A collectible card game (CCG), also called a trading card game (TCG) or customizable card game, is a game played using specially designed sets of playing cards. While trading cards have been around for longer, CCGs combine the appeal of collecting with strategic gameplay that utilzes a large assortment of cards in which to construct a deck from.[1]

The first notable predecessor to the collectible card game was The Base Ball Card Game produced by The Allegheny Card Co. and registered on April 5 1904.[2] It was never made available to the public and no patents exist for it being a CCG. It shares some traits with a CCG in that it had trading cards and some rules, but the game was never produced and the rules of the game remain unknown.[3] It's possible the game could have been played like Tops Trumps instead.[4]

Gaming enthusiasts and scholars agree that Magic: The Gathering, designed by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993, is the first CCG ever created.[5][6][7] It is considered the most popular of any collectible card game to have emerged. Many other companies have tried to emulate it, with a few notable successes including Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, World of Warcraft, and Legend of the Five Rings.[8] Many other games have met with limited success and have since died, among them Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Middle-Earth, Netrunner, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, and many others that had little or no success.

Gameplay Edit

File:Pokemon card game in progress.jpg

Each CCG system has a fundamental set of rules that describes the players' objectives, the categories of cards used in the game, and the basic rules by which the cards interact. Each card will have additional text explaining that specific card's effect on the game. They also generally represent some specific element derived from the game's genre, setting, or source material. The cards are illustrated and named for these source elements, and the card's game function may relate to the subject. For example, Magic is based on the fantasy genre, so many of the cards represent creatures and magical spells from that setting. In the game, a dragon is illustrated as a reptilian beast, may have the flying ability, and have formidable game statistics compared to smaller creatures.

Most CCGs are designed around a resource system by which the pace of each game is generally controlled. Frequently, the cards which comprise a player's deck are also in and of themselves a resource, with the frequency of cards moving from the deck to the play area or player's hand being tightly controlled. Relative card strength is often balanced by the number or type of basic resources needed in order to play the card, and pacing after that may be determined by the flow of cards moving in and out of play. Resources may be specific cards themselves, or represented by other means (e.g., tokens in various resource pools, symbols on cards, etc.).

Players select which cards will compose their deck from the available pool of cards—unlike traditional card games such as poker or UNO where the deck's content is limited and pre-determined. This allows a CCG player to strategically customize their deck to take advantage of favorable card interactions, combinations and statistics.

During a game, players traditionally take turns playing cards and performing game-related actions. The order and titles of these steps vary between different game systems, but the following are typical:

  • Restore - Make all in-play cards ready for the upcoming turn.
  • Draw card(s) - Necessary in order to circulate cards in players' hands.
  • Play card(s) - Use the cards in hand to interact with the game.
  • Conflict - The primary method for victory in most games (combat is a very popular theme).
  • Discard card(s) - Discard to a maximum hand size, or need to refresh for next turn.

Internet play Edit

In addition to actual physical card games, collectible card games have also been developed that are played over the Internet. Instead of receiving physical cards, a player establishes a "virtual" collection that exists only as a set of data stored on a server. Such cards can be purchased (using real money) or traded within this environment. Titles include online versions of games that originated as physical CCGs (e.g., Magic: The Gathering Online), as well as games that exist solely online. The first online CCGs were Sanctum and Chron X, both developed in 1997. Both still exist, producing new expansions a decade later. Chron X was developed by Genetic Anomalies, Inc, which later developed other online collectible card-style games based on licensed content.

In some cases, a new element is added to the CCG - the online card game Sanctum includes both a game board, and animations for each of its spells. The NOKs, on the other hand, offers talking figures and action-arcade game play. In a different case, The Eye of Judgement, a CCG that has been combined with a Playstation 3 game, brings new innovation with the CyberCode matrix technology. It allows real cards bought in stores to be scanned with the PlayStation Eye and brought into the game with 3D creatures, animations, spell animations, etc. as representations. It is played over the PlayStation Network.

