Fantasy Flight Games: Breathing new life into Collectible Card Games

I got a few emails over the past week regarding my thoughts on  Fantasy Flight Games. I gave them quite a railing in my last blog post about their GenCon presence, mostly about their handling of the distribution of their newest game Netrunner. I’ve been asked if I hate them. Any FFG employees reading it might have thought the same.

OF COURSE I DON’T! “Hating them” couldn’t be further from the truth! As a matter of fact, Fantasy Flight Games is at the top of my list for best game company for non-RPG tabletop games! You might even call me a FFG fanboy.
No, kids, just because mommy and daddy have a fight occasionally doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other. I’m just very vocal about disappointment, and when said disappointment comes from one of my favorite companies…well, tongue-lashing is far more harsh.

To set the record straight about the fact that I actually DO love FFG, let me tell you a little story about what I consider to be one of FFG’s greatest innovations to the world of card games!

The year; 1993…

…Dungeons and Dragons was trying to breathe life into itself by releasing its rather popular and familiar “black books,” the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Revised books, and gaming was still a relatively arcane hobby.

Enter one Richard Channing Garfield, Ph.D.

The first wizard to find the alchemical secret to “turn cardstock into gold.”

Doc Garfield would do for nerd hobbies what Richard Garriott did for computer gaming; revolutionize and popularize it, introducing it to a more “mainstream” audience. Garfield created one of the most legendary nerd games in history that deserves a spot right in the gaming hall of fame next to the titan Dungeons & Dragons itself…

Magic: The Gathering.

You ALL played it. At least 90% of all of you reading this entry have either played it, or at the very least heard of it through popularity or controversy. What I don’t think Garfield realized at the time, is that he created one of gaming’s first GOLD MINES. You see, he is the grand daddy of the world’s first modern COLLECTIBLE CARD GAME (CCG).
A CCG is a game played by using specially designed playing cards. While it’s true that trading cards like baseball cards have been around a lot longer, a CCG combines the the appeal of collecting with the thrill of strategic gameplay. The collectible aspect comes from the fact that specific cards are produced with varying degrees of scarcity, usually as Commons, Uncommons, and Rares.  The usual M.O. is that “the more powerful the card, the rarer (and more collectible) it is.”

Was it “tap MANA” to play this card, or “tap MONEY?”

The key word in this little blog is the word “collectible.” You see, in Magic: The Gathering, if you want to keep your edge in a game, you want the best spells and the best creatures, which you need to buy plenty of booster packs for, hoping for the chance to get that rare card. Most of us who played (or play still) have dumped hundreds, if not thousands of dollars “rare-hunting.” It’s even worse if you’re a completionist like me and feel that you have to complete the collection, like so much sorcerous Pokemon. After 500th edition comes out, it gets old real quick, and forces some to finally say “screw it,” I’m getting off at the next stop.
In an economy as bad as the one we’re in right now, CCGs are a dangerous venture. Many of them go tits-up after a single edition or a couple of months. The only ones that have stood the test of time are the ones with a huge following and tournament-play support, such as Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! (Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming, either, but a 13-year and counting run isn’t anything to sneeze at). How does one start a card game, and have it live through tough times? How do you appeal to BOTH collectors and casual gamers?  Best question yet; how in the hell do you satisfy these requirements, AND make it the least damaging to a gamer’s funds?

Well, this is where Fantasy Flight Games comes in.

After a few attempts at the CCG scene, Fantasy Flight Games took the CCG model and turned it on its ear. The genius bit of it is that it didn’t require FFG to make a SINGLE change to the game itself. Nope,  no more buying a ridiculous number of booster packs, spending untold thousands looking for that single “Black Lotus,” having your parents and loved ones yell at you for “wasting your money on gambling” while they then weakly defend their own penchant for blowing their own money on lottery tickets.


2004 marked FFG’s invention of the Call of Cthulhu Living Card game. Living Card Games offer an innovative method that breaks away from the traditional Collectible Card Game model. LCGs still offer the same dynamic, expanding, and evolving gameplay that makes CCGs fun, but they do away with the single thing that made CCGs like Magic so frustrating…

…the God damned blind-buy purchase model that left me wanting to burn orphanages!!!

I blacked out when they announced 8th edition…but…at nights, I can still smell the blood, the bodies and the burning in the streets…the screams haunt my dreams.

What can you expect from an LCG?

Well, according to Fantasy Flight Games:

Excellent Value
A Core Set provides everything you need for a complete and self-contained game experience, but if you choose to go beyond the Core Set, monthly expansion packs provide fresh content at an easily affordable price. These monthly releases offer enough new content to keep the game immersive and strategic, while remaining accessible and digestible to casual players.

Constantly Expanding Card Pool
Monthly expansions provide more frequent additions to your card pool, with the potential of new deck types and strategies you can explore in every release. With monthly installments, the game is continuously updated and always feels fresh.

No Rare Chasing (The best damned part!)
LCGs have no rare or promo cards that need to be chased. This ensures that games are determined by a player’s deck building skills and play strategies, rather than who spent the most money in pursuit of hard-to-find ultra rare cards. The fixed format means that every player has equal access to every card needed to build his or her deck.

Easier to find Opponents
The non-random format makes it simple to play multiple LCGs without breaking the bank, dramatically increasing the chance to find opponents that play the same game you do. As each Core Set provides enough for at least two players, friends can begin playing right away.

Organized Play
Organized play programs are available for all LCGs. These programs include everything from casual year-round leagues to premiere level tournaments featuring regional, national, and world championship level events.

Does the LCG model live up to all of these claims?

HELL YES!

Sure, there are some out there that might think that it will kill the CCG market, and end the “fun” of collecting…but for those of us renaissance nerds who like playing more than a SINGLE game, and don’t have disposable income to throw into a fire, we appreciate FFG’s attempt to reach out to us, making owning SEVERAL of their games not only a possibility, but enticing. Besides, it’s not like Magic went anywhere; it still sells like friggin’ gangbusters!

Speaking of several games…

…FFG has a library of LCGs!

CALL OF CTHULHU

In Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, players take the roles of investigators, villains, and unspeakable horrors inspired by the dark mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Agency detectives , Miskatonic University students and faculty, and the members of the mysterious Syndacite all join the fight against otherworldly beings including Cthluhu, Hastur, Yog-Sothoth, and Shub Niggurath.

Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is 2-player, customizable dueling game in which players command both human and monster factions. As a Living Card Game, hundreds of additional Cards are available for all seven factions, allowing players to customize the contents of this set, or create their own original decks.

A GAME OF THRONES

Across the Seven Kingdoms, the Great Houses of Westeros struggle to control the Iron Throne. The battle begins here in the A Game of Thrones Card Game.

The beloved heroes, villains, locations, and events of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga comes to life in this customizable card game. Players take control of the Starks, Baratheons, Lannisters, or Targaryens and attempt to plot, fight, conspire, manipulate, and bribe their way to victory.

The A Game of Thrones card game can be played in a multiplayer “melee” format with 3-4 players, or in a one-on-one “joust” format with 2 players. But whichever format you choose, the game has only just begun! In the world of the Living Card Game, hundreds of additional cards are available separately, allowing players to customize the four houses included here, or create entirely original decks.

WARHAMMER INVASION

The Old World seethes with ancient rivalries and boils in the cauldron of savage warfare. Enemies and allies alike face off against one another to settle ancient claims, and to live the glory of battle for themselves.

Brought to you by famed designer Eric M. Lang, Warhammer: Invasion The Card Game is a two-player card game of intense warfare, clever kingdom management, and epic questing. Players must carefully allocate their resources as they seek to build their kingdom, complete quests, and attack the enemy’s capital.

Will you play the indestructible grudge-bearing Dwarfs, the shrewd and maneuverable Empire, the savage and destructive Orcs, or the entropic and mutating forces of Chaos? Or will you cleverly craft an alliance, playing the combined might of the forces of either Order or Destruction?

LORD OF THE RINGS

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative card game that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with two Core Sets!) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth. Players will select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate their efforts to face Middle-earth’s most dangerous fiends. By cooperating to overcome the obstacles drawn from the encounter deck, you will complete the quest before you and claim victory!

The Core Set includes 226 cards that can be used to assemble a wide variety of decks right out of the box. Included are three perilous quests that, along with countless combinations of settings and enemies, offer near-limitless replayability.

Additionally, players can build a party from a set of 12 hero cards, and focus their decks on any combination of four distinct spheres of influence: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. Each sphere offer unique benefits to the party, so choose wisely!

NETRUNNER

Monolithic megacorps and individualistic netrunners collide in a dystopian future. Set in the gritty, cyberpunk future of Android, Android: Netrunner is a two-player Living Card Game™ that rewards skill, strategy, and just the right amount of calculated risk.

In a world where corporations can scan the human mind and interface it directly with electronic data, more data moves every second than was ever processed in the first five-thousand years of written language. The network is omnipresent, the crux of modern human civilization, and while visionary corporations seek to secure their most valuable data on the network, the elite hackers known as netrunners seek to steal it.

This asymmetrical card game resurrects the mechanics of the original Netrunner, designed by Richard Garfield, and updates them to increase clarity and promote a more dynamic play environment.

STAR WARS

The characters, starships, and situations of the original Star Wars trilogy come to life in Star Wars: The Card Game™, a head-to-head Living Card Game® of tactical combat and strategic planning that allows two players to wage cinematic combats between the light and dark sides of the Force.

Command such legendary characters as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader. Launch strategic assaults against your opponent’s objectives. Tempt fate in thrilling edge battles. Seek to make an ally of the Force or master its power for your own purposes.

So, folks, I don’t hate FFG at all! I’m very thankful for their new card game model! Pick up any of these fine games at your friendly local gaming store, or find out more about them at:

Fantasy Flight Games

Posted on September 9, 2012, in Collectible Card Games, Living Card Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I agree this is good, but not great enough to cut into MTG bottom line or player base, This is also a good thing on the other hand as FF im sure stormed to the lair of MTG and saw the numerous other collectible card games corpses littering the perimeter, got scared and decided a new quest might be better undertaken. I myself like MTG, but like games like HACK, Munchkin, Fluxx and other non-collectible card games much better than even limited collectible games. On the flip side again I enjoy FF as a company and wish nothing but good things for the their new venture, they could not have chosen better titles for their LCGs and I am sure the will abscond with a large amount of my money even if the games are not good considering anything LOTR or Cathulhu I crave worse than the flesh bath salt zombies so readily enjoy.

    Keep up the good work Doc….

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