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Andi Lennon
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When Theme Meets Emotion

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Episode 56 - Two's Company

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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)

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Middle Earth CCG/dead CCGs

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22 Sep 2020 14:13 #314362 by Msample
Many years ago, I stumbled into a trade for a decent sized collection of Middle Earth CCG cards. For about $60 plus an old duplicate CDG, I got about 1500 cards , mostly from the original series, but also a Challenge deck ( prebuilt sort of starter ) and a bound rules manual to supplement the tiny rules booklet jammed in each booster box.

First off the bad part - while the artwork itself is nice, there is a lot of info on some of the cards - and it can be very hard to read at times. Small print, dark backgrounds etc.  If you use Challenge Decks ( pre built, self contained decks sold in the later years of the games existence ) , there are some terms that may not exist in the ruleset you have - I need to dig around and find an all in one ruleset to refer to. For instance it took a while of online hunting to find the definition of Covert/Overt party types  ( for future reference , its companies with no orcs or trolls ). 

Oh yeah, its obviously long OOP. Sealed product is available still - I have no idea what is considered a good deal. I just ran across a guy in NYC selling a bunch of cards for $50 the other day so I took a flyer on those. We'll see what that gets me. 



Now for the  good. Need to re read the rules to see what we did wrong. I liked how some of the now standard CCG play tropes - control, deck milling, rush - are not present. More story oriented if that makes sense. A lot of narrative depth. Deck building seems more involved due to the size of the decks, but for now I think tweaking established Challenge decks will suffice. There seems to be a lot of options. You win by having the most Marshalling points at the end of the game. These can be earned by collecting items, killing opponents creatures that try to attack you, recruiting characters and allies.  Party size is limited , so you can't just recruit a giant horde and go around smashing stuff. You get a sense of being a small party in a very big world. 

Mechanically, there are some clever things going on. Travelling around Middle Earth is accomplished by playing a location card; there are icons along the side with different terratin types. If these icons can be matched by your opponents Hazard cards ( creatures that attack, etc ) then they can play the Hazard to try to damage/kill your characters. But often your hand won't contain the correct icons,  so the perfect intelligence present in some games is avoided.  Card flow in the hands is decent; both players can draw and discard each turn. In the advanced game there is an option for a sort of reserve pile of key cards you can draw. 

We'll see what further plays bring but so far its got my interest. 

What other long since OOP CCGs are people still playing out there ?

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22 Sep 2020 14:48 #314367 by Shellhead
I still have my Middle Earth cards. A few semi-tuned starters from the base set. A box each from some of the expansions. The complete ten-deck Challenge Deck set (5 good, 5 evil). And both of the Balrog decks. The Middle Earth ccg does a good job of simulating a D&D party in a wilderness campaign set in Middle Earth. But the rules are fiddly with thematic details and exceptions, and some of the expansions added to the complexity. The corruption mechanic is nice and really nails a central theme from the books. The designers were very, very picky about the artwork, so most of it is pretty good and highly appropriate. I have only played once in the 21st Century, maybe five years ago, and my friend asked if we could end our 2-player game after two hours of play. I would totally play it again sometime, but would need to keep the rules handy.

Shadowfist went out of print in the late '90s, but Z-Man Games brought it back to life within a couple of years. Since then, the game has gradually dwindled in popularity, to the point where you can only readily find opponents in California. However, I got a bunch of local gamers hooked on it, and nearly half of them still have cards and like to play once in a while. Shadowfist is a CCG hybrid of Magic: the Gathering and Cosmic Encounter, with a Hong Kong action movie theme mixed in with some other weirdness. Shadowfist is the second best multiplayer ccg that I have played, hampered only by a leader-bashing endgame.