A related concept is that of software programs which allow players to play CCGs over the Internet, but without relying on a central server or database. When making use of such software, players need not purchase any (real or virtual) cards, and are instead free to create any deck they like using the cards supported by the client software. In some cases, these programs have limited rule enforcement engines, while others rely completely on players to interpret the complex interactions between the cards. Some of these software packages actually support the play of more than one virtual card game; for example, Magic Workstation was originally designed to play Magic, but can technically support additional games as well.

The system for online play that supports the greatest variety of games is CCG Workshop. Offerings include many copyrighted games whose manufacturers are now bankrupt, most notably Decipher's Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Precedence’s Babylon 5 Collectible Card Game.

Distribution Edit

Specific game cards are most often produced in various degrees of scarcity, generally denoted as common (C), uncommon (U), and rare (R). Some games use alternate or additional designations for the relative rarity levels, such as super-, ultra-, or exclusive rares. Special cards may also only be available through promotions, events, or redemption programs. The idea of rarity borrows somewhat from other types of collectible cards, such as baseball cards, but in CCGs, the level of rarity also denotes the significance of a card's effect in the game, i.e., in general the more powerful a card is in terms of the game, the greater its rarity. A powerful card whose effects were underestimated by the game's designers may increase in rarity due to those effects; in later editions of the game, such a card's level of rarity might increase to reduce its availability to players. Such a card might even be removed entirely from the next edition, to further limit its availability and its effect on gameplay.

Most collectible card games are distributed as sealed packs containing a subset of the available cards, much like trading cards. Some of the most common distribution methods are:

  • Starter set - This is an introductory product which contains enough cards for two players and includes instructional information for the specific game. In order to speed the learning process, the card content is typically fixed and designed around a theme, so that the new players can start playing right away.
  • Tournament or starter deck - This contains enough game cards (usually 40 or more) for one player. It usually contains a random selection of cards, but with some basic elements so that it may be playable from the start.
  • Theme deck - Most CCGs are designed with opposing factions, themes, or strategies. A theme deck is composed primarily of cards that will work well together and is typically non-random.
  • Booster packs - This method of distribution is most similar to trading cards as the packs contain a random selection of roughly 8 to 15 cards.

Patent Edit

Wizards of the Coast holds Template:US patent on trading card games. The patent, filed in October 1995 and granted in September 1997, covers:

  • Games published in the form of trading cards.
  • Games in which a player selects a collection of tradeable elements and uses that set to compete with other players.
  • Certain aspects of gameplay originally developed for Magic: The Gathering, such as "tapping" a card to indicate it is temporarily depleted.

As a holder of the patent, Wizards of the Coast has requested that all trading card game publishers license the mechanics described in the patent, usually for a royalty fee based on total sales.[9]

In October 2003, Wizards of the Coast filed suit against Nintendo and related companies in U.S. District Court in Seattle shortly after its distribution agreement expired. The suit alleged, along with other claims, that the Pokémon Trading Card Game infringed on the company's patent.[10] In December of that year, the parties settled the case on undisclosed terms.

Licensing Edit

While game themes are sometimes based on owned or completely original intellectual property, it is frequently the case that games make use of existing third-party fictional characters or worlds. If the company producing the game owns the rights to the game world and artwork, then the game is a proprietary game. If another entity owns the characters and/or world, then the game is licensed from that company. Any such licensing agreements have a start and end date, making it possible for the license to expire or move between companies over time.

The advantages of a licensed collectible card game include the following:

  • Automatic access to existing characters, concepts, and artwork.
  • Name recognition and built-in fan base.
  • Joint promotions between the two companies involved.

The disadvantages include:

  • Reduced profitability due to licensing fees.
  • Potential loss of license after a time, making future expansions impossible.

An example of a licensed game is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Collectible Card Game from Score Entertainment, based on the television series. While this title may have been financially successful, Score lost the Buffy license in January 2004, prematurely ending game production. This also prevented Score from releasing the game in the United Kingdom, as with the Dragonball Z Trading Card Game, although this does not prevent resourceful individuals from importing foreign versions and selling them as well.


