The Collectible Card Game Thread – The Play’s the Thing

Welcome to the *CG thread, where we talk all manner of Card Games – Collectible, Trading, Living, and otherwise! Feel free to chat amongst yourselves about the card games you’re playing or anything card game-related that strikes your fancy.

So I realized that while I’ve talked a lot about the mechanics and components of CCGs, I’ve never really talked very much about actually playing them.

There are as many ways to play CCGs as there are people to play them. Especially with paper games, while there are structured play formats with overarching rules committees and tournaments, the majority of play is casual, sometimes referred to “kitchen-table” play. Casual groups might make any number of their own “house” rules, to make games play out at a different speed, or to ensure that players get to play the way that they want to. Enterprising players might even create their own custom formats – Magic’s Elder Dragon Highlander format, now known as Commander is a success story in this vein, having gained enough grassroots support to eventually become an officially supported format. And this week, Magic is previewing their new casual set, Battlebond, designed around Two-Headed Giant play (which features teams of two players who share a life total)

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On the other hand, digital games tend to have very few, very structured types of play. They’re directed at competitive first, often with some sort of ladder system, and there is almost never any customization of “house” rules, life totals, and so on. Generally, this is a technological limitation, especially when it comes to the novel rules of more complicated new formats. There are exceptions though – Hearthstone has a weekly Tavern Brawl, which will sometimes feature whimsical play mechanics or deckbuilding rules, and Magic Online had a Vanguard format, where you could choose a special online-only avatar with special abilities to helm your deck (and then a sub-format that grew out of Vanguard called Momir Basic, where your deck is composed only of basic lands that don’t do anything, and you just use a special Momir Vig avatar that gets you random creatures). These formats are often interesting because they leverage the digital format to do things that are nigh impossible to do in paper.

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This week’s prompt: How do you play most often? Tournaments? Casual gatherings? What’s your favorite variant format or way to play?

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of *CGs.