Collectible card games and I have a long and sordid history.
For those of you not aware of CCGs, here’s the basic rundown of how they work:
- A company (such as Wizards of the Coast) distributes cards you use to build your deck for the game. This distribution method is typically randomized, taking the form of booster packs containing a handful of cards each and usually costing somewhere in the realm of four bucks a pop.
- You purchase one booster pack, curious about the art in the game. Or perhaps a friend of yours has suggested you might find the game interesting, so you buy a pre-constructed deck so you can play them right off the bat.
- While playing, you go, “Hey! This is fun. And the booster packs are only four dollars. How much harm can that do?”
- Six months later, you find yourself in a gutter, staring up at the stars, homeless, penniless, clutching a binder full of laminated cardstock to your bosom, wondering how it all went so horribly, horribly wrong.
I started, as many did, with the Pokemon CCG. It was the appeal of having some physical artifact that I could use to determine whether or not I had caught them all, I think. Actually, I don’t think that. I distinctly recall feeling that way. I could buy a booster pack, open it up, and hold various pocket monsters in my thirteen-year-old hands.
I even went to tournaments. I bought the Japanese packs for sets that hadn’t been released in the States yet and looked up translations online. I was in it whole hog. I believe a photograph of my visage, grinning and framed by a flowing mullet mane, remains on the wall of the card shop I frequented to this day.
My dalliance with Pokemon did not last altogether long, however. As I moved on into high school, my interest switched over to the more grown-up and complicated grandpappy of all CCGs: Richard Garfield’s Magic: The Gathering.
I remained interested in Magic throughout my entire high school career. My bloated, two-inch binder of cards from that era stands as grim proof of this fact, like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It should not have surprised me that I was sorted into Slytherin House by Pottermore. My modus operandi during my Magic days was to always run black. In Magic, black is the color associated with necromancy, death, and sacrifice for power. What can I say? I have a wicked streak.
Take a word of advice: if you want a game like Magic to be fun, then only play with friends. Don’t touch tournaments with a ten-foot pole. I went to a tournament once, back in 2009. I was trying to get my foot back in the Magic door, and nobody else I knew played, so hey! Local game store was offering a tournament.
I listened in abject horror as the men around me spun tales of dropping hundreds of dollars to purchase multiple complete sets of cards from eBay in order to have deck-building fodder for meticulously-crafted tools of utter destruction. One guy I managed to beat began to pack his cards up before I made my winning move. He had spoken perhaps five words to me the whole game. The experience put me off of Magic for good.
And now we come to September of 2015, in which I have found myself exposed to a new game, Force of Will. It’s Japanese in origin, and it’s got interesting art, and it has a kind of whimsical sensibility to it. One of the guys I play D&D with tells me that one playable card is Puss in Boots. As in the cat with the incorrigibly fancy hat from the fairy tale. And when Puss in Boots gets supercharged, or whatever, you flip the card over to reveal that he transforms into D’Artagnan.
From The Three Musketeers.
I have no idea why, but this is indescribably awesome to me.
So I bought a couple booster packs. You know. Just to check out the art.
I’m sure it’ll turn out just fine.