Template:Off-topic Template:Refimprove The genre of card games emerged in the UK around the mid eighteenth century, with cards that were developed as an educational aid. By the early 1800s, there were games such as The Historical Game of Grecian History , which was created by John Wallis, one of the best known games manufacturers of the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century. These cards like many others, were printed in black ink and hand coloured afterwards. It was not until the 1860s, when John Jaques Ltd decided to bring out two new games of grotesque character cards, purely for entertainment that card games gained an increased popularity. These were called Happy Families and Snap and were drawn by John Tenniel of Alice in Wonderland fame.

At first the backs of these cards were plain but after a few years a complicated pattern was added, to hide up marks from grubby hands and over use. These cards proved such a popular sideline that soon more games were added to the ever growing list. It wasn't long before other companies started following their lead including Thomas De la Rue Ltd, and A Collier Ltd two of the foremost playing card manufacturers of the day, and so the genre of card games was truly established.

Some games were developed to take advantage of the important news of the day, such as the celebrated court case in 1871-72 of a man claiming to be the missing Sir Roger Titchborne, heir to a large family fortune. Never a company to miss an opportunity, almost immediately Jaques bought out a game called “Who's Sir Roger”.Most of the card manufacturers originally sold stationery, indeed the games were sold in stationers rather than toy shops, making them available to all and appealing to all generations.

In the 1890s Johnstone Brothers (Harbourne) Ltd, better known as Chad Valley, started producing card games as did the Roberts Brothers of Gloucester under the name Glevum Toys.

In 1903 H. P. Gibson started up The International Card Co. with one of his first games being “The New Game of Peter Pan”, as J M Barrie's play Peter Pan was all the rage at the time. Even after he had sold The International Card Co. to De la Rue's in 1919, he set up another new company, H. P. Gibson & sons which is still going strong today making card games and jigsaws.The new economic realities at end of the First World War saw the closure or amalgamation of some of the old card firms due to lack of staff and investment.

Meanwhile in Bavaria, just outside of Nuremberg the small German firm of J.W.Spear & Sons started selling games aimed at the UK and English speaking markets. They had opened their modern factory using steam powered machines in 1899. Germany at the time was the games capital of the world and their games were made in German, French, Dutch and Spanish as well as English. But it wasn't until 1932 that they set up a small factory in Enfield, Middlesex (UK) to get around the crippling increase in import duty.

It was during the late 1920s and early 1930s that Chad Valley started producing Disney Mickey Mouse games for the UK market, and just after that, in about mid 1930s, Castell Brothers (who up until then had published books) started the Pepys series of card games. One of their first card games being “Mickey's Funfair” featuring Disney's famous mouse and his friends.Also about this time Amalgamated Press who produced children's annuals formed Waddy Productions to bring out card games such as “Spelling Bee” and “Fleet Street”.

In 1934 Waddingtons the board game manufacturers bought out their first card game “Lexicon”, the first of many card games.Business was booming for all the Card game manufacturers but dark clouds were looming over Europe. In fact, with the lead up to the Second world War, societies anxieties were reflected in their card games which seem to have taken a more militaristic turn, with games such as Tree Brand's “Convoy” and Pepys “England Expects”. At the start of the war, when everything was gearing up for war production, many people in the government wanted to stop the manufacture of playing cards, because they saw it as a waste of time and resources. It was the famous Winston Churchill himself who argued against this. Ever a man with the common touch, he declared that having playing cards during their breaks and off duty hours would relief the stress and relax the service and civilian populations. This led to a reprieve for the card manufacturers and the creation of lots of themed games including “War Planes” , “Blackout” and “Victory”. Many games were devised at this time with grotesque caricatures of enemy leaders.

Some manufacturers like Jaques, went a stage further actively helping the war effort by hiding maps and currency in the different games they sent through the Red Cross to prisoners of war to aid their escape. As soon as the war ended many factories went back to their peace time activities and with the baby boom of the late 1940s and 50s, soon had an even larger market than ever for their card games.

With the television and cinema becoming more popular another group of card games appeared based on well known characters of the small and large screen. One of the first to appear was a “Muffin” game by Pepys base on the favourite children's television show featuring a Mule puppet and his friends. They also published many Disney card games based on the various films that came out during this time.

By contrast, the American card game industry started around 1840's with W. & S.B. Ives of Salem, Massachusetts. One of the first recorded games is THE IMPROVED AND ILLUSTRATED GAME OF DR. BUSBY was published by W. AND S. B. IVES. and invented by Miss Anne W. Abbott of Beverly, Mass. in 1843.

Just a decade later, in 1852 one of the first cross merchandising packs of cards came about when they produced a game based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

By the 1860s they had competitors in McLoughlin Bros, Inc. Based in New York who used artists on a simple production line to hand colour in the line drawings of their cards.

Just a little after this, Milton Bradley of Springfield, Massachusetts a lithographer by trade, started producing some games. The most successful of which was THE CHECKERED GAME OF LIFE, a literal pocket sized game that was even carried around by American Civil War soldiers. Throughout the economic depression that followed the Civil War, Milton Bradley also developed educational toys and games for schools, as well as families.

It was in the late 1860s that Elisha Selchow formed E.G. Selchow & Co. in New York and realised permission to market PARCHEESI, THE GAME OF INDIA,which he trademarked as PARCHEESI in 1874. In 1880 the name of the company was changed to Selchow & Righter when Elisha took John Righter on as a partner. Meanwhile in 1883 in Salem, Massachusetts, at the age of sixteen, George S Parker developed his first game. Then in 1888, when one of his brothers joined the firm, Parker Brothers was formed.

By the turn of the century with mass immigration and the industrialization of the large towns society and tastes were changing. Companies started using cheaper materials, producing more games but of lower quality. In 1904 George Parker developed the popular game of PIT followed two years later by ROOK which soon became the leading game throughout the world.

After the First World War (as in the UK) many small companies folded and in 1920 McLoughlin Bros., Inc was taken over by Milton Bradley. Later on in the 20s, new companies appeared on the scene including Alderman-Fairchild (All-Fair) in upstate New York and Whitman in New York ready to cash in on the new craze for anything about Cars, the new historic discoveries of the day and the new innovation of flight. It wasn't until 1932 that games companies started to feel the pinch of the depression, even then most of them were secure, because the games were fairly inexpensive and all the family could play.

During the Second World War many factories were turned over to war time productions and the games that were produced were mainly patriotic. After the war the games companies found themselves fighting another kind of war, one against the new idea of the television. Families gathered around the television rather than playing games. Only the larger manufacturers could afford the advertising fees that the television companies asked for. Many of the smaller companies went under and by the early 1980s all the larger companies had been taken over by Hasbro and the names Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers are now just divisions of this larger company.

References Edit

  1. Cite_web |url = |title = Board Game Terminology
  2. Sports Collectors Digest (April 7 2000) at 50. Description of the first known collectible card game, The Base Ball Card Game produced by The Allegheny Card Co. and registered on April 4 1904 featuring 104 unique baseball cards with individual player attributes printed on the cards enabling each collector to build a team and play the game against another person.
  3. Cite_web |url = |title = Gaming as Culture: Essays on Reality, Identity and Experience in Fantasy Games
  4. Cite_web |url = |title = Collectible Card Games
  5. Cite_web |url = |title = Wizards of the Coast
  6. Cite_web |url = |title = Understanding Magic: The Gathering - Part One: History
  8. Cite_web |url = |title = Collectible Card Games
  9. Wizards of the Coast (15 October 1997). Wizards of the Coast Inc. Granted Patent on Trading Card Games. Press Release.
  10. Cook, John (11 October 2003). It's Wizards vs. Pokemon as ex-partners square off. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

See also Edit

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