What is a CCG / TCG ?
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[posted 6 Jun 2003; updated 2 Sep 2003]
Collectible Card Games (CCG) got started ~ 1993 with Wizard of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering. After that, much money was spent around the world on small pieces of cardboard :) These are sometimes called Trading Card Games (TCG) since that's what Magic was called, and not to be outdone, other companies have put their own spin on it, like Customizable Card Game (still CCG). The label doesn't matter, they all have the same two concepts in common:
You're supposed to buy a starter deck to get a rulebook and enough cards to start playing, then buy more booster packs to build your collection (and enable you to make more effective decks). At some point you stop buying and start trading to get the specific cards you need for a deck or to finish a collection. That would work great if the cards were all of equal value (either monetarily or in terms of power level within the game), but they're not. That means it's hard to trade for the "good" cards since everybody wants them, and the cards at the lower end of the scale (the commons, certainly) have no trading value because everyone has lots of them. Whether this is bad or not depends on the cards you got in your booster packs :)
So, should you start playing a CCG? I think it's great fun, but I'm partial to card games (CCG and regular games) anyway. Best advice is to try before you buy - see if you can get someone at your local game store to demonstrate a game you're interested in. I'd also recommend that you go for a game that has a local following already (or be willing to put in the effort to build a local following), since part of the fun is playing against lots of different people to see the different decks and play styles.
A number of CCGs are available in free on-line versions (most of these are unofficial), so that's another way to find out if you like this sort of game before you sink money into it. Try Cardtable or CCG Workshop, both linked from the Online Play page.
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