Jyhad, aka Vampire: the Eternal Struggle has gone out of print twice, but was brought back to life again two years ago. Up until the pandemic, I was playing it with friends on a nearly weekly basis at the FFG Event Center. Vampire is solidly set in the original version of the World of Darkness, though it appears the upcoming expansions will make some changes to synch up with the 5th (!) edition of the World of Darkness rpg setting. Vampire is one of the best multi-player games I have played, ccg or otherwise. It has voting and a complex combat system, and the overall design of the game inhibits kingmaking, leaderbashing, and other common failings of multi-player games.
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22 Sep 2020 15:59 #314380 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic Middle Earth CCG/dead CCGs
A coworker of mine loved Middle Earth. He roped a bunch of us into playing it one time, had preconstructed decks and everything. So there were six(?) of us in some dude's basement that I think was lit with 25-watt bulbs or something. I could barely read the Flyspeck 3 text on my cards, much less my neighbors' cards. They were really pretty though.

For other dead CCGs, Netrunner is the real tragedy. My brother, who I could have maybe talked into playing, moved to my town about the same time that FFG dropped it.
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22 Sep 2020 16:04 #314382 by jeb
Replied by jeb on topic Middle Earth CCG/dead CCGs
I would play MYTHOS again, I've looked for cards here and there since trading all mine away (to someone here? I don't recall). I liked it, had a great storytelling mechanic that I've never seen done elsewhere. To win, you need to play a story card and play locations and items to align with items on the story car. Here's an example:



So deckbuilding was also thematic by nature. You could ALSO win by driving the opponent insane which was 1000x easier and how every game was resolved, natch.
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22 Sep 2020 16:46 #314387 by Shellhead
I still have my Mythos cards and wouldn't mind playing again. The two player starter pack had a pair of nicely-balanced decks. I got some of the base set and early expansions and then went heavy on the Dreamlands set. Overall, it was a neat game except for three problems. One, it was way too easy to win by loading your deck up with phobias to slap on your opponent. Two, the cosmic battle phase between the monsters felt a little too much like Magic and also didn't really fit the rest of the game design. Three, hand size was too big, so every turn tended to start with some analysis paralysis.
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22 Sep 2020 16:53 #314389 by Shellhead
Some day, I would like to play War of Honor. It was a way to play the old school version of Legend of the Five Rings as a board game. I even bought the Emperor Edition starter set from that time period, which was starter decks for the nine clans that were also designed to be used with War of Honor. Each starter deck came in a nice little box with a small but thick color rulebook, a non-random starter deck, four different strongholds, and a couple of booster packs worth of random cards.

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22 Sep 2020 16:53 #314390 by Erik Twice
I would love to get these games but I'm too poor to get them even at a bargain price haha

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22 Sep 2020 16:55 #314391 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic Middle Earth CCG/dead CCGs
I didn't play it back then, but I thought the L5R storyline tournaments were the awesomest thing ever. The game looked cool as hell, but you can only play one CCG at a time, and my friends and I were all playing Magic back then.

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22 Sep 2020 17:04 #314393 by Shellhead

RobertB wrote: I didn't play it back then, but I thought the L5R storyline tournaments were the awesomest thing ever. The game looked cool as hell, but you can only play one CCG at a time, and my friends and I were all playing Magic back then.


The storyline tournaments were cool because it made players feel like their games made a real difference. L5R peaked at GenCon around 2001 or so, and there were a couple of years where the players were highly visible all over the convention due to their clan t-shirts and even flags with clan logos.

I wish someone had told me in the mid-'90s that "you can only play one CCG at a time." For a couple of years there, I was playing four CCGs and it was too expensive. Jyhad, Shadowfist, Legend of the Five Rings, and Mythos. One of my friends set up a small business just so he could buy CCG boxes in quantity at wholesale pricing, and he passed on the savings to our whole group.
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22 Sep 2020 17:33 #314400 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic Middle Earth CCG/dead CCGs
@Shellhead - I was playing a lot of M:tG up until my daughter was born in late '99. Me and my other players were trying to be competitive, and it was expensive in both time and money. Which I don't regret, but it did suck all of the air out of the room for the other CCGs. If I broke out some L5R or Deadlands: Doomtown or Netrunner I would've just got funny looks from the other players.

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22 Sep 2020 17:42 #314401 by Shellhead

RobertB wrote: @Shellhead - I was playing a lot of M:tG up until my daughter was born in late '99. Me and my other players were trying to be competitive, and it was expensive in both time and money. Which I don't regret, but it did suck all of the air out of the room for the other CCGs. If I broke out some L5R or Deadlands: Doomtown or Netrunner I would've just got funny looks from the other players.


I was lucky to live near a couple of local game shops that supported tournaments for multiple ccgs. Even when my friends moved on from a given ccg, I could still find opponents for a while. But once a ccg stops publishing expansions, most players move on quickly. In theory, an OOP ccg should still be perfectly playable if you have enough cards to loan decks to friends. But for most ccg players (not me), the deckbuilding is crucial to enjoyment of the game. Playing somebody else's deck is less satisfying, and building new decks without new expansions is somehow less rewarding. Both Jyhad and Shadowfist came back from limbo because they had great base sets that offered a nice variety of deckbuilding possibilities, plus the multi-player dynamics kept the games more interesting for repeat plays.

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22 Sep 2020 17:51 #314404 by Jackwraith
Sigh... I really liked FFG's Call of Cthulhu CCG/LCG. I could just never find anyone to play with regularly so I traded all of my stuff away. That would still be the case today, which is why I'd never bother to pick up the cards again even if there were some spectacular deal like Msample described.

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22 Sep 2020 18:35 - 22 Sep 2020 18:35 #314406 by Rliyen
Replied by Rliyen on topic Middle Earth CCG/dead CCGs

Shellhead wrote:
Shadowfist went out of print in the late '90s, but Z-Man Games brought it back to life within a couple of years. Since then, the game has gradually dwindled in popularity, to the point where you can only readily find opponents in California. However, I got a bunch of local gamers hooked on it, and nearly half of them still have cards and like to play once in a while. Shadowfist is a CCG hybrid of Magic: the Gathering and Cosmic Encounter, with a Hong Kong action movie theme mixed in with some other weirdness. Shadowfist is the second best multiplayer ccg that I have played, hampered only by a leader-bashing endgame.


I collected it when it first came out back in '95, when I was on a heavy HK action movie kick, and collected up until around 2004. I used to run Silver Band tournaments for Z-Man and I still have my Purist power tokens and an unopened Can of Whoop Ass. They're all sitting in my closet.

Alas, Katrina destroyed my main game store where I ran tournaments and played SF with my friends. Prior to that, I moved to a new city in La. that had NO stores within a reasonable distance (less than 45 minutes). One of my friends who was my rival in SF lost everything in the storm (including my 3e WH40k rulebook I loaned him, among other things) and he had a bigger collection than I did.

I look back on those days with a smile, but that time has come and gone for me. My game interests lie elsewhere now.
Last edit: 22 Sep 2020 18:35 by Rliyen.

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22 Sep 2020 20:36 #314411 by DarthJoJo
This has been my quarantine jam. Been picking up a lot of the freshly deceased: Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Champions, Warhammer 40K: Conquest, Star Wars Destiny and Game of Thrones 2nd Edition which I played from launch. Plenty of rotten old corpses too, though. Harry Potter TCG just got a solid fan expansion to finish Chamber of Secrets, the Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter/Tekken melee of Epic Battles which had a distribution deal just through Blockbuster at launch, Dune CCG which decided to randomize it’s most valuable rares in starter decks, Decipher’s Star Wars CCG replacement and terrible SEO WARS, Spoils, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn and Need for Speed.

Maybe I’ll even get to play them some day. I’ve got plans for cubes and everything. I’m training the boys in by letting them crack Destiny packs and using the dice for number games.

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22 Sep 2020 21:24 #314415 by Shellhead
Three most common sentences uttered in game shops in the '90s:

1. "Want to play a game of __________ ?" (CCG de jour)

2. "I can't afford to get into another CCG."

3. "What time is it?" (Serious CCG players couldn't afford a watch because they spent that money on more booster packs. This problem went away once everybody had a cell phone with a clock function.)
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