The CCG Thread – A Brief History of Card Games

Welcome to the Collectible Card Game Thread – a place for discussing Collectible/Trading/Customizable/Expandable/Living Card Games. Is there a three-letter acronym ending in CG? It probably counts!

While card games have been around forever (historians believe they first appeared in 9th century China) and trading cards date back to the early 20th century, a proper game that combined the two did not come out until Magic: the Gathering, created by Richard Garfield in 1993.

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The game was initially pitched to Wizards of the Coast, which at the time was primarily publishing RPG supplements, because the actual game that Garfield wanted to publish would be too expensive to make (it would eventually come out as RoboRally, now in its third edition). Instead, he improvised and came up with a game that could be made only by printing cards (via the Belgian printer, Cartamundi). The game took off, with demand wildly outstripping supply.

Soon though, other CCGs began appearing on the scene. Many were for licensed properties (Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc.) and of dubious quality. One game of note is Netrunner, an assymetrical cyberpunk game that I’ll get back to later. At the same time, Magic was starting to hit a period of low-power, unexciting sets, combined with gross overprinting of product. With the market becoming oversaturated, Collectible Card Games were headed for a crash.

By the end of the decade, most of the bandwagon-jumping games had failed, and Wizards of the Coast had started acquiring licenses and companies left and right. A number of games start coming over from Japan, first Pokemon and Digimon, then Yu-Gi-Oh and Duel Masters. With this, collectible card games had essentially stabilized by the mid oughts. Also, somewhere in there, Hasbro acquires Wizards of the Coast, and Magic with it.

By this time, collectible card games had been around for 15 years, and there were some who were starting to get antsy about the “collectible” part of the genre. There had already been some semantic shifts among “trading” and “collectible” terminology (as I understand it, based around not wanting people to focus on kids taking advantage of each other in trades) but people were also starting to get anxious about the addictive nature of collecting cards. Thus, so-called “Living” or “Expandable” card games, where there isn’t collection, you just get all the cards at once (and then a year later they put out a new batch for you to buy all at once). Remember Netrunner? It’s back, in LCG form! Android: Netrunner takes the same Netrunner base and revives it as a “Living” Card Game.

The other big modern advancement is digital! Hearthstone, Eternal, Hex, and more have hit the scene, incorporating Free-to-Play game design, streaming, automatic matchmaking and more. I’m sure I’ll do a whole post on digital CCGs later.

Nowadays, new [insert adjective here] card games keep appearing sporadically, still mainly licensed products. Magic is still the primary CCG on the market, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary with a return to the Dominaria setting that much of early Magic was set in.

Discuss!

Feel free to talk about whatever you want related to CCGs, TCGs, LCGs, or whateverCGs! (I’ll mostly interchangibly be using CCG or *CG). What have you been playing lately? How are you liking it? Any cool stuff happen to you?

I’ll also be doing a weekly prompt. This week’s is pretty introductory:

Do you play *CGs? Have you ever? What’s your *CG History?