of the Box)
What’s this? A dice game from Reiner Knizia, the master of the pure strategy
game — the man whose games never include dice? The idea shocked me at
first, but that quickly gave way to laughter the first time I tried this game.
Easy Come, Easy Go starts with the same basic concept of dice games like
Yahtzee and Farkel, and then turns the whole thing on its head. In this game,
players compete against each other to win any three of the “fabulous prizes”
in the center of the table. To win a prize, the player must roll that prize’s
score on four dice. Some combinations don’t take much work (like 7 Exactly
or 13 Exactly), while others require more luck and skill (such as Four Of A
Kind or 17 Or Better).
On a turn, the player rolls all four of the custom-numbered dice with the
beautiful leather-like dice cup (included with the game at no extra charge). If
the dice form a combination that the player wants, she takes the appropriate
prize card — even if the prize currently belongs to another player — and
passes the dice to the next player.
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More often than not, the player needs to work a little harder toward making
some particular combination. The player “freezes” at least one of the dice
and rerolls the rest. Each time the player rolls, she must freeze at least one
more die in addition to the ones she froze before. If the dice fail to roll a combination that she doesn’t already have, then her turn ends and the dice go to
the next player.
To win, you just hang onto any three prizes until the beginning of your next
turn. And this sounds a lot easier than it is, believe me.
With its custom dice (numbered from zero to 5 instead of 1 to 6), hilarious
game play, and delightfully kooky artwork, Easy Come, Easy Go earns its way
into any gamer’s bag.
For Sale: A Real Estate Game with
Attention Deficit Disorder
3 to 6 players, 15 minutes, $14.95 (Uberplay)
I love Monopoly. Then again, I hate it, too. I enjoy the business aspects of the
game (yes, I probably do need to get out more), but I’m too impatient to sit
through a whole game. This leads to a lot of frustrating sessions of we almost
got through half the game that time, which leaves both me and my friends
irked and irritable.
Thanks to For Sale, a wonderful little game from Uberplay, my Monopolybased friendships enjoy smooth sailing again. For Sale gives real estate game
lovers their jolt of buying and selling properties. But unlike the multi-hour
sessions in that other game, For Sale delivers the whole experience in 15 minutes flat — and that’s if one of the players really takes his time!
The goal in this game involves ending with the most money, both from house
sales and from any unspent capital left over from the start of the game. For
Sale plays in two rounds: property purchase and property sale. Both rounds
use modified bidding systems, which give the game quite an interesting feel.
For Sale comes with a property deck (numbered from 1 to 30), a deck of
checks (with values between “void” and $15,000), and a bunch of money
counters, all displayed in Figure 21-2.
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Figure 21-2:
In For Sale,
you buy
(on the left)
and then
sell them for
In Round 1, players bid on the right to pick one of this turn’s available properties. At the start of each turn, the dealer draws one card for each player in
the game and places the cards face-up in the middle of the table. Rather than
bid on specific properties, the players bid for the right to take the property
with the highest number. If you win the bid, you get the highest numbered
property in the auction, plus you become the next dealer.
A lot of the game’s fascination comes from the delightful contortions of the
bidding system. In For Sale, only the player with the highest bid each turn
spends the full amount of money. Everybody else either pays half of what
they bid or gets a property for free. (Twisted, isn’t it?)
To bid, you place one or more of your coins in front of you. The next player
around the circle either bids more coins than you or passes by taking the
lowest valued available property. If she overbids you, then play continues to
the next person around the table. If she passes after bidding, then she gives
half of her bid (rounded up, mind you) to the bank, pulls the remainder back
into her stockpile, and takes the lowest valued card still up for grabs. After all
other players drop out of the bidding, the last bidder puts his entire bid into
the bank before taking the highest numbered card available that turn.
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Round 1 continues until all of the properties get sold. After they’re all gone,
play shifts to Round 2, in which you sell the properties for as much money as
you can.
Here, the bid mechanism turns secret. A player flips up one card for each
player from the check deck. Now, players secretly select a card from their
stack of properties and place it face-down in front of them. All players reveal
their cards at the same time. The player with the highest property number
takes the highest check in the set, and so on down to the person with the
lowest-numbered property.
Sometimes you get a really good property with a small card simply because
a bunch of valuable checks popped out that round. Other times (and I see
this happen quite a lot), the checks for a particular round consist of a “void”
(worth nothing), a couple of small dollar amounts, and a big juicy check.
Obviously you want the big check, but how would you play it? Would you
play big, hoping to score the big check? Do you get sly and play a middle-ofthe-road card? What if your opponents anticipate that you’ll go big, so they
go really, really low, getting rid of their weak cards without worry or fear?
In order to win the game — by having the highest total value of checks at the
end of the game — you are presented with many important decision to make!
(And good luck making the best ones, too!)
Fluxx 3.0: Because Pre-written
Rules Limit Your Options
2 to 6 players, 15 minutes, $11.95 (Looney Labs)
Of all the things you can say about Fluxx, one comment never applies to this
game: “I don’t like the rules.” If you don’t like the rules, then play it again!
Every time you deal the deck, you get a completely new set of rules — in fact,
changing the rules is the whole point of this game. (Well, that and laughing at
the names on some of the cards, but I digress.)
This odd little card game from the folks at Looney Labs serves up something
different every time you sit down to play. How do you win? Well, it depends
on which Goal card went into play last. How many cards do you draw on a
turn? Well, it depends on which Draw rule someone played. How many cards
do you play on a turn? Even that depends on the cards.
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Every game starts with the same basic rules: Draw a card and play a card on
your turn, keep as many cards in your hand as you want, and (most importantly) when the game begins there’s no way to win! The winning condition
(or “goal”) of the game is in the deck as well — and can change just like the
rules do! On your turn, you might play a new rule that overrides any of the
basic rules, helps you complete a goal, or that does something completely
different, like forcing everybody to pass their cards to the left. You might play
Keeper or Goal cards during your turn as well.
To win the game, you need the right Keeper cards in play (with names like
Chocolate, Love, Money, and Moon) to fulfill the current Goal card. Each
Goal specifies which Keeper cards trigger it. In fact, every card in the deck
tells you exactly how to play it, making this one of the easiest games in the
world to teach.
Light Speed: Flip, Place,
Blast, and Repeat
2 to 4 players, 10 minutes, $4.95 (Cheapass Games)
There’s something about space games that sparks the imagination and draws
you in. Unfortunately, most space games require hours of setup and playing
time, plus a table the size of many third-world countries. Light Speed flies in
the face of such traditions by offering gameplay that goes faster than some
sneezes. The average game ends in under a minute. Of course, scoring the
game takes another four or five minutes, but even that’s a blast.
Each player in Light Speed gets a fleet of 10 ship cards, numbered 1 through
10. The number represents not just the ship’s relative power, but also the
order that the ships fire during the scoring phase. Smaller, faster ships fire
before the bigger, more heavily armed ones, but they inflict less damage.
Many medium-size ships get more than one shot or they feature shields to
deflect enemy beams. And the biggest ships in the fleet look really, really
mean — and they live up to that reputation.
Like many other titles from Cheapass Games, Light Speed uses a simultaneous
play system. Each player gets a deck of 10 ships, which the player shuffles a
few times. When all players look ready, someone counts down and says, “Go!”
At that point, everybody starts flipping over ship cards and placing them
onto the playing table as fast as possible. The game (or at least this portion
of it) ends when the first person places her last ship and calls “Done.”
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With the ships arranged somewhat haphazardly on the table, players start
the scoring phase of the game. Each player finds ship number one in their
fleet (assuming it got put into the battle before someone else finished putting
their ships out) and checks that ship’s weapon for hits. Each card features a
picture of the ship, plus one or more weapon beams pointing off the card. To
check for a hit, the player takes a piece of string or a broken rubber band
(which explains why my office has no usable rubber bands left) and stretches
it along the path of the beam. If the line hits another ship, that counts as a
hit. If it hits a ship’s shields, then the shields prevent the damage. If it goes off
into space, well, it misses.
Players mark hits on other ships with tokens of some kind or another and
remove any destroyed ships from play. In the end, whoever scored the most
kills takes the victory. The game also includes a couple of scenarios that keep
things very interesting for future rounds.
If you enjoy space games, give this one a try. It’s part of the Hip Pocket game
series, which keeps both the prices and the physical size very small.
Loco: Fun, Fast Strategy That
Sharpens Your Mind
2 to 4 players, 15 minutes, $6.95 (Fantasy Flight Games)
Who would think that a deck of special cards and a bunch of plastic chips
could offer so much fun and strategy? Regardless of how they did it, the folks
at Fantasy Flight Games came up with a winner in Loco.
To win this quick and challenging little game, you need the most points. You
get points by adding colored chips to your collection and by playing cards
from your hand next to the appropriate chip stack. Each chip color has a corresponding set of six cards, numbered zero through five. A purple five, for
example, goes next to the purple chip stack, making all of those chips worth
five points each. And they hold that value until the end of the game — unless,
of course, someone covers up the five card with something lower, like a two,
one, or the ever-popular zero.
The big strategy in this game focuses on watching which chips your opponents take and then either getting some of those chips yourself or plotting to
destroy the value of the chips before the game ends. But that brings up an
interesting point by itself. None of the players know exactly when the game
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might end. They know the end is coming, and they all know when it happens,
but goodness only knows when the end might arrive.
When all six cards for one color come into play, the game immediately ends.
No further plays, no last-moment strategizing — boom, the game ends.
Because you always leave two or three cards out of play at the beginning of
the game, you never know which color (or colors) can’t end the game. That
leaves everybody a little nervous when five cards stack up somewhere. After
all, the game might end before you get another turn!
The game’s delicious tension builds around the unknown timing of the game
end, as Figure 21-3 shows. Do you spend what might be your final turn reducing your opponent’s points or increasing your own? Which play gives you
more benefit? What if your opponent can counter your play? And what if that
ends the game?
Loco manages to be a fun, fast, and extremely taut strategy title. You can’t
beat the play value at the price, either!
Figure 21-3:
With four
cards in one
stack and
five in
another, this
round of
Loco might
end on the
next play.
suspense is
killing me!)
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Set: An Erudite Pastime for
the Thinking Player
1 to 6 players, 15 minutes, $11.95 (Set Enterprises)
Most games work best for people who process information in one particular
way. If you think about things linearly — first this, then that, then the other
thing — you automatically have problems with a game that makes you think
in a more flexible or fluid way. You probably feel frustrated when you play the
game, but that’s just how it goes.
Set challenges that idea by adapting to the way that you think. You prefer a
random approach? Fine. Want to do things in sequential order? Peachy. No
matter how you think, you can win a game of Set.
At first blush, there’s nothing much to Set. The box includes a bunch of cards
with one or more symbols on their faces. Look a little closer and you quickly
notice that each card actually has four attributes:
⻬ The symbol: diamond, oval, or squiggle
⻬ The number of symbols: one, two, or three
⻬ The color of the symbols: red, green, or purple
⻬ The shading of the symbols: outline, shaded, or solid
Everybody plays at the same time in Set. No time is lost waiting for someone
else’s turn. This keeps everybody constantly involved, making Set a great
game to play with groups of up to six.
To start the game, someone places 12 cards face-up in the middle of the table
where everybody can see them. All players immediately begin looking for a
“set” of three cards that match a very simple rule: They are either the same
in one or more attributes or different in the remaining attributes. It might be
the same symbol, color, and number, but different shading. Maybe it’s the
same shading and number, but different symbols and colors. Or you might
even find my favorite type of set, in which everything is different between the
three cards.(See Figure 21-4.)
When a player thinks he sees a set, he calls “Set!” to temporarily pause the
game. He points out the three cards he thinks make up the set and explains
why they follow the rules. If everybody agrees that it’s actually a set, the
player adds those three cards to his scoring pile and then lays three new
cards in their positions, staring the hunt over again. The winner is the person
with the most cards in her score pile at the end of the game.
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Figure 21-10:
This layout
a set of
a set of
and at least
one set in
the “all
If you get really bored, you can play Set by yourself, too. Just lay out the 12
cards and start looking for sets. For something a little different, try timing
yourself to see how fast you can work the entire deck.
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Player You Adore
In This Chapter
䊳 Adding booster packs
䊳 Picking up some card sleeves
䊳 Sharing the joy of card binders
䊳 Bagging things for tournament transport
䊳 Boxing up everything at home
䊳 Counting on counters
䊳 Giving the gift of dice
䊳 Setting up a magazine subscription
䊳 Sending your gamer to a big convention
䊳 Going for flexibility with gift certificates
hat can I get her? What does she need?” Ah, there it is — the questions that ring loudly from house after house during the holiday
season each year. You know that your gamer plays [insert name of trading
card game here], but you don’t know how to translate that information into
something for under $50 that you can wrap.
Game players enjoy getting presents as much as anybody, but their gift lists
often look a little different than everybody else’s. Finding that perfect gameoriented something takes a little bit of extra effort, but it pays huge dividends.
The gift ideas below apply to anybody that plays any sort of trading card or
collectible miniatures game because, regardless of which game your gift
recipient enjoys, all game players need certain things.
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If you follow the tips in this chapter, the game player of your heart should
light up like, well, your favorite light-oriented holiday decoration when she
sees what you bought. And that’s definitely a good goal.
Expanding the Collection
with Booster Packs
From a gift-buying perspective, one very nice thing about collectible games is
that players always need more cards and pieces. If you ever feel stuck about
what to give, you can’t go too awfully wrong by purchasing booster packs —
or even a whole booster display, a package you can buy from your Friendly
Local Game Store that includes all of the booster packs available for an
expansion of your gamer’s favorite game.
When purchasing boosters for someone, make sure you know precisely what
game he plays and which set he wants. Every collectible game on the market
includes multiple releases of cards or figures. Knowing that your friend plays
Vs. or Mage Knight gives you about half the information that you actually
need to make a purchase. From there, find out which specific sets he wants.
Buying the wrong release of the right game takes a lot of the luster off an
otherwise thoughtful gift.
As a general rule, all players can use more of the newest cards or pieces. Ask
your friendly local game store to guide you toward the newest stuff for whatever game your player loves and then pick out some packs.
Newer players might want a starter and some packs, or perhaps a handful of
packs from the last few sets. A new player’s collection always needs more of
everything, so you can’t really go wrong.
More-experienced players generally want the latest stuff. Their binders contain lots of the previous releases, so stick with whatever’s new and popular.
Holiday products that contain special limited-edition cards make great gifts
for these folks.
If you decide to give a display (or a case of collectible miniatures boosters),
ask your game store about their quantity discounts. Almost every store
knocks off some money for buying boosters by the display or by the case.
If your recipient wants an older set of cards or figures, you might get even
more money off because the store wants to cut down its backstock.
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Adding More (And Cooler) Card Sleeves
When trading card games first arrived on the scene, players didn’t view their
decks as anything really special. They rubber-banded decks together, shuffled them during games, and generally treated them like, well, cards. As the
resale market for cards grew, players quickly realized that their cards had
actual monetary value in addition to playing value.
This left players in a conundrum. The most valuable cards from a monetary
perspective were also the most powerful cards, which they really wanted to
put into their decks. But to protect the monetary value of the card, they
couldn’t really play with it. Talk about a problem!
That’s why deck protectors (also known as card sleeves) came into the world.
These little plastic slipcases fit over the cards in your deck. In addition to
making your deck look really spiffy, they protect your cards from spills, bends,
rips, tears, and the ugly scuffing that comes from regular use. Suddenly, players could use any card in their collections without fear that every shuffle costs
them a little bit of money.
Players almost always need more deck protectors. Before picking up some as
a gift, find out what brand of protectors your player prefers, and whether she
needs normal-size protectors or the slightly narrower “mini” size. Yu-Gi-Oh!
players, for instance, need the mini protectors, but Pokémon players use fullsize protectors.
In their continuing effort to add more “coolness” to collectible games, several
deck protector companies have released special artist-edition protectors.
Instead of sporting a plain color or shiny chromatic backing, these protectors
feature gorgeous fantasy or gothic horror artwork in rich color. They cost a
little more, but they look beautiful on the table.
If your player owns some very special cards that rarely get played anymore,
consider getting some nice screw-down card display cases with matching
stands. These solid plastic cases protect the cards while putting them out for
show. (And believe me, game collectors love few things more than showing
off their rarest and most amazing cards to other collectors.)
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Organizing the World with
Pages and Binders
The longer someone plays trading card games, the more cards they end up
owning. It’s just a natural part of life. Of course, owning the cards means storing the cards somehow. You can’t throw them all into boxes, because building
great decks requires studying the cards and learning how they interact. Yet
you don’t want to keep the cards loose, either, because they might get damaged or lost.
Card binders and 9-card pages (for use with regular three-ring binders) solve
this dilemma. They let you see the cards quickly and easily while still protecting them from all manner of nastiness. You can also throw a binder or two into
your backpack and take the whole thing to a tournament for easy trading.
One-piece binders (also known as portfolios) do a great job for trading stock
or storing the current set that’s under study. The binder wraps a heavy cover
around a bunch of built-in card storage pages. The cover often matches one
of the company’s deck protector designs, so if your favorite game player also
enjoys fashion (hey, don’t laugh — it can happen), you can put together a
complete ensemble of coordinated storage products.
These all-in-one binders typically come in two sizes based on the number of
cards they hold on each page. The small four-card size includes 14 pages,
capable of holding about 112 cards (figuring two cards in each pocket). The
larger nine-card size contains 10 pages, with a total capacity of about 180
Because they’re one-piece — with the pages molded directly into the cover —
when these binders start wearing out, you can’t do much beyond adding some
tape here or there. At some point, you just throw out the old one and pick up a
If the thought of perpetually re-purchasing a binder bothers you, turn your
attention to the standard nine-card pages that fit into any three-ring binder.
This makes a very flexible storage system. You can add or remove pages at
will, reshuffling things, and simply buy a bigger binder if you need more
room. On the flip side, if your three-ring binder ever opens unexpectedly,
then your pages remove and reshuffle themselves, which rarely adds joy to
your day.
To prevent that kind of problem, many people use either zippered binders or
higher-quality locking three-ring binders instead of the cheap, normal versions. Any office supply store has locking binders (which use a level to lock
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the rings shut, preventing your stuff from escaping). Check the student supplies aisle for zippered binders. Some of the game companies also make nice
zippered binders, both in three-ring and portfolio versions.
Instead of getting regular round-ring binders, look for the new-style D-ring
binders. As the name suggests, the rings in these binders look like a reversed
letter D, with a flat side toward the pages, instead of a completely round ring.
This one small change adds a surprising 25 to 40 percent more storage capacity to each binder. Frankly, I didn’t believe that the ring shape could make
that much difference when I first saw D-ring binders, so I bought one to give
it a try. Wow — what a difference! I eventually replaced all of my round-ring
binders with D-ring versions and recovered almost a foot of shelf space in
the process. D-ring binders cost a little more, but they’re definitely worth
the money.
Traveling with a Tournament Bag
As players get further into their games, moving the various game components — cards, figures, dice, markers, trading lists, rule books, magazines,
and such — from one place to another goes from simple to massively complex. In the beginning, you grab a deck box and some counters and then hit
the door. Later, you logistically plan the trip, deciding which deck boxes to
take (because you don’t know what the competition might use), which
binders to throw in the car (you don’t want to miss any trading), and how
many dice and counters you might need for any of the various games you
plan to play.
It doesn’t take long before players start stuffing things into any handy bag,
regardless of the bag’s original purpose. If the bag includes a handle and
some storage space, then it works — at least for a while. But then things start
escaping from the bag or getting left behind at tournaments. Suddenly, the
player wants — no, needs — a real solution to the gear transportation problem.
Serious game players require serious gaming luggage, so a game bag makes a
great gift opportunity. Dedicated gaming carriers come in all shapes, sizes,
and price points. Visit your friendly local game store for the best selection of
gaming gear. Remember that most stores happily special-order products if
your game player wants something specific.
Start with a look at one of the dedicated card bags from gaming companies
like BCW ( and UltraPro (
These cases include soft foam inserts that fit either loose stacks of cards or
standard-sized card boxes, plus space for dice, markers, rule books, and the
other necessities of the gaming life. The cases usually cost around $25.
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UltraPro also makes a gaming case specifically designed for collectible miniatures games. Instead of the larger spaces for deck boxes, these cases include
a multitude of smaller padded compartments designed to organize and protect all of those miniatures. Of course, the cases include space for sundry
add-on goodies like dice and markers, too.
Also consider a zippered deck box album. This padded (and reinforced)
three-ring binder offers pockets for a pair of standard deck boxes, several
pouches for dice and markers, plus room for plenty of nine-card pages. It
keeps the player’s active decks and supplies handy while hauling the trading
stock at the same time.
You can also mix a game case with a standard backpack for a simple but effective carrying case solution. Make sure that the game case fits into the backpack — otherwise, your player needs to track two bags instead of one, which
leads straight back to the problem that started this whole gift-purchasing journey. Depending on what you find, though, this might save you some money
without impacting the bag’s usefulness.
If your gamer hauls more stuff than the bags or binders can hold, consider a
gaming backpack from UltraPro, a special rolling bag from BCW, or one of the
behemoth packs from Charon Productions (
Any of these can increase your player’s carrying capacity by a large factor.
The backpack includes space for deck boxes, a large three-ring binder, all
sorts of accessories, and even a CD player for quick relaxation between
At first glance, you might mistake BCW’s rolling bag, affectionately called
Mr. Suitcase, for a regular roll-along travel bag. After all, it’s FAA-approved as
carry-on luggage for flights, and it comes in standard black, preferred by travelers everywhere. But this travel bag fits more than clothes! It comes with
four standard game cases, each of which holds 600 cards (or fewer cards plus
some accessories). That gives Mr. Suitcase a starting capacity of 2,400 cards,
with a maximum of 3,600 if you add another pair of game cases!
For a truly elegant (and spacious) solution to toting miniatures around, take a
look at the Charon Scoutpack, Skirmishpack, and Battlepack. Thanks to mixand-match foam inserts, these gorgeous bags give your player tons of flexibility. The exact capacity depends on what kind of foam inserts you use in each
bag, but the bag’s raw space guarantees room for anywhere from 50 miniatures in the Scoutpack to hundreds in the gigantic Battlepack. For those
miniatures players who have a really huge collection to tote around, check
out Sabol Designs for their luggage-like figure cases that come in sizes from
reasonable to massive! (
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If you shop Charon’s online catalog, remember that the site shows pricing in
Canadian dollars, not United States dollars. That translates into a nice discount off the stated price — usually about 20 to 30 percent, depending on the
current exchange rate.
Building Storage Space
with Boxes of All Kinds
Boxes, boxes, boxes! At some point, every collectible game player’s collection grows so large that it needs lots of storage space. The cards overflow
their binders and the miniatures run amok from their cases. These folks need
help getting their world back under control! You can offer a hand by giving
storage boxes to your favorite gamer.
Suggesting that your game lover simply throw out some things probably
won’t help. You can always try, but don’t expect a joyous response to the suggestion. I could list a lot of possible excuses — er, reasons — why your gamer
shouldn’t get rid of some redundant cards, but you’ll hear them soon enough
without my help.
For a first pass at organizing your friend’s mess, try using standard white
card boxes. They come in all sizes, and they do a great job with both trading
card games and collectible miniatures games. Granted, the miniatures rattle
around some in the boxes, but that won’t matter much for garage or closet
storage. Thanks to their low cost, you can throw quite a few card boxes at
any storage problem without breaking your budget.
If you want an inexpensive storage solution for collectible miniatures games,
look no further than the fishing tackle department of a nearby department
store. Plastic fishing lure boxes make great storage units for miniatures of all
genres. Because the boxes typically include movable dividers, the gamer can
custom-build (and infinitely rebuild) the box to meet her changing needs. Take
a peek in the storage sections of the local hardware store as well because they
usually have some larger, tougher boxes there. One of my favorite miniatures
cases came from a hardware store. It’s roomy, with large box-shaped dividers.
It works like a dream!
Still, some gamers prefer real miniatures cases to the less-glamorous get-thejob-done cases. In this case (pardon the play on words), point your attention
to specialty cases like the Mage Cage from Active Minds (www.activeminds and the Vessel case from Rook ( These
companies look at the unique needs of collectible miniatures games and
create products that do a darned good job of moving playing pieces without
damaging anything.
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If your friend needs to store and move a huge army with hundreds of pieces,
flip back to the gaming bag section and consider picking up a Battlepack case
from Charon Productions or an ARMY TRANSPORT Battalion from Sabol
Those cases hold a lot of stuff — way more than most people demand, but
just right for the dedicated game player.
Counting Life, Actions, or Whatever
with Tokens and Markers
Who says trading card games aren’t educational? Almost every game out
there includes some kind of counting mechanic for monitoring life, hit points,
or some other game attribute. Keeping track with that mechanic demands yet
another gaming accessory: tokens and markers.
Most players start with either glass beads or simple, plastic counting chips
for their tokens. Either option keeps the cost low while doing the job right.
Other players use their game tokens as a form of personal expression by
looking for the most unusual options out there. Among the players I know,
you might see markers that include playing pieces from a Risk game, little
Lego people, skull-shaped beads, miniature dice, pennies, and even high-end
clay poker chips. Markers like these make for quite the colorful battlefield!
If you plan to purchase something unique, work with your gamer on some
options. This gift makes a great cooperative effort that involves shopping
through craft stores and bead shops, looking for exactly the right thing. You
can also go for upscale markers from specialty companies like Hammerdog
Games ( Many items in their Imajewels line of markers include licensed, game-specific graphics that really set a player’s heart
Oversized dice make great life counters, too — plus they look cool on the
player’s desk between games. Check with the local game store to see what’s
available. You might even find one that matches your player’s favorite dice
color scheme!
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Rolling Along with New Dice
To a true game lover, dice take on an almost mystical status. Players spend a
lot of time with their dice, and they often believe that certain dice roll best
under certain conditions. Whether the dice actually work that way or not
(most of the time they don’t, but please keep that as our little secret) doesn’t
really matter — what matters is that peculiar bond between a gamer and his
Even with that bond, every single game lover on the planet always needs
more dice. It’s a moral imperative. Big dice, little dice, dice in special
colors — game players love them all.
Most collectible games (assuming they use dice in the first place) rely on
standard 6-sided or 20-sided dice. In addition to different shapes, dice come
in all kinds of color schemes. That’s one reason players love dice so much —
you can collect them! Color-wise, basic dice are simple, solid opaque and
translucent colors like red, yellow, green, and clear, but those are only the
tip of the iceberg.
Things really start getting interesting when you get into the specialty dice
available from companies like Chessex (, Crystal Caste
(, and Koplow Games (
These companies mix colors like ancient alchemists mixed chemicals, and
they come up with some amazingly beautiful dice in the process. They occasionally do limited-edition runs of the most exotic color combinations and
materials, making these dice extra-special.
You can find dice at almost any game store out there. If your player prefers
one particular game store, start your shopping excursion there. The staff
probably knows your player, and can point out the specific type of dice she
might like. Ask if the store has a dice sampler, which displays the various
color combinations available from their suppliers.
Subscribing to a Favorite
Game Magazine
Players love reading about their favorite games and learning strategies to
help them squash their opponents during the next tournament. Because of
that love, the trading card game hobby spawned a pair of monthly magazines
that focus almost exclusively on collectible and trading card games.
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Both InQuest Gamer and Scrye feature reviews, strategy articles, and tournament reports. InQuest Gamer approaches gaming with a lighter touch, often
poking fun at itself and the game hobby with a combination of deep devotion
and sometimes taste-challenged humor that appeals to teenaged boys. Scrye
aims for a reader who wants solid information and strategies without a goofy
soundtrack. Both magazines include reviews of non-collectible games, as well
as occasional coverage of new computer games (particularly if they tie in to a
collectible game of some kind).
From time to time, the magazines feature special mail-in promotions. By sending in a form from the magazine (along with a check or money order in your
favorite local currency), you get some special limited-edition figure or card.
These pieces make a subscription well worth the price because you can usually buy several of the pieces and then trade them to your friends.
Check with your local game store or bookstore for subscription information.
Many game stores can set up a subscription plan through the store, which
saves some money over buying individual copies.
Giving a Big Convention Trip
The Holy Grail of gaming is playing (and winning!) your favorite game at one
of the big summer conventions. These multi-day events bring together competitors from all over the world, making for one of the most fun and challenging playing environments you can find. Add to that the sheer excitement of
assembling thousands of game players in one place, and you get the recipe
for an unforgettable game-playing experience.
Before getting too awfully excited, the odds of attending a big summer convention depend greatly on where you live. The two biggest conventions take
place in Indiana and Ohio, with other major events happening in Georgia,
Illinois, and southern California. If you live close to one of these areas, then
you’re in luck. If you don’t, then you’re in for a bit of a drive.
The two biggest events in North America happen just three hours (and about
seven weeks) apart from each other. The Origins International Game Expo
( takes place in late June (and sometimes early
July) each year, and draws about 15,000 people annually to Columbus, Ohio.
The largest game convention in North America, GenCon (,
rolls into Indianapolis, Indiana, during mid-August, just before school starts.
It boasts an audience in the 25,000-person range. Both conventions offer a
variety of national and international tournaments, with plenty of events for
all of the big games.
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If you want a Southern flair to your game (and plenty of science fiction and
fantasy literature as well), make a Labor Day visit to Dragon*Con
( in Atlanta, Georgia. Although the convention focuses
on books, movies, and art, Dragon*Con’s gaming tracks keep growing every
year. It’s well worth the visit.
Finally, west-coast game players can enjoy the relatively new GenCon SoCal
convention in Anaheim, California, in mid-November. Like its big brother in
Indianapolis, GenCon SoCal focuses on gaming, but adds plenty of other
events to keep things fun. Although the convention started only a few years
ago, it attracts quite a crowd.
Gift possibilities abound with conventions. The simplest and most basic gift,
a convention admission badge, costs between $45 and $80, depending on the
convention and the time of year that you purchase it (badges cost a lot less
early in the season). You might also toss in some money toward tickets for
specific events at the convention. Money to spend on the exhibit floor makes
a nice addition, too.
Visit the convention Web sites for more details about each show, including
registration times and badge prices. Also look at the Web sites for your
player’s favorite games to see if the game manufacturer plans any superspecial events for one convention or another.
Giving a Gift Certificate Means Never
Saying “You Don’t Play That Game
Some people see gift certificates as a wimp-out gift, but I disagree. Giving a
gift certificate lets the recipient personalize your gift in a way that you can’t
do yourself, regardless of the amount of work and effort you put into the
process. It’s the ultimate “I appreciate you” statement. The sentiment behind
that beautiful envelope and the gilded certificate inside is “I love you enough
to not make you stand in the after-holiday return lines to convert the sweater
that I was going to get you into cold, hard cash. That, more than anything, my
dear, displays the depth of my feelings for you.”
That’s my kind of gift. (Besides, I really hate standing in those return lines.)
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Before giving that certificate, do some research. First, you need to know
where your game player shops and plays. Does he buy product or play in
tournaments at a friendly local game store? If so, purchase your gift certificate there. That lets your game player buy his product in familiar surroundings. Plus, it helps ensure that those local tournaments keep going.
After deciding on the location, you need to come up with a dollar amount.
You know your target dollar amount the best, so definitely stay inside your
comfort zone. At the same time, keep in mind what things actually cost, so
you give your recipient enough to pick out something cool.
The following list gives you an idea of what players need and how much it all
sets you back:
⻬ Card booster packs: Most booster packs cost between $3 and $5 each,
depending on the game. Sealed packs from older sets or from the first
edition of a particular release might go for significantly more money.
⻬ Booster packs for collectible miniatures games: Because manufacturing
and painting those little pieces of plastic takes more effort than printing
and slicing a bunch of cards, boosters for miniatures games usually command a higher price than card packs. You can expect to pay between $8
and $13 for most collectible miniatures boosters, with some sets going
to as much as $20 (these usually include special extra-large pieces which
drive up the price).
⻬ Deck protectors: Deck protectors (those plastic sleeves that players
slide their cards into) cost between $4 and $5 for a package of 50. Most
games use between 50 and 100 cards, so plan on at least two packages of
sleeves. Deck protectors take such an important place in a game player’s
world that they get their own dedicated gift section, called “Adding More
(And Cooler) Card Sleeves,” a little earlier in this chapter.
⻬ Card boxes: Here, the price depends on whether you stay simple with a
plain cardboard box ($1 or less, depending on the capacity) or go for
something nicer. Plastic deck boxes vary between $2 for a small box and
$5 for a larger one. Metal deck boxes start around $3.50 and top off in
the near-$10 range.
Although cash might seem like a simpler alternative to a gift certificate, I recommend getting a gift certificate anyway. Despite its ultimate flexibility, cash
doesn’t communicate the proper gift attitude, particularly to your game
player. A certificate to your gamer’s favorite store shows that you paid attention to her hobby and that you really wanted to give her something special.
Sure, it takes a little bit more effort, but the extra work you put into a gift certificate makes it a much more meaningful gift.
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abbreviations for auction title, 269–270
accessories and supplies. See also game
bags; storage systems
bubble envelope mailers, 275
bubble wrap rolls, 276
cost of mailing supplies, 275
“penny sleeves”, 275
tape dispenser and packing tape, 276
top loaders, 275
age range
adult level games, 215, 216–217
overview, 212
teenagers’ games, 216–217
tweens’ games, 214–215
Akodo Anshiro, 117
Akodo Bakin, 120
Akodo Ieshige, 117
Akodo Kobi, 120
Akodo Natsu, 117
Akodo Shigetoshi, 120
Alderac Entertainment Group
(Web site), 121
Ali from Cairo, 53
all-out attack strategy, 30
Anachronism, 200–201, 214
Ancient Gear Golem, 134
Ancient Sanctuary, 133
anime games
about, 157–158
Case Closed, 158–159
Digimon, 159–161
Dragon Ball GT, 163–165, 214
Dragon Ball Z, 163–165
Dragon Booster, 161–162
Duel Masters, 165–166, 213
Fullmetal Alchemist, 166–168, 217
Inuyasha, 168–169
Antiquities, 53
Ant-Man, 76
Aquapolis, 93
Arabian Nights, 52–53
arch enemies (HeroClix), 145
archetypes of players
competition and, 255
Johnny, 29, 255
Spike, 29–30, 255
Timmy, 29–30, 255
Armor Wars, 149
Ashigaru Archers, 108, 109, 118
Ashigaru Spearmen, 118
attack and defense options, 13, 30–31
auction title, writing, 269–270
The Avengers, 74, 75–80
Avengers Assemble!, 80
backpack, 320
bags. See game bags
balance strategy, 31
Bang!, 300–301
bargains, 295–296
Barley Farm, 115
Base Set 2 (Pokémon), 91
base sets, 24–25
baseball card game, 176
Batman, 142–143, 144, 151, 152
Battlefield of Shallow Graves, 119
BCW (Web site), 27, 319
Beast Boy (veteran version), 151
beginners. See getting started
big combination strategy, 31
D-ring, 252, 319
locking three-ring, 318–319
nine-pocket pages for, 27, 318
portfolio binders, 27, 252, 318
three-ring, 27, 251–252
zippered, 318, 319, 320
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Black Knight, 76
Black Lotus, 52
Black Luster Soldier, 133
Black Panther, 76
Blade Knight, 137
Blaze, 59
Blood in the Dark, 69
The Bloodspeaker Saga, 114
board layout
Legend of the Five Rings, 110
Magic: The Gathering, 49–50
Vs. System, 70–71
booster displays, 277
booster packs. See also decks
buying, 12, 244
cost of, 80, 326
described, 12
as gifts, 316
quantity discounts, 316
rare cards in, 18
shipping, 277
boxes for cards
cost of, 251, 326
described, 26–27
types of, 250–251
Brainburst (Web site), 62
briefcase, 258
bubble envelope mailers, 275
bubble wrap rolls, 276
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 182
building a deck. See also decks
analyzing cards and, 27–28
Legend of the Five Rings, 114–121
Magic: The Gathering, 57–60, 62
overview, 12, 13
Pokémon, 94–97
Vs. System, 75–79
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 134–137
building trading assets, 298
Bulbasaur, 91
Buster Blader, 133
Buy It Now option (eBay), 271–272, 296
buying cards. See also collecting cards;
trading cards and collectibles
booster packs, 12, 244
impulse purchases, 294
from local game stores, 277
online trading, 292
rare cards, 244–245
research for, 290–291
single cards, 244–245
starter decks, 12
tips for, 211
Call Down the Lightning, 79
Call of Cthulhu, 201–204, 218
Call of the Haunted, 137
Camerupt EX, 95, 96
Candelabra of Tawnos, 53
Captain America, 76
card boxes
cost of, 251, 326
described, 26–27
types of, 250–251
Card Coffin boxes, 251
card sleeves. See deck protectors
cards. See also rare cards; sets
analyzing, 27–28
base sets, 24–25
character cards, 22
condition of, 273–275
economy of, 28
effects cards, 23
equipment cards, 22–23
giving away, 26
interrupt cards, 23
Legend of the Five Rings, 100–109
location cards, 23
Magic: The Gathering, 42–48
Pokémon, 83–87, 94
roles of, 244
safety concerns, 246
shipping, 277
statistics on, 28
types of, 22–24
Vs. System, 64–69, 75–77
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 124–131
Case Closed, 158–159
cash gifts, 326
Castform, 93
categories of collectible games, 15–16, 35
Category 5, 301–302
Chaos Emperor Dragon, 133
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about, 22
HeroClix, 142–145
Legend of the Five Rings, 100–101
Magic: The Gathering, 44–45, 57–58
Pokémon, 84–86
Vs. System, 64–66, 75–77
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 124–127, 130–131
Charizard, 91, 93
Charon Productions (Web site), 320, 321
chase cards, 25
checklists (“spoiler lists”), 121, 289
cheese strategy, 31
adults games and, 215, 216
choosing games for, 33, 211, 212–213
games oriented toward, 213–214
horror genre and, 218–219
miniatures games for, 215
registering with game companies, 248
teenagers’ games, 216–217
trading with, 296
tweens’ games, 214–215
chip-tossing game, 215. See also Clout
choosing a game
age range and, 212
for children, 33, 211, 212–214
depth of a game and, 35
game demonstrations and, 35, 38, 213
local support and, 34, 212
media-based games, 212
out-of-print games and, 37
style of playing and, 35–36, 212
for tweens, 214–215
The Clan Wars, 113
clicking dial (HeroClix), 142–145
Clobberin’ Time, 149
Clout Fantasy, 184–185, 215
CMG. See collectible miniatures game
Codename: Kids Next Door, 172–173
Coercion, 46, 48
Coldsnap, 56
described, 1, 244
determining, 270–271
miniatures game and, 225
collectible games. See also specific games
about, 1, 11–13
categories of, 15–16, 35
choosing, 33–36
collectible miniatures games, 15, 224–226
collectible throwing games, 16
constructible strategy games, 15, 238–239
history of, 16–18
switching, 37–38
trading card games, 15
collectible miniatures game (CMG). See
also constructible strategy game
(CSG); HeroClix
about, 15, 224–226
age range for, 217
board-based, 225, 226
booster packs for, 326
for children, 215
choosing a game and, 36
constructible games, 238–242
Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures, 226–228
game bag/case for, 320
history of, 224
Lord of the Rings, 231–234
Mage Knight, 18, 224, 234–236, 270
MechWarrior, 236–238
Navia Dratp, 229–231
Pirates, 239–240
playing surface for, 225, 234
promotional items, 248
Rocketmen, 240–242
shipping, 277
special pieces for, 226
Star Wars Miniatures, 226, 228–229
storage systems, 252–253, 321–322
traditional miniatures game versus, 223
collectible throwing game (CTG), 16
collecting cards. See also buying cards;
trading cards and collectibles
booster packs, 244
as gifts, 244
organizing your items and, 288–289
overview, 25–26, 243–244
personal style of, 36
promotion items, 245, 248
rare cards, 244–245
single cards, 244
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Coloretto, 302–303
combining cards
big combination strategy, 31
Legend of the Five Rings, 119–121
Magic: The Gathering, 60–61
overview, 13, 24, 27–28
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 137–138
comics, 64. See also Vs. System
Command Knight, 126
condition of collectibles
buying online and, 292
determining, 291–292
evaluating cards, 273–275
mint cards, 273
near mint cards, 274
pricing cards and figures and, 293
rare cards and, 298
constructed tournaments, 260
constructible strategy game (CSG)
children and, 215
described, 15, 238–239
Pirates, 239–240
Pirates of Spanish Main, 15, 18, 251
Race Day, 215
Rocketmen, 240–242
Continuo, 303–305
conventions. See also tournaments
admission badge, 325
cash-prize events, 264
choosing, 324–325
Dragon*Con, 325
GenCon (Geneva Convention), 38, 324
GenCon SoCal convention, 325
Origins International Game Expo, 38, 324
overview, 324–325
playing, 19
sampling new games at, 38
trading cards at, 246
Copper Mine, 116
Corsola, 95, 96
Cosmic Justice, 150
costs. See also value of cards
booster packs, 80, 326
deck boxes, 251, 326
deck protectors, 326
game bag, 319
magazine price guides, 290, 293
packing and shipping, 275
promotional items, 248
rare cards, 244–245
single cards, buying, 244–245
Crab Clan, 100
Crane Clan, 100
The Creator, 133
Crippled Bone Blade, 108, 109
Critical Mass, 149
Crystal Mine, 116
CSG. See constructible strategy game
CTG (collectible throwing game), 16
Cursed Scroll, 54
Cyber Dragon, 134
Cyber End Dragon, 134
Cybernetic Revolution, 134
Cyber-Stein, 134
Cyborg, 152
Cyndaquil, 96
Daitan, 118
The Dark, 53
Dark Beginning 1, 133
Dark Beginning 2, 133
Dark Blade, 125–126, 135
Dark Crisis, 133
Dark Magician Girl, 133
Dark Millennium, 186
Dark Revelation 1, 134
Dark Revelation 2, 234
DC Origins, 73–74
DC’s heroes and villains, 150
D.D. Warrior Lady, 135–136
dead games
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 182
children and, 213
finding, 37
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 182
Star Wars Customizable Card Game,
182, 249
deck protectors
artist-edition, 317
cost of, 326
described, 249–250
as gifts, 317
“mini” size, 317
replacing, 250
screw-down card display cases, 317
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decks. See also booster packs; building a
creating your own, 13
preconstructed (precons), 24
starter, 12, 102, 114, 256
structure decks, 134
defense and denial strategy, 30–31
choosing a game and, 35, 38, 213
at local game stores, 281
depth of a game, 35, 100, 216
Destiny Board, 133
Destiny Has No Secrets, 106–107
game, 305–306
gift ideas, 323
oversized, 322
six-sided, 145
Web site, 323
Digimon, 159–161
Disciplined Infantry, 118
booster displays, 277
screw-down card display cases, 317
Double Rainbow Energy, 95
draft events, 260
Dragon Ball GT, 163–165, 214
Dragon Ball Z, 163–165
Dragon Booster, 161–162
Dragon Clan, 100
Dragon*Con (game convention), 325
Dream Clown, 137
D-ring binders, 252, 319
Duel Masters, 165–166, 213
Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures, 226–228
early adopter gamers, 36
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, 80
Easy Come, Easy Go, 305–306
auction title, 269–270
bargains, 296
Buy It Now option, 271–272, 296
buying supplies from, 276
completed items list, 268–269
grading and describing your item,
length of auction, 270–272
listing an auction, 274
online selling tutorial, 274
packing and shipping your item, 275–278
photograph of item, 275
price setting, 270–272, 293
researching products, 266–269
tips for using, 266
economy of a card, 28
effects cards, 23
elimination-style tournaments, 259
Elves of Deep Shadow, 53
Enemy Controller, 133
energy cards, 83–84
equipment cards, 22–23
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, 56
Erayo’s Essence, 56
Escrima Sticks, 67
disagreements with sellers and, 292
fairness in trading, 296
saying “no” and, 295, 297
Ex Delta Species, 94
Ex Deoxys, 94
Ex Emerald, 94, 95
Ex FireRed & LeafGreen, 93
Ex Hidden Legends, 93
Ex Ruby & Sapphire, 93
Ex Sandstorm, 93
Ex Team Magma versus Team Aqua, 93
Ex Team Rocket Returns, 94
Ex Unseen Forces, 94, 95
Exalted Angel, 55
Exiled Force, 135
Exodia Necross, 133
expansion sets, 24–25. See also sets
Expedition, 93
Falcon, 76
The Fallen, 53
Fallen Empires, 53
Fantastic Forces, 149
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fantasy and science fiction games
about, 183–184
Clout Fantasy, 184–185
Dark Millennium, 186
Final Twilight, 186–188
Hecatomb, 188–189
Horus Heresy, 186, 189–190
Neopets, 190–191
Shadowfist, 191
Spycraft, 192–193
WarCry, 194–195
Warhammer, 198
Warhammer 40K, 186, 189, 194
Warlord: Saga of the Storm, 195–197
FAQ document (Frequently Asked
Questions), 256
fighting energy, 84, 85
Final Twilight, 186–188
fine cards, 274
fire energy, 84
fishing lure boxes (tackle boxes), 253, 321
Flaming Eternity, 133
Flashfires, 61
flexibility of play, 216
Flight, 46, 47
flip-top deck box, 251
Fluxx 3.0, 308–309
For Sale, 306–308
Force of Nature, 60
Force of Will, 53
Forest, 44, 45
Fossil, 92
The Four Winds, 114
Frequently Asked Questions document
(FAQ), 256
friends, choosing a game and, 34, 212
Fullmetal Alchemist, 166–168, 217
Furnace of Rath, 60
Fusion Sword Murasame Blade, 136
game bags
backpack, 320
briefcase, 258
for collectible miniatures, 320
cost of, 319
as a gift, 319–321
luggage tags for, 257
packing and organizing, 257–258
rolling bag (Mr. Suitcase), 320
safety issues, 258
game companies
online trading, 246–248
registering with, 257
super-special tournaments, 260–261
volunteer applications from, 283–284
A Game of Thrones, 204–206
game stores
buying cards from, 277
choosing a game and, 34, 212
importance of supporting, 277
tournaments at, 153, 256–259, 260, 281
trading cards at, 246
volunteering at, 281
game text, 28
Garfield, Richard (game designer), 17, 41
Gate Guardian, 132
Gearfried, 135
Gearfried the Iron Knight, 135
GenCon (Geneva Convention), 38, 324
GenCon SoCal convention, 325
genres. See also specific genres
anime, 157–158
fantasy and science fiction, 183–184
history or literature, 199
horror, 218–219
media-based games, 171
getting started. See also choosing a game
game demonstrations and, 35, 38, 213
overview, 12–13
playing at home, 256
studying cards, 25–28, 256, 257
GI Joe, 173–174
Giant Growth, 46, 48, 59
Giant Trunade, 137
gift ideas
binders, 318–319
booster packs, 316
card packs, 244
cash, 326
convention admission badge, 325
convention trips, 324–325
deck protectors, 317
dice, 323
game bag, 319–321
game magazines, 323–324
gift certificates, 325–326
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storage systems, 321–322
tokens and markers, 322
Gifts and Favors, 116
Gilford the Lightning, 137–138
giving away cards, 26
Goblin Brigand, 44–45, 58
Goliath, 77
good quality cards, 274
grass energy, 84
Green Lantern Corps, 74
Grizzly Bears, 58
Gym Challenge, 92
Gym Heroes, 92
Hammer of Bogardan, 54
Hammerdog Games (Web site), 322
Harley Quinn, 146–147
Hawkeye, 76
HCRealms (Web site), 153–154
Heart of Rokugan, 119
Heavy Storm, 127–128, 137
Hecatomb, 188–189
HeroClix. See also collectible miniatures
game (CMG)
about, 141–142
actions, 145–146
arch enemies, 145
assembling a team, 150–152
battlefield, 145
battlefield conditions cards, 152–153
break away, 146
bystander tokens, 153
combat, 146–148
critical mass, 147
Feats cards, 153
figures and clicking dial, 142–145
knockback, 147
mixing and matching figures, tokens and
cards, 152–153
objects, 153
playing the game, 145–148
rare figures, 144
sets of figures, 142, 148–150
six-sided dice for, 145
tournaments, 153
unique figures, 143
Web sites, 153–154, 248
winning, 148
Hida Kosedo, 103–105
The Hidden Emperor, 113
historical or literature-based card games
about, 199
Anachronism, 200–201, 214
Call of Cthulhu, 201–204, 218
A Game of Thrones, 204–206
Illuminati: New World Order (INWO),
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (V:TES),
collectible games, 16–18
collectible miniatures games, 224
Mage Knight, 18
Magic: The Gathering, 1, 17, 41–42, 216
Pokémon, 17, 81–82
horizontal flip-top box, 251
horror genre, 218–219. See also Call of
Horus Heresy, 186, 189–190
Horus the Black Flame Dragon, 133
Hulk, 79
Hunted Wumpus, 58
Hymn to Tourach, 53
Hypertime, 150
Ice Age Block, 53, 56
Icons, 150, 152
Ikoma Chikao, 120
Ikoma Kosaku, 117
Ikoma Otemi, 117
Illuminati: New World Order (INWO),
impulse purchases, 294
Indy HeroClix, 150
Infinity Challenge, 149
InQuest Gamer (magazine)
described, 324
HeroClix tips, 154
Magic tips, 62
price guides, 290
promotional items, 248
soon-to-be-released games listings, 36
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interrupt cards, 23
Inuyasha, 168–169
Invasion Block, 55
Invasion of Chaos, 133
inventory of collectibles, 289
(INWO) Illuminati: New World Order,
Iron Man, 76
Island, 44
Jarvis, Honorary Avenger, 79
Jinzo, 133
Johnny archetype, 29, 255
Jungle, 92
Justice League of America, 74
Kamigawa Block, 56, 60
Karplusan Forest, 60
“kill and keep” scenario, 261
Kird Ape, 57
Knights, 74
Knights Immortal chariot, 270
Laboratories, 78
Labyrinth of Nightmare, 133
Lanette’s Net Search, 96
Large Farm, 116
late bloomer gamers, 36
Legacy, 150
Legacy of Darkness, 133
Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, 132
Legend of the Five Rings (L5R)
action cards, 106–107
action phase, 111
attack phase, 111–112
board layout, 110
bowed cards, 110
building a deck (Lion Clan), 114–121
cards, 100–109
checklists (“spoiler lists”) for, 121
clan cards, 100–101, 108
combining cards, 119–121
depth of, 100
dueling, 112–113
dynasty deck, 102, 103–106, 115–117
dynasty phase, 112
end phase, 112
enlightenment victory, 101
events phase, 111
fate deck, 102, 103, 106–109, 118–119
focus pool, 112
followers cards, 107–108
holding cards, 105–106
honor victory, 101
item cards, 108
military victory, 101
personality cards, 103–105, 110
playing a game, 110–112
rare cards, 120
sensei cards, 102
sets, 113–114
spell cards, 108–109
starter decks, 102, 114
storyline, 99, 108
stronghold cards, 102–103
symbols and codes (“bugs”), 105
tournaments, 121
unbowed cards, 110
Web sites, 121
wind cards, 102
winning, 101
Legendary Battles, 79
Legendary Collection (Pokémon), 91
Legends, 53
Light Speed, 309–310
Lightning Blade, 136
lightning energy, 83, 84
Lightning Helix, 56
Lightning Vortex, 137
Limited Edition, 52
limited-edition cards, 18, 25
Lion Clan, 100, 114–121
Lion’s Pride, 118
literature-based card games. See historical
or literature-based card games
Llanowar Elves, 57
local tournaments, 256–259, 260
location cards
described, 23
Legend of the Five Rings, 100–101
Vs. System, 68, 75, 78
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locking three-ring binders, 318–319
Loco, 310–311
Lord of the Rings, 174–176
Lord of the Rings (miniatures), 231–234
The Lost Millennium, 134
Lotus Edition, 102, 105, 114
Lugia, 92
Luvdisc, 95, 96
Madness, 152–153
magazines. See also InQuest Gamer
(magazine); Scrye (magazine)
gift subscriptions, 323–324
price guides in, 290, 293
Mage Knight, 18, 224, 234–236, 270
Magic Jammer, 129, 137
Magic Online (Web site), 61
Magic Rarities (Web site), 62
Magic Ruler, 132
Magic: The Gathering
artifact cards, 46
beginning phase, 50
board layout, 49–50
booster draft, 61
building a deck, 57–60, 62
cards, 42–48
colors, 42–43
combat phase, 51
combining cards, 60–61
creature cards, 44–45, 57–58
depth and flexibility of, 216
Eighth Edition, 55–56
enchantment cards, 46
end phase, 51
first main phase, 50
history of, 1, 17, 41–42, 216
instant cards, 46
land cards, 44, 45, 59–60
new releases, 56
playing, 50–52
Pro Tours, 264
rare cards, 60–61
second main phase, 51
sets, 52–57
sorcery cards, 46
spell cards, 58–59
tournaments, 216
Web sites, 61–62
winning, 50
Magician’s Force, 133
mailers, bubble envelope, 275
Mana Drain, 53
manga, 157. See also anime games
Mantis Clan, 100
Marauding Captain, 135
markers and tokens, 322
marquee tournament, 261
Marshtomp, 95, 96
Marvel Knights, 74
Marvel Origins, 73
Marvel’s superheroes, 149
Mary’s Request, 96
Mataza the Zapper, 135
Matsu Agoro, 117
Matsu Hyun, 117
Matsu Miyahara, 117
Matsu Takenao, 117
Matsu Taniko, 120
MechWarrior, 236–238
media-based games. See also Pokémon; YuGi-Oh!
about, 171
choosing, 212
Codename: Kids Next Door, 172–173
dead, but popular, 182
GI Joe, 173–174
Lord of the Rings, 174–176
MLB Showdown, 176
Star Trek, 179–181
Star Wars, 177–179
Star Wars Customizable Card Game,
182, 249
Star Wars Miniatures, 226, 228–229
WWE Raw Deal, 181–182
Zatch Bell, 214–215
Metal Raiders, 132
Might of Oaks, 60
miniatures games, 223, 232. See also
collectible miniatures game (CMG);
constructible strategy game (CSG)
mini-maxing, 28
mint-condition cards, 273
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Mirage Block, 54
Mirrodin Block, 56
Mishra’s Workshop, 53
MLB Showdown, 176
Mojoverse, 68
Monster cards (Yu-Gi-Oh!), 124–127,
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 182
Mosques Block, 54–55
motivation for playing, 29–30
Mountain, 44, 59, 60
movie games. See media-based games
Mr. Suitcase (rolling bag), 320
Mudkip, 96
mulligan, 71, 88
Murkrow, 93
Mutant Mayhem, 149
Mystical Space Typhoon, 137
Navia Dratp, 229–231
Necropotence, 53
negotiating trades, 294–295
Neo sets, 92–93
Neopets, 190–191
nine-pocket pages for binders, 27, 318
Nintendo (Web site), 97
Numel, 96
Obnoxious Celtic Guard, 135
Odyssey Block, 55
Omoidasu, 118
Onix, fighting pokémon, 84–86
online games, 139
online trading, 246–249
Onslaught Block, 55–56
Order of the Ebon Hand, 53
organizing collectibles. See also storage
checklists (“spoiler lists”) for, 289
importance of, 26
inventory of collectibles, 289
by set, 288, 289
tools for, 26–27
Origins, 73–74
Origins International Game Expo, 38, 324
Ororo Munroe, 65
Outmaneuvered by Tactics, 119
out-of-print games
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 182
children and, 213
finding, 37
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 182
Star Wars Customizable Card Game,
182, 249
Overwhelmed, 119
package deals, 295
packing and shipping
collectible miniatures games, 277
cost of, 275
supplies for, 275–276
using Priority Mail, 276–277
Peasant Vengeance, 119
“penny sleeves”, 275
Pharaonic Guardian, 133
Pharoah’s Servant, 133
Phoenix Clan, 100
Pikachu, 82, 91
Pirates, 239–240
Pirates of Spanish Main, 15, 18, 251
Plains, 44, 61
planeswalker, 42
playability, 291
archetypes, 29–30, 255
reputation as fair trader, 296, 297
style of playing, 35–36, 212
playing. See also tournaments
at home, 256
opportunities for, 18–19
Pro Tour (professional tours), 19, 263–264
style of, 35–36, 212
Playroom, 78
Pojo (Web site), 139
about, 81–82
active pokémon, 88, 89
Base Set 2, 91
battle, 90–91
benched pokémon, 88, 89
building a deck, 94–97
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cards, 83–87, 94
damage, 86
Energy cards, 83–84, 94
history of, 17, 81–82
Legendary Collection, 91
mulligan, 88
Onix, 84–86
playing the game, 87–91
Pokémon cards, 84–86, 94
Poké-Power, 89
popularity with children, 213, 214
prize cards, 88
promotional items, 94
rare cards, 91
Retreat Cost, 86
sets, 91–94
special conditions, 90–91
Trainer cards, 86–87, 94
Web sites, 97
winning, 88
Pokémon USA (Web site), 97
Polymerization, 126
Portal, Portal: Second Age, 57
Portal: Three Kingdoms, 57
portfolio binders, 27, 252, 318
post office, 276–277
Potion, 87
preconstructed decks (precons), 24
prerelease event, 260
price of cards. See costs
Princess of Tsurugi, 137
Priority Mail, 276–277
professional-level tournaments (Pro Tour),
19, 263–264
Professor Birch, 96
Professor Oak, 91
promotional items
cost of, 248
magazines featuring, 324
Pokémon, 94
rare cards as, 248
single cards as, 245
Vs. System, 80
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 134
protecting cards and miniatures. See deck
protectors; storage systems
Psychatog, 55
psychic energy, 84
questions to ask
choosing a game and, 34–35
most common, 256
quick games. See short games
Quicksilver, 76
Quilava, 95, 96
Race Day, 215
Raigeki, 132
Rain of Death, 119
rare cards
chase cards, 25
condition of, 298
cost of, 244–245
Legend of the Five Rings, 120
limited-edition cards, 18, 25
Magic: The Gathering, 60–61
Pokémon, 91
pricing, 293
promotional items, 248
super-rare, 18
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 127, 134, 138
Rathi Dragon, 60
Ratling, 101
Raven (experienced version), 152
Ravnica Block, 56, 60
Refugees, 119
regional and national tournaments,
Reinforcement of the Army, 136
release date, 24, 25
Relentless Assault, 60
Repulsor Ray, 79
reputation as fair trader, 296, 297
for buying, selling, trading, 290–291
on eBay, 266–269
Reshef the Dark Being, 134
rewards for volunteers, 284
Rice Paddy, 105–106
Rick, 76
Right Hand of the Emperor, 115
Ring of Destruction, 133
Rise of Destiny, 133
Robin, 151, 152
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Roborally, 17
Rocketmen, 240–242
Rod of Ruin, 46, 47
roleplaying, 100, 227, 228
roles of cards, 244
rolling bag (Mr. Suitcase), 320
rule book, 27–28, 256
Sabertooth Games, online trading, 247
Sabol Designs (Web site), 320
Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys, 133
safety issues
cards and, 246
game bag and, 258
Scarlet Witch, 77
science fiction and fantasy games
about, 183–184
Clout Fantasy, 184–185
Dark Millennium, 186
Final Twilight, 186–188
Hecatomb, 188–189
Horus Heresy, 186, 189–190
Neopets, 190–191
Shadowfist, 191
Spycraft, 192–193
WarCry, 194–195
Warhammer, 198
Warhammer 40K, 186, 189, 194
Warlord: Saga of the Storm, 195–197
Scorpion Clan, 100
Scorpion Clan Coup, 113
screw-down card display cases, 317
Scrye (magazine)
described, 324
HeroClix tips and news, 154
Magic tips and news, 62
price guides, 290
soon-to-be-released games listings, 36
sealed format, 260
Secluded Waystation, 116
security matters
cards and, 246
game bag and, 258
selling collectibles. See eBay; trading cards
and collectibles
Sengir Vampire, 52
Serra Angel, 52
Set, 312–313
base sets and expansions, 24–25
HeroClix figures, 142, 148–150
Legend of the Five Rings, 113–114
Magic: The Gathering, 52–57
organizing by, 288, 289
Pokémon, 91–94
preconstructed decks (precons), 24
release schedule, 25
Vs. System, 73–74
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 132–134
Shadowfist, 191
Shadowlands Horde, 101
She-Hulk, 77
shipping and packing
collectible miniatures games, 277
cost of, 275
supplies for, 275–276
using Priority Mail, 276–277
Shiro no Yojin, 102, 103, 115
Shivan Dragon, 52
Shock, 59
short games
Bang!, 300–301
Category 5, 301–302
Coloretto, 302–303
Continuo, 303–305
Easy Come, Easy Go, 305–306
Fluxx 3.0, 308–309
Light Speed, 309–310
Loco, 310–311
For Sale, 306–308
Set, 312–313
tournaments and, 299
The Sinner’s Body, 23
Skarmory, 93
Skullclamp, 56
Skyridge, 93
Sliver Queen, 54
Snatch Steal, 137
Soul of the Duelist, 133
Southern Islands, 92
spell cards
Legend of the Five Rings, 108–109
Magic: The Gathering, 58–59
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 127–128, 131
Spike archetype, 29–30, 255
“spoiler lists” (checklists), 121, 289
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Spycraft, 192–193
Squirtle, 91
Star City Games (Web site), 62
Star Trek, 179–181
Star Wars, 177–179
Star Wars Customizable Card Game,
182, 249
Star Wars Miniatures, 226, 228–229
Starfire (experienced version), 152
starter decks, 12, 102, 114, 256
storage systems. See also organizing
deck boxes, 26–27, 250–251
deck protectors, 249–250
D-ring binders, 252, 319
fishing lure boxes, 253, 321
as gifts, 321–322
locking three-ring binders, 318–319
for miniatures, 252–253, 321–322
nine-pocket pages for binders, 27, 318
portfolio binders, 27, 252, 318
three-ring binders, 27, 251–252
Web sites, 27
stores. See game stores
Storm, 65
following and building, 12–13
Legend of the Five Rings, 99, 108
storyline tournament, 261
adult level games and, 216
all-out attack, 30
balance, 31
big combination, 31
cheese, 31
defense and denial, 30–31
turtle, 31
studying cards
importance of, 256
knowing your deck and, 257
overview, 25–26
rule book and, 27–28, 256
style of playing, 35–36, 212
style of tournament, 259–261
Submerged feat card, 153
summer game conventions. See also
conventions; tournaments
GenCon (Geneva Convention), 38, 324
Origins International Game Expo, 38, 324
playing, 19
sampling new games at, 38
superheroes. See HeroClix
Superman, Man of Steel, 74
supplies and accessories. See also game
bags; storage systems
bubble envelope mailers, 275
bubble wrap rolls, 276
cost of mailing supplies, 275
“penny sleeves”, 275
tape dispenser and packing tape, 276
top loaders, 275
Swamp, 44
Swampert, 95
Swiss-style tournaments, 259
switching games, 37–38
tackle boxes (fishing lure boxes), 253, 321
tape dispenser and packing tape, 276
TCG (trading card game). See also getting
started; specific games
about, 15
playing at home, 256
studying cards, 25–28, 256–257
types of players and, 29–30, 255
Team Rocket, 92
teams, creating your own, 13
teenagers, games for, 216–217
Tempest Block (a.k.a. Rath cycle), 54
Terra, 152
three-ring binders
described, 27, 251–252
D-ring, 252, 319
locking, 318–319
nine-pocket pages for, 27, 318
zippered, 318, 319, 320
Three-Stone River, 119
Timmy archetype, 29–30, 255
tokens and markers, 322
Tolarian Academy, 54
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top loaders, 275
tournaments. See also conventions;
summer game conventions
about, 36, 255
arriving at, 258
constructed, 260
dealing with disagreements and, 258
elimination-style, 259
HeroClix, 153
Legend of the Five Rings, 121
local game stores, 153, 256–259, 260, 281
Magic: The Gathering, 216
marquee, 261
number of games at, 259
prizes and promotional items at, 248, 259
professional-level, 19, 263–264
regionals and nationals, 261–263
security matters, 246, 258
short games during, 299
styles of, 259–261
super-special, 260–261
Swiss-style, 259
volunteering at, 282–283
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 138–139
trading card game (TCG). See also getting
started; specific games
about, 15
playing at home, 256
studying cards, 25–28, 256–257
types of players and, 29–30, 255
trading cards and collectibles. See also
buying cards; collecting cards
bargains, 295–296
building trading stock, 298
condition of items and, 291–292, 293
determining value of items, 292
face-to-face, 245–246
at game stores, 246
getting started, 289–290
negotiating deals, 294–295
online, 246–249
overview, 25–26, 243, 287
research needed for, 290–291
saying “no”, 295, 297
Trainer cards, 86–87
traveling, 319–321
turtle strategy, 31
TV-based games. See media-based games
tweens, games for, 214–215
types of cards
character cards, 22
chase cards, 25
effects, 23
equipment cards, 22–23
interrupt, 23
locations, 23
Typhlosion, 92, 95
Ultimates, 149
UltraPro (Web site), 27, 319, 320
Unglued, 57
Unhinged, 57
Unicorn Clan, 100
United We Stand, 133
Universe, 149
Unleashed, 150
Unown cards, 94
Upper Deck
Pro Circuit Web site, 264
tournament play Web site, 139
Vs. System Web site, 74
Yu-Gi-Oh! Web site, 138
Urza Block, 54
U.S. Postal Service, 276–277
value of cards
determining, 270–272, 292–293
magazine price guides, 290, 293
mini-maxing and, 28
researching, 290
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (V:TES),
Vampiric Tutor, 54
Viashino Sandstalker, 58, 59
video games
Nintendo, 81
Pokémon, 93, 97
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 127, 134
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Vindicate, 55
Viridian Shaman, 61
Vision, 77
Volcanic Hammer, 59
age requirements for, 281
applications for, 283–284
formal test for, 284
at local game stores, 281
overview, 279
qualifications, 280–281
rewards for, 284
at tournaments, 282–283
Vs. System
about, 63–64, 216
attack (ATK) and defense (DEF), 66
The Avengers, 74, 75–80
board layout, 70–71
booster packs for, 80
Build phase, 71
building a deck, 75–79
cards, 64–69, 75–77
Character cards, 64–66, 75–77
Combat phase, 71–73
concealed characters, 66
endurance points, 64
Equipment cards, 67
Location cards, 68, 75, 78
mixing and matching cards, 79–80
mulligan, 71
name and version, 64–65
payment power, 66
playing a game, 71–73
Plot Twist cards, 69, 75, 78–79
promotional items, 80
rare cards, 66, 79
Recovery phase, 73
sets, 63, 73–74
stunned characters, 68
team affiliation, 65–66
Web sites, 74
V:TES (Vampire: The Eternal Struggle),
Warbird, 76, 77
WarCry, 194–195
Warhammer, 198
Warhammer 40K, 186, 189, 194
Warlord: Saga of the Storm, 195–197
Warrior Lady of the Wasteland, 135
Warrior’s Triumph, 134
Wasp, 76
water energy, 84
Waterfront Bouncer, 54–55
Web of Spider-Man, 74
Web sites
Alderac Entertainment Group, 121
BCW, 27, 319
Brainburst, 62
Charon Productions, 320, 321
dice, 323
Dragon*Con, 325
GenCon (Geneva Convention), 38, 324
Hammerdog Games, 322
HCRealms, 153–154
HeroClix, 153–154, 248
Legend of the Five Rings, 121
Lord of the Rings, 175–176
Magic Online, 61
Magic Rarities, 62
Magic: The Gathering, 61–62
MLB Showdown, 176
Nintendo, 97
Origins International Game Expo, 38, 324
Pojo, 139
Pokémon, 97
Sabol Designs, 320
Star City Games, 62
UltraPro, 27, 319, 320
Vs. System, 74
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 138, 139
Weisman, Jordan (collectible miniatures
game designer), 224
basic strategies, 30–31
HeroClix, 148
Legend of the Five Rings, 101
Magic: The Gathering, 50
Pokémon, 88
types of players and, 29–30
Yu-Gi-Oh!, 124
Winry Rockbell, 14
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WizKids Games
collectible miniatures game and, 15
HeroClix Web site, 153
online trading, 247
tournaments, 153
Wonder Man, 77
WWE Raw Deal, 181–182
Xplosion, 149
Yata-Garasu, 133
about, 123–124
Battle phase, 131–132
building a deck, 134–137
cards, 124–131
combining cards, 137–138
dueling, 124, 130–132
effect monsters, 126
fusion deck, 126, 130
fusion monsters, 126
Monster cards, 124–127, 130–131
normal monsters, 126
online games, 139
Polymerization, 126
popularity with children, 213
promotional cards, 134
rare cards, 127, 134, 138
ritual monsters, 126
sets, 132–134
side deck, 130
Spell cards, 127–128, 131
structure decks, 134
token monsters, 127
tournaments, 138–139
Trap cards, 129
video games, 127, 134
Web sites, 138, 139
winning, 124
YuGiOhRealms (Web site), 139
Zatch Bell, 214–215
zippered binders, 318, 319, 320
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Winry Rockbell
from Fullmetal Alchemist
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Goblin Brigand
from Magic: The Gathering
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from Vs. System
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from Pokémon
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Ashigaru Archers
from the Legend of the Five Rings
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Command Knight
from Yu-Gi-Oh!
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10:09 AM
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from Warlord: Saga of the Storm
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Dead but Dreaming
from Call of Cthulhu